CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 12 October Romans 7:21 - The Law versus Evil By RobertFlynn Romans 0 Comment The conclusion: as the law of God exhorts to goodness, so does the law of sin (that is, the corruption in which we are born) force us to wickedness: but the spirit, that is, our mind, in that it is regenerated, coexists with the law of God: but the flesh, that is, the whole natural man, is bondslave to the law of sin. Therefore, in short, wickedness and death are not of the law, but of sin, which reigns in those that are not regenerated: for they neither wish to do good, neither do they do good, but they wish and do evil: but in those that are regenerated, it strives against the spirit or law of the mind, so that they cannot live at all as well as they want to, or be as free of sin as they want to. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes) There can be no doubt that he refers here to his carnal and corrupt nature; to the evil propensities and dispositions which were leading him astray. His representing this as a law is in accordance with all that he says of it, that it is servitude, that he is in bondage to it, and that it impedes his efforts to be holy and pure. (Dr. Albert Barnes) I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. (NASB) I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. (KJV) I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. (NLT) So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. (NET) Galatians 5:17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. (NLT) It is probably a good thing at this point to recall a couple of important things from earlier in the chapter. We often get focused in the near (like a microscope) and forget at what it is we are looking. So then, dear friends, the point is this: The law no longer holds you in it's power, because you died to its power when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised with the dead. As a result, you can produce good fruit, that is, good deeds for God. (Romans 7:4 NLT96) I felt fine when I did not understand what the law demanded. But when I learned the truth, I realized I had broken the law and was a sinner, doomed to die. (Romans 7:9 NLT96) THE POINT IS THIS: we are empowered by our union with Christ Jesus our Lord! But we can be deceived by our own sinfulness into thinking that we are fine! If we look around the cosmos today we see a universe that is expanding whose end we cannot see (astronomy), whose enormity we cannot comprehend (even with the Hubble Telescope) yet our country is the largest consumer of illegal drugs, we find newborn babies in trash cans, the economy is in shambles, the ship of state has run aground, divorce is just as prevalent inside the church as outside, marriage is no longer a respected institution of the Almighty, and same gender marriages are commonplace. But "I felt fine!" We live in a world where armed guards now walk the halls of the churches, background checks are required for ministry workers, and famous church leaders fall like ducks in a shooting gallery. But "I felt fine." We must recognize that we are not able to see our own sin and our own deception apart from the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. Our bellwether becomes our obedience. "And how can we be sure that we belong to him? By obeying his commandments." (1 John 2:3 NLT96) If we are rebellious, the answer is obvious. If we "feel fine" perhaps not so obvious. If we are struggling, we should rejoice in our struggle and allow for the victory that is in Christ Jesus as we enter into His Sabbath rest. God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. We are not living in the truth….If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth….If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts (1 John 1:5b, 6, 8, 10 NLT96) Rom 7:21 I find then a law - I am in such a condition and state of soul, under the power of such habits and sinful propensities, that when I would do good - when my will and reason are strongly bent on obedience to the law of God and opposition to the principle of sin, evil is present with me, κακον παρακειται, evil is at hand, it lies constantly before me. That, as the will to do good is constantly at hand, Romans 7:18, so the principle of rebellion exciting me to sin is equally present; but, as the one is only will, wish, and desire, without power to do what is willed, to obtain what is wished, or to perform what is desired, sin continually prevails. The word νομος, law, in this verse, must be taken as implying any strong or confirmed habit, συνηθεια, as Hesychius renders it, under the influence of which the man generally acts; and in this sense the apostle most evidently uses it in Romans 7:23. (Dr. Adam Clarke) The conclusion: as the law of God exhorts to goodness, so does the law of sin (that is, the corruption in which we are born) force us to wickedness: but the spirit, that is, our mind, in that it is regenerated, coexists with the law of God: but the flesh, that is, the whole natural man, is bondslave to the law of sin. Therefore, in short, wickedness and death are not of the law, but of sin, which reigns in those that are not regenerated: for they neither wish to do good, neither do they do good, but they wish and do evil: but in those that are regenerated, it strives against the spirit or law of the mind, so that they cannot live at all as well as they want to, or be as free of sin as they want to. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes) There can be no doubt that he refers here to his carnal and corrupt nature; to the evil propensities and dispositions which were leading him astray. His representing this as a law is in accordance with all that he says of it, that it is servitude, that he is in bondage to it, and that it impedes his efforts to be holy and pure. (Dr. Albert Barnes) I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. (NASB) I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. (KJV) I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. (NLT) So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. (NET) Galatians 5:17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. (NLT) It is probably a good thing at this point to recall a couple of important things from earlier in the chapter. We often get focused in the near (like a microscope) and forget at what it is we are looking. So then, dear friends, the point is this: The law no longer holds you in it's power, because you died to its power when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised with the dead. As a result, you can produce good fruit, that is, good deeds for God. (Romans 7:4 NLT96) I felt fine when I did not understand what the law demanded. But when I learned the truth, I realized I had broken the law and was a sinner, doomed to die. (Romans 7:9 NLT96) THE POINT IS THIS: we are empowered by our union with Christ Jesus our Lord! But we can be deceived by our own sinfulness into thinking that we are fine! If we look around the cosmos today we see a universe that is expanding whose end we cannot see (astronomy), whose enormity we cannot comprehend (even with the Hubble Telescope) yet our country is the largest consumer of illegal drugs, we find newborn babies in trash cans, the economy is in shambles, the ship of state has run aground, divorce is just as prevalent inside the church as outside, marriage is no longer a respected institution of the Almighty, and same gender marriages are commonplace. But "I felt fine!" We live in a world where armed guards now walk the halls of the churches, background checks are required for ministry workers, and famous church leaders fall like ducks in a shooting gallery. But "I felt fine." We must recognize that we are not able to see our own sin and our own deception apart from the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. Our bellwether becomes our obedience. "And how can we be sure that we belong to him? By obeying his commandments." (1 John 2:3 NLT96) If we are rebellious, the answer is obvious. If we "feel fine" perhaps not so obvious. If we are struggling, we should rejoice in our struggle and allow for the victory that is in Christ Jesus as we enter into His Sabbath rest. God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. We are not living in the truth….If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth….If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts (1 John 1:5b, 6, 8, 10 NLT96) Rom 7:21 I find then a law - I am in such a condition and state of soul, under the power of such habits and sinful propensities, that when I would do good - when my will and reason are strongly bent on obedience to the law of God and opposition to the principle of sin, evil is present with me, κακον παρακειται, evil is at hand, it lies constantly before me. That, as the will to do good is constantly at hand, Romans 7:18, so the principle of rebellion exciting me to sin is equally present; but, as the one is only will, wish, and desire, without power to do what is willed, to obtain what is wished, or to perform what is desired, sin continually prevails. The word νομος, law, in this verse, must be taken as implying any strong or confirmed habit, συνηθεια, as Hesychius renders it, under the influence of which the man generally acts; and in this sense the apostle most evidently uses it in Romans 7:23. (Dr. Adam Clarke) Related Sin as a Fact Sin as a Fact “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, ESV) The Gospel of Christ may be described as a glorious remedy for a disease fatal and otherwise incurable, with which our whole race is tainted. And the first step in treating of the Gospel must ever be to lay open, and make us sensible of, that disease. For one of its most dangerous symptoms is, that it makes men insensible to its own presence: so that the worse a man is afflicted with it, the less he knows that he has it at all. And, seeing that the remedy is not one which can be simply taken once and then all will be well, but one which requires long and painful and self-denying application, a man must be very thoroughly persuaded that he has the disease, and that he is likely to perish from it, before he will take the necessary trouble to be cured of it. Now this disease we call sin. And in consequence of what has been said you will see, that in beginning a course of sermons on Christian doctrine, I must deal first with this fact which lies at the bottom of all Christian doctrine, that all men are sinners. I may be at once met with the question, Who does not know that? Who does not confess himself to be a sinner? Doubtless, all do this by profession and with the lips. But, my brethren, there is as much difference between confessing with the lips and feeling intensely in the depth of the heart, as there is between confessing and not confessing at all. "Miserable sinners:" "Have mercy upon us miserable sinners." But what do we mean by sinners? Let us try and lay hold of this—let us try to-day and see what sin means—what "all having sinned" means. When any of us looks out upon mankind, or looks within himself, with ever so little attention, one thing can hardly fail to strike him. It is, the presence of Evil. We at once see that there is a something in the world, and within us, rebellious, destructive, altogether unwelcome, and which we would gladly be rid of. We want harmony among men, harmony in ourselves, for all purposes of human improvement, for all purposes of our own progress and enlightening. But instead of harmony, we find discord every where. From the first, man’s history has been a history of going wrong and doing wrong: from the first, our own personal history has been a history of interrupted good and interfering bad. Now observe, I am not at this moment speaking as a minister of the Gospel: I am speaking merely as man,—as a citizen of the world, as one of you, or one of any band of men gathered out of any age and any place upon earth. I am dwelling upon what is matter of universal observation. Who can deny this presence and this working of an unwelcome and a hostile element in all human matters? What deceit will ever enable a man to hide from himself this dark shadow which falls upon the fairest prospects and purest courses in life? What mind looking into itself is not found to confess that there is this night side of its thoughts and ways? Now it is not my purpose, at all events not at present, to say a word about the reason why this evil ever came into God’s universe. I am concerned to-day with the fact, and the importance of knowing and acknowledging the fact, that it has come into it and is every where present. Some may say—some have said, conceal the fact, and you will get rid of it. Don’t tell people that there is evil in the world; forget that there is evil about and in yourself; and you and they will become good. It may be true, they continue, that there is such a dark spot in nature; that there are these black shadows amidst the shining of the Face of the universal Father: but gazing upon them is painful and useless: look at the bright side of every thing: believe things to be innocent and right, and infinitely more good will be done than by dwelling on the gloom and so increasing it. This, my brethren, not only has been the published advice of a whole school of writers,—it is also the view taken by many loose and shallow thinkers in every place at our own time. But let me ask you, do you suppose that the unquestioned evil in universal nature, and in our nature, can be thus got rid of? "Believe the world to be good, and it will become good," says one of these writers: "Believe yourself to be good, and you will become good." I answer, Try it. Try it for a day, for an hour. Then go into your chamber, and take strict unsparing account. And if it is urged that more time is wanted, try it for a year: shut your eyes to all that is bad in the world—to all that is bad in you: refuse to believe, refuse to entertain any suspicion of evil in yourself, or in others, for that time: then retire and trace your path during the time. Does not every man see what would be the result? Do not we all know, that it would be simply the tale of the silly ostrich over again, which imagines itself safe from the hunter by shutting its eyes, and by hiding him from its own sight? Do we not see, that such a person would only be delivered up far more and far more helplessly into the power of evil? No, my brethren: a man who wants to get rid of evil in himself must open his eyes to the evil, not hide it: must not shrink from any pain which the sight may give him, if it also gives him the knowledge, what the danger is, and how to meet it. And he who wants to overcome evil in others, must not shrink from the gloomy and unwelcome task of speaking of it, exposing it, probing its extent and measuring its strength, that so they may be the more deeply and earnestly convinced of its existence, and the more active in combating it. There is then this evil all about us and in us: and we must make up our minds to see it, to recognize it, to stand face to face with it, and conquer it. Now here come in two most important remarks. This evil is not the only disagreeable thing in life. There are bodily pain, discomfort, misery, common to us and all mankind—nay, common to us and the lower animals. And there is this circumstance about all these, worthy of our present notice. If we can manage to forget them, to flee away from them, to hide them from us, we thereby get rid of them. We need not look at them, nor study their nature. A man who wants to avoid breaking a limb, need not be always gazing on or describing broken limbs: he has but to avoid those risks which might occasion the mischief. A man who would avoid death will follow the ordinary instinct of self-preservation: he would not be for ever studying all the possible ways of dying. Such knowledge is not necessary; nay, it would be an incumbrance and a nuisance. But the man who wishes to avoid evil in this world, must be awake and alive to the forms and accesses of evil. He cannot do without such knowledge: his very safety consists in it. Therefore—and mark the inference as an important one in our progress to-day—evil is a matter of a totally different kind from bodily pain, misery, or death. Again: evil is not by any means our only inward source of annoyance and hindrance. You have—I have—every one has—defects, infirmities, in his or her mind and disposition: things of which we would willingly be rid if we could: bars to our progress and hindrances to our perfection. But none of these do we look upon as we look upon evil. Let it be shewn that we are dull, or feeble, or inferior to some others, we put up with it, we excuse it, we make ourselves as comfortable as we may under the knowledge of it: but let it be once shewn, by others or by our own conscience that we have wished, said, done, that which is evil, and we know at once that there is no excuse for it. We may try to shew that we did it inadvertently, or by force of circumstances; or in some way to lessen our own share in it: but the very labor to construct an excuse shews that we hold the evil itself, as evil, to be inexcusable. Evil itself no one attempts to excuse: all take for granted that it is a loathsome thing, all desire that their character and their conscience should stand free from it. So far then this evil is something which our nature itself teaches us to revolt from and abhor. We do not, we cannot excuse it; we cannot contentedly put up with it, we cannot be happy under its influence. Now do not mistake me. Many a man, as we have seen, excuses his share in evil, excuses his evil deed as not being evil, plays the self-deceiver and hides the evil of his ways from himself, abandons his helm and lets himself drift into evil, and so is contented, and fancies himself happy, under evil. But again, and for all this, the thing itself is simply a deadly enemy to us, whenever and wherever detected, and exposed as being what it is. No son of man ever said or could say, from his inmost heart, what the great poet sublimely represents Satan as saying, "Evil, be thou my good." It requires more than man ever to say this. Well now, my brethren, what does all this shew? Does it not testify to there being a law within us, implanted in our nature, by which evil is avoided, and by consequence good sought and desired? And observe that this is true, quite independently of and previous to all circumstances in which a man is placed, all interests in which he is involved. Our abhorrence of evil as evil does not spring from our finding it to be hurtful to us: we know that it is hurtful to us, the moment we know any thing. The little child for the first time detected in evil, is as much ashamed of it as the experienced and mature man. Now this is exceedingly important: all-important, in our present enquiry. A law within us tells us what is good, tells us that we ought to be good, to say good, to do good. Mind I only assert this fact. That this law is broken in upon, that it is not always distinctly or properly or effectively asserted, is nothing to my present purpose. I know all this, and shall have to use it by and by. But I only care now for this great fact, that there is this law: that we all know it, all judge by it, all act upon it as a familiar and confessed thing. All our enacted laws, all our public opinion, even all our ways of thinking and speaking in words, are founded on there being such a law within man, sanctioning good, prohibiting evil. Now then it is time for us to ask, when man becomes, says, acts evil, what sort of a thing does he do? For that such is the case, is but too plain. Evil thoughts, evil words, evil acts, are but too often to be found in the course of all of us; evil men unhappily abound in every place and society. How are we to look upon such evil thoughts, words, acts, and men? Are they necessary? In plain words, is it a condition of our lives that we must enter into compact with evil, as it is that we must eat and sleep? Certainly not. This is clear from what has already been said. Every protest against evil, every resistance