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that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all thing's ;” which latter expression means, uses every possible physical effort to obtain it; and the term originally applied to the conduct of wrestlers and gladiators, and others who, on occasions of public amusement, used to contest with each other, after which the successful competitor received a prize, or was crowned with a wreath of palm or laurel, or with some other emblem of victory. The contests here implied were of the most violent description. Toil and labour were submitted to beforehand for the purpose of duly training and preparing the body for the ensuing strife, the issue of which was not unfrequently marked by the death of one of the conflicting parties. Of such a nature were the resolution and perseverance of those who were accustomed, in ancient days, to strive for the mastery. Therefore does St. Paul farther argue thus: “They do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly: so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
And what, brethren, is the nature of the contest which the Christian is called upon to undergo before he can obtain a passport of admission within the narrow gate of the kingdom of heaven? Of the nature of this contest the following language of the same Apostle will convey to us no inadequate idea : “We wrestle not,” says St. Paul, “ against
flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." And what course of preparation does the Apostle prescribe as alone adequate to so fearful an emergency? None other, brethren, than the following: “ Take unto you the whole armour of God, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith,—and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.”
AWFUL AND UNCERTAIN STATE OF THE
ST. LUKE, xiii. 6—10.
“ He spake also 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 the vineyard, Behold these three years 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."
The subject of our Saviour's discourse which immediately preceded it, is continued in the parable which has just been recited. It may be recollected that the termination of this discourse consisted in the repetition of the following most awful and impressive remark; “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
And in reference to whom, I would ask, did our Saviour make this equally true and awful declaration ? It was in reference to those unfortunate individuals who had been instantaneously and unexpectedly hurried out of this world into the next, by means of an assault directed by Pontius Pilate, and and by the unexpected fall of the tower in Siloam.
While engaged in the celebration of one of their religious rites, a number of individuals, consisting in all probability of some hundreds, were surprised and slain by the soldiers of the Roman governor; previous to which occurrence, eighteen persons had been hurried from time into eternity by the sudden fall of one of the towers belonging to the fortifications of the city of Jerusalem! And by a reference to these two casualties, of a description with which human life is but too intimately acquainted, did our Saviour assure his hearers, that what we are accustomed to term accidents are neither more nor less than visitations from above, sent indeed as punishments on the actual sufferers, but rather, in some cases and to some extent, as a warning to those who survive; lest, in consequence
of perseverance in sin, they be equally and in a similar manner the objects of divine wrath. And recollect, brethren, that the exhortations of the Son of God, which were addressed to his personal attendants and companions, are equally applicable to the case of all the inhabitants of the earth; without reference to the period of their abode in the world. To you, therefore, who are here assembled, does the Saviour, the “ Word” of the Eternal himself, address the same
language and the same exhortation as he addressed to your fellow mortals who lived nearly two thousand years ago, and who beheld him personally visible in the flesh. These words I have already once repeated, and for your edification and my own I again repeat them, and say unto you, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
But, subsequently to the foregoing exhortations, our Lord explained his meaning still farther to his disciples, by the invention and recital of one of those familiar though allegorical stories, which were so peculiarly his own, and to which he so frequently resorted as an easy and a ready means of conveying to his hearers those great and important truths which concerned their spiritual and immortal destiny; in the language of the Evangelist, also spake this parable.” The parable, forming as it does the greater portion of our text, has already been recited, and I again recite it to you, as its importance, and the due arrangement of our discourse, here seems to demand it: “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 the vineyard, Behold these three
years 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.”
You perceive, therefore, or do you not now per