Acacia John Bunyan - Online Library
T H E
'Who being dead, yet speaketh.'—Hebrews 11:4
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
L O N D O N,
Printed for J. Robinson, at the Golden Lion,
in St. Paul's Churchyard, 1688.
This title page was printed with a wide black border.
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR
This solemn, searching, awful treatise, was published by Bunyan in 1682; but doesnot appear to have been reprinted until a very few months after his decease, whichso unexpectedly took place in 1688. Although we have sought with all possible diligence,no copy of the first edition has been discovered; we have made use of a fine copyof the second edition, in possession of that thorough Bunyanite, my kind friend,R. B. Sherring, of Bristol. The third edition, 1692, is in the British Museum. Addedto these posthumous publications appeared, for the first time, 'An Exhortation toPeace and Unity,' which will be found at the end of our second volume. In the advertisementto that treatise are stated, at some length, my reasons for concluding that it wasnot written by Bunyan, although inserted in all the editions of his collected works.That opinion is now more fully confirmed, by the discovery of Bunyan's own list ofhis works, published just before his death, in 1688, and in which that exhortationis not inserted. I was also much pleased to find that the same conclusion was arrivedat by that highly intelligent Baptist minister, Mr. Robert Robinson.
His reasons are given at some length, concluding with, 'it is evident that Bunyannever wrote this piece.' Why it was, after Bunyan's death, published with his'Barren Fig-tree,' is one of those hidden mysteries of darkness and of wickednessthat I cannot discover. The beautiful parable from which Bunyan selected his text,represents an enclosed ground, in which, among others, a fig-tree had been planted.It was not an enclosure similar to some of the vineyards of France or Germany, exclusivelydevoted to the growth of the vine, but a garden in which fruits were cultivated,such as grapes, figs, or pomegranates. It was in such a vineyard, thus retired fromthe world, that Nathaniel poured out his heart in prayer, when our Lord in spiritwitnessed, unseen, these devotional exercises, and soon afterwards rewarded him withopen approbation (John 1:48). In these secluded pleasant spots the Easterns spendmuch of their time, under their own vines or fig-trees, sheltered from the worldand from the oppressive heat of the sun—a fit emblem of a church of Christ. In thisvineyard stood a fig-tree—by nature remarkable for fruitfulness—but it is barren.No inquiry is made as to how it came there, but the order is given, 'Cut it down.'The dresser of the garden intercedes, and means are tried to make it fruitful, butin vain. At last it is cut down as a cumber-ground and burnt. This vineyard or gardenrepresents a gospel church; the fig-tree a member— a barren, fruitless professor.'It matters not how he got there,' if he bears no fruit he must be cut down and awayto the fire.
To illustrate so awful a subject this treatise was written, and it is intensely solemn.God, whose omniscience penetrates through every disguise, himself examines everytree in the garden, yea, every bough. Wooden and earthy professor, your detectionis sure; appearances that deceive the world and the church cannot deceive God. 'Hewill be with thee in thy bed fruits—thy midnight fruits—thy closet fruits— thy familyfruits—they conversation fruits.' Professor, solemnly examine yourself; 'in proportionto your fruitfulness will be your blessedness.' 'Naked and open are all things tohis eye.' Can it be imagined that those 'that paint themselves did ever repent oftheir pride?' 'How seemingly self-denying are some of these creeping things.' 'Isthere no place will serve to fit those for hell but the church, the vineyard of God?''It is not the place where the worker of iniquity can hide himself or his sins fromGod.' May such be detected before they go hence to the fire. While there is a dispositionto seek grace all are invited to come; but when salvation by Christ is abandoned,there is no other refuge, although sought with tears. Reader, may the deeply impressivelanguage of Bunyan sink profoundly into our hearts. We need no splendid angel norhideous demon to reveal to us the realities of the world to come. 'If we hear notMoses and the prophets,' as set forth by Bunyan in this treatise, 'neither shouldwe be persuaded though one rose from the dead' to declare these solemn truths (Luke16:31).
TO THE READER.
I have written to thee now about the Barren Fig-tree, or how it will fare with thefruitless professor that standeth in the vineyard of God. Of what complexion thouart I cannot certainly divine; but the parable tells thee that the cumber- groundmust be cut down. A cumber-ground professor is not only a provocation to God, a stumbling-blockto the world, and a blemish to religion, but a snare to his own soul also. 'Thoughhis excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet heshall perish for ever, like his own dung; they which have seen him shall say, Whereis he?' (Job 20:6,7).
Now 'they count it pleasure to riot in the daytime.' But what will they do when theaxe is fetched out? (2 Peter 2:13,14).
The tree whose fruit withereth is reckoned a tree without fruit, a tree twice dead,one that must be 'plucked up by the roots' (Jude 12).
O thou cumber-ground, God expects fruit, God will come seeking fruit shortly.
My exhortation, therefore, is to professors that they look to it, that they takeheed.
The barren fig-tree in the vineyard, and the bramble in the wood, are both preparedfor the fire.
Profession is not a covert to hide from the eye of God; nor will it palliate therevengeful threatening of his justice; he will command to cut it down shortly.
The church, and a profession, are the best of places for the upright, but the worstin the world for the cumber-ground. He must be cast, as profane, out of the mountof God: cast, I say, over the wall of the vineyard, there to wither; thence to begathered and burned. 'It had ben better for them not to have known the way of righteousness'(2 Peter 2:21). And yet if they had not, they had been damned; but it is better togo to hell without, than in, or from under a profession. These 'shall receive greaterdamnation' (Luke 20:47).
If thou be a professor, read and tremble: if thou be profane, do so likewise. Forif the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinners appear? Cumber-ground, take heed of the axe! Barren fig-tree, beware of the fire!
But I will keep thee no longer out of the book. Christ Jesus, the dresser of thevineyard, take care of thee, dig about thee, and dung thee, that thou mayest bearfruit; that when the Lord of the vineyard cometh with his axe to seek for fruit,or pronounce the sentence of damnation on the barren fig-tree, thou mayest escapethat judgment. The cumber- ground must to the wood-pile, and thence to the fire.Farewell.
Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus in sincerity. Amen.
THE BARREN FIG-TREE, OR THE DOOM AND DOWNFALL OF THE FRUITLESS PROFESSOR.
'A CERTAIN MAN HAD A FIG-TREE PLANTED IN HIS VINEYARD; AND HE CAME AND SOUGHT FRUITTHEREON, AND FOUND NONE. THEN SAID HE UNTO THE DRESSER OF HIS VINEYARD, BEHOLD, THESETHREE YEARS I COME SEEKING FRUIT ON THE FIG-TREE, AND FIND NONE: CUT IT DOWN; WHYCUMBERETH IT THE GROUND? AND HE ANSWERING SAID UNTO HIM, LORD, LET IT ALONE THISYEAR ALSO, TILL I SHALL DIG ABOUT IT, AND DUNG IT: AND IF IT BEAR FRUIT, WELL: ANDIF NOT, THEN AFTER THAT THOU SHALT CUT IT DOWN.'—LUKE 13:6-9.
At the beginning of this chapter we read how some of the Jews came to Jesus Christ,to tell him of the cruelty of Pontius Pilate, in mingling the blood of the Galileanswith their sacrifices. A heathenish and prodigious act; for therein he showed, notonly his malice against the Jewish nation, but also against their worship, and consequentlytheir God. An action, I say, not only heathenish, but prodigious also; for the LordJesus, paraphrasing upon this fact of his, teacheth the Jews, that without repentance'they should all likewise perish.' 'Likewise,' that is by the hand and rage of theRoman empire. Neither should they be more able to avoid the stroke, than were thoseeighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them (Luke 13:1-5). The fulfillingof which prophecy, for their hardness of heart, and impenitency, was in the daysof Titus, son of Vespasian, about forty years after the death of Christ. Then, Isay, were these Jews, and their city, both environed round on every side, whereinboth they and it, to amazement, were miserably overthrown. God gave them sword andfamine, pestilence and blood, for their outrage against the Son of his love. So wrath'came upon them to the uttermost' (1 Thess 2:16).
Now, to prevent their old and foolish salvo, which they always had in readiness againstsuch prophecies and denunciations of judgment, the Lord Jesus presents them withthis parable, in which he emphatically shows them that their cry of being the templeof the Lord, and of their being the children of Abraham, &c., and their beingthe church of God, would not stand them in any stead. As who should say, It may beyou think to help yourselves against this my prophecy of your utter and unavoidableoverthrow, by the interest which you have in your outward privileges. But all thesewill fail you; for what think you? 'A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard,and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.' This is your case! The Jewishland is God's vineyard; I know it; and I know also, that you are the fig-trees. Butbehold, there wanteth the main thing, fruit; for the sake, and in expectation ofwhich, he set this vineyard with trees. Now, seeing the fruit is not found amongstyou, the fruit, I say, for the sake of which he did at first plant this vineyard,what remains but that in justice he command to cut you down as those that cumberthe ground, that he may plant himself another vineyard? 'Then said he unto the dresserof 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?' This therefore must beyour end, although you are planted in the garden of God; for the barrenness and unfruitfulnessof your hearts and lives you must be cut off, yea, rooted up, and cast out of thevineyard.
In parables there are two things to be taken notice of, and to be inquired into ofthem that read. First, The metaphors made use of. Second, The doctrine or mysteriescouched under such metaphors.
The metaphors in this parable are, 1. A certain man; 2. A vineyard; 3. A fig-tree,barren or fruitless; 4. A dresser; 5. Three years; 6. Digging and dunging, &c.
The doctrine, or mystery, couched under these words is to show us what is like tobecome of a fruitless or formal professor. For, 1. By the man in the parable is meantGod the Father (Luke 15:11). 2. By the vineyard, his church (Isa 5:7). 3. By thefig-tree, a professor. 4. By the dresser, the Lord Jesus. 5. By the fig-tree's barrenness,the professor's fruitlessness. 6. By the three years, the patience of God that fora time he extendeth to barren professors. 7. This calling to the dresser of the vineyardto cut it down, is to show the outcries of justice against fruitless professors.8. The dresser's interceding is to show how the Lord Jesus steps in, and takes holdof the head of his Father's axe, to stop, or at least to defer, the present executionof a barren fig-tree. 9. The dresser's desire to try to make the fig-tree fruitful,is to show you how unwilling he is that even a barren fig-tree should yet be barren,and perish. 10. His digging about it, and dunging of it, is to show his willingnessto apply gospel helps to this barren professor, if haply he may be fruitful. 11.The supposition that the fig-tree may yet continue fruitless, is to show, that whenChrist Jesus hath done all, there are some professors will abide barren and fruitless.12. The determination upon this supposition, at last to cut it down, is a certainprediction of such professor's unavoidable and eternal damnation.
But to take this parable into pieces, and to discourse more particularly, thoughwith all brevity, upon all the parts thereof.
'A certain MAN had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard.'
The MAN, I told you, is to present us with God the Father; by which similitude heis often set out in the New Testament.
Observe then, that it is no new thing, if you find in God's church barren fig-trees,fruitless professors; even as here you see is a tree, a fruitless tree, a fruitlessfig-tree in the vineyard. Fruit is not so easily brought forth as a professionis got into; it is easy for a man to clothe himself with a fair show in the flesh,to word it, and say, Be thou warmed and filled with the best. It is no hard thingto do these with other things; but to be fruitful, to bring forth fruit to God, thisdoth not every tree, no not every fig-tree that stands in the vineyard of God. Thosewords also, 'Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away,' assert thesame thing (John 15:2). There are branches in Christ, in Christ's body mystical,which is his church, his vineyard, that bear not fruit, wherefore the hand of Godis to take them away: I looked for grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes, thatis, no fruit at all that was acceptable with God (Isa 5:4). Again, 'Israel is anempty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself,' none to God; he is without fruitto God (Hosea 10:1). All these, with many more, show us the truth of the observation,and that God's church may be cumbered with fruitless fig-trees, with barren professors.
Had a FIG-TREE.
Although there be in God's church that be barren and fruitless; yet, as I said, tosee to, they are like the rest of the trees, even a fig-tree. It was not an oak,nor a willow, nor a thorn, nor a bramble; but a FIG-TREE. 'they come unto thee asthe people cometh' (Eze 33:31). 'They delight to know my ways, as a nation that didrighteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God. They ask of me the ordinancesof justice, they take delight in approaching to God,' and yet but barren, fruitless,and unprofitable professors (Isa 58:2-4). Judas also was one of the twelve, a disciple,an apostle, a preacher, an officer, yea, and such a one as none of the eleven mistrusted,but preferred before themselves, each one crying out, 'Is it I? Is it I?' (Mark 14:19).None of them, as we read of (John 6:70), mistrusting Judas; yet he in Christ's eyewas the barren fig-tree, a devil, a fruitless professor. The foolish virgins alsowent forth of the world with the other, had lamps, and light, and were awakened withthe other; yea, had boldness to go forth, when the midnight cry was made, with theother; and thought that they could have looked Christ in the face, when he sat uponthe throne of judgment, with the other; and yet but foolish, but barren fig-trees,but fruitless professors. 'Many,' saith Christ, 'will say unto me in that day,' thisand that, and will also talk of many wonderful works; yet, behold, he finds nothingin them but the fruits of unrighteousness (Matt 7:22,23). They were altogether barrenand fruitless professors.
Had a fig-tree PLANTED.
This word PLANTED doth also reach far; it supposeth one taken out of its naturalsoil, or removed from the place it grew in once; one that seemed to be called, awakened;and not only so, but by strong hand carried from the world to the church; from natureto grace; from sin to godliness. 'Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou hastcast out the heathen, and planted it' (Psa 80:8). Of some of the branches of thisvine were there unfruitful professors.
It must be concluded, therefore, that this professor, that remaineth notwithstandingfruitless, is, as to the view and judgment of the church, rightly brought in thither,to wit, by confession of faith, of sin, and a show of repentance and regeneration;thus false brethren creep in unawares! All these things this word planted intimateth;yea, further, that the church is satisfied with them, consents they should abidein the garden, and counteth them sound as the rest. But before God, in the sightof God, they are graceless professors, barren and fruitless fig-trees.
