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state of trial. The lord of the vineyard is God the Father ; the dresser of it God the Son. “A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none." We are here presented with an affecting display of the mercy of our heavenly Father, and our unfruitfulness and ingratitude. Mercies we have all of us received with an uno sparing hand. Sins we have all committed without number: our particular sins are best known to ourselves. Every man knows, or ought to know, his own sins best; and being ignorant for the most part of those of other people, he is to look upon himself as the greatest of sinners : because the greatest he knows of. Let us ask ourselves what has been the fruit of our whole lives ? Has it been in any degree commensurate with the goodness of God, or the blessings and privileges he has heaped upon us ? As Christians, it has been our high distinction to have been early planted in Christ's vineyard, his Church, by the sacred rite of baptism. Cut off as it were, from the parent stock of our fallen and corrupt nature, and separated from a world that lieth in wickedness, we have been grafted into the body of Jesus Christ, the true vine, Thus planted, we were brought into a state of reconciliation with God, and numbered among his
children. Within the pale of our truly apostolic and catholic Church, we receive through every stage of our Christian growth, the pure and “ sincere milk of the word;" the former and the latter rain in its season ; baptismal water, and the renewal of the Holy Ghost; every means of grace, every hope of glory, consistent with the purity of our walk and conversation. So that God may fairly and affectionately appeal to our candour and gratitude, and say to each of us, “What more could have been done for my vineyard that I have not done for it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, , brought it forth wild grapes? Do I come and seek fruit on my fig-tree, and find none ?” This, my brethren, is a touching question. Seek not to evade its force. I come unto thee-thou art the man! I ask thee, therefore, what fruit hast thou to show ? Show me thy faith by thy works. Hast thou kept thy baptismal vows pure and inviolate? Do I discover still the mark in thy forehead? Or hast thou impiously effaced it with the foul waters of sin ? Thou didst then, at thy baptism, renounce “ the world.” Hast thou done so in reality? Thou didst resolve to fight manfully under my banner against “ sin, the world, and the devil ;" my enemies and thine. Hast thou mortified the flesh, and subdued sin in
thy members ? I come to thee seeking “fruit.' Hast thou any to show, or do I only discover upon thee the mere leaves of outward profession ; I will know thee by thy fruits. By thy works thou shalt be justified. Without these 'thy faith is dead and cannot save thee. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit : but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.'-To which of these two classes (ask yourselves, my Christtian friends) do ye belong? Their respective fruits are accurately described in the word of God, your Bibles. Try and examine your lives by that unerring standard, and you need not the voice of a minister to pronounce your condition. You stand either self-approved, or self-condemned. Your end is, either to be gathered into Christ's barn, the glorious assembly and church of the first-born ; to enter into the joy of your Lord; or to be bound up with the bundles of refuse to be burnt ; to be banished for ever from the presence of the Lord. Attend, therefore, to the doom of the unprofitable servant: hear the curse of unfruitfulness ! « Then, said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none : cut it down ; why cumbereth it the ground ?"
Whether by “three years” is to be understood in this place, the period of God's dealing with mankind, by the personal ministration of his Son; or the usual time of the fig-tree's fruiting, from its first planting, it is of no great importance now to enquire. Both senses may well be understood as referred to. Certain it is, (and this is the point for our consideration) it had regularly deceived the hopes of the planter, and therefore had justly incurred the sentence here pronounced upon it: a sentence which must be felt in order to be understood in its full extent and import. God grant that not one of you, my Christian brethren, may ever experimentally feel its awful weight! Judge therefore yourselves, that ye be not judged of the Lord. Set up a tribunal in your own breasts. Summon before the bar of conscience, your departed years. Examine into the complexion of your past lives. At this season every prudent person will be careful to arrange his worldly accounts ; to balance his gains with his losses; and consider for the next year, how he may lawfully and honestly increase the one and prevent the other. Adopt the same course with respect to
souls. Enquire whether your account with God, your Creator and Judge, has been going backward or forward. Apply this test: how
stands your heart affected with regard to this world and the next ? Should the great lord of the vineyard now descend upon us assembled within these hallowed walls, amid the general wreck of worlds, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God: should an angel step forth and swear by Him that liveth for ever and ever, that Time shall be no more : in such circumstances, permit me to ask you, should you be prepared to give up your account? Should you feel ready to quit the present scene? To bid adieu to your farms and your merchandize ? To leave this world of vexation and sorrow, of vanity and emptiness? If you think
should be unprepared for such a call, be assured that you really are so : and if you are, remember that you are still an unprofitable servant. You must hear the sentence go forth against you-Cut it lown, why cumbereth it the ground !
Apply another test; and a most important one it is. Our divine Master has left upon ' ecord to his Church in all ages of the world, the ollowing declaration. It is to be found in the fteenth chapter of the gospel to St. John. 'here cannot be a better or a more unerring iterion, whereby to judge of our state as Christ
“I am the true vine, (they are the ords of Christ himself) and my Father is the