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Pg. cxxv. 5.

a glutton, a drunkard, or covetous, or unclean. | Barren fig-tree, hearken! God calls for the axe, Well, saith God, I will loose the reins of this pro- his sword; bring it hither; here is a barren professor; I will give him up to his vile affections; I fessor. Cut him down, why cumbereth he the will loose the reins of his lusts before him; he shall ground? be entangled with his beastly lusts; he shall be overcome of ungodly company.

Why cumbereth it the ground?

Thus they that turn aside to their own crooked ways 'the Lord By these words the Lord suggesteth reasons of shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity.' his displeasure against the barren fig-tree; it cum

This is God's hand immediately; God bereth the ground. The Holy Ghost doth not is now dealing with this man himself. Barren fig- only take an argument from its barrenness, but tree, hearken! Thou art crowded into a profession, because it is a cumber-ground, therefore cut it art got among the godly, and there art a scandal down; wherefore it must needs be a provocation. to the holy and glorious gospel; but withal go cun- 1. Because, as much as in him lieth, he disappointning that, like the sons of Zeruiah, thou art too eth the design of God in planting his vineyard ; I hard for the church; she knows not how to deal looked that it should bring forth fruit. 2. It hath with thee. Well, saith God, I will deal with that also abused his patience, his long-suffering, his man myself, 'I will answer that man by myself.' three years' patience. 3. It hath also abused his He that sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the labour, his pains, his care, and providence of prostumbling-block of his iniquity before his face, and tection and preservation: for he hedges his vineyard, yet comes and appears before me, • I will set my and walls it about. Cumber-ground, all these things face against that man, and will make him a sign thou abusest! He waters his vineyard, and looks and a proverb: and I will cut him off from the to it night and day; but all these things thou hast midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am abused. the Lord.' Eze, xiv. 7, 8. But,

Further, there are other reasons of God's dis2. God doth sometimes cut down the barren fig- pleasure; as, tree by the church, by the church's due execution First. A cumber-ground is a very mock and reof the laws and censures which Christ for that pur- proach of religion, a mock and reproach to the ways pose hath left with his church. This is the mean- of God, to the people of God, to the Word of God, ing of that in Mat. xviii ; 1 Cor. v: and that in 1 Tim. i. 20. and to the name of religion. It is expected of all upon which now I shall not enlarge, But which hands, that all the trees in the garden of God should way soever God dealeth with thee, O thou barren be fruitful: God expects fruit, the church expects fig-tree, whither by himself immediately, or by his fruit, the world, even the world, concludes that church, it amounts to one and the same; for if professors should be fruitful in good works; I say, timely repentance prevent not, the end of that soul the world expecteth that professors should be better is damnation. They are blasted, and withered, and than themselves. But, barren fig-tree, thou disapgathered by men, God's enemies; and at last being pointest all. Nay, hast thou not learned the wicked cast into the fire burning must be their end. “That ones thy ways? Hast thou not learned them to which beareth thorns and briars is nigh unto curs- be more wicked by thy example ?—but that is by ing, whose end is to be burned.' Ile. vi. 8.

the by. Barren fig-tree, thou hast disappointed Second. And, again, sometimes by 'Cut it down' others, and must be disappointed thyself! Cut God means, cast it out of the world. Thus he cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground ?' down Nadab and Abihu, when he burned them up Second. The barren fig tree takes up the room with fire from heaven. Thus ho cut down Korah, where a better tree miglit stand; I say, it takes Dathan, and Abiram, when he made the earth to up the room, it keeps, so long as it stands where swallow them up. Nu. iii. 4 ; xvi. 31–33. Thus he cut it doth ; a fruitful tree out of that place, and there. down Saul, when he gave him up to fall upon the fore it must be cut down. Barren fig-tree, dost edge of his own sword, and died. 1 Sa. xxxi. 4. Thus thou hear? Because the Jews stood fruitless in he cut down Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, when the vineyard, therefore, saith God, .The kingdom he struck them down dead in the midst of the con- of God shall be taken froin you,' and given to a gregation. Ac. v. 5, 10. I might here also discourse nation that shall render hiin their fruits in their of Absalom, Ahithophel, and Judas, who were all season. Mat. xxi. 33–41.

The Jews for their barrenthree hanged: the first by God's revenging hand, ness were cut down, and more fruitful people put the others were given up of God to be their own in their room. As Samuel also said to barren executioners. These were barren and unprofitable Saul, • The Lord hath rent the kingdom from fig-trees, such as God took no pleasure in, there- thee, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine fore he commanded to cut them down. The that is better than thou.' 1 Sa. xv. 28.