Therefore it is one thing to be in the church, or in a profession; and another tobe of the church, and to belong to that kingdom that is prepared for the saint, thatis so indeed. Otherwise, 'Being planted, shall it prosper? shall it not utterly wither,when the east-wind toucheth it? It shall wither in the furrows where it grew' (Eze17:10).
Had a fig-tree planted in HIS vineyard.
In HIS vineyard. Hypocrites, with rotten hearts, are not afraid to come before Godin Sion. These words therefore suggest unto us a prodigious kind of boldness andhardened fearlessness. For what presumption higher, and what attempt more desperate,than for a man that wanteth grace, and the true knowledge of God, to crowd himself,in that condition, into the house or church of God; or to make profession of, anddesire that the name of God should be called upon him?
For the man that maketh a profession of the religion of Jesus Christ, that man hath,as it were, put the name of God upon himself, and is called and reckoned now, howfruitless soever before God or men, the man that hath to do with God, the man thatGod owneth, and will stand for. This man, I say, by his profession, suggesteth thisto all that know him to be such a professor. Men merely natural, I mean men thathave not got the devilish art of hypocrisy, are afraid to think of doing thus. 'Andof the rest durst no man join himself to them; but the people magnified them' (Acts5:13). And, indeed, it displeaseth God. 'Ye have brought,' saith he, 'men uncircumcisedinto my sanctuary' (Eze 44:7). And again, 'When ye come to appear before me, whohath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?' saith God (Isa 1:12). Theyhave therefore learned this boldness of none in the visible world, they only tookit of the devil, for he, and he only, with these his disciples, attempt to presentthemselves in the church before God. 'The tares are the children of the wicked one.'The tares, that is, the hypocrites, that are Satan's brood, the generation of vipers,that cannot escape the damnation of hell.
HAD a fig-tree planted in his vineyard.
He doth not say, He planted a fig-tree, but there was a fig- tree there; he HAD,or found a fig-tree planted in his vineyard.
The great God will now acknowledge the barren fig-tree, or barren professor, to behis workmanship, or a tree of his bringing in, only the text saith, he had one there.This is much like that in Matthew 15:13—'Every plant which my heavenly Father hathnot planted, shall be rooted up.' Here again are plants in his vineyard which Godwill not acknowledge to be of his planting; and he seems to suggest that in his vineyardare many such. Every plant, or all those plants or professors, that are got intothe assembly of the saints, or into the profession of their religion, without Godand his grace, 'shall be rooted up.'
'And when the King came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not onthe wedding-garment. And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, nothaving a wedding-garment?' (Matt 22:11,12). Here is one so cunning and crafty thathe beguiled all the guests; he got and kept in the church even until the King himselfcame in to see the guests; but his subtilty got him nothing; it did not blind theeyes of the King; it did not pervert the judgment of the righteous. 'Friend, howcamest thou in hither?' did overtake him at last; even a public rejection; the Kingdiscovered him in the face of all present. 'How camest thou in hither?' My Fatherdid not bring thee hither; I did not bring thee hither; my Spirit did not bring theehither; thou art not of the heavenly Father's planting. 'How camest thou in hither?'He that 'entereth not by the door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is athief and a robber' (John 10:1). This text also is full and plain to our purpose;for this man came not in by the door, yet got into the church; he got in by climbing;he broke in at the windows; he got something of the light and glory of the gospelof our Lord Jesus Christ in his head; and so, hardy wretch that he was, he presumedto crowd himself among the children. But how is this resented? What saith the Kingof him? Why, this is his sign, 'the same is a thief and a robber.' See ye here also,if all they be owned as the planting of God that get into his church or professionof his name.
'Had a fig-tree.' Had one without a wedding-garment, had a thief in his garden, athis wedding, in his house. These climbed up some other way. There are many ways toget into the church of God, and profession of his name, besides, and without an enteringby the door.
1. There is the way of lying and dissembling, and at this gap the Gibeonites gotin (Josh 9 &c).
2. There is sometimes falseness among some pastors, either for the sake of carnalrelations, or the like; at this hole Tobiah, the enemy of God, got in (Neh 13:4-9).
3. There is sometimes negligence, and too much uncircumspectness in the whole church;thus the uncircumcised got in (Eze 44:7,8).
4. Sometimes, again, let the church be never so circumspect, yet these have so muchhelp from the devil that they beguile them all, and so get in. These are of the sortof thieves that Paul complains of, 'False brethren, that are brought in unawares'(Gal 2:4). Jude also cries out of these, 'Certain men crept in unawares' (Jude 4).Crept in! What, were they so lowly? A voluntary humility, a neglecting of the body,not in any humour (Col 2:23). O! how seemingly self-denying are some of these'creeping things,' that yet are to be held, (as we shall know them) an abominationto Israel (Lev 11:43,44).
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also ofwood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour (2 Tim 2:20). By thesewords the apostle seems to take it for granted, that as there hath been, so therestill will be these kind of fig-trees, these barren professors in the house, whenall men have done what they can; even as in a great house there are always vesselsto dishonour, as well as those to honour and glory; vessels of wood and of earth,as well as of silver and gold. So, then, there must be wooden professors in the gardenof God, there must be earthy, earthen professors in his vineyard; but that methinksis the biting word, 'and some to dishonour' (Rom 9:21,22). That to the Romans isdreadful, but this seems to go beyond it; that speaks but of the reprobate in general,but this of such and such in particular; that speaks of their hardening but in thecommon way, but this that they must be suffered to creep into the church, there tofit themselves for their place, their own place, the place prepared for them of thissort only (Acts 1:25). As the Lord Jesus said once of the Pharisees, These 'shallreceive greater damnation' (Luke 20:47).
Barren fig-tree, fruitless professor, hast thou heard all these things? Hast thouconsidered that this fig-tree is not acknowledged of God to be his, but is deniedto be of his planting, and of his bringing unto his wedding? Dost not thou see thatthou art called a thief and a robber, that hast either climbed up to, or crept inat another place than the door? Dost thou not hear that there will be in God's housewooden and earthly professors, and that no place will serve to fit those for hellbut the house, the church, the vineyard of God? Barren fig-tree, fruitless Christian,do not thine ears tingle?
And HE came and sought fruit thereon.
When a man hath got a profession, and is crowded into the church and house of God,the question is not now, Hath he life, hath he right principles? but, Hath he fruit?HE came seeking fruit thereon. It mattereth not who brought thee in hither, whetherGod or the devil, or thine own vain-glorious heart; but hast thou fruit? Dost thoubring forth fruit unto God? And, 'Let every one that nameth the name of' the LordJesus 'Christ depart from iniquity' (2 Tim 2:19). He doth not say, And let everyone that hath grace, or let those that have the Spirit of God; but, 'Let every onethat nameth the name of' the Lord Jesus 'Christ depart form iniquity.'
What do men meddle with religion for? Why do they call themselves by the name ofthe Lord Jesus, if they have not the grace of God, if they have not the Spirit ofChrist? God, therefore, expecteth fruit. What do they do in the vineyard? Let themwork, or get them out; the vineyard must have labourers in it. 'Son, go WORK to-dayin my vineyard' (Matt 21:28). Wherefore, want of grace and want of Spirit will notkeep God from seeking fruit. 'And he came and sought fruit thereon' (Luke 13:6, 8:8).He requireth that which he seemeth to have. Every man in the vineyard and house ofGod promiseth himself, professeth to others, and would have all men take it for granted,that a heavenly principle is in him, why then should not God seek fruit?
As for them, therefore, that will retain the name of Christians, fearing God, andyet make no conscience of bringing forth fruit to him, he saith to such, Away! 'Asfor you, - Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will nothearken unto me,' &c. (Eze 20:39). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? God expectethfruit, God calls for fruit, yea, God will shortly come seeking fruit on this barrenfig-tree. Barren fig-tree, either bear fruit, or go out of the vineyard; and yetthen thy case will be unspeakably damnable. Yea, let me add, if thou shalt neitherbear fruit nor depart, God will take his name out of thy mouth (Jer 44:26). He willhave fruit. And I say further, if thou wilt do neither, yet God in justice and righteousnesswill still come for fruit. And it will be in vain for thee to count this austerity.He will reap where he hath not sowed, and gather where he hath not strewed (Matt25:24-26). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear?
Quest. What if a man have no grace?
Answ. Yes, seeing he hath a profession.
And he came and sought fruit THEREON.
A church, then, and a profession, are not places where the workers of iniquity mayhide themselves and sins from God. Some of old thought that because they could cry,'The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!' that therefore they were delivered,or had a dispensation to do the abominations which they committed, as some in ourdays; for who, say they, have a right to the creatures, if not Christians, if notprofessors, if not church members? And, from this conclusion, let go the reins oftheir inordinate affections after pride, ambition, gluttony; pampering themselveswithout fear (Jude 12), daubing themselves with the lust-provoking fashions of thetimes; to walk with stretched out necks, naked breasts, frizzled fore-tops, wantongestures, in gorgeous apparel, mixed with gold and pearl, and costly array. Iwill not here make inspection into their lives, their carriages at home, in theircorners and secret holes; but certainly, persons thus spirited, thus principled,and thus inclined, have but empty boughs, boughs that want the fruit that God expects,and that God will come down to seek.
Barren fig-tree, thou art not licensed by thy profession, nor by the Lord of thevineyard, to bear these clusters of Gomorrah; neither shall the vineyard, nor thybeing crowded among the trees there, shelter thee from the sight of the eye of God.Many make religion their cloak, and Christ their stalking-horse, and by that meanscover themselves and hide their own wickedness from men; but God seeth their hearts,hath his print upon the heels of their feet, and pondereth all their goings; andat last, when their iniquity is found to be hateful, he will either smite them withhardness of heart, and so leave them, or awaken them to bring forth fruit. Fruithe looks for, seeks, and expects, barren fig-tree!
But what! come into the presence of God to sin! What! come into the presence of Godto hide thy sin! Alas, man! the church is God's garden, and Christ Jesus is the greatApostle and High-priest of our profession. What! come into the house that is calledby my name! into the place where mine honour dwelleth! (Psa 26:8). Where mine eyesand heart are continually! (1 Kings 9:3). What! come there to sin, to hide thy sin,to cloak thy sin! His plants are an orchard with pleasant fruits (Cant 4:13). Andevery time he goeth into his garden, it is to see the fruits of the valley, and to'see if the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.'
Yea, saith he, he came seeking fruit on this fig-tree. The church is the place ofGod's delight, where he ever desires to be: there he is night and day. He is thereto seek for fruit, to seek for fruit of all and every tree in the garden. Wherefore,assure thyself, O fruitless one, that thy ways must needs be open before the eyesof the Lord. One black sheep is soon espied, although in company with many; thatis taken with the first cast of the eye; its different colour still betrays it. Isay, therefore, a church and a profession are not places where the workers of iniquitymay hide themselves from God that seeks for fruit. 'My vineyard,' saith God, 'whichis mine, is before me' (Cant 8:12).
And he came and sought fruit thereon, AND FOUND NONE.
Barren fig-tree, hearken; the continual non-bearing of fruit is a dreadful sign thatthou art to come to a dreadful end, as the winding up of this parable concludeth.
'AND FOUND NONE.' None at all, or none to God's liking; for when he saith, 'He cameseeking fruit thereon,' he means 'fruit meet for God,' pleasant fruit, fruit goodand sweet (Heb 6). Alas! it is not any fruit will serve; bad fruit is counted none.'Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire'(Matt 3:10).
First. There is a fruit among professors that withers, and so never comes to be ripe;a fruit that is smitten in the growth, and comes not to maturity; and this is reckonedno fruit. This fruit those professors bear that have many fair beginnings, or blossoms;that make many fair offers of repentance and amendment; that begin to pray, to resolve,and to break off their sins by righteousness, but stop at those beginnings, and bringnot fruit forth to perfection. This man's fruit is withered, wrinkled, smitten fruit,and is in effect no fruit at all.
Second. There is a hasty fruit, such as is the 'corn upon the house-top' (Psa 129:6);or that which springs up on the dung-hill, that runs up suddenly, violently, withgreat stalks and big show, and yet at last proves empty of kernel. This fruit isto be found in those professors that on a sudden are so awakened, so convinced, andso affected with their condition that they shake the whole family, the endship,the whole town. For a while they cry hastily, vehemently, dolefully, mournfully,and yet all is but a pang, an agony, a fit, they bring not forth fruit with patience.These are called those hasty fruits that 'shall be a fading flower' (Isa 28:4).
Third. There is a fruit that is vile and ill-tasted, how long soever it be in growing;the root is dried, and cannot convey a sufficiency of sap to the branches, to ripenthe fruit (Jer 24). These are the fruits of such professors whose hearts are estrangedfrom communion with the Holy Ghost, whose fruit groweth from themselves, from theirparts, gifts, strength of wit, natural or moral principles. These, notwithstandingthey bring forth fruit, are called empty vines, such as bring not forth fruit toGod. 'Their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit; yea, though they bring forth,yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb' (Hosea 9:16).
Fourth. There is a fruit that is wild. 'I looked for grapes and it brought forthwild grapes' (Isa 5:4). I observe, that as there are trees and herbs that are whollyright and noble, fit indeed for the vineyard; so there are also their semblance,but wild; not right, but ignoble. There is the grape, and the wild grape; the vine,and the wild vine; the rose, and canker rose; flowers and wild flowers; the apple,and the wild apple which we call the crab. Now, fruit from these wild things, howeverthey may please the children to play with, yet the prudent and grave count them oflittle or no value. There are also in the world a generation of professors that,notwithstanding their profession, are wild by nature; yea, such as were never cutout, or off, from the wild olive-tree, nor never yet planted into the good olive-tree.Now, these can bring nothing forth but wild olive berries, they cannot bring forthfruit unto God. Such are all those that have lightly taken up a profession, and creptinto the vineyard without a new birth, and the blessing of regeneration.
Fifth. There is also untimely fruit: 'Even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs'(Rev 6, 13). Fruit out of season, and so no fruit to God's liking. There are twosorts of professors subject to bring forth untimely fruit: 1. They that bring forthfruit too soon; 2. They that bring forth fruit too late.
