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struction. It was never for such low and unworthy, such wicked and impious purposes, that man was made “ wiser than the beasts of the “ earth, and endued with more understanding “ than the fowls of heaven ;” but the command of the supreme Lord of Nature to all his intelligent creatures, and in a particular manner to those who enjoy the advantages of the gospel revelation, is that of the nobleman to his servants in the parable, “ Occupy till I come: behold I “ have bestowed upon you such and such gifts “ and talents; be careful to improve them to the “ best advantage, and do not either profusely “ squander them away, nor suffer them to lie by “ neglected and unimproved:” and in the passage just now read, our Lord by a representation borrowed from ordinary life, gives his hearers à very striking view of the imminent danger they were in, if they continued to misimprove or neglect those means of grace and salvation, which through the goodness and long-suffering of God they were favoured with.

All I shall say in explication of the parable, as its meaning is abundantly obvious, is, that by the owner of the vineyard is to be understood God himself, the great author and proprietor of the universe and of all things therein: by the gardener or dresser of the vineyard, is meant Jesus Christ, the gracious mediator betwixt God and man, and by the barren fig tree, every indolent, hypocritical, or wicked member of Christ's visible church. The text then, presents us with the following particulars :--First, with a view of our own natural degeneracy, worthlessness, and unprofitableness, under the image of a fig tree, cumbering or uselessly occupying the ground. Second, of the patience and forbearance of God toward sinners, in delaying the execution of his justice upon them, notwithstanding their continuing fruitlessness, under the notion of the owner of a vineyard's coming year by year in expectation of fruit from a tree which persists in barrenness, and as long suspending the destruction of it. Third, it gives us an awful representation of the justice and severity of God, toward impenitent sinners, by his coming at last to the resolution of cutting down, of utterly destroying the useless, unprofitable trunk, as being a mere occupier of space, a cumberer of the ground. And fourth, we have a most endearing representation of the gracious intercession of our blessed Redeemer, in the dresser of the vineyard's interceding with the master, in behalf of a favourite tree, of which, though for the present barren, he still would entertain good hopes of. In discoursing, therefore, more at large from this subject, I shall, as God is pleased to enable ine, consider each of these particulars in order, and then endeavour to lead to the improvement of the subject.

The first particular, which will occupy your time at present, is the view we have of our own natural degeneracy, worthlessness, and unprofitableness, under the image of a fig tree cumbering or uselessly occupying the ground. “ I had “ planted thee,” says God to his ancient people, by his prophet Jeremiah, “ I had planted thee a “ noble vine, wholly a right seed; how then art “ thou turned into a degenerate plant of a

strange vine unto me?"

When man came out of the hands of his Creator in all the dignity of spotless innocence, and enlarged understanding, and was placed in the midst of the delightful garden, the sovereign, the happy lord of this lower creation; while as yet sin was unknown, but nature and holiness were the same thing; while as yet the law of God was the study and delight of his rational creature; while reason and practice went hand in hand, and conscience smiled approbation on every action; while as yet no ignorance, error, or prejudice clouded the understanding, no perverseness sented is that of careless, indolent, lifeless hearers of the gospel, who notwithstanding all the means of grace, which are showered down in so great abundance upon them, still remain hard and impenitent, indifferent and unconcerned. It is not to be doubted but our Saviour meant to design both these characters. We shall, therefore, consider each of them by itself, under this. separate view

That all who profess christianity are not really christians, is a truth too obvious to need any

demonstration for the first of the classes of unprofitable hearers of the gospel now mentioned, namely, that of hypocrites, includes but too great a number of the frequenters of our religious assemblies; as under it may be comprehended, at least, all those whose lives are visibly inconsistent with the profession of religion, with the genius and spirit of that gospel which they pretend to believe, by giving their personal attendance upon some of its ordinances—perhaps by their talking and arguing in defence of it, and even by recommending it to the choice of others.

the choice of others. For we can easily suppose—and there really are such characters in abundance, through every corner of the land we can easily suppose, I say, a man who is able to support with warmth, nay, with judgment

and good sense, the truth, importance, and high advantages of our holy religion in general, and inculcate its particular doctrines with earnestness and zeal, and yet his life at the very same time may be a flat contradiction to those tenets which he so vigorously maintains. We meet with people every day who would take it very heinously amiss to have their knowledge in religious matters called in question; who, notwithstandings make no sort of scruple to live in the habitual neglect of the plainest and most obvious duties of religion, and in open contradiction to, and contempt of, its most important precepts; many who would not for the world desert religion in the way of argument, who in their practice dispense with its most sacred obligations, by committing all manner of iniquity with greediness. But we may justly suppose the character to go a great deal farther—there are many who not only defend the truth and doctrines of christianity with ardour, and give their testimony in its favour as a recommendation to others, but are likewise abundantly diligent and regular in the observance of its more obvious duties, and in keeping at the utmost distance from the more enormous vices it forbids : we may even suppose a person of this character going the length of performing, with a scrupulous exactness, the public, the private, nay, the secret

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