The unprofitPsalmist saith, · He shall take them away as with able servant must be cast out, must be cut down. a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath.' rs. Iviii. 9.

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Mat. xxv. 27.

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Cumber-ground, how many hopeful, inclinable, | hewing days will come upon thee; ‘and if it lear forward people, hast thou by thy fruitless and un- fruit, well ; and if not, then after that thou shalt profitable life, kept out of the vineyard of God? cut it down.' But to proceed according to my former For thy sake have the people stumbled at religion ; method, by way of exposition. by thy life have they been kept from the love of

Lord, let it alone this

year

also. their own salvation. Thou hast been also a means of hardening others, and of quenching and killing Here is astonishing grace indeed! astonishing weak beginnings. Well, barren fig-tree, look to grace, I say, that the Lord Jesus should concern thyself, thou wilt not go to heaven thyself, and them himself with a barren fig-tree; that he should that would, thou hinderest; thou must not always step in to stop the blow from a barren fig-tree!! cumber the ground, nor always hinder the salvation True, he stopped the blow but for a time; but of others. Thou shalt be cut down, and another why did he stop it at all? Why did not he fetch shall be planted in thy room.

out the axe? Why did he not do execution? Why Third. The cumber ground is a sucker; he draws did not he cut it down? Barren fig-tree, it is well away the heart and nourishment from the other for thee that there is a Jesus at God's right hand, trees. Were the cumber ground cut down, the a Jesus of that largeness of bowels, as to have comothers would be more fruitful; he draws away that passion for a barren fig-tree, else justice had never

a fatness of the ground to himself, that would make let thee alone to cumber the ground as thou hast the others more hearty and fruitful. One siuner done! When Israel also had sinned against God, destroyeth much good.' Ec, ix. 18.

down they had gone, but that Moses stood in the The cumber ground is a very drone in the hive, breach. Let me alone,' said God to him, “that that eats up the honey that should feed the labour- | I may consume them’ in a moment, and I will ing bee; he is a thief in the candle, that wasteth make of thee a great nation.' Ex. xxxii. 10. Barren the tallow, but giveth no light; he is the unsavoury fig-tree, dost thou hear? Thou knowest not how salt, that is fit for nought but the dunghill. Look oft the hand of Divine justice hath been up to to it, barren fig-tree!

strike, and how many years since thou hadst been

cut down, had not Jesus caught hold of his Father's And he answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone

Let me alone, let me fetch my blow, or 'Cut this

it down, why cumbereth it the ground?' Wilt also, till I shall dig about it, and dung year it; and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then thou not hear yet, barren fig-tree? Wilt thou pro

voke still? Thou hast wearied men, and provoked after that, thou shalt cut it down. ver. 8, 9.

the justice of God! And • will ye weary my God These are the words of the dresser of the vine- also ?' Is. vii. 18. yard, who, I told you, is Jesus Christ, for he made intercession for the transgressors.

And they con

Lord, let it alone this year. tain a petition presented to an offended justice, Lord, a little longer! let us not lose a soul for praying, that a little more time and patience might want of means. I will try, I will see if I can make be exercised towards the barren cumber-ground it fruitful, I will not beg a long life, nor that it fig-tree.

might still be barren, and so provoke thee. I beg, In this petition there are six things considerable: for the sake of the soul, the immortal soul; Lord, 1. That justice might be deferred. O that justice spare it one yoar only, one year longer, this year might be deferred! •Lord, let it alone,' &c., also. If I do any good to it, it will be in little while longer. 2. Here is time prefixed, as a space time. Thou shalt not be over wearied with waitto try if more means will cure a barren fig-tree. ing; one year and then. • Lord, let it alone this year also.' 3. The means Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear what a striving to help it are propounded, “until I shall dig about there is between the vine-dresser and the husbandit, and dung it." 4. Here is also an insinuation man, for thy life? •Cut it down,' says one; ‘Lord, of a supposition, that, by thus doing, God's expec- spare it,' saith the other. It is a cumber-ground, tation

may be answered ; . and if it bear fruit, well.' saith the Father; one year longer, prays the Son. 5. Here is a supposition that the barren fig-tree • Let it alone this

year

also.' may yet abide barren, when Christ hath done what he will unto it; 'and if it bear fruit,' &c. 6. Here

Till I shall dig about it, and dung it. is at last a resolution, that if thou continue barren,

The Lord Jesus by these words supposeth two

things, as causes of the want of fruit in a barThis mode of infusing new vigour into plants and trees ren fiy-tree; and two things he supposeth as a is thus described in the Gemara—“They lay dung in their remedy. gardevs, to soften the earth. They dig about the roots of their trees, and sprinkle ashes, and pluck up suckers, and

The things that are a cause of want of fruit are, make a smoke beneath to kill vermin.:-(ED.)