1. They that bring forth too soon. They are such as at present receive the Word withjoy; and anon, before they have root downwards, they thrust forth upwards; but havingnot root, when the sun ariseth, they are smitten, and miserably die without fruit.These professors are those light and inconsiderate ones that think nothing but peacewill attend the gospel; and so anon rejoice at the tidings, without foreseeing theevil. Wherefore, when the evil comes, being unarmed, and so not able to stand anylonger, they die, and are withered, and bring forth no fruit. 'He that received theseed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the Word, and anon with joy receivethit; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulationor persecution ariseth because of the Word, by and by he is offended' (Matt 13:20,21).There is, in Isaiah 28:4, mention made of some 'whose glorious beauty shall be afading flower,' because it is 'fruit before the summer.' Both these are untimelyfruit.
2. They also bring forth untimely fruit that stay till the season is over. God willhave his fruit in his season; I say, he will receive them of such men as shall renderthem to him in their seasons (Matt 21:41). The missing of the season is dangerous;staying till the door is shut is dangerous (Matt 25:10,11). Many there be that comenot till the flood of God's anger is raised, and too deep for them to wade through;'Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him' (Psa 32:6).Esau AFTERWARDS is fearful: 'For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inheritedthe blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he soughtit carefully with tears' (Heb 12:17).
So the children of Israel, they brought to God the fruits of obedience too late;their 'Lo, we be here' came too late (Num 14:40-42); their 'We will go up' came toolate (Num 14:40-44). The Lord had sworn before, 'that they should not possess theland' (Matt 25:10, 27:5). All these are such as bring forth untimely fruit (Heb 12:17;Luke 13:25-27). It is the hard hap of the reprobate to do all things too late; tobe sensible of his want of grace too late; to be sorry for sin too late; to seekrepentance too late; to ask for mercy, and to desire to go to glory too late.
Thus you see, 1. That fruit smitten in the growth, that withereth, and that comesnot to maturity, is no fruit. 2. That hasty fruit, such as 'the grass upon the house-top,'withereth also before it groweth up, and is no fruit (Psa 129:6). 3. That the fruitthat is vile, and ill-tasted, is no fruit. That wild fruit, wild grapes, are no fruit(Rev 6). That untimely fruit, such as comes too soon, or that comes too late, suchas come not in their season, are no fruit.
And he came and sought FRUIT thereon, and found none.
Nothing will do but fruit; he looked for grapes. 'When the time of the fruit drewnear, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruitsof it' (Matt 21:34).
Quest. But what fruit doth God expect?
Answ. Good fruit. 'Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down' (Matt7:19). Now, before the fruit can be good, the tree must be good; for good fruit makesnot a good tree, but a 'good tree bringeth forth good fruit. Do men gather grapesof thorns, or figs of thistles?' A man must be good, else he can bring forth no goodfruit; he must have righteousness imputed, that he may stand good in God;'s sightfrom the curse of his law; he must have a principle of righteousness in his soul,else how should he bring forth good fruits? and hence it is, that a Christian's fruitsare called 'the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of righteousness, which are by JesusChrist' (Gal 5:22,23; Phil 1:11). The fruits of the Spirit, therefore the Spiritmust be there; the fruits of righteousness, therefore righteousness must first bethere. But to particularize in a few things briefly:—
First. God expecteth fruit that will answer, and be worthy of the repentance whichthou feignest thyself to have. Every one in a profession, and that hath crowded intothe vineyard, pretendeth to repentance; now of every such soul, God expecteth thatthe fruits of repentance be found to attend them. 'Bring forth, therefore, fruitsmeet for repentance,' or answerable to thy profession of the doctrine of repentance(Matt 3:8). Barren fig-tree, seeing thou art a professor, and art got into the vineyard,thou standest before the Lord of the vineyard as one of the trees of the garden;wherefore he looketh for fruit from thee, as from the rest of the trees in the vineyard;fruits, I say, and such as may declare thee in heart and life one that hath madesound profession of repentance. By thy profession thou hast said, I am sensible ofthe evil of sin. Now then, live such a life as declares that thou art sensible ofthe evil of sin. By thy profession thou hast said, I am sorry for my sin. Why, then,live such a life as may declare this sorrow. By thy profession thou hast said, Iam ashamed of my sin; yea, but live such a life, that men by that may see thy shamefor sin (Psa 38:18; Jer 31:19). By thy profession thou sayest, I have turned from,left off, and am become an enemy to every appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22). Ah!but doth thy life and conversation declare thee to be such an one? Take heed, barrenfig-tree, lest thy life should give thy profession the lie. I say again, take heed,for God himself will come for fruit. 'And he sought fruit thereon.'
You have some professors that are only saints before men when they are abroad, butare devils and vipers at home; saints by profession, but devils by practice; saintsin word, but sinners in heart and life. These men may have the profession, but theywant the fruits that become repentance.
Barren fig-tree, can it be imagined that those that paint themselves did ever repentof their pride? or that those that pursue this world did ever repent of their covetousness?or that those that walk with wanton eyes did ever repent of their fleshly lusts?Where, barren fig-tree, is the fruit of these people's repentance? Nay, do they notrather declare to the world that they have repented of their profession? Their fruitslook as if they had. Their pride saith they have repented of their humility. Theircovetousness declareth that they are weary of depending upon God; and doth not thywanton actions declare that thou abhorrest chastity? Where is thy fruit, barren fig-tree?Repentance is not only a sorrow, and a shame for, but a turning from sin to God;it is called 'repentance from dead works' (Heb 6:1). Hast thou that 'godly sorrow'that 'worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of?' (2 Cor 7:10,11). Howdost thou show thy carefulness, and clearing of thyself; thy indignation againstsin; they fear of offending; thy vehement desire to walk with God; thy zeal for hisname and glory in the world? And what revenge hast thou in thy heart against everythought of disobedience?
But where is the fruit of this repentance? Where is thy watching, thy fasting, thypraying against the remainders of corruption? Where is thy self-abhorrence, thy blushingbefore God, for the sin that is yet behind? Where is thy tenderness of the name ofGod and his ways? Where is thy self-denial and contentment? How dost thou show beforemen the truth of thy turning to God? Hast thou 'renounced the hidden things of dishonesty,not walking in craftiness?' Canst thou commend thyself 'to every man's consciencein the sight of God?' (2 Cor 4:2).
Second. God expecteth fruits that shall answer that faith which thou makest professionof. The professor that is got into the vineyard of God doth feign that he hath thefaith, the faith most holy, the faith of God's elect. Ah! but where are thy fruits,barren fig-tree? The faith of the Romans was 'spoken of throughout the whole world'(Rom 1:8). And the Thessalonians' faith grew exceedingly (2 Thess 1:3).
Thou professest to believe thou hast a share in another world: hast thou let gotTHIS, barren fig-tree? Thou professest thou believest in Christ: is he thy joy, andthe life of thy soul? Yea, what conformity unto him, to his sorrows and sufferings?What resemblance hath his crying, and groaning, and bleeding, and dying, wroughtin thee? Dost thou 'bear about in thy body the dying of the Lord Jesus?' and is alsothe life of Jesus 'made manifest in thy mortal body?' (2 Cor 4:10,11). Barren fig-tree,'show me thy faith by thy works.' 'Show out of a good conversation thy works withmeekness of wisdom' (James 2:18, 3:13). What fruit, barren fig-tree, what degreeof heart holiness? for faith purifies the heart (Acts 15:9). What love to the LordJesus? for 'faith worketh by love' (Gal 5:6).
Third. God expecteth fruits according to the seasons of grace thou art under, accordingto the rain that cometh upon thee. Perhaps thou art planted in a good soil, by greatwaters, that thou mightest bring forth branches, and bear fruit; that thou mightestbe a goodly vine or fig-tree. Shall he not therefore seek for fruit, for fruit answerableto the means? Barren fig-tree, God expects it, and will find it too, if ever he blessthee. 'For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringethforth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: butthat which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whoseend is to be burned' (Heb 6:7,8).
Barren soul, how many showers of grace, how many dews from heaven, how many timeshave the silver streams of the city of God run gliding by thy roots, to cause theeto bring forth fruit! These showers and streams, and the drops that hang upon thyboughs, will all be accounted for; and will they not testify against thee that thououghtest, of right, to be burned? Hear and tremble, O thou barren professor! Fruitsthat become thy profession of the gospel, the God of heaven expecteth. The gospelhath in it the forgiveness of sins, the kingdom of heaven, and eternal life; butwhat fruit hath thy profession of a belief of these things put forth in thy heartand life? Hast thou given thyself to the Lord? and is all that thou hast to be venturedfor his name in this world? Dost thou walk like one that is bought with a price,even with the price of precious blood?
Fourth. The fruit that God expecteth is such as is meet for himself; fruit that mayglorify God. God's trees are trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, thathe may be glorified; fruit that tasteth of heaven, abundance of such fruit. For 'herein,'saith Christ, 'is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit' (John 15:8). Fruitsof all kinds, new and old; the fruits of the Spirit are in all goodness, and righteousness,and truth. Fruits before the world, fruits before the saints, fruits before God,fruits before angels.
O my brethren, 'what manner of persons ought we to be,' who have subscribed to theLord, and have called ourselves by the name of Israel? 'One shall say I am the Lord's;and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribewith his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel' (Isa 44:5).Barren fig-tree, hast thou subscribed, hast thou called thyself by the name of Jacob,and surnamed thyself by the name of Israel? All this thou pretendest to, who artgot into the vineyard, who art placed among the trees of the garden of God. God doththerefore look for such fruit as is worthy of his name, as is meet for him; as theapostle saith, 'we should walk worthy of God'; that is, so as we may show in everyplace that the presence of God is with us, his fear in us, and his majesty and authorityupon our actions. Fruits meet for him, such a dependence upon him, such trust inhis word, such satisfaction in his presence, such a trusting of him with all my concerns,and such delight in the enjoyment of him, that may demonstrate that his fear is inmy heart, that my soul is wrapped up in his things, and that my body, and soul, andestate, and all, are in truth, through his grace, at his dispose, fruit meet forhim. Hearty thanks, and blessing God for Jesus Christ, for his good word, for hisfree grace, for the discovery of himself in Christ to the soul, secret longing afteranother world, fruit meet for him. Liberality to the poor saints, to the poor world;a life in word and deed exemplary; a patient and quiet enduring of all things, tillI have done and suffered the whole will of God, which he hath appointed for me. 'Thaton the good ground are they which, in an honest and good heart, having heard theword, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience' (Luke 8:15). This is bringingforth fruit unto God; having our 'fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life'(Rom 7:4, 6:22, 14:8).
Fifth. The Lord expects fruit becoming the vineyard of God. 'The vineyard,' saithhe, 'in a very fruitful hill': witness the fruit brought forth in all ages (Isa 5:1).The most barren trees that ever grew in the wood of this world, when planted in thisvineyard by the God of heaven, what fruit to Godward have they brought forth! 'Abeloffered the more excellent sacrifice' (Heb 11:4). Enoch walked with God three hundredyears (Heb 11:5). Noah, by his life of faith, 'condemned the world, and became heirof the righteousness which is by faith' (Heb 11:7). Abraham left his country, andwent out after God, not knowing whither he went (Heb 11:8). Moses left a kingdom,and run the hazard of the wrath of the king, for the love he had to God and Christ.What shall I say of them who had trials, 'not accepting deliverance, that they mightobtain a better resurrection? They were stoned; they were sawn asunder; were tempted;were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, beingdestitute, afflicted, tormented' (Heb 11:35-37). Peter left his father, ship, andnets (Matt 4:18-20). Paul turned off from the feet of Gamaliel. Men brought theirgoods and possessions (the price of them) and cast it down at the apostle's feet(Acts 19:18-20). And others brought their books together, and burned them; curiousbooks, though they were worth fifty thousand pieces of silver. I could add how manywillingly offered themselves in all ages, and their all, for the worthy name of theLord Jesus, to be racked, starved, hanged, burned, drowned, pulled in pieces, anda thousand calamities. Barren fig-tree, the vineyard of God hath been a fruitfulplace. What dost thou there? What dost thou bear? God expects fruit according to,or becoming the soil of the vineyard.
Sixth. The fruit which God expecteth is such as becometh God's husbandry and labour.The vineyard is God's husbandry, or tillage. 'I am the true vine, ' saith Christ,'and my Father is the husbandman' (John 15:1). And again, 'Ye are God's husbandry,ye are God's building' (1 Cor 3:9). The vineyard; God fences it, God gathereth outthe stones, God builds the tower, and the wine-press in the midst thereof. Here islabour, here is protection, here is removing of hindrances, here is convenient purgation,and all that there might be fruit.
Barren fig-tree, what fruit hast thou? Hast thou fruit becoming the care of God,the protection of God, the wisdom of God, the patience and husbandry of God? It isthe fruit of the vineyard that is either the shame or the praise of the husbandman.'I went by the field of the slothful,' saith Solomon, 'and by the vineyard of theman void of understanding; and lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettleshad covered the face thereof' (Prov 34:30-32).
Barren fig-tree, if men should make a judgment of the care, and pains, and labourof God in his church, by the fruit that thou bringest forth, what might they say?Is he not slothful, is not he careless, is he not without discretion? O! thy thorns,thy nettles, thy barren heart and barren life, is a continual provocation to theeyes of his glory, as likewise a dishonour to the glory of his grace.
Barren fig-tree, hast thou heard all these things? I will add yet one more.
'And he came and sought fruit thereon.'
The question is not now, What thou thinkest of thyself, nor what all the people ofGod think of thee, but what thou shalt be found in that day when God shall searchthy boughs for fruit? When Sodom was to be searched for righteous men, God wouldnot, in that matter, trust his faithful servant Abraham; but still, as Abraham interceded,God answered, 'If I find fifty, - or forty and five there, I will not destroy thecity' (Gen 18:20-28). Barren fig-tree, what sayest thou? God will come down to see,God will make search for fruit himself.
'And he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresserof the vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree,and find none; cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?'
These words are the effects of God's search into the boughs of a barren fig-tree;he sought fruit, and found none—none to his liking, none pleasant and good. Therefore,first, he complains of the want thereof to the dresser; calls him to come, and see,and take notice of the tree; then signifieth his pleasure: he will have it removed,taken away, cut down from cumbering the ground.
Observe, The barren fig-tree is the object of God's displeasure; God cannot bearwith a fruitless professor.
THEN said he, &c.
