Luke 13:6
Then Jesus told this parable: "A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.
The Grace and Progress of God's KingdomR.M. Edgar Luke 13:1-21
A Fig-TreeN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
A Fig-Tree Planted in His VineyardN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
A Warning to Useless LivesB. Beddome, M. A.Luke 13:6-9
Acceptable FruitN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
Another Year GrantedS. Robins, M. A.Luke 13:6-9
Bringing Forth FruitRowland Hill, M. A.Luke 13:6-9
Cumberers of the GroundN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
Fatal FruitlessnessW. Clarkson Luke 13:6-9
FruitT. Adams.Luke 13:6-9
Fruit Sought by GodJ. Vaughan, M. A.Luke 13:6-9
Fruit, or no FruitJ. Vaughan, M. A.Luke 13:6-9
Fruitfulness the Gauge of ValueC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 13:6-9
Fruitless LivesT. Adams.Luke 13:6-9
God and Man Dealing with UnfruitfulnessLuke 13:6-9
God the Owner of the VineyardN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
God's Forbearance of the Barren Fig-TreeThomas Herren, D. D.Luke 13:6-9
God's Patience not InexhaustibleN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
Judgment Threatening, But Mercy SparingC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 13:6-9
Lessons from the Fig-TreeJames Foote, M. A.Luke 13:6-9
Man's IngratitudeN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
Mercy in Sympathy with RighteousnessA. B. Bruce, D. D.Luke 13:6-9
More Time for RepentanceDr. Talmage.Luke 13:6-9
No FruitT. Adams.Luke 13:6-9
Nominal ChristiansJ. N. Norton, D. D.Luke 13:6-9
Of Christ Seeking Fruit, and Finding NoneD. Clarkson, B. D.Luke 13:6-9
One VineyardN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
Pleading for a RespiteHerbert Mends.Luke 13:6-9
Privilege not Prescriptive RightA. B. Bruce, D. D.Luke 13:6-9
The Barren Fig-TreeJ. Burns, D. D.Luke 13:6-9
The Barren Fig-TreeC. Bradley, M. A.Luke 13:6-9
The Barren Fig-TreeW. Jay.Luke 13:6-9
The Barren Fig-TreeW. M. Taylor, D. D.Luke 13:6-9
The Dressing of the VineyardN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
The Figless Fig-TreeN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
The Fig-Tree Spared Another YearE. Blencowe, M. A.Luke 13:6-9
The Fruitless Fig-TreeJ. Wells, M. A.Luke 13:6-9
The Mercy of New ProbationThe Preachers' MonthlyLuke 13:6-9
The Parable of the Barren Fig-TreeB. Keach.Luke 13:6-9
The Parable of the Fig-TreeT. McCrie, D. D.Luke 13:6-9
The Patience of GodN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
The Penalty of Ignoring the End of ExistenceH. R. Burton.Luke 13:6-9
The Secret Orderings of the Soul's LifeS. W. Skeffington, M. A.Luke 13:6-9
The Sentence SuspendedThe Weekly PulpitLuke 13:6-9
The Use of Prolonged DisciplineW. Arnot.Luke 13:6-9
This Year AlsoC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 13:6-9
Three YearsT. Adams, D. D.Luke 13:6-9
TreesN. Rogers.Luke 13:6-9
Unfruitful Professors Cut Down as Cumberers of the GroundT. Boston, D. D.Luke 13:6-9
Unfruitfulness Aggravated by PrivilegeR. Sibbes.Luke 13:6-9

We have to consider -

I. THE PRIMARY SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PARABLE. What did the great Teacher intend his hearers to understand by his words? It was this (as I read it):

1. The vineyard is the kingdom of God - that realm of truth and righteousness which he has been, from the beginning, establishing on the earth.

2. Israel is the fig tree which God planted in his vineyard - a fig tree in a vineyard; there not by any natural right, but at the option and discretion of the Divine Owner; there "only so long as it served the purpose of him who planted it."

3. Sufficient time was given to Israel to show whether it would prove fruitful or fruitless, the "three years standing for its day of probation, perhaps for the three periods represented by the judges, the kings, and the high priests.

4. Israel is found to be barren; to be without true loyalty, real piety, solid worth.

5. Thus fruitless, it is only in the way; it is failing to render the service which another people of God," another Church, would render; it is thwarting the holy and beneficent purpose of its Creator. Not only is it useless, therefore; it is positively noxious and hurtful to the world; it is a tree that must be cut down, for it cumbers the ground.

6. Jesus Christ, the Vinedresser, intercedes for it and obtains a merciful reprieve; he will expend upon it the faithful toil of a gracious ministry.

7. But he recognizes the fact that persistent barrenness must meet its appropriate fate - banishment from the kingdom of God.


1. God is founding a broad and blessed kingdom here - a kingdom wherein dwelleth righteousness and peace; a spiritual, universal, benignant empire.

2. In it he places us, as the children and heirs of the most precious privileges, seeing and hearing (as we do) what kings and prophets saw not, nor heard; enlightened as to some most valuable points, in regard to which the disciples themselves were necessarily in the dark (see homily on Luke 10:23, 24).

3. From us, thus advantaged, the Divine Husbandman demands good fruit. He may well expect that we should "yield much fruit" (John 15:8), much reverence, purity, love, joy, service, usefulness. He as correspondingly disappointed and grieved when he finds but little, or even none at all.

4. The unfruitful are not only the guilty, but they are the intolerably wasteful; they receive without returning, whilst others in their place would receive and return.

(1) As those who are wrought upon by Christian truth and influence, they remain unblessed, where others in their place would hearken and heed, would obey and live.

(2) As those who are professing to work on and for others, they are holding some post uselessly, where others would be scattering benefit and blessing on every hand. They cause a deplorable and unendurable waste in the kingdom of God.

5. Christ offers us a merciful reprieve. Under his patient rule we are allowed another year, another period for repentance, for reformation, for renewal of heart and life. It is a sacred and a solemn time, an opportunity which we must not by any means neglect. For if we do, the word of Divine condemnation will be spoken, and we shall lose our place in the kingdom of our Lord. - C,

A certain man had a fig-tree.
I. THE FAVOURABLE POSITION IN WHICH THIS TREE WAS PLACED. In a "vineyard"; not on some neglected waste-ground. Under culture and care. This is the condition of those favoured with the privileges and blessings of the gospel dispensation. This is especially the condition of those who are members of the Christian Church.

1. Who have been professedly brought out of the world into the Church.

2. Who are favoured with the spiritual means and ordinances of the gospel.

3. Who are the subjects of the especial and rich promises of the new covenant.

4. Unto whom the graces and blessed influences of the Holy Spirit are freely imparted.

5. Who are the objects of the Divine care and complacency. We are directed —

II. To THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE PROPRIETOR. He came seeking fruit (ver. 6). This expectation was reasonable. God expected this from the Jews. He required them to be more wise, and holy, and obedient, than the heathen who surrounded them. God requires this from all favoured with the privileges and blessings of the gospel economy. He particularly requires and expects it from His own professing people — the members of His Church. He expects —

1. Their hearts to yield the fruits of holy graces.

2. Their lips to yield the fruit of thanksgiving and praise.

3. The fruits of obedience in the life.

4. The fruits of usefulness, by the employment of their powers and talents in His service.


IV. THE COMMAND THE PROPRIETOR ISSUES. "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" (ver. 7).

1. This sentence was not a hasty one. There had been three years' care, and labour, and forbearance. God exercised His great long-suffering towards the Jews. So to men in general. So to fruitless professors in the Church. To all God manifests patient and enduring forbearance.

2. A sufficient reason is assigned for the order given. "Why cumbereth it the ground?" It was worthless in itself. It occupied precious ground. It took up the nutritive portions of the soil, that useful fruitful trees required.

V. THE REQUEST THE VINE-DRESSER PRESENTS. "He said, Lord, let it alone this year also," etc. (ver. 8). He denies not the allegations of the owner. He vindicates not the final continuance of the tree. But he entreats —

1. For a short period of suspense of the sentence. One year. One year only! One round of the seasons. One year's showers and sunshine.

2. He engages to give it special attention. "I will dig about it, and dung it" (ver. 8). I will try and search out the cause, and use all reasonable means to remedy it. He further adds —

3. His willingness then to obey the order of the proprietor. This is not only implied, but directly stated. "If it bear fruit, well" — well for the tree, the proprietor, and the vine-dresser; "And if not, then thou shalt cut it down" (ver. 9). This pleading for the cumberer has often been verified in the prayers of the parent, the friend, the minister; but it is true in the highest and best sense of the Lord Jesus. He ever lives to intercede.

(J. Burns, D. D.)

I. Notice THE SITUATION OF THE TREE, the place where it stands. It is in God's vineyard, and our Lord tells us how it came there. The vineyard was not its natural situation. It did not spring up there, nor was it brought there by accident. God Himself had it planted there. An emblem, brethren, of our situation at this hour, and of the way in which we came into it.

II. See next WHAT IS EXPECTED FROM THIS TREE. Is it that it shall take root and grow where it is planted, and receive the showers of heaven as they fall on it? We may say, "Yes"; but God says, "No, this will not satisfy Me; what I want of it is fruit — not wide-spreading branches and luxuriant foliage; the wild fig-tree of the desert will give me these. I must have of that tree something answering to the situation in which I have placed it, and to the care and pains I have bestowed on it. I come to it seeking fruit." And what is this fruit? It is not those things which some of us perhaps have now in our minds, the social and moral virtues, charity, honesty, and such like. These are all good in their way, but these are fruits of nature's growth. The wild fig-tree will produce them. The heathen and idolater will bring them forth. The tree our Lord speaks of is a tree in a vineyard, a planted and cultivated tree, and something more than fruit of this common kind is expected from it. God wants fruit from us corresponding to the privileges He has bestowed upon us; not only more fruit than any heathen could render Him, but fruit of another kind-Christian fruit, such fruit as nothing but the gospel of Christ can produce, and none but men planted in His Church, and brought under the influence of that gospel, ever yielded Him.

III. And now go on to another point in the parable — THE SCRUTINY THIS FIG-TREE DRAWS ON ITSELF. Observe, the owner of the vineyard does not forget the tree when he has planted it, nor does he sit at home waiting for his servants to bring him the produce of it when there is any; he is described as coming again and again into his vineyard, and going up to this tree and examining it. " He came and sought fruit thereon"; he was anxious about the matter, anxious, not only to gather the fruit if he could find any, but also not to overlook it if there should be some. None watch us like God. We do not see Him as He stands by our side; the great Observer of us is invisible and His scrutiny a silent one; we think no more of Him perhaps than a tree in our garden thinks of us as we walk by it; but He marks every one of us every hour with the most searching attention. He listens to our words, He acquaints Himself with our doings.

IV. Observe THE MARVELLOUS PATIENCE OF GOD WITH THIS UNFRUITFUL TREE. "Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none." There is surprise, you observe, expressed in this language; surprise, it may be, at the unfruitfulness of such a tree in such a place; but still more, it is surprise at God's patience towards Him, that these words seem chiefly to express. The Lord speaks in them as though He Himself were wondering at His own patience.

V. But mark THE DISPLEASURE EXPRESSED AT LAST AGAINST THIS UNFRUITFUL TREE. It is a displeasure which has long been kept under. It comes upon us after long forbearance with us. It is something which has triumphed over great love and great patience; not the flowing of a stream that has always had a free course, moving along in an unobstructed channel, it is a river bursting through harriers which have long damned it up, and pouring forth its accumulated waters in a desolating heap. Look here. The patient owner of this tree becomes all at once determined on its destruction. For three years he goes up to it, searching among its leaves for fruit; he comes away disappointed, but yet silent. There is no blaming of the tree, no complaining of it. The people in the vineyard, who have witnessed all this, may have ceased to notice it, or if they still notice it, they may say, "That tree is safe. Unfruitful as it is, for some strange reason our master loves it, and so well does he love it that he will never remove it." But all at once comes the command, "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?"' And what follows? Is the tree at once levelled? No; for notice —

VI. THE INTERCESSION MADE FOR IT. The dresser of the vineyard answering, said unto him, "Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." Here, doubtless, a heavenly scene is laid open to us. There is but one Mediator who can interpose effectually between God and man. Ministers, parents, and friends, may say concerning this or that sinner, "Lord, let him alone"; but Christ is not thinking here of any of these. He has Himself in His thoughts; He is anticipating His employment at His Father's right hand whither He is going. He is the vinedresser who pleads for this worthless tree to save it from destruction. And how natural and touching are the terms in which His intercession is made! Not one word does He utter against this barren tree. Not one word does He say of all the labour He has bestowed upon it. With a wonderful pity and condescension, He seems to trace its long unfruitfulness to His own neglect. "Lord, let it alone. The fault may be mine. I have not done for it all I might. Henceforth I will do more. It shall become the special object of My labour and care." And then comes in these words a glance at all the glorious consequences that would follow. "If it bear fruit, well," our translators say, but there is no word answering to "well" in the original. Our Lord does not say what would follow the fruitfulness of this tree. He breaks off as though He could not say. It seems as though all the glory and delight resulting to His Father and Himself from a sinner's salvation had rushed into His mind and silenced Him. "If it bear fruit — O, the happiness for that poor sinner, and O, the unutterable joy for Thee and Me!" But, mark you, it is only a year that the Intercessor asks for this tree, one year, a limited season. After that, He says, He will interpose no longer; and more — He will acquiesce in the sentence of its destruction; "Thou shalt cut it down." I know not, brethren, how this language may strike some of you, but there seems to me something very fearful in it. Who is it that promises here to acquiesce after a little in the entire destruction of every unfruitful hearer of God's truth among us? It is none other than He who has shed His heart's blood for our salvation, and who has all our life long been pleading that we may be spared. It is painful to have a kind earthly friend give us up, but to be given up, and given up to certain destruction, by the blessed Jesus, the kindest of all friends, One who bears with and loves us as none but Himself can bear and love — think what we will of it, there is something appalling in this. It is like a father who has cherished fondly a son, a worthless son, while all around have been calling out for justice on him — it is like that father's being at last forced to say, "I can hold out no longer. I can do no more. Let justice have him."

(C. Bradley, M. A.)


1. That temporal judgments inflicted on some should excite others to fear God's Divine wrath and vengeance.

2. No person ought to be rash to censure others on whom temporal judgments befall: there is no knowing either love or hatred by anything that is under the sun.


