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Again, the practical directions interspersed in, or subjoined to these parables respectively, are such as presuppose an economy of probation, during which they are to be observed, and an economy of retribution, against which their observance will be found available. The assurance of the master's return, sometime or other, is absolute and unqualified; the time when, is left indefinite. The most general precept of duty, then, which could be inculcated on servants or dependents, whom the absence of their master exempts from present control, but whom the futurity of his return sometime or other, still renders liable to inquiry and animadversion, is to be always on the watch; that is, always prepared, for his arrival ; always intent on the business of their place and station—as the inost effectual precaution not to be taken by surprise, and as the best means of qualifying themselves for their future account, when
be demanded of them. The obvious justness of this conclusion is illus- . trated by a case in point. “And this ye know, that “ had the master of the house reason to expect the
attempt of thieves to break into his house, on a
particular night, he would sit up, and be on the “ watch, all that night; much more, if he had rea
son to expect such an attempt during a certain “ watch, or at a certain hour of the night, would he “ be on his guard against it during that watch, or " at that hour. There is just the same reason why “ye should hold yourselves also in constant readi
out from the enjoyment of the common happiness of the rest of his fellow-servants, must end in being consigned to some state of misery, peculiar to himself, or to such as him, distinctly from the rest.
ness: for ye may be assured the Son of man will “ sometime come again, though when, ye cannot be “ assured. Watch always, therefore, that so ye may “ be always ready, let his coming take place when
“ it may."
Now if rules and maxiins of conduct are intended to be observed at all, they must be intended for a time when their observance is possible. Such precepts as these could be observed only during an oeconomy of probation, though the effect of their observance might be to prepare the observers for an economy of retribution. The former, then, is directly presupposed in the immediate use and application of such injunctions; the latter virtually, in their final end and effect.
In like manner, a rule of judgment is laid down at the close of both the parables, the knowledge or assurance of which beforehand, can be meant to be practically useful only for those, who are placed under an economy of probation; while its application or enforcement at last can take place solely in the process of an economy of retribution. This rule is summarily stated, first in reference to the subordinate members of the former parable :
“ Now that “ servant, who knew the will of his own lord, and “ made no preparation, neither did according to his “ will, shall be beaten with inany stripes : but he “ who did not know it, yet did things worthy of “ stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” In which, it is not said, that even he who has offended unwittingly against his master's will, may not expect to be punished; but as reason and equity both would require, only in his due proportion, and with every allowance for the want of a criminal intention; certainly not with the severity which may be expected by one who not only offends against his master's will, but offends knowingly and deliberately. Christians in general, whose lives and conduct should be at variance with the will and commands of the Master, whom they profess to acknowledge and obey, as declared to them in his Gospel, would be in the situation of servants who offended knowingly against their master's will; and the rest of mankind, whose lives and conduct might be as much at variance with the abstract rules of morality and duties of religion, as those of nominal Christians may be, though not in defiance of the same light as their's, would be in the predicament of servants supposed to offend against the will of their master, without knowing it.
Secondly, in reference to the subordinate personages of the latter parable; “ And unto whomso
ever much hath been given, much shall be re“ quired from him; and to whom they have com“ mitted much, of him they will ask the more ex
ceedingly”—a rule of judgment expressly, as I conceive, applicable to the dispensation of reward or punishment, to the ministers of religion in particular, which we shall find an opportunity of explaining hereafter. For it is to be observed, in concluding the consideration of the present allegory, that there are other parables, the subject of which is very much the same as that of these two, referring as they all do, to an economy of probation in conjunction with an economy of retribution, such as we have here supposed. In these we shall perceive that what is briefly hinted at now, is developed and explained at greater length. These parables, however, occur later in the gospel history; which so far accounts for the difference of manner in which the common subject of them all is treated of respectively by each. With regard to communications made at different times, in reference to the same things in general, and especially to coinmunications made prophetically, and in anticipation of the future—it is an invariable rule, that in clearness, minuteness, and circumstantiality of detail, the later have the advantage of the earlier.
I mentioned in the course of the chapter, which I referred to, of the General Introduction, that different senses might be given to the phrase, Coming of the Son of man; and therefore different periods might be assigned to the oeconomy of probation terminated by that coming. I shall shew, hereafter, that it was designed to be first understood of the visitation of the Jews; in which case, the duration of the corresponding economy of probation antecedent to that visitation, is the interval between the foundation of the Christian church and the destruction of Jerusalem. This would be a period or state of trial, preparatory to the coming of the Son of Man, and terminated by it, in which none could have so distinct and peculiar an interest as the members of the Hebrew church; which being the case, we may take leave of the consideration of the present chapter, by observing that the unity of the discourse is so far preserved unbroken to the last : and the parties addressed in this last paragraph of all that we have yet considered, are addressed in the same capacity still, as the future members of the first, that is, the Hebrew, Christian church.
PARABLE FIFTEENTH. ALLEGORICAL.
THE BARREN FIG-TREE.
LUKE XIII. 1-9. HARMONY, P. IV. 33.
LUKE xiii. 149. 1 Now certain were present the selfsame season, giving him an account concerning the Galilæans, whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said unto them, “ Think ye that these Galilæans have been sinners “ above all the Galilæans, because they have suffered such
things ? 3 By no means, say I unto you : but if ye do not repent, ye will all perish in like manner. 4 Or they, the
eighteen, upon whom fell the tower in Siloam, and killed “ them, think
that these men had been debtors (transgressors) “ above all men that were dwelling in Jerusalem ? 5 By no
means, say I unto you: but if ye do not repent, ye will all « likewise perish." 6 Moreover he spake this parable :
“ A certain man had a “ fig-tree, which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came,
seeking for fruit in it, and found it not. 7 And he said to the “dresser of the vineyard, Behold, three years am I coming,
seeking for fruit in this fig-tree, and I find it not: cut it out
of the ground; to what purpose doth it render even the soil “ useless? 8 And he answered and saith to him, Sir, let it “ alone for this year also, until I have dug about it, and cast in
dung. 9 And should it have produced fruit—but if not, thou “shalt cut it out of the ground against the next year."
PRELIMINARY MATTER. IN
ту former work, when treating of the chronological position of this part of the Gospel of St. Luke,