THEN, after this provocation; then, after he had sought and found no fruit, then.This word, THEN, doth show us a kind of an inward disquietness; as he saith alsoin another place, upon a like provocation. 'THEN the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy,shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shalllie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven' (Deut 29:18-20).
THEN; it intimateth that he was now come to a point, to a resolution what to do withthis fig-tree. 'Then said he to the dresser of this vineyard,' that is, to JesusChrist, 'behold,' as much as to say, come hither, here is a fig-tree in my vineyard,here is a professor in my church, that is barren, that beareth no fruit.
Observe, However the barren professor thinks of himself on earth, the Lord criesout in heaven against him. 'And now go to, I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard:I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and I will break downthe wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down' (Isa 5:5).
'Behold, THESE THREE YEARS I come seeking fruit.'
Observe, 'THESE THREE YEARS.' God cries out that this patience is abused, that hisforbearance is abused. Behold, these three years I have waited, forborne; these threeyears I have deferred mine anger. 'Therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee,and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting' (Jer 15:6). 'These three years.' Observe,God layeth up all the time; I say, a remembrance of all the time that a barren fig-tree,or a fruitless professor, misspendeth in this world. As he saith also of Israel ofold, 'forty years long was I grieved with this generation' (Psa 95:10).
'These three years,' &c. These three seasons: Observe, God remembers how manyseasons thou hast misspent: for these three years signify so many seasons. And whenthe time of fruit drew nigh, that is, about the season they begin to be ripe, orthat according to the season might so have been. Barren fig-tree, thou hast had time,seasons, sermons, ministers, afflictions, judgments, mercies, and what not; and yethast not been fruitful. Thou hast had awakenings, reproofs, threatenings, comforts,and yet hast not been fruitful. Thou hast had patterns, examples, citations, provocations,and yet has not been fruitful. Well, God hath laid up thy three years with himself.He remembers every time, every season, every sermon, every minister, affliction,judgment, mercy, awakening, pattern, example, citation, provocation; he remembersall. As he said of Israel of old, 'They have tempted me now these ten times, andhave not hearkened to my voice' (Num 14:22). And again, 'I remember all their wickedness'(Hosea 7:2).
'These three years,' &c. He seeks for the fruit of every season. He will notthat any of his sermons, ministers, afflictions, judgments, or mercies, should belost, or stand for insignificant things; he will have according to the benefit bestowed.(2 Chron 32:24,25). He hath not done without a cause all that he hath done, and thereforehe looketh for fruit (Eze 14:23). Look to it, barren fig-tree.
I came 'SEEKING' fruit.
Observe, This word 'SEEKING' signifies a narrow search; for when a man seeks forfruit on a tree, he goes round it and round it; now looking into this bough, andthen into that; he peeks into the inmost boughs, and the lowermost boughs, if perhapsfruit may be thereon. Barren fig-tree, God will look into all thy boughs, he willbe with thee in thy bed-fruits, thy midnight-fruits, thy closet-fruits, thy family-fruits,thy conversation-fruits, to see if there be any among all these that are fit for,or worthy of the name of the God of heaven. He sees 'what the ancients of the houseof Israel do in the dark' (Eze 8:12). 'All things are naked and opened unto the eyesof him with whom we have to do' (Heb 4:12,13).
Seeking fruit on 'THIS' fig-tree.
I told you before, that he keeps in remembrance the times and seasons that the barrenprofessor had wickedly misspent. Now, forasmuch as he also pointeth out the fig-tree, THIS fig-tree, it showeth that the barren professor, above all professors,is a continual odium in the eyes of God. This fig-tree, 'this man Coniah' (Jer 22:28).This people draw nigh me with their mouth, but have removed their hearts far fromme. God knows who they are among all the thousands of Israel that are the barrenand fruitless professors; his lot will fall upon the head of Achan, though he behid among six hundred thousand men. 'And he brought his household, man by man, andAchan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zera, of the tribe of Judah,was taken' (Josh 7:17,18). This is the Achan, this is the fig-tree, this is the barrenprofessor!
There is a man hath a hundred trees in his vineyard, and at the time of the season,he walketh into his vineyard to see how the trees flourish; and as he goes, and views,and prys, and observes how they are hanged with fruit, behold, he cometh to one wherehe findeth naught but leaves. Now he makes a stand; looks upon it again and again;he looks also here and there, above and below; and if after all this seeking, hefinds nothing but leaves thereon, then he begins to cast in his mind, how he mayknow this tree next year; what stands next it, or how far it is off the hedge? Butif there be nothing there that may be as a mark to know it by, then he takes hishook, and giveth it a private mark—'And the Lord set a mark upon Cain' (Gen 4), saying,Go thy ways, fruitless fig-tree, thou hast spent this season in vain. Yet doth henot cut it down, I will try it another year: may be this was not a hitting season.Therefore he comes again next year, to see if now it have fruit; but as he foundit before, so he finds it now, barren, barren, every year barren; he looks again,but finds no fruit. Now he begins to have second thoughts, How! neither hit lastyear nor this? Surely the barrenness is not in the season; sure the fault is in thetree; however, I will spare it this year also, but will give it a second mark; andit may be he toucheth it with a hot iron, because he begins to be angry.
Well, at the third season he comes again for fruit, but the third year is like thefirst and second; no fruit yet; it only cumbereth the ground. What now must be donewith this fig-tree? Why, the Lord will lop its boughs with terror; yea, the thicketsof those professors with iron. I have waited, saith God, these three years; I havemissed of fruit these three years; it hath been a cumber-ground these three years;cut it down. Precept hath been upon precept, and line upon line, one year after another,for these three years, but no fruit can be seen; I find none, fetch out the axe!I am sure THIS is the fig-tree, I know it from the first year; barrenness was itssign then, barrenness is its sign now; make it fit for the fire! Behold, 'now alsothe axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore, every tree that bringeth notforth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire' (Matt 3:10).
Observe, my brethren, God's heart cannot stand towards a barren fig-tree. You knowthus it is with yourselves. If you have a tree in your orchard or vineyard that dothonly cumber the ground, you cannot look upon that tree with pleasure, with complacencyand delight. No; if you do but go by it, if you do but cast your eye upon it: yea,if you do but think of that tree, you threaten it in your heart, saying, I will hewthee down shortly; I will to the fire with thee shortly: and it is in vain for anyto think of persuading of you to show favour to the barren fig-tree; and if theyshould persuade, your answer is irresistible, It yields me no profit, it takes uproom and doth no good; a better may grow in its room.
Cut it down.
Thus, when the godly among the Jews made prayers that rebellious Israel might notbe cast out of the vineyard, what saith the answer of God? (Jer 14:17). 'Though Mosesand Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people': wherefore'cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth' (Jer 15:1).
What a resolution is here! Moses and Samuel could do almost anything with God inprayer. How many times did Moses by prayer turn away God's judgments from even Pharaohhimself! yea, how many times did he by prayer preserve Israel, when in the wilderness,from the anger and wrath of God! (Psa 106:23). Samuel is reckoned excellent thisway, yea, so excellent, that when Israel had done that fearful thing as to rejectthe Lord, and choose them another king, he prayed, and the Lord spared, and forgavethem (1 Sam 12). But yet neither Moses nor Samuel can save a barren fig-tree. No;though Moses and Samuel stood before me, that is, pleading, arguing, interceding,supplicating, and beseeching, yet could they not incline mine heart to this people.
Cut it down.
'Ay, but Lord, it is a fig-tree, a fig-tree!' If it was a thorn, or a bramble, ora thistle, the matter would not be much; but it is a fig-tree, or a vine. Well, butmark the answer of God, 'Son of man, What is the vine-tree more than any tree, orthan a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereofto do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon?' (Eze 15:2,3).If trees that are set, or planted for fruit, bring not forth that fruit, there isbetwixt them and the trees of the forest no betterment at all, unless the bettermentlieth in the trees of the wood, for they are fit to build withal; but a fig-tree,or a vine, if they bring not forth fruit, yea, good fruit, they are fit for nothingat all, but to be cut down and prepared for the fire; and so the prophet goes on,'Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel.' If it serve not for fruit it will servefor fuel, and so 'the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it isburnt.'
Ay, but these fig-trees and vines are church-members, inhabiters of Jerusalem. Sowas the fig-tree mentioned in the text. But what answer hath God prepared for theseobjections? Why, 'Thus saith the Lord God, As the vine- tree among the trees of theforest, which I have given to the fire for fuel; so will I give the inhabitants ofJerusalem; and I will set my face against them, they shall go out from one fire,and another fire shall devour them' (Eze 15:6,7).
Cut it down.
The woman that delighteth in her garden, if she have a slip there, suppose, if itwas fruitful, she would not take five pounds for it; yet if it bear no fruit, ifit wither, and dwindle, and die, and turn cumber-ground only, it may not stand inher garden. Gardens and vineyards are places for fruit, for fruit according to thenature of the plant or flowers. Suppose such a slip as I told you of before shouldbe in your garden, and there die, would you let it abide in your garden? No; awaywith it, away with it! The woman comes into her garden towards the spring, wherefirst she gives it a slight cast with her eye, then she sets to gathering out theweeds, and nettles, and stones; takes a besom and sweeps the walks; this done, shefalls to prying into her herbs and slips, to see if they live, to see if they arelikely to grow. Now, if she comes to one that is dead, that she is confident willnot grow, up she pulls that, and makes to the heap of rubbish with it, where shedespisingly casts it down, and valueth it no more than a nettle, or a weed, or thanthe dust she hath swept out of her walks. Yea, if any that see her should say, Whydo you so? the answer is ready. It is dead, it is dead at root; if I had let it standit would but have cumbered the ground. The strange slips, and also the dead ones,they must be 'a heap in the day of grief, and of desperate sorrow' (Isa 17:10,11).
Cut it down.
There are two manner of cuttings down; First. When a man is cast out of the vineyard.Second. When a man is cast out of the world.
First. When a man is cast out of the vineyard. And that is done two ways; 1. By animmediate hand of God. 2. By the church's due execution of the laws and censureswhich Christ for that purpose has left with his church.
1. God cuts down the barren fig-tree by an immediate hand, smiting his roots, blastinghis branches, and so takes him away from among his people. 'Every branch,' saithChrist, 'that beareth not fruit in me, he,' my Father, 'taketh away' (John 15:2).He taketh him out of the church, he taketh him away from the godly. There are twothings by which God taketh the barren professor from among the children of God: (1.)Strong delusions. (2.) Open profaneness.
(.1). By strong delusion; such as beguile the soul with damnable doctrines, thatswerve from faith and godliness, 'They have chosen their own ways,' saith God, 'andtheir soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions,and will bring their fears upon them' (Isa 66:3,4). I will smite them with blindness,and hardness of heart, and failing of eyes; and will also suffer the tempter to temptand affect his hellish designs upon them. 'God shall send them strong delusion, thatthey should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth,but had pleasure in unrighteousness' (2 Thess 2:10-12).
(2.) Sometimes God takes away a barren professor by open profaneness. There is onehath taken up a profession of that worthy name, the Lord Jesus Christ; but this professionis but a cloak; he secretly practiseth wickedness. He is a glutton, a drunkard, orcovetous, or unclean. Well, saith God, I will loose the reins of this professor;I will give him up to his vile affections; I will loose the reins of his lusts beforehim; he shall be entangled with his beastly lusts; he shall be overcome of ungodlycompany. Thus they that turn aside to their own crooked ways 'the Lord shall leadthem forth with the workers of iniquity' (Psa 125:5). This is God's hand immediately;God is now dealing with this man himself. Barren fig-tree, hearken! Thou art crowdedinto a profession, art got among the godly, and there art a scandal to the holy andglorious gospel; but withal so cunning that, like the sons of Zeruiah, thou art toohard for the church; she knows not how to deal with thee. Well, saith God, I willdeal with that man myself, 'I will answer that man by myself.' He that sets up hisidols in his heart, and puts the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face,and yet comes and appears before me, 'I will set my face against that man, and willmake him a sign and a proverb: and I will cut him off from the midst of my people;and ye shall know that I am the Lord' (Eze 14:7,8). But,
2. God doth sometimes cut down the barren fig-tree by the church, by the church'sdue execution of the laws and censures which Christ for that purpose hath left withhis church. This is the meaning of that in Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5: and thatin 1 Timothy 1:20 upon which now I shall not enlarge, But which way soever God dealethwith thee, O thou barren fig-tree, whither by himself immediately, or by his church,it amounts to one and the same; for if timely repentance prevent not, the end ofthat soul is damnation. They are blasted, and withered, and gathered by men, God'senemies; and at last being cast into the fire burning must be their end. 'That whichbeareth thorns and briars is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned' (Heb 6:8).
Second. And, again, sometimes by 'Cut it down' God means, cast it out of the world.Thus he cut down Nadab and Abihu, when he burned them up with fire from heaven. Thushe cut down Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when he made the earth to swallow them up(Num 3:4, 16:31-33). Thus he cut down Saul, when he gave him up to fall upon theedge of his own sword, and died (1 Sam 31:4). Thus he cut down Ananias, with Sapphirahis wife, when he struck them down dead in the midst of the congregation (Acts 5:5,10).I might here also discourse of Absalom, Ahithophel, and Judas, who were all threehanged: the first by God's revenging hand, the others were given up of God to betheir own executioners. These were barren and unprofitable fig-trees, such as Godtook no pleasure in, therefore he commanded to cut them down. The Psalmist saith,'He shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath' (Psa58:9). Barren fig-tree, hearken! God calls for the axe, his sword; bring it hither;here is a barren professor. Cut him down, why cumbereth he the ground?
Why cumbereth it the ground?
By these words the Lord suggesteth reasons of his displeasure against the barrenfig-tree; it cumbereth the ground. The Holy Ghost doth not only take an argumentfrom its barrenness, but because it is a cumber-ground, therefore cut it down; whereforeit must needs be a provocation. 1. Because, as much as in him lieth, he disappointeththe design of God in planting his vineyard; I looked that it should bring forth fruit.2. It hath also abused his patience, his long-suffering, his three years' patience.3. It hath also abused his labour, his pains, his care, and providence of protectionand preservation: for he hedges his vineyard, and walls it about. Cumber-ground,all these things thou abusest! He waters his vineyard, and looks to it night andday; but all these things thou hast abused.