1. By "a certain man," is meant the great God.

2. By "vineyard" is meant the Church of God.(1) The Church is taken out of the field of this world.(2) Walled or fenced in.

(a)Defended by special providences, etc.

(b)By holy angels.

3. But why does our Lord compare professors of religion to fig-trees?(1) He may allude to the practice of those who had vineyards in the land of Canaan, in which they frequently planted not only vines, but fig-trees.(2) It may be because a fig-tree that brings forth good figs requires much heat of the sun. So professors of Christianity cannot thrive so as to bring forth good fruit, but under the Divine and warm influences of the Sun of Righteousness, and the blessed gospel of God's grace.(3) Because no tree is commonly more fruitful than the fig-tree.(4) A fig-tree bears choice fruit.(5) Fig-trees bear fruit all the year (see Jeremiah 17:7; Psalm 92:12-14).(6) There are some barren fig-trees; they are not of the right kind, but seem a bastard sort of plants. So some professors, who, though they are planted in Christ's vineyard, yet are barren or fruitless; they are not true believers, but mere counterfeits, professors, that have the name of spiritual fig-trees, but not the nature.

4. "Came and sought fruit thereon."(1) God takes notice of every particular person that is planted in His vineyard.(2) God expects fruit from each.(3) If there be but one member in the Church that is fruitless, God will soon find him out.

5. By "three years," I understand to be meant that time God is pleased to afford to a people, a certain time being here mentioned to denote an uncertain.(1) The first year may denote the beginning of the means of grace, which God affords to men.(2) The second year, the proper time that fig-trees bear fruit, if not the first year, then it is expected that it brings forth fruit the second.(3) Or it may imply that God expects sinners should bring forth quickly after they sit under the means of grace.(4) Moreover, it may denote that the means of grace may not be of long continuance.(5) Also it may signify God's patience.

6. "Cut it down," &c. God will not always bear with fruitless professors.(1) God may direct His speech to His Church, and to the subordinate vinedressers. "Cut it down" by excommunication.(2) Or God may speak to Jesus Christ. Smite his root, let him wither.(3) Give him up to his own heart's lust.(4) Leave him to delusions.(5) Death.Inferences:

1. Let such as are planted in God's vineyard tremble if not fruitful in grace. The Church will be no sanctuary to such.

2. Some who are in Christ's vineyard were never planted there by God.

3. Men may have leaves, and even the appearance of fruit, and may seem to grow and flourish for a time, yet, nevertheless, may not bring forth the true and saving fruits of the Spirit.

4. The barren soul shall not stand long in God's vineyard.

7. The reason why this barren fig-tree is cut down.(1) It is good for nothing.(2) Another tree might grow where it stands.

(a)Barren professors cumber poor ministers by their cross and peevish spirits.

(b)They cumber the spirits of their pious parents.

(c)They cumber the minds of serious Christians, members of the same Church, who are ashamed to hear of their pride, passion, idleness, &c.

(d)They are a sad incumbrance to the whole vineyard.

(e)They are cumbersome to God Himself (Isaiah 1:14).

(f)They grieve and afflict the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(g)They grieve the Holy Spirit.

8. "Let it alone this year also."(1) Barren souls are spared through Christ's prayer and intercession.(2) God is slow to anger, unwilling immediately to cut down unfruitful professors.

9. Why does Christ intercede for sinners?(1) Because He died for them.(2) Because He ever lives to make intercession with the Father.(3) Because He knows that if He interceded not, no sinner could live a moment longer.

(B. Keach.)

I. OF THOSE WHO HAVE A PLACE IN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, SOME ARE BUT BARREN PROFESSORS. Even among the twelve there was a traitor; and Christ has forewarned us that there will always be hypocrites mingled with His people. By the barren fig-tree, however, is meant, not only the plausible hypocrite, but all merely nominal Christians; all who, having the means of grace, do not improve them. Yes, my brethren, all of you are included, who, while you attend in this house of God; while you bend the knee before Him; while, sabbath after sabbath, you hear the gospel-sound, listen to its warnings, its invitations, its free and gracious promises; to whom, monthly, are offered the sacramental pledges of redeeming love: still continue far from the kingdom of God; by your life and conversation show, that you are none the better for the opportunities you enjoy; still live in indulged sin, or, at least, bring forth no fruit to the glory of God; are still careless, irreligious, worldly, vain.

II. THE BARREN PROFESSOR CANNOT ESCAPE THE SEARCHING EYE OF GOD. He sees the heart and inmost thoughts. He cannot, and will not, be mocked.


1. Ask yourselves, then, brethren, do you bear fruit answering to your profession of repentance? Are you risen from an unconverted state, and walking in newness of life?

2. Do you bear fruit answerable to your profession of faith? You profess to believe in Him who has bought you with His blood. Are you living no more to yourselves, but to Him who died for you?

3. Is the fruit you bear suitable to the opportunities and means of grace which you enjoy? Highly are you favoured, brethren; you are members of a pure Church; you assemble to a pure form of worship. The Word of God, the sacraments are yours; to you is the gospel preached. Might not the Lord of the vineyard have laid the axe to the root? Why is it thou art spared? Because God is patient long suffering, merciful, and He would have thee repent.

IV. OBSERVE THAT IN JUDGMENT GOD REMEMBERS MERCY. Well might justice say, "Cut it down." But there is an Advocate in heaven. Behold One interceding at God's right hand: "Let it alone this year Also, till I shall dig about it and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well." Blessed be God, for us mercy hath rejoiced against judgment. We are yet spared; and to what end hath Christ Jesus been thus long-suffering? It is that He may show yet richer goodness; that He may try more abundant means. "Let it alone, till I shall dig about it, and dung it." "And if it bear fruit, well." All care and pains will have been well bestowed, if, after all, the sinner bear fruit to God. God's mercy will be magnified; His grace exalted.

V. And now, lastly, OBSERVE THE SURE DOOM OF THOSE WHO CONTINUE STILL UNFRUITFUL: — "If not" (if the tree then bear no fruit), "then after that thou shalt cut it down." It is, then, possible to weary out the patience of God Himself. It is possible, by a hard and impenitent heart, to let the day of grace go by. There may, there will come a time, when mercy shall cease to plead, and leave room for judgment only; when Christ Himself will give up His intercession. O, awful state I when the Saviour Himself withdraws; when His Spirit, grieved, resisted, quenched, finally quits the stony heart. Then follows death-like insensibility — a fearful apathy to all spiritual things, or, it may be, a daily growth in all iniquity, till at length the sinner's cup is full.

(E. Blencowe, M. A.)


1. This "certain man" denotes God. To Him everything belongs. "The earth is His, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." But the Church is peculiarly His, as it is called by His name, and formed to show forth His praise.

2. But who is intended by the fig-tree? It cannot be a real Christian. All the truly regenerate are fruitful. They are not equally, but they are really, fruitful. The character here intended is a man placed in the external and visible Church, and enjoying all the privileges of such a favoured situation. It was once the highly favoured Jew. It is now the highly favoured Christian, blessed with all the religious advantages of Judaism, multiplied, improved, perfected: it is now the highly favoured Briton, born not only in a land of freedom and science, but of gospel grace. It is thou who wast brought up in a godly family, and favoured with the prayers, the instructions, the examples, the tears, of pious parents. It is thou who hast a name and a place in His sanctuary, from Sabbath to Sabbath, where "thine eyes see thy teachers: and thy ears hear a voice behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left."


1. His observation.

2. His disappointment.

3. His patience. "These three years." Why did He not complain the first year? Why did He not destroy it the second year? Why does He bear with it to the end of the third? Why? — To teach us-that judgment is His strange work — that He delighteth in mercy; that He waiteth to be gracious; that He is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

III. THE SENTENCE OF DESTRUCTION — "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" Here we see —

1. That they who derive no benefit from the means of grace are detrimental.

2. Unprofitableness under the means of grace is exceedingly provoking to the Most High. And can we wonder at this when we consider what a waste it is of time; what an abuse it is of privilege; what a contempt it is of the Divine goodness; what a disregard it is of the soul and eternity I Sin is to be estimated not by its grossness, but its guilt. And what aggravates guilt? The light we possess; the obligations we are under; the restraints we break through.

3. God possesses justice as well as mercy; and though He bears long, He will not bear always. "Sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily"; and, as the consequence, the heart of the sons of men is often fully set in them to do evil. But how absurd, as well as dangerous, is such perverse reasoning! Is forbearance forgiveness? No.


1. He pleads for the suspension of the stroke. "Let it alone this year also." Thou hast borne with it long, I own, already; oh! bear with it a little longer. And why is He so desirous of sparing the sinner a little longer in this world? Because, in order to our having the grace of repentance, it is necessary that we should have space for repentance: because while there is life there is hope; but "when once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door," opportunity is over, importunity vain.

2. He engages to use additional means to produce fertility — "Till I dig about it, and dung it." The Word shall be preached with more fervour than before. The minister shall be particular in describing his case, in alarming his fears. Friends shall warn, admonish, invite. Conscience shall awake and reprove. Disappointments shall show him the vanity of the world. Sickness shall invade his frame. Death shall enter his family, and smite a connection by his side. The day in which he lives shall be dark and cloudy. He shall hear of "distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." And can he retain his ungodliness through such a year as this?

3. Here is the supposition of future produce. "If it bear fruit, well." Well for the owner (John 15:8). Well for the vine-dresser, as his labours will be rewarded. Well for the vineyard; it will be adorned, enriched, and replenished. Well for the tree itself, as it will escape the punishment of barrenness, and obtain the blessing of fruitfulness.

4. Here is the doom of final impenitence. Even the patience of the Saviour may be exhausted.

(W. Jay.)

I. To all unprofitable, untruthful sinners, we utter this hard, but needful sentence: TO CUT YOU DOWN WOULD BE MOST REASONABLE. It is right and reasonable to fell barren trees, and it is just as right and reasonable that you should be cut down.

1. This will appear in the first place, if we reflect that this is the shortest and the surest way to deal with you; it will cost the least trouble, and be most certainly effectual in removing you from the place to which you are an injury rather than a benefit.

2. Another reason makes the argument for judgment very powerful, namely, that sufficient space for repentance has already been given.

3. Sinner, I argue thy case somewhat harshly, thou thinkest. All this while there has been no sign of improvement whatever in thee.

4. But there are other reasons why "Cut it down" is most reasonable, when we consider the owner and the other trees.(1) First of all, here is a tree which brings forth no fruit whatever, and therefore is of no service. It is like money badly invested, bringing in no interest; it is a dead loss to the owner. What is the use of keeping it? The dead tree is neither use nor ornament; it can yield no service and afford no pleasure. Cut it down by all manner of means. And even so with thee, sinner; what is the use of thee?(2) But there is a worse consideration, namely, that all this while you have been filling up a space which somebody might have been filling to the glory of God. Where that barren tree stands there might have been a tree loaded with fruit.(3) Moreover, and to make bad worse even to the worst degree, all this while ungodly men are spreading an evil influence.

II. Our second most solemn work is to remind thee, O impenitent sinner, that FOR GOD TO HAVE SPARED YOU SO LONG IS A VERY WONDERFUL THING. That the infinitely just and holy God should have spared you, unconverted man, unconverted woman, up till now, is no small thing, but a matter for adoring wonder.

1. Let me show you this. Consider, negatively, God is not sparing you because He is insensible towards your sins: He is angry with the wicked every day.

2. It is not because the offence is at a distance, and therefore far from His observant eye.

3. Mark, sinner, He has spared you not because He was unable to have destroyed you. He might have bidden the tiles fall from the roof, or the fever might have smitten you in the street; the air might have refused to heave your lungs, or the blood might have ceased its circulation in your veins. The gates to death are many. The quiver of judgment is full of sharp arrows. The Lord has but to will it, and your soul is required of you. You will be no more missed than one sere leaf is missed in a forest, or one dewdrop in a thousand leagues of grass. Judgment needs but a word to work its utmost vengeance, and withal you are so provoking that the marvel is that Divine severity has spared you so long. Admire and wonder at this longsuffering.

4. Remember that this wonder is increased, when you think of the fruit He deserved to have had of you. A God so good and so gracious ought to have been loved by you.

5. And ah, my hearers! I have to touch upon a very solemn part of the business now, when I notice again that some, perhaps, here present have been guilty of very God-provoking sins. Shall God be always provoked? Shall mercy be preached to you for ever in vain? It is a marvel, it is a wonder that these God-provoking sins have so long been borne with, and that you are not yet cut down.

III. And now, WHAT IS THE REASON FOR ALL THIS LONGSUFFERING? "Why is it that this cumber-ground tree has not been cut down? The answer is, because there is One who pleads for sinners. But what has been the secret cause that you have been kept alive? The answer is, Jesus Christ has pleaded for you, the crucified Saviour has interfered for you. And you ask me "Why?" I answer, because Jesus Christ has an interest in you all.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. This parable cuts up all pleas of negative goodness. Unproductiveness is decidedly criminal.

2. This parable calls on you to examine yourselves, whether you be barren or fruitful; and to follow out the result aright, whatever it may be.

3. This parable calls on us all to be thankful to the Lord for sparing us hitherto. It gives this call to us without exception, and especially if any of us have been spared in the time of great danger, restored from severe sickness.

4. Let none of us so abuse God's sparing mercy as to presume on it for the future; but let us all improve the present season without delay, and hold ourselves in constant readiness for death.

(James Foote, M. A.)

The principles underlying this parable are, briefly, these: That much will be required of those to whom much has been given; that, if those to whom much has been given fail to meet that which is required of them, sentence of destruction will be pronounced against them; and that, though the execution of this sentence may be deferred at the intercession of Christ, it will certainly be carried out if there be no repentance and amendment manifested.

I. GOD HAS PLACED US IN THE MOST FAVOURABLE CIRCUMSTANCES FOR THE BRINGING FORTH OF FRUIT. The privileges of the Jews were small in comparison with those which we enjoy. They had the prophets; we have the Son of God. Let us never forget that responsibility is proportional to privilege.

