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men? This would undoubtedly be the case, if the old serpent called the devil, had the power to have it so! On no other ground can it be expected. To show this matter in its natural light, let us ask, whether any of the human race would be saved from sin and death, if this old serpent had the power to prevent it? Answer, no. On the other hand, will any of the human race remain eternally in a state of sin and death, if the blessed mediator have power to prevent it? Answer, no; for how can there be an agreement between the seed of the woman and the serpent?
The prophet Zephaniah has a most beautiful passage, which shows the end of the ministration of wrath, and the glory that will follow. See chap. iii, 8, 9: 'Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.'
He spake also this parable: A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none : cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also,
till I shall dig about it, and dung it and if it bear fruit, well and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. '-Luke xiii, 6, 7, 8, 9.
THIS parable was spoken in reply to those who told Jesus of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Jesus taking into consideration, also, the eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell, asked them if they thought these were sinners above all the Galileans and the dwellers in Jerusalem; which question he answers himself, saying:
I say unto you, nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.' Then he introduces the above parable, by which, he points at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jews.
1. By a fig-tree, is meant the house of Israel, which the Lord planted in the goodly land of promise.
2. The barrenness of the house of Israel, in respect to the fruits of righteousness, is signified by the fruit lessness of the fig-tree.
3. That, judging the Jews only by their barrenness, it was then time they were cut down or destroyed, as cumberers of the holy land; but Christ, who was the dresser of the vineyard, seems to represent a short time in which he should grant them great advantages, which, after they had neglected, they would be destroyed.
The house of Israel, as represented by this unfruitful fig-tree, is a just representation of all those national churches, who punctually attend to the outward forms of religion and neglect to bring forth the fruits of the
gospel. Nor need we confine this application to national churches, as it is very evident that many churches in Christendom who are not of that establishment, have, and pride themselves in having, a similarity of character with natural churches. Another striking figure by which such churches are represented, we find in St. Matt. xxi, 18, 19: Now in the morning, as he returned into the city he hungered. 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 forever. And presently the fig-tree withered away.' This fig-tree resembled the then present Jewish church, as well as all churches of a similar character. This tree is not represented to have been wanting in size, in age, in height, or verdure, but in fruit only. All this might be said of those churches of which we speak. They frequently appear in a flourishing condition, they may grow to be numerous, and to adorn themselves with a great many worldly excellences, honors and dignities; all of which serve to beautify them, not in the sight of God, but in the sight of men, who have the vanity to pride themselves in such appearances. When religion becomes the creature of state government, and is shaped according to the pattern of tyrannical and oppressive power, it is always the object of that order of clergy who look to the public ruler for temporal support, to bend every thing, as much as possible, to please the vain, ostentatious and even ambitious views of such a patron. In such a case, what may reasonably be expected, but to have the character of the Saviour exhibited and illustrated by that of the oppressor, the tyrant, the unmerciful ruler?
From the fatal moment the civil power of Rome di
rected its distempered policy to water the christian church, it is true it flourished greatly; its branches became numerous and extensive; it clothed itself with the leafy honors which had adorned the pagan worship; but it decreased in respect to the genuine fruits of the gospel, in the same ratio, until it became as destitute of fruit as the fig-tree was, which we have taken for an emblem. In churches not constituted by civil authority, the spirit of dominion and oppression clothes itself with an ecclesiastical government, and gratifies the pride and vanity of its votaries with the privileges of imposing creeds, forms of worship, and modes of discipline, on the ignorance and superstition of stupid minds. If such a church succeed in its influence, to control colleges and other seminaries of learning, as is the case in this country, the clergy, in possession of such means, will not fail to use them to extend their fig-tree, and to adorn it with showy leaves, and pride themselves in its verdure. But as to the fruits of the gospel, we are not to find them on such trees. As the spirit of dominion, tyranny and ambition was never satisfied, so we find every order of clergy, throughout the world, who partake of this spirit, ever striving to the utmost stretch of their influence, to marry their darling church to the government of state, and to found it on this rock, against which, they trust, the gates of hell cannot prevail. If disappointed in this favorite object, then we hear the cry of the clergy, against the rulers, whom they represent as being destitute of all religion themselves, and as being disposed to prostrate its beautiful fabric, and to deprive it of its blessed influence in the world. All such churches must meet the fate of the fig-tree; they must wither away, they must lose their verdure
their deciduous leaves will fall, and their candlestick must be removed.
It would undoubtedly be an unjustifiable omission not to apply this subject to individuals; for, in general, admonitions which are proper for nations, churches, or other communities, may be profitably applied to individuals. It is easily seen, that if no individual was disposed to adorn himself with those outside appearances of religion and piety, to the neglect of the real fruits of the spirit, there could be found no large bodies of people, such as associations and churches, of this cast. Let each soul, then, look at home, examine with caution whether his religion be all outside show, open profession, fig-leaf righteousness, without the fruits of the spirit, which are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. If in these fruits we abound, then may we say with propriety, 'Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruit.'
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it; lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consultetn, whether he be able, with ten thousand, to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an embassage, and desireth conditions of peace.' -Luke xiv, 28-32.
IN these parables, Christ taught those who pretended to be his disciples, the indispensable requisitions in