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I Gr. one fig tree.
t Mark xi. 20.
Mark xi. 12. & Mark xi. 13.
yl Cor. xiii. 2.
u Chap. xvii. 20; Luke xvii. 6.
should now have seized him before his hour was come; in justice, because they had forfeited the favour of his presence. By repining at Christ's praises, we drive him from us. He left them as incorrigible, and he went out of the city to Bethany, which was a more quiet, retired place; not so much that he might sleep undisturbed, as that he might pray undisturbed. Bethany was but two little miles from Jerusalem ; thither he went on foot, to show that when he rode it was only to fulfil the Scriptures. He was not listed up with the hosannas of the people; but, as having forgot them, soon returned to his mean and toilsome
way of travelling. 18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. 19 'And
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. 20 'And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig-tree withered away! 21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, "If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig-tree, 'but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
James i. 6. z Chap. vii. 7; Mark xi. 24; Lukexi. 9; James v. 16; 1 John iii. 22, v. 14. Christ hungered, that he might have occasion to work this miracle, in cursing and so withering the barren fig-tree, and therein might give us an instance of his justice and his power,—and both instructive.
See his justice (ver. 19). Ile went to it, expecting fruit, because it had leaves; but, finding none, he sentenced it to a perpetual barrenness. The miracle bad its significance, as well as others of his miracles. All Christ's miracles hitherto were wrought for the good of men, and proved the power of his grace and blessing (the sending of the devils into the herd of swine was but a permission); all he did was for the benefit and comfort of his friends-none for the terror or punishment of his enemies; but now, at last, he shows that all judgment is committed to him, and that he is able not only to save, but to destroy. He would give a specimen of the power of his wrath and curse; yet this not on any man, woman, or child—because the great day of his wrath is not yet come- but on an inanimate tree ; that is set forth for an example—Come, learn a parable of the figtree. Chap. xxiv. 32. The scope of it is the same with the parable of the fig-tree. Luke xiii. 6.
This cursing of the barren fig-tree represents the state of hypocrites in general; and so it teaches us, that the fruit of the fig-trees may justly be expected from those that have the leaves. Christ looks for the power of religion from those that make profession of it. Christ's just expectations from flourishing professors are often frustrated and disappointed. He comes to many, seeking fruits and finds leaves only. A false and hypocritical profession commonly withers in this world ; and it is the effect of Christ's curse. The fig-tree that had no fruit, soon lost its leaves. Hypocrites may look plausible for a time, but, having no principle, no root in themselves, their profession will soon come to nothing; the gifts wither, common graces decay, the credit of the profession declines and sinks, and the falseness and folly of the pretender are manifested to all men.
This fig tree also represents the state of the nation and people of the Jews, in particular. They were a fig-tree planted in Christ's way, as a Church. Now, observe the disappointment they gave to our Lord Jesus. He came among them, expecting to find some fruit—something that would be pleasing to him ; he hungered after it—not that he desired a gift, he needed it not, but fruit that might abound to a good account. But his expectations were frustrated; he found nothing but leaves. They called Abraham their father, but did not do the works of Abraham. They professed themselves expectants of the promised Messiah ; but when he came, they did not receive and entertain him.- The doom he passed upon them, that never any fruit should grow upon them, or be gathered from them, as a Church, or as a people, Never any good came from them (except the particular persons among them that believed) after they rejected Christ. They became worse and
Blindness and hardness happened to them, and grew upon them, till they were unchurched, un peopled, and undone, and their place and nation rooted up. Their beauty was defaced : their privileges and ornaments, their temple, and priesthood, and sacrifices, and festivals, and all the glories of their Church and State, fell like leaves in autumn. How soon did their fig-tree wither away after they said, “ His blood be on us, and on our children !” And the Lord was righteous in it.
The disciples wondered at the effect of Christ's curse, ver. 20. They marvelled. No power could do it but His, who spake, and it was done. They marvelled at the suddenness of the thingHow soon is the fig-tree withered away! There was no visible cause of its withering; but it was a secret blast, a worm at the root. It was not only the leaves of it that withered, but the body of the tree; it withered away in an instant, and became like a dry stick. Gospel curses are, upon this account, the most dreadful,—that they work insensibly and silently, by a fire not blown, but effectually.