II. GOD EXPECTS EXCEPTIONAL FRUIT FROM A TREE ON WHICH HE HAS BESTOWED SUCH EXCEPTIONAL ADVANTAGES. If we have so much more than others, we ought to be just so much better than they. The fruit in this case is that of character — what we are rather than what we do: what we do only in so far as that is the genuine outcome and spontaneous revelation of what we are. Righteousness, meekness, fidelity — in a word, moral excellence springing from our faith in Christ, and our devotion to Him — that is the fruit which God expects to find in us as the occupants of His vineyard.

III. GOD PRONOUNCES SENTENCE OF DESTRUCTION ON ALL WHO, HAVING HAD SUCH PRIVILEGES, BRING FORTH NO FRUIT (see John 15:6; Matthew 7:19). The Jews are one example of this; the seven Churches in Asia are another. If we wish to secure permanent prosperity, we must remember that we can do so only by maintaining constant fruitfulness in works of faith and labours of love, and holiness of character. When these disappear, and barrenness sets in, then there will come the sentence, "Cut it down."

IV. THIS SENTENCE, PRONOUNCED ON THE BARREN FIG-TREE, IS NOT AT ONCE CARRIED INTO EXECUTION. For all such respite as interposes, in any case, between evil desert and its immediate punishment, men are indebted to the intercession of Christ.

V. A RESPITE IS NOT A PARDON. Only a postponement. Take care not to regard God's forbearance, which is meant to give space for repentance, as an actual manifestation of indifference, or approval. Guilt after such forbearance, and against it, will be greater than before.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Those who enjoy the means of fruitfulness should bring forth fruit; those who are planted in the Lord's vineyard, and have a standing under the means of grace, should be fruitful. This is clear in the words, and indeed in every part of this parable.

1. They are planted in the vineyard for this purpose. That is the proper place for fruit-trees; another place than the vineyard would serve them, if they were not set there for fruit.

2. The Lord, who gives them place here, expects it. He is said to come and seek fruit (vers. 6, 7). It is that which he has just cause to look for.

3. He heinously resents it when he finds no fruit, and expresses his resentment to the dresser of his vineyard. It is an abuse of his patience; the longer he bears with such barrenness the more it is abused. It is a provocation that he will not bear long with. After three years' forbearance, he passes that severe sentence," cut it down."

4. It is an injury to the place where they stand. They cumber the ground, that is the reason of the sentence (ver. 7). It takes up that room which might be better employed; it sucks away that moisture which would make others fruitful; it overdrops the plants that are under it, hinders the spreading and fruitfulness of others. A better improvement might be made of the ground; it is a loss to the owner of the vineyard, when such a plant is suffered, καταργεῖ; which may signify the spending the heart of the ground to no purpose (ver. 7).

5. Those who have most tenderness for such, can have no ground to seek a long forbearance of this barrenness. The dresser of the vineyard will venture to beg no more forbearance than one year, after that he yields it up to excision (vers. 8, 9).

6. All labours and pains, all care and culture, in digging about and dunging it, is lost upon it. Those whom the Lord employs to use all means for their improvement, have nothing left them in the issue, but occasion of sad complaint, that they have laboured in vain, spent their strength for nought (Isaiah 49:4).

7. Such will certainly be ruined. Where fruit is not found, nothing can be expected but cutting down. The lord of the vineyard will not spare them, and the dressers of the vineyard will not longer intercede for them. All in a little while agree in that fatal conclusion, "cut it down." All these, and each of them, make it evident, that those who are planted under the means of grace, are highly concerned to bring forth fruit. The most pertinent and profitable inquiry, for further clearing of this truth, will be, what fruits it is they should bring forth? What we are to understand by fruit, and that fruitfulness which is so much our duty? And of this I shall give you an account by the quality, quantity, and continuance of it. To these heads we may reduce those severals, whereby the Scriptures express to us what this fruit is.

I. FOR QUALITY. It must be good fruit. Grapes, not "wild grapes."

1. Real. A show, an appearance of fruit will not suffice. If it be not real, it has not a metaphysical goodness, much less a moral or spiritual. The fig-tree in the gospel made some show of fruit; but Christ finding none upon it really, He cursed it, and it withered (Matthew 21:19). It must not be like the apple of Sodom, which has nothing to commend it, but only a fair outside. Fair appearances may delude men, and pass for better fruit with them than that which is good indeed. But God is not, cannot be mocked; it is He that comes to seek fruit, and it is not the fairest shows will satisfy Him, it must be real.

2. It must be such as imports a change of the soul that brings it forth.

3. It must be distinguishing fruit; such as no trees can bring forth but those that are good, and such as will make their goodness apparent (Matthew 7:16, 20); such as may approve ye to God and your own consciences to be trees of righteousness, the planted of the Lord, and such as may make this known to men too, so far as by visible acts it may be known; such as may carry a conviction with them to the consciences of others, that you are indeed what you profess yourselves to be, such as will leave them no just exception against it (1 Peter 3:16).

4. Seasonable. That it may be good fruit, it must be brought forth "in due season" (Psalm 1.; Matthew 21:41). The lord of the vineyard looks for fruit in his season (Mark 12:2; Luke 20:10). There is a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and then, if ever, it is good.

5. Sound. A fair skin is not enough to commend fruit for good, if it be rotten within. And so is our fruit, if the inward temper and motions of the heart be not correspondent to the outward actions and expressions.

II. For the QUANTITY. It ought to be much (John 15:5, 8). There should be —

1. A fulness of fruit. Those that enjoy the means, must not only bring forth fruit, but be fruitful; should bear abundance. Heart and life should be filled with it (Philippians 1:11).

2. A proportionableness to the means of fruitfulness, to the plenty and power of them. So much as will answer the care and pains is taken with them. If a man take more pains, and be at more charge in opening the roots of a tree, and dunging it, and pruning it, in fencing and watering it, and it bring forth less or no more fruit than another that has no such care and pains taken with it, it will scarce pass for a good, a fruitful tree. That is barren ground, which brings forth less, after all care and culture, than that which has less tillage.

3. An increase. Those who enjoy the means of fruitfulness, must grow more and more fruitful. The longer they stand in the vineyard, and continue under the means of grace, the more fruit they should bear. You expect not much of a tree the first year; but after it is of standing to bear, you expect that it should every year increase in fruitfulness, and bring forth more and more. So the Lord expects from us.

4. Variety. Their fruit must not only be much of some sort, but of every sort. They must not only abound in some kind of fruit, but must bring forth fruits of all kinds.

III. For CONTINUANCE. It must be lasting fruit. Of which in three particulars.

1. The fruit they bear must continue, It must not wither and come to nothing before the Lord of the vineyard come to reap it.

2. They must continue bearing fruit. The good ground did approve itself to be good, because it brought forth fruit" with patience" (Luke 8:15). They only are good and fruitful ground, who persevere and hold out in bearing fruit.

3. They must be bearing it always; not only semper, as a tree that fails not of fruit once a year, but ad semper, as if a tree should bear fruit all the year long.

Use 1. This leads us to take up a lamentation for the barrenness of the place, the unfruitfulness of the people of this land.

Use 2. For exhortation. If those that enjoy the means of fruitfulness ought to bring forth, then are you highly concerned to take notice of it as your duty, to be fruitful, and to comply with the Lord herein.

(D. Clarkson, B. D.)

I. Those whose lot it is to live within the pale of the visible Church, are a highly favoured people. Compared with the rest of mankind, they are like an enclosed field or garden, in the cultivating or adorning of which the proprietor lays out great pains and expense.

II. God requires, and has a right to expect, that those who are so highly favoured should bring forth fruits of a corresponding kind. It is the peculiarity of the gospel that privilege precedes duty, but it is always taken for granted that duty shall follow.

III. There is often great ground for lamentation and complaint, that those who are favoured by God, in point of privilege, fail in rendering Him homage. How many are there who despise the goodness, and long-suffering, and forbearance of God! How many are there who know not this the day of their merciful visitation!

IV. God is justly and sorely provoked by such conduct. " Cut it down," says He, "why cumbereth it the ground? " What is the use of its remaining longer, but to fill up room in that garden on which I have bestowed so much pains, to intercept the light of the sun from the other trees that are bearing fruit, to draw away the sap from them?

V. God is pleased to spare unprofitable members of the Church, and to extend their day of grace, notwithstanding all their provocations.

(T. McCrie, D. D.)

Every man is expected to be fruitful in some way or other; there is no situation in which a man cannot bring forth some good fruit. Servants may bring forth good fruit before their superiors. I heard, the other day, of a servant, a godly person, who wished to change her place. "Has your master been unkind? Did he not give you wages enough?" "No; he gives more than I shall have elsewhere; but they are so wicked, I can't bear their ways. I would rather work harder, with less wages, than stay to see their evil doings." Dear brethren, I pray this for you — that God would teach you to hate sin wherever you see it, and that you would not jest at it, or wink at it. I wish to make you all good Christians under the influence of that grace that can alone make you wise to salvation. Masters, you may do much good. I once heard an anecdote of a poor servant maid. She went to live in a house, but after some time wanted to leave her place. She was recommended to stay, as they were religious people. "Oh," said she, "I will go to no such house as this again; for, while master and mistress pretend to be very pious when they are out, they are devils at home. Let me rather go where the righteous are a sneer, and where righteousness is utterly despised." I tell you that true righteousness creates heaven in men's houses; and where the fear of God is there is righteousness in every department, and it is the glory of the family circle.

(Rowland Hill, M. A.)

In regard of God, we ought to be fruitful. First, for that He hath deserved it. Secondly, He seeks for it. Thirdly, and when He finds it, He counts Himself honoured and glorified by it. First, HE HATH DESERVED FRUIT FROM US, in that He hath bought us at a dear rate from our vain conversation, to serve Him all our days in holiness and righteousness; He hath chosen us to be "a peculiar people unto Himself, zealous of good works," and make choice of us before others, that we should be fruitful, and that our fruit should abide and abound. He hath made us His own workmanship, by the effectual calling of grace, and "created us to good works to walk in them." He hath planted us, hedged us about, manured, us, watered us with the sweet dews of His Word and gospel from heaven; trimmed us with His pruning hook of judgments and corrections. "And what could He do more for us that He hath not done?" God hath set in hope, planted in hope, watered in hope, of some answerable return, and shall it be denied? or canst thou imagine that God hath took all this pains with thee, and bestowed all this cost upon thee, that thou shouldest bear green boughs or gay blossoms only? Secondly, HE HATH SOUGHT IT OF US, as our text speaks. Now seeking implies divers things: First, an earnest desire to find the thing sought for, as Luke 15:4; Matthew 13:45. Such an earnest desire hath God to find fruit on us, whom He hath planted in His Church, as appears by those pathetical speeches which He uses, Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 32:29; Psalm 81:13; Hosea 6:4. And in this chapter, Luke 13:34; Luke 19:41, 42. By all which, and many such like, it appears that He doth seek seriously and fervently for fruit, and is much grieved when He is deceived in His expectation. Secondly, Seeking imports diligence and frequency. It is no rare but a continued act. So Song of Song of Solomon 3:1-4; Luke 15:8; 2 Timothy 1:17. Thus God comes and seeks for fruit, not once, not twice, and then gives over, but He comes often. Thirdly, Seeking implies mildness and gentleness, Thirdly, WE SHOULD BRING FORTH FRUIT, FOR THAT GOD HOLDS HIMSELF GLORIFIED BY IT. "Herein is My Father glorified" (saith Christ) "that you bear much fruit" (John 15:8). Secondly, We ought to have a special regard to the credit of the gospel, which is the doctrine of God's grace, and teacheth men to be fruitful, "in denying all ungodly lusts, and in living soberly, righteously, and godly in this evil world" (Titus 2:11, 12). Thirdly, God will have a special care of us. The Israelites in their conquests were forbidden to lift up an axe against any tree that bare fruit (Deuteronomy 20:19, 20). God will provide for all fruitful Christians in public calamities (Ezekiel 9:4). Fourthly, "It shall be unto us according to our fruit" (Jeremiah 17:10).. We read that Xerxes adorned the plane-tree, and hung it with many rich and precious jewels, because He delighted in the shade thereof; much more will God adorn fruitful trees, for that He delights in the fruit thereof. In this life He will reward with glory and honour. A fruitful Christian carries a heaven in his heart, joy and comfort (Song of Solomon 7:17), a happy and blessed communion that is between Christ and him; and hereafter there is a blessing abides him for ever (Hebrews 7:8). And thus you have heard what reason we have to be fruitful, both in respect of others, and of ourselves as well as others. Lastly, If we cast our eyes upon the whole creation, and every creature therein that God hath made, we may be stirred up and provoked to fruitfulness. The heaven, the earth, the sea, and all therein, are fruitful in their kind; and shall man be barren and fruitless, for whom all these are fruitful?

(N. Rogers.)

Now briefly of the owner's peculiar interest and propriety therein. It is His vineyard. How His? Is He the owner and possessor of no more but that? and the fig-tree mentioned thereon growing? "The whole earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; the round world, and they that dwell therein," saith the Psalmist (Psalm 24:1), and yet in regard of the affection that He bears unto the Church, He doth in a manner count Himself owner of nothing but this. The Church is the peculiar inheritance of the Lord, He doth more respect it than He doth all the world besides. "The Lord's portion is His people, Jacob is the lot of His inheritance," saith Moses (Deuteronomy 32:9); they are His peculiar ones (Exodus 19:5, 6); His glory (Isaiah 46:13); His ornament (Ezekiel 7:20); His throne (Jeremiah 4:21); His diadem (Isaiah 62:3); His Hephzibah (Isaiah 62:4); His only delight is in her.

1. He hath chosen them from the rest of the world. "Only the Lord hath a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed "after them, even you above all people, as it is this day," said Moses to Israel (Deuteronomy 10:15). The Lord "hath chosen Zion, He hath desired it for His habitation" saith David (Psalm 132:13, 14). "Ye are a chosen generation" saith Peter (1 Peter 2:2). God chooseth for His love, and loves for His choice; they are called His by election.

2. He hath purchased His inheritance with a great price; the whole world cost Him not so much as His Church did, it was bought with blood. He hath entered into a league and covenant with His Church, to become their God, and take them for His people, and so He hath not with the world besides (Hosea 2:13; 1 Peter 2:10). Man is frequently resembled to a tree in Scripture; so Job 19:10; Daniel 4:10, 11, 14, 20; Isaiah 44:23; Jeremiah 11:19; Ezekiel 17:24; Matthew 3:10; Matthew 7:17, 18, 19; Matthew 12:33. The resemblances are many; take we notice of some.