Further, there are other reasons of God's displeasure; as,
First. A cumber-ground is a very mock and reproach of religion, a mock and reproachto the ways of God, to the people of God, to the Word of God, and to the name ofreligion. It is expected of all hands, that all the trees in the garden of God shouldbe fruitful: God expects fruit, the church expects fruit, the world, even the world,concludes that professors should be fruitful in good works; I say, the world expecteththat professors should be better than themselves. But, barren fig-tree, thou disappointestall. Nay, hast thou not learned the wicked ones thy ways? Hast thou not learned themto be more wicked by thy example?—but that is by the by. Barren fig-tree, thou hastdisappointed others, and must be disappointed thyself! 'Cut it down, why cumberethit the ground?'
Second. The barren fig-tree takes up the room where a better tree might stand; Isay, it takes up the room, it keeps, so long as it stand where it doth; a fruitfultree out of that place, and therefore it must be cut down. Barren fig-tree, dostthou hear? Because the Jews stood fruitless in the vineyard, therefore, saith God,'The kingdom of God shall be taken from you,' and given to a nation that shall renderhim their fruits in their season (Matt 21:33-41). The Jews for their barrenness werecut down, and more fruitful people put in their room. As Samuel also said to barrenSaul, 'The Lord hath rent the kingdom from thee, and hath given it to a neighbourof thine that is better than thou' (1 Sam 15:28). The unprofitable servant must becast out, must be cut down (Matt 25:27).
Cumber-ground, how many hopeful, inclinable, forward people, hast thou by thy fruitlessand unprofitable life, kept out of the vineyard of God? For thy sake have the peoplestumbled at religion; by thy life have they been kept from the love of their ownsalvation. Thou hast been also a means of hardening others, and of quenching andkilling weak beginnings. Well, barren fig-tree, look to thyself, thou wilt not goto heaven thyself, and them that would, thou hinderest; thou must not always cumberthe ground, nor always hinder the salvation of others. Thou shalt be cut down, andanother shall be planted in thy room.
Third. The cumber-ground is a sucker; he draws away the heart and nourishment fromthe other trees. Were the cumber ground cut down, the others would be more fruitful;he draws away that fatness of the ground to himself, that would make the others morehearty and fruitful. 'One sinner destroyeth much good' (Eccl 9:18).
The cumber-ground is a very drone in the hive, that eats up the honey that shouldfeed the labouring bee; he is a thief in the candle, that wasteth the tallow, butgiveth no light; he is the unsavoury salt, that is fit for nought but the dunghill.Look to it, barren fig-tree!
And he answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shalldig about it, and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that,thou shalt cut it down (vv 8,9).
These are the words of the dresser of the vineyard, who, I told you, is Jesus Christ,for he made intercession for the transgressors. And they contain a petition presentedto an offended justice, praying, that a little more time and patience might be exercisedtowards the barren cumber- ground fig-tree.
In this petition there are six things considerable: 1. That justice might be deferred.O that justice might be deferred! 'Lord, let it alone,' &c., a while longer.2. Here is time prefixed, as a space to try if more means will cure a barren fig-tree.'Lord, let it alone this year also.' 3. The means to help it are propounded, 'untilI shall dig about it, and dung it.' 4. Here is also an insinuation of a supposition,that, by thus doing, God's expectation may be answered; 'and if it bear fruit, well.'5. Here is a supposition that the barren fig-tree may yet abide barren, when Christhath done what he will unto it; 'and if it bear fruit,' &c. 6. Here is at lasta resolution, that if thou continue barren, hewing days will come upon thee; 'andif it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.' Butto proceed according to my former method, by way of exposition.
Lord, let it alone this year also.
Here is astonishing grace indeed! astonishing grace, I say, that the Lord Jesus shouldconcern himself with a barren fig-tree; that he should step in to stop the blow froma barren fig-tree! True, he stopped the blow but for a time; but why did he stopit at all? Why did not he fetch out the axe? Why did he not do execution? Why didnot he cut it down? Barren fig-tree, it is well for thee that there is a Jesus atGod's right hand, a Jesus of that largeness of bowels, as to have compassion fora barren fig-tree, else justice had never let thee alone to cumber the ground asthou hast done! When Israel also had sinned against God, down they had gone, butthat Moses stood in the breach. 'Let me alone,' said God to him, 'that I may consumethem' in a moment, 'and I will make of thee a great nation' (Exo 32:10). Barren fig-tree,dost thou hear? Thou knowest not how oft the hand of Divine justice hath been upto strike, and how many years since thou hadst been cut down, had not Jesus caughthold of his Father's axe. Let me alone, let me fetch my blow, or 'Cut it down, whycumbereth it the ground?' Wilt thou not hear yet, barren fig-tree? Wilt thou provokestill? Thou hast wearied men, and provoked the justice of God! And 'will ye wearymy God also?' (Isa 7:13).
Lord, let it alone this year.
Lord, a little longer! let us not lose a soul for want of means. I will try, I willsee if I can make it fruitful, I will not beg a long life, nor that it might stillbe barren, and so provoke thee. I beg, for the sake of the soul, the immortal soul;Lord, spare it one year only, one year longer, this year also. If I do any good toit, it will be in little time. Thou shalt not be over wearied with waiting; one yearand then.
Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear what a striving there is between the vine-dresserand the husbandman, for thy life? 'Cut it down,' says one; 'Lord, spare it,' saiththe other. It is a cumber-ground, saith the Father; one year longer, prays the Son.'Let it alone this year also.'
Till I shall dig about it, and dung it.
The Lord Jesus by these words supposeth two things, as causes of the want of fruitin a barren fig-tree; and two things he supposeth as a remedy.
The things that are a cause of want of fruit are, First. It is earth-bound. Lord,the fig-tree is earth-bound. Second. A want of warmer means, of fatter means. Wherefore,accordingly, he propoundeth to loosen the earth; to dig about it. And then to supplyit with dung.
'To dig about it, and dung it. Lord, let it alone this year also, until I shall digabout it.' I doubt it is too much ground-bound. The love of this world, and the deceitfulnessof riches lie too close to the roots of the heart of this professor (Luke 14). Thelove of riches, the love of honours, the love of pleasures, are the thorns that chokethe word. 'For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of theeyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father,' but enmity to God; how then,where these things bind up the heart, can there be fruit brought forth to God? (1John 2:15,16). Barren fig-tree, see how the Lord Jesus, by these very words, suggesteththe cause of thy fruitfulessness of soul! The things of this world lie too closeto thy heart; the earth with its things have bound up thy roots; thou art an earth-boundsoul, thou art wrapped up in thick clay. 'If any man love the world, the love ofthe Father is not in him'; how then can he be fruitful in the vineyard? This keptJudas from the fruit of caring for the poor (John 12:6). This kept Demas from thefruit of self- denial (2 Tim 4:10). And this kept Ananias and Sapphira his wife fromthe goodly fruit of sincerity and truth (Acts 5:5,10). What shall I say? These are'foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition; for thelove of money is the root of all evil.' How then can good fruit grow from such aroot, the root of all evil? 'Which while some coveted after, they have erred fromthe faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows' (1 Tim 6:9,10). It isan evil root, nay, it is the root of all evil. How then can the professor that hathsuch a root, or a root wrapped up in such earthly things, as the lusts, and pleasures,and vanities of this world, bring forth fruit to God?
Till I shall 'DIG' about it.
Lord, I will loose his roots, I will dig up this earth, I will lay his roots bare;my hand shall be upon him by sickness, by disappointments, by cross providences;I will dig about him until he stands shaking and tottering; until he be ready tofall; then, if ever, he will seek to take faster hold. Thus, I say, deals the LordJesus ofttimes with the barren professor; he diggeth about him, he smiteth one blowat his heart, another blow at his lusts, a third at his pleasures, a fourth at hiscomforts, another at his self-conceitedness. Thus he diggeth about him; this is theway to take bad earth from his roots, and to loosen his roots from the earth. Barrenfig- tree, see here the care, the love, the labour, and way, which the Lord Jesus,the dresser of the vineyard, is fain to take with thee, if haply thou mayest be madefruitful.
Till I shall dig about it, and 'DUNG' it.
As the earth, by binding the roots too closely, may hinder the tree's being fruitful,so the want of better means may be also a cause thereof. And this is more than intimatedby the dresser of the vineyard; 'Till I shall dig about it and dung it.' I will supplyit with a more fruitful ministry, with a warmer word; I will give them pastors aftermine own heart; I will dung them. You know dung is a more warm, more fat, more hearty,and succouring matter than is commonly the place in which trees are planted.
'I will dig about it, and dung it.' I will bring it under a heart-awakening ministry;the means of grace shall be fat and good: I will also visit it with heart-awakening,heart- warming, heart-encouraging considerations; I will apply warm dung to his roots;I will strive with him by my Spirit, and give him some tastes of the heavenly gift,and the power of the world to come. I am loth to lose him for want of digging. 'Lord,let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it.'
And if it bear fruit, WELL.
And if the fruits of all my labour doth make this fig-tree fruitful, I shall countmy time, my labour, and means, well bestowed upon it; and thou also, O my God, shaltbe therewith much delighted; for thou art gracious, and merciful, and repentest theeof the evil which thou threatenest to bring upon a people. These words, therefore,inform us, that if a barren fig-tree, a barren professor, shall now at last bringforth fruit to God, it shall go well with that professor, it shall go well with thatpoor soul. His former barrenness, his former tempting of God, his abuse of God'spatience and long-suffering, his mis-spending year after year, shall now be all forgivenhim. Yea, God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, will not pass by and forgetall, and say, 'Well done,' at the last. When I say to the wicked, O wicked man, thoushalt surely die; if he then do that which is lawful and right, if he walk in thestatutes of life, without committing iniquity, he shall surely live, he shall notdie (Eze 33).
Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? the axe is laid to thy roots, the Lord Jesus praysGod to spare thee. Hath he been digging about thee? Hath he been dunging of thee?O barren fig-tree, now thou art come to the point; if thou shalt now become good,if thou shalt, after a gracious manner, suck in the gospel-dung, and if thou shaltbring forth fruit unto God, well; but if not, the fire is the last! fruit, or thefire; fruit, or the fire, barren fig-tree! 'If it bear fruit, well.'
And if not, THEN after that thou shalt cut it down.
The Lord Jesus, by this if, giveth us to understand that there is a generation ofprofessors in the world that are incurable, that will not, that cannot repent, norbe profited by the means of grace. A generation, I say, that will retain a profession,but will not bring forth fruit; a generation that will wear out the patience of God,time and tide, threatenings and intercessions, judgments and mercies, and after allwill be unfruitful.
O the desperate wickedness that is in thy heart! Barren professor, dost thou hear?the Lord Jesus stands yet in doubt about thee; there is an IF stands yet in the way.I say, the Lord Jesus stands yet in doubt about thee, whether or no, at last, thouwilt be good; whether he may not labour in vain; whether his digging and dungingwill come to more than lost labour; 'I gave her space to repent, - and she repentednot' (Rev 2:21). I digged about it, I dunged it; I gained time, and supplied it withmeans; but I laboured herein in vain, and spent my strength for nought, and in vain!Dost thou hear, barren fig-tree? there is yet a question, Whether it may be wellwith thy soul at last?
And if not, THEN after that thou shalt cut it down.
There is nothing more exasperating to the mind of a man than to find all his kindnessand favour slighted; neither is the Lord Jesus so provoked with anything, as whensinners abuse his means of grace; if it be barren and fruitless under my gospel;if it turn my grace into wantonness, if after digging and dunging, and waiting, ityet remain unfruitful, I will let thee cut it down.
Gospel means, applied, is the last remedy for a barren professor; if the gospel,if the grace of the gospel, will not do, there can be nothing expected but cut itdown. 'Then after that thou shalt cut it down.' 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou thatkillest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often wouldI have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens underher wings, and ye would not!' Therefore 'your house is left unto you desolate' (Matt23:37,38). Yet it cannot be, but that this Lord Jesus, who at first did put a stopto the execution of his Father's justice, because he desired to try more means withthe fig-tree; I say, it cannot be, but that a heart so full of compassion as hisis should be touched, to behold this professor must now be cut down. 'And when hewas come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known,even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! butnow they are hid from thine eyes' (Luke 19:41,42).
After that thou shalt cut it down.
When Christ giveth thee over, there is no intercessor, no mediator, no more sacrificefor sin, all is gone but judgment, but the axe, but a 'certain fearful looking forof judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries' (Heb 10:26,27).
Barren fig-tree, take heed that thou comest not to these last words, for these wordsare a give up, a cast up, a cast up of a cast away; 'After that thou shalt cut itdown.' They are as much as if Christ had said, Father, I begged for more time forthis barren professor; I begged until I should dig about it, and dung it. But now,Father, the time is out, the year is ended, the summer is ended, and no good done!I have also tried with my means, with the gospel, I have digged about it; I havelaid also the fat and hearty dung of the gospel to it, but all comes to nothing.Father, I deliver up this professor to thee again; I have done; I have done all;I have done praying and endeavouring; I will hold the head of thine axe no longer.Take him into the hands of justice; do justice; do the law; I will never beg forhim more. 'After that thou shalt cut it down.' 'Woe also to them when I depart fromthem!' (Hosea 9:12). Now is this professor left naked indeed; naked to God, nakedto Satan, naked to sin, naked to the law, naked to death, naked to hell, naked tojudgment, and naked to the gripes of a guilty conscience, and to the torment of thatworm that never dies, and to that fire that never shall be quenched. 'See that yerefuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not, who refused him that spakeon earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh fromheaven' (Heb 12:25).
From this brief pass through this parable, you have these two general observations:—First.That even then when the justice of God cries out, I cannot endure to wait on thisbarren professor any longer, then Jesus Christ intercedes for a little more patience,and a little more striving with this professor, if possible he may make him a fruitfulprofessor. 'Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dungit; and if it bear fruit, well,' &c. Second. There are some professors whoseday of grace will end with, Cut it down, with judgment; when Christ, by his means,hath been used for their salvation.
First. The first of these observations I shall pass, and not meddle at all therewith;but shall briefly speak to the
Second, to wit, that there are some professors whose day of grace will end with,Cut it down, with judgment, when Christ, by his means, hath been used for their salvation.
