Thou hast borne with it long, I own, already; oh! To Him everything belongs. How does that take place? Sins are not put away. To have used the vine as an emblem of Israel might have seemed to concede this claim, but by selecting the fig-tree as an emblem Christ said to His countrymen in effect, "Ye have no natural or necessary place in the sphere within which God's grace manifests itself, like a vine in a vineyard, without which the vineyard can hardly be conceived: Ye are but a fig-tree in the vineyard, legitimately, suitably enough there, yet there by accident, or by free choice of the owner, and there only so long as ye serve the purpose for which He put you there."(A. Let your fruit be the fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1.11), "fruit unto holiness (Romans 6:22), "fruit unto God" (Romans 7:4), that is, to the glory and praise of God, and such as He will accept of. And what is the nature of the being of a man? (2) But there is a worse consideration, namely, that all this while you have been filling up a space which somebody might have been filling to the glory of God. These rendings, however, are most precious as the means of opening a way whereby the elements of spiritual life conveyed by the Word and the Spirit may reach their destination. — To teach us-that judgment is His strange work — that He delighteth in mercy; that He waiteth to be gracious; that He is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.III. )This year alsoC. Blessed be God, for us mercy hath rejoiced against judgment. Let us take it, deliberately and honestly. If we have so much more than others, we ought to be just so much better than they. Their fruit is not lasting; it holds good for the summer season of prosperity, but when the winter of adversity and persecution comes, it fails (Luke 8:13). More particularly, in reference to the synagogue of the Jews, and that state, the fig-tree, above other trees, did best set forth their condition. There is no state of man that can privilege a folded hand.(T. Here we see —1. Our privileges have been signal ones, our misimprovement signal; so will our stroke be likewise.2. Now fruits, or never. And of this I shall give you an account by the quality, quantity, and continuance of it. He is said to come and seek fruit (vers. The lord of the vineyard looks for fruit in his season (Mark 12:2; Luke 20:10). From whence we may note thus much: That the labour and pains of the ministers is a means whereby God hath sanctified and appointed for the good and edification of the people. With the properties or qualifications of that fruit that shall find acceptance.2. Because God is patient long suffering, merciful, and He would have thee repent.IV. But what has been the secret cause that you have been kept alive? By the barren fig-tree, however, is meant, not only the plausible hypocrite, but all merely nominal Christians; all who, having the means of grace, do not improve them. Years of great mercy.2. He endures with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction.2. The power of the means. And that text should still be sounding in our ears — "An end is come, an end is come; behold it watcheth for thee, behold, it is come it is come" (Ezekiel 7:5-16) Should God always bear with sinners, He should suffer in all His attributes; His justice would be wronged and blemished, which by no means will endure that the wicked should be held as innocent (Exodus 34:7; Jeremiah 44:2). And so it is a word of permission, or submission, to the will and mind of the Lord of the vineyard. THE NEGLECTED OPPORTUNITY FURNISHES REASON WHY THE VERY INTERCESSOR HIMSELF WILL ACQUIESCE IN OUR CONDEMNATION.(S. There is no comfort to the vine-dressers from that part of the ground such occupy, though otherwise much might arise from it, if it was planted with other trees. Incentives for Faithful Stewardship, Part 1. To be fruitless is a greater calamity than befell those slain by Pilate at the altar, or buried under the tower of Siloam; it is the only real calamity; for it is to be an eternal failure.(J. Thirdly, Seeking implies mildness and gentleness, Thirdly, WE SHOULD BRING FORTH FRUIT, FOR THAT GOD HOLDS HIMSELF GLORIFIED BY IT. Beddome, M. The Church is fertile of children; there are multitudes of them that believe. Many stones make bus one house, many houses one city, many cities one kingdom; so, many men one particular congregation, many congregations one visible Church, many Churches one catholic one. Spurgeon. And observe it — it is the Dresser who has been the searcher, and He who did all for you is the one who has been looking for something from you. McCrie, D. D.I. A God so good and so gracious ought to have been loved by you.5. Her vines and tender grapes give a good smell (Song of Solomon 2:13, 14). In this life He will reward with glory and honour. I answer, first, it would be something appropriate to his nature, accordant with his being. Nor do the thunderbolts of an angry God ever strike him; that thunder and lightning which comes from the throne comes through the rainbow, the covenant of grace and mercy, before ever they come at him (Revelation 4:5).7. In respect of shape, a