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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.
The immediate use made of this withering of the fig-tree, was to confirm the faith of the apostles, by an evident example of that power, a share of which was to be communicated to themselves. You have witnessed the power of God. Have faith in Him; ask in such faith, and ye shall be enabled to exercise a like power.
But though our Lord seized the opportunity of this miracle for the confirmation of his apostles' faith, its significant nature, and the particular season when it was performed, show clearly that it conveyed a further meaning. It was intended to signify the judgment of which this and the three succeeding chapters are full, the rejection of the Jewish nation. It declares the accomplishment of Isaiah's prophecy, (v. 3–5,) “O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes ? And now go to : I will tell you what I will do to
vineyard : I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up: and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down." The Lord had come, “seeking fruit of the fig-tree planted in his vineyard :" it bore an outward profession; its leaves were flourishing; as the “ Jew rested in the law, and made his boast of God.” But when he came to it, he found nothing thereon but leares only: a mere profession; show without fruit; pretension without performance; knowledge without practice. The time of trial had been long and patient: “ what more could be done to the vineyard ?” So the day of utter destruction was at hand: Let no fruit grow on thee, henceforward for ever.
This was spoken of the nation at large. And the whole transaction is an illustration, evident to the
eye, of our Lord's words, recorded by St. John. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, my Father, who is the husbandman, taketh away. The Jewish people were branches under God's husbandry. They had borne no fruit of righteous ness : and now they were to be taken away.
We must remember, that the dealings of God with nations, are a specimen of his dealings with individuals. God applies the culture of his word, and distils the dew of his grace upon the heart : and expects that “the earth should drink in the rain that falleth oft upon it, and bring forth herbs meet for him by whom it is dressed.” « For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”
5 John xv. 2.
PARABLE OF THE REBELLIOUS HUSBANDMEN.
Matt. xxi. 23—46.
27-33. Luke xx.
23. And when he was come into the temple, the chief Mark xi. priests und the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these 1—8. things? and who gave thee this authority ?
24. And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
25. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him 1
26. But if we shall say, Of men, we fear the people ; for all hold John as a prophet.
27. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
6 Heb. vi. 7. Why did
not believe him, when he testified of me as the Christ, the Son of God.
28. 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 afterwards 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? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I
say unto youl, 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 : bul the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
Those to whom our Lord was now addressing himself, professed to be working in the vineyard of God: they professed to be guardians of his truth, and zealous for his law. But they were not really doing his work; and were not brought, (not generally brought, though some of the scribes and Pharisees came to him,) to a better mind, even by the preaching of John, which was intended to tear off the veil of their hypocrisy, and show them their own state.
On the other hand, of the publicans and harlots, of the careless and the profligate, who had before lived “without God in the world,” many listened to John's message and were converted; they repented and went into the vineyard : and therefore they are nearer to the kingdom of God than those, who,“when they were nothing, thought themselves to be something :” who neither practised obedience,
In the practice of righteousness: teaching it, and doing it.
nor repentance. The utter rejection of such is declared in the parable which follows.
33. Hear another parable : There was a certain house- Mark xii. holder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, Luke xx. and digged a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it 9—19. 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, that 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.
This parable exactly describes the conduct of God towards the Jews, and the return of disobedience which they made. “ The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts, was the house of Israel.” He planted them in Canaan ; he gave them a knowledge of himself and of his will; he made them a peculiar people, hedging them out from the heathen world ; and he looked for obedience to the laws which he had prescribed.
The servants whom God is described as sending from time to time, are the prophets—as Samuel, and Elijah, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and the rest ; to whom he gave an especial commission, that they might rebuke, and exhort, and instruct with all authority: might bring the people to repentance, and confirm them in good works. But the husbandmen of those days, who had the management of the vineyard, the priests and rulers of the nation, instead of receiving these men as the servants of God, put some to death, and shamefully entreated others,