Sidor som bilder

The basis or subject matter of the narrative is the account of a transaction, which passes between two parties only, the owner of a vineyard, and his servant, the dresser or keeper of it; and the transaction is consequently such as alone could be supposed to pass between parties so related to each other and to the vineyard, in their proper relative capacity : the use or application of the ground set apart in vineyards, for the production of fruits; the treatment or disposal of the trees planted therein.

This owner of a vineyard, and his servant who has the charge of it under him, are represented to be holding a dialogue together; the object of which is to determine what should be done with one of the trees, planted and growing in the vineyard, described as a fig-tree; which though placed in a good soil, and duly attended to by the keeper of the garden, in common with the rest of its contents, yet for a number of years had borne no fruit; thus rendering unavailing the natural fertility of the ground, requiting the pains of culture with ingratitude, and disappointing the just expec

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

would prove this parable to belong to the class of the allegorical, and be specially applicable to it in the present instance. I will observe only—first, that the discourse which preceded it, being prophetical, the parable which continued the discourse, it is reasonable to presume, would be prophetical also; and if prophetical, allegorical—to contain, or to be the vehicle of, prophecy, being a decisive criterion of every parable which is allegorical. Secondly, that remarkable circumstance in our Saviour's history, which occurs hereafter, the cursing of the barren fig-tree, is acknowledged to have been a symbolical action; and I hope to make it appear in the course of the present explanation, that the final end of that transaction was closely connected with the moral of this parable, and was purposely supplementary to it.

tations of its owner, with an empty show of leaves, instead of fruit.

The owner, therefore, whose patience with the tree had been tried for a number of years, in the hope that it might still begin to be productiveafter the experience of repeated disappointments, is forced to abandon his expectation altogether, and to think of cutting down the tree, as irreclaimably barren and unproductive; that the native vigour of the soil at least, might not continue to be wasted on an useless tree, but something better being planted in its stead, the ground might so far be rendered subservient to its natural purposes, and its fertility be expended on a proper effect. Under these circumstances-- when the period seemed to be now arrived for the excision or removal of the tree, not only with the utmost fitness and propriety, but even from an absolute sense of necessity - the gardener, or dresser of the vineyard, intercedes in its behalf—not to defend the tree, or to call in question the justice of the resolution conceived against it by the owner ; but simply to procure a suspension of its sentence, and so far to allow it a longer and a further trial.

Nor is it the ultimate design of this intercession, to procure the suspension of the sentence for an indefinite period of time; but only for a certain interval, the limits of which are very distinctly implied ; viz. for so much of the natural year, then current, as should suffice for a renewed exertion of the proper duties on his own part, in bestowing additional pains and labour upon the culture of the tree-digging about its roots, and throwing in fresh nourishment from beneath, to stimulate and support its vegetative powers--and for the evidence of their effect on the tree, whether, in consequence of the treatment it had experienced, it should be found, at the proper time, to have yielded fruit, or to be likely to do so, or to continue still as barren and unprofitable as ever. The proper measure of this interval is that portion of the natural year, which intervenes between the time when it is usual to dress or prepare trees, against the period of vegetation; and the next season following, when they put forth their blossoms, and mature their fruits.

The intercession of the gardener is so far crowned with success, that the destruction of the tree, which the owner had apparently resolved on already, is not carried into immediate effect; and the parties in the action of the parable are supposed to separate with the understanding in question, that the dresser of the tree should do his part, if possible more effectually than ever, in behalf of the tree; nature should continue to do her's as before ; and the owner both of the tree and of the ground, should be content to wait to see if the tree would be found at last to have done its own. The motive which actuates the gardener in making his proposal, and the owner of the ineyard, in consenting to it, is one and the same; that a final effort may be made to reclaim a tree, which as planted and nurtured to maturity in his own vineyard, and as belonging to a species of garden productions, as useful and valuable in itself as any, it is not to be supposed that either he or his servant would lightly doom to destruction, if there was a chance of preserving and rendering it profitable. The result of the renewed trial to be allowed it, would be, that if it left nothing to hope for after all, in favour of the amendment of the tree, it would also leave nothing to object to the execution of the sentence against it, at lasti.

i There are a few more observations, which it may be proper to make on the particulars of the above account, before we take our leave of them.