Christ empowered the disciples by faith to do the like (ver. 21, 22); as he said (John xiv. 12), “ Greater works than these shall ye do.” Observe the description of this wonder-working faith-If ye have faith, and doubt not. Doubting of the power and promise of God is the great thing that spoils the efficacy and success of faith. “If you have faith, and dispute not” (so some read it), dispute not with yourselves, dispute not with the promise of God if you stagger not at the promise” (Rom. iv. 20); for, as far as we do so, our faith is deficient; as certain as the promise is, so confident our faith should be. Observe, also, the power and prevalence of it expressed figuratively -If ye shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, it shall be done. This is a proverbial expression, intimating that we are to believe that nothing is impossible with God, and therefore, that what he has promised shall certainly be performed, though to us it seem impossible. It was among the Jews a usual commendation of their learned rabbin, that they were removers of mountains ; that is, could solve the greatest difficulties. Now, this may be done by faith, acted on the Word of God, which will bring great and strange things to pass. Observe, also, the way and means of exercising this faith, and of doing that which is to be done by it-All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Faith is the soul, prayer is the body; both together make a complete man for any service. Faith, if it be right, will excite prayer; and prayer is not right, if it do not spring from faith. This is the condition of our receiving—we must ask in prayer, believing. The requests of prayer shall not be denied ; the expectations of faith shall not be frustrated. We have many promises to this purport from the mouth of our Lord Jesus; and all to encourage faith, the principal grace, and prayer, the principal duty of a Christian. 23 | “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the
elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and "said, By
c Chap. xiv. 5; Mark vi. 20; Luke xx. 6. Our Lord Jesus preached his Gospel with much contention. His first appearance was in a dispute with the doctors in the temple, when he was twelve years old; and here, just before he died, we have him engaged in controversy. In this sense he was, like Jeremiah, a man of contention ; not striving, but striven with. The great contenders with him, were the chief priests and the elders, -the judges of two distinct courts. The chief priests presided in the ecclesiastical court, in all matters of the Lord, as they are called; the elders of the people were judges of the civil courts, in temporal matters. See an idea of both, 2 Chron. xxix. 5, 8, 11. These joined to attack Christ; thinking they should find or make him obnoxious either to the one or to the other. See how wofully degenerate that generation was, when the governors both in Church and State, who should have been the great promoters of the Messiah's kingdom, were the great opposers of it. Here we have them disturbing him when he was preaching, ver. 23. They would neither receive his instructions themselves, nor let others receive them.
When Christ was teaching the people, the priests and elders came upon him, and challenged him to produce his orders. The hand of Satan was in this, to hinder him in his work.-It cannot but be a trouble to a faithful minister, to be taken off, or diverted from, plain and practical preaching, by an unavoidable necessity of engaging in controversies. Yet good was brought out of this evil;
b Exod. ii. 14; Acts iv. 7, vii. 27.
for hereby occasion was given to Christ to dispel the objections that were advanced against him, to the greater satisfaction of his followers.
Now, in this dispute with them, we may observe,-How he was assaulted by their insolent demand, -By what authority doest thou these things ? and who gave thee this authority?
Had they duly considered his miracles, and the power by which he wrought them, they needed not to have asked this question ; but they must have something to say for the shelter of an obstinate infidelity. “ Thou ridest in triumph into Jerusalem-receivest the hosannas of the people-controllest in the temple—drivest out such as had license to be there from the rulers of the temple, and paid them rent; thou art here preaching a new doctrine ; whence hadst thou a commission to do all this? Was it from Cæsar, or from the high priest, or from God ? Produce thy warrant ---thy credentials. Christ had often said it, and proved it beyond contradiction, and Nicodemus, a master in Israel, had owned it—that he was a Teacher sent of God” (John iii. 2); yet, at this time of day, when that point had been so fully cleared and settled, they come to him with this question. Ile answered this demand with another, which would help them to answer it themselves (verses 24, 25)-I also will ask you one thing. Now this question is concerning John's baptism, here put for his whole ministry, preaching as well as baptizing. Was this from heaven, or of men ?
One of the two it must be; either what he did was of his own head, or he was sent of God to do it. If they answered this question, it would answer theirs. Should they say, against their consciences, that John's baptism was of men, yet it would be easy to answer,—John did no miracle (John X. 41); but Christ did many. But should they say, as they could not but own, that John's baptism was from heaven, --which was supposed in the question sent him (John. i. 21), “ Art thou Elias, or that prophet,”—then their demand was answered, for he bare testimony to Christ. But if they refused to answer it, that would be a good reason why he should not offer proofs of his authority to men that were obstinately prejudiced against the strongest conviction; it was but to cast perils before swine. Thus he taketh the wise in their own craftiness (1 Cor. iii. 19); and those that would not be convinced of the plainest truths, shall be convicted of the vilest malice; against John first, then against Christ, and in both against God.