tree hath its root, trunk, or body, boughs, branches, and smaller twigs issuing from thence. The earth, in a thankful imitation of the heavens, locks not up her treasures within her own coffers; but without respect of her private benefit, is liberal of her allowance, yielding her fatness and riches to innumerable creatures that hang on her breasts, and depend upon her as their common mother for maintenance. This word, "well," it is not expressed in the original text, but it is necessarily supplied here in our English translation, to make the sense complete. Israel is found to be barren; to be without true loyalty, real piety, solid worth. Shall the mason say, I will share with my sovereign in his kingdom, or I will not lay a stone in his building? By all which, and many such like, it appears that He doth seek seriously and fervently for fruit, and is much grieved when He is deceived in His expectation. The answer is, because there is One who pleads for sinners. INQUIRE WHY CUMBERERS OR THE GROUND ARE SPARED SO LONG.1. God requires, and has a right to expect, that those who are so highly favoured should bring forth fruits of a corresponding kind. Sure it is that the godly Christian is best armed for hard weather, and best enabled to go through variety of conditions (Philippians 4:12, 13). The trees of our boyhood are dear to us, because interwoven with memories of bright days. B. Bruce, D. D.)The mercy of new probationThe Preachers' Monthly.I. Talmage. "Sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily"; and, as the consequence, the heart of the sons of men is often fully set in them to do evil. THE PLANTATION OF THE FIG-TREE.1. Now that this use may be the more profitable, I shall acquaint you with three particulars.1. So the Lord expects from us.4. For all such respite as interposes, in any case, between evil desert and its immediate punishment, men are indebted to the intercession of Christ.V. Let none of us so abuse God's sparing mercy as to presume on it for the future; but let us all improve the present season without delay, and hold ourselves in constant readiness for death. They being still in their natural state, are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. Forget not how many have suffered for those sins that thou art guilty of long since; who had not that patience showed unto them that thou hast had, but were taken away and carried to execution, upon the very act of their sinning, as Zimri and Cosbi, who were smitten in the act of their lust; Ananias and Sapphira in the very act of lying, &c.3. That they who derive no benefit from the means of grace are detrimental.2. That they who derive no benefit from the means of grace are detrimental. Her plants being set, come not presently to perfection and growth, but by degrees. Righteousness, meekness, fidelity — in a word, moral excellence springing from our faith in Christ, and our devotion to Him — that is the fruit which God expects to find in us as the occupants of His vineyard.III. (3) If there be but one member in the Church that is fruitless, God will soon find him out.5. Haply not so thick with fruits as the "vines of Engedi"; every land is not a Canaan, to flow with milk and honey. OF THOSE WHO HAVE A PLACE IN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, SOME ARE BUT BARREN PROFESSORS. The second is, of further incorrigibleness; in these; "and if not, then, after that, thou shalt cut it down." Years of great mercy.2. — For the better accomplishing and perfecting whereof there are three principal virtues (as implements) which are necessarily requisite in these dressers of the Lord's vineyard.1. And the other is taken from the fig-tree, upon supposition, either of amendment or incorrigibleness. The keeper of the vineyard had planted the fig-tree, and watched its growth. How many are there who know not this the day of their merciful visitation!IV. At this period my whole soul was filled with horror, being conscious that I was not prepared to pass my final scrutiny. Surely, for the sake of souls, for the delight of glorifying our Lord, and for the increase of the jewels of our crown, we may be glad to wait below "this year also."III. 2. So Jeremiah 1:11, 12 — "I will hasten My word to perform it"; that is, to make good the judgments that I have denounced. The manure contains the food which the plant must receive, and assimilate, and convert into fruit; but if the hardened earth were not made loose by digging, the needed aliment would never reach its destination. It is an abuse of his patience; the longer he bears with such barrenness the more it is abused. (3) Moreover, and to make bad worse even to the worst degree, all this while ungodly men are spreading an evil influence.II. And what fruit can be compared with the fruit that a Christian bears? The leaf of the asp resembles the tongue, but the leaf of the fig-tree, man's hand. I answer, first, it would be something appropriate to his nature, accordant with his being. Grapes, not "wild grapes.". To Him everything belongs. One barren and unfruitful fig-tree may spoil a whole set and row of trees besides. Rogers. It is right and reasonable to fell barren