1. In respect of shape, a tree hath its root, trunk, or body, boughs, branches, and smaller twigs issuing from thence. Man's head is his root, his body answereth the trunk or stock of a tree, his arms and legs are his boughs and branches, his fingers and toes the smaller twigs. Only here is the difference, man is arbor inversa, a tree turned upside down, saith the philosopher. For the root or head of a tree standeth on the earth, and extendeth itself towards heaven in the stock, boughs, and branches of it. But man (this mystical tree) hath his head upwards, as his root; and his branches and boughs grow downward to the earth: to teach us (saith one) whence we have our sap, moisture, and nourishment, not from the earth below, as the tree hath (which was Esau's blessing), but from the dew of heaven, which was the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 27:28, 29).

2. In respect of growth, there is some good resemblance. A tree is first tender in the twig, then stiff in the stock; and lastly, withered and doating in the age of it.. So man in his childhood and infancy is flexible, easily inclining to virtue or vice, as he is taught and instructed. Like wax, he is apt to receive any impression that shall be put upon him, and (as Pliny speaketh of the fir-tree) the nearer it is to the root, the more smooth it is, and less knotty. So the nearer man is to infancy and childhood, the less sinful and freest from vicious courses; but when he once comes to be stiffened, and confirmed in the strength of his stock by man-age, then he waxeth more tough and violent in his courses (as did Rehoboam and Joash): the cider we grow, usually the worse we are. Adam was worse in his breeches than he was before; so is it with his sinful posterity. And as man grows thus in his youth, so he is drooping in his age. Let him be as strong as the oak, as tall as the cedar, as straight as the pine-tree, as green and flourishing as the laurel or bay-tree; when age seizeth on him, his strength is weakened, his tallness abated, his straightness crooked, his greenness withered.

3. There are several sorts and kinds of trees; some greater than others, and some taller; some straighter, some broader; some younger, some elder; some barren, some fruitful; so is it amongst men. All are not of the same rank and quality, some are of high degree, others low (Psalm 61:9). Some exalted, others brought down. Saul was a tall tree, "higher than others by the head and shoulders." Zaccheus was a low tree, lower than the people by head and shoulders. Absolom was a goodly green, straight tree, none in Israel to be compared with him for beauty. Mephibosheth was a tree lame and crooked from his childhood, by a fall that he got out of his nurse's arms. Some are fruitful, others unfruitful. Of which more hereafter.

4. In respect of outward state and condition the resemblance holds. High trees are subject to greatest dangers, being exposed to the violence of the winds, blasts of lightning, the dints of thunderbolts, and usually the higher the less fruitful. Low trees are subject to the browsing of beasts, trampling down with feet, and twenty other annoyances. The tree of a middle stature is chiefly safest, and beareth the best fruit. Thus it is with man. Those in high place he open to the winds of alteration, to the lightnings of disasters, to the thunderings of envy and malice. "How are the mighty overthrown" (said David in his epitaph for Saul). Oh! "how are they fallen?" how often are they split with the weight and greatness of their own boughs?

5. Trees are not without their diseases, as Pliny showeth, nor is man without his. The same author tells us that, to that time, three hundred several diseases were discovered, which man was subject unto (some philosophers say two thousand, and that there is two hundred to which the very eye of man is incident). Sure I am, there is no tree subject to so many diseases as the body of man is.

6. In respect of the use, man may be resembled unto a tree; some trees are for building, others for burning, being once felled. So it is with all mankind, being felled by death; some are for the building up of "that house which is not made with hands" (2 Corinthians 5:1), others for fuel in hell, "their end is to be burned" (Hebrews 6:8). Other resemblances we might acquaint you with, but I must observe measure. Let not this that hath been said be passed over without some useful application.

(N. Rogers.)

It was no ordinary nor trivial tree, but of a noble and generous kind (called upon by other trees to be king over them), and brought forth sweet and delicious fruit (Judges 9:10). Why a fig-tree should be mentioned rather than any other tree, some reasons may be rendered, as this in general: The fig-tree was very common in Judea, and frequently planted in their vineyards, for that the vine delighteth much in its neighbourhood and shade; and thence is it that we so frequently find them joined together in the Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:8; 1 Kings 4:25; Psalm 105:33; Joel 1:7 and Joel 2:22; Amos 4:9; Haggai 1:19). More particularly, in reference to the synagogue of the Jews, and that state, the fig-tree, above other trees, did best set forth their condition. The fig-tree is a succulent plant, full of leaves and luxuriant branches; so did that nation come out, and spend its sap in outward observations and ceremonies, contenting itself with the fair leaves of out. ward profession, crying out, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord," drawing near with their lips when their hearts were far off. Again, the fig-tree is the first that buddeth, but the last whose fruit is ripe; the Jews budded long before the Gentiles (and it is to be prayed for that the time of their ripe fruit may be hastened), but the fulness of the Gentiles must come in before their ripening can be expected, as the apostle shows (Romans 11:25, 26). In reference to the Christian Church under the New Testament, the fig-tree is named in respect of sundry properties, wherein it doth hold resemblance.

1. The fig-tree is full of sap and moisture, it is the most juiceful of any tree, the root of it doth abundantly feed it; so doth Christ His Church, He is the Root of it, and on the Root depends the firm standing thereof, and the life of every branch; from this Root we have our radical moisture, from His fulness we derive grace, and grace for grace (John 1:16).

2. The fig-tree is fruitful above other trees. It hath fruit one under another, insomuch that one fig thrusts off another, through its abundance. The Egyptian fig-tree (saith Sclinus) bears fruit seven times in a year; pull off one fig, and another breaks forth in the place thereof very shortly after. So fruitful is the Church of God and every sound member of it; they are "filled with the fruits of righteousness" (Philippians 1:11).

3. The fruit of the fig-tree is a most delicious fruit: "Shall I leave my sweetness?" said the fig-tree (Judges 9:11). And such is the fruit of every good Christian, acceptable and pleasing both to God and man. What the apostle speaks of the works of charity (Philippians 4:8; Hebrews 13:16) may be said of every other gift and grace, "it is an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing unto God"; we are "a sweet savour unto God" (saith the apostle). The fruits of our graces are God's dainties (Song of Solomon 6:2).

4. The fig-tree is forward in putting forth; it foretells a summer, as our Saviour shows (Matthew 24:32). God's people are "a willing people" (Psalm 110:3). Forward to every good work that God requires to be done (Galatians 1:16; 2 Corinthians 8:10, and 2 Corinthians 9:2). Even in this sense the godly may be said to be Primitive Dei, the first-fruits of God. And this their forwardness promiseth a summer; it brings a blessing upon a nation.

5. The fig-tree makes not so glorious a show as do other trees, it neither blooms nor blossoms, and yet bears abundantly: so is it with the sound Christian, he makes not that show that the hypocrite doth, but he is more fruitful (Matthew 6:3, 4, 6; Luke 18:11-14). The harlot exceeds the chaste matron in gaudy attire, as the Church of Rome doth ours.

6. The fig-tree best bears the brunt of winter storms, and is freest from summer's thunder (saith Pliny), that never strikes it. Sure it is that the godly Christian is best armed for hard weather, and best enabled to go through variety of conditions (Philippians 4:12, 13). Nor do the thunderbolts of an angry God ever strike him; that thunder and lightning which comes from the throne comes through the rainbow, the covenant of grace and mercy, before ever they come at him (Revelation 4:5).

7. Amongst all trees there is none whose leaf doth so much resemble the hand of a man as doth the fig-tree's. The leaf of the asp resembles the tongue, but the leaf of the fig-tree, man's hand. Christianity sets us to work; it stands, not in a verbal profession, but in action (Matthew 21:28; John 13:17; James 1:22).

(N. Rogers.)

The heathens of old were idolatrous in multiplying gods to themselves, even to the number of thirty thousand (saith Hesiod); whatever they best liked, that they created a god, and so of whatever they most feared. Of a clap of thunder they made a Jupiter, of a tempest at sea they made a Neptune, of an earthquake they made a Pluto, &c. And to these their created gods they erected temples, altars, and consecrated the goodliest and fairest trees that they met withal; which ancient practice of dedicating this and that kind of tree to several gods as proper and peculiar to them was always observed (saith Pliny), and yet remaineth to this day. Thence Lucian took occasion to deride the practice of those times, feigning their idol-gods to sit in Parliament, and every one making choice of that tree which he most fancied. Jupiter makes choice of the oak for its strength, Apollo of the bay-tree for its greenness, Neptune of the poplar for its length, Juno of the eglantine for its sweetness, Venus of the myrtle tree for its beauty. Minerva sitting by, demanded of her father Jupiter what might be the reason, that seeing there were so many fruitful trees, they all made choice of those trees which were fruitless. He answered her, Ne videamur fructu honore vendere, that we may not be thought to chaffer our honour away for fruit. "Well," said Minerva, "do you what you please; I, for my part, make choice of the olive for its fatness and fruitfulness. All commended her choice, and were ashamed at their own folly. This you will say is but a fiction; and it is no other, but it discovered the folly of men of that generation, and so it may do of ours. In elections and choices fruitful trees are least of all regarded. The ambitious he seeks after unprofitable honour, high place, rule, and government, and would be advanced above the rest of his brethren; he affects the cypress for its tallness (a tree that great men much esteem of, and nourish in their walks, but it is hardly made to grow), and when it is come up, the fruit is good for nothing, the leaves of it are bitter, the scent strong, neither is the shade thereof wholesome. The young gallant is for the double-coloured poplar, all for form and compliment. Oh, there is much of a gentleman in that, the leaves of this tree are soft, and full of down, which soon flies away like the down of the thistle into the air; this tree is an emblem of dissimulation. The flattering courtier likes well the clasping ivy, which yet is an enemy to all trees and plants, it undermineth walls, and is good only to harbour serpents and venomous creatures, insomuch that Pliny wonders it should be honoured by any, or counted of any worth; and yet heathen emperors have used to make them garlands of it, and wear them on their heads. Rehoboam too much affected these ivy codds (1 Kings 12:8). And it is the fault of greatness. The covetous worldling prefers the ash to all other trees; he loves to bear the keys, and delights in being the jailer of his wealth. The body and bulk of this tree is hard and tough, and the leaves unwholesome to any beast that doth not chew the cud. In short, some choose for beauty, some for sweetness, some for greatness, some for greenness, but where is he or she that makes Minerva's choice, to choose for fruitfulness? As Samuel said of the sons of Ishai (one having a goodly stature, another a goodly countenance), "Surely now the Lord's anointed is before me." So we think of these goodly and tall trees (but fruitless in grace), if honour comes, wealth comes, beauty comes, &c., This is the anointed of the Lord; this must be he. But "God seeth not as man seeth"; man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart, as was told Samuel.

(N. Rogers.)

Others there are that bring forth fruit as well as buds and leaves, and yet their fruit shall not be accepted.

1. For that it is not natural and kindly fruit, but degenerate. In the creation every seed and plant brought fruit after its kind; so it is in the regeneration, good trees bring forth fruit answerable to the stock wherein they are engrafted, and the sap they thence receive, and the profession that they make; but these men walk after the lusts of the Gentiles, and bring forth the fruits of the flesh (such as those mentioned, Galatians 5:19), no manner of way answering to the seed that hath been sown in them by the ministry of the Word, which they have heard, and the doctrine which they have been taught.

2. Say it be fruit of a better kind, yet it is not seasonable fruit. It may be that they are ten or twenty years in blooming, so long before they come to any good resolution to leave their vicious ways and courses; and then they trust to latter springs and showers for the perfecting and ripening of it, and so neglecting the due season of fruit, it happens that, with Esau, they find "no place for repentance, though they seek it carefully with tears."

3. Their fruit is not sound fruit, but rotten at the core (however it be goodly and fair to look upon), like those apple-trees in Assyria (of which Solinus writes), the fruit whereof is yellow as gold, but being touched is rotten; or like the apples of Sodom, beautiful to the eye, but being touched they fall to cinders. Zealous they seem outwardly, when they are cold at heart or else lukewarm. Their aims and ends in all their devotions is self.

4. Their fruit is not fair, it is shrivelled up, either in some few duties of the first table, as hearing, reading, praying, &c., but in the duties of the second table they are very tardy (Isaiah 58:3, 5, 6). So the Pharisees made long prayers, and under that pretence "devoured up widows' houses" (Matthew 23:14), and such is the fruit of all hypocrites. Or else they are observant in the duties of the second table, with neglect of the first (as Matthew 23:23), and such is the fruit of the civilian and moral man.

5. Their fruit is not lasting; it holds good for the summer season of prosperity, but when the winter of adversity and persecution comes, it fails (Luke 8:13). And such is the fruit of the temporary believer and time-serving Christian; his fruit lasts not all the year, not during term of life, when, as a good fig-tree is never without some figs hanging on the tender boughs, winter nor summer, a good Christian, like the palm-tree spoken of, Psalm 92:12, grows fat and flourishing even in old age. Let these and all such other be advised not to flatter themselves nor suffer themselves by vain pretences to be undone. It is not a fair blossom, a green leaf, nor fruit of outward profession, external reformation, common illumination, or any of the like nature, that will satisfy God's expectation. He looks for fruit, and good fruit too, from every fig-tree, and at your hands He will require it. Wherefore, be exhorted to be fruitful Christians, that you may answer God's expectation. Let your fruit be the fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1.11), "fruit unto holiness (Romans 6:22), "fruit unto God" (Romans 7:4), that is, to the glory and praise of God, and such as He will accept of. Now that this use may be the more profitable, I shall acquaint you with three particulars.

1. With the properties or qualifications of that fruit that shall find acceptance.

2. With the means that must be used for the producing of fruit so qualified.

3. With the motives that may stir us up to the bringing forth of such fruit. Of each of these briefly, and in order.

(N. Rogers.)

