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Let us then, my Brethren, while we cannot but see the fate of the Jews, in this emblem of the barren fig-tree, and condemn their strange blindness and malice, who, after having seen so many miracles wrought by CHRIST, and so many proofs which shewed that he was sent from God, still remained barren of good works, and afterwards were punished for their unfruitfulness; Let us, I say, remember, that for us and for our children were these awful admonitions recorded, that we may give all diligence to add unto our faith virtue*, and to be prepared unto, and fruitful in every good workt, and to be careful, while we outwardly profess to know God, that we do not in our works deny him I.
There is one reflection to be made on this story, of which, although I have already dwelt long on it, I cannot but remind you; and that is, How merciful a thing it was in the Son of God, and how suitable to the Gospel which he preached, for him to show his power of punishment, upon a tree, rather than upon a man. It was then, and is at any time as easy for him to punish his revilers, as it was to curse the tree, or as it
* 11 Peter i. 5. + 11 Tim, č. 21.
Tit. i. 18,
can be for them to revile him, though they be never so ready at it. But to manifest himself to be the Saviour, not the destroyer of mankind, he cared all manner of diseases, and raised the dead; but never took away the life of any man, nor inflicted any disease. He spared his worst enemies, the scribes and Pharisees, and punished their hypocrisy in the emblem only of a fig-tree flourishing in leaves, and thereby promising very much and early fruit, yet having none; it made a show, but had nothing to answer so fair an appearance. Such is the miracle of the fig-tree represented in fact, which we find represented in words in Luke iii. 6, and which denoted the destruction of Jerusalem, whither our Saviour was then going, for its unfruitfulness and hypo
The surprise and astonishment of the disciples of Jesus, when they observed the next time they passed that way, that the fig-tree was withered away, falls under the occurrences of the following day; the consideration of the effect of this surprise will therefore, according to my plan, mahe part of our meditations to-morrow evening : I shall now proceed briefly to
* Jenkin's Reasonableness of the Christian Re. ligion,
state what happened on this day, after our Saviour had denounced this curse on the barren tree.
And here we find, that as soon as Jesus and his disciples were come to Jerusalem, he again went into the temple*, in which, notwithstanding he had the day before cast out the buyers and sellers, yet he observed that the same profanation of it was repeated, and the same abuses agaili prevailed. With a zeal therefore to restore the sacredness of the temple, and to preserve inviolate a place dedicated entirely to the service of God, he instantly renewed his testimony against them, and began to drive out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and also the seats of them that sold doves: nor would he suffer that any man, for the sake of shortening his way should carry any burden, or any kind of vessel through the courts of the temple; but strictly insisted on a due reverence to it, as a place which was entirely set apart for God's immediate service*. And here did our LORD again, as he had done the day before, press upon them the wickedness of their practice by reciting to thein the same words from the prophet Isaiah, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves. The temple of Jeru. salem was designed, from the original institution, as a house of prayer for people of all nations, who would become true worshippers of God; it was therefore insufferable for the Jeu's to make it a den of thieves, as they really did, by practising in the very courts of it, great impositions in their different trades.
* It is not expressly affirmed by the evangelists, that he went into the temple on both days. But the reasonableness of the thing, confirmed (as it is) by a comparison of the narratives of St. Mat. thew and St. Mark, makes it most probable that be did so.---See Doddridge on the Passages,
Although this transaction passed our review last evening, yet I shall not dismiss it without offering to your thoughts an improvement which you are to make further upon it, That since our LORD took such pains to cleanse the temple, we should be very careful not to profane any place appropriated to publick worship, by improper behaviour in it. When we enter a Church, we should leave all worldly cares behind us, and give up our minds entirely to the service of God; for wilfully to employ our thoughts upon
worldly business in God's house, is a crime of the same nature as to carry our goods thither for sale*..
The fame of this our Saviour's divine authority of cleansing the temple having been exercised two successive days, could noi but draw together a great number of people; Jesus therefore thought this a convenient opportunity to assert his mission and authority from the Father, and to declare, that in the extraordinary steps which he had taken for the reformation of abuses and the vindication of God's house, he had acted by the immediate direction and authority of God himself. This I shall give you in the words of our blessed LORD, as you will read them in the latter part of the 12th chapter of St. John's Gospel. 44. “JESUS cried and said, He that be
lieveth on me, believeth not on me,
but on him that sent me. 45. And he that seeth me, seeth him that
sent me. 46. I am come a light into the world,
that whosoever believeth on me, should
not abide in darkness. 47. And if any man hear my words, and
believe not, I judge him not: for I
* Trimmer's Sacred History,