Page images
PDF
EPUB

BARREN FIG-TREE.

LUKE xiii. 6, 7, 8, 9.

A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vine-yard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years 1 come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none: cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

A

T the beginning of this chapter we read, how some of the Jews came to Jesus Christ, to tell him of the cruelty of Pontius Pilate, in mingling the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices: An Heathenish and prodigious act; for therein he shewed, not only his malice against the Jewish nation, but also against their worship, and consequntly their God: An action, I say, not only Heathenish, but prodigious also; for the Lord Jesus, paraphrasing upon this fact of his, teacheth the Jews, that without repentance" they should all likewise perish," Likewise; that is, by the hand and rage of the Roman empire. Neither should they be more able to avoid the stroke, than where those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them, Luke xix, 42, 43, 44. The fulfilling of which prophecy, for their hardness of heart, and impenitency, was in the days of Titus, son of Vespasian, about forty years. after the death of Christ. Then, I say, were these Jews, and their city both, environed round on every side, wherein

B

wherein both they and it, to amazement, were miserably overthrown. God gave them sword and famine, pestilence and blood, for their outrage against the Son of his love: So "wrath came on them to the uttermost" 1 Thess. ii. 16.

Now, to prevent their old and foolish salvo, which they always had in readiness against such prophecies and denunciations of judgment, the Lord Jesus presents them with this parable, in which he emphatically shews them, that their cry of being the temple of the Lord, and of their being the children of Abraham, &c. and their being the church of God, would not stand them in any stead. As who should say, It may be you think to help yourselves against this my prophecy of your utter and unavoidable everthrow, by the interest which you have in your outward privileges: But all these will fail you; for what think you, "A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none," This is your case: The Jewish land his God's vineyard, I know it; and I know it also, that you are the fig-trees. But behold, there wanted the main thing, fruit, for the sake, and in expectation of which, he set this vineyard with trees, Now, seeing the fruit is not found amongst you, the fruit, I say, for the sake of which he did at first plant this vineyard, what remains, but that in justice he command to cut you down, as those that cumber the ground, that he may plant himself another vineyard? Then said he to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?" This therefore must be your end, although you are planted in the garden of God; for the barrenness and unfruitfulness of your hearts and lives, you must be cut off, yea, rooted up, and cast out of the vineyard.

66

In parables there are two things to be taken notice of, and to be enquired into, of them that read.

First,

First, The metaphors made use of.

Secondly, The doctrine or mysteries couched under such metaphors.

The metaphors in this parable are, 1. A certain man : 2. A vineyard; 3. A fig-tree, barren or fruitless; 4. A dresser; 5. Three years 6. Digging and dunging,

&c.

The doctrine, or mystery, couched under these words, is to shew us, what is like to become of a fruitless or formal professor. For,

1. By the man in the parable, (Luke xv. 11.) is meant God the Father.

2. By the vineyard, (Isa. v. 7.) his church. 3. By the fig-tree, a professor.

4. By the dresser, the Lord Jesus.

5. By the fig-tree's barrenness, the professor's fruitlessness.

By the three years, the patience of God, that for a time he extendeth to barren professors.

7. This calling to the dresser of the vineyard to cut it down, is to shew the outcries of justice against fruitless professors.

8. The dresser's interceding, is to shew how the Lord Jesus steps in, and takes hold of the head of his Father's axe, to stop, or at least to defer present execution of a barren fig-tree.

9. The dresser's desire to try to make the fig-tree fruitful, is to shew you, how unwilling he is that ever a barren fig-tree should yet be barren, and perish.

10. His digging about it, and dunging of it, is to shew his willingness to apply gospel- helps to this barren. professor, if haply he may be fruitful.

11. The supposition, that the fig-tree may yet continue fruitless, is to shew, that when Christ Jesus hath done all, there are some professors will abide barren and fruitless.

12. The determination upon this supposition, at last to cut it down, is a certain prediction of such professora unavoidable and eternal damnation.

But

But to take this parable into pieces, and to discourse more particularly, though with all brevity, upon all the parts thereof.

A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard.

The man, I told you, is to represent to us God the Father; by which similitude he is often set out in the New Testament.

Observe then, that it is no new thing, if you find in God's church barren fig-trees, fruitless professors; even as here you see is a tree, a fruitless tree, a fruitless fig-tree in the vineyard. Fruit is not so easily brought forth, as a profession is got into; it is easy for a man to clothe himself with a fair show in the flesh, to word it, and say, be thou warmed and filled, with the best. It is no hard thing to do these with other things; but to be fruitful, to bring forth fruit to God, this doth not every tree, no not every fig-tree that stands in the vineyard of God. Those words also, John xv. 2. "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away," assert the same thing, there are branches in Christ, in Christ's body mystical, (which is his church, his vineyard), that bear not fruit, wherefore the hand of God is to take them away: "I looked for grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes," Isa. v. 4. that is, no fruit at all that was acceptable with God. Again, Hos. x, 1. "Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself," none to God; he is without fruit to God. All these, with many more, shew us the truth of the observation, and that God's church may be cumbered with fruitless fig-trees, with barren professors.

Had a fig-tree.

Although there be in God's church that be barren and fruitless; yet, as I said, to see to, they are like the rest of the trees, even a fig-tree: It was not an oak, nor a willow, nor a thorn, nor a bramble, but a fig-tree, Ezek. xxxiii. 31. "They come before thee as thy

people

people cometh;" Isa. Iviii. 2, 3, 4. "They delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: They ask of me the ordinance of justice, they take delight in approaching to God;" and yet but barren, fruitless, and unprofitable professors. Judas also was one of the twelve, a disciple, an apostle, a preacher, an officer, yea, and such a one as none of the eleven mistrusted, but preferred before themselves, each one crying out, "Is it I Mark xiv. 19. none of them, as we read of (John vi. 70) mistrusted Judas, yet he in Christ's eye was the barren fig-tree, a devil, a fruitless prefessor. The foolish virgins also went forth of the world with the other, had lamps, and light, and were awakened with the other; yea, had boldness to go forth, when the mid-night cry was made, with the other; and thought that they could have looked Christ in the face, when he sat upon the throne of judgment, with the other; and yet but foolish, but barren fig-trees, but fruitless professors: Matth. vii. 22. 23. "Many," saith Christ, "will say unto me in that day," this and that, and will also talk of many wonderful works; yet, behold, he finds nothing in them but the fruits of unrighteousness: They were altogether barren and fruitless professors.

Had a fig-tree planted.

This word planted doth also reach far; it supposeth one taken out of its natural soil, or removed from the place it grew in once; one that seemed to be called, awakened; not only so, but by strong hand carried from the world to the church; from nature to grace; from sin to godliness, Psal. lxxx. 3. "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the Heathen, and planted it." Of some of the branches of this vine were there unfruitful professors.

It must be concluded, therefore, that this professor, that remaineth notwithstanding fruitless, is, as to the

view

« PreviousContinue »