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tions. First, to explain the reason, why that which deserved to have been done for the removal of an
The mode of treatment which the dresser of the vineyard proposes to adopt towards the tree, is that of digging about it, and dunging or manuring it. Mr. Harmer, ii. 432, 433. ch. x. obs. xxiii. has a remark from Dandini, that spades are not used in the culture of vineyards in the East ; and that instead of delving between the rows of the vines, the ground is ploughed or turned up by oxen. He thence infers that the digging about the tree in the parable, is to be similarly understood of ploughing about it.
But this is very hypercritical. To suppose that a spade was an implement of husbandry never used anciently in a garden or a vineyard in the East, whatever a single modern traveller may have observed of the usages of the same country in his own time, exceeds the bounds of credibility. The proper sense, too, of the term oráfw in the original, admits of no other meaning than that of digging or delving, with the spade, shovel, or mattock.
The truth is, that digging about the trunks; pruning the roots in particular; and manuring with such and such substances; are exactly the process of treatment, which ancient authorities recommend for the culture of figs and vines. Plin. H. N. xvii. 43: Etiam radices circumcidisse prodest vitium luxuriantium ficorumque, et circumcisis cinerem addidisse. Geoponica, ν. 35; χρή μέντοι την λίθου εις το στέλεχος ένθεσιν ποιουμένους, αποσκάψαι τα περί την ρίζαν-x. 48: κατέχει τον καρπόν η συκή, εάν περισκάψας βόθρους περί πλειάδας, και αμόργην ύδατι κεράσας, εξ ίσου περιχέης τα στελέχει-Ibid. 82 : πάντα δε τα δένδρα πλείονα καρπόν οίσει, εάν τας ρίζας αυτών περιστερών κόπρω περιχρίσης. Cf. cap. 83.
Lastly, we may observe on the concluding words of the dresser of the vineyard, κάν μεν ποιήση καρπόν ει δε μή, κ, τ. λ. that the abrupt termination of the preceding clause is a singular beauty, which instead of being retained or improved, is lost or impaired by the supplement of the ellipsis in the version. It arises from a presentiment on the part of the speaker, that a disappointment even of this last and final effort to reclaim the tree, was probably to be expected. To fill up his words by the
unproductive tree, and might justly have been done, immediately, was yet deferred for some time longer. Secondly, to illustrate the final end to which even the suspension of a just and well-merited sentence at the time, is directed; the greater and more undeniable proof both of its justice and of its necessity at last.
We may perceive then, how naturally the annexed parable carries forward and enlarges the moral of the preceding discourse, while it arises out of it, and accords with it in general. The object of that discourse was twofold; to correct the uncharitable judgment which the survivors, whether Jews or Galilæans, had pronounced on the sufferers by the late disaster, and at the same time to repress their unwarrantable presumption on their own innocence or personal worthiness, who had experienced no such calamity, in comparison with theirs, whom the providence of God appeared to have visited so severelyintroduction of the particle, well, would not only make them a plenary proposition, which they are not in the original, but would be inconsistent with the train of his thoughts at the time, and destructive of the pathos of the passage ; and instead of an ominous and melancholy presage, would convey the expression of a che ful hope and confidence about the result.
There is a similar åttoo LÁTNOUS, Exod. xxxii. 32: “ Yet now, “ if thou wilt forgive their sin—and if not, blot me, I pray thee, “ out of the book which thou hast written.” So, Daniel iii. 15: « Now if
be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of ... “all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which “ I have made—but if ye worship not,” &c.
Such constructions may be observed in the finest classical writers.
'Αλλ' ή το χαίρειν μάλλον εκβάξει λέγων
τον άντίον δε τοισδ' αποστέργω λόγον. ΑΕschyl. Agam. 498. Thucyd. iii. 3: και ήν μεν συμβή ή πειρα–εί δε μή, κ, τ.λ.
by denouncing all, whether surviving or dead, as equally sinners in the sight of God, and equally obnoxious to his justice and severity, unless they repented. No doubt the proper effect of this denunciation would be to alarm the fears of the hearers, and to awaken them to the necessity of immediate repentance, if they would avert the judgment which hung over them. But this judgment being described as something distant, or still to come, the denunciation, which did not foreshew its immediate approach, might seem to leave an opening to present confidence against it, if not to the prospect of possibly escaping from it altogether at last. To obviate this self-delusion, the parable is subjoined in prosecution of the antecedent denunciation; teaching the hearers, symbolically, that they had done sufficient to be amenable to the divine justice immediately, and to deserve destruction immediately; in which case their continued immunity even for some time longer, was entirely due to no desert of their own, but to the patience and long-suffering of God.
Nor is this all. It specifies, moreover, with minute precision, the utmost limits of the period for which even the divine forbearance should be content still to suspend the execution of its judgments—viz. the remaining period of the Christian ministry; a ministry which, after being carried on for three years, would be brought to a close in the fourth. If the event should prove that their impenitence was protracted beyond this period, their reprobation also would be final; and the sentence of their excision, whether immediately to be put into execution or not, would nevertheless become fixed and irreversible.
The supposition of something transacted in, or about, a vineyard, which we see to constitute the subject-matter of the present parable, occurs also in others, belonging to the same class, but coming later in the order of the gospel history. Under these circumstances, whatever inight be necessary to the explanation of the principal material images, as borrowed from such a source, and as understood in their parabolic or allegorical sense, though applicable to the present parable, would be equally needful for those which occur hereafter; and perhaps from the greater length and circumstantiality of the details of these last, they may more fitly be reserved for the time of their consideration, than anticipated by a minute exposition at present. I shall confine myself, therefore, to the most general idea of the meaning of such representations, that will suffice for the illustration and comprehension of the history, with which we are engaged.
When the visible church of Christ, then, is regarded as a personal subject, it is commonly represented by the metaphor of a bride, or wife; when it is regarded as a material subject, the metaphor is changed for that of a garden or vineyard. Now, such being the case with the supposed material constitution of the church; when that is described as a vineyard, God or Christ, as the head or master of the church, on the principle of reciprocal relations, is naturally to be described as the lord or owner of a vineyard; his people, who are the members or congregation of the church, with the same consistency, are to be understood by the vines which com
pose the vineyard; the moral effects and practical consequences of their relation as the people of God, as the members or congregation of his church on earth ; such consequences at least as ought to flow from that relation, and to discriminate the people of God by their practical effects upon them; in unison with the same mode of description, will be represented by the fruit of the vines; and the existence or nonexistence of such qualities in the professing members of the church, as would lead to corresponding effects in practice, will answer on the same principle to those natural properties and distinctions in the vines, supposed to be planted in the vineyard, which are the cause of their productiveness or their barrenness respectively.
Now these images, or others which are analogous to them, it is observable occur in the present parabolic description. We have mention made of the vineyard; of the owner of the vineyard; of the tree planted in it; and of the fruit, which it was expected to produce. We may infer then, that the vineyard represents the visible church of God, in the second of the capacities before referred to; that the owner of the vineyard, is the God and Lord of the church ; and the tree, which is planted in the vineyard, is the people of the Jews, the possessors, at the time when the parable was spoken, of the visible church.
It may, however, be objected that this tree, in the present instance, is not the vine, that is, the species of tree which is commonly planted in a vineyard, and gives name to that kind of garden or plantation; but, instead of it, is the fig-tree. To this objection, I reply, that when the visible church in the abstract, is denoted by a vineyard, its mem