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to represent by way of symbol, or sensible outward token, the destruction coming upon their country for refusing the divine message and offer he made them. For that, as the tree was denounced by him useless and barren for ever, fit for nothing but to be cut down,-so their wicked nation would forfeit the divine protection which it had hitherto enjoyed, and become extirpated.
We may not doubt but that our Lord explained to his disciples at the time his intent and design in thus devoting the tree to destruction, although the evangelists have none of them related aught of it; for there would have been no end of writing down minutely every thing. And the application is of itself obvious and plain to every reader.
St. Matthew, however, has recorded two similar parables delivered by our Lord much about the same time; the inference from which drawn by him, equally suits this parabolic representation and instruction which we are considering, and serves to explain it; as also to show what lay nearest our Lord's heart at this juncture.
“ Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given
to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”
II. I would next observe, that this Saviour of the world, and last great prophet of God, did not herein adopt any unusual method of instruction, but copied after the prophets that went before him, who were wont to teach men the will of God by outward signs and actions as well as by words; and were often directed to use the former, that their divine message might make the deeper impression on those to whom it was delivered.
Thus the prophet Jeremiah, (xix.) by the breaking of a potter's vessel, was to foreshow the desolation that was coming upon the kings of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for their sins.?
And this denunciation of the divine judgement on the Jewish nation here shadowed forth, and at other times in plain words foretold by our Lord, by the direction of Almighty God, has also been dreadfully fulfilled, and is still fulfilling :
They have withered away and perished from the root. Vagabonds over the face of the earth, at the mercy of the nations among whom they
are scattered, an abject race, though sometimes with nobler characters among them, ill-treated often, generally despised ; they remain a monument of the divine justice, and of the truth of the gospel.
A warning surely to be attended to by us, that we beware of continuing barren and unfruitful under such means of holiness and all virtue, furnished us by the gospel of Christ. “ If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he spare not thee !" are St. Paul's words (Rom. xi. 21.) upon the very case. The
present state of Greece, of Asia Minor, and several provinces in Africa, where the christian name was once so wide-spread and flourishing, are a sad proof, that the neglect and abuse of the light of divine truth, the loss of virtue, will draw along with it the loss of liberty, and of every thing valuable and desirable.
III. With regard to the objections raised against this miracle, we may observe, first, that the circumstances of the narrative itself have been alleged as not making much for our Lord's credit, but the contrary; that he should be so unreasonable as to expect fruit, when the sa
cred historian expressly says, “the time of figs was not yet.”
But a little candour and attention would have shown that this circumstance is alleged, and very properly, as a just ground for expect
upon tree, because the time of gathering was not yet come; which is, and might at large be proved to be, the meaning of our evangelist's expression, that “the time of figs was not yet.”
In confirmation of this it is further to be noted, that the season of the year
when this event happened, was a few days before the passover, which was always the latter end of March, or in the month of April, in the beginning of summer, because it was then that their harvest began; for, by the law of Moses, (Lev. xxiii.) they were to bring with them, and to offer at the time of the
passover, a sheaf of the first fruits of their barley-harvest; which they were to present at this time before God with thankfulness and prayer, for his blessing upon that which was uncut. After which, but not before, they were allowed to reap the rest of their corn. It has likewise been abundantly proved, 2 1 2
both from the Bible and from other writers of the natural history of those Eastern coun, tries, that they had early and later figs. Those first ripe were ready before the summer, or at its very beginning ; the later figs were gathered at the time of the vintage,
2dly. I would further observe on this head, that our Lord, in resorting to thiş tree to have taken some of its fruit, if there had been any upon it, did nothing but what he had authority for by the law of God and the custom of the country:
For there was humane provision made, and it was, enacted by the law of God, as you read, (Deut. xxiii. 24, 25.) that all persons were at liberty to eat grapes as they passed through their neighbour's vineyards, and to pluck the ears of corn, and eat them,
And the Jewish historiąn Josephus, who lived in the time of the apostles, says, that this law was interpreted so as to give permission not only to Jews born, but to all travellers on the highway in Judea, to eat of any ripe fruits which they met with, as freely as if they were their own. 3dly. But it has been objected by some in a