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Morning, December 24, 1820.
THE BARREN FIG-TREE, CURSED.'
Master, behold, the fig-tree which thou cursedst is
withered away.--MARK XI. 21.
In the twelfth verse we read, “and on the morrow, when he came from Bethany, he was hungry: and seeing a fig-tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves ; for the time of figs was not yet.” Jesus was hungry, and he came, expecting to find figs on the fig-tree,—though he was omniscient, as God, he was not so, as man,—this will explain his saying, at times, that he knew not some things. He came, ex
Another sermon on the same text, and evidently from the same notes, will be found on a future page. As Mr. Howel's preaching was extempore, and from very scanty notes, which served as a brief analysis of his proposed discourse, and to which he did not always adhere strictly, the Editor has inserted both sermons, thinking that a comparison between two sermons preached from the same notes, at an intervening period of about ten years, would be interesting to the Christian reader, and particularly to many members of the late Mr. Howel's congregation.
pecting to find figs on the fig-tree, but it had nothing but leaves ; “ for the time of figs was not yet.” Now it was not the full time of their ripening : you, who possess fruit-trees and orchards, know very well, that as the time of gathering approaches, the fruit on many trees ripens before the rest; and that you postpone the gathering until the whole are ripe—so that though the time of ripening of the whole might not have fully come, yet a traveller passing by, might expect to find some fruit that was ripe. In this case, though the time of the ripening of figs generally had not arrived, yet there being nothing but leaves on the tree, was entirely owing to its barrenness and infertility. “ And Jesus answered, and said unto it, -no man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it :” and in the twentieth verse it is related, that “in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, calling to remembrance, saith unto him,-Master, behold! the fig-tree which thou cursedst is withered away.” The Saviour did not curse the fig-tree in consequence of any sinful displeasure, but he cursed it to teach his disciples a very useful lesson.
I. TO TEACH THEM THAT THE WORLD WAS AS A BARREN FIG-TREE.
II. THAT THE CURSE OF GOD was UPON IT. III. THAT DESTRUCTION MUST REST UPON IT HEREAFTER.
IV. JESUS DISCOVERS HIMSELF AS A GOD OF VENGEANCE IN THE MIDST OP MERCY.
I. Then Jesus taught them, that THE WORLD in which they lived was As A BARREN FIG-TREE, barren of all spiritual good; that it possesses nothing of its own that can satisfy the soul, even in time, much less for eternity. The natural soul of man is called the flesh, implying, by that expression, that it is the slave of sinful desires, – seeking pleasure and delight in material things; it implies that the soul is the abject slave of the body. In the pursuit of human learning, in the cultivation of the arts and sciences exclusively, and to the exclusion and total forgetfulness of God, we discover nothing but a refined sensuality. It does not afford permanent good, but a fancied and delusive good, and that, but for a season. If we closely peruse the character of those who are thus engrossed, we shall discover in them a conduct that violates the commands of God, whenever a suitable temptation occurs. Yesthe world is barren of all good. If we consider the Israelites in the wilderness, we shall find, that every good they received, came from God; so must it be with us, in this world's wilderness;
we must look to him for every good,-nothing else can satisfy us.
Again, if we consider the character and state of man, we shall find the world to be a wilderness. Much is said against original sin: would that persons did not speak against a truth declared by God himself, which experience testifies; which all history, sacred and profane, evinces. I offer only one argument, and upon this test, I would place the doctrine of original sin ; overthrow this argument, and I will confess I have been guilty of deceiving you. Let us seek amongst the men and women of every nation under the canopy of heaven, and produce one innocent person. Begin your travels through Europe-extend them through Asia, Africa, and America-let every exertion and industry be used, and you cannot find oneGod himself says, “ the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one."1 . It is the same whether you read the history of savage or civilized society. Consider the people of Greece and Rome ; and you will perceive, notwithstanding
1 Psalm xiv. 2, 3.
their learning and politeness, how ignorant they were of God. The period in which the Son of God came upon earth was remarkable ; science and art had arisen to the highest eminence; so high indeed, that the monuments they have left behind, laugh at the attainments of modern times. Give the aggregate of human wisdom and knowledge of all mankind to one individual, and he will not cherish the idea of returning to God :-consider the Jews themselves, the peculiar people, the highly-favoured nation, whom God selected from among the nations of the world,-having the oracles of God in their hands, and an appointed form of worship, and an ordained ministry; and consider also Christ and his Apostles labouring amongst them ;-the whole body of the Jews persecuted both the master and the servant. “The whole world lieth in wickedness.” Remember, my brethren, a barren fig-tree may exist in the midst of the professing church. We may possess the clearest views of doctrine, and adhere strictly to forms, but, after all, know nothing of the new birth and the regenerating power of God the Holy Ghost, which alone can quicken and fertilize the barren soul of man. May he descend into our hearts, by nature as the barren fig-tree, and may he quicken and fertilize them by his renewing and sanctifying