This the apostle showeth in that third chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, wherehe tells us that the people of the Jews, after a forty years' patience and endeavourto do them good by the means appointed for that purpose, their end was to be cutdown, or excluded the land of promise, for their final incredulity. 'So we see thatthey could not enter in, because of unbelief.' 'Wherefore,' saith he, 'I was grievedwith that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart, and they have notknown my ways; so I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.' As whoshould say, I would they should have entered in, and for that purpose I brought themout of Egypt, led them through the sea, and taught them in the wilderness, but theydid not answer my work nor designs in that matter; wherefore they shall not, I swearthey shall not. 'I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest.' Here iscutting down with judgment. So again, he saith, 'As I have sworn in my wrath, Ifthey shall enter into my rest; although the works were finished from the foundationof the world' (Heb 4:4,5). This word 'if' is the same with 'they shall not,' in thechapter before. And where he saith, 'Although the works were finished from the foundationof the world,' he giveth us to understand that what preparations soever are madefor the salvation of sinners, and of how long continuance soever they are, yet theGod-tempting, God- provoking and fruitless professor, is like to go without a sharetherein, 'although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.' 'Iwill therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lordhaving saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believednot. And the angels that kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation,he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the greatday' (Jude 5,6). Here is an instance to purpose, an instance of men and angels: mensaved out of the land of Egypt, and in their journey towards Canaan, the type ofheaven, cut down; angels created and placed in the heavens in great estate and principality;yet both these, because unfruitful to God in their places, were cut down— the mendestroyed by God, for so saith the text, and the 'angels reserved in everlastingchains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.'
Now, in my handling of this point, I shall discourse of the cutting down, or thejudgment here denounced, as it respecteth the doing of it by God's hand immediately,and that too with respect to his casting them out of the world, and not as it respectethan act of the church, &c. And as to this cutting down, or judgment, it must beconcluded, that it cannot be before the day of grace be past with the fig-tree; butaccording to the observation, there are some professors whose day of grace will endwith, Cut it down; and according to the words of the text, 'Then,' after that, 'thoushalt cut it down.' 'After that,' that is, after all my attempts and endeavours tomake it fruitful, after I have left it, given it over, done with it, and have resolvedto bestow no more days of grace, opportunities of grace, and means of grace uponit, then, 'after that,' thou shalt cut it down.
Besides, the giving up of the fig-tree is before the execution. Execution is notalways presently upon the sentence given; for, after that, a convenient time is thoughton, and then is cutting down. And so it is here in the text. The decree, that heshall perish, is gathered from its continuing fruitless quite through the last year—fromits continuing fruitless at the end of all endeavours. But cutting down is not yet,for that comes with an afterward. 'Then, after that, thou shalt cut it down.'
So then, that I may orderly proceed with the observation, I must lay down these twopropositions:—PROPOSITION FIRST. That the day of grace ends with some men beforeGod takes them out of this world. And, PROPOSITION SECOND. The death, or cuttingdown of such men, will be dreadful. For this 'Cut it down,' when it is understoodin the largest sense, as here indeed it ought, it showeth not only the wrath of Godagainst a man's life in this world, but his wrath against him, body and soul; andis as much as to say, Cut him off from all the privileges and benefits that comeby grace, both in this world and that which is to come. But to proceed:
PROPOSITION FIRST.—The day of grace ends with some men before God taketh them outof the world. I shall give you some instances of this, and so go on to the last proposition.
First. I shall instance Cain. Cain was a professor, a sacrificer, a worshipper ofGod, yea, the first worshipper that we read of after the fall; but his grapes werewild ones. His works were evil; he did not do what he did from true gospel motives,therefore God disallowed his work (Gen 4:3-8). At this his countenance falls, whereforehe envies his brother, disputes him, takes his opportunity, and kills him. Now, inthat day that he did this act were the heavens closed up against him, and that himselfdid smartingly and fearfully feel when God made inquisition for the blood of Abel.'And now art thou cursed,' said God, 'from the earth; which hath opened her mouthto receive thy brother's blood from thy hand,' &c. 'And Cain said, My punishmentis greater than I can bear.' Mine iniquity is greater than that it may be forgiven.'Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth, and from thyface shall I be hid' (Gen 4:9-14). Now thou art cursed, saith God. Thou hast drivenme out this day, saith Cain, and from thy face shall I be hid. I shall never morehave hope in thee, smile from thee, nor expect mercy at thy hand. Thus, therefore,Cain's day of grace ended; and the heavens, with God's own heart, were shut up againsthim; yet after this he lived long. Cutting down was not come yet; after this he livedto marry a wife, to beget a cursed brood, to build a city, and what else I know not;all which could not be quickly done; wherefore Cain might live after the day of gracewas past with him several hundred of years (Gen 4:10-17).
Second. I shall instance Ishmael. Ishmael was a professor, was brought up in Abraham'sfamily, and was circumcised at thirteen years of age (Gen 16:12, 17:25,26). But hewas the son of the bond-woman, he brought not forth good fruit; he was a wild professor.For all his religion, he would scoff at those that were better than himself. Well,upon a day his brother Isaac was weaned, at which time his father made a feast, andrejoiced before the Lord, for that he had given him the promised son; at this Ishmaelmocked them, their son, and godly rejoicing. Then came the Spirit of God upon Sarah,and she cried, Cast him out, 'cast out this bond- woman and her son; for the sonof this bond-woman shall not be heir with my son, with Isaac' (Gen 21:9-11). NowPaul to the Galatians makes this casting out to be, not only a casting out of Abraham'sfamily, but a casting out also from a lot with the saints in heaven (Gal 4:29-31).Also Moses giveth us a notable proof thereof, in saying, that when he died he wasgathered to his people—his people by his mother's side; for he was reckoned fromher, the son of Hagar, the son of the bond-woman (Gen 25:17). Now, she came of theEgyptians, so that he was gathered when he died, notwithstanding his profession,to the place that Pharaoh and his host were gathered to, who were drowned in theRed Sea; these were his people, and he was of them, both by nature and disposition,by persecuting as they did (Gen 21:9). But now, when did the day of grace endwith this man? Observe, and I will show you. Ishmael was thirteen years old whenhe was circumcised, and then was Abraham ninety years old and nine (Gen 17:24-26).The next year Isaac was born; so that Ishmael was now fourteen years of age. Now,when Isaac was weaned, suppose he sucked four years, by that account, the day ofgrace must be ended with Ishmael by that time he was eighteen years old (Gen 25:12,&c.). For that day he mocked; that day it was said, 'Cast him out'; and of thatcasting out the apostle makes what I have said. Beware, ye young barren professors!Now, Ishmael lived a hundred and nineteen years after this, in great tranquilityand honour with men. After this he also begat twelve princes, even after his dayof grace was past.
Third. I shall instance Esau (Gen 25:27, &c.). Esau also was a professor; hewas born unto Isaac, and circumcised according to the custom. But Esau was a gamesomeprofessor, a huntsman, a man of the field; also he was wedded to his lusts, whichhe did also venture to keep, rather than the birthright. Well, upon a day, when hecame from hunting, and was faint, he sold his birthright to Jacob, his brother. Nowthe birthright, in those days, had the promise and blessing annexed to it. Yea, theywere so entailed in this, that the one could not go without the other; whereforethe apostle's caution is here of weight. Take heed, saith he, 'lest there be anyfornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he wasrejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully withtears' (Heb 12:16,17). Now, the ending of Esau's day of grace is to be reckoned fromhis selling of his birthright; for there the apostle points it, lest there be amongyou any that, like Esau, sells his birthright: for then goes hence the blessing also.
But Esau sold his birthright long before his death. Twenty years after this Jacobwas with Laban, and when he returned home, his brother Esau met him (Gen 31:41, 32:4).Further, after this, when Jacob dwelt again some time with his father, then Jacoband Esau buried him. I suppose he might live above forty, yea, for ought I know,above fourscore years after he had sold his birthright, and so consequently had puthimself out of the grace of God (Gen 35:28,29).
Three things I would further note upon these three professors.
1. Cain, an angry professor; Ishmael, a mocking one; Esau, a lustful, gamesome one.Three symptoms of a barren professor; for he that can be angry, and that can mock,and that can indulge his lusts, cannot bring forth fruit to God.
2. The day of grace ended with these professors at that time when they committedsome grievous sin. Cain's, when he killed his brother; Ishmael's, when he mockedat Isaac; and Esau's, when, out of love to his lusts, he despised and sold his birthright.Beware, barren professor! thou mayest do that in half a quarter of an hour, fromthe evil of which thou mayest not be delivered for ever and ever.
3. Yet these three, after their day of grace was over, lived better lives, as tooutward things, than ever they did before. Cain, after this, was lord of a city (Gen4:17). Ishmael was, after this, father of twelve princes (Gen 25:16). And Esau, afterthis, told his brother, 'I have enough, my brother, keep that thou hast unto thyself'(Gen 33:8,9). Ease and peace, and a prosperous life in outwards, is no sign of thefavour of God to a barren and fruitless professor, but rather of his wrath; thatthereby he may be capable to treasure up more wrath against the day of wrath, andrevelation of the righteous judgment of God. Let this much serve for the proof ofthe first proposition, namely, That the day of grace ends with some men before Godtakes them out of the world.
SIGNS OF BEING PAST GRACE.
Now, then, to show you, by some signs, how you may know that the day of grace isended, or near to ending, with the barren professor; and after that thou shalt cutit down. He that hath stood it out against God, and that hath withstood all thosemeans for fruit that God hath used for the making of him, if it might have been,a fruitful tree in his garden, he is in this danger; and this indeed is the sum ofthe parable. The fig-tree here mentioned was blessed with the application of means,had time allowed it to receive the nourishment; but it outstood, withstood, overstoodall, all that the husbandman did, all that the vine- dresser did.
But a little distinctly to particularize in four or five particulars.
First sign. The day of grace is like to be past, when a professor hath withstood,abused, and worn out God's patience, then he is in danger; this is a provocation;then God cries, 'Cut it down.' There are some men that steal into a profession nobodyknows how, even as this fig-tree was brought into the vineyard by other hands thanGod's; and there they abide lifeless, graceless, careless, and without any good conscienceto God at all. Perhaps they came in for the loaves, for a trade, for credit, fora blind; or it may be to stifle and choke the checks and grinding pangs of an awakenedand disquieted conscience. Now, having obtained their purpose, like the sinners ofSion, they are at ease and secure; saying like Agag, 'Surely the bitterness of deathis past' (1 Sam 15:22); I am well, shall be saved, and go to heaven. Thus in thesevain conceits they spend a year, two, or three; not remembering that at every seasonof grace, and at every opportunity of the gospel the Lord comes seeking fruit. Well,sinner, well, barren fig-tree, this is but a coarse beginning: God comes for fruit.
1. What have I here? saith God; what a fig-tree is this, that hath stood this yearin my vineyard, and brought me forth no fruit? I will cry unto him, Professor, barrenfig-tree, be fruitful! I look for fruit, I expect fruit, I must have fruit; thereforebethink thyself! At these the professor pauses; but these are words, not blows, thereforeoff goes this consideration from the heart. When God comes the next year, he findshim still as he was, a barren, fruitless cumber-ground. And now again he complains,here are two years gone, and no fruit appears; well, I will defer mine anger. 'Formy name sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee,that I cut thee not off,' as yet (Isa 48:9). I will wait, I will yet wait to be gracious.But this helps not, this hath not the least influence upon the barren fig-tree. Tush,saith he, here is no threatening: God is merciful, he will defer his anger, he waitsto be gracious, I am not yet afraid (Isa 30:18). O! how ungodly men, that are atunawares crept into the vineyard, how do they turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness!Well, he comes the third year for fruit, as he did before, but still he finds buta barren fig-tree; no fruit. Now, he cries out again, O thou dresser of my vineyard,come hither; here is a fig-tree hath stood these three years in my vineyard, andhath at every season disappointed my expectation; for I have looked for fruit invain; 'Cut it down,' my patience is worn out, I shall wait on this fig-tree no longer.
2. And now he begins to shake the fig-tree with his threatenings: Fetch out the axe!Now the axe is death; death therefore is called for. Death, come smite me this fig-tree.And withal the Lord shakes this sinner, and whirls him upon a sick-bed, saying, Takehim, death, he hath abused my patience and forbearance, not remembering that it shouldhave led him to repentance, and to the fruits thereof. Death, fetch away this fig-treeto the fire, fetch this barren professor to hell! At this death comes with grim looksinto the chamber; yea, and hell follows with him to the bedside, and both stare thisprofessor in the face, yea, begin to lay hands upon him; one smiting him with painsin his body, with headache, heart-ache, back-ache, shortness of breath, fainting,qualms, trembling of joints, stopping at the chest, and almost all the symptoms ofa man past all recovery. Now, while death is thus tormenting the body, hell is doingwith the mind and conscience, striking them with its pains, casting sparks of firein thither, wounding with sorrows, and fears of everlasting damnation, the spiritof this poor creature. And now he begins to bethink himself, and to cry to Godfor mercy; Lord, spare me! Lord, spare me! Nay, saith God, you have been a provocationto me these three years.
How many times have you disappointed me? How many seasons have you spent in vain?How many sermons and other mercies did I, of my patience, afford you? but to no purposeat all. Take him, death! O! good Lord, saith the sinner, spare me but this once;raise me but this once. Indeed I have been a barren professor, and have stood tono purpose at all in thy vineyard; but spare! O spare this one time, I beseech thee,and I will be better! Away, away you will not; I have tried you these three yearsalready; you are naught; if I should recover you again, you would be as bad as youwere before. And all this talk is while death stands by. The sinner cries again,Good Lord, try me this once; let me get up again this once, and see if I do not mend.But will you promise me to mend? Yes, indeed, Lord, and vow it too; I will neverbe so bad again; I will be better. Well, saith God, death, let this professor alonefor this time; I will try him a while longer; he hath promised, he hath vowed, thathe will amend his ways. It may be he will mind to keep his promises. Vows are solemnthings; it may be he may fear to break his vows. Arise from off they bed. And nowGod lays down his axe. At this the poor creature is very thankful, praises God, andfawns upon him, shows as if he did it heartily, and calls to others to thank himtoo. He therefore riseth, as one would think, to be a new creature indeed. But bythat he hath put on his clothes, is come down from his bed, and ventured into theyard or shop, and there sees how all things are gone to sixes and sevens, he beginsto have second thoughts, and says to his folks, What have you all been doing? Howare all things out of order? I am I cannot tell what behind hand. One may see, ifa man be but a little a to side, that you have neither wisdom nor prudence to orderthings. And now, instead of seeking to spend the rest of his time to God, hedoubleth his diligence after this world. Alas! all must not be lost; we must haveprovident care. And thus, quite forgetting the sorrows of death, the pains of hell,the promises and vows which he made to God to be better; because judgment was notnow speedily executed, therefore the heart of this poor creature is fully set inhim to do evil.
