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very, very probably even in this, will befall those who, though sinners, yet fail to repent; who, though fostered and encouraged, yet like a barren and useless fig tree, go on year after year producing no fruit, and thereby disappoint the owner and the dresser of the vineyard, the Lord who made them, and him who hath redeemed, and is continually interceding for them.
May God Almighty, for the sake of Jesus Christ, and by the aid and co-operation of his Divine Spirit, impress these truths deeply and indelibly upon you; and may the impression thus produced be the means of supporting you amidst the dangers of this world, and of advancing you prosperously and successfully towards that termination of your earthly pilgrimage which will be followed, and immediately followed, by an admission into the kingdom of heaven. As a consolation under the afflictions which, as mortals, we are oftentimes called upon to undergo, it is to be remembered that nothing whatever can happen, can take place, without the express permission of God; and that as He can turn every thing to the best account, and can even bring good out of evil, while we rejoice in prosperity, even adversity itself need not be without its attendant blessings. To the faithful disciple of Jesus, to him who is accustomed and who is willing to entrust every thing to the providential and superintending care of Divine Wisdom, even the greatest misfortunes, those I mean which would be regarded as such by the superficial and the unthinking, must appear consolatory, and subjects of congratulation and delight. Inasmuch, therefore, as you have the word of God which assures you of these things, accustom yourselves to reflect upon them, so as to apply them to your present comfort, and your everlasting happiness. Place, brethren, but your trust in God, and endeavour by those means which the Gospel points out, to follow the example of Christ, and to listen to his instructions, and then, though as mortals your sufferings will indeed be either of greater or less extent, yet as Christians will they redound to your everlasting advantage. But further reflect, that by perseverance in sin, nothing less than consequences the most indescribable, and the most disastrous, can be expected!
And here I would urge you frequently to recall to your minds the following words of the parable which so aptly represent the gracious intercession which Christ is ever making for you, and the strenuous and persevering efforts of his Holy Spirit in your behalf: “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.” While, therefore, you regard the gracious intercession of your Redeemer with gratitude and admiration, and as a stimulus to perseverance in the work of your salvation, do not deceive yourselves by supposing that this merciful interference is without limits, and that of itself, unaccompanied by any efforts on your part, it will secure your pardon and acceptance with God hereafter.
Such a delusion would be indeed as dangerous as it is not uncommon, and contrary to those Holy Scriptures which have been written for our learning, and which, as explained by our Lord himself in his well known sermon on the Mount, assure us that men as well as trees are known by their fruits; and that “every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire."
NO HOPES OF SALVATION BEYOND THE
LUKE, xiii. 25–29.
“ When once the master of the house is risen up,
and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are : Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are ; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.”
No one can read the foregoing words without at once perceiving that they immediately and directly
refer to the kingdom of heaven and to its supreme Lord and Master, Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Creator of Heaven and of earth. By reading these words, we further perceive that they were intended by our Lord as a practical application of that sentiment which he intended to convey to his hearers, when he said unto them, “strive to enter in at the strait gate:
say unto you will seek to enter therein and shall not be able.”
The attentive reader of the four Gospels of the history of our Lord and Saviour
perceive that a very considerable portion of our Lord's familiar discourse was couched in the language of figure or metaphor, that is, in language or words which, primarily and literally understood, would signify one thing, but which, understood in their secondary and figurative sense, would signify another. And this was no new custom; nor was it a custom which in any way differed from the prevailing habits of mankind in their intercourse with one another. By an attentive examination into the materials of which languages are composed, we shall find that many of these are of the description which I have named. Words which had been formerly used to signify one object, in process of time have been used to signify another, in consequence
of some real or imaginary resemblance between them. Thus, for example, the word horse, which actually means, and which doubtless in the first place only meant, a certain beast of burthen, has been afterwards used to signify an article on which linen is