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ON THE NEW YEAR.
LUKE XIII. 8.
And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it
alone this year also.
Tue Parable, of which the text forms a part, is as follows. “A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard ; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none. Cut it down ; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down."
The primary sense and application of this Parable doubtless respected the Jews. It reproached them for their barrenness in the genuine works of piety and virtue; and, at the same time, it exhibited, in lively colors, the mercy and forbearance of God.
A few words only will be necessary, to point out the striking manner in which it was meant to apply. The various species of the fig-tree grew wild on the mountains of Judea, and some were often found by the way-side; but this, we read, was planted in a vineyard, fenced out with labor, therefore, and cultivated with care. In the same manner, the Jews, as a chosen people, were separated from the great body of mankind, kept apart from heathens and idolaters, by peculiar laws and ordinances, as by "a wall of partition ;"_and farther, they were made the only depositaries of the revealed word of God, for the purpose of preserving his worship pure and undefiled, in the midst of a sinful and idolatrous world.
Notwithstanding this distinguished love, this providential care and protection,—the Lord of the vineyard may be said to have come repeatedly, seeking the fruits of righteousness, and true holiness, but finding none.
Here, it may be observed, that the “three years," in parabolic language, may well repre
sent three particular periods in the history of the Jews. The first probably refers to their murmurings, rebellion, and crimes in the wil, derness, soon after their miraculous deliverance, by the goodness of God, from their wretched bondage in Egypt. The second
may the national corruption, and the abominable idolatries, which preceded the Babylonish cap, tivity. The third will apply, with singular propriety, to that long and barren period, which preceded the coming of the Messiah ; when they were notorious for their ostentation and hypocrisy, and were divided into heresies and schisms ;-when the most puerile ceremo nies, and absurd superstitions, were substituted in the room of practical piety, and pure
devotion ;-and when they had “rendered the word of God of none effect by their traditions."
The cutting down of this unfruitful tree, after all the patience, the repeated warnings, the pecu. liar care, and long forbearance of the Lord of the vineyard, may be considered as a prophetic declaration by our heavenly Redeemer of the awful judgments, that were to be inflicted on the Jews, about forty years after, when their city was sacked, and rased to the ground, by the Romans ;-when above a million of those infa.
tuated people were massacred, and the miserable remnant were finally expelled from the land of their fathers, dispersed among the nations of the earth, where they have ever since remained, without a temple, a government, or a country, which they can call their own.
The original import of this Parable, therefore, is sufficiently striking; but it is the character of those divine effusions of the Saviour's wisdom, in addition to their immediate signification, to utter the voice of warning, instruction, and reproof, or of encouragement, consolation, and love, to “ all that have ears to hear." Far from being confined to the land of Judea, or to the æra of the infant Church, they speak with practical effect to Christians of every country, and in every age of the world.
On our entrance on a New Year, the short, but significant story of the barren fig-tree will admonish every one, with peculiar liveliness and force, of his manifold omissions of duty; and, at the same time, it cannot but remind him of the continued mercies and forbearance of God. It will suggest to us, also, the medium, through which these mercies, and this forbearance, are, from day to day, extended to us. It
is our heavenly Redeemer, who, though the tree repeatedly disappoints the reasonable expectations of the lord of the vineyard, may be supposed to say, as our merciful Intercessor, “ Lord, let it alone this year also."
We may observe, that the fig-tree in the parable cannot be said to represent notorious sinners, or those who are guilty of the most heinous transgressions; but it is a striking emblem of a large portion of mankind : for it is to be lamented, that there are many, who, though born in a Christian country, enjoying all the benefits of education, and admitted to all the privileges of the Church by the holy Sacrament of Baptism, make little, or no progress in the ways of righteousness, and are unfruitful in the work of the Lord. Year after year passes away without improvement; and if to plausible manners, and a decent appearánce, they unite obedience to the laws, and a general conformity to the usages and establishments of civilised society, - this is all they aspire to; and this is the utmost commendation that can be given them. We can discover no labors of love,-no “beauty of holiness,”no instances of self-denial, and no