3. These things proving ineffectual, God takes hold of his axe again, sends deathto a wife, to a child, to his cattle, 'Your young men have I slain, - and taken awayyour horses' (Amos 4:9,10). I will blast him, cross him, disappoint him, and casthim down, and will set myself against him in all that he putteth his hand unto. Atthis the poor barren professor cries out again, Lord, I have sinned; spare me oncemore, I beseech thee. O take not away the desire of mine eyes; spare my children,bless me in my labours, and I will mend and be better. No, saith God, you lied tome last time, I will trust you in this no longer; and withal he tumbleth the wife,the child, the estate into a grave. And then returns to his place, till this professormore unfeignedly acknowledgeth his offence (Hosea 5:14,15).
At this the poor creature is afflicted and distressed, rends his clothes, and beginsto call the breaking of his promise and vows to mind; he mourns and prays, and likeAhab, awhile walks softly at the remembrance of the justness of the hand of God uponhim. And now he renews his promises: Lord, try me this one time more; take off thyhand and see; they go far that never turn. Well, God spareth him again, sets downhis axe again. 'Many times he did deliver them, but they provoked him with theircounsel, and were brought low for their iniquity' (Psa 106:43). Now they seem tobe thankful again, and are as if they were resolved to be godly indeed. Now theyread, they pray, they go to meetings, and seem to be serious a pretty while, butat last they forget. Their lusts prick them, suitable temptations present themselves;wherefore they turn to their own crooked ways again. 'When he slew them, then theysought him, and they returned and inquired early after God'; 'nevertheless they didflatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongue' (Psa 78:34-36).
4. Yet again, the Lord will not leave this professor, but will take up his axe again,and will put him under a more heart- searching ministry, a ministry that shall searchhim, and turn him over and over; a ministry that shall meet with him, as Elijah metwith Ahab, in all his acts of wickedness, and now the axe is laid to the roots ofthe trees. Besides, this ministry doth not only search the heart, but presenteththe sinner with the golden rays of the glorious gospel; now is Christ Jesus s setforth evidently, now is grace displayed sweetly; now, now are the promises brokenlike boxes of ointment, to the perfuming of the whole room! But, alas! there is yetno fruit on this fig-tree. While his heart is searching, he wrangles; while the gloriousgrace of the gospel is unveiling, this professor wags and is wanton, gathers up somescraps thereof; 'Tastes the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come';'drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon him' (Heb 6:3-8; Jude 4). But bringethnot forth fruit meet for him whose gospel it is; 'Takes no heed to walk in the lawof the Lord God of Israel with all his heart' (2 Kings 10:31). But counteth thatthe glory of the gospel consisteth in talk and show, and that our obedience theretois a matter of speculation; that good works lie in good words; and if they can finelytalk, they think they bravely please God. They think the kingdom of God consistethonly in word, not in power; and thus proveth ineffectual this fourth means also.
5. Well, now the axe begins to be heaved higher, for now indeed God is ready to smitethe sinner; yet before he will strike the stroke, he will try one way more at thelast, and if that misseth, down goes the fig-tree! Now this last way is to tug andstrive with this professor by his Spirit. Wherefore the Spirit of the Lord is nowcome to him; but not always to strive with man (Gen 6:3). Yet a while he will strivewith him, he will awaken, he will convince, he will call to remembrance former sins,former judgments, the breach of former vows and promises, the misspending of formerdays; he will also present persuasive arguments, encouraging promises, dreadful judgments,the shortness of time to repent in; and that there is hope if he come. Further, hewill show him the certainty of death, and of the judgment to come; yea, he will pulland strive with this sinner; but, behold, the mischief now lies here, here is tuggingand striving on both sides. The Spirit convinces, the man turns a deaf ear to God;the Spirit saith, Receive my instruction and live, but the man pulls away his shoulder;the Spirit shows him whither he is going, but the man closeth his eyes against it;the Spirit offereth violence, the man strives and resists; they have 'done despiteunto the Spirit of grace' (Heb 10:29). The Spirit parlieth a second time, and urgethreasons of a new nature, but the sinner answereth, No, I have loved strangers, andafter them I will go (Amos 4:6-12). At this God's fury comes up into his face: nowhe comes out of his holy place, and is terrible; now he sweareth in his wrath theyshall never enter into his rest (Heb 3:11). I exercised towards you my patience,yet you have not turned unto me, saith the Lord. I smote you in your person, in yourrelations, in your estate, yet you have not returned unto me, saith the Lord. 'Inthy filthiness is lewdness, because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged;thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I cause my fury to restupon thee' (Eze 24:13). 'Cut it down, why doth it cumber the ground?'
The second sign. That such a professor is almost, if not quite, past grace, is, whenGod hath given him over, or lets him alone, and suffers him to do anything, and thatwithout control, helpeth him not either in works of holiness, or in straits and difficulties.'Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone' (Hosea 4:17). Woe be to them when I departfrom them. I will laugh at their calamities, and will mock when their fear cometh(Prov 1:24-29).
Barren fig-tree, thou hast heretofore been digged about, and dunged; God's mattockhath heretofore been at thy roots; gospel-dung hath heretofore been applied to thee;thou hast heretofore been strove with, convinced, awakened, made to taste and see,and cry, O the blessedness! Thou hast heretofore been met with under the word; thyheart hath melted, thy spirit hath fallen, thy soul hath trembled, and thou hastfelt something of the power of the gospel. But thou hast sinned, thou hast provokedthe eyes of his glory, thy iniquity is found to be hateful, and now perhaps God hathleft thee, given thee up, and lets thee alone. Heretofore thou wast tender; thy consciencestartled at the temptation to wickedness, for thou wert taken off from 'the pollutionsof the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter2:20-22). But that very vomit that once thou wert turned from, now thou lappest up—with the dog in the proverb—again; and that very mire that once thou seemedst tobe washed from, in that very mire thou now art tumbling afresh. But to particularize,there are three signs of a man's being given over of God.
1. When he is let alone in sinning, when the reins of his lusts are loosed, and hegiven up to them. 'And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient:being filled with all unrighteousness' (Rom 1:28,29). Seest thou a man that heretoforehad the knowledge of God, and that had some awe of Majesty upon him: I say, seestthou such an one sporting himself in his own deceivings, turning the grace of ourGod into lasciviousness, and walking after his own ungodly lusts? (Rom 1:30-31).His 'judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and his damnation slumbereth not'(2 Peter 2:13). Dost thou hear, barren professor? It is astonishing to see how thosethat once seemed 'sons of the morning,' and were making preparations for eternallife, now at last, for the rottenness of their hearts, by the just judgment of God,to be permitted, being past feeling, to give 'themselves over unto lasciviousness,to work all uncleanness with greediness' (Eph 4:18,19). A great number of such werein the first gospel-days; against whom Peter, and Jude, and John, pronounce the heavyjudgment of God. Peter and Jude couple them with the fallen angels, and John forbidsthat prayer be made for them, because that is happened unto them that hath happenedto the fallen angels that fell, who, for forsaking their first state, and for leaving'their own habitation,' are 'reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, untothe judgment of the great day' (Jude 5,6; 2 Peter 2:3-8). Barren fig-tree, dost thouhear? (1.) These are beyond all mercy! (2.) These are beyond all promises! (3.) Theseare beyond all hopes of repentance! (4.) These have no intercessor, nor any moreshare in a sacrifice for sin! (5.) For these there remains nothing but a fearfullooking for of judgment! (6.) Wherefore these are the true fugitives and vagabonds,that being left of God, of Christ, of grace, and of the promise, and being beyondall hope, wander and straggle to and fro, even as the devil, their associate, untiltheir time shall come to die, or until they descend in battle and perish!
2. Wherefore they are let alone in hearing. If these at any time come under the word,there is for them no God, no savour of the means of grace, no stirrings of heart,no pity for themselves, no love to their own salvation. Let them look on this handor that, there they see such effects of the word in others as produceth signs ofrepentance, and love to God and his Christ. These men only have their backs boweddown alway (Rom 11:10). These men only have the spirit of slumber, eyes that theyshould not see, and ears that they should not hear, to this very day. Wherefore asthey go to the place of the Holy, so they come from the place of the Holy, and soonare forgotten in the places where they so did (Eccl 8:10). Only they reap this damage,'They treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteousjudgment of God' (Rom 2:3-5). Look to it, barren professor!
3. If he be visited after the common way of mankind, either with sickness, distress,or any mind of calamity, still no God appeareth, no sanctifying hand of God, no specialmercy is mixed with the affliction. But he falls sick, and grows well, like the beast;or is under distress, as Saul, who when he was engaged by the Philistines was forsakenand left of God, 'And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came andpitched in Shunem, and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa.And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines he was afraid, and his heart greatlytrembled. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neitherby dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets' (1 Sam 28:4-6). The Lord answered him nomore; he had done with him, cast him off, and rejected him, and left him to standand fall with his sins, by himself. But of this more in the conclusion: thereforeI here forbear.
4. These men may go whither they will, do what they will; they may range from opinionto opinion, from notion to notion, from sect to sect, but are steadfast nowhere;they are left to their own uncertainties, they have not grace to establish theirhearts; and though some of them have boasted themselves of this liberty, yet Judecalls them 'wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever'(Jude 13). They are left, as I told you before, to be fugitives and vagabonds inthe earth, to wander everywhere, but to abide nowhere, until they shall descend totheir own place, with Cain and Judas, men of the same fate with themselves (Acts1:25).
A third sign that such a professor is quite past grace is, when his heart is grownso hard, so stony, and impenetrable, that nothing will pierce it. Barren fig-tree,dost thou consider? a hard and impenitent heart is the curse of God! A heart thatcannot repent, is instead of all plagues at once; and hence it is that God said ofPharaoh, when he spake of delivering him up in the greatness of his anger, 'I willat this time,' saith he, 'send all my plagues upon thine heart' (Exo 9:14).
To some men that have grievously sinned under a profession of the gospel, God giveththis token of his displeasure; they are denied the power of repentance, their heartis bound, they cannot repent; it is impossible that they should ever repent, shouldthey live a thousand years. It is impossible for those fall-aways to be renewed againunto repentance, 'seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and puthim to an open shame' (Heb 6:4-6). Now, to have the heart so hardened, so judiciallyhardened, this is as a bar put in by the Lord God against the salvation of this sinner.This was the burden of Spira's complaint, 'I cannot do it! O! how I cannot do it!'
This man sees what he hath done, what should help him, and what will become of him;yet he cannot repent; he pulled away his shoulder before, he stopped his ears before,he shut up his eyes before, and in that very posture God left him, and so he standsto this very day. I have had a fancy, that Lot's wife, when she was turned into apillar of salt, stood yet looking over her shoulder, or else with her face towardsSodom; as the judgment caught her, so it bound her, and left her a monument of God'sanger to after generations (Gen 19:26).
We read of some that are seared with a hot iron, and that are past feeling; for soseared persons in seared parts are. Their conscience is seared (1 Tim 4:2). The conscienceis the thing that must be touched with feeling, fear, and remorse, if ever any goodbe done with the sinner. How then can any good be done to those whose conscienceis worse than that? that is, fast asleep in sin (Eph 4:19). For that conscience thatis fast asleep, may yet be effectually awakened and saved; but that conscience thatis seared, dried, as it were, into a cinder, can never have sense, feeling, or theleast regret in this world. Barren fig-tree, hearken, judicial hardening is dreadful!There is a difference betwixt that hardness of heart that is incident to all men,and that which comes upon some as a signal or special judgment of God. And althoughall kinds of hardness of heart, in some sense may be called a judgment, yet to behardened with this second kind, is a judgment peculiar only to them that perish;hardness that is sent as a punishment for the abuse of light received, for a rewardof apostacy. This judicial hardness is discovered from that which is incident toall men, in these particulars:—
1. It is a hardness that comes after some great light received, because of some greatsin committed against that light, and the grace that gave it. Such hardness as Pharaohhad, after the Lord had wrought wondrously before him; such hardness as the Gentileshad, a hardness which darkened the heart, a hardness which made their minds reprobate.This hardness is also the same with that the Hebrews are cautioned to beware of,a hardness that is caused by unbelief, and a departing from the living God; a hardnesscompleted through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:7, &c). Such as that in theprovocation, of whom God sware, that they should not enter into his rest. It wasthis kind of hardness also, that both Cain, and Ishmael, and Esau, were hardenedwith, after they had committed their great transgressions.
2. It is the greatest kind of hardness; and hence they are said to be harder thana rock, or than an adamant, that is, harder than flint; so hard, that nothing canenter (Jer 5:3; Zech 7:12).
3. It is a hardness given in much anger, and that to bind the soul up in an impossibilityof repentance.
4. It is a hardness, therefore, which is incurable, of which a man must die and bedamned. Barren professor, hearken to this.
A fourth sign that such a professor is quite past grace, is, when he fortifies hishard heart against the tenor of God's word (Job 9:4, &c.) This is called hardeningthemselves against God, and turning of the Spirit against them. As thus, when aftera profession of faith in the Lord Jesus, and of the doctrine that is according togodliness, they shall embolden themselves in courses of sin, by promising themselvesthat they shall have life and salvation notwithstanding. Barren professor, hearkento this! This man is called, 'a root that beareth gall and wormwood,' or a poisonfulherb, such an one as is abominated of God, yea, the abhorred of his soul. For thisman saith, 'I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination' or stubbornness'of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst'; an opinion flat against the wholeWord of God, yea, against the very nature of God himself (Deut 29:18,19). Whereforehe adds, 'Then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shall smoke against thatman, and all the curses that are written in God's book shall lie upon him, and theLord shall blot out his name from under heaven' (Deut 19:20).