That the Church is a spiritual vineyard is a truth that hath strong confirmation from Scripture. In the Old Testament we find it so styled (Psalm 80:8, 9, 15; Song of Solomon 8:11, 12; Isaiah 5:1, 7; Jeremiah 2:21). The like in the New (Matthew 20:1, 2, and Matthew 21:28,33; Mark 12:1; Luke 20:10). But why is it resembled to a vineyard, rather than to another thing? It is compared to many other things in Scripture, besides a vineyard, as to a house, to an orchard, to a garden enclosed, to a field in tillage, to a threshing-floor, &c. But of all other resemblances of earthly things none doth so fully express and set forth the nature and condition of the Church as this of a vineyard, which, that it may appear the better, let us take notice of some particulars, wherein this spiritual vineyard, the Church, doth hold resemblance with the other.

1. A vineyard is a place separated and enclosed from other grounds. No vineyard is naturally a vineyard; hand and heart must go to make it so. The Church is called and separated from the world, both in life and conversation, as appears, Leviticus 20:24, 26; Numbers 23:9; Deuteronomy 14:2; John 15:19.

2. No vineyard is in its perfect glory so soon as it is taken in. Her plants being set, come not presently to perfection and growth, but by degrees. So it is with the Church (Ephesians 4:11, 12). Divers workmen and labourers are ordained to be employed about it, for the perfection of it, even after it is planted.

3. A vineyard, when it flourisheth and is come to some perfection, is a place of great delight, both in respect of the pleasant smell that it yieldeth, and comfortable shadow that it affordeth; so is the Church (Hosea 14:6, 7). "The smell of it is like unto a field that the Lord hath blessed." Her vines and tender grapes give a good smell (Song of Solomon 2:13, 14). Her graces are compared to things most sweet (Song of Solomon 4:13, 14).

4. To a vineyard it may be compared in respect of the fertility or fruitfulness thereof. It bears much fruit, and fruit of the best kind. A vineyard is stored with divers plants (one plant maketh not a vineyard); and those plants are laden with fruits, they bring forth in bunches and clusters, and not a berry here and another there, but the load is such that the branches bear, that it seems many times to exceed the strength of the branch that bears them. The Church is fertile of children; there are multitudes of them that believe. So fruitful is the Church of children as that she wonders at her own increase, and saith, "The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell. Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children and am left desolate" (Isaiah 49:19, 20; Isaiah 54:1). And as a vineyard is more fruitful than any other plantation, so it yieldeth the best fruit of any other. No fruit is more delectable to the taste, nor more comfortable to the heart, than that which comes from the grape. And what fruit can be compared with the fruit that a Christian bears? All other fruit that grows without this fence is but sour and bitter, seem it never so fair and glorious to the eye, yet it is but hedge fruit, or like unto the grapes of Sodom and clusters of Gomorrah (Deuteronomy 32:32).

5. A vineyard is a well-ordered place, there the hillocks may be seen equally swelling, the stakes pitched in a good height and distance, the vines handsomely pruned, the ground cleanly kept, and well hoed, all things are well ordered in it. And so is it in the Church, insomuch that Balaam himself could not but admire at it, and in a rapture cry out, "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israeli As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side," etc. (Numbers 24:5, 6.)

6. To a vineyard the Church may be compared, in respect of the imbecility and weakness of it. No possession, said Cato, requires more pains about it than a vineyard cloth. Corn comes up and grows alone of itself, without the husbandman's care (Mark 4:17). But the vine is a frail kind of plant, it must be supported, sheltered, daily dressed and attended, else it soon waxeth luxurious, and is in danger to grow wild, after it once waxeth wanton.

7. A vineyard is very subject to be annoyed and wasted by the beasts of the wood and foxes of the field, which love to burrow under it, and delight to be cropping and pilling of her plants, and eating of her grapes, as Solomon intimates (Song of Solomon 2:15). So is the Church, her enemies are many that conspire against her (Psalm 83:2-13).

(N. Rogers.)

The ill requital that we have made to God for all the good we have received from Him hath been in part discovered. Now give me leave to discover unto you the vileness of this vice, ingratitude, that we may shun it and hate it; and the rather, because we have been foretold that it is one of those sins that renders these times perilous. And so, first, take notice that it is a compounded sin; it hath many poisonous ingredients in it which makes it extremely evil, and amongst others these —

1. Ignorance, and such an ignorance as whereunto mercy is denied (Isaiah 27:11). He that made them will show them no favour, being a people of no understanding, it being wilful and affected. Thus God complains of Israel, "Israel doth not know" (Isaiah 1:3), and Hosea 2:8.

2. Idolatry. Ingratitude doth not only pass by without notice-taking of good bestowed, but ascribes all to others. Thus Israel ascribed all their plenty, their bread, their wine, their wool, their water, dec., to their lovers or sweethearts, that is, to their idols and false gods (Hosea 2:5).

3. Pride is another sinful ingredient that goes to the composition of it. "Their hearts were exalted," saith God of ungrateful Ephraim, " therefore have they forgotten Me" (Hosea 13:6). And this is rendered as the reason why Hezekiah returned not to God according to that he bad received — "His heart was lifted up in him" (2 Chronicles 32:25).

4. Envy, that is the daughter of pride, and will wait upon her mother; where the one is the other will be; we grudge no men the praise of their kindness but whom we envy and hate. And by experience we have found that true, which Tacitus saith of extraordinary favours, which, lighting upon ill minds, cause hatred instead of love.

5. There is much of sacrilege in it. The ungrateful man robs God of that honour which is due unto Him, and which He hath reserved to Himself, nor will He give it to any other. God is content that we should have the good of all, but the praise of all He looks to have Himself.

6. There is atheism in it. Thus those ungrateful wretches, mentioned by Job, whom God hath blessed with temporal abundance, ask, "What is the Almighty that they should serve Him" (Job 21:25). Secondly, it is a sin that all law condemns. The law of nature is against it. For naturally every effect is brought back to its cause (as all waters come out of the sea, so all return thither again). Now God is the cause of all things and persons, therefore, whatsoever we have and whatsoever we are must be ascribed unto Him.

(N. Rogers.)

— For the better accomplishing and perfecting whereof there are three principal virtues (as implements) which are necessarily requisite in these dressers of the Lord's vineyard.

1. Skilfulness and ability to do this work that he is called unto. This is required (2 Timothy if. 2; 1 Timothy 3:2).

2. Faithfulness and sincerity — "He that hath My word, let him speak My word faithfully," saith God (Jeremiah 23:28).

3. Care and vigilancy — "Be diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds," saith Solomon (Proverbs 27:23).

(N. Rogers.)

Barren professors are cumbersome; unprofitable burdens they are to the vineyard of the Lord.

1. They are sterile and barren in themselves, and in that respect cumbersome, and a burden to the earth.

2. As they do no good, and are cumbersome in that respect; so they do much harm, and so become unprofitable burdens, and that many ways.(1) To the soil whereon they grow, the very earth is the worse for a fruitless fig-tree. It was the sin of man, at first, that caused God to curse the earth to thorns and thistles, and ever since He hath turned "a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of those that dwell therein." The sins of those within the pale, are they for which a land doth mourn (Hosea 1:4). So is it in the vineyard of the Lord. Let a barren and unprofitable fig-tree have his standing, wheresoever the ground shall be the worse and not the better for him. Let Rehoboam be rooted among the kings in the land of Judah, and the shields he finds of gold he will leave of brass. Let Balaam be numbered among the prophets, and Judas among the apostles; and the vineyard of the Lord shall find cause enough to say of such a fig-tree, that it cumbers the ground. The Church suffers by the growth of such trees; it loseth her heart and fatness. Her beauty and glory is much blemished by the growth of such plants in it.(2) Such barren trees are cumbersome and burdensome to other trees and plants that grow, or might grow, in the vineyard; and that divers ways.(a) A barren tree possesseth the place of a better, and by its good will would not suffer any to grow near it. The best rooms at feasts, the chief seats in synagogues, proud Pharisees will take up; nor is there any place for better guests till they be removed lower, and commanded to give place, and so room made, by their removal, for others that are invited. The like may be seen in David's case, who was annointed to be king over Israel long before his instalment. Saul sat yet upon the throne, and David must be content to stay a while for that, till Saul be removed; and, that being done, then he shall be planter and seated in his room, in Hebron. So whilst Judas supplies the place of an apostle, honest Matthias shall be kept out; his place must be voided, before another take "his bishopric (Acts 1:20). The Jews they must be broken off before the Gentiles be grafted in (Romans 11:9). And whilst those ungrateful farmers of the vineyard held their lease it could not be taken by others, who would gladly have hired it, and "rendered the fruit thereof in due season" (Matthew 21:43).(b) Such as are barren and unprofitable in their places, devour not only equal nutriment with him that beareth, but many times starve other inferior plants within their reach; drawing away the heart and fat of the soil with their suckers and feeders. What a breadth beareth some great ash or oak! How far do their roots spread, albeit underground and unseen? Yet it may be perceived by their soaking of the ground and drawing away nourishment from corn and plants that are near unto them. It is thus with many an unprofitable and barren Christian, he is a soaker, and that in respect both of things that concern this life and a better; and so cumbersome. Such are to be found in the Church. In private families likewise there are many such burdensome plants to be found; many a fair estate is consumed by pride and luxury, voluptuousness and prodigality.(c) They are troublesome and cumbersome to other plants by their unprofitable shade, over-topping and over-dripping them, and keeping the influence of heaven from them, so that they cannot enjoy the warm beams of the sun, which brings healing with it under its wings.(d) They are cumbersome, in harbouring under their branches things hurtful to ether plants. None shall be harboured under their shade unless it be a stinging nettle, or some sullen weed, or some venomous and poisonous creature.(e) They are burdensome to the Lord of the soil, and owner of the vineyard, who complains of such barren plants (Isaiah 1:14, 24; Isaiah 7:13; Isaiah 43:24; Amos 2:13). God complains of their burden; they are cumbersome unto Him; He finds a pressure under them; He is dishonoured by them and cannot long endure it.(f) The dressers of the vineyard are burdened and cumbered by them. Christ, the principal Dresser, laments the barrenness of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41; Matthew 23:34; John 11:38). Christ groaned, as it seems, under the Jews' malice.

(N. Rogers.)

Be persuaded to make the right use of the patience and long-suffering of the Lord, as the apostle directs (Romans 2:4), and let it lead thee, as it were by the hand, to true repentance, remembering —

1. How long God hath trusted thee with His patience, and given thee time to make thy peace, and sue out thy pardon. Should a traitor that is condemned as thou art have a reprieve granted him for half so many years as thou hast lived (albeit he had no promise granted of a final pardon), upon his good carriage and behaviour; how thankful would he be, and how happy would he think himself in that.

2. Forget not how many have suffered for those sins that thou art guilty of long since; who had not that patience showed unto them that thou hast had, but were taken away and carried to execution, upon the very act of their sinning, as Zimri and Cosbi, who were smitten in the act of their lust; Ananias and Sapphira in the very act of lying, &c.

3. In not making the right use of God's patience and profiting by it thou despiseth it; and in despising it thou despiseth goodness.

(N. Rogers.)

God's patience hath a period; it hath its bounds and limits beyond which it will not pass. For proof, read Amos 8:2 — "The end is come, I will not pass by them any more"; that is, I will have no more patience towards them. So Jeremiah 1:11, 12 — "I will hasten My word to perform it"; that is, to make good the judgments that I have denounced. And that text should still be sounding in our ears — "An end is come, an end is come; behold it watcheth for thee, behold, it is come it is come" (Ezekiel 7:5-16) Should God always bear with sinners, He should suffer in all His attributes; His justice would be wronged and blemished, which by no means will endure that the wicked should be held as innocent (Exodus 34:7; Jeremiah 44:2). "He is a jealous God" (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:26). Now, should God perpetually bear with sinners, it would be a disgrace unto Him. His jealousy will not endure that sin should ever go unpunished (Psalm 50:21; Malachi 3:15). He is a most wise God, "God only wise" (1 Timothy 1:17). Albeit, He bears and spares and shows mercy to sinners, it is ever moderated with wisdom. He forbears as long as there is hope (Jeremiah 51:9). But when men become incurable, His wisdom will not suffer Him to bear any longer (Isaiah 1:5). He is a good God; and being good, He must needs love goodness and hate iniquity (Psalm 45:7). Now, God should not be good, if He should be ever good to those that will never be good; His goodness will not suffer Him ever to spare those that hate and despise goodness. So we might show of His other attributes.

(N. Rogers.)

However legal or usual the presence of a fig-tree in a vineyard may be, it is not, as in the case of a vine, a matter of course, and Christ must have had a reason for introducing it, and the reason can only be found in the didactic significance of the emblem. What, then, was the reason? On our view of the drift of the parable it is not difficult to answer the question. The fig-tree is chosen to represent Israel as a tacit yet effective protest against the notion of her possessing a prescriptive right to occupy in perpetuity the place she held in God's favour. The supposition is directed against the pride and self-importance of an elect race, prone to think that Israel and God's kingdom were synonymous, or as intimately and essentially related to each other as are vineyard and vine. To have used the vine as an emblem of Israel might have seemed to concede this claim, but by selecting the fig-tree as an emblem Christ said to His countrymen in effect, "Ye have no natural or necessary place in the sphere within which God's grace manifests itself, like a vine in a vineyard, without which the vineyard can hardly be conceived: Ye are but a fig-tree in the vineyard, legitimately, suitably enough there, yet there by accident, or by free choice of the owner, and there only so long as ye serve the purpose for which He put you there."

(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

It was one; not vineyards, many; and from hence we may conclude that the Church of Christ is one, and but one. The multiplicity of particular churches do not hinder the unity of the catholic; all these are but parts of it, as one tree that hath several arms and branches. Many stones make bus one house, many houses one city, many cities one kingdom; so, many men one particular congregation, many congregations one visible Church, many Churches one catholic one. Or as the ocean-sea is but one in itself, yet running by divers countries and coasts, hath the name according to the coast it runs by; as the English Sea, the Irish Sea, the German Sea, &c., yet all but one sea. So we distinguish of Churches, yet all is but one and the same, one catholic Church and no more. It is very true, that God is resembled to man in Scripture. He likeneth Himself to man, and speaks after the manner of men unto us. Yet we have somewhat more to take notice of, for God is pleased not only to liken Himself to man, but He takes upon Him the profession of an husbandman, resembling Himself to a careful and painful vinitor, that had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, &c.

(N. Rogers.)