trees, and it is just as right and reasonable that you should be cut down.1. But, full of grace though He be, He neither expects nor desires an indefinite extension of Israel's day of grace. The power of the means. Impenitent sinners have a dangerous station in God's vineyard. Now, God should not be good, if He should be ever good to those that will never be good; His goodness will not suffer Him ever to spare those that hate and despise goodness. A show, an appearance of fruit will not suffice. This is required (2 Timothy if. Even a troubled spring doth often quench a distressed soldier's thirst; a small candle doth good where the greater lights be absent; and the meanest fruit of holy charity, even a cup, though it be not of the juice of the grapes out of the vineyard, but of cold water out of the tankard, in the name of Christ, shall have its recompense (Matthew 10:42). In elections and choices fruitful trees are least of all regarded. "The whole earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; the round world, and they that dwell therein," saith the Psalmist (Psalm 24:1), and yet in regard of the affection that He bears unto the Church, He doth in a manner count Himself owner of nothing but this. So it is with all mankind, being felled by death; some are for the building up of "that house which is not made with hands" (2 Corinthians 5:1), others for fuel in hell, "their end is to be burned" (Hebrews 6:8). )The fruitless fig-treeJ. (b) There is ground for this desire and request of ministers in the behalf of their people, from that hope which they are willing to conceive of their amendment and reformation. And next, it must be in the man as it is in the natural tree. When these disappear, and barrenness sets in, then there will come the sentence, "Cut it down."IV. "If it bear fruit, well." Beddome, M. There is no comfort to the vine-dressers from that part of the ground such occupy, though otherwise much might arise from it, if it was planted with other trees. Lastly, they hinder the fruitfulness of other trees in the vineyard; drawing the sap from them. He hath made us His own workmanship, by the effectual calling of grace, and "created us to good works to walk in them." It is by it that the Spirit of life is conveyed into the dead soul. ward profession, crying out, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord," drawing near with their lips when their hearts were far off. He loves not to destroy there where He can any way spare. How many are there who despise the goodness, and long-suffering, and forbearance of God! Ministers sow the seed, Christ Himself will look after the fruit, and will notice who bring forth the fruit of a preached gospel, and who cumber the ground.(T. Never fruit more to grow upon them.3. For proof, read Amos 8:2 — "The end is come, I will not pass by them any more"; that is, I will have no more patience towards them. III. So whilst Judas supplies the place of an apostle, honest Matthias shall be kept out; his place must be voided, before another take "his bishopric (Acts 1:20). Perhaps Christ hath now some fair promises of fruits hereafter, "Let me first go bury my father, then" (Luke 9:61). But the vine is a frail kind of plant, it must be supported, sheltered, daily dressed and attended, else it soon waxeth luxurious, and is in danger to grow wild, after it once waxeth wanton. These bring forth the fruits of the flesh in abundance, that are deadly like the wild gourds of the wild vine.II. It denotes —1. Unprolific trees have been started, some by a very hard winter, others by a very warm summer, to yield fruit. H. 3. This parable calls on you to examine yourselves, whether you be barren or fruitful; and to follow out the result aright, whatever it may be.3. THE INTERCESSION OF JESUS — ITS SPECIAL END. "Till I shall dig about it, and dung it"; as who shall say, that would do it. So is the Church, her enemies are many that conspire against her (Psalm 83:2-13).(N. Set orange or fig-trees in this our cold country, the fruit will not quit the cost of the planting and maintaining. The ground of the plea is in Himself. Admire and wonder at this longsuffering.4. Men covet most when they have time to spend least; as cheating tradesmen then get up most commodities into their hands when they mean to break. Shall this be the only fruit of patient mercy? The dead tree is neither use nor ornament; it can yield no service and afford no pleasure. 