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LECTURE III.

Matthew xxi. 18, 19.

NOW IN THE MORNING, AS HE RETURNED INTO THE CITY, HE HUNGERED.

AND WHEN HE SAW A FIG-TREE IN THE WAY, HE CAME TO IT, AND FOUND NOTHING THEREON, BUT LEAVES ONLY, AND SAID UNTO IT, LET NO FRUIT GROW ON THEE HENCEFORWARD FOR EVER.

MY

Y last discourse was concluded by observing that our blessed LORD, as soon as he had ended his conversation with the chief priests and scribes who were sore displeased at the Hosannas which were uttered by the children in the temple, retired to Bethany; It was to the house of Lazarus, whom he had not long before restored to life, after he had lain four days in the grave*. On the next morning, although JESUS had perceived, the night before, that some of the people were dissatisfied with him, and knew that, in consequence of it, they

* John xi. 17.

were meditating his ruin; yet he was determined to return early into the city with his disciples. He who took on him our nature, took on him also the infirmities of it: he became like unto us in all things, sin only excepted. As in other instances he is represented to have felt as a man, so here he is said to have been hungry*. The hunger which JESUS then felt, was the occasion of his working a miracle, full indeed of instruction, as were all his miracles; but not perhaps wrought in such a manner, as we might suppose it would have been; that is, not to satisfy the cravings of his appetite; for he who at first created the fruit-tree to yield fruit after his kind, might as easily have commanded fruit to grow, and to ripen instantly, on an apparently bar

* A truly eminent writer offers a very judicious reason for this our LORD's hunger; by supposing that he came out early without eating, that he might neither incommode his friends, nor break in upon his secret or publick devotions; thereby rescuing the family of Lazarus from a charge of inhospitable behaviour towards JESUS, in suffering him to leave their house without eating, at whose hands they had so lately received a most miraculous obligation; and offering it as a specimen of the simplicity and modesty of the evangelists, in relating so wonderful a story in so genuine and unaffected a manner.-Doddridge's Fam. Exp. + Gen. i. 11,

ren tree; as he had before, more than once, multiplied a few loaves and fishes to the satisfying of some thousands of men, women, and children*. But instead of commanding a tree instantly to bud, to produce fruit, and to bring it to maturity, we find him denouncing a curse against one that had none on it, and that in so authoritative a manner, that the tree itself presently withered away. But here let us beware not to impute unto our Saviour any such motives for so doing, as would lead us to suppose in him a revengeful and hasty disposition, even to an inanimate creature. Some inquiry into the circumstances of the miracle will lead us to the occasion of its being wrought, and to the uses which we are to derive from it; for all the miracles which our Saviour performed, were designed not only for the benefit and instruction of those who were eye-witnesses of them; but of those also, to whom they should be transmitted in the writings of the several evangelists.

Certain difficulties have arisen about some of the expressions, which are used in the relation of this miracle, but with these I mean not to perplex your minds;

*Matt. xiv. 21.

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it will be sufficient for us to consider the matter of fact, against which none but infidels and enemies to the Gospel will make any objections. Those who believe the Gospel, as recorded by the different evangelists, are satisfied of the truth of what is there related: a practice conformable to what they believe, it is the design both of the parables and miracles of our Saviour to enforce.

In St. Matthew's account of it there is no difficulty; to this therefore let us refer, remembering at the same time that both St. Matthew and St. Mark agree in the material circumstances. The fact then is as follows:

As JESUS was returning to Jerusalem in the morning, being a man subject to the same innocent infirmities of human nature that we are, he hungred; and seeing one particular fig-tree in the way, whose appearance we must naturally conclude promised fruit, he came to it in search thereof, but was disappointed, finding nothing at all upon it, but those leaves only, which had led him to hope, that a tree, so flourishing to the sight, might not be without fruit also. Upon which, perceiving that it had only leaves, and no fruit at all, not even green figs, which was a sure proof, that it was a

barren tree, he said, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig-tree withered away. Such is the account St. Matthew gives us of the event: and for our better understanding it, we must remark, that the nature of the fig-tree is such, that it always puts forth its fruit with or before its leaves: so that it is indisputably certain, that the fig-tree which has leaves only without any fruit at all green or ripe, is a barren fig-tree, and of consequence cumbereth the ground*. The difference of opinion which one expression of St. Mark, in his relation of the miracle, has occasioned, has not been about the fact itself, but about that expression, viz. for the time of figs was not yet.

Instead of perplexing you with the different so

Dodd on the Miracles of our Saviour.

+ Of the different solutions, that which is sea lected and adopted by Doddridge appears satisfactory; namely, that the expression "the time of figs," means the harvest of figs, the time of gathering figs in which case, as he observes, by a transposition of the clause the whole passage is clear. The verse will then run, And seeing a fig-tree afar off, having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon; for the time of figs was not yet: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves." See chap. xvi. 3, 4, of the same evangelist, where a similar transposition is obviously necessary.

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