I. THE FIG-TREE WAS FAVOURED. NO other fig-tree was so favoured. For it was not there by chance like a berry-bush in the woods, or a tree on the top of an old tower, the seed of which had been carried on the wings of the wind, or by a bird that, on the way to its nest, frightened by a hawk, had dropped its mouthful. The owner had deliberately planted this tree in his vineyard. You are planted, not in the open unsheltered waste, but in the Church of Christ, and in a Christian home. You are not like a little dying boy, who said to the Christian friend visiting him, "O sir, do ye think I would hae ony chance wi' God? ye see I canna read ony"; or like an untaught carter I knew, who used to give a boy a penny to read to him "blads o' the Bible." That dying boy, that carter, was like a fig-tree growing on the road-side. You are like a fig-tree planted in a vineyard. What could have been done for you that has not been done?


III. THIS TREE, FAVOURED THOUGH FRUITLESS, IS YET SPARED. Many poets speak of trees as having life, as thinking, feeling companions, for whom they cherish an almost human attachment. The trees of our boyhood are dear to us, because interwoven with memories of bright days. I have known a wood spoiled, because the proprietress would not permit the cutting down of trees which she regarded as the friends of her girlhood. She seemed afraid of "wronging the spirit in the woods." The feeling is natural. The keeper of the vineyard had planted the fig-tree, and watched its growth. It is his own, and he has a longing, lingering feeling for it. He won't give up hope of it. President Garfield, when a boy, was wonderfully saved from drowning. " Providence thinks it worth while saving my life," he said to himself, when he stood panting and dripping on the deck of the canal boat, and the fire of noble resolve then began to burn within him. Lord Clive and Wallenstein, in boyhood, made some wonderful escapes, and burst forth into an exclamation that surely they were reserved for something great. Many have had the same feeling.

IV. THE FIG-TREE, FAVOURED THOUGH FRUITLESS, AND SPARED, IS YET TO BE JUDGED. God's patience is most wonderful, it goes far beyond all our thoughts and dreams, but it has limits. To be fruitless is a greater calamity than befell those slain by Pilate at the altar, or buried under the tower of Siloam; it is the only real calamity; for it is to be an eternal failure.

(J. Wells, M. A.)

Just as when any article, as a pen, a watch, an engine, or anything else which will not work, or answer the end for which it was made, is thrown aside as useless; or as a fruit-tree which will not bear fruit is cut down as a cumberer of the ground, so those who do not answer this end of their existence — glorifying God — may be set aside or otherwise punished.

(H. R. Burton.)

I. CONSIDER THE COMPLAINT ALLEGED IT IS THAT OF UNFRUITFULNESS. Fig-trees are generally three years before they bring forth any fruit to perfection; but this was perpetually barren, and likely to remain a cumberer of the ground.

1. Observe the patience and forbearance of God in His conduct towards the barren fig-tree, the barren and unprofitable professor. He endures with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction.

2. Though the Lord suffers long and is kind, He strictly observes all our conduct, and keeps an account of the advantages we enjoy, and the use we make of them.

3. Great as is the danger of unfruitfulness, nothing but heavenly culture, nothing but Divine influence can produce in us the fruits of righteousness.

4. Divine forbearance, though long continued, will finally have an end. Though He bears long, He will not bear always. The longer the storm has been gathering, the heavier it will fall; the longer the sword has been whetting, the sharper it will cut, and the deeper it will wound. Longsuffering on God's past, if it do trot lead to repentance, will be followed by more grievous suffering on our part.

II. THE DOOM THAT IS PASSED UPON THE BARREN FIG-TREE: "Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground."

1. A sentence like this is sometimes passed against unprofitable characters, even in the present life.

2. The barren fig-tree is cut down at death, when it is not only cast out of the Church, but out of the world.

3. The stroke will fall still heavier in the day of judgment, when the barren tree shall not only be cut down, but cast into the fire.


1. It was unprofitable, and so is every sinner that does not bring forth fruit unto God.

2. The fig-tree was injurious, as well as unprofitable; for it encumbered the ground, and occupied a place which might be filled to more advantage.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)


1. Dead trees. They being still in their natural state, are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. The gospel is the means of life to a dead world, called therefore the word of life (Philippians 2:16). It is by it that the Spirit of life is conveyed into the dead soul. This Spirit is received by the hearing of faith. Thereby faith comes whereby the soul is united to Christ the fountain of life. But alas! many continue dead under quickening means, destitute of the Spirit and of faith. So they cannot bring forth the fruits of holiness, they can do nothing that is truly good, more than a dead man can move and act.

2. Rotten trees. Dead souls are spiritually rotten also. "They are altogether become filthy." This speaks reigning vanity and worthlessness, as the rotten tree is light. How many such are in God's vineyard, whose mind is vain.

3. Withered trees. When the tree has lost all sap and is withered away, it cannot bring forth fruit, but must be cut down. Many that sometimes looked green and promising under the means of grace, have lost all now. Their convictions are stifled, their affection to the things of God is gone, and the gospel is become tasteless to them.

4. Barren trees, that have leaves but no fruit.

5. Degenerate trees bringing forth evil and noxious fruit. To such God says, "Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?" These bring forth the fruits of the flesh in abundance, that are deadly like the wild gourds of the wild vine.


1. They take up room, precious room, that might be better occupied.

2. There is no advantage to the owner from that part of the ground which they occupy.

3. There is no comfort to the vine-dressers from that part of the ground such occupy, though otherwise much might arise from it, if it was planted with other trees. The pains of the labourers is lost upon such trees.

4. The sap of the ground which barren trees draw to them, of which they are yet nothing the better, might nourish fruitful trees. Lastly, they hinder the fruitfulness of other trees in the vineyard; drawing the sap from them. So they are not only not profitable, but hurtful.


1. For to try if they will mend.

2. For the prayers of the godly.

3. For the sake of their seed designed for vessels of mercy.

4. That impenitent sinners may be wholly inexcusable. There is a measure of iniquity to be filled up, and so long the Lord will bear with sinners, and no longer (Romans 2:5; Genesis 15:16). It remains —


1. Patience at an end.

2. Never fruit more to grow upon them.

3. The sharpness of the stroke.

4. The suddenness of the stroke.

5. The destructiveness of it.

6. The casting of it out of the vineyard.

7. That the barren tree is to be cast into the fire.Uses.

1. The unfruitfulness under the gospel prevailing in our land, forbodes a time of hewing and cutting down. Our privileges have been signal ones, our misimprovement signal; so will our stroke be likewise.

2. Impenitent sinners have a dangerous station in God's vineyard. A barren tree may be much safer in the wood than in the garden.

3. Take heed what part ye act in God's vineyard. Be concerned to know for what use you are in it. Beware of being cumberers of the ground.

4. Lay no more weight upon external Church privileges than they will bear. Happy are they that dwell in God's house, if they learn the true manners of the house. But if in God's house they live ungodly lives, it had been better for them they never had known it. Lastly, consider what fruit ye bring forth under the means of grace; and do not overlook the privileges which you enjoy. Ministers sow the seed, Christ Himself will look after the fruit, and will notice who bring forth the fruit of a preached gospel, and who cumber the ground.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

These three years.
He comes to particular man three years. First, in youth. I have planted thee in My vineyard, given thee the influence of My mercies; where is thy fruitfulness? Alas! the young man sends him away with a Nondum tempus ficorum — It is too early for me to fall to mortification; would you put me to penance before I have had the leisure and pleasure to offend? He is ready to send Christ away in the language of that foul spirit, "Art Thou come to torment me before my time?" But whose charge is it to "Remember thy Creator" diebus juventutis?. Then the conquest is most glorious, because then it is most difficult. You say, It is never too late; but I am sure it is never too soon, to be gracious and holy. Secondly, in middle age; and now the "buying of farms," and "trying of beasts," the pleasures of matrimony, the cares for posterity, take up all the rooms of the soul. Men rather busy themselves to gather the fruits of earth than to yield the fruits of heaven. Here is strength of nature and fulness of stature, but still a defect of grace. Perhaps Christ hath now some fair promises of fruits hereafter, "Let me first go bury my father, then" (Luke 9:61). Thirdly, in old age. Now the decay of body should argue a decay of sin. The taste finds no relish in riot, the ears cannot distinguish music, the eyes are dim to pleasing objects, very " desire fails": now all things promise mortification. He that cannot stir abroad in the world, what should he do but recollect himself, and settle his thoughts on the world to come? Now fruits, or never. Not yet; morosity, pride, and avarice, are the three diseases of old age. Men covet most when they have time to spend least; as cheating tradesmen then get up most commodities into their hands when they mean to break. Still He comes seeking fruit, and is returned with a Non invents. But doth He forbear all trees thus long? No; some are snatched away in the flower and pride of their life; yea, they be not few that will not allow themselves to live, but with riot and intemperance hasten their own ends, before they have well begun or learned what life is; like bad scholars, that slubber out their books before they have learned their lessons. That instead of Non est fruetus, we may say, Non est ficus, the tree itself is gone. And that goodly person, which like a fair ship hath been long a-building, and was but yesterday put to sea, is to-day sunk in the main. We do not eat, drink, and sleep, and take such refections of nature, ut non moriamur, that we might not die — that is impossible — but that we should not die barren, but bear some fruits up with us to Him that made the tree.

(T. Adams, D. D.)

A farmer, who had turned his attention to the raising of fruit, said to a friend as they sat at table, "I have cut down over fifty peach-trees to-day." "Why is this?" "Because the fruit was not good. The peaches were too small." Afterwards, walking through the orchard, the friend saw where the trees had stood, and also the spot where, after being cut down, they had been burned. This procedure brought to his mind at once the Saviour's parable of the fruitless fig-tree. Oh, if God dealt with men as they deal with the trees in their orchards, what a fearful destruction of our race would ensue.

Nothing is created for itself, but so placed by the most wise providence, that it may confer something to the public good, though it be but as the widow's two mites to the treasury, The poorest creature yields some fruit, wherein it doth imitate the goodness of the Maker. We know not readily what good serpents and vermin may do; yet certainly they have their fruit, both in sucking up that poison of the earth, which would be contagious to man; in setting off the beauty of the better pieces of creation — for though the same hand made both the angels in heaven and the worms on earth, yet the angels appear the more glorious, being so compared- besides their hidden virtues abstracted from our knowledge. Of stones they make iron, rubbish serves to raise bulwarks, the small pebble for the sling, worms and flies are baits for fishes; everything iS enabled with some gift for the universal benefit, and so to produce those fruits is their natural work. The sun comes forth of his chamber like a bridegroom, fresh and lively; and rejoiceth as a giant, to run his diurnal course, to lighten us with his refulgent beams, to generate, cheer, and mature things with his parental heat: this is his fruit. In his absence, the moon and stars adorn the canopy of heaven, reflecting their operative influence to quicken the lower world: this is their fruits. The curled clouds, those bottles of rain, thin as the liquor they contain, fly up and down on the wings of the wind, delivering their moist burdens upon the earth, teats whereon the hungry fields and pastures do suck; yet they expect no harvest from us: this is their fruits. The subtle winds come puffing out of their caverns, to make artificial motions, wholesome airs, and navigable seas; yet, neither earth, air, nor sea return them recompense: this is their fruits. The earth, in a thankful imitation of the heavens, locks not up her treasures within her own coffers; but without respect of her private benefit, is liberal of her allowance, yielding her fatness and riches to innumerable creatures that hang on her breasts, and depend upon her as their common mother for maintenance. Of the beasts that feed upon her, kine give us their milk, sheen their wool; every one pays a tribute to man, their usufructuary lord: this is their fruits. Fruit-bearing trees spend not all their sap and moisture upon themselves, or the increase of their own magnitudes; but the principal and purer part of it is concocted into some pleasant fruits, whereof neither they nor their young springs ever come to taste; but they proffer it us, and when it is ripe, they voluntarily let it fall at their masters' feet. Never did the olive anoint itself with its own oil, nor the vine make itself drunk with its own grapes, nor the tree in my text devour its own figs: yet they all strive to abound with fruits. Let me raise your meditations from earth to heaven: the holy angels there are called "ministering spirits"; those royal armies fight for us against our enemies; like nurses, they bear us up in their arms, and, though unseen, do glorious offices for us: this is part of their fruit. The blessed Trinity is always working: "Hitherto my Father worketh, and I work" (John 5:17). The Father by His providence and protection, the Son by His mercy and mediation, the Holy Ghost by His grace and sanctification; all dividing the streams of their goodness for the best behoof of the world. The more anything furthers the common good, the more noble is its nature, and more resembling the Creator. The earth is fruitful; the sea, the air, the heavens are fruitful; and shall not man bring forth fruits, for whom all these are fruitful? While all the armies of heaven and earth are busied in fructifying, shall man, of more singular graces and faculties, be idle, a burden to the world and himself? Both the Church of God for the propagation of piety, and the world itself for the upholding of His state, require our fruits. If happiness consisted in doing nothing, God, that meant Adam so happy, would never have set him about business; but as paradise was his storehouse, so also his workhouse: his pleasure was his task. There is no state of man that can privilege a folded hand.

(T. Adams.)