Yea, that man shall not fail to be effectually destroyed, saith the text: 'The Lordshall separate that man unto evil, out of all the tribes of Israel, according toall the curses of the covenant' (Deut 19:21). He shall separate him unto evil; heshall give him up, he shall leave him to his heart; he shall separate him to thator those that will assuredly be too hard for him.
Now this judgment is much effected when God hath given a man up unto Satan, and hathgiven Satan leave, without fail, to complete his destruction. I say, when God hathgiven Satan leave effectually to complete his destruction; for all that are deliveredup unto Satan have not, nor do not come to this end. But that is the man whom Godshall separate to evil, and shall leave in the hands of Satan, to complete, withoutfail, his destruction.
Thus he served Ahab, a man that sold himself to work wickedness in the sight of theLord. 'And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall atRamoth-Gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. Andthere came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him.And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and be a lyingspirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, andprevail also; go forth, and do so' (1 Kings 21:25, 22:20-22). Thou shalt persuadehim, and prevail; do thy will, I leave him in thy hand, go forth, and do so.
Wherefore, in these judgments the Lord doth much concern himself for the managementthereof, because of the provocation wherewith they have provoked him. This is theman whose ruin contriveth, and bringeth to pass by his own contrivance: 'I also willchoose their delusions' for them; 'I will bring their fears upon them' (Isa 66:4).I will choose their devices, or the wickednesses that their hearts are contrivingof. I, even I, will cause them to be accepted of, and delightful to them. But whoare they that must thus be feared? Why, those among professors that have chosen theirown ways, those whose soul delighteth in their abominations. Because they receivednot the love of the truth, that they might be saved: for this cause God shall sendthem strong delusions, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned,who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
'God shall send them.' It is a great word! Yea, God shall send them strong delusions;delusions that shall do: that shall make them believe a lie. Why so? 'That they allmight be damned,' every one of them, 'who believed not the truth, but had pleasurein unrighteousness' (2 Thess 2:10- 12).
There is nothing more provoking to the Lord, than for a man to promise when God threateneth;for a man to delight of conceit that he shall be safe, and yet to be more wickedthan in former days, this man's soul abhorreth the truth of God; no marvel, therefore,if God's soul abhorreth him; he hath invented a way contrary to God, to bring abouthis own salvation; no marvel, therefore, if God invent a way to bring about thisman's damnation: and seeing that these rebels are at this point, we shall have peace;God will see whose word will stand, his or theirs.
A fifth sign of a man being past grace is, when he shall at this scoff, and inwardlygrin and fret against the Lord, secretly purposing to continue his course, and putall to the venture, despising the messengers of the Lord. 'He that despised Moses'law, died without mercy; - of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he bethought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?' &c. (Heb 10:28).Wherefore, against these despisers God hath set himself, and foretold that they shallnot believe, but perish: 'Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I worka work in your days, a work which ye shall in nowise believe, though a man declareit unto you' (Acts 13:41).
After that thou shalt cut it down.
Thus far we have treated of the barren fig-tree, or fruitless professor, with somesigns to know him by; whereto is added also some signs of one who neither will norcan, by any means, be fruitful, but they must miserably perish. Now, being come tothe time of execution, I shall speak a word to that also; 'After that thou shaltcut it down.'
PROPOSITION SECOND. The death or cutting down of such men will be dreadful.
Christ, at last, turns the barren fig-tree over to the justice of God, shakes hishands of him, and gives him up to the fire for his unprofitableness. 'After thatthou shalt cut it down.'
Two things are here to be considered:
First. The executioner; thou, the great, the dreadful, the eternal God. These words,therefore, as I have already said, signify that Christ the Mediator, through whomalone salvation comes, and by whom alone execution hath been deferred, now givethup the soul, forbears to speak one syllable more for him, or to do the least actof grace further, to try for his recovery; but delivereth him up to that fearfuldispensation, 'to fall into the hands of the living God' (Heb 10:31).
Second. The second to be considered is, The instrument by which this execution isdone, and that is death, compared here to an axe; and forasmuch as the tree is notfelled at one blow, therefore the strokes are here continued, till all the blowsbe struck at it that are requisite for its felling: for now cutting time, and cuttingwork, is come; cutting must be his portion till he be cut down. 'After that thoushalt cut it down.' Death, I say, is the axe, which God often useth, therewith totake the barren fig-tree out of the vineyard, out of a profession, and also out ofthe world at once. But this axe is now new ground, it cometh well-edged to the rootsof this barren fig-tree. It hath been whetted by sin, by the law, and by a formalprofession, and therefore must, and will make deep gashes, not only in the naturallife, but in the heart and conscience also of this professor: 'The wages of sin isdeath,' 'the sting of death is sin' (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:56). Wherefore death comesnot to this man as he doth to saints, muzzled, or without his sting, but with openmouth, in all his strength; yea, he sends his first-born, which is guilt, to devourhis strength, and to bring him to the king of terrors (Job 18:13,14).
But to give you, in a few particulars, the manner of this man's dying.
1. Now he hath his fruitless fruits beleaguer him round his bed, together with allthe bands and legions of his other wickedness. 'His own iniquities shall take thewicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins' (Prov 5:22).
2. Now some terrible discovery of God is made out unto him, to the perplexing andterrifying of his guilty conscience. 'God shall cast upon him, and not spare'; andhe shall be 'afraid of that which is high' (Job 27:22; Eccl 12:5).
3. The dark entry he is to go through will be a sore amazement to him; for 'fearsshall be in the way' (Eccl 12:5). Yea, terrors will take hold on him, when he shallsee the yawning jaws of death to gape upon him, and the doors of the shadow of deathopen to give him passage out of the world. Now, who will meet me in this dark entry?how shall I pass through this dark entry into another world?
4. For by reason of guilt, and a shaking conscience, his life will hang in continualdoubt before him, and he shall be afraid day and night, and shall have no assuranceof his life (Deut 28:66,67).
5. Now also want will come up against him; he will come up like an armed man. Thisis a terrible army to him that is graceless in heart, and fruitless in life. ThisWANT will continually cry in thine ears, Here is a new birth wanting, a new heart,and a new spirit wanting; here is faith wanting; here is love and repentance wanting;here is the fear of God wanting, and a good conversation wanting: 'Thou art weighedin the balances, and art found wanting' (Dan 5:27).
6. Together with these standeth by the companions of death, death and hell, deathand evils, death and endless torment in the everlasting flames of devouring fire.'When God cometh up unto the people he will invade them with his troops' (Hab 3:16).
But how will this man die? Can his heart now endure, or can his hands be strong?(Eze 22:14).
(1.) God, and Christ, and pity, have left him. Sin against light, against mercy,and the long-suffering of God, is come up against him; his hope and confidence nowlie a-dying by him, and his conscience totters and shakes continually within him!
(2.) Death is at his work, cutting of him down, hewing both bark and heart, bothbody and soul asunder. The man groans, but death hears him not; he looks ghastly,carefully, dejectedly; he sighs, he sweats, he trembles, but death matters nothing.
(3.) Fearful cogitations haunt him, misgivings, direful apprehensions of God, terrifyhim. Now he hath time to think what the loss of heaven will be, and what the tormentsof hell will be: now he looks no way but he is frighted.
(4.) Now would he live, but may not; he would live, though it were but the life ofa bed-rid man, but he must not. He that cuts him down sways him as the feller ofwood sways the tottering tree; now this way, then that, at last a root breaks, aheart-string, an eye-string, sweeps asunder.
(5.) And now, could the soul be annihilated, or brought to nothing, how happy wouldit count itself, but it sees that may not be. Wherefore it is put to a wonderfulstrait; stay in the body it may not, go out of the body it dares not. Life is going,the blood settles in the flesh, and the lungs being no more able to draw breath throughthe nostrils, at last out goes the weary trembling soul, which is immediately seizedby devils, who lay lurking in every hole in the chamber for that very purpose. Hisfriends take care of the body, wrap it up in the sheet or coffin, but the soul isout of their thought and reach, going down to the chambers of death.
I had thought to have enlarged, but I forbear. God, who teaches man to profit, blessthis brief and plain discourse to thy soul, who yet standest a professor in the landof the living, among the trees of his garden. Amen.
General Doctrine of Toleration, 8vo, 1781.
 This awful destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans is narrated by Josephus inhis sixth book of the Jewish Wars, in language that makes nature shudder. Multitudeshad assembled to celebrate the passover when the invading army beleaguered the city;a frightful famine soon filled it with desolation: this, with fire and sword, miserablydestroyed one million, three hundred and thirty-seven thousand, four hundred andninety Jews, while the Christians fled before the siege, and escaped to the mountains.Well might the sun vail his face at that atrocious deed, which was so quickly followedby such awful punishment.—Ed.
 Reader, do not imagine that this was peculiar to Bunyan's days; look not uponyour neighbours to find an example, but search your own heart—'Lord, is it I?' andstrive and pray that you may bring forth more fruit.—Ed.
 The mode of admitting a member to church-fellowship, among the Baptists, wasand now is by introducing the trembling convert to a private meeting of the wholechurch, that they may hear why the union is sought, how the soul became alarmed,and fled for refuge to Christ, with the grounds of hope; inquiries having been previouslymade into Christian character and godliness. If, with all these precautions, a barrenprofessor gains admittance, the punishment is not upon the garden, but upon the barrentree.—Ed.
 'Humour,' the temper or disposition of mind. Not out of love to humility, butthese creeping things pretend to be humble, to gain some sinister end.—Ed.
 However strange it may appear, it is true that the Ranters, in Bunyan's time,used these arguments, and those so graphically put into the mouth of Bye-ends, inthe Pilgrim, to justify their nonconformity to Christ. The tom- fooleries and extravaganciesof dress introduced by Charles II, are here justly and contemptuously described.The ladies' head-dresses, called 'frizzled fore-tops,' became so extravagant, thata barber used high steps to enable him to dress a lady's head!—Ed.
 A word not to be found in our dictionaries, being local and almost obsolete.It means a division, end, or border of a town or village.—Ed.
 See the character of Talkative, in the Pilgrim's Progress. 'His house is as emptyof religion as the white of an egg is of savour. There is in his house neither prayer,nor sign of repentance for sin. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion.Thus say the common people that know him, A saint abroad and a devil at home.'—Ed.
 How great is the mercy that those horrid barbarities, perpetrated upon peacefulChristians, are now only heard of in those distance parts of Satan's empire, Chinaand Madagascar! Has the enmity of the human heart by nature changed? No; but thenumber of Christians has so vastly increased with a civilizing influence, as to changethe face of society. What a paradise will this earth become when Christ shall reignin every heart!—Ed.
 In the midst of these faithful admonitions, we venture to remark that, accordingto Lightfoot, so valuable was the fig-tree that it was never destroyed until meanswere carefully used to restore its fruitfulness, and that the use of these meansoccupied a period of three years. This illustrates the wisdom of our Lord in selectingthe fig-tree as the principal object presented to view in his parable. It is a mostvaluable tree—capable of bearing much fruit; still, after every trial, if it remainsbarren, it must be cut down as a cumber-ground, and sent to the fire.—Ed.
 A 'hit,' in some parts of the country, is used to express a good crop. A 'hittingseason' means a fruitful season.— Ed.
 This mode of infusing new vigour into plants and trees is thus described inthe Gemara—'They lay dung in their gardens, to soften the earth. They dig about theroots of their trees, and sprinkle ashes, and pluck up suckers, and make a smokebeneath to kill vermin.'—Ed.
 Among the superstitions of the ancients, Michaelis states that both the Greeksand Asiatics had a superstition that a tree might be rendered fruitful by strikingit, at the intercession of a friend, three times with the back of an axe.—Ed.
 However painfully unpleasant these terms may appear to eyes or ears polite,it is a homely but just representation, and calculated to make a lasting impressionon every reader. Afflictions, trials, crosses, are used as a means of creating orreviving spiritual life, as manure is applied to vegetation.—Ed.
 Mahomet professed descent from Ishmael, and that he came to revive the religionwhich God had revealed to Abraham, who taught it to Ishmael. Mahometanism is thereligion of the outcast of God.—Ed.
 Bunyan had been haunted with the temptation 'to sell and part with Christ,'and, under a fear that he had fallen under that temptation, the case of Esau madea dreadful impression upon his soul; extreme horror and anguish seized upon his spirit;'he was like a man bereft of life and bound over to eternal punishment,' for twoyears. At length, after an awful storm, he found peace in the promise, 'his bloodcleanseth from ALL sins,' and a proof that he had not sold Christ.—See Grace Abounding,No. 139-160.
 How solemn a thought! What an appeal to perpetual watchfulness. Why have I notmade shipwreck of faith? Most emphatically may we reply, Because God has sustainedmy soul.—Ed.
 Bunyan's tongue and pen are here fired by his vivid imagination of eternal realities.With such burning words, we need no messenger from the invisible world to alarm theconsciences of sinners. What angel could arouse more powerfully, alarmingly, convincingly,the poor sinner, than the whole of this chain of reasoning.—Ed.
 This picture is drawn by a master hand: the master is laid by for a season;or, as Bunyan quaintly expresses it, 'a little a to side': when raised from afflictionearthly affairs absorb his attention, and he forgets his good resolves. Accordingto the old rhyme:—
'The devil was sick, the devil a saint would be
The devil to well, the devil a saint was he.'—Ed.
 This is referred to in the Pilgrim, at the Interpreter's house, by the representationof a man in an iron cage, who says, 'I cannot get out, O now I cannot!' The awfulaccount of Spira's despair must have made a strong impression upon Bunyan's mind.It commences with a poem.
'Here see a soul that's all despair;
a man All hell; a spirit all wounds; who can
A wounded spirit bear?
Reader, would'st see, what may you never feel
Despair, racks, torments, whips of burning steel!
Behold, the man's the furnace, in whose heart
Sin hath created hell; O in each part
What flames appear:
His thoughts all stings; words, swords;
Brimstone his breath;
His eyes flames; wishes curses, life a death;
A thousand deaths live in him, he not dead;
A breathing corpse in living, scalding lead.' —Fearful Estate of Francis Spira.—Ed.