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to produce in us, the fruit of a truly religious, truly christian life.
Now the parable is this:-"A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon and found none. Then said he unto 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?" And he answering, said unto him, "Lord, et it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, after that thou shalt cut it down."
Now the first application of this parable has manifestly reference to the Jews; they were of old, in a remarkable degree, the favoured people of the Almighty; they were the vine brought out of Egypt, and planted in the fruitful soil of Canaan; they had everything given them to make them grow up, as an holy people to the Lord :-Their's was "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises" but alas! all was in vain; they yielded no return answerable to the care which had been bestowed upon them. "God looked that they should bring forth grapes, and behold they brought forth wild grapes." He looked "for judgment, but behold a cry; for righteousness, but behold oppression;" and what was their end? Their end,
as their history shows us, was that they were rooted out. God, after sparing them for many hundred years, after waiting long for their amendment, at length ceased to watch over them, left them a prey to their enemies, and finally dispossessed them of their inheritance.
But while the parable presents us in the first instance with a picture of God's dealing with the Israelites, this is not the only application that may be made of its teaching: looked at from another point of view; it concerns ourselves, and in this light let us go on to consider it.
The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is now the christian church. Every member of that church, every one who by baptism has been incorporated into the number of Christ's people, is a fig-tree planted in the vineyard: he is taken out of a state of wrath and placed in a state of grace; he is chosen out of the world lying in wickedness, and put within the shelter of God's fold: within that fold or church he has everything given him to secure his happiness, to make his calling and election sure: the
pure word of God as written in the bible: an appointed ministry whose office it is to teach and to premonish, to warn and to instruct him out of the same: the Holy Sacraments of the Gospel : a devout form of prayer, and order of worship: Sabbath days for attending upon that service: in
short, all God's ordinances and means of grace; all are freely offered him in order that he might "grow thereby," grow up and yield fruit, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
And what, you will ask, is that fruit-the fruit which the Lord looks for from all who, as we, have been made partakers in the privileges of the Christian covenant? My brethren, it is the fruit of faith, the fruit which is wrought in the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit; which is not of one kind alone, but of many, which produces all these goodly sorts;-love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance, "all these worketh that one, and the self-same spirit ;" by these will a true Christian ever be known in the sight of God, just as a good tree is known by its good fruit. If this be so, the question for us now to consider, (and I know of none more important,) is, whether we have these fruits in ourselves. It is a question that each must ask of himself:-am I gentle? am I forbearing? am I meek? am I temperate? am I kind and considerate to those around me? have I great joy and peace in beloving? does my joy appear in this, in the pleasure that I find in the exercise of my religious duties? is the sabbath my delight? do I honour it and keep it holy, by coming whenever it returns, into the courts of God's house? do I honour it at home by using the
leisure which it brings me for reading and meditating the Scriptures? do I pray to God and praise Him, not only on His Sabbath, but always, at all times, day by day continually? I will not anticipate the answer to these inquiries. I fear, however, that in many instances, that answer, if impartially made, would not be favourable: I fear that were we to look back only for a little space into our lives; only over our conduct during the last year, in order to see what progress we have made in real godliness; what fruit the profession of our faith is yielding were it possible for us to recall to mind all that has been committed by us between now and January last; the false and profane words we have spoken; the base and uncharitable, and jealous thoughts we have conceived; the out-breaks of temper in which we have indulged; the hours and days we have thrown away that might have been more profitably spent ; the opportunities of improvement we have neglected; all that we have done. amiss, and all that we have left undone: I fear, my brethren, that in such a case, so far from asserting that the fruits of righteousness have been growing in us, we should have to confess with shame our unprofitableness; we should feel that the words of the parable which represent the Almighty as looking in vain for fruit in His vineyard, are truly
applicable to our own state,-" He came and sought fruit thereon and found none."
These are indeed piercing words, words that indicate a condition of danger; how great that danger is, we may learn from the verse which follows: "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
In this awful language we have most plainly described the purposes and dealings of the Almighty towards His creatures; towards us, and towards all men, as many as have been engrafted into his church: Behold, these three years He comes seeking fruit.
It is no fanciful interpretation, my brethren, which would make these words represent the three several stages of our human life; youth, manhood, and old age. During all this time God comes to us seeking fruit.
He comes to us in our childhood, and looks for fruit of our baptismal grace. He looks for gentle tempers, and submissive wills: He looks to see us, even as was His own Holy Child Jesus, in the house of Joseph and Mary, dutiful to our parents, loving and amiable to one another, innocent in our conversation, giving promise of a godly and Christian life. Again, He maketh inquisition of us in manhood; and then, God looks for the fulfilment of our