to evil, every victory over evil, proves that evil is not necessary to our being; that He who made us has made us capable of existing without evil, and all the better for existing without evil. But now let us listen to what follows. True as this is, we must always remember, that this great and blessed state of our being, the freedom from and victory over evil, is not that after which all men are striving. There are all kinds of lower forms of our being, which satisfy men, and in some cases constitute their chief good. One man seeks the gratification of his bodily appetites and lusts: another, the heaping up of wealth: a third, the gaining of power: a fourth, the rising in the esteem of those about him: another again, several, or all of these together: and so, not man’s brightest aim, to be good and pure and calm and wise, but an aim very far below this, is followed by the worse part of mankind always,—by even the best of mankind sometimes. Now, my brethren, every one of these lower and unworthy objects, if followed as an object, does necessarily bring a man into contact and compromise with evil. To be bent on gratifying lust, is of itself evil: to amass selfishly, is evil: to promote our own influence and push for precedence, is evil. Greed, intemperance, injustice to others, unkindness, overweening opinion of self, and a hundred other evil things beset every one of such courses of life; every one of such thoughts, words, actions. Now we have advanced, I think, close to our point. When a man lives such a course, when any one of us gives way to such thoughts or words, or commits such deeds, he is disobeying that great first law of our being by which, as I shewed you, we choose the good and abhor the evil. How it is that men got the wish so to go wrong and so to disobey the law of their being, it is not my present object to enquire. But though it is not, I must simply remind you that we Christian believers know how this was; and more than this,—that our Bibles give us the only satisfactory account that ever was given of it. We know that it was by a taint at the root and spring of our race; by our first parents using that freedom in which their Creator made them, not to please Him by remaining in good, but to please themselves by entering into a compromise with evil. But I say no more, as to enlarge on this is beyond our subject to-day. Men are (there is no doubt of this) liable, every man is liable, thus to enter into compact with his worst enemy, evil, in order to serve his present lower purposes. We all do this continually. Now whenever we do this, we sin. "All sin," says St. John, "is transgression of law." Where there is no law, there is no sin; wherever there is a law, there he who disobeys that law commits sin. And we have seen that this inward law which teaches us to abhor evil and choose good is broken and set at nought by us all. We do not choose the good which we know we ought to choose: we do choose the evil which we very well know we ought not to choose. The propensity to do this, the entertaining the temptation to do it, the doing it, all these are sin. Now sin is not, like evil, a mere general quality: it is committed against a person. And there is, properly speaking, but one Person, against whom sin is, or can be committed. There is One who is the source and fountain of all law, all right, all purity, all goodness. And this law of good and evil of which we have been speaking, this above and before all others, springs from that Holy and Just one who hath made us and to whom we are accountable. All sin is against Him: is a violation of His law, is a thwarting, by His mysterious permission, of His holy and blessed purposes with regard to man. All have sinned. And in dwelling on this, the fact, that all men have inherited the disposition to sin, necessarily comes first. And this is no fiction: this is not, as the unbeliever of our day would try to persuade you, an exploded fallacy of a gone-by system; but it is sober and fearful truth. It is moreover agreeable to the analogy of all God’s works in nature and in spirit: a truth, as matter of experience, undeniable by any who is aware of even the most common phænomena of our nature. And, inheriting this disposition, but with it inheriting also the great inward law of conscience warning us against evil, we have again and again followed, not the good law, but the evil propensity: in wayward childhood this has been so: in passionate youth: in calm deliberate manhood. We have not chosen evil; we have hated evil by our very nature; but we have followed evil, fallen into sin, by reason of our lusts and our passions blinding us, dragging us onward and downward, and delivering us tied and bound into the power of the enemy whom we naturally shun and detest. We have done this,—we are doing it, continually: we shall ever be doing it more or less, in our manifold weaknesses, our besetting dangers, our abounding temptations. Now then, this being so, what follows? Can sin be safe? Can a sinner be happy? Can a sinful man be gaining the ends of his being? The full answer to this question does not belong to our subject to-day; but I cannot and ought not to conclude without slightly anticipating it. Sin is and must be the ruin of man, body and soul, here and hereafter. The born sinner—the tainted child of a tainted stock, living under that taint, with it working and spreading in him and through him,—how shall he be safe? how shall he be happy? how shall he ever grow on to good and to a blessed eternity? Without going any further into the matter to-day, do you not see that this cannot be so? Whoever sins, goes wrong: lays up grief, shame, all that is dreadful, for himself, by thwarting the gracious ends for which God created him, viz. to love, obey, and imitate Himself, that he may become like Him, and one day see Him as He is. No more then at present but this. Every man’s work in life, sinners as we all are, is this: to find out his sins, to confess his sins to God, to struggle with God’s help against his sins, year by year and day by day to gain victories over his sins through Him who overcame sin for us; to believe in, and live in the reality of, the Atonement which His Blood has made for all and every sin. All the glorious process of that which He hath accomplished for us, will come before us as we proceed. But now in this season of Advent, when we are to cast away the works of darkness, I must detain you some Sundays longer on our own need of Him for whose coming we are to prepare; and shall therefore, by God’s help, speak to you on the next two Sundays on the manifold nature of sin, and on its guilt and consequences. Now to Him who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to the Son of God, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory for ever. Amen. Alford, H. (1862). Sermons on Christian Doctrine. London: Rivingtons. (Public Domain) Romans 2:09 - Calamity, evil's reward Romans 2:9 Rom 2:1-29 Dr. John Darby Two things are presented here with respect to God; His judgment against evil — the evil-doer shall not escape (the real difference of right and wrong would be maintained by judgment); and His mercy, patience, and long-suffering with regard to the evil-doer — His goodness inviting him to repentance. He who continued in evil deceived himself by trying to forget the sure judgment of God and by despising His goodness. The consequences, both of a life opposed to God and to His truth on the one hand, and of the search after that which is pleasing to Him, and thereby for eternal life on the other, were sure — tribulation and anguish in the one case, in the other glory and honour; and that without more respect to the Jews than to the Gentiles. God judged things according to their true moral character, and according to the advantages which the guilty one had enjoyed.  Those who had sinned without law should perish without law, and those who had sinned under the law should be judged according to the law, in the day when God should judge the secrets of the heart according to the gospel which Paul preached. This character of the judgment is very important. It is not the government of the world by an earthly and outward judgment, as the Jew understood it, but that of the individual according to God's knowledge of the heart. Also God would have realities. The Gentile who fulfilled the law was better than a Jew who broke it. If he called himself a Jew and acted ill (Rom 2:17), he only dishonoured God, and caused His name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles whilst boasting in his privileges. He then enlarges on the point that God requires moral reality, and that a Gentile who did that which the law demanded was better worth than a Jew who disobeyed it, and that the real Jew was he who had the law in his heart, being circumcised also in the spirit, and not he who had only outward circumcision. This was a condition which God could praise, and not man only. Note #9 How strikingly this also brings out what so breaks everywhere through the doctrine of this epistle that everything is according to its reality before God, God being revealed through Christ and the cross. All must take its true character and result according to what He was. Note moreover that the terms suppose gospel knowledge — "seek for glory, honour, and incorruptibility." These are known by Christianity. "There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek," (NASB) "Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;" (KJV) "There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile." (NLT) "There will be affliction and distress on everyone who does evil, on the Jew first and also the Greek," (NET) Stenocho?ria: the pressed on every side kind of anguish. This is a result of our contentious attitude toward God from verse 8. This calamity is reaped by EVERYONE who does evil! ALL inclusive! Me included! If you wonder about the source of the tribulation in this world, look no further than your own angry heart. Saint Augustine says that with our enmity we wound our own soul! Oh how wondrous is the Salvation that delivers us from God's wrath and our won enmity that kills us from within! The recompense for sin is clearly given upon everyone. Sin has and effect that cannot be thwarted just like gravity. We might think we have eluded its effects but nevertheless it holds us fast. The first instance of the Jew mentioned in this chapter heads the list since they were blessed with greater privileges by knowing God's law having abused greater mercies. Romans 1:30 - Inventors - Contrivers Romans 1:30 "slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents," (NASB) "Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents," (KJV) "slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents," (NET) "They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents." (NLT) Invent (Noah Webster) INVENT', v.t. [L. invenio, inventum; in and venio, to come; literally, to come to, to fall on, to meet, Eng. to find.] 1. To find out something new; to devise something not before known; to contrive and produce something that did not before exist; as, to invent a new instrument of music; to invent a machine for spinning; to invent gunpowder. [See Invention.] 2. To forge; to fabricate; to contrive falsely; as, to invent falsehoods. 3. To feign; to frame by the imagination; as, to invent the machinery of a poem. 4. To light on; to meet with. [This is the literal sense, but not now used.] Contrive (Noah Webster) CONTRIVE, v.t. 1. To invent; to devise; to plan. Our poet has always some beautiful design, which he first establishes, and then contrives the means which will naturally conduct him to his end. 2. To wear out. [This must be from the L. Contero, contrivi, and if the French controuver, and Italian controvare, are the same word differently applied, the primary sense is, to invent by rubbing, that is, by ruminating; or to strike out, as in forge. But the word is probably from trouver, to find.] CONTRIVE, v.i. To form or design; to plan; to scheme. How shall we contrive to hide our shame? [This verb is really transitive, but followed by a verb, in the place of an object or name.] Inventors of evil things - This doubtless refers to their seeking to find out new arts or plans to practice evil; new devices to gratify their lusts and passions; new forms of luxury, and vice, etc. So intent were they on practicing evil, so resolved to gratify their passions, that the mind was excited to discover new modes of gratification. In cities of luxury and vice, this has always been done. Vices change their form, people become satiated, and they are obliged to resort to some new form. The passions cease to be gratified with old forms of indulgence, and consequently people are obliged to resort to new devices to pamper their appetites, and to rekindle their dying passions to a flame. This was eminently true of ancient Rome; a place where all the arts of luxury, all the devices of passion, all the designs of splendid gratification, were called forth to excite and pamper the evil passions of people. Their splendid entertainments, their games, their theaters, their sports - cruel and bloody - were little else than new and ever-varying inventions of evil things to gratify the desires of lust and of pride. Dr. Albert Barnes Inventors of evil things - Εφευρετας κακων. Those who have invented destructive customs, rites, fashions, etc.; such as the different religious ceremonies among the Greeks and Romans - the orgies of Bacchus, the mysteries of Ceres, the lupercalia, feasts of the Bona Dea, etc., etc. Multitudes of which evil things, destructive and abominable ceremonies, are to be found in every part of the heathen worship. Dr. Adam Clark Inventors of evil things (epheuretas kako?n). Inventors of new forms of vice as Nero was. Tacitus (Ann. IV. ii) describes Sejanus as facinorum omnium repertor and Virgil (Aen. ii. 163) scelerum inventor. Dr. A.T. Robertson When our lusts can no longer be satified by our current devices we create new ones. Instead of using our minds for things worthy of praise we focus our efforts on the satiation of our hidden desires. How great is the effect of God's abandonment and how visible is the reprobate mind that results. Thus the Gift of Grace super abounds and the reason Paul feels indebted to the world becomes clear. WE are lost a part from Grace daily working in our lives. It is the nature of our fleshly heart to be inventors of evil! A hard truth but nevertheless true. The more we deny it the harder our walk! Why? Because when we deny the truth of Scripture, we call the God who wrote it a liar! I suspect that is why the Apostle John mentions this in his epistle. Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit to guide us in learning to agree with God so that we may step into the light of His Grace and find not only forgiveness but the renewing of our mind! "If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that His word has no place in our hearts." (1 John 1:10 NLT) Romans 3:28 - The Liberty of the Yoke Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude, etc. - Seeing these things cannot be denied, viz., that all have sinned: that all are guilty, that all are helpless: that none can deliver his own soul, and that God, in his endless mercy, has opened a new and living way to the holiest by the blood of Jesus, Hebrews 10:19-20, etc: therefore we, apostles and Christian teachers, conclude, λογιζομεθα, prove by fair, rational consequence, that a man - any man, is justified - has his sins blotted out, and is received into the Divine favor, by faith in Christ’s blood, without the deeds of the law, which never could afford, either to Jew or Gentile, a ground for justification, because both have sinned against the law which God has given them, and, consequently, forfeited all right and title to the blessings which the obedient might claim. Dr. Adam Clarke Romans 3:28 Justification: Justification and righteousness are inseparably united in Scripture by the fact that the same word (Greek, "dikaios", means "righteous"; Greek, "dikaioo", means "to justify") is used for both. The believing sinner is justified because Christ, having borne his sins on the cross, has been "made unto him righteousness" (1Corinthians 1:30). Justification originates in grace; (Romans 3:24); (Titus 3:4); (Titus 3:5) is through the redemptive and propitiatory work of Christ, who has vindicated the law; (Romans 3:24); (Romans 3:25); (Romans 5:9) is by faith, not works; (Romans 3:28-30); (Romans 4:5); (Romans 5:1); (Galatians 2:16); (Galatians 3:8); (Galatians 3:24) and may be defined as the judicial act of God whereby He justly declares righteous one who believes on Jesus Christ. It is the Judge Himself (Romans 8:31-34) who thus declares. The justified believer has been in court, only to learn that nothing is laid to his charge. (Romans 8:1); (Romans 8:33); (Romans 8:34). C. I. Scofield "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (NASB) "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (KJV) "So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law." (NLT) "For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law." (NET) Nothing is more maligned today than the meaning of these few words! All manner of confusion, deception, error and even heresy have been born from wrongly dividing these words of truth. Let us consider that the reason this is so is because there is a dynamic tension present in the very concept of Grace. Jesus invites us to find rest by taking on His yoke. Lewis Sperry Chafer, in Grace, over emphasized the concept of liberty to the point of entertaining unintentionally antinomian thought. Liberty by definition is deliverance from oppression and not necessarily the freedom to do what we please. Yet if you preach Grace hard enough that is the very thought that comes to mind (thus the warning from the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:1 — should we sin more so that Grace might abound?). Grace, recorded in Titus, says that we should deny the realities of our fleshly nature and rather live according to our new nature: For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. (Titus 2:11-13 NLT) The idea that salvation is a wonderful gift and yet cost us everything that we are remains a paradox but like God and country are not mutually exclusive concepts. Today we suffer because iniquity abounds and the love of many grows cold (Matthew 24:12). But we my also abound in hope because the comforter has been given and lives within those who call Christ Savior and Lord. We are not free to follow the carnal desires of the flesh but rather are empowered to live abounding in the Spirit (2 Corinthians 8:7). I read in the newspaper this morning of a new church where you can believe whatever you want. People come there because the did not like the message elsewhere. We do not want to hear the real truth but instead search for a truth we like! One that will allow us to cling to the vile creatures we are and thus begin the slow downward spiral of self-deception that leads to eternal separation. We are saved because we were surrounded by the fullness of Christ's love for the lost. His love is providential and brings us to that place where we can say yes to His wondrous forgiveness and say no to the sin that so easily entangles us. The liberty of the yoke! The Barren Fig Tree The Barren Fig Tree ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR This solemn, searching, awful treatise, was published by Bunyan in 1682; but does not appear to have been reprinted until a very few months after his decease, which so unexpectedly took place in 1688. Although we have sought with all possible diligence, no copy of the first edition has been discovered; we have made use of a fine copy of the second edition, in possession of that thorough Bunyanite, my kind friend, R. B. Sherring, of Bristol. The third edition, 1692, is in the British Museum. Added to these posthumous publications appeared, for the first time, ‘An Exhortation to Peace and Unity,’ which will be found at the end of our second volume. In the advertisement to that treatise are stated, at some length, my reasons for concluding that it was not written by Bunyan, although inserted in all the editions of his collected works. That opinion is now more fully confirmed, by the discovery of Bunyan’s own list of his works, published just before his death, in 1688, and in which that exhortation is not inserted. I was also much pleased to find that the same conclusion was arrived at by that highly intelligent Baptist minister, Mr. Robert Robinson. His reasons are given at some length, concluding with, ‘it is evident that Bunyan never wrote this piece.’1 Why it was, after Bunyan’s death, published with his ‘Barren Fig-tree,’ is one of those hidden mysteries of darkness and of wickedness that I cannot discover. The beautiful parable from which Bunyan selected his text, represents an enclosed ground, in which, among others, a fig-tree had been planted. It was not an enclosure similar to some of the vineyards of France or Germany, exclusively devoted to the growth of the vine, but a garden in which fruits were cultivated, such as grapes, figs, or pomegranates. It was in such a vineyard, thus retired from the world, that Nathaniel poured out his heart in prayer, when our Lord in spirit witnessed, unseen, these devotional exercises, and soon afterwards rewarded him with open approbation (John 1:48). In these secluded pleasant spots the Easterns spend much of their time, under their own vines or fig-trees, sheltered from the world and from the oppressive heat of the sun—a fit emblem of a church of Christ. In this vineyard stood a fig-tree—by nature remarkable for fruitfulness—but it is barren. No inquiry is made as to how it came there, but the order is given, ‘Cut it down.’ The dresser of the garden intercedes, and means are tried to make it fruitful, but in vain. At last it is cut down as a cumber-ground and burnt. This vineyard or garden represents a gospel church; the fig-tree a member—a barren, fruitless professor. ‘It matters not how he got there,’ if he bears no fruit he must be cut down and away to the fire. To illustrate so awful a subject this treatise was written, and it is intensely solemn. God, whose omniscience penetrates through every disguise, himself examines every tree in the garden, yea, every bough. Wooden and earthy professor, your detection is sure; appearances that deceive the world and the church cannot deceive God. ‘He will be with thee in thy bed fruits—thy midnight fruits—thy closet fruits—thy family fruits—they conversation fruits.’ Professor, solemnly examine yourself; ‘in proportion to your fruitfulness will be your blessedness.’ ‘Naked and open are all things to his eye.’ Can it be imagined that those ‘that paint themselves did ever repent of their pride?’ ‘How seemingly self-denying are some of these creeping things.’ ‘Is there no place will serve to fit those for hell but the church, the vineyard of God?’ ‘It is not the place where the worker of iniquity can hide himself or his sins from God.’ May such be detected before they go hence to the fire. While there is a disposition to seek grace all are invited to come; but when salvation by Christ is abandoned, there is no other refuge, although sought with tears. Reader, may the deeply impressive language of Bunyan sink profoundly into our hearts. We need no splendid angel nor hideous demon to reveal to us the realities of the world to come. ‘If we hear not Moses and the prophets,’ as set forth by Bunyan in this treatise, ‘neither should we be persuaded though one rose from the dead’ to declare these solemn truths (Luke 16:31). GEO OFFOR. TO THE READER Courteous Reader, I have written to thee now about the Barren Fig-tree, or how it will fare with the fruitless professor that standeth in the vineyard of God. Of what complexion thou art I cannot certainly divine; but the parable tells thee that the cumber-ground must be cut down. A cumber-ground professor is not only a provocation to God, a stumbling-block to the world, and a blemish to religion, but a snare to his own soul also. ‘Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish for ever, like his own dung; they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?’ (Job 20:6, 7). Now ‘they count it pleasure to riot in the daytime.’ But what will they do when the axe is fetched out? (2 Peter 2:13, 14). The tree whose fruit withereth is reckoned a tree without fruit, a tree twice dead, one that must be ‘plucked up by the roots’ (Jude 12). O thou cumber-ground, God expects fruit, God will come seeking fruit shortly. My exhortation, therefore, is to professors that they look to it, that they take heed. The barren fig-tree in the vineyard, and the bramble in the wood, are both prepared for the fire. Profession is not a covert to hide from the eye of God; nor will it palliate the revengeful threatening of his justice; he will command to cut it down shortly. The church, and a profession, are the best of places for the upright, but the worst in the world for the cumber-ground. He must be cast, as profane, out of the mount of God: cast, I say, over the wall of the vineyard, there to wither; thence to be gathered and burned. ‘It had ben better for them not to have known the way of righteousness’ (2 Peter 2:21). And yet if they had not, they had been damned; but it is better to go to hell without, than in, or from under a profession. These ‘shall receive greater damnation’ (Luke 20:47). If thou be a professor, read and tremble: if thou be profane, do so likewise. For if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinners appear? Cumber-ground, take heed of the axe! Barren fig-tree, beware of the fire! But I will keep thee no longer out of the book. Christ Jesus, the dresser of the vineyard, take care of thee, dig about thee, and dung thee, that thou mayest bear fruit; that when the Lord of the vineyard cometh with his axe to seek for fruit, or pronounce the sentence of damnation on the barren fig-tree, thou mayest escape that judgment. The cumber-ground must to the wood-pile, and thence to the fire. Farewell. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus in sincerity. Amen. JOHN BUNYAN THE BARREN FIG-TREE or THE DOOM AND DOWNFALL OF THE FRUITLESS PROFESSOR ‘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 THE 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.’—LUKE 13:6–9. At the beginning of this chapter we read how some of the Jews came to Jesus Christ, to tell him of the cruelty of Pontius Pilate, in mingling the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices. A heathenish and prodigious act; for therein he showed, not only his malice against the Jewish nation, but also against their worship, and consequently their God. An action, I say, not only heathenish, but prodigious also; for the Lord Jesus, paraphrasing upon this fact of his, teacheth the Jews, that without repentance ‘they should all likewise perish.’ ‘Likewise,’ that is by the hand and rage of the Roman empire. Neither should they be more able to avoid the stroke, than were those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them (Luke 13:1–5). The fulfilling of which prophecy, for their hardness of heart, and impenitency, was in the days of Titus, son of Vespasian, about forty years after the death of Christ. Then, I say, were these Jews, and their city, both environed round on every side, wherein both they and it, to amazement, were miserably overthrown. God gave them sword and famine, pestilence and blood, for their outrage against the Son of his love. So wrath ‘came upon them to the uttermost’ (1 Thess 2:16).2 Now, to prevent their old and foolish salvo, which they always had in readiness against such prophecies and denunciations of judgment, the Lord Jesus presents them with this parable, in which he emphatically shows them that their cry of being the temple of the Lord, and of their being the children of Abraham, &c., and their being the church of God, would not stand them in any stead. As who should say, It may be you think to help yourselves against this my prophecy of your utter and unavoidable overthrow, by the interest which you have in your outward privileges. But all these will fail you; for what think you? ‘A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.’ This is your case! The Jewish land is God’s vineyard; I know it; and I know also, that you are the fig-trees. But behold, there wanteth the main thing, fruit; for the sake, and in expectation of which, he set this vineyard with trees. Now, seeing the fruit is not found amongst you, the fruit, I say, for the sake of which he did at first plant this vineyard, what remains but that in justice he command to cut you down as those that cumber the ground, that he may plant himself another vineyard? ‘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?’ This therefore must be your end, although you are planted in the garden of God; for the barrenness and unfruitfulness of your hearts and lives you must be cut off, yea, rooted up, and cast out of the vineyard. In parables there are two things to be taken notice of, and to be inquired into of them that read. First, The metaphors made use of. Second, The doctrine or mysteries couched under such metaphors. The metaphors in this parable are, 1. A certain man; 2. A vineyard; 3. A fig-tree, barren or fruitless; 4. A dresser; 5. Three years; 6. Digging and dunging, &c. The doctrine, or mystery, couched under these words is to show us what is like to become of a fruitless or formal professor. For, 1. By the man in the parable is meant God the Father (Luke 15:11). 2. By the vineyard, his church (Isa 5:7). 3. By the fig-tree, a professor. 4. By the dresser, the Lord Jesus. 5. By the fig-tree’s barrenness, the professor’s fruitlessness. 6. By the three years, the patience of God that for a time he extendeth to barren professors. 7. This calling to the dresser of the vineyard to cut it down, is to show the outcries of justice against fruitless professors. 8. The dresser’s interceding is to show how the Lord Jesus steps in, and takes hold of the head of his Father’s axe, to stop, or at least to defer, the present execution of a barren fig-tree. 9. The dresser’s desire to try to make the fig-tree fruitful, is to show you how unwilling he is that even a barren fig-tree should yet be barren, and perish. 10. His digging about it, and dunging of it, is to show his willingness to apply gospel helps to this barren professor, if haply he may be fruitful. 11. The supposition that the fig-tree may yet continue fruitless, is to show, that when Christ Jesus hath done all, there are some professors will abide barren and fruitless. 12. The determination upon this supposition, at last to cut it down, is a certain prediction of such professor’s unavoidable and eternal damnation. But to take this parable into pieces, and to discourse more particularly, though with all brevity, upon all the parts thereof. ‘A certain MAN had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard’ The MAN, I told you, is to present us with God the Father; by which similitude he is often set out in the New Testament. Observe then, that it is no new thing, if you find in God’s church barren fig-trees, fruitless professors; even as here you see is a tree, a fruitless tree, a fruitless fig-tree in the vineyard.3 Fruit is not so easily brought forth as a profession is got into; it is easy for a man to clothe himself with a fair show in the flesh, to word it, and say, Be thou warmed and filled with the best. It is no hard thing to do these with other things; but to be fruitful, to bring forth fruit to God, this doth not every tree, no not every fig-tree that stands in the vineyard of God. Those words also, ‘Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away,’ assert the same thing (John 15:2). There are branches in Christ, in Christ’s body mystical, which is his church, his vineyard, that bear not fruit, wherefore the hand of God is to take them away: I looked for grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes, that is, no fruit at all that was acceptable with God (Isa 5:4). Again, ‘Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself,’ none to God; he is without fruit to God (Hosea 10:1). All these, with many more, show us the truth of the observation, and that God’s church may be cumbered with fruitless fig-trees, with barren professors. Had a FIG-TREE Although there be in God’s church that be barren and fruitless; yet, as I said, to see to, they are like the rest of the trees, even a fig-tree. It was not an oak, nor a willow, nor a thorn, nor a bramble; but a FIG-TREE. ‘they come unto thee as the people cometh’ (Eze 33:31). ‘They delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God. They ask of me the ordinances of justice, they take delight in approaching to God,’ and yet but barren, fruitless, and unprofitable professors (Isa 58:2–4). Judas also was one of the twelve, a disciple, an apostle, a preacher, an officer, yea, and such a one as none of the eleven mistrusted, but preferred before themselves, each one crying out, ‘Is it I? Is it I?’ (Mark 14:19). None of them, as we read of (John 6:70), mistrusting Judas; yet he in Christ’s eye was the barren fig-tree, a devil, a fruitless professor. The foolish virgins also went forth of the world with the other, had lamps, and light, and were awakened with the other; yea, had boldness to go forth, when the midnight cry was made, with the other; and thought that they could have looked Christ in the face, when he sat upon the throne of judgment, with the other; and yet but foolish, but barren fig-trees, but fruitless professors. ‘Many,’ saith Christ, ‘will say unto me in that day,’ this and that, and will also talk of many wonderful works; yet, behold, he finds nothing in them but the fruits of unrighteousness (Matt 7:22, 23). They were altogether barren and fruitless professors. Had a fig-tree PLANTED This word PLANTED doth also reach far; it supposeth one taken out of its natural soil, or removed from the place it grew in once; one that seemed to be called, awakened; and not only so, but by strong hand carried from the world to the church; from nature to grace; from sin to godliness. ‘Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it’ (Psa 80:8). Of some of the branches of this vine were there unfruitful professors. It must be concluded, therefore, that this professor, that remaineth notwithstanding fruitless, is, as to the view and judgment of the church, rightly brought in thither, to wit, by confession of faith, of sin, and a show of repentance and regeneration; thus false brethren creep in unawares!4 All these things this word planted intimateth; yea, further, that the church is satisfied with them, consents they should abide in the garden, and counteth them sound as the rest. But before God, in the sight of God, they are graceless professors, barren and fruitless fig-trees. Therefore it is one thing to be in the church, or in a profession; and another to be of the church, and to belong to that kingdom that is prepared for the saint, that is so indeed. Otherwise, ‘Being planted, shall it prosper? shall it not utterly wither, when the east-wind toucheth it? It shall wither in the furrows where it grew’ (Eze 17:10). Had a fig-tree planted in HIS vineyard In HIS vineyard. Hypocrites, with rotten hearts, are not afraid to come before God in Sion. These words therefore suggest unto us a prodigious kind of boldness and hardened fearlessness. For what presumption higher, and what attempt more desperate, than for a man that wanteth grace, and the true knowledge of God, to crowd himself, in that condition, into the house or church of God; or to make profession of, and desire that the name of God should be called upon him? For the man that maketh a profession of the religion of Jesus Christ, that man hath, as it were, put the name of God upon himself, and is called and reckoned now, how fruitless soever before God or men, the man that hath to do with God, the man that God owneth, and will stand for. This man, I say, by his profession, suggesteth this to all that know him to be such a professor. Men merely natural, I mean men that have not got the devilish art of hypocrisy, are afraid to think of doing thus. ‘And of the rest durst no man join himself to them; but the people magnified them’ (Acts 5:13). And, indeed, it displeaseth God. ‘Ye have brought,’ saith he, ‘men uncircumcised into my sanctuary’ (Eze 44:7). And again, ‘When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?’ saith God (Isa 1:12). They have therefore learned this boldness of none in the visible world, they only took it of the devil, for he, and he only, with these his disciples, attempt to present themselves in the church before God. ‘The tares are the children of the wicked one.’ The tares, that is, the hypocrites, that are Satan’s brood, the generation of vipers, that cannot escape the damnation of hell. HAD a fig-tree planted in his vineyard He doth not say, He planted a fig-tree, but there was a fig-tree there; he HAD, or found a fig-tree planted in his vineyard. The great God will now acknowledge the barren fig-tree, or barren professor, to be his workmanship, or a tree of his bringing in, only the text saith, he had one there. This is much like that in Matthew 15:13—’Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.’ Here again are plants in his vineyard which God will not acknowledge to be of his planting; and he seems to suggest that in his vineyard are many such. Every plant, or all those plants or professors, that are got into the assembly of the saints, or into the profession of their religion, without God and his grace, ‘shall be rooted up.’ ‘And when the King came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on the wedding-garment. And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding-garment?’ (Matt 22:11, 12). Here is one so cunning and crafty that he beguiled all the guests; he got and kept in the church even until the King himself came in to see the guests; but his subtilty got him nothing; it did not blind the eyes of the King; it did not pervert the judgment of the righteous. ‘Friend, how camest thou in hither?’ did overtake him at last; even a public rejection; the King discovered him in the face of all present. ‘How camest thou in hither?’ My Father did not bring thee hither; I did not bring thee hither; my Spirit did not bring thee hither; thou art not of the heavenly Father’s planting. ‘How camest thou in hither?’ He that ‘entereth not by the door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber’ (John 10:1). This text also is full and plain to our purpose; for this man came not in by the door, yet got into the church; he got in by climbing; he broke in at the windows; he got something of the light and glory of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in his head; and so, hardy wretch that he was, he presumed to crowd himself among the children. But how is this resented? What saith the King of him? Why, this is his sign, ‘the same is a thief and a robber.’ See ye here also, if all they be owned as the planting of God that get into his church or profession of his name. ‘Had a fig-tree.’ Had one without a wedding-garment, had a thief in his garden, at his wedding, in his house. These climbed up some other way. There are many ways to get into the church of God, and profession of his name, besides, and without an entering by the door. 1. There is the way of lying and dissembling, and at this gap the Gibeonites got in (Josh 9 &c). 2. There is sometimes falseness among some pastors, either for the sake of carnal relations, or the like; at this hole Tobiah, the enemy of God, got in (Neh 13:4–9). 3. There is sometimes negligence, and too much uncircumspectness in the whole church; thus the uncircumcised got in (Eze 44:7, 8). 