They were hereby sorely baffled. They knew the truth, but would not own it; and so were taken in the snare they laid for our Lord Jesus. They reasoned with themselves ; not concerning the merits of the cause, what proofs there were of the divine original of John's baptism; no, their care was, how to make their part good against Christ. Two things they considered and consulted, in thus reasoning with themselves—their credit, and their safety; the same things which they principally aim at who seek their own things. They consider their own credit, which they would endanger if they should own John's baptism to be of God; for then Christ would ask them, before all the people,
Why did ye not believe him?" And to acknowledge that a doctrine is from God, and yet not to receive and entertain it, is the greatest absurdity and iniquity that a man can be charged with. They consider their own safety,—that they would expose themselves to the resentments of the people, if they should say that John's baptism was of men. We fear the people, for all hold John as a prophet. 28 q But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to
the first, and said, Son, go work to-day in my vineyard. 29 He answered and said, I will not : but afterward he repented, and went. 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. 31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father ? 31 They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, •Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For ‘John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: 8but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
s Chap. iii. 1. This parable represents two sorts of persons. Some that prove better than they promise, represented by the first of those sons; others that promise better than they prove, represented by the second.
One of the sons did better than he said-proved better than he promised. He gave an untoward answer to his father; he said, flat and plain, I will not. See to what a degree of impudence the
e Luke vii. 29, 50.
& Luke iii. 12, 13.
corrupt nature of man rises, to say, I will not to the command of a father-such a command of such a father. They are impudent children, and stiff-hearted. Those that will not bend, surely they cannot blush ; if they had any degree of modesty left them, they could not say, We will not. Jer. ii. 25. Excuses are bad, but downright denials are worse; yet such peremptory refusals do the calls of the Gospel often meet with.
When he who gave this untoward answer began to reflect, afterward he repented, and went. There are many who in the beginning are wicked and wilful, and very unpromising, who afterward repent and mend, and come to something. Some that God hath chosen, are suffered for a great while to run to a great excess of riot. When he repented, he went: that was the fruit meet for repentance. The only evidence of our repentance for our former resistance, is immediately, to comply, and set to work; and then what is past shall be pardoned, and all shall be well.
The other son said better than he did-promised better than he proved. How fairly he promised. He said, I go, sir. He gives his father a title of respect-Sir. It becomes children to speak respectfully to their parents. It is one branch of that honour which the Fifth Commandment requires. Observe, how he failed in the performance. He went not. There are many that give good words, and make fair promises, in religion, and those from some good motions for the present, that rest there, and go no farther, and so come to nothing. Saying and doing are two things; and many there are that say, and do not. Buds and blossoms are not fruit.
Our Saviour, having spoken this parable, makes a general appeal upon it-- Whether of them twain did the will of his father? ver. 31. They both had their faults-one was rude, and the other was false; but the question is, which was the better of the two, and the less faulty? And it was soon resolved. The first ; because his actions were better than his words, and his latter end than his beginning. This they had learned from the common sense of mankind, who would much rather deal with one that will be better than his word, than with one that will be false to his word. And, in the intention of it, they had learned from the account God gives of the rule of his judgment (Ezek. xviii. 21-24); that if the sinner turn from his wickedness, he shall be pardoned ; and if the righteous man turn from his righteousness, he shall be rejected. The tenor of the whole Scripture gives us to understand that those are accepted as doing their Father's will, who, wherein they have missed it, are sorry for it, and do better.
There is next a particular application of it to the matter in hand verses 31, 32. The primary scope of the parable is, to show how the publicans and harlots, who never talked of the Messiah and his kingdom, yet entertained the doctrine, and submitted to the discipline, of John the Baptist, his forerunner, when the priests and elders, who were big with expectations of the Messiah, and seemed very ready to go into his measures, slighted John the Baptist, and ran counter to the designs of his mission. But it has a farther reach. The Gentiles were sometimes disobedient, had been long so—children of disobedience, like the elder son (Tit. iii. 3, 4); yet, when the Gospel was preached to them, they became obedient to the faith ; whereas the Jews who said, I go, sir, proinised fair (Exod. xxiv. 7; Josh. xxiv. 24) yet went not; they did but flatter God with their mouths. Psal. lxxviii. 36. 33 | Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, "which planted
a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and 'went into a far country: 34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, kthat they might receive the fruits of it. 35 'And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, “This is the heir; "come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they cauglit him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen ? 41 "They say unto him, 'He will miserably destroy those wicked
h Psal. Ixxx. 9; Cant. viii. 11; Isa. v. 1; Jer. ii. 21; Mark xii. 1; Luke xx. 9. i Chap. xxv, 14, 15. !2 Chron. xxiv. 21, xxxvi. 16; Neh. ix. 26; Chap. v. 12, xxiii. 31, 37; Acts vii. 52; 1 Thess. ii. 15; Heb. xi. 36, 37. Heb. i. 2. * Psal. ii. 2: Chap. xxvi. 3, xxvii. l; John xi. 13; Acts iv. 27. o Chap. xxvi. 50; Mark xiv. 46; Luke xxii. 54 John Xviii. 12 | Acts li. 23. p See Luke xx. 16. q Luke xxi. 24; Heb. 11. 3.