First. It is earth-bound. Lord, the fig-tree is

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Lu, xiv,

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earth-bound. Second. A want of warmer means, the dresser of the vineyard, is fain to take with of fatter means. Wherefore, accordingly, he pro- thee, if haply thou mayest be made fruitful." poundeth to loosen the earth; to dig about it. And then to supply it with dung.

Till I shall dig about it, and DUNG' it. • To dig about it, and dung it. Lord, let it As the earth, by binding the roots too closely, alone this year also, until I shall dig about it.' I may hinder the tree's being fruitful, so the want doubt it is too much ground-bound. The love of of better means may be also a cause thereof. And this world, and the deceitfulness of riches lie too this is more than intimated by the dresser of the close to the roots of the heart of this professor. vineyard; «Till I shall dig about it and dung it.'

The love of riches, the love of honours, the I will supply it with a more fruitful ministry, with love of pleasures, are the thorns that choke the a warmer word; I will give them pastors after word. •For all that is in the world, the lust of mine own heart; I will dung them. You know the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride dung is a more warm, more fat, more hearty, and of life, is not of the Father,' but enmity to God; succouring matter than is commonly the place in how then, where these things bind up the heart, which trees are planted. can there be fruit brought forth to God? 1Jn. ii. 15, 16. • I will dig about it, and dung it. I will bring Barren fig-tree, see how the Lord Jesus, by these it under a heart-awakening ministry; the means very words, suggesteth the cause of thy fruitless- of grace shall be fat and good: I will also visit it ness of soul! The things of this world lie too with heart-awakening, heart-warıning, heart-enclose to thy heart; the earth with its things have couraging considerations; I will apply warm dung bourd up thy routs; thou art an earth-bound soul, to his roots; I will strive with him by my Spirit, thou art wrapped up in thick clay. “If any man and give him some tastes of the heavenly gift, anıl love the world, the love of the Father is not in the power of the world to come. I am loth to lose him;' how then can he be fruitful in the vineyard? him for want of digging. “Lord, let it alone this This kept Judas from the fruit of caring for the year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it.' poor. Jn. xii. 6. This kept Demas from the fruit of self-denial. 2 Ti. iv. 10. And this kept Ananias and

And if it bear fruit, WELL. Sapphira his wife from the goodly fruit of sincerity And if the fruit of all my labour doth make this and truth. Ac. v. 5, 10. What shall I say? These fig-tree fruitful, I shall count my time, my labour, are ‘foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men and means, well bestowed upon it; and thou also, in destruction and perdition; for the love of money O my God, shalt be therewith much delighted; for is the root of all evil.' How then can good fruit thou art gracious, and merciful, and repentest thee grow from such a root, the root of all evil? of the evil which thou threatenest to bring upon a

Which while some coveted after, they have erred people. These words, therefore, inform us, that if from the faith, and pierced themselves through a barren fig-tree, a barren professor, shall now at with many sorrows.' 1 Ti. vi. 9, 10. It is an evil root, last bring forth fruit to God, it shall go well with nay, it is the root of all evil. How then can the that professor, it shall go well with that poor

soul. professor that hath such a root, or a root wrapped His former barrenness, his former tempting of up in such earthly things, as the lusts, and plea- God, his abuse of God's patience and long-suffersures, and vanities of this world, bring forth fruit ing, his mis-spending year after year, shall now be to God?

all forgiven him. Yea, God the Father, and our Till I shall DIG' about it.

Lord Jesus Christ, will now pass by and forget all, and say, “Well done,' at the last. When I

say Lord, I will loose his roots, I will dig up this to the wicked, 0 wicked man, thou shalt surely earth, I will lay his roots bare; my hand shall be die; if he then do that which is lawful and right, upon him by sickness, by disappointments, by if he walk in the statutes of life, without commitcross providences; I will dig about him until he ting iniquity, he shall surely live, he shall not die. stands shaking and tottering; until he be ready to Eze. xxxiii. fall; then, if ever, he will seek to take faster hold.

Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? the axe is laid Thus, I

deals the Lord Jesus ofttimes with to thy roots, the Lord Jesus prays God to sparo the barren professor; he diggeth about him, he thee. Hath he been digging about thee? Hath smiteth one blow at his heart, another blow at his he beeu dunging of thee? O barren fig-tree, now lusts, a third at his pleasures, a fourth at his com- thou art come to the point; if thou shalt now beforts, another at his self-conceitedness. Thus he come good, if thou shalt, after a gracious manner, diggeth about him; this is the way to take bad earth from his roots, and to loosen his roots from Among the superstitions of the ancients, Michaelis states the earth. Barren fig-tree, see here the care, the that both the Greeks and Asiatics had a superstition that a

say,

tree might be rendered fruitful by striking it, at the interceslove, the labour, and way, which the Lord Jesus, sion of a friend, three times with the back of an axe.-(ED.)

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suck in the gospel-dung, and if thou shalt bring | sired to try more means with the fig-tree; I say, forth fruit unto God, well; but if not, the fire is it cannot be, but that a heart so full of compassion the last! fruit, or the fire; fruit, or the fire, bar- as his is should be touched, to behold this proren fig-tree! 'If it bear fruit, well.

fessor must now be cut down. And when he was

come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, And if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least

The Lord Jesus, by this if, giveth us to under in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy stand that there is a generation of professors in peace ! but now they are hid from thine eyes.' the world that are incurable, that will not, that La xix. 41, 42. cannot repent, nor be profited by the means of grace. A generation, I say, that will retain a After that thou shalt cut it down. profession, but will not bring forth fruit; a genera- When Christ giveth thee over, there is no intertion that will wear out the patience of God, time cessor, no mediator, no more sacrifice for sin, all and tide, threatenings and intercessions, judgments is gone but judgment, but the axe, but a 'certain and mercies, and after all will be unfruitful. fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indig.

O the desperate wickedness that is in thy heart! nation, which shall devour the adversaries.' Ile. I Barren professor, dost thou hear? the Lord Jesus 26, 27. stands yet in doubt about thee; there is an ir Barren fig-tree, take heed that thou comest not stands yet in the way. I say, the Lord Jesus to these last words, for these words are a give up, stands yet in doubt about thee, whether or no, at a cast up, a cast up of a cast away; ‘After that last, thou wilt be good; whether he may not thou shalt cut it down.' They are as much as if labour in vain ; whether his digging and dunging Christ had said, Father, I begged for more time will come to more than lost labour; 'I gave her for this barren professor; I begged until I should space to repent, - and she repented not.' Re. ii. 21. dig about it, and dung it. But now, Father, the I digged about it, I dunged it; I gained time, and time is out, the year is ended, the summer is supplied it with means; but I laboured herein in ended, and no good done ! I have also tried with vain, and spent my strength for nought, and in my means, with the gospel, I have digged about vain! Dost thou hear, barren fig-tree? there is it; I have laid also the fat and hearty dung of yet a question, Whether it may be well with thy the gospel to it, but all comes to nothing. Father, soul at last?

I deliver up this professor to thee again; I have And if not, then after that thou shalt cut it doron. done; I have done all; I have done praying and

endeavouring; I will hold the head of thine axe There is nothing more exasperating to the mind no longer. Take him into the hands of justice ; of a man than to find all his kindness and favour do justice; do the law; I will never beg for him slighted; neither is the Lord Jesus so provoked more. After that thou shalt cut it down.' "Woo with anything, as when sinners abuse his means also to them when I depart from them!' Ho. ix. 12. of grace; if it be barren and fruitless under my Now is this professor left naked indeed; naked to gospel; if it turn my grace into wantonness, if God, naked to Satan, naked to sin, naked to the after digging and dunging, and waiting, it yet re-law, naked to death, naked to hell, naked to main unfruitful, I will let thee cut it down. judgment, and naked to the gripes of a guilty

Gospel means, applied, is the last remedy for a conscience, and to the torment of that worm that barren professor; if the gospel, if the grace of the never dies, and to that fire that never shall be gospel, will not do, there can be nothing expected quenched. “See that ye refuse not him that but cut it down. Then after that thou shalt cut speaketh. For if they escaped not, who refused it down.' 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that him that spake on earth, much more shall not we killest the prophets, and stonest them which are escape, if we turn away from him thai speaketh sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered from heaven.' He. xii. 25. thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her From this brief pass through this parable, you chickens under her wings, and ye would not !' have these two general observations :—l'irst. That Therefore ‘your house is left unto you desolate.' even then when the justice of God cries out, I

Yet it cannot be, but that this cannot endure to wait on this barren professor any Lord Jesus, who at first did put a stop to the longer, then Jesus Christ intercedes for a little execution of his Father's justice, because he de- more patience, and a little more striving with this

professor, if possible he may make him a fruitful However painfully unpleasant these terms may appear to professor. Lord, let it alone this year also, till eyes or ears polite, it is a homely but just representation, and I shall dig about it, and dung it; and if it bear calculated to make a lasting impression on every reader. Afllictions, trials, crossés, are used as a means of creating or reviving fruit, well,' &c. Second. There are some professpiritual lite, us inadure is applied to vegetation.-(Ed.) sors whose day of grace will end with, Cut it down,

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Mat. xxiii. 37, 38.