4. Sometimes, again, let the church be never so circumspect, yet these have so much help from the devil that they beguile them all, and so get in. These are of the sort of thieves that Paul complains of, ‘False brethren, that are brought in unawares’ (Gal 2:4). Jude also cries out of these, ‘Certain men crept in unawares’ (Jude 4). Crept in! What, were they so lowly? A voluntary humility, a neglecting of the body, not in any humour (Col 2:23).5 O! how seemingly self-denying are some of these ‘creeping things,’ that yet are to be held, (as we shall know them) an abomination to Israel (Lev 11:43, 44). But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour (2 Tim 2:20). By these words the apostle seems to take it for granted, that as there hath been, so there still will be these kind of fig-trees, these barren professors in the house, when all men have done what they can; even as in a great house there are always vessels to dishonour, as well as those to honour and glory; vessels of wood and of earth, as well as of silver and gold. So, then, there must be wooden professors in the garden of God, there must be earthy, earthen professors in his vineyard; but that methinks is the biting word, ‘and some to dishonour’ (Rom 9:21, 22). That to the Romans is dreadful, but this seems to go beyond it; that speaks but of the reprobate in general, but this of such and such in particular; that speaks of their hardening but in the common way, but this that they must be suffered to creep into the church, there to fit themselves for their place, their own place, the place prepared for them of this sort only (Acts 1:25). As the Lord Jesus said once of the Pharisees, These ‘shall receive greater damnation’ (Luke 20:47). Barren fig-tree, fruitless professor, hast thou heard all these things? Hast thou considered that this fig-tree is not acknowledged of God to be his, but is denied to be of his planting, and of his bringing unto his wedding? Dost not thou see that thou art called a thief and a robber, that hast either climbed up to, or crept in at another place than the door? Dost thou not hear that there will be in God’s house wooden and earthly professors, and that no place will serve to fit those for hell but the house, the church, the vineyard of God? Barren fig-tree, fruitless Christian, do not thine ears tingle? And HE came and sought fruit thereon When a man hath got a profession, and is crowded into the church and house of God, the question is not now, Hath he life, hath he right principles? but, Hath he fruit? HE came seeking fruit thereon. It mattereth not who brought thee in hither, whether God or the devil, or thine own vain-glorious heart; but hast thou fruit? Dost thou bring forth fruit unto God? And, ‘Let every one that nameth the name of’ the Lord Jesus ‘Christ depart from iniquity’ (2 Tim 2:19). He doth not say, And let every one that hath grace, or let those that have the Spirit of God; but, ‘Let every one that nameth the name of’ the Lord Jesus ‘Christ depart form iniquity.’ What do men meddle with religion for? Why do they call themselves by the name of the Lord Jesus, if they have not the grace of God, if they have not the Spirit of Christ? God, therefore, expecteth fruit. What do they do in the vineyard? Let them work, or get them out; the vineyard must have labourers in it. ‘Son, go WORK to-day in my vineyard’ (Matt 21:28). Wherefore, want of grace and want of Spirit will not keep God from seeking fruit. ‘And he came and sought fruit thereon’ (Luke 13:6, 8:8). He requireth that which he seemeth to have. Every man in the vineyard and house of God promiseth himself, professeth to others, and would have all men take it for granted, that a heavenly principle is in him, why then should not God seek fruit? As for them, therefore, that will retain the name of Christians, fearing God, and yet make no conscience of bringing forth fruit to him, he saith to such, Away! ‘As for you,—Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me,’ &c. (Eze 20:39). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? God expecteth fruit, God calls for fruit, yea, God will shortly come seeking fruit on this barren fig-tree. Barren fig-tree, either bear fruit, or go out of the vineyard; and yet then thy case will be unspeakably damnable. Yea, let me add, if thou shalt neither bear fruit nor depart, God will take his name out of thy mouth (Jer 44:26). He will have fruit. And I say further, if thou wilt do neither, yet God in justice and righteousness will still come for fruit. And it will be in vain for thee to count this austerity. He will reap where he hath not sowed, and gather where he hath not strewed (Matt 25:24–26). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? Quest. What if a man have no grace? Answ. Yes, seeing he hath a profession. And he came and sought fruit THEREON A church, then, and a profession, are not places where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves and sins from God. Some of old thought that because they could cry, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!’ that therefore they were delivered, or had a dispensation to do the abominations which they committed, as some in our days; for who, say they, have a right to the creatures, if not Christians, if not professors, if not church members? And, from this conclusion, let go the reins of their inordinate affections after pride, ambition, gluttony; pampering themselves without fear (Jude 12), daubing themselves with the lust-provoking fashions of the times; to walk with stretched out necks, naked breasts, frizzled fore-tops, wanton gestures, in gorgeous apparel, mixed with gold and pearl, and costly array.6 I will not here make inspection into their lives, their carriages at home, in their corners and secret holes; but certainly, persons thus spirited, thus principled, and thus inclined, have but empty boughs, boughs that want the fruit that God expects, and that God will come down to seek. Barren fig-tree, thou art not licensed by thy profession, nor by the Lord of the vineyard, to bear these clusters of Gomorrah; neither shall the vineyard, nor thy being crowded among the trees there, shelter thee from the sight of the eye of God. Many make religion their cloak, and Christ their stalking-horse, and by that means cover themselves and hide their own wickedness from men; but God seeth their hearts, hath his print upon the heels of their feet, and pondereth all their goings; and at last, when their iniquity is found to be hateful, he will either smite them with hardness of heart, and so leave them, or awaken them to bring forth fruit. Fruit he looks for, seeks, and expects, barren fig-tree! But what! come into the presence of God to sin! What! come into the presence of God to hide thy sin! Alas, man! the church is God’s garden, and Christ Jesus is the great Apostle and High-priest of our profession. What! come into the house that is called by my name! into the place where mine honour dwelleth! (Psa 26:8). Where mine eyes and heart are continually! (1 Kings 9:3). What! come there to sin, to hide thy sin, to cloak thy sin! His plants are an orchard with pleasant fruits (Cant 4:13). And every time he goeth into his garden, it is to see the fruits of the valley, and to ‘see if the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.’ Yea, saith he, he came seeking fruit on this fig-tree. The church is the place of God’s delight, where he ever desires to be: there he is night and day. He is there to seek for fruit, to seek for fruit of all and every tree in the garden. Wherefore, assure thyself, O fruitless one, that thy ways must needs be open before the eyes of the Lord. One black sheep is soon espied, although in company with many; that is taken with the first cast of the eye; its different colour still betrays it. I say, therefore, a church and a profession are not places where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves from God that seeks for fruit. ‘My vineyard,’ saith God, ‘which is mine, is before me’ (Cant 8:12). And he came and sought fruit thereon, AND FOUND NONE Barren fig-tree, hearken; the continual non-bearing of fruit is a dreadful sign that thou art to come to a dreadful end, as the winding up of this parable concludeth. ‘AND FOUND NONE.’ None at all, or none to God’s liking; for when he saith, ‘He came seeking fruit thereon,’ he means ‘fruit meet for God,’ pleasant fruit, fruit good and sweet (Heb 6). Alas! it is not any fruit will serve; bad fruit is counted none. ‘Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire’ (Matt 3:10). First. There is a fruit among professors that withers, and so never comes to be ripe; a fruit that is smitten in the growth, and comes not to maturity; and this is reckoned no fruit. This fruit those professors bear that have many fair beginnings, or blossoms; that make many fair offers of repentance and amendment; that begin to pray, to resolve, and to break off their sins by righteousness, but stop at those beginnings, and bring not fruit forth to perfection. This man’s fruit is withered, wrinkled, smitten fruit, and is in effect no fruit at all. Second. There is a hasty fruit, such as is the ‘corn upon the house-top’ (Psa 129:6); or that which springs up on the dung-hill, that runs up suddenly, violently, with great stalks and big show, and yet at last proves empty of kernel. This fruit is to be found in those professors that on a sudden are so awakened, so convinced, and so affected with their condition that they shake the whole family, the endship,7 the whole town. For a while they cry hastily, vehemently, dolefully, mournfully, and yet all is but a pang, an agony, a fit, they bring not forth fruit with patience. These are called those hasty fruits that ‘shall be a fading flower’ (Isa 28:4). Third. There is a fruit that is vile and ill-tasted, how long soever it be in growing; the root is dried, and cannot convey a sufficiency of sap to the branches, to ripen the fruit (Jer 24). These are the fruits of such professors whose hearts are estranged from communion with the Holy Ghost, whose fruit groweth from themselves, from their parts, gifts, strength of wit, natural or moral principles. These, notwithstanding they bring forth fruit, are called empty vines, such as bring not forth fruit to God. ‘Their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit; yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb’ (Hosea 9:16). Fourth. There is a fruit that is wild. ‘I looked for grapes and it brought forth wild grapes’ (Isa 5:4). I observe, that as there are trees and herbs that are wholly right and noble, fit indeed for the vineyard; so there are also their semblance, but wild; not right, but ignoble. There is the grape, and the wild grape; the vine, and the wild vine; the rose, and canker rose; flowers and wild flowers; the apple, and the wild apple which we call the crab. Now, fruit from these wild things, however they may please the children to play with, yet the prudent and grave count them of little or no value. There are also in the world a generation of professors that, notwithstanding their profession, are wild by nature; yea, such as were never cut out, or off, from the wild olive-tree, nor never yet planted into the good olive-tree. Now, these can bring nothing forth but wild olive berries, they cannot bring forth fruit unto God. Such are all those that have lightly taken up a profession, and crept into the vineyard without a new birth, and the blessing of regeneration. Fifth. There is also untimely fruit: ‘Even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs’ (Rev 6:13). Fruit out of season, and so no fruit to God’s liking. There are two sorts of professors subject to bring forth untimely fruit: 1. They that bring forth fruit too soon; 2. They that bring forth fruit too late. 1. They that bring forth too soon. They are such as at present receive the Word with joy; and anon, before they have root downwards, they thrust forth upwards; but having not root, when the sun ariseth, they are smitten, and miserably die without fruit. These professors are those light and inconsiderate ones that think nothing but peace will attend the gospel; and so anon rejoice at the tidings, without foreseeing the evil. Wherefore, when the evil comes, being unarmed, and so not able to stand any longer, they die, and are withered, and bring forth no fruit. ‘He that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the Word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the Word, by and by he is offended’ (Matt 13:20, 21). There is, in Isaiah 28:4, mention made of some ‘whose glorious beauty shall be a fading flower,’ because it is ‘fruit before the summer.’ Both these are untimely fruit. 2. They also bring forth untimely fruit that stay till the season is over. God will have his fruit in his season; I say, he will receive them of such men as shall render them to him in their seasons (Matt 21:41). The missing of the season is dangerous; staying till the door is shut is dangerous (Matt 25:10, 11). Many there be that come not till the flood of God’s anger is raised, and too deep for them to wade through; ‘Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him’ (Psa 32:6). Esau AFTERWARDS is fearful: ‘For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears’ (Heb 12:17). So the children of Israel, they brought to God the fruits of obedience too late; their ‘Lo, we be here’ came too late (Num 14:40–42); their ‘We will go up’ came too late (Num 14:40–44). The Lord had sworn before, ‘that they should not possess the land’ (Matt 25:10, 27:5). All these are such as bring forth untimely fruit (Heb 12:17; Luke 13:25–27). It is the hard hap of the reprobate to do all things too late; to be sensible of his want of grace too late; to be sorry for sin too late; to seek repentance too late; to ask for mercy, and to desire to go to glory too late. Thus you see, 1. That fruit smitten in the growth, that withereth, and that comes not to maturity, is no fruit. 2. That hasty fruit, such as ‘the grass upon the house-top,’ withereth also before it groweth up, and is no fruit (Psa 129:6). 3. That the fruit that is vile, and ill-tasted, is no fruit. That wild fruit, wild grapes, are no fruit (Rev 6). That untimely fruit, such as comes too soon, or that comes too late, such as come not in their season, are no fruit. And he came and sought FRUIT thereon, and found none Nothing will do but fruit; he looked for grapes. ‘When the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it’ (Matt 21:34). Quest. But what fruit doth God expect? Answ. Good fruit. ‘Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down’ (Matt 7:19). Now, before the fruit can be good, the tree must be good; for good fruit makes not a good tree, but a ‘good tree bringeth forth good fruit. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?’ A man must be good, else he can bring forth no good fruit; he must have righteousness imputed, that he may stand good in God;’s sight from the curse of his law; he must have a principle of righteousness in his soul, else how should he bring forth good fruits? and hence it is, that a Christian’s fruits are called ‘the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ’ (Gal 5:22, 23; Phil 1:11). The fruits of the Spirit, therefore the Spirit must be there; the fruits of righteousness, therefore righteousness must first be there. But to particularize in a few things briefly:— First. God expecteth fruit that will answer, and be worthy of the repentance which thou feignest thyself to have. Every one in a profession, and that hath crowded into the vineyard, pretendeth to repentance; now of every such soul, God expecteth that the fruits of repentance be found to attend them. ‘Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance,’ or answerable to thy profession of the doctrine of repentance (Matt 3:8). Barren fig-tree, seeing thou art a professor, and art got into the vineyard, thou standest before the Lord of the vineyard as one of the trees of the garden; wherefore he looketh for fruit from thee, as from the rest of the trees in the vineyard; fruits, I say, and such as may declare thee in heart and life one that hath made sound profession of repentance. By thy profession thou hast said, I am sensible of the evil of sin. Now then, live such a life as declares that thou art sensible of the evil of sin. By thy profession thou hast said, I am sorry for my sin. Why, then, live such a life as may declare this sorrow. By thy profession thou hast said, I am ashamed of my sin; yea, but live such a life, that men by that may see thy shame for sin (Psa 38:18; Jer 31:19). By thy profession thou sayest, I have turned from, left off, and am become an enemy to every appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22). Ah! but doth thy life and conversation declare thee to be such an one? Take heed, barren fig-tree, lest thy life should give thy profession the lie. I say again, take heed, for God himself will come for fruit. ‘And he sought fruit thereon.’ You have some professors that are only saints before men when they are abroad, but are devils and vipers at home; saints by profession, but devils by practice; saints in word, but sinners in heart and life. These men may have the profession, but they want the fruits that become repentance.8 Barren fig-tree, can it be imagined that those that paint themselves did ever repent of their pride? or that those that pursue this world did ever repent of their covetousness? or that those that walk with wanton eyes did ever repent of their fleshly lusts? Where, barren fig-tree, is the fruit of these people’s repentance? Nay, do they not rather declare to the world that they have repented of their profession? Their fruits look as if they had. Their pride saith they have repented of their humility. Their covetousness declareth that they are weary of depending upon God; and doth not thy wanton actions declare that thou abhorrest chastity? Where is thy fruit, barren fig-tree? Repentance is not only a sorrow, and a shame for, but a turning from sin to God; it is called ‘repentance from dead works’ (Heb 6:1). Hast thou that ‘godly sorrow’ that ‘worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of?’ (2 Cor 7:10, 11). How dost thou show thy carefulness, and clearing of thyself; thy indignation against sin; they fear of offending; thy vehement desire to walk with God; thy zeal for his name and glory in the world? And what revenge hast thou in thy heart against every thought of disobedience? But where is the fruit of this repentance? Where is thy watching, thy fasting, thy praying against the remainders of corruption? Where is thy self-abhorrence, thy blushing before God, for the sin that is yet behind? Where is thy tenderness of the name of God and his ways? Where is thy self-denial and contentment? How dost thou show before men the truth of thy turning to God? Hast thou ‘renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness?’ Canst thou commend thyself ‘to every man’s conscience in the sight of God?’ (2 Cor 4:2). Second. God expecteth fruits that shall answer that faith which thou makest profession of. The professor that is got into the vineyard of God doth feign that he hath the faith, the faith most holy, the faith of God’s elect. Ah! but where are thy fruits, barren fig-tree? The faith of the Romans was ‘spoken of throughout the whole world’ (Rom 1:8). And the Thessalonians’ faith grew exceedingly (2 Thess 1:3). Thou professest to believe thou hast a share in another world: hast thou let got THIS, barren fig-tree? Thou professest thou believest in Christ: is he thy joy, and the life of thy soul? Yea, what conformity unto him, to his sorrows and sufferings? What resemblance hath his crying, and groaning, and bleeding, and dying, wrought in thee? Dost thou ‘bear about in thy body the dying of the Lord Jesus?’ and is also the life of Jesus ‘made manifest in thy mortal body?’ (2 Cor 4:10, 11). Barren fig-tree, ‘show me thy faith by thy works.’ ‘Show out of a good conversation thy works with meekness of wisdom’ (James 2:18, 3:13). What fruit, barren fig-tree, what degree of heart holiness? for faith purifies the heart (Acts 15:9). What love to the Lord Jesus? for ‘faith worketh by love’ (Gal 5:6). Third. God expecteth fruits according to the seasons of grace thou art under, according to the rain that cometh upon thee. Perhaps thou art planted in a good soil, by great waters, that thou mightest bring forth branches, and bear fruit; that thou mightest be a goodly vine or fig-tree. Shall he not therefore seek for fruit, for fruit answerable to the means? Barren fig-tree, God expects it, and will find it too, if ever he bless thee. ‘For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned’ (Heb 6:7, 8). Barren soul, how many showers of grace, how many dews from heaven, how many times have the silver streams of the city of God run gliding by thy roots, to cause thee to bring forth fruit! These showers and streams, and the drops that hang upon thy boughs, will all be accounted for; and will they not testify against thee that thou oughtest, of right, to be burned? Hear and tremble, O thou barren professor! Fruits that become thy profession of the gospel, the God of heaven expecteth. The gospel hath in it the forgiveness of sins, the kingdom of heaven, and eternal life; but what fruit hath thy profession of a belief of these things put forth in thy heart and life? Hast thou given thyself to the Lord? and is all that thou hast to be ventured for his name in this world? Dost thou walk like one that is bought with a price, even with the price of precious blood? Fourth. The fruit that God expecteth is such as is meet for himself; fruit that may glorify God. God’s trees are trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified; fruit that tasteth of heaven, abundance of such fruit. For ‘herein,’ saith Christ, ‘is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit’ (John 15:8). Fruits of all kinds, new and old; the fruits of the Spirit are in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth. Fruits before the world, fruits before the saints, fruits before God, fruits before angels. O my brethren, ‘what manner of persons ought we to be,’ who have subscribed to the Lord, and have called ourselves by the name of Israel? ‘One shall say I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel’ (Isa 44:5). Barren fig-tree, hast thou subscribed, hast thou called thyself by the name of Jacob, and surnamed thyself by the name of Israel? All this thou pretendest to, who art got into the vineyard, who art placed among the trees of the garden of God. God doth therefore look for such fruit as is worthy of his name, as is meet for him; as the apostle saith, ‘we should walk worthy of God’; that is, so as we may show in every place that the presence of God is with us, his fear in us, and his majesty and authority upon our actions. Fruits meet for him, such a dependence upon him, such trust in his word, such satisfaction in his presence, such a trusting of him with all my concerns, and such delight in the enjoyment of him, that may demonstrate that his fear is in my heart, that my soul is wrapped up in his things, and that my body, and soul, and estate, and all, are in truth, through his grace, at his dispose, fruit meet for him. Hearty thanks, and blessing God for Jesus Christ, for his good word, for his free grace, for the discovery of himself in Christ to the soul, secret longing after another world, fruit meet for him. Liberality to the poor saints, to the poor world; a life in word and deed exemplary; a patient and quiet enduring of all things, till I have done and suffered the whole will of God, which he hath appointed for me. ‘That on the good ground are they which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience’ (Luke 8:15). This is bringing forth fruit unto God; having our ‘fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life’ (Rom 7:4, 6:22, 14:8). Fifth. The Lord expects fruit becoming the vineyard of God. ‘The vineyard,’ saith he, ‘in a very fruitful hill’: witness the fruit brought forth in all ages (Isa 5:1). The most barren trees that ever grew in the wood of this world, when planted in this vineyard by the God of heaven, what fruit to Godward have they brought forth! ‘Abel offered the more excellent sacrifice’ (Heb 11:4). Enoch walked with God three hundred years (Heb 11:5). Noah, by his life of faith, ‘condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith’ (Heb 11:7). Abraham left his country, and went out after God, not knowing whither he went (Heb 11:8). Moses left a kingdom, and run the hazard of the wrath of the king, for the love he had to God and Christ. What shall I say of them who had trials, ‘not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection? They were stoned; they were sawn asunder; were tempted; were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented’ (Heb 11:35–37). Peter left his father, ship, and nets (Matt 4:18–20). Paul turned off from the feet of Gamaliel. Men brought their goods and possessions (the price of them) and cast it down at the apostle’s feet (Acts 19:18–20). And others brought their books together, and burned them; curious books, though they were worth fifty thousand pieces of silver. I could add how many willingly offered themselves in all ages, and their all, for the worthy name of the Lord Jesus, to be racked, starved, hanged, burned, drowned, pulled in pieces, and a thousand calamities.9 Barren fig-tree, the vineyard of God hath been a fruitful place. What dost thou there? What dost thou bear? God expects fruit according to, or becoming the soil of the vineyard. Sixth. The fruit which God expecteth is such as becometh God’s husbandry and labour. The vineyard is God’s husbandry, or tillage. ‘I am the true vine, ‘saith Christ, ‘and my Father is the husbandman’ (John 15:1). And again, ‘Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building’ (1 Cor 3:9). The vineyard; God fences it, God gathereth out the stones, God builds the tower, and the wine-press in the midst thereof. Here is labour, here is protection, here is removing of hindrances, here is convenient purgation, and all that there might be fruit. Barren fig-tree, what fruit hast thou? Hast thou fruit becoming the care of God, the protection of God, the wisdom of God, the patience and husbandry of God? It is the fruit of the vineyard that is either the shame or the praise of the husbandman. ‘I went by the field of the slothful,’ saith Solomon, ‘and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof’ (Prov 24:30–32). Barren fig-tree, if men should make a judgment of the care, and pains, and labour of God in his church, by the fruit that thou bringest forth, what might they say? Is he not slothful, is not he careless, is he not without discretion? O! thy thorns, thy nettles, thy barren heart and barren life, is a continual provocation to the eyes of his glory, as likewise a dishonour to the glory of his grace. Barren fig-tree, hast thou heard all these things? I will add yet one more. ‘And he came and sought fruit thereon’ The question is not now, What thou thinkest of thyself, nor what all the people of God think of thee, but what thou shalt be found in that day when God shall search thy boughs for fruit? When Sodom was to be searched for righteous men, God would not, in that matter, trust his faithful servant Abraham; but still, as Abraham interceded, God answered, ‘If I find fifty,—or forty and five there, I will not destroy the city’ (Gen 18:20–28). Barren fig-tree, what sayest thou? God will come down to see, God will make search for fruit himself. ‘And he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of the vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?’ These words are the effects of God’s search into the boughs of a barren fig-tree; he sought fruit, and found none—none to his liking, none pleasant and good. Therefore, first, he complains of the want thereof to the dresser; calls him to come, and see, and take notice of the tree; then signifieth his pleasure: he will have it removed, taken away, cut down from cumbering the ground. Observe, The barren fig-tree is the object of God’s displeasure; God cannot bear with a fruitless professor. THEN said he, &c. THEN, after this provocation; then, after he had sought and found no fruit, then. This word, THEN, doth show us a kind of an inward disquietness; as he saith also in another place, upon a like provocation. ‘THEN the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven’ (Deut 29:18–20). THEN; it intimateth that he was now come to a point, to a resolution what to do with this fig-tree. ‘Then said he to the dresser of this vineyard,’ that is, to Jesus Christ, ‘behold,’ as much as to say, come hither, here is a fig-tree in my vineyard, here is a professor in my church, that is barren, that beareth no fruit. Observe, However the barren professor thinks of himself on earth, the Lord cries out in heaven against him. ‘And now go to, I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and I will break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down’ (Isa 5:5). ‘Behold, THESE THREE YEARS I come seeking fruit’ Observe, ‘THESE THREE YEARS.’ God cries out that this patience is abused, that his forbearance is abused. Behold, these three years I have waited, forborne; these three years I have deferred mine anger. ‘Therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting’ (Jer 15:6). ‘These three years.’ Observe, God layeth up all the time; I say, a remembrance of all the time that a barren fig-tree, or a fruitless professor, misspendeth in this world. As he saith also of Israel of old, ‘forty years long was I grieved with this generation’ (Psa 95:10). ‘These three years,’ &c. These three seasons: Observe, God remembers how many seasons thou hast misspent: for these three years signify so many seasons. And when the time of fruit drew nigh, that is, about the season they begin to be ripe, or that according to the season might so have been. Barren fig-tree, thou hast had time, seasons, sermons, ministers, afflictions, judgments, mercies, and what not; and yet hast not been fruitful. Thou hast had awakenings, reproofs, threatenings, comforts, and yet hast not been fruitful. Thou hast had patterns, examples, citations, provocations, and yet has not been fruitful. Well, God hath laid up thy three years with himself. He remembers every time, every season, every sermon, every minister, affliction, judgment, mercy, awakening, pattern, example, citation, provocation; he remembers all. As he said of Israel of old, ‘They have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice’ (Num 14:22). And again, ‘I remember all their wickedness’ (Hosea 7:2). ‘These three years,’ &c. He seeks for the fruit of every season. He will not that any of his sermons, ministers, afflictions, judgments, or mercies, should be lost, or stand for insignificant things; he will have according to the benefit bestowed. (2 Chron 32:24, 25). He hath not done without a cause all that he hath done, and therefore he looketh for fruit (Eze 14:23). Look to it, barren fig-tree.10 I came ‘SEEKING’ fruit Observe, This word ‘SEEKING’ signifies a narrow search; for when a man seeks for fruit on a tree, he goes round it and round it; now looking into this bough, and then into that; he peeks into the inmost boughs, and the lowermost boughs, if perhaps fruit may be thereon. Barren fig-tree, God will look into all thy boughs, he will be with thee in thy bed-fruits, thy midnight-fruits, thy closet-fruits, thy family-fruits, thy conversation-fruits, to see if there be any among all these that are fit for, or worthy of the name of the God of heaven. He sees ‘what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark’ (Eze 8:12). ‘All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do’ (Heb 4:12, 13). Seeking fruit on ‘THIS’ fig-tree I told you before, that he keeps in remembrance the times and seasons that the barren professor had wickedly misspent. Now, forasmuch as he also pointeth out the fig-tree, THIS fig-tree, it showeth that the barren professor, above all professors, is a continual odium in the eyes of God. This fig-tree, ‘this man Coniah’ (Jer 22:28). This people draw nigh me with their mouth, but have removed their hearts far from me. God knows who they are among all the thousands of Israel that are the barren and fruitless professors; his lot will fall upon the head of Achan, though he be hid among six hundred thousand men. ‘And he brought his household, man by man, and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zera, of the tribe of Judah, was taken’ (Josh 7:17, 18). This is the Achan, this is the fig-tree, this is the barren professor! There is a man hath a hundred trees in his vineyard, and at the time of the season, he walketh into his vineyard to see how the trees flourish; and as he goes, and views, and prys, and observes how they are hanged with fruit, behold, he cometh to one where he findeth naught but leaves. Now he makes a stand; looks upon it again and again; he looks also here and there, above and below; and if after all this seeking, he finds nothing but leaves thereon, then he begins to cast in his mind, how he may know this tree next year; what stands next it, or how far it is off the hedge? But if there be nothing there that may be as a mark to know it by, then he takes his hook, and giveth it a private mark—’And the Lord set a mark upon Cain’ (Gen 4), saying, Go thy ways, fruitless fig-tree, thou hast spent this season in vain. Yet doth he not cut it down, I will try it another year: may be this was not a hitting11 season. Therefore he comes again next year, to see if now it have fruit; but as he found it before, so he finds it now, barren, barren, every year barren; he looks again, but finds no fruit. Now he begins to have second thoughts, How! neither hit last year nor this? Surely the barrenness is not in the season; sure the fault is in the tree; however, I will spare it this year also, but will give it a second mark; and it may be he toucheth it with a hot iron, because he begins to be angry. Well, at the third season he comes again for fruit, but the third year is like the first and second; no fruit yet; it only cumbereth the ground. What now must be done with this fig-tree? Why, the Lord will lop its boughs with terror; yea, the thickets of those professors with iron. I have waited, saith God, these three years; I have missed of fruit these three years; it hath been a cumber-ground these three years; cut it down. Precept hath been upon precept, and line upon line, one year after another, for these three years, but no fruit can be seen; I find none, fetch out the axe! I am sure THIS is the fig-tree, I know it from the first year; barrenness was its sign then, barrenness is its sign now; make it fit for the fire! Behold, ‘now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore, every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire’ (Matt 3:10). Observe, my brethren, God’s heart cannot stand towards a barren fig-tree. You know thus it is with yourselves. If you have a tree in your orchard or vineyard that doth only cumber the ground, you cannot look upon that tree with pleasure, with complacency and delight. No; if you do but go by it, if you do but cast your eye upon it: yea, if you do but think of that tree, you threaten it in your heart, saying, I will hew thee down shortly; I will to the fire with thee shortly: and it is in vain for any to think of persuading of you to show favour to the barren fig-tree; and if they should persuade, your answer is irresistible, It yields me no profit, it takes up room and doth no good; a better may grow in its room. Cut it down Thus, when the godly among the Jews made prayers that rebellious Israel might not be cast out of the vineyard, what saith the answer of God? (Jer 14:17). ‘Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people’: wherefore ‘cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth’ (Jer 15:1). What a resolution is here! Moses and Samuel could do almost anything with God in prayer. How many times did Moses by prayer turn away God’s judgments from even Pharaoh himself! yea, how many times did he by prayer preserve Israel, when in the wilderness, from the anger and wrath of God! (Psa 106:23). Samuel is reckoned excellent this way, yea, so excellent, that when Israel had done that fearful thing as to reject the Lord, and choose them another king, he prayed, and the Lord spared, and forgave them (1 Sam 12). But yet neither Moses nor Samuel can save a barren fig-tree. No; though Moses and Samuel stood before me, that is, pleading, arguing, interceding, supplicating, and beseeching, yet could they not incline mine heart to this people. Cut it down ‘Ay, but Lord, it is a fig-tree, a fig-tree!’ If it was a thorn, or a bramble, or a thistle, the matter would not be much; but it is a fig-tree, or a vine. Well, but mark the answer of God, ‘Son of man, What is the vine-tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon?’ (Eze 15:2, 3). If trees that are set, or planted for fruit, bring not forth that fruit, there is betwixt them and the trees of the forest no betterment at all, unless the betterment lieth in the trees of the wood, for they are fit to build withal; but a fig-tree, or a vine, if they bring not forth fruit, yea, good fruit, they are fit for nothing at all, but to be cut down and prepared for the fire; and so the prophet goes on, ‘Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel.’ If it serve not for fruit it will serve for fuel, and so ‘the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burnt.’ Ay, but these fig-trees and vines are church-members, inhabiters of Jerusalem. So was the fig-tree mentioned in the text. But what answer hath God prepared for these objections? Why, ‘Thus saith the Lord God, As the vine-tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel; so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will set my face against them, they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them’ (Eze 15:6, 7). Cut it down The woman that delighteth in her garden, if she have a slip there, suppose, if it was fruitful, she would not take five pounds for it; yet if it bear no fruit, if it wither, and dwindle, and die, and turn cumber-ground only, it may not stand in her garden. Gardens and vineyards are places for fruit, for fruit according to the nature of the plant or flowers. Suppose such a slip as I told you of before should be in your garden, and there die, would you let it abide in your garden? No; away with it, away with it! The woman comes into her garden towards the spring, where first she gives it a slight cast with her eye, then she sets to gathering out the weeds, and nettles, and stones; takes a besom and sweeps the walks; this done, she falls to prying into her herbs and slips, to see if they live, to see if they are likely to grow. Now, if she comes to one that is dead, that she is confident will not grow, up she pulls that, and makes to the heap of rubbish with it, where she despisingly casts it down, and valueth it no more than a nettle, or a weed, or than the dust she hath swept out of her walks. Yea, if any that see her should say, Why do you so? the answer is ready. It is dead, it is dead at root; if I had let it stand it would but have cumbered the ground. The strange slips, and also the dead ones, they must be ‘a heap in the day of grief, and of desperate sorrow’ (Isa 17:10, 11). Cut it down There are two manner of cuttings down; First. When a man is cast out of the vineyard. Second. When a man is cast out of the world. First. When a man is cast out of the vineyard. And that is done two ways; 1. By an immediate hand of God. 2. By the church’s due execution of the laws and censures which Christ for that purpose has left with his church. 