None? Haply not so thick with fruits as the "vines of Engedi"; every land is not a Canaan, to flow with milk and honey. But yet some competent measure, enough to pay the landlord rent for the ground it stands on; no, "none." If there be none to spare, whereof the owner may make money, yet sufficiat ad usum suum, ad esum suum — that he may eat the labours of his own hands; no, "none." If the number be not "as the sand," yet let there be "a remnant" (Romans 9:27). If there cannot be a whole harvest, yet let there be "a tenth" (Isaiah 6:13). If not a tenth, yet let there be some "gleanings" (Micah 7:1); and that is a woeful scarcity. If the gleanings be not allowed, yet let there be here and there a fig, a grape, a berry, "on the outmost branches" (Isaiah 17:6), that the planter may have a taste. It is too defective, when non florebit ficus — the tree doth not flourish; but quando non erit uva in vitibus, non ficus in ficulneis (Habakkuk 3:17) — when there shall not be "a grape on the vine, nor a fig on the tree" (Jeremiah 8:13), this is a miserable sterility. Something hath some savour, but none is good for nothing. Indeed, all trees are not equally loaden; there is the measure of a hundred, of sixty, of thirty; an omer and an ephah; but the sacred dews of heaven, the graces of the gospel, bless us from having none! "I find none." None? Peradventure none such as He looks ,for, no fruits delicate enough for the Almighty's taste. Indeed, our best fruits are never perfect and kindly ripened; still they relish sour and earthly, and savour of the stock from which they were taken. They are heavenly plants, but grow in a foreign and cold climate; not well concocted, not worthy the charges and care bestowed upon us. Set orange or fig-trees in this our cold country, the fruit will not quit the cost of the planting and maintaining. But the complaint is not here of the imperfection or paucity of fruits, but of the nullity: "none." Some reading that text with idle eyes, that after all our fruits, we are still " unprofitable trees" (Luke 17:10), because they can find no validity of merit in their works, throw the plough in the hedge, and make holiday. But shall not the servant do his master's business, because he cannot earn his master's inheritance? Shall the mason say, I will share with my sovereign in his kingdom, or I will not lay a stone in his building? Net good fruits have their reward; though not by the merit of the doer, yet by the mercy of the accepter. Sour they be of themselves, but in Christ they have their sweetening; and the meanest fruits which that great "Angel of the Covenant" shall present to His Father, with the addition of His own "precious incense "(Revelation 8:4), are both received and rewarded. In their own nature they may be corrupt; but being dyed in the blood of Christ, they are made pleasing to God: yea, also profitable to the Church, and useful to men, seem they never so poor. Even a troubled spring doth often quench a distressed soldier's thirst; a small candle doth good where the greater lights be absent; and the meanest fruit of holy charity, even a cup, though it be not of the juice of the grapes out of the vineyard, but of cold water out of the tankard, in the name of Christ, shall have its recompense (Matthew 10:42). But here the complaint is not of the meanness or fewness, but of the barrenness — none at all.

(T. Adams.)

Howsoever God may endure barrenness out of the Church, in want of means, yet He will never endure it under means. It is better for a bramble to be in the wilderness than in an orchard; for a weed to be abroad, than in a garden, where it is sure to be weeded out, as the other to be cut down. If a man will be unprofitable, let him be unprofitable out of the Church. But to be so where he has the dew of grace falling on him, in the means of salvation, where are all God's sweet favours, to be a bramble in the orchard, to be a weed in the garden, to be noisome in a place where we should be fruitful, will God, the great Husbandman, endure this? Whatsoever is not for fruit is for the fire (Matthew 3:10).

(R. Sibbes.)

A gentleman once entered a hall with his little son, when they saw a number of well-dressed people, some of them standing together in groups, while others sat at their ease. The lad's attention was arrested by a pleasant-looking man, in gaudy dress, and he inquired of his father who it could be. "Ask the gentleman who stands near you," answered the father, with unmoved gravity. "If you please," said the boy, addressing the stranger, "can you tell me who that gentleman opposite is?" No answer was given, and the lad looked amazed. At last the father said to him, "Those things which so much resemble men and women are only wax figures. There is no life in them, natural as they appear. Fair to look upon, they are without soul; all outside, and nothing else." Are mere nominal Christians much more than these wax figures? We may admire the artistic skill which can fashion matter into forms of beauty; but what are all the outside appearances of religion in the deceitful Pharisee compared with the holiness of life in the heart of the true believer? Happy would it be for us if we all sought for "the fruit of good living" in our own lives before God Himself comes to seek it. The ancient Greeks used to quote the proverb that "The feet of the avenging deities are shod with wool," intimating thereby the noiseless and unexpected manner in which they approach their victims. Thanks to God's tender forbearance, He always gives us timely warning before the fatal blow is struck. The parable of the barren fig-tree, from which the text is taken, was designed by our blessed Lord to be a warning to the Jewish nation, whose mercies, had been so many, but whose day of grace was so soon to end. It is, however, no less applicable to all, of every age and country, who have the opportunity of receiving the means of grace, and of securing the hope of glory.

(J. N. Norton, D. D.)

How many who are called Christians live lives so utterly fruitless that they might have such obituaries written of them as this: "While professing to be followers of Him ' who went about doing good,' they were never known to go out of their way to speak kindly to the poor and the friendless, or to invite any stranger to church. Fields of usefulness close to their own dwellings were often pointed out to them, but they showed no ambition to be imitators 'of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.' An enlarged charity may hope that theirs is the blessedness of those who 'die in the Lord,' but we cannot add (in the apostle's expressive words of commendation) that they 'rest from their labours,' and that ' their works do follow them.'"

(T. Adams.)

Lord, let it alone this year also
The Weekly Pulpit.

1. The ground of the plea is in Himself. God spares the sinner for Jesus' sake.

2. The prospective efficacy of the plea lies in what the Saviour has done for the sinner. Thoughts of peace concerning him have revolved within His breast. He has laid down the plan of his recovery. A life of the sweetest virtue, and the most complete self-sacrifice, has been expended to work out the plan.

II. THE INTERCESSION OF JESUS — ITS SPECIAL END. The roots are at fault; the sinner's heart must be changed.

1. The power of the means. Historically the record is grand; intrinsically the power is the same to-day. The stoutest hearts have been broken, and the most guilty consciences have been washed.

2. The stubborn heart may relent. Unprolific trees have been started, some by a very hard winter, others by a very warm summer, to yield fruit. Once the sap was thrown into its proper channel the tree continued to bear. So God's dealings with men are means to move the heart. Even Ahab is not beyond His reach. The furnace of affliction has melted many. God sent His people to Babylon, and said, "Behold, I will melt them, and try them; for how shall I do for the daughter of my people"? All other means had failed. There are, therefore, probabilities of side influences producing such changes in men's condition, so as to leave with us possibilities that the truths of the gospel will in the end produce the greater changes unto life.

III. THE INTERCESSION OF JESUS — LIMITED AS TO ITS TERMS. "But if not, thou shalt cut it down." This is the solemn voice, not of righteousness, but of the intercession itself.

1. Such a state of impenitence is fearful to contemplate. The end of it is the hardest part. The uninterrupted course of wickedness leads to inevitable destruction.

2. The sentence carried out. "Cut it down." We would gladly close our eyes and not witness the scene, but the authority of the text bids us still look on. God ceases to be a Father, Christ is no longer a Brother, the light is put out for ever, the soul is cast into outer darkness, and the heart pierced with a thousand regrets. "Cut it down," being fruitless; burn it, being useless. Let such a warning as this serve to quicken thought, so that we may observe the time of mercy.

(The Weekly Pulpit.)

The restriction of the intercession of the vinedresser for a prolongation of the experiment to a single year indicates Christ's own sympathy with this Divine rigour. He is the vinedresser, and His ministry of grace and truth is the means whereby it is faintly hoped Israel may yet, at the eleventh hour, be made spiritually fruitful. But, full of grace though He be, He neither expects nor desires an indefinite extension of Israel's day of grace. He knows that though God is long-suffering, yet His patience, as exhibited in the history of His dealings with men, is exhaustible; and that in Israel's case it is now all but worn out. And He sympathizes with the Divine impatience with chronic and incurable sterility. For though He preaches with enthusiasm a gospel of grace, He does so with the aim of producing in the recipients of the good tidings holiness, and in the conviction that belief in the gospel is the most efficient cause of holiness. A kingdom of God must be a kingdom of righteousness, and if Jesus presented it to view as a kingdom of grace, it was because He believed that was the most direct way of reaching the ideal. It was made a kingdom of grace to begin with, that it might become a kingdom of righteousness to end with. In this respect there is absolute agreement between Christ and Paul. The Herald of the kingdom, not less energetically than the apostle of the Gentiles, repudiates the idea that men might sin with impunity because grace abounded. The intercession put into the mouth of the vinedresser is a solemn act of repudiation, similar in import to Paul's protest in the sixth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. "Let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it; and if it bear fruit next year, well; and if not, thou shalt cut it down."

(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

The Preachers' Monthly.

1. The individuality of God's gracious dealings.

2. A picture of gracious provisions enjoyed.

3. The responsibility involved in the possession of gospel blessings.

II. THE MISUSE OF GOSPEL PRIVILEGE AND OPPORTUNITY AS IT IS HERE DECLARED. Instead of fruitfulness there was barrenness. The gospel grace proves in many instances to have been all in vain. Faults are not corrected. Sins are not put away. The new life is not lived. Salvation is not enjoyed.

1. Now this resultlessness of the ministry of the Word does not imply any necessary defect in its human presentation, especially where barrenness is seen side by side with growing strength and abundant fruitfulness. Neither does it imply any withholding of any single gracious or Divine element necessary to the result. Neither does it imply any decree or principle limiting the application of what is admitted to be an adequate and universal remedy. When we ask why men are and remain unsaved under the sound of a faithful and full gospel ministry, we cannot find refuge either in the Divine intention, in the character of the provision, in the mode of its presentation, or the absence of the power of the Holy Spirit of God. We exhaust all possible reasons, and have to come back to one, and one only — human wilfulness. The will-not of unbelief makes the grace of God of none effect.

2. The second thing here is the Divine patience with these unfruitful hearers.

3. The mischiefs which attend the unfruitful and are wrought by them. "Why cumbereth it the ground also?" The "also" was left out of the older version, and the sense thereby weakened. The idea expressed is not only that the tree is useless, but that it is also baneful. The word "cumber" means now to occupy a place disadvantageously. But it had a more extensive sense of old, and the word here really means that it marred, poisoned, did mischief to the soil. Its shade was injurious. But also it drew to itself the fatness of the soil, the nourishment which other trees needed, and impoverished both them and it.


1. The benefits of intercession on behalf of those who are unbelieving and fruitless.

2. The extended season and increased facilities for fruitful growth which are thus afforded.

(The Preachers' Monthly.)

O could there be laid out before our eyes the secret and wonderful workings, the incessant and anxious care, of which the inner life of any one soul is the object, how should we be lost in amazement at the unmerited, the marvellously constant, love of God! Who can speak as he should of the intricate, the minute ordering of the events of daily life, so disposed and governed that each may do its part in training us for our true rest? Who can tell of the secret drawings of love, the hidden inspirations, the discipline of sorrow, the lessons of chastisement, which are brought to bear upon us one by one? God speaks to us at one time amid the sweet breath of heavenly consolation, at another in the midst of the furnace of affliction; He multiplies around us the means of grace; He brings us within the influence of holy seasons, or places, or persons; He presents to us motives which are strong enough to overcome anything but the most hardened impenitence; He pursues us with the solicitations of His love; He does everything short of taking from us our freewill, that will whose power freely to choose its own highest happiness of necessity involves the alternative of rejecting it. And when apparently nothing more remains to be done, when even the energies of Divine love seem to have exhausted themselves in vain upon the hardness of a heart which is resolutely bent upon sin; even in that supreme moment, that crisis of the soul's destinies, when the cry goes forth from the Eternal Justice, "Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?" there rises up from the depth of Divine compassion which dwells in the heart of the Redeemer the pleading petition for a yet further extension of the day of grace, "Lord, let it alone this year also." Some healing remedy may yet be found, some appeal may even yet obtain an entrance — the door before which the Lord has been so long standing and knocking in Divine patience and sorrow may even yet be opened to Him, that He may enter in and sup — the dresser of the vineyard will once more dig about the fruitless tree and dung it — and if it bear fruit — well. If it bear fruit — well. Yes, my brethren, but there is an alternative, a possibility, terrible to dwell upon, but which yet forms an important part of the teaching of this parable, and one which we may not overlook. "If not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." Yes, there arrives a moment hidden in the eternal councils of the Most High, at which even the voice of the Great Intercessor ceases to plead, and acquiesces in the righteous judgment of God.

(S. W. Skeffington, M. A.)

The interceding vine-dresser pleaded for the fruitless fig-tree, "let it alone this year also," dating, as it were, a year from the time wherein he spoke. Trees and fruit-bearing plants, have a natural measurement for their lives: evidently a year came to its close when it was time to seek fruit on the fig-tree, and another year commenced when the vine-dresser began again his digging and pruning work. Men are such barren things that their fruitage marks no certain periods, and it becomes needful to make artificial divisions of time for them; there seems to be no set period for man's spiritual harvest or vintage, or if there be, the sheaves and the clusters come not in their season, and hence we have to say one to another, "This shall be the beginning of a new year."

I. The beginning of a new year SUGGESTS A RETROSPECT. Let us take it, deliberately and honestly. "This year also" — then there had been former years of grace. The dresser of the vineyard was not for the first time aware of the fig-tree's failure, neither had the owner come for the first time seeking figs in vain. God, who gives us "this year also," has given us others before it; His sparing mercy is no novelty, His patience has already been taxed by our provocations.

1. Years of great mercy.

2. Years of sharp affliction.

3. Opportunities for usefulness, which have come and gone.

4. Unfulfilled resolutions.

II. The text MENTIONS A MERCY. "This year also" — a grant from infinite grace, as the result of love's pleadings, and in pursuance of love's designs.

1. The wicked man should count that the Lord's longsuffering points to his salvation, and he should permit the cords of love to draw him to it. O that the Holy Spirit would make the blasphemer, the Sabbath.breaker, and the openly vicious to feel what a wonder it is that their lives are prolonged "this year also"! Are they spared to curse, and riot, and defy their Maker? Shall this be the only fruit of patient mercy? The procrastinator who has put off the messenger of heaven with his delays and half promises, ought he not to wonder that he is allowed to see "this year also"? The believer is kept out of heaven "this year also" in love, and not in anger. There are some for whose sake it is needful he should abide in the flesh, some to be helped by him on their heavenward way, and others to be led to the Redeemer's feet by his instruction. Surely, for the sake of souls, for the delight of glorifying our Lord, and for the increase of the jewels of our crown, we may be glad to wait below "this year also."

III. "This year also" IMPLIES A LIMIT. Even when Jesus is the pleader, the request of mercy has its bounds and times. There will come a last year to each one of us: therefore let each one say to himself — Is this my last?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)



(S. Robins, M. A.)


1. The matter of the request — "Lord, let it alone." It is the special duty of faithful ministers and pastors and labourers in God's vineyard, to divert and keep off that wrath, vengeance, and judgment which He threatens, and which is near to their people (see Joel 1:13; Joel 2:17; Isaiah 62:6, 7). The ground hereof is this.