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with judgment; when Christ, by his means, hath Now, in my handling of this point, I shall disbeen used for their salvation.

course of the cutting down, or the judgment hero First. The first of these observations I shall denounced, as it respecteth the doing of it by pass, and not meddle at all therewith; but shall God's hand immediately, and that too with respect briefly speak to the

to his casting them out of the world, and not as it Second, to wit, that there are some professors respecteth an act of the church, &c. And as to this whose day of grace will end with, Cut it down, cutting down, or judgment, it must be concluded, with judgment, when Christ, by his means, hath that it cannot be before the day of grace be past been used for their salvation,

with the fig-tree; but according to the observation, This the apostle showeth in that third chapter of there are some professors whose day of grace will his Epistle to the Hebrews, where he tells us that the end with, Cut it down; and according to the words people of the Jews, after a forty years' patience and of the text, Then,' after that, thou shalt cut it endeavour to do them good by the means appointed down.' • After that,' that is, after all my attempts for that purpose, their end was to be cut down, or and endeavours to make it fruitful, after I have left excluded the land of promise, for their final incre-it, given it over, done with it, and have resolved to dulity. “So we see that they could not enter in, bestow no more days of grace, opportunities of because of unbelief.' Wherefore,' saith he, •1 grace, and means of grace upon it, then, 'after was grieved with that generation, and said, They do that,' thou shalt cut it down. alway err in their heart, and they have not known Besides, the giving up of the fig-tree is before my ways; so I sware in my wrath, They shall not the execution. Execution is not always presently enter into my rest.' As who should say, I would upon the sentence given; for, after that, a convethey should have entered in, and for that purpose nient time is thought on, and then is cutting I brought them out of Egypt, led them through down. And so it is here in the text. The decree, the sea, and taught them in the wilderness, but that he shall perish, is gathered from its continuthey did not answer my work nor designs in that ing fruitless quite through the last year—from its matter; wherefore they shall not, I swear they shall continuing fruitless at the end of all endeavours. not. • I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter But cutting down is not yet, for that comes with into my rest.' Ilere is cutting down with judg- an afterward. • Then, after that, thou shalt cut it ment. So again, he saith, “As I have sworn in my down.' wrath, if they shall enter into my rest; although So then, that I may orderly proceed with the the works were finished from the foundation of the observation, I must lay down these two proposi. world.' He. iv. 4, 5. This word “if' is the same with tions:-Proposition First. That the day of graco

they shall not,' in the chapter before. And where ends with some men before God takes them out le saith, “ Although the works were finished from of this world. And, PROPOSITION Second. The the foundation of the world,' he giveth us to under- death, or cutting down of such men, will be stand that what preparations soever are made for dreadful. For this Cut it down,' when it is the salvation of sinners, and of how long continu- understood in the largest sense, as here indeed ance soever they are, yet the God-tempting, God-it ought, it showeth not only the wrath of God provoking and fruitless professor, is like to go against a man's life in this world, but his wrath without a share therein, although the works were against him, body and soul; and is as much finished from the foundation of the world.' 'I | as to say, Cut him off from all the privileges will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye and benefits that come by grace, both in this once knew this, how that the Lord having saved world and that which is to come. the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward de- ceed: stroyed them that believed not. And the angels PROPOSITION First.–The day of grace ends that kept not their first estate, but left their own with some men before God taketh them out of the habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains world. I shall give you some instances of this, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great and so go on to the last proposition. day.' Jude 5, 6. Here is an instance to purpose, an

Pirst. I shall instance Cain. Cain was a proinstance of men and angels: men saved out of the fessor, a sacrificer, a worshipper of God, yea, the land of Egypt, and in their journey towards Canaan, first worshipper that we read of after the fall; but the type of heaven, cut down; angels created and his grapes were wild ones. His works were evil; placed in the heavens in great estate and princi- he did not do what he did from true gospel mopality; yet both these, because unfruitful to God tives, therefore God disallowed his work. Ge. iv. 8–8. in their places, were cut down-the men destroyed | At this his countenance falls, wherefure he envies by God, for so saith the text, and the “ angels re- his brother, disputes him, takes his opportunity, served in everlasting chains under darkness, unto and kills him. Now, in that day that he did this the judgment of the great day.

act were the heavens closed up against him, and VOL. II).

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