1. God cuts down the barren fig-tree by an immediate hand, smiting his roots, blasting his branches, and so takes him away from among his people. ‘Every branch,’ saith Christ, ‘that beareth not fruit in me, he,’ my Father, ‘taketh away’ (John 15:2). He taketh him out of the church, he taketh him away from the godly. There are two things by which God taketh the barren professor from among the children of God: (1.) Strong delusions. (2.) Open profaneness. (1.) By strong delusion; such as beguile the soul with damnable doctrines, that swerve from faith and godliness, ‘They have chosen their own ways,’ saith God, ‘and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them’ (Isa 66:3, 4). I will smite them with blindness, and hardness of heart, and failing of eyes; and will also suffer the tempter to tempt and affect his hellish designs upon them. ‘God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (2 Thess 2:10–12). (2.) Sometimes God takes away a barren professor by open profaneness. There is one hath taken up a profession of that worthy name, the Lord Jesus Christ; but this profession is but a cloak; he secretly practiseth wickedness. He is a glutton, a drunkard, or covetous, or unclean. Well, saith God, I will loose the reins of this professor; I will give him up to his vile affections; I will loose the reins of his lusts before him; he shall be entangled with his beastly lusts; he shall be overcome of ungodly company. Thus they that turn aside to their own crooked ways ‘the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity’ (Psa 125:5). This is God’s hand immediately; God is now dealing with this man himself. Barren fig-tree, hearken! Thou art crowded into a profession, art got among the godly, and there art a scandal to the holy and glorious gospel; but withal so cunning that, like the sons of Zeruiah, thou art too hard for the church; she knows not how to deal with thee. Well, saith God, I will deal with that man myself, ‘I will answer that man by myself.’ He that sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes and appears before me, ‘I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb: and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord’ (Eze 14:7, 8). But, 2. God doth sometimes cut down the barren fig-tree by the church, by the church’s due execution of the laws and censures which Christ for that purpose hath left with his church. This is the meaning of that in Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5: and that in 1 Timothy 1:20 upon which now I shall not enlarge, But which way soever God dealeth with thee, O thou barren fig-tree, whither by himself immediately, or by his church, it amounts to one and the same; for if timely repentance prevent not, the end of that soul is damnation. They are blasted, and withered, and gathered by men, God’s enemies; and at last being cast into the fire burning must be their end. ‘That which beareth thorns and briars is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned’ (Heb 6:8). Second. And, again, sometimes by ‘Cut it down’ God means, cast it out of the world. Thus he cut down Nadab and Abihu, when he burned them up with fire from heaven. Thus he cut down Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when he made the earth to swallow them up (Num 3:4, 16:31–33). Thus he cut down Saul, when he gave him up to fall upon the edge of his own sword, and died (1 Sam 31:4). Thus he cut down Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, when he struck them down dead in the midst of the congregation (Acts 5:5, 10). I might here also discourse of Absalom, Ahithophel, and Judas, who were all three hanged: the first by God’s revenging hand, the others were given up of God to be their own executioners. These were barren and unprofitable fig-trees, such as God took no pleasure in, therefore he commanded to cut them down. The Psalmist saith, ‘He shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath’ (Psa 58:9). Barren fig-tree, hearken! God calls for the axe, his sword; bring it hither; here is a barren professor. Cut him down, why cumbereth he the ground? Why cumbereth it the ground? By these words the Lord suggesteth reasons of his displeasure against the barren fig-tree; it cumbereth the ground. The Holy Ghost doth not only take an argument from its barrenness, but because it is a cumber-ground, therefore cut it down; wherefore it must needs be a provocation. 1. Because, as much as in him lieth, he disappointeth the design of God in planting his vineyard; I looked that it should bring forth fruit. 2. It hath also abused his patience, his long-suffering, his three years’ patience. 3. It hath also abused his labour, his pains, his care, and providence of protection and preservation: for he hedges his vineyard, and walls it about. Cumber-ground, all these things thou abusest! He waters his vineyard, and looks to it night and day; but all these things thou hast abused. Further, there are other reasons of God’s displeasure; as, First. A cumber-ground is a very mock and reproach of religion, a mock and reproach to the ways of God, to the people of God, to the Word of God, and to the name of religion. It is expected of all hands, that all the trees in the garden of God should be fruitful: God expects fruit, the church expects fruit, the world, even the world, concludes that professors should be fruitful in good works; I say, the world expecteth that professors should be better than themselves. But, barren fig-tree, thou disappointest all. Nay, hast thou not learned the wicked ones thy ways? Hast thou not learned them to be more wicked by thy example?—but that is by the by. Barren fig-tree, thou hast disappointed others, and must be disappointed thyself! ‘Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?’ Second. The barren fig-tree takes up the room where a better tree might stand; I say, it takes up the room, it keeps, so long as it stand where it doth; a fruitful tree out of that place, and therefore it must be cut down. Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? Because the Jews stood fruitless in the vineyard, therefore, saith God, ‘The kingdom of God shall be taken from you,’ and given to a nation that shall render him their fruits in their season (Matt 21:33–41). The Jews for their barrenness were cut down, and more fruitful people put in their room. As Samuel also said to barren Saul, ‘The Lord hath rent the kingdom from thee, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine that is better than thou’ (1 Sam 15:28). The unprofitable servant must be cast out, must be cut down (Matt 25:27). Cumber-ground, how many hopeful, inclinable, forward people, hast thou by thy fruitless and unprofitable life, kept out of the vineyard of God? For thy sake have the people stumbled at religion; by thy life have they been kept from the love of their own salvation. Thou hast been also a means of hardening others, and of quenching and killing weak beginnings. Well, barren fig-tree, look to thyself, thou wilt not go to heaven thyself, and them that would, thou hinderest; thou must not always cumber the ground, nor always hinder the salvation of others. Thou shalt be cut down, and another shall be planted in thy room. Third. The cumber-ground is a sucker; he draws away the heart and nourishment from the other trees. Were the cumber ground cut down, the others would be more fruitful; he draws away that fatness of the ground to himself, that would make the others more hearty and fruitful. ‘One sinner destroyeth much good’ (Eccl 9:18). The cumber-ground is a very drone in the hive, that eats up the honey that should feed the labouring bee; he is a thief in the candle, that wasteth the tallow, but giveth no light; he is the unsavoury salt, that is fit for nought but the dunghill. Look to it, barren fig-tree! 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 (vv 8, 9). These are the words of the dresser of the vineyard, who, I told you, is Jesus Christ, for he made intercession for the transgressors. And they contain a petition presented to an offended justice, praying, that a little more time and patience might be exercised towards the barren cumber-ground fig-tree. In this petition there are six things considerable: 1. That justice might be deferred. O that justice might be deferred! ‘Lord, let it alone,’ &c., a while longer. 2. Here is time prefixed, as a space to try if more means will cure a barren fig-tree. ‘Lord, let it alone this year also.’ 3. The means to help it are propounded, ‘until I shall dig about it, and dung it.’12 4. Here is also an insinuation of a supposition, that, by thus doing, God’s expectation may be answered; ‘and if it bear fruit, well.’ 5. Here is a supposition that the barren fig-tree may yet abide barren, when Christ hath done what he will unto it; ‘and if it bear fruit,’ &c. 6. Here is at last a resolution, that if thou continue barren, hewing days will come upon thee; ‘and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.’ But to proceed according to my former method, by way of exposition. Lord, let it alone this year also Here is astonishing grace indeed! astonishing grace, I say, that the Lord Jesus should concern himself with a barren fig-tree; that he should step in to stop the blow from a barren fig-tree! True, he stopped the blow but for a time; but why did he stop it at all? Why did not he fetch out the axe? Why did he not do execution? Why did not he cut it down? Barren fig-tree, it is well for thee that there is a Jesus at God’s right hand, a Jesus of that largeness of bowels, as to have compassion for a barren fig-tree, else justice had never let thee alone to cumber the ground as thou hast done! When Israel also had sinned against God, down they had gone, but that Moses stood in the breach. ‘Let me alone,’ said God to him, ‘that I may consume them’ in a moment, ‘and I will make of thee a great nation’ (Exo 32:10). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? Thou knowest not how oft the hand of Divine justice hath been up to strike, and how many years since thou hadst been cut down, had not Jesus caught hold of his Father’s axe. Let me alone, let me fetch my blow, or ‘Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?’ Wilt thou not hear yet, barren fig-tree? Wilt thou provoke still? Thou hast wearied men, and provoked the justice of God! And ‘will ye weary my God also?’ (Isa 7:13). Lord, let it alone this year Lord, a little longer! let us not lose a soul for want of means. I will try, I will see if I can make it fruitful, I will not beg a long life, nor that it might still be barren, and so provoke thee. I beg, for the sake of the soul, the immortal soul; Lord, spare it one year only, one year longer, this year also. If I do any good to it, it will be in little time. Thou shalt not be over wearied with waiting; one year and then. Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear what a striving there is between the vine-dresser and the husbandman, for thy life? ‘Cut it down,’ says one; ‘Lord, spare it,’ saith the other. It is a cumber-ground, saith the Father; one year longer, prays the Son. ‘Let it alone this year also.’ Till I shall dig about it, and dung it The Lord Jesus by these words supposeth two things, as causes of the want of fruit in a barren fig-tree; and two things he supposeth as a remedy. The things that are a cause of want of fruit are, First. It is earth-bound. Lord, the fig-tree is earth-bound. Second. A want of warmer means, of fatter means. Wherefore, accordingly, he propoundeth to loosen the earth; to dig about it. And then to supply it with dung. ‘To dig about it, and dung it. Lord, let it alone this year also, until I shall dig about it.’ I doubt it is too much ground-bound. The love of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches lie too close to the roots of the heart of this professor (Luke 14). The love of riches, the love of honours, the love of pleasures, are the thorns that choke the word. ‘For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father,’ but enmity to God; how then, where these things bind up the heart, can there be fruit brought forth to God? (1 John 2:15, 16). Barren fig-tree, see how the Lord Jesus, by these very words, suggesteth the cause of thy fruitfulessness of soul! The things of this world lie too close to thy heart; the earth with its things have bound up thy roots; thou art an earth-bound soul, thou art wrapped up in thick clay. ‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him’; how then can he be fruitful in the vineyard? This kept Judas from the fruit of caring for the poor (John 12:6). This kept Demas from the fruit of self-denial (2 Tim 4:10). And this kept Ananias and Sapphira his wife from the goodly fruit of sincerity and truth (Acts 5:5, 10). What shall I say? These are ‘foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition; for the love of money is the root of all evil.’ How then can good fruit grow from such a root, the root of all evil? ‘Which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows’ (1 Tim 6:9, 10). It is an evil root, nay, it is the root of all evil. How then can the professor that hath such a root, or a root wrapped up in such earthly things, as the lusts, and pleasures, and vanities of this world, bring forth fruit to God? Till I shall ‘DIG’ about it Lord, I will loose his roots, I will dig up this earth, I will lay his roots bare; my hand shall be upon him by sickness, by disappointments, by cross providences; I will dig about him until he stands shaking and tottering; until he be ready to fall; then, if ever, he will seek to take faster hold. Thus, I say, deals the Lord Jesus ofttimes with the barren professor; he diggeth about him, he smiteth one blow at his heart, another blow at his lusts, a third at his pleasures, a fourth at his comforts, another at his self-conceitedness. Thus he diggeth about him; this is the way to take bad earth from his roots, and to loosen his roots from the earth. Barren fig-tree, see here the care, the love, the labour, and way, which the Lord Jesus, the dresser of the vineyard, is fain to take with thee, if haply thou mayest be made fruitful.13 Till I shall dig about it, and ‘DUNG’ it As the earth, by binding the roots too closely, may hinder the tree’s being fruitful, so the want of better means may be also a cause thereof. And this is more than intimated by the dresser of the vineyard; ‘Till I shall dig about it and dung it.’ I will supply it with a more fruitful ministry, with a warmer word; I will give them pastors after mine own heart; I will dung them. You know dung is a more warm, more fat, more hearty, and succouring matter than is commonly the place in which trees are planted. ‘I will dig about it, and dung it.’ I will bring it under a heart-awakening ministry; the means of grace shall be fat and good: I will also visit it with heart-awakening, heart-warming, heart-encouraging considerations; I will apply warm dung to his roots; I will strive with him by my Spirit, and give him some tastes of the heavenly gift, and the power of the world to come. I am loth to lose him for want of digging. ‘Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it.’ And if it bear fruit, WELL And if the fruits of all my labour doth make this fig-tree fruitful, I shall count my time, my labour, and means, well bestowed upon it; and thou also, O my God, shalt be therewith much delighted; for thou art gracious, and merciful, and repentest thee of the evil which thou threatenest to bring upon a people. These words, therefore, inform us, that if a barren fig-tree, a barren professor, shall now at last bring forth fruit to God, it shall go well with that professor, it shall go well with that poor soul. His former barrenness, his former tempting of God, his abuse of God’s patience and long-suffering, his mis-spending year after year, shall now be all forgiven him. Yea, God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, will not pass by and forget all, and say, ‘Well done,’ at the last. When I say to the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if he then do that which is lawful and right, if he walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity, he shall surely live, he shall not die (Eze 33). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? the axe is laid to thy roots, the Lord Jesus prays God to spare thee. Hath he been digging about thee? Hath he been dunging of thee? O barren fig-tree, now thou art come to the point; if thou shalt now become good, if thou shalt, after a gracious manner, suck in the gospel-dung, and if thou shalt bring forth fruit unto God, well; but if not, the fire is the last! fruit, or the fire; fruit, or the fire, barren fig-tree! ‘If it bear fruit, well.’14 And if not, THEN after that thou shalt cut it down The Lord Jesus, by this if, giveth us to understand that there is a generation of professors in the world that are incurable, that will not, that cannot repent, nor be profited by the means of grace. A generation, I say, that will retain a profession, but will not bring forth fruit; a generation that will wear out the patience of God, time and tide, threatenings and intercessions, judgments and mercies, and after all will be unfruitful. O the desperate wickedness that is in thy heart! Barren professor, dost thou hear? the Lord Jesus stands yet in doubt about thee; there is an IF stands yet in the way. I say, the Lord Jesus stands yet in doubt about thee, whether or no, at last, thou wilt be good; whether he may not labour in vain; whether his digging and dunging will come to more than lost labour; ‘I gave her space to repent,—and she repented not’ (Rev 2:21). I digged about it, I dunged it; I gained time, and supplied it with means; but I laboured herein in vain, and spent my strength for nought, and in vain! Dost thou hear, barren fig-tree? there is yet a question, Whether it may be well with thy soul at last? And if not, THEN after that thou shalt cut it down. There is nothing more exasperating to the mind of a man than to find all his kindness and favour slighted; neither is the Lord Jesus so provoked with anything, as when sinners abuse his means of grace; if it be barren and fruitless under my gospel; if it turn my grace into wantonness, if after digging and dunging, and waiting, it yet remain unfruitful, I will let thee cut it down. Gospel means, applied, is the last remedy for a barren professor; if the gospel, if the grace of the gospel, will not do, there can be nothing expected but cut it down. ‘Then after that thou shalt cut it down.’ ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ Therefore ‘your house is left unto you desolate’ (Matt 23:37, 38). Yet it cannot be, but that this Lord Jesus, who at first did put a stop to the execution of his Father’s justice, because he desired to try more means with the fig-tree; I say, it cannot be, but that a heart so full of compassion as his is should be touched, to behold this professor must now be cut down. ‘And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes’ (Luke 19:41, 42). After that thou shalt cut it down When Christ giveth thee over, there is no intercessor, no mediator, no more sacrifice for sin, all is gone but judgment, but the axe, but a ‘certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries’ (Heb 10:26, 27). Barren fig-tree, take heed that thou comest not to these last words, for these words are a give up, a cast up, a cast up of a cast away; ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’ They are as much as if Christ had said, Father, I begged for more time for this barren professor; I begged until I should dig about it, and dung it. But now, Father, the time is out, the year is ended, the summer is ended, and no good done! I have also tried with my means, with the gospel, I have digged about it; I have laid also the fat and hearty dung of the gospel to it, but all comes to nothing. Father, I deliver up this professor to thee again; I have done; I have done all; I have done praying and endeavouring; I will hold the head of thine axe no longer. Take him into the hands of justice; do justice; do the law; I will never beg for him more. ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’ ‘Woe also to them when I depart from them!’ (Hosea 9:12). Now is this professor left naked indeed; naked to God, naked to Satan, naked to sin, naked to the law, naked to death, naked to hell, naked to judgment, and naked to the gripes of a guilty conscience, and to the torment of that worm that never dies, and to that fire that never shall be quenched. ‘See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not, who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven’ (Heb 12:25). From this brief pass through this parable, you have these two general observations:—First. That even then when the justice of God cries out, I cannot endure to wait on this barren professor any longer, then Jesus Christ intercedes for a little more patience, and a little more striving with this professor, if possible he may make him a fruitful professor. ‘Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well,’ &c. Second. There are some professors whose day of grace will end with, Cut it down, with judgment; when Christ, by his means, hath been used for their salvation. First. The first of these observations I shall pass, and not meddle at all therewith; but shall briefly speak to the Second, to wit, that there are some professors whose day of grace will end with, Cut it down, with judgment, when Christ, by his means, hath been used for their salvation. This the apostle showeth in that third chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, where he tells us that the people of the Jews, after a forty years’ patience and endeavour to do them good by the means appointed for that purpose, their end was to be cut down, or excluded the land of promise, for their final incredulity. ‘So we see that they could not enter in, because of unbelief.’ ‘Wherefore,’ saith he, ‘I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart, and they have not known my ways; so I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.’ As who should say, I would they should have entered in, and for that purpose I brought them out of Egypt, led them through the sea, and taught them in the wilderness, but they did not answer my work nor designs in that matter; wherefore they shall not, I swear they shall not. ‘I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest.’ Here is cutting down with judgment. So again, he saith, ‘As I have sworn in my wrath, If they shall enter into my rest; although the works were finished from the foundation of the world’ (Heb 4:4, 5). This word ‘if’ is the same with ‘they shall not,’ in the chapter before. And where he saith, ‘Although the works were finished from the foundation of the world,’ he giveth us to understand that what preparations soever are made for the salvation of sinners, and of how long continuance soever they are, yet the God-tempting, God-provoking and fruitless professor, is like to go without a share therein, ‘although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.’ ‘I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels that kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day’ (Jude 5, 6). Here is an instance to purpose, an instance of men and angels: men saved out of the land of Egypt, and in their journey towards Canaan, the type of heaven, cut down; angels created and placed in the heavens in great estate and principality; yet both these, because unfruitful to God in their places, were cut down—the men destroyed by God, for so saith the text, and the ‘angels reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.’ Now, in my handling of this point, I shall discourse of the cutting down, or the judgment here denounced, as it respecteth the doing of it by God’s hand immediately, and that too with respect to his casting them out of the world, and not as it respecteth an act of the church, &c. And as to this cutting down, or judgment, it must be concluded, that it cannot be before the day of grace be past with the fig-tree; but according to the observation, there are some professors whose day of grace will end with, Cut it down; and according to the words of the text, ‘Then,’ after that, ‘thou shalt cut it down.’ ‘After that,’ that is, after all my attempts and endeavours to make it fruitful, after I have left it, given it over, done with it, and have resolved to bestow no more days of grace, opportunities of grace, and means of grace upon it, then, ‘after that,’ thou shalt cut it down. Besides, the giving up of the fig-tree is before the execution. Execution is not always presently upon the sentence given; for, after that, a convenient time is thought on, and then is cutting down. And so it is here in the text. The decree, that he shall perish, is gathered from its continuing fruitless quite through the last year—from its continuing fruitless at the end of all endeavours. But cutting down is not yet, for that comes with an afterward. ‘Then, after that, thou shalt cut it down.’ So then, that I may orderly proceed with the observation, I must lay down these two propositions:—PROPOSITION FIRST. That the day of grace ends with some men before God takes them out of this world. And, PROPOSITION SECOND. The death, or cutting down of such men, will be dreadful. For this ‘Cut it down,’ when it is understood in the largest sense, as here indeed it ought, it showeth not only the wrath of God against a man’s life in this world, but his wrath against him, body and soul; and is as much as to say, Cut him off from all the privileges and benefits that come by grace, both in this world and that which is to come. But to proceed: PROPOSITION FIRST.—The day of grace ends with some men before God taketh them out of the world. I shall give you some instances of this, and so go on to the last proposition. First. I shall instance Cain. Cain was a professor, a sacrificer, a worshipper of God, yea, the first worshipper that we read of after the fall; but his grapes were wild ones. His works were evil; he did not do what he did from true gospel motives, therefore God disallowed his work (Gen 4:3–8). At this his countenance falls, wherefore he envies his brother, disputes him, takes his opportunity, and kills him. Now, in that day that he did this act were the heavens closed up against him, and that himself did smartingly and fearfully feel when God made inquisition for the blood of Abel. ‘And now art thou cursed,’ said God, ‘from the earth; which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand,’ &c. ‘And Cain said, My punishment is greater than I can bear.’ Mine iniquity is greater than that it may be forgiven. ‘Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth, and from thy face shall I be hid’ (Gen 4:9–14). Now thou art cursed, saith God. Thou hast driven me out this day, saith Cain, and from thy face shall I be hid. I shall never more have hope in thee, smile from thee, nor expect mercy at thy hand. Thus, therefore, Cain’s day of grace ended; and the heavens, with God’s own heart, were shut up against him; yet after this he lived long. Cutting down was not come yet; after this he lived to marry a wife, to beget a cursed brood, to build a city, and what else I know not; all which could not be quickly done; wherefore Cain might live after the day of grace was past with him several hundred of years (Gen 4:10–17). Second. I shall instance Ishmael. Ishmael was a professor, was brought up in Abraham’s family, and was circumcised at thirteen years of age (Gen 16:12, 17:25, 26). But he was the son of the bond-woman, he brought not forth good fruit; he was a wild professor. For all his religion, he would scoff at those that were better than himself. Well, upon a day his brother Isaac was weaned, at which time his father made a feast, and rejoiced before the Lord, for that he had given him the promised son; at this Ishmael mocked them, their son, and godly rejoicing. Then came the Spirit of God upon Sarah, and she cried, Cast him out, ‘cast out this bond-woman and her son; for the son of this bond-woman shall not be heir with my son, with Isaac’ (Gen 21:9–11). Now Paul to the Galatians makes this casting out to be, not only a casting out of Abraham’s family, but a casting out also from a lot with the saints in heaven (Gal 4:29–31). Also Moses giveth us a notable proof thereof, in saying, that when he died he was gathered to his people—his people by his mother’s side; for he was reckoned from her, the son of Hagar, the son of the bond-woman (Gen 25:17). Now, she came of the Egyptians, so that he was gathered when he died, notwithstanding his profession, to the place that Pharaoh and his host were gathered to, who were drowned in the Red Sea; these were his people, and he was of them, both by nature and disposition, by persecuting as they did (Gen 21:9).15 But now, when did the day of grace end with this man? Observe, and I will show you. Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised, and then was Abraham ninety years old and nine (Gen 17:24–26). The next year Isaac was born; so that Ishmael was now fourteen years of age. Now, when Isaac was weaned, suppose he sucked four years, by that account, the day of grace must be ended with Ishmael by that time he was eighteen years old (Gen 25:12, &c.). For that day he mocked; that day it was said, ‘Cast him out’; and of that casting out the apostle makes what I have said. Beware, ye young barren professors! Now, Ishmael lived a hundred and nineteen years after this, in great tranquility and honour with men. After this he also begat twelve princes, even after his day of grace was past. Third. I shall instance Esau (Gen 25:27, &c.). Esau also was a professor; he was born unto Isaac, and circumcised according to the custom. But Esau was a gamesome professor, a huntsman, a man of the field; also he was wedded to his lusts, which he did also venture to keep, rather than the birthright. Well, upon a day, when he came from hunting, and was faint, he sold his birthright to Jacob, his brother. Now the birthright, in those days, had the promise and blessing annexed to it. Yea, they were so entailed in this, that the one could not go without the other; wherefore the apostle’s caution is here of weight. Take heed, saith he, ‘lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears’ (Heb 12:16, 17). Now, the ending of Esau’s day of grace is to be reckoned from his selling of his birthright; for there the apostle points it, lest there be among you any that, like Esau, sells his birthright: for then goes hence the blessing also. But Esau sold his birthright long before his death. Twenty years after this Jacob was with Laban, and when he returned home, his brother Esau met him (Gen 31:41, 32:4). Further, after this, when Jacob dwelt again some time with his father, then Jacob and Esau buried him. I suppose he might live above forty, yea, for ought I know, above fourscore years after he had sold his birthright, and so consequently had put himself out of the grace of God (Gen 35:28, 29).16 Three things I would further note upon these three professors. 1. Cain, an angry professor; Ishmael, a mocking one; Esau, a lustful, gamesome one. Three symptoms of a barren professor; for he that can be angry, and that can mock, and that can indulge his lusts, cannot bring forth fruit to God. 2. The day of grace ended with these professors at that time when they committed some grievous sin. Cain’s, when he killed his brother; Ishmael’s, when he mocked at Isaac; and Esau’s, when, out of love to his lusts, he despised and sold his birthright. Beware, barren professor! thou mayest do that in half a quarter of an hour, from the evil of which thou mayest not be delivered for ever and ever.17 3. Yet these three, after their day of grace was over, lived better lives, as to outward things, than ever they did before. Cain, after this, was lord of a city (Gen 4:17). Ishmael was, after this, father of twelve princes (Gen 25:16). And Esau, after this, told his brother, ‘I have enough, my brother, keep that thou hast unto thyself’ (Gen 33:8, 9). Ease and peace, and a prosperous life in outwards, is no sign of the favour of God to a barren and fruitless professor, but rather of his wrath; that thereby he may be capable to treasure up more wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Let this much serve for the proof of the first proposition, namely, That the day of grace ends with some men before God takes them out of the world. signs of being past grace Now, then, to show you, by some signs, how you may know that the day of grace is ended, or near to ending, with the barren professor; and after that thou shalt cut it down. He that hath stood it out against God, and that hath withstood all those means for fruit that God hath used for the making of him, if it might have been, a fruitful tree in his garden, he is in this danger; and this indeed is the sum of the parable. The fig-tree here mentioned was blessed with the application of means, had time allowed it to receive the nourishment; but it outstood, withstood, overstood all, all that the husbandman did, all that the vine-dresser did. But a little distinctly to particularize in four or five particulars. First sign. The day of grace is like to be past, when a professor hath withstood, abused, and worn out God’s patience, then he is in danger; this is a provocation; then God cries, ‘Cut it down.’ There are some men that steal into a profession nobody knows how, even as this fig-tree was brought into the vineyard by other hands than God’s; and there they abide lifeless, graceless, careless, and without any good conscience to God at all. Perhaps they came in for the loaves, for a trade, for credit, for a blind; or it may be to stifle and choke the checks and grinding pangs of an awakened and disquieted conscience. Now, having obtained their purpose, like the sinners of Sion, they are at ease and secure; saying like Agag, ‘Surely the bitterness of death is past’ (1 Sam 15:22); I am well, shall be saved, and go to heaven. Thus in these vain conceits they spend a year, two, or three; not remembering that at every season of grace, and at every opportunity of the gospel the Lord comes seeking fruit. Well, sinner, well, barren fig-tree, this is but a coarse beginning: God comes for fruit. 1. What have I here? saith God; what a fig-tree is this, that hath stood this year in my vineyard, and brought me forth no fruit? I will cry unto him, Professor, barren fig-tree, be fruitful! I look for fruit, I expect fruit, I must have fruit; therefore bethink thyself! At these the professor pauses; but these are words, not blows, therefore off goes this consideration from the heart. When God comes the next year, he finds him still as he was, a barren, fruitless cumber-ground. And now again he complains, here are two years gone, and no fruit appears; well, I will defer mine anger. ‘For my name sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off,’ as yet (Isa 48:9). I will wait, I will yet wait to be gracious. But this helps not, this hath not the least influence upon the barren fig-tree. Tush, saith he, here is no threatening: God is merciful, he will defer his anger, he waits to be gracious, I am not yet afraid (Isa 30:18). O! how ungodly men, that are at unawares crept into the vineyard, how do they turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness! Well, he comes the third year for fruit, as he did before, but still he finds but a barren fig-tree; no fruit. Now, he cries out again, O thou dresser of my vineyard, come hither; here is a fig-tree hath stood these three years in my vineyard, and hath at every season disappointed my expectation; for I have looked for fruit in vain; ‘Cut it down,’ my patience is worn out, I shall wait on this fig-tree no longer. 2. And now he begins to shake the fig-tree with his threatenings: Fetch out the axe! Now the axe is death; death therefore is called for. Death, come smite me this fig-tree. And withal the Lord shakes this sinner, and whirls him upon a sick-bed, saying, Take him, death, he hath abused my patience and forbearance, not remembering that it should have led him to repentance, and to the fruits thereof. Death, fetch away this fig-tree to the fire, fetch this barren professor to hell! At this death comes with grim looks into the chamber; yea, and hell follows with him to the bedside, and both stare this professor in the face, yea, begin to lay hands upon him; one smiting him with pains in his body, with headache, heart-ache, back-ache, shortness of breath, fainting, qualms, trembling of joints, stopping at the chest, and almost all the symptoms of a man past all recovery. Now, while death is thus tormenting the body, hell is doing with the mind and conscience, striking them with its pains, casting sparks of fire in thither, wounding with sorrows, and fears of everlasting damnation, the spirit of this poor creature.18 And now he begins to bethink himself, and to cry to God for mercy; Lord, spare me! Lord, spare me! Nay, saith God, you have been a provocation to me these three years. How many times have you disappointed me? How many seasons have you spent in vain? How many sermons and other mercies did I, of my patience, afford you? but to no purpose at all. Take him, death! O! good Lord, saith the sinner, spare me but this once; raise me but this once. Indeed I have been a barren professor, and have stood to no purpose at all in thy vineyard; but spare! O spare this one time, I beseech thee, and I will be better! Away, away you will not; I have tried you these three years already; you are naught; if I should recover you again, you would be as bad as you were before. And all this talk is while death stands by. The sinner cries again, Good Lord, try me this once; let me get up again this once, and see if I do not mend. But will you promise me to mend? Yes, indeed, Lord, and vow it too; I will never be so bad again; I will be better. Well, saith God, death, let this professor alone for this time; I will try him a while longer; he hath promised, he hath vowed, that he will amend his ways. It may be he will mind to keep his promises. Vows are solemn things; it may be he may fear to break his vows. Arise from off they bed. And now God lays down his axe. At this the poor creature is very thankful, praises God, and fawns upon him, shows as if he did it heartily, and calls to others to thank him too. He therefore riseth, as one would think, to be a new creature indeed. But by that he hath put on his clothes, is come down from his bed, and ventured into the yard or shop, and there sees how all things are gone to sixes and sevens, he begins to have second thoughts, and says to his folks, What have you all been doing? How are all things out of order? I am I cannot tell what behind hand. One may see, if a man be but a little a to side, that you have neither wisdom nor prudence to order things.19 And now, instead of seeking to spend the rest of his time to God, he doubleth his diligence after this world. Alas! all must not be lost; we must have provident care. And thus, quite forgetting the sorrows of death, the pains of hell, the promises and vows which he made to God to be better; because judgment was not now speedily executed, therefore the heart of this poor creature is fully set in him to do evil. 3. These things proving ineffectual, God takes hold of his axe again, sends death to a wife, to a child, to his cattle, ‘Your young men have I slain,—and taken away your horses’ (Amos 4:9, 10). I will blast him, cross him, disappoint him, and cast him down, and will set myself against him in all that he putteth his hand unto. At this the poor barren professor cries out again, Lord, I have sinned; spare me once more, I beseech thee. O take not away the desire of mine eyes; spare my children, bless me in my labours, and I will mend and be better. No, saith God, you lied to me last time, I will trust you in this no longer; and withal he tumbleth the wife, the child, the estate into a grave. And then returns to his place, till this professor more unfeignedly acknowledgeth his offence (Hosea 5:14, 15). At this the poor creature is afflicted and distressed, rends his clothes, and begins to call the breaking of his promise and vows to mind; he mourns and prays, and like Ahab, awhile walks softly at the remembrance of the justness of the hand of God upon him. And now he renews his promises: Lord, try me this one time more; take off thy hand and see; they go far that never turn. Well, God spareth him again, sets down his axe again. ‘Many times he did deliver them, but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity’ (Psa 106:43). Now they seem to be thankful again, and are as if they were resolved to be godly indeed. Now they read, they pray, they go to meetings, and seem to be serious a pretty while, but at last they forget. Their lusts prick them, suitable temptations present themselves; wherefore they turn to their own crooked ways again. ‘When he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned and inquired early after God’; ‘nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongue’ (Psa 78:34–36). 