2. Fair to look upon, they are without soul; all outside, and nothing else." The dead tree is neither use nor ornament; it can yield no service and afford no pleasure. We are yet spared; and to what end hath Christ Jesus been thus long-suffering? Still He comes seeking fruit, and is returned with a Non invents. So Jeremiah 1:11, 12 — "I will hasten My word to perform it"; that is, to make good the judgments that I have denounced. And thus you have heard what reason we have to be fruitful, both in respect of others, and of ourselves as well as others. Dead souls are spiritually rotten also. Beware of being cumberers of the ground. Rogers.It was no ordinary nor trivial tree, but of a noble and generous kind (called upon by other trees to be king over them), and brought forth sweet and delicious fruit (Judges 9:10). The extended season and increased facilities for fruitful growth which are thus afforded. THE BARREN PROFESSOR CANNOT ESCAPE THE SEARCHING EYE OF GOD. Men are such barren things that their fruitage marks no certain periods, and it becomes needful to make artificial divisions of time for them; there seems to be no set period for man's spiritual harvest or vintage, or if there be, the sheaves and the clusters come not in their season, and hence we have to say one to another, "This shall be the beginning of a new year."I. )God's patience not inexhaustibleN. The like in the New (Matthew 20:1, 2, and Matthew 21:28,33; Mark 12:1; Luke 20:10). On the other hand, when any are fruitful, and active, and zealous in goodness; their zeal, it provokes many others so much the more to piety. It is when afflictions rend the heart, as a ploughshare tears up the ground, that the elements of life long offered are at length received. The beginning of a new year SUGGESTS A RETROSPECT. (b) The Lord does thus with many people, that thereby He may leave them so much the more inexcusable, and may be justified in His proceedings against them, when He comes to judgment indeed; that all men's mouths may be stopped, and that they may believe so much the more fully in God. Judgment needs but a word to work its utmost vengeance, and withal you are so provoking that the marvel is that Divine severity has spared you so long. They must not only abound in some kind of fruit, but must bring forth fruits of all kinds.III. Never did the olive anoint itself with its own oil, nor the vine make itself drunk with its own grapes, nor the tree in my text devour its own figs: yet they all strive to abound with fruits. it. Even when Jesus is the pleader, the request of mercy has its bounds and times. and the fig-tree mentioned thereon growing? Rogers.Barren professors are cumbersome; unprofitable burdens they are to the vineyard of the Lord.1. It is no rare but a continued act. One of these agricultural operations imparts to the tree the elements of fruitfulness, and the other enables the tree to makes these elements its own. THE FIG-TREE WAS FAVOURED. Sure it is that the godly Christian is best armed for hard weather, and best enabled to go through variety of conditions (Philippians 4:12, 13). It must be good fruit. Wells, M. Secondly, it is a sin that all law condemns. Do you bear fruit answerable to your profession of faith? How long God hath trusted thee with His patience, and given thee time to make thy peace, and sue out thy pardon. Surely, for the sake of souls, for the delight of glorifying our Lord, and for the increase of the jewels of our crown, we may be glad to wait below "this year also."III. Let none of us so abuse God's sparing mercy as to presume on it for the future; but let us all improve the present season without delay, and hold ourselves in constant readiness for death. If a man take more pains, and be at more charge in opening the roots of a tree, and dunging it, and pruning it, in fencing and watering it, and it bring forth less or no more fruit than another that has no such care and pains taken with it, it will scarce pass for a good, a fruitful tree. Should a traitor that is condemned as thou art have a reprieve granted him for half so many years as thou hast lived (albeit he had no promise granted of a final pardon), upon his good carriage and behaviour; how thankful would he be, and how happy would he think himself in that.2. The longer the storm has been gathering, the heavier it will fall; the longer the sword has been whetting, the sharper it will cut, and the deeper it will wound. Might not the Lord of the vineyard have laid the axe to the root? Sour they be of themselves, but in Christ they have their sweetening; and the meanest fruits which that great "Angel of the Covenant" shall present to His Father, with the addition of His own "precious incense "(Revelation 8:4), are both received and rewarded. First, in youth. "Only the Lord hath a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed "after them, even you above all people, as it is this day," said Moses to Israel (Deuteronomy 10:15). Here we see —1. First, an emphasis of prediction; and secondly, an emphasis of permission. We begin first of all with the former, viz., that which is taken from himself — "Till I shall dig," etc. The Jews they must be broken off before the Gentiles be grafted in (Romans 11:9). Cut it down," says He, "why cumbereth it the ground? " And it is the fault of greatness. He woke up a different man. "And if it bear fruit, well." So is it in the vineyard of the Lord. Lord Clive and Wallenstein, in boyhood, made some wonderful escapes, and burst forth into an exclamation that surely they were reserved for something great. "After that"; that is, after that thou hast let it alone for one year longer, as I desire of thee; if after that it shall still prove unfruitful, then do thus and thus with. "If it bear fruit, well." God's mercy will be magnified; His grace exalted.V. Sibbes. They must continue bearing fruit. Even Ahab is not beyond His