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early promise; for fixed religious principles; for consistent religious conduct; for hearts rooted and grounded in the faith; stedfastly set to fulfil his commandments; bent to carry out and practise in every transaction of life, this summary of the divine law,-"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." Thirdly, God comes to us in old age, still looking for fruit, the fruit of a well spent life; of a mind of peace within itself, and at peace with Him; and therefore rejoicing in the hope of a blessed eternity: content, if He will, to tarry yet awhile; ready, at His summons, to depart on the morrow. But what if God look in vain? What if He find in us no fruit answerable

to his just expectation? What if in His sight we present a barren and lifeless appearance? If He find us in childhood wilful and unruly, in middle age worldly-minded and averse to religion, in the evening of our days, covetous and complaining, more careful to prolong our time in this world, than to attend to the interests, and make preparation for the world that is to come-what, in such circumstances, must be the consequence? Must we not fear that our state is one of great alarm; that we are they against whom the sentence of condemnation has been pronounced; "Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?"

In strict justice we should have no right to murmur were such actually to be our doom. The barren fig-tree (as is emphatically said at the heading of the Chapter in which the parable occurs) may not stand. It may not stand, neither in the natural nor spiritual world.

Your own experience, my brethren, should convince you of this. Which of you that had a fig-tree or an apple-tree, or any other fruit-bearing tree in his garden that produced him nothing, would care to let it remain? Would you year by year go seeking fruit on it, and year by year be disappointed and find none? Would you see it occupying the good soil, drawing away its strength and nourishment from other plants; mocking you perhaps with abundance of bloom, and with a fair show of leaves, and yet take no steps to remove it? No, you would surely after bearing with it for awhile, lay the axe to its root; you would cut it down, because it cumbered the ground.

And might not God deal with us after the like manner, as many as are barren and unprofitable before Him? Might He not cut us off in the midst of our negligence and ignorance? No one will dispute His right to do this. The reason why He does it not, the reason why God graciously spares us, is yet to be considered. And this is told us in the sequel of the parable.

When the owner of the vineyard expressed his disappointment to the dresser of it, and his intention of rooting out the useless fig-tree, he met with this reply:"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."

We have here given us a lively image of one part of our great Redeemer's office; that of Advocate, and Intercessor of his church. It is the Lord's Christ, who is pictured to us under the figure of a vine dresser: It is His voice, the voice of mercy, which is heard pleading on our behalf with the Almighty. "Let it alone this year also." Let it alone till some further efforts shall have been made to remedy its barrenness; "till I shall dig about it and dung it."

I shall not pause to inquire what are the exact means intended by these words. We are sure they are such as would be best calculated to effect the purpose of our gracious Intercessor: perhaps some sharp discipline of affliction; something which should strike at the very root of our disease; some loosening of the worldly cares, and worldly pleasures which cling so closely to our hearts; which choke the word and make it unfruitful. Be they what they may, the lesson which our Lord's answer conveys, is full of meaning. That meaning is,-That

we who are alive at this day, are alive for this end, That we might yield fruit unto God; That we might yet escape the awful punishment pronounced against the barren Christian: "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away."

Lay this to heart, my brethren, and reflect upon it. Consider why it is that you and I and those with whom we live are still in the midst of life; still in the enjoyment, more or less complete, of our health and reason, our faculties of mind and body: why is it that while during the last year death has been so busy in these kingdoms, while thousands upon thousands have been swept away by the famine and the pestilence; while within the last six months, in this single village the bell has tolled for the infant of days, and for the young man in his strength, we who are older, and many of us more feeble, have yet been spared? Why-but because the Lord who seeth before and after, knoweth that we are not ripe for the harvest; knoweth that howsoever it may be with others, it could not be good for us to die. It is, I would believe, on this account, that the cry of our merciful Saviour still rises on our behalf before the throne; still pleads for a longer trial: Let it alone this year also."


If this be true, how careful should we be to redeem the time: how anxious to make the most of the year of grace thus mercifully granted us: how

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diligent in availing ourselves of every aid for growing in wisdom: how determined to eschew evil, and do good; to forsake sin and follow after holiness! For observe, my brethren, there is a limit even to the compassionate tenderness of our Redeemer: Christ Himself does not ask for more than a respite for us. He does not pray the Father to excuse our unprofitableness altogether: to give us license to live on still in sin and indifference. No;-that would be

to contradict His own ministry. All He desires is, (and His desire is strictly at one with the will of His Father,) that we should have time for repentance; that we should not be dealt with after our sins at once; not till every opportunity had been offered, every endeavour made to win us to amendment. But when the opportunities have been given, when the endeavour has been made, when warning and chastisement, mercies and providences, have been all tried, and we continue unchanged for the better ; still in love with our evil courses, still unwilling to break off from the "old man which is corrupt," and to "put on the new man which after God is renewed in righteousness and true holiness;" still like trees "whose fruit withereth, twice dead;" then the intercession of the Saviour ceases: then no longer is there any impediment in the way of justice; any bar to the completion of the awful sentence already issued against us: they are the Lord's own words,

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