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ceive, you will soon I conceive do so, that the foregoing parable is nothing more nor less than an enlargement of those truths which our Saviour had been laying down in his preceding discourse. Bestow your attention, therefore, for a few moments, while I present to your notice certain remarks in elucidation of its import, and of the allusions which are contained in it.
In this parable, the first object which demands our attention is the vineyard. A vineyard, therefore, I beg to inform you, is a word which signifies the Church of God. It is, indeed, an allegorical or figurative, and not a literal expression. A vineyard literally means a garden or an inclosure set apart for the cultivation of vines, just as an orchard means a portion of ground appropriated to the growth of apple trees, and was much more familiar to the Jews than the orchard is to us. And as the vineyard was so common in the Holy Land, and so familiar to the Jews, it was adopted by our Saviour in his frequent conversations with his countrymen, as it had likewise been previously used by certain prophets and writers of the Old Testament, to represent the Church of God.
I have before explained, that the Church means all those inhabitants of the world who, having been selected and called out of heathen darkness, are collected together for the purpose of rendering homage to the one true God, as He has been revealed to us in the writings of the Old and New Testaments. Now when we consider that a vineyard,
like an orchard, is inclosed and set apart for a peculiar purpose, and that in this vineyard a number of vines are placed and nurtured and cultivated, it is easy to perceive the typical resemblance which such an object bears to the Holy Catholic Church. Of such a vineyard, Isaiah says, “he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein.” And, afterwards, in explanation of his meaning, the prophet continues : “ the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel.”* And in the same way as this vineyard once meant the house of Israel, now does it mean the Church of Christ; by which, as every Christian knows, the house of Israel, that is, the Jewish Church, has been replaced, and which, as the house of Israel formerly was,
like a choice vineyard, guarded and protected and encouraged by the care of the Holy Spirit of God.
The second object in the parable before us which strikes the view of the beholder, is the fig tree. Now why our Lord, when speaking of a vineyard, selected a fig tree as the object of his remarks, rather than a vine, is a question which cannot be answered with any degree of certainty. Such an object may perhaps have contained an allusion more easily understood at the period of our Saviour's address than it is at the present moment. Inasmuch, however, as the fig tree in the vineyard must bave been an object of itself different and distinct from
Isaiah, v. 2. 7.
the multitude of vines in the midst of which it was placed, it may not inaptly be regarded as calculated to direct the attention to any forlorn and unhappy individual, who though planted in the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts, and as a child of God and a joint heir with Christ fostered and encouraged like a choice vine, that is, like a faithful disciple of Christ, nevertheless is not a branch of the true vine, inasmuch as he neglects these advantages, and, in spite of the efforts and anxiety of God's Holy Spirit in his behalf, brings forth no fruit meet for repentance, but voluntarily and unresistingly yields to the temptations of the evil one.
In the warm country of Palestine, the fig tree usually, perhaps, remained in a wild and uncultivated state, and frequently, as we may suppose, either produced no fruit, or fruit of an inferior description. When, therefore, the fig tree was transplanted into a vineyard, as our Lord supposes a certain man to have done, his care must have been bestowed on it for the purpose of manuring, and pruning, and otherwise cultivating it; and thereby rendering it more productive, both in respect of the quantity and quality of its fruit. And thus is it in respect of every individual who, from the wide waste of the world, has been transplanted within the precincts of Christ's Church. He has been placed there that, like a true vine, he in his kind might bring forth fruit better and more abundantly than when no care had been bestowed upon him.
Having advanced thus far in our contemplation of the objects in the parable, we naturally direct our vision towards the two parties whom the parable represents as conversing with each other. These two are the owner of the vineyard, and the dresser or manager of it; he to whom the care of the vineyard had been entrusted by its owner. The owner says to his servant: “Behold these three
I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, 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, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” Now it is evident, indeed the testimony of Isaiah has already assured us of it, that the owner of the vineyard is none other than the Lord of Hosts—God Almighty the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, blessed for evermore. And if God Almighty be the owner, who can be the dresser, the nurturer of the vineyard, other than Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, the Saviour of the world, and the Mediator between God and man? Man, brethren, both individually and collectively, positively and by comparison, is a barren and unfruitful fig tree. In respect of this fig tree, as it represents too many individuals, does God Almighty, the owner of the vineyard, come year after year seeking fruit and finding none : and the inscrutable wisdom, and the undeviating justice of God, condemns this fig tree to be cut down, the unprofitable servant to be destroyed and cast into outer darkness ; but Christ,
who is ever seated at God's right hand making intercession for us, Christ our only Mediator and Advocate, comes forward; the impending blow is averted, and time is granted for repentance !
Thus, as I have already hinted, is the parable before us to be regarded as an explanation of those exhortations contained in the address of our Lord which immediately preceded it. Vast numbers are there_lamentable as is the confession—vast numbers are there, I do not mean beyond the boundaries of our land of promise, but within the precincts of this heavenly Canaan, who are permitted to survive, to whom time is granted for repentance, though the fate of the slaughtered Galileans, or of the eighteen ill-fated inhabitants of Jerusalem, or of the condemned fig tree, might most assuredly have befallen them as a just recompense of their offences! When, therefore, you behold those sudden casualties which oftentimes you do behold; when you witness those unexpected and unforeseen calamities by which the persons
of your friends or acquaintance are affected; by which, perhaps, your nearest relatives are wafted from this troublesome world into another, it may be of happiness and life, it may be of misery and death; when
behold such occurrences and such events, do not too inquisitively examine into the question, whether the objects of these catastrophes were greater or less sinners than yourselves and others who have been left behind, but rather regard such things as proofs that some most serious and awful fate, most assuredly in the next world, and