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ing, How soon is the fig-tree withered away! Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig-tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive.
And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the temple: and the Scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him; and could not find what they might do for they feared him, because all the people were very attentive to hear him, and were astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city.
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig-tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering, said unto them, Have faith in God; for verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any that your Father also which is in
heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if yė do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
May none of us ever indulge such a temper, or ever rest in an empty profession; lest, being like the fig-tree before us, which had leaves, but no fruit, the curse of Christ should be pronounced upon us, which would immediately wither us amidst all our verdure! Let us remember that this was intended as one of those significant actions by which the holy messengers of God frequently intimated approaching judgments. Happy would it have been if some, instead of searching out objections against it, had seriously considered its design, and the sad aspect with which it looks on those who, like them, receive the grace of God in vain!
How hard is it to purge a carnal heart, and disentangle it from the snares of a deceitful world! No sooner were these traders driven from the temple, but they return to it again; and are as busy the next day in the pursuit of their unlawful gain as they had been before. And thus how often are convictions stifled by the love of this world! And if the voice of conscience, or the word of God, may interrupt us for a while in our unlawful courses, yet where it may affect our worldly interest, how ready are we to return to them again! and with what difficulty are we brought so far to lay aside our earthly projects, as not to take them with us into the house of God! Purge us, O Lord, from every irregular desire; pursue and perfect thine own work; and incline our hearts unto thy testimonies, and not unto covetousness! (Psalm cxix. 36.)
The promises which are made to a miraculous faith in prayer, are not indeed our immediate concern; but we may truly infer from them some encouragement in favour of the prayer of faith, on whatever account, and in whatever circumstances it be offered. At least we may infer the necessity of forgiving injuries, if we desire that our petitions should be received with favour. Let us remember it; and labour to approach the throne of a forgiving God, with hearts not only clear of every malignant passion, but full of that cordial and universal benevolence which may engage us to pray for all men, and particularly for those who have least deserved our kindness, and seem least disposed to requite it.
MATT. XXI. 23-32.
MARK XI. 27-33. LUKE XX. 1-8.
AND they come again to Jerusalem: and it came to pass, that as he was walking and taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the Scribes came upon him with the elders of the people, and spake unto him, saying,' Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? and who is he that gave thee this authority to do these things? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? was it from heaven, or of men? answer me. And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people: and all the people will stone us, for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell whence it was. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to-day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
MATT. XXI. 33-46. MARK XII. 1-12. LUKE xx. 9-19.
And he began to speak unto them by parables: Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season, when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. But the husbandmen caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and they beat him also, and wounded him in the head, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent the third; and they wounded him also, and cast him out, and him they killed. Again he sent other servants more than the first; and they did unto them likewise..
Then the lord of the vineyard having yet therefore one son, his well-beloved, he said, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. He sent him also last of all unto them. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance, and it shall be ours. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will come and miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith, He shall come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid. And he beheld
them, and said, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
And when the chief priests and the Scribes and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them; and the same hour they sought to lay hands on him; but they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
When we read this parable, and consider it as levelled at the Jews, we applaud the righteous judgment of God in revenging so severely upon them the quarrel of his covenant, and the blood of his Son; but let us take heed to ourselves, lest we also fall after the same example of unbelief. (Heb. iv. 11.)
God has given to every man some part of his vineyard to cultivate and improve, or some advantages to know and serve him. And as for us who enjoy the Christian dispensation, we have particular reason to say, the lines are fallen to us in pleasant places. (Psalm xvi. 6.) What could he have done more for this part of his vineyard? How ungrateful therefore shall we be, and how miserable too, if we withhold the fruits he so reasonably expects; if we slight the messengers by whom he so frequently and so pathetically demands them; yea, if by wilful impenitence and unbelief we in effect renew the slaughter of his beloved Son, after that amazing favour he has done us, in charging him with an embassy of peace to us, whose aggravated crimes had long since deserved that he should have sent amongst us the messengers of his vengeance. Oh that we may never be condemned out of our own mouths in the censures we pass on the guilty Jews!
We cannot surely think of the awful threatening of our Lord without some secret terror for ourselves, when we consider how shamefully we of this nation have abused our privileges. The kingdom of God, said he, shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. God had been just, had he long since executed such a judgment upon us may he be merciful to us all in suspending and averting it! May his compassion particularly extend to those amongst us who reject Christianity; for the passage