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the word ; the good seed to denote the children of ihe kingdom, and the tares, the children of the wicked one ; the enemy sowing these tares is designed to represent the devil; the harvest the end of the world, and the reapers the holy angels. In some instances the meaning of the parable was obvious at its first delivery, in others more obscure and difficult in its application, to exercise the faith and patience of the hearers. Among all the parables uttered by our Lord, few contain instruction more important and awful than the one which we have read as the subject of our present meditations.
Commentators in general, and with great propriety, apply this parable to the Jewish nation. They were as a fig-tree, planted in the vineyard of Jehovah, being early taken into a covenant relation with himself, brought into the sacred enclosure of his church, and distinguished with many and important privileges. “He gave his word unto Jacob, bis statutes and his judgments unto Israel, he hath not dealt so with any nation.” To them“ pertained the adoption and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God and the promises: The three years" mentioned in the seventh verse are usually considered as relating to the period of our Lord's ministry among the Jews, the time which intervened between his baptism by John and his sufferings and death on Calvary. The great husbandman is represented as expecting “fruit those
three years,” because their advantages were peculiarly great: “God, who at sundry times, and in diverse manners, spake in times past to the fathers by the prophets,” at that time addressed them by his own Son. The Lord of glory, clothed with human nature, lahored personally among them; afforded the most luminous example of piety to God and good will to men; spake the oracles of bis Father with a zeal, and purity, and power such as “man nerer spake," and enforced the doctrines of bis mouth with many and splendid miracles of his hands: But where was their fruit amidst opportunities so rare and precious ? When the great husbandman"looked these three years that this vineyard should bring forth grapes, it brought forth wild grapes.
This nation returned enmity for love; the more they were entreated, the more they opposed, and instead of embracing the doctrines delivered by the compassionate Saviour, they exclaimed, with a rage more than infernal, crucify him, crucify him, and at last imbrued their hands in his blood. When we apply the three years mentioned in the parable to the personal ministry of our Lord among the Jews, the sentence afterwards denounced, cut it down, alludes to their rejection as a nation.
« Wrath came upon them to the very uttermost” for crucifying the Lord of glory, and obstinately resisting his gospel as afterwaids preached by the apostles. “ And when they opposed them
selves and blasphemed, he, Paul, shook his raiment and said unto them, your blood be upon your own heads : I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”At that moment the Jewish nation, as a barren fig-tree, was virtually cut down ; the lamp of ordinances was blown out, the common operations of the Holy Ghost were restained, and deluded Israel sealed up in ignorance and impenitence“ until the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in.” This curse was more visibly executed in the destruction of their city about forty years after the ascension of our Lord. The judginent denounced by the prophet was then literally fulfilled, “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 break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down." Nearly eighteen hundred years, to pursue the metaphor used in the parable, they have been as a tree withered to the root; “ they have been an astonishment, a proverb, and a by-word among all nations whither the Lord has driven them."
Suffer me to remark on this passage, that the Lord God, in righteous indignation, sometimes un-churches a congregation or a nation at once; after he has long tried them with a pure dispensation of his gospel; after he has dealt with them by judgments and mercies, by ordinances and providences, without any visible amendment, he suddenly delivers them up as incorrigible ;
he concludes of them as he did of Ephraim, "he is joined to his idols, let him alone ; "he removes his candlestick,” and no longer tortures them with that light against which they shut their eyes ; he withdraws that Spirit, in his convincing and alarming influences, which they had industriously quenched, and gives them up to final impenitence and unconcern.---Such was the judgment of which he forewarned the church of Ephesus, and under the weight of which it has groaned seventeen hundred years past. “ Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen and repent and do the first works ; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Brethren, does it not become us as a congregation to take the alarm ? Have we not reason to apprehend that this awful judgment is awaiting ourselves? In Salern the tabernacle of the Lord of hosts was early erected; the lamp of ordinances was lighted up at the first settlement of the town, and has shown ever since with little interruption, while the neighboring settlements remained in a great measure destitute of this heavenly vision ; but are we walking “ as the children of the light ?" We have been exalted above others in external opportunities, are we proportionably exalted above them by our knowledge in the mysteries of the gospel, by the blamelessness of our conduct, by the purity and heavenliness of our conversation? The Lord is
my witness, that it occasions“ great heaviness, and almost continual sorrow in my heart,"to notice the visible and increasing proofs of spiritual decay. “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord savingly revealed” from sabbath to sabbath? There is little evidence that the gospel preached is “the wisdom of God, or the power of God, to the salvation of hearers.” Amidst the eagerness of worldly pursuit, who are “giving diligence to make their calling and election sure?” Who are striving to take the kingdom of heaven by violence, and “laboring for the meat which endureth to everlasting life ?" Amidst the frequent and anxious inquiries “what shall we eat! what shall we drink? wherewithal shall we be clothed ?" who are heard to inquire, how shall I escape “the wrath that is to come ?" how shall I “fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life ?” The gospel, we have reason to fear, is losing its efficacy on the souls of jnany. Are not some becoming more indiferent about attending the means of salvation ? Are not many individuals living without the fear of God, and families without the voice of prayer and praise ? Have not some, who once named the name of Jesus, by partaking the common and special privileges of his house, in a great measure turned their back upon both? “ Ye that make mention of the Lord,” of whom I know there is a precious“ remnant ;" ye whose hearts are warm with love to his name,