reach. Or else they are observant in the duties of the second table, with neglect of the first (as Matthew 23:23), and such is the fruit of the civilian and moral man. So it is with the Church (Ephesians 4:11, 12). "And what could He do more for us that He hath not done?" Why did He not destroy it the second year? Read Luke 13: 1-9 In this text we have a tragic national event in the life of Israel during Jesus time. Her plants being set, come not presently to perfection and growth, but by degrees. You are planted, not in the open unsheltered waste, but in the Church of Christ, and in a Christian home. If not a tenth, yet let there be some "gleanings" (Micah 7:1); and that is a woeful scarcity. THE REASON GIVEN FOR THE AWFUL SENTENCE; THE FIG-TREE WAS NOT ONLY UNPRODUCTIVE, BUT INJURIOUS; it "cumbereth the ground."1. Thus God comes and seeks for fruit, not once, not twice, and then gives over, but He comes often. Secondly, He seeks for it. And so it is well for the vineyard. We exhaust all possible reasons, and have to come back to one, and one only — human wilfulness. And it is the fault of greatness. )Cumberers of the groundN. And now, WHAT IS THE REASON FOR ALL THIS LONGSUFFERING? His jealousy will not endure that sin should ever go unpunished (Psalm 50:21; Malachi 3:15). The gospel is the means of life to a dead world, called therefore the word of life (Philippians 2:16). Who can speak as he should of the intricate, the minute ordering of the events of daily life, so disposed and governed that each may do its part in training us for our true rest? Which words, "after that," seem to carry a double reference and respect with them. Sins are not put away. All care and pains will have been well bestowed, if, after all, the sinner bear fruit to God. But, full of grace though He be, He neither expects nor desires an indefinite extension of Israel's day of grace. And it must be "fruit" in its season. GOD EXPECTS FRUIT FROM US. Let me show you this. The Church is fertile of children; there are multitudes of them that believe. Thus God comes and seeks for fruit, not once, not twice, and then gives over, but He comes often. So Jeremiah 1:11, 12 — "I will hasten My word to perform it"; that is, to make good the judgments that I have denounced. None shall be harboured under their shade unless it be a stinging nettle, or some sullen weed, or some venomous and poisonous creature. Yes, there arrives a moment hidden in the eternal councils of the Most High, at which even the voice of the Great Intercessor ceases to plead, and acquiesces in the righteous judgment of God.(S. (c) Sometimes, to exercise this patience of the vine-dressers themselves, which labour and take pains about these fig-trees, God will hereby sometimes prove them, and God will sometimes hereby trouble them; as St. Paul observes it in himself, from the non-proficiency and impenitency of the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12. ult). What is the use of keeping it? The Judge, then, in language which struck me with mingled shame and hope, said, 'Well, what sayest thou? I tell you that true righteousness creates heaven in men's houses; and where the fear of God is there is righteousness in every department, and it is the glory of the family circle. There is a measure of iniquity to be filled up, and so long the Lord will bear with sinners, and no longer (Romans 2:5; Genesis 15:16). Minerva sitting by, demanded of her father Jupiter what might be the reason, that seeing there were so many fruitful trees, they all made choice of those trees which were fruitless. It takes up that room which might be better employed; it sucks away that moisture which would make others fruitful; it overdrops the plants that are under it, hinders the spreading and fruitfulness of others. The leaf of the asp resembles the tongue, but the leaf of the fig-tree, man's hand. The intercession put into the mouth of the vinedresser is a solemn act of repudiation, similar in import to Paul's protest in the sixth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. It is a provocation that he will not bear long with. Blessed be God, for us mercy hath rejoiced against judgment. Well might justice say, "Cut it down." He hath planted us, hedged us about, manured, us, watered us with the sweet dews of His Word and gospel from heaven; trimmed us with His pruning hook of judgments and corrections. Thus Israel ascribed all their plenty, their bread, their wine, their wool, their water, dec., to their lovers or sweethearts, that is, to their idols and false gods (Hosea 2:5).3. 7).5. And next, it must be in the man as it is in the natural tree. How many such are in God's vineyard, whose mind is vain.3. (2) This implies a further desire of continued patience and forbearance; which proceeds upon these grounds. In respect of growth, there is some good resemblance. A vineyard is very subject to be annoyed and wasted by the beasts of the wood and foxes of the field, which love to burrow under it, and delight to be cropping and pilling of her plants, and eating of her grapes, as Solomon intimates (Song of Solomon 2:15). 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