k Cant. viii. 11, 12.
m Psal. ii. 84
$ Psal. cxviii. 22; Isa. xxviii. 16; Mark xii. 10; Luke xx. 17;
men, 'and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. 42 Jesus saith unto them, 'Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes ? 43 Therefore say I unto you, 'The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44 And whosoever "shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, *it will grind him to powder. 45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
Acts xiii. 46, xv. 7, xvii. 6, xxviii. 28; Rom. ix. x. xi. Acts iv. Il; Eph. ii. 20; 1 Pet. ii. 6, 7. 1 Chap. viii. 12. u Isa. viii. 14, 15; Lech. xii. 3; Luke xx, 18; Rom. ix. 33; 1 Pet. ii. 8.
* Isa. lx. 12; Dan. ii. 44. y Ver. Il; Luke vii. 16; John vii. 40. This parable plainly sets forth the sin and ruin of the Jewish nation. They and their leaders are the husbandmen here ; and what is spoken for conviction to them, is spoken for caution to all that enjoy the privileges of the visible Church, not to be high-minded, but fear.
In this parable we have the privileges of the Jewish Church, represented by the letting of a vineyard to the husbandmen. They were as tenants holding by, from, and under God, the great householder. God has established a Church for himself in the world. The kingdom of God upon earth is here compared to a vineyard, furnished with all things requisite to an advantageous management and improvement of it. The Church is the planting of the Lord. Isa. lxi. 3. The forming of a Church is a work by itself, like the planting of a vineyard, which requires a great deal of cost and care. It is the vineyard which his right hand has planted. Psal. Ixxx. The Church which God planted he hedged round about. God's Church in the world is taken under his special protection. The covenant of circumcision and the ceremonial law were a hedge or a wall of partition about the Jewish Church-which is taken down by Christ; who yet has appointed a Gospel order and discipline to be the hedge of his Church. He will not have his vineyard to lie in common, that those who are without may thrust in at pleasure; not to lie at large, that those that are within may lash out at pleasure ; but care is taken to set bounds about this holy mountain. He digged a wine-press, and built a tower. The altar of burnt-offerings was the wine-press, to which all the offerings were brought. God instituted ordinancos in his Church, for the due oversight of it, and for the promoting of its fruitfulness. What couid cave been done more to make it every way convenient?
How he entrusted these visible church privileges with the nation and people of the Jews, especially chief priests and elders; he let it out to them as husbandmen, not because he had need of them as landlords have of their tenants, but because he would try them, and be honoured by them. When God had in a visible appearance settled the Jewish church at mount Sinai, he did in a manner withdraw; they had no more such open vision, but were left to the written word. We may
observe farther, God's expectation of rent from these husbandmen, ver. 34. It was a reasonable expectation ; for who plants a vineyard, and eats not of the fruit thereof? From those that enjoy church privileges, both ministers and people, God looks for fruit accordingly.
The husbandmen's baseness in abusing the messengers that were sent to them, is the next point.
When God sent them his servants, they abused them, though they represented the master himself, and spoke in his
name. See here what hath all along been the lot of God's faithful messengers, more or less. To suffer; so persecuted they the prophets, who were hated with a cruel hatred. They not only despised and reproached them, but treated them as the worst of malefactors -they beat them, and killed them, and stoned them.
God persevered in his goodness to them. He sent other servants, more than the first; though the first sped not, but were abused. He had sent them John the Baptist, and him they had beheaded ; and yet he sent them his disciples, to prepare his way. . O the riches of the patience and forbearance of God, in keeping up his Church a despised, persecuted ministry! The husbandmen persisted in their wickedness. They did unto them likewise. One sin makes way for another of the same kind. They that are drunk with the blood of the saints, add drunkenness to thirst, and still cry, Give, give.
At length he sent them his Son. Never did grace appear more gracious than in sending the