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As Judea is here treated as God's vineyard, what kind of trees were the Jews expected to have been ?
“ Trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”—Isa. Ixi. 3.
Whom did God send to receive the fruits ?
We have seen, in another Parable, how cruelly they treated many of God's messengers; but with what reception did Christ meet ?
“ The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed.”—Ps. ii. 2. “ He came unto his own, and his own received him not,” John i. 11: but, “they said among themselvesThis is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” -Matt. xxi. 38. Was this literally done?
Yes. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate of Jerusalem." —Heb. xiii. 11.
For this dreadful sin the Jews were “ branches broken off ;" but, thank God, “they also, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be grafted in : for God is able to graft them in again.”Rom. xi. 23. And here we may add with awe and fear, “if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he spare not us.” To shew His
justice in punishing, Christ spake the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree, which represents a man seeking fruit from his tree, but finding none. Was it reasonable to expect any ?
Yes. For it was planted in a vineyard which had every possible care taken of it; and a dresser was appointed to keep it.
Perhaps the owner was too impatient, and did not wait for the fruit season?
He visited it three successive years, and was each time disappointed, by finding it barren.
Then indeed he had every reason to complain ; for we are told by naturalists, that, if these trees be fruitful, they will shew it before that time; and, that in many countries, particularly in Syria and Barbary, they bear three crops yearly. Having waited in vain, what was the sentence pronounced upon it ?
66 Cut it down.”
Did it do any harm by standing there?
Yes. It encumbered the ground, by taking the nourishment and place that were intended for useful trees; and, very likely, its shade prevented the sun ripening their fruit. Was it taken away
y? No. The dresser pleaded for another year, promising, that, if all his pains in digging about its roots, and dunging it, should prove useless, he would then consent to its destruction.
Perhaps this Parable was drawn from a superstitious custom which prevailed among the Asiatics, that prescribed the following as the mode to
render a sterile palm-tree fruitful.
66 The owner armed with an axe, having an attendant with him, approaches the tree, and says, I must cut this tree down, because it unfruitful. Let it alone, I beseech thee, says the other, and this year it will bring forth fruit. The owner immediately strikes it thrice with the back of his axe ; but the other, preventing him, says, I beseech thee to spare it, and I will be answerable for its fertility. Then the tree becomes fruitful.” Can you remember the fate of the Fig Tree when cursed by Christ?
Yes. " When He saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.—”Matt. xxi. 19.
I see, in that verse, the reason of this; because it promised, by its healthy, luxuriant, and leafy appearance, an abundant crop, and might again deceive if allowed to remain. Christ's mighty works were all of mercy, with but another exception—that of the destruction of the swine, Luke viii. 33, which should strike barren professors with fear, for these are but an earnest of more dreadful condemnation. I should wish you to bring a few texts where the same emblem is employed to shew the doom of hypocritical profes
“ The flame shall dry up his branches, and by the breath of his (God's) mouth shall he go away.” -Job xv. 30. “ His roots shall be dried up beneath, and above shall his branch be cut off.”
Job xviii. 16. “If a man abide not in me (Christ says) he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”--John xv. 6. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”—Matt. vii. 19.
As God has deprived the Jews of their abused privileges, and let the vineyard out to us Gentiles, we should enquire what will be expected from us, as a people, as a family, and as individuals; for each tree must be good, or it must perish.
How are we to ascertain the nature of a tree?
“ Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”—Matt. vii. 16. “ Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by his fruit.”— Matt. xii. 33.
What fruit should a Christian bear ?
Those of the Spirit. “Love," especially to God, and to one another, for His sake; “ Joy,” in the Holy Ghost, or constant delight in God, and cheerfulness in conversing with our friends ; “ Peace” with God, through Christ, and with our own conscience, and peaceableness of temper and behaviour towards others; “Long suffering”patience in repressing anger, and contentedness to bear injuries ; “Gentleness,”—such sweetness of temper to inferiors, disposing us to be affable
and courteous, and “easy to be entreated,” when any have wronged us; Goodness,"—kindness and beneficence to all; “ Faith,”—fidelity, justice, and honesty in what we express and promise to others; “ Meekness," wherewith to govern our passions and resentments, so as not to be easily provoked, and when we are so, to be soon pacified; and “ Temperance,” in the enjoyments of life.-Gal. v. 22. 66 The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated ; full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."--James iii. 17.
Does God expect such fruit ?
Yes. God is described, saying, “ Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth.”—Song vii. 12.
I must put this startling question—are we always bearing such lovely and sweet fruit ?
Oh no! We fear not.
continuance in God's vineyard ?
To the forbearance of God “who is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance ;" 2 Peter iii. 9: and to Christ, “ who makes intercession for the transgressor.”. Isa. liii. 12.
Give an example of this ?
Christ said to falling Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen my brethren.”—Luke xxii. 32.