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night; in the which the heavens shall pass away
2 Peter jii. 13.
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new
heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righte-
THE NEW YEAR.
LUKE xiii. 8, 9.
And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this
year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it: and if it bear fruit well : and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
Man is an indolent, and a thoughtless being. Having an interest at stake more precious than the world he inhabits, and to secure which might demand the zeal of an angel : having a work assigned him to do, which might require almost eternity for the performance of it, he trifles away even that portion of time which is allotted him ; and when the Lord of the Vineyard comes, and demands of him an account of his labour, he is fain to beg another and another year. My text is an illustration of this sad truth; and is taken from the parable of “the barren fig-tree”: a parable so applicable to the present season, when we have again ended one such great
portion of our time, and by God's mercy are entering on another, and so well suited to give effect to those serious thoughts which should possess our minds, that it shall be my present endea. vour, in dependence on his grace, to draw therefrom such weighty instruction as it affords.
“Jesus spake this parable: a certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard ; and he came and sought fruit thereon and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this figtree, and find none : cut it down ; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, thon thou shalt cut it down."
The Jews were in a peculiar and primary sense God's vineyard. Among them he planted his Churoh. A circumstance so affectingly described in the fifth chapter of Isaiah. Our Lord, therefore, intended by this parable, to represent to them the divine displeasure for having neglect ed to cultivate the numerous advantages they had enjoyed : and in an awful manner to intimate, that although they had hitherto, at his intercession, been spared; yet, that if they continued unfruitful under the additional culture and privileges they were shortly to receive, on the descent of the Holy Spirit and the proposal of the Gospel, in its full evidence and extent, they must expect nothing less than speedy and irretrievable ruin.
It is not necessary, however, (and it would be highly injurious to this and other parables of our Lord) to restrict its application to God's peculiar people, the Jews. Like that of the Prodigal, the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Sower, the Good Samaritan, and others, it is suitable to the con. dition and the interests of mankind, in every age, and under every dispensation. The whole world, under the Gospel, is compared by our Lord to one vast harvest, of which himself is the Lord and his Ministers the reapers. The growth of his kingdom of grace in the hearts of men is compared to seed sown, and to the subsequent process of vegetation. For you will observe, that between the spiritual and natural world there exists the closest analogy. There, as in this, effects are produced by causes ; and causes ripen by the same slow and sure degrees into effects. These degrees and these effects are accurately pointed out by Him who is equally the lord of nature and grace: and we, my brethren, and more especially we, his ministers, and labourers together with him on the same soil, in forming our estimate of the growth of religion in the heart, must take care never to disturb this har. mony and correspondence, nor to expect more in religion than we find obtain in nature. “ So is the kingdom of God,” or the beginning and progress of divine truth in the heart, under the ordinary operations of the holy Spirit, “as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself: first, the blade ; then, the ear; after that, the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” The apostle to the Gentiles makes use of the same natural illustration, and describes the same progressive effects : “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” “ For we are labourers together with God : ye are God's husbandry.” And to the Galatians : “ Be not deceived, God is not mocked : for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption ; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”