First, as to the supposition of the fig-tree's growing in a vineyard—though vineyards, generally speaking, are appropriated to the culture of the vine, there is no reason why the fig, or any other species of fruit-tree, may not sometimes be found planted along with them also. A vineyard is to all intents and purposes a garden; and in a garden any kind of tree, useful for domestic purposes, may be planted and reared.

Mr. Harmer mentions, iv. 83. ch. viii. obs. cxxx. that Doubdan found a vineyard at Bethlehem, full of olive and fig-trees as well as vines: and that Dr. Chandler, in like manner, met with the fig and the pomegranate in vineyards, along with the vine. Ibid.


104. obs. cxxxiv. Again, as to the three years mentioned in the parable—it would be absurd to suppose that these have any thing to do with the


of the tree before the action in the parable begins : though such a notion has been entertained. The tree must be considered to have arrived at an age when it would be capable of bearing fruit, before the owner could come, in expectation of finding fruit


it. Yet it is very true, that three years, according to several of the ancient authorities, is the earliest period when fruit-trees attain to their full strength and vigour, and consequently properly begin to yield their fruit. Philo Judæus, ii. 402. 12—28. De Humanitate, where he is commenting on the provision at Leviticus xix. 23—25, relating to the fruits of trees, tells us no fruit-tree attains to its maturity before the fourth year; and that no prudent husbandman will allow his young trees to waste their strength on bearing and ripening their fruit, before that time. Chrysostom, Comm. in Nov Test. vi. 578. C. D. in 2 ad Tim. cap. ii. Hom. v. shews that the vine in particular was not supposed to begin to bear under three years of age, and as to the fig-tree, Pliny, H. N. xvii. 30, 7. extends this period from three years at least, to five years old, at most.


The moral of such a representation as this, may therefore be summed up in the two following proposi

In the Geoponica, x. 45. it is observed, cidévai xpn, őri ypôoa ή συκή πολυφορωτέρα εστί.

In like manner, it is reasonable to suppose that the visit of the owner in the present instance—the object of which is to discover if the tree had produced any fruit-coincides in point of time, with the usual period of gathering the fruits of trees; that is, autumn. The same period of the year is consequently, that which the dresser of the vineyard must be supposed to intend to fix upon, for doing what he proposes, with a view to overcome the barrenness of the tree. Now the pruning of trees, the dressing of vineyards, and the like horticultural operations, as every one knows, are as proper in the autumn as in the spring; and by the writers on these subjects anciently either season is recommended as well as the other.

Optima vinetis satio, quum vere rubenti
Candida venit avis, longis invisa colubris:
Prima vel autumni sub frigora, quum rapidus sol
Nondum hiemem contingit equis, jam præterit æstas.

Virgil. Georg. ii. 319.
Tunc age, vicinæ circumspice, tempora brumæ
Qua ratione geras. aperit quum

vinea sepes,
Et portat lectas securus vinitor uvas,
Incipe falce nemus vivasque recidere frondes.
Tunc opus est teneras summatim stringere virgas,
Tunc debes servare comas, dum permanet humor,
Dum viret, et tremulas non excutit Africus umbras.

Calpurnius, Eclog. v. 95. Pliny, H. N. xvii. 35, 17. specifies three periods, as proper for turning up vineyards with the spade, all in the spring : but he adds ; Quidam ita determinant: veterem semel a vindemia ante brumam, quum alii ablaqueare et stercorare satis putant. The Geoponica, v. 35, recommend this same period for the process of treatment necessary to render barren vines productive: Tv δε θεραπείας φθινοπώρο ποιείν ευκαίρως. Τheophrastus, De Causis Plantarum, iii. 10. observes of the fig-tree in particular : mdlov δέ έστι της συκής: μόνη γάρ διακαθαίρεται μικρόν πρό της βλαστήσεως: : which must be sometime in the winter at least.


« FöregåendeFortsätt »