1. Because ministers are middle persons, as it were betwixt God and the people: they mediate and deal betwixt both; as it is declared expressly of Moses (Exodus 19:1). This is one thing which makes for this work to be performed by them; and then, which we may add hereunto, the affection which does belong unto them from this relation. This it makes for it also. When a child is in any danger, who should sooner speak for it than the father? When a sheep is ready to be swallowed up, who should sooner interpose than the shepherd? When a city is ready to be betrayed, who should sooner bestir himself than the watchman and governor of it? Why thus it is now with those who are ministers and pastors of the Church. They are fathers, they are shepherds, they are spiritual watchmen, and what not to work them, and to engage them hereunto. This very expression in the text carries an argument with it, wherein they are called dressers of the vineyard, who are much concerned in the safety of those trees that belong unto it, as a piece of their own handy-work. This it first of all shows us, how that ministers not only serve to instruct God's people, but to protect them; not only to show them their duty, but to keep off their ruin.

2. The determination of the time for the exercise and continuance of this forbearance — "This year also."(1) This implies that He had for some time let it alone already (see Genesis 6:3; 2 Chronicles 36:15, 16). This the Lord is pleased to do upon divers considerations.(a) Out of His nobleness, and royalty, and generosity of mind, as we may so express it. To show that He does not take pleasure or delight in the death of sinners, as He hath sometimes told us. He loves not to destroy there where He can any way spare.(b) The Lord does thus with many people, that thereby He may leave them so much the more inexcusable, and may be justified in His proceedings against them, when He comes to judgment indeed; that all men's mouths may be stopped, and that they may believe so much the more fully in God.(c) Sometimes, to exercise this patience of the vine-dressers themselves, which labour and take pains about these fig-trees, God will hereby sometimes prove them, and God will sometimes hereby trouble them; as St. Paul observes it in himself, from the non-proficiency and impenitency of the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12. ult). And by His own patience and forbearance of such persons, God will leave them His ministers to a spirit of patience and forbearance in themselves, in conformity to God's own example.(2) This implies a further desire of continued patience and forbearance; which proceeds upon these grounds.(a) That speech, love, and affection, which they bear unto them. Hatred is all for destroying; and that out of hand. But love, it is desirous of sparing, and preserving of the party beloved, as long as it can.(b) There is ground for this desire and request of ministers in the behalf of their people, from that hope which they are willing to conceive of their amendment and reformation.(c) This disposition in ministers proceeds out of respect to themselves, and a holy jealousy and suspicion which they may conceive of their own neglectfulness.

II. THE CONDITIONS WHICH THIS PETITION PROCEEDS UPON. These are twofold. The one is taken from himself "Till I shall dig about it, and dung it." And the other is taken from the fig-tree, upon supposition, either of amendment or incorrigibleness. "If it bear fruit, well; if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." We begin first of all with the former, viz., that which is taken from himself — "Till I shall dig," etc. Where there are two things observable of us.

1. The phrase or expression.

2. The doctrine or notion which is contained under it, and is exhibited to us from it. For the First: The phrase or expression. We may here take notice of the nature and condition of a minister's work and employment; which, because it is expressed to us by digging and dunging, is hereby signified to be a very difficult and laborious service. Now, Secondly: For the thing itself, or notion. Taking this passage in the scope and connection of it, there is so far hereby signified and intimated unto us the efficacy and advantage of the ministry to such a purpose as is here expressed. "Till I shall dig about it, and dung it"; as who shall say, that would do it. From whence we may note thus much: That the labour and pains of the ministers is a means whereby God hath sanctified and appointed for the good and edification of the people. If anything do them good, and make them to be that which they should be, this is that which must do it — preaching and taking pains with them. The second is taken from the fig-tree, by way of a double supposition. Either, first, of future fruitfulness. "If it bear fruit, well"; or, secondly, of further incorrigibleness; and, "if not, then," &c. First, to speak of the former; to wit, the supposition of future fruitfulness. "If it bear fruit, well." This word, "well," it is not expressed in the original text, but it is necessarily supplied here in our English translation, to make the sense complete. First, "Well": that is, well for the Lord and Master of the vineyard: well for thee; it shall be well. So, when the fig-tree bears fruit, it is well for him that owns it (Proverbs 27:18). And so it is here; when a people prove fruitful, God Himself is so much the better for it. This must not be taken strictly and rigorously, but by way of dispensation. God reckons and accounts Himself profited when we do that which is our duty before Him; when we are active and fruitful in goodness, and answer those gracious opportunities and advantages of being better which God in goodness affords unto us, we do thereby the more honour God and express His grace in us, as it becomes us to do. "Herein is My Father glorified, in that ye bear much fruit," says Christ Himself to His disciples (John 15:8). Secondly, "Well": that is, well for the husbandman and dresser of the vineyard. "Well," that is, well for thee. It is well for the minister when the people thrive in goodness, and are fruitful in every good work: namely, upon this account; because he sees some good success and effect of his labour amongst them. Thirdly, well for the vineyard, and the rest of the trees in it. One barren and unfruitful fig-tree may spoil a whole set and row of trees besides. It prejudices other plants which are near it. On the other hand, when any are fruitful, and active, and zealous in goodness; their zeal, it provokes many others so much the more to piety. And so it is well for the vineyard. Lastly, and more especially; well, for the fig-tree itself. It is well for every particular person, when of barren, he comes to be fruitful in every good work (Psalm 128:2). And so much may suffice to be here spoken of the first supposition mentioned; to wit, of future fruitfulness, in these words, "If it bear fruit, well." The second is, of further incorrigibleness; in these; "and if not, then, after that, thou shalt cut it down." Which words, "after that," seem to carry a double reference and respect with them. The one is to the Lord of the vineyard; patience and forbearance towards it. "After that"; that is, after that thou hast let it alone for one year longer, as I desire of thee; if after that it shall still prove unfruitful, then do thus and thus with. it. The second is, to the vine-dresser's pains and labour about it. "After that," that is, after that I have digged about it, and dunged it; if after that it shall yet prove no better, but remain barren and unfruitful still; then, I say, no more of it, but this; that "thou shalt cut it down." And here, again, this expression — "Thou shalt cut it down," it hath a double emphasis with it. First, an emphasis of prediction; and secondly, an emphasis of permission. An emphasis of prediction "Thou shalt cut it down," that is, thou wilt cut it down: there is nobody that can hinder thee. An emphasis of permission — "Thou shalt cut it down"; that is, thou mayest cut it down; there is nobody will hinder thee. From both together, we have these two points observable of us: First, that a people's continued unfruitfulness, after God's long expectations from them, and forbearance of them, makes His judgments to fall unavoidably and irrecoverably upon them. After that, thou wilt cut it down; it is a word of prediction or commination. Secondly, that a people's continued unfruitfulness, after long enjoyment of the means and labours of the ministers amongst them, it takes off the prayers and intercessions of the ministers for them. After that, thou mayest cut it down. And so it is a word of permission, or submission, to the will and mind of the Lord of the vineyard.

(Thomas Herren, D. D.)

I think something may be gained here by descending into the particulars. One of these agricultural operations imparts to the tree the elements of fruitfulness, and the other enables the tree to makes these elements its own. Digging gives nothing to the tree; but it makes openings whereby gifts from another quarter may become practically available. The manure contains the food which the plant must receive, and assimilate, and convert into fruit; but if the hardened earth were not made loose by digging, the needed aliment would never reach its destination. Similar processes are applied in the spiritual culture: certain diggings take place around and among the roots of barren souls, as well as of barren fig-trees. Bereavements and trials of various kinds strike and rend; but these cannot by themselves renew and sanctify. They may give pain, but cannot impart fertility; the spirit much distressed may be as unfruitful as the spirits that are at ease in Zion. These rendings, however, are most precious as the means of opening a way whereby the elements of spiritual life conveyed by the Word and the Spirit may reach their destination. The Lord, who pours in the food for the sustenance of a soul, stirs that soul by His providence, so that grace may reach the root and be taken in. As the constituents of fruit, held in solution by air and water, cannot freely reach the plant whose roots lie under a long unbroken and indurated soil, so the grace of God contained in the preached gospel is kept at bay by a carnal mind and a seared conscience. It is when afflictions rend the heart, as a ploughshare tears up the ground, that the elements of life long offered are at length received. It is thus that providence and grace conspire to achieve the purpose of God in the salvation of men. In this work mercy and judgment meet; and saved sinners, on earth and in heaven, put both together in their song of praise (Psalm 101:1).

(W. Arnot.)

"If any particular circumstance might be considered as making a more deep, lasting, and serious impression than others, it was a dream which I had when at school. I felt the apprehension of the approach of the last great judgment day. After I had perceived vast multitudes of the human race appearing before the throne of Christ, some being approved, and others rejected, I at length beheld my beloved father and mother, and several of the family. I heard them distinctly examined, and as distinctly heard the Judge say, 'Well done.' At this period my whole soul was filled with horror, being conscious that I was not prepared to pass my final scrutiny. At length my name was announced, and I felt all the agonies of a mind fully expecting to be banished from the presence of God. The Judge, then, in language which struck me with mingled shame and hope, said, 'Well, what sayest thou? 'I fell at His feet, and implored mercy, and prayed, 'Lord, spare me yet a little longer, and when Thou shalt call for me again, I hope to be ready.' With a smile, which tranquillized my spirits, the Lord replied, 'Go, then, and improve the time given thee.' The extreme agitation awoke me; but so deep was the impression, that I have never forgotten it."

(Herbert Mends.)

John Hardonk, while on shipboard, dreamed one night that the day of judgment had come, and that the roll of the ship's crew was called except his own name, and that this crew were all banished; and in his dream he asked the reader why his own name was omitted, and he was told it was to give him more opportunity for repentance. He woke up a different man. He became illustrious for Christian attainment.

(Dr. Talmage.)

The first thing which strikes us, perhaps, in the transaction, is ITS INDIVIDUALITY. There must have been many vines and many fig-trees in the vineyard; but the story is told as if the whole vineyard were for that one tree alone; and as if the great Proprietor concerned Himself only with it. Whether we recollect how soon He began, or how often or how long He has been, He does not forget, He has catalogued it, and registered it. "Behold" — it implies that the person addressed is very conscious how lengthy the time has been, and how very anxious and very patient the Dresser has been — "Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none: cut it down." Oh! it is a very humbling recollection — those years of love and care — it is very humbling, if it is not more, those years of unfaithfulness and emptiness which God all along has been counting. And observe it — it is the Dresser who has been the searcher, and He who did all for you is the one who has been looking for something from you. And the true measure of the emptiness is the extent of the culture. Had the dressing not been what it is, the wonder would have been less. WHAT IS "FRUIT"? What is it which is to a man what the figs are to the fig-tree? I answer, first, it would be something appropriate to his nature, accordant with his being. "For men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles." And what is the nature of the being of a man? Physical, intellectual, impassioned, spiritual. Such, then, must fruit be, real and tangible, visible and felt, reasonable, thoughtful, balanced, affectionate, earnest, spirit going forth to spirit, assimilating itself to God. And it must be "fruit" in its season. We do not expect man's fruit at child's age. There may be separate fruit for a man, and separate fruit for a woman. And every man has his own special fruit, which he ought to bear. And next, it must be in the man as it is in the natural tree. The tree takes up of its own soil, and by a strange process of transformation, what it took up in one form, earthy, comes out at last in another — for beauty and for usefulness — heavenly. So must it be in a man. What he is to give to God is not angelic service, but human. He must draw it from "the earth, but it assumes a character different, not its own. How does that take place? The sap flowing from the root through the stem, runs into the branches, and there diffusing itself to every tendril, makes a deposit, and so forms fruit. Just so, the Holy Ghost, flowing from the eternal love of the Father, through the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, makes His way to every grafted member in the mystical body, and goes out into every, the weakest, the minutest, part of man — each feeling, each thought, each word, each motion, making holiness. But many a storm, and many a sunshine; many a dark night, and many a bright day; many a wind, and many a rain, and many a chill, go to do each their own proper work, till the blossom is set; and when it is set, on and on, till the bud becomes "fruit," and this fruit, till it is sweet. It must have its own true, proper flavour. So it is with you. You must pass through all the changes of your moral atmosphere, you must know various discipline, till, little by little, by that sap, which is the Spirit of God, coming to you through Jesus Christ, you get love, the love of God, the sweet savour of love, without which nothing is fruit.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Now supposing the predestined interval pass away, and you are not a fruit-bearer? There will be no more notice, it will come quietly, solemnly, instantaneously, abrupt, irrevocable, "Cut it down." Then "the axe will be laid at the root," and you will go up to your bed, and you will begin to decline and fade away. Or a blow will do it in a moment, and you will lie down, a thing that has never fulfilled its intention of life; then how is it to live for ever? But if otherwise, if you begin now, in any degree, really to live for God, and repay God's care, and honour Him, what will you have then? There is no answer given in the original. We have put in "well." God had left it a blank, for every one to fill in just as he likes; and we cannot fill it in with too much. But let it stand, "well." "If it bear fruit, well." "Well," all health, all joyous health for the soul, "well." "Well" will it be to live well, to die well, to meet God well. "Well" will it be to go on bearing more fruit for ever and ever. "Well " will it be for you to be eternally happy, and Christ to "see of the travail of His soul in you, and to be satisfied." "Well." Then what is the conclusion? Do not go on living a useless life. Let God have some satisfaction in you. Begin at once. Do something. Let there be some" fruit" seen — at home, in your temper, in your intercourse, in your daily conduct, in your own family. Let there be more "fruit" in our own closet, in more real communion with God in private. Let there be a "fruit" in the world, in something taken up and done definitely for the Lord Jesus Christ. Let there be a "fruit" in the Church — truer worship, more frequent use of ordinances, more sympathy and love shown to all the brethren. And let there be a "fruit" — fruit best of all, in your own soul — more of Jesus there — a humility, a tenderness, a holy singleness, which shall show Jesus, just as the grapes shows the vine.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Years ago in Men tone they estimated the value of land by the number of olive trees upon it. How many bearers of the precious oil were yielding their produce? That was the question which settled the value of the plot. Is not this the true way of estimating the importance of a Christian Church? Mere size is no criterion; wealth is even a more deceiving measure, and rank and education are no better. How many are bearing fruit unto the Lord in holy living, in devout intercession, in earnest efforts for soul winning, and in other methods by which fruit is brought forth unto the Lord? Jesus looks for fruit (Mark 11:13), His operations upon us are intended to produce fruit (Luke 13:9), and if there be none in a Church we may expect to hear Him say of it as He did of old — "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 break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: and I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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