4. Yet again, the Lord will not leave this professor, but will take up his axe again, and will put him under a more heart-searching ministry, a ministry that shall search him, and turn him over and over; a ministry that shall meet with him, as Elijah met with Ahab, in all his acts of wickedness, and now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees. Besides, this ministry doth not only search the heart, but presenteth the sinner with the golden rays of the glorious gospel; now is Christ Jesus s set forth evidently, now is grace displayed sweetly; now, now are the promises broken like boxes of ointment, to the perfuming of the whole room! But, alas! there is yet no fruit on this fig-tree. While his heart is searching, he wrangles; while the glorious grace of the gospel is unveiling, this professor wags and is wanton, gathers up some scraps thereof; ‘Tastes the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come’; ‘drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon him’ (Heb 6:3–8; Jude 4). But bringeth not forth fruit meet for him whose gospel it is; ‘Takes no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart’ (2 Kings 10:31). But counteth that the glory of the gospel consisteth in talk and show, and that our obedience thereto is a matter of speculation; that good works lie in good words; and if they can finely talk, they think they bravely please God. They think the kingdom of God consisteth only in word, not in power; and thus proveth ineffectual this fourth means also. 5. Well, now the axe begins to be heaved higher, for now indeed God is ready to smite the sinner; yet before he will strike the stroke, he will try one way more at the last, and if that misseth, down goes the fig-tree! Now this last way is to tug and strive with this professor by his Spirit. Wherefore the Spirit of the Lord is now come to him; but not always to strive with man (Gen 6:3). Yet a while he will strive with him, he will awaken, he will convince, he will call to remembrance former sins, former judgments, the breach of former vows and promises, the misspending of former days; he will also present persuasive arguments, encouraging promises, dreadful judgments, the shortness of time to repent in; and that there is hope if he come. Further, he will show him the certainty of death, and of the judgment to come; yea, he will pull and strive with this sinner; but, behold, the mischief now lies here, here is tugging and striving on both sides. The Spirit convinces, the man turns a deaf ear to God; the Spirit saith, Receive my instruction and live, but the man pulls away his shoulder; the Spirit shows him whither he is going, but the man closeth his eyes against it; the Spirit offereth violence, the man strives and resists; they have ‘done despite unto the Spirit of grace’ (Heb 10:29). The Spirit parlieth a second time, and urgeth reasons of a new nature, but the sinner answereth, No, I have loved strangers, and after them I will go (Amos 4:6–12). At this God’s fury comes up into his face: now he comes out of his holy place, and is terrible; now he sweareth in his wrath they shall never enter into his rest (Heb 3:11). I exercised towards you my patience, yet you have not turned unto me, saith the Lord. I smote you in your person, in your relations, in your estate, yet you have not returned unto me, saith the Lord. ‘In thy filthiness is lewdness, because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged; thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I cause my fury to rest upon thee’ (Eze 24:13). ‘Cut it down, why doth it cumber the ground?’ The second sign. That such a professor is almost, if not quite, past grace, is, when God hath given him over, or lets him alone, and suffers him to do anything, and that without control, helpeth him not either in works of holiness, or in straits and difficulties. ‘Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone’ (Hosea 4:17). Woe be to them when I depart from them. I will laugh at their calamities, and will mock when their fear cometh (Prov 1:24–29). Barren fig-tree, thou hast heretofore been digged about, and dunged; God’s mattock hath heretofore been at thy roots; gospel-dung hath heretofore been applied to thee; thou hast heretofore been strove with, convinced, awakened, made to taste and see, and cry, O the blessedness! Thou hast heretofore been met with under the word; thy heart hath melted, thy spirit hath fallen, thy soul hath trembled, and thou hast felt something of the power of the gospel. But thou hast sinned, thou hast provoked the eyes of his glory, thy iniquity is found to be hateful, and now perhaps God hath left thee, given thee up, and lets thee alone. Heretofore thou wast tender; thy conscience startled at the temptation to wickedness, for thou wert taken off from ‘the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 2:20–22). But that very vomit that once thou wert turned from, now thou lappest up—with the dog in the proverb—again; and that very mire that once thou seemedst to be washed from, in that very mire thou now art tumbling afresh. But to particularize, there are three signs of a man’s being given over of God. 1. When he is let alone in sinning, when the reins of his lusts are loosed, and he given up to them. ‘And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient: being filled with all unrighteousness’ (Rom 1:28, 29). Seest thou a man that heretofore had the knowledge of God, and that had some awe of Majesty upon him: I say, seest thou such an one sporting himself in his own deceivings, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and walking after his own ungodly lusts? (Rom 1:30–31). His ‘judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and his damnation slumbereth not’ (2 Peter 2:13). Dost thou hear, barren professor? It is astonishing to see how those that once seemed ‘sons of the morning,’ and were making preparations for eternal life, now at last, for the rottenness of their hearts, by the just judgment of God, to be permitted, being past feeling, to give ‘themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness’ (Eph 4:18, 19). A great number of such were in the first gospel-days; against whom Peter, and Jude, and John, pronounce the heavy judgment of God. Peter and Jude couple them with the fallen angels, and John forbids that prayer be made for them, because that is happened unto them that hath happened to the fallen angels that fell, who, for forsaking their first state, and for leaving ‘their own habitation,’ are ‘reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day’ (Jude 5, 6; 2 Peter 2:3–8). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? (1.) These are beyond all mercy! (2.) These are beyond all promises! (3.) These are beyond all hopes of repentance! (4.) These have no intercessor, nor any more share in a sacrifice for sin! (5.) For these there remains nothing but a fearful looking for of judgment! (6.) Wherefore these are the true fugitives and vagabonds, that being left of God, of Christ, of grace, and of the promise, and being beyond all hope, wander and straggle to and fro, even as the devil, their associate, until their time shall come to die, or until they descend in battle and perish! 2. Wherefore they are let alone in hearing. If these at any time come under the word, there is for them no God, no savour of the means of grace, no stirrings of heart, no pity for themselves, no love to their own salvation. Let them look on this hand or that, there they see such effects of the word in others as produceth signs of repentance, and love to God and his Christ. These men only have their backs bowed down alway (Rom 11:10). These men only have the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, to this very day. Wherefore as they go to the place of the Holy, so they come from the place of the Holy, and soon are forgotten in the places where they so did (Eccl 8:10). Only they reap this damage, ‘They treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God’ (Rom 2:3–5). Look to it, barren professor! 3. If he be visited after the common way of mankind, either with sickness, distress, or any mind of calamity, still no God appeareth, no sanctifying hand of God, no special mercy is mixed with the affliction. But he falls sick, and grows well, like the beast; or is under distress, as Saul, who when he was engaged by the Philistines was forsaken and left of God, ‘And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem, and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets’ (1 Sam 28:4–6). The Lord answered him no more; he had done with him, cast him off, and rejected him, and left him to stand and fall with his sins, by himself. But of this more in the conclusion: therefore I here forbear. 4. These men may go whither they will, do what they will; they may range from opinion to opinion, from notion to notion, from sect to sect, but are steadfast nowhere; they are left to their own uncertainties, they have not grace to establish their hearts; and though some of them have boasted themselves of this liberty, yet Jude calls them ‘wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever’ (Jude 13). They are left, as I told you before, to be fugitives and vagabonds in the earth, to wander everywhere, but to abide nowhere, until they shall descend to their own place, with Cain and Judas, men of the same fate with themselves (Acts 1:25). A third sign that such a professor is quite past grace is, when his heart is grown so hard, so stony, and impenetrable, that nothing will pierce it. Barren fig-tree, dost thou consider? a hard and impenitent heart is the curse of God! A heart that cannot repent, is instead of all plagues at once; and hence it is that God said of Pharaoh, when he spake of delivering him up in the greatness of his anger, ‘I will at this time,’ saith he, ‘send all my plagues upon thine heart’ (Exo 9:14). To some men that have grievously sinned under a profession of the gospel, God giveth this token of his displeasure; they are denied the power of repentance, their heart is bound, they cannot repent; it is impossible that they should ever repent, should they live a thousand years. It is impossible for those fall-aways to be renewed again unto repentance, ‘seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame’ (Heb 6:4–6). Now, to have the heart so hardened, so judicially hardened, this is as a bar put in by the Lord God against the salvation of this sinner. This was the burden of Spira’s complaint, ‘I cannot do it! O! how I cannot do it!’20 This man sees what he hath done, what should help him, and what will become of him; yet he cannot repent; he pulled away his shoulder before, he stopped his ears before, he shut up his eyes before, and in that very posture God left him, and so he stands to this very day. I have had a fancy, that Lot’s wife, when she was turned into a pillar of salt, stood yet looking over her shoulder, or else with her face towards Sodom; as the judgment caught her, so it bound her, and left her a monument of God’s anger to after generations (Gen 19:26). We read of some that are seared with a hot iron, and that are past feeling; for so seared persons in seared parts are. Their conscience is seared (1 Tim 4:2). The conscience is the thing that must be touched with feeling, fear, and remorse, if ever any good be done with the sinner. How then can any good be done to those whose conscience is worse than that? that is, fast asleep in sin (Eph 4:19). For that conscience that is fast asleep, may yet be effectually awakened and saved; but that conscience that is seared, dried, as it were, into a cinder, can never have sense, feeling, or the least regret in this world. Barren fig-tree, hearken, judicial hardening is dreadful! There is a difference betwixt that hardness of heart that is incident to all men, and that which comes upon some as a signal or special judgment of God. And although all kinds of hardness of heart, in some sense may be called a judgment, yet to be hardened with this second kind, is a judgment peculiar only to them that perish; hardness that is sent as a punishment for the abuse of light received, for a reward of apostacy. This judicial hardness is discovered from that which is incident to all men, in these particulars:— 1. It is a hardness that comes after some great light received, because of some great sin committed against that light, and the grace that gave it. Such hardness as Pharaoh had, after the Lord had wrought wondrously before him; such hardness as the Gentiles had, a hardness which darkened the heart, a hardness which made their minds reprobate. This hardness is also the same with that the Hebrews are cautioned to beware of, a hardness that is caused by unbelief, and a departing from the living God; a hardness completed through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:7, &c). Such as that in the provocation, of whom God sware, that they should not enter into his rest. It was this kind of hardness also, that both Cain, and Ishmael, and Esau, were hardened with, after they had committed their great transgressions. 2. It is the greatest kind of hardness; and hence they are said to be harder than a rock, or than an adamant, that is, harder than flint; so hard, that nothing can enter (Jer 5:3; Zech 7:12). 3. It is a hardness given in much anger, and that to bind the soul up in an impossibility of repentance. 4. It is a hardness, therefore, which is incurable, of which a man must die and be damned. Barren professor, hearken to this. A fourth sign that such a professor is quite past grace, is, when he fortifies his hard heart against the tenor of God’s word (Job 9:4, &c.) This is called hardening themselves against God, and turning of the Spirit against them. As thus, when after a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus, and of the doctrine that is according to godliness, they shall embolden themselves in courses of sin, by promising themselves that they shall have life and salvation notwithstanding. Barren professor, hearken to this! This man is called, ‘a root that beareth gall and wormwood,’ or a poisonful herb, such an one as is abominated of God, yea, the abhorred of his soul. For this man saith, ‘I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination’ or stubbornness ‘of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst’; an opinion flat against the whole Word of God, yea, against the very nature of God himself (Deut 29:18, 19). Wherefore he adds, ‘Then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in God’s book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven’ (Deut 19:20). Yea, that man shall not fail to be effectually destroyed, saith the text: ‘The Lord shall separate that man unto evil, out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant’ (Deut 19:21). He shall separate him unto evil; he shall give him up, he shall leave him to his heart; he shall separate him to that or those that will assuredly be too hard for him. Now this judgment is much effected when God hath given a man up unto Satan, and hath given Satan leave, without fail, to complete his destruction. I say, when God hath given Satan leave effectually to complete his destruction; for all that are delivered up unto Satan have not, nor do not come to this end. But that is the man whom God shall separate to evil, and shall leave in the hands of Satan, to complete, without fail, his destruction. Thus he served Ahab, a man that sold himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord. ‘And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also; go forth, and do so’ (1 Kings 21:25, 22:20–22). Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail; do thy will, I leave him in thy hand, go forth, and do so. Wherefore, in these judgments the Lord doth much concern himself for the management thereof, because of the provocation wherewith they have provoked him. This is the man whose ruin contriveth, and bringeth to pass by his own contrivance: ‘I also will choose their delusions’ for them; ‘I will bring their fears upon them’ (Isa 66:4). I will choose their devices, or the wickednesses that their hearts are contriving of. I, even I, will cause them to be accepted of, and delightful to them. But who are they that must thus be feared? Why, those among professors that have chosen their own ways, those whose soul delighteth in their abominations. Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved: for this cause God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. ‘God shall send them.’ It is a great word! Yea, God shall send them strong delusions; delusions that shall do: that shall make them believe a lie. Why so? ‘That they all might be damned,’ every one of them, ‘who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (2 Thess 2:10–12). There is nothing more provoking to the Lord, than for a man to promise when God threateneth; for a man to delight of conceit that he shall be safe, and yet to be more wicked than in former days, this man’s soul abhorreth the truth of God; no marvel, therefore, if God’s soul abhorreth him; he hath invented a way contrary to God, to bring about his own salvation; no marvel, therefore, if God invent a way to bring about this man’s damnation: and seeing that these rebels are at this point, we shall have peace; God will see whose word will stand, his or theirs. A fifth sign of a man being past grace is, when he shall at this scoff, and inwardly grin and fret against the Lord, secretly purposing to continue his course, and put all to the venture, despising the messengers of the Lord. ‘He that despised Moses’ law, died without mercy;—of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?’ &c. (Heb 10:28). Wherefore, against these despisers God hath set himself, and foretold that they shall not believe, but perish: ‘Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in nowise believe, though a man declare it unto you’ (Acts 13:41). After that thou shalt cut it down Thus far we have treated of the barren fig-tree, or fruitless professor, with some signs to know him by; whereto is added also some signs of one who neither will nor can, by any means, be fruitful, but they must miserably perish. Now, being come to the time of execution, I shall speak a word to that also; ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’ [PROPOSITION SECOND. The death or cutting down of such men will be dreadful.] Christ, at last, turns the barren fig-tree over to the justice of God, shakes his hands of him, and gives him up to the fire for his unprofitableness. ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’ Two things are here to be considered: First. The executioner; thou, the great, the dreadful, the eternal God. These words, therefore, as I have already said, signify that Christ the Mediator, through whom alone salvation comes, and by whom alone execution hath been deferred, now giveth up the soul, forbears to speak one syllable more for him, or to do the least act of grace further, to try for his recovery; but delivereth him up to that fearful dispensation, ‘to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10:31). Second. The second to be considered is, The instrument by which this execution is done, and that is death, compared here to an axe; and forasmuch as the tree is not felled at one blow, therefore the strokes are here continued, till all the blows be struck at it that are requisite for its felling: for now cutting time, and cutting work, is come; cutting must be his portion till he be cut down. ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’ Death, I say, is the axe, which God often useth, therewith to take the barren fig-tree out of the vineyard, out of a profession, and also out of the world at once. But this axe is now new ground, it cometh well-edged to the roots of this barren fig-tree. It hath been whetted by sin, by the law, and by a formal profession, and therefore must, and will make deep gashes, not only in the natural life, but in the heart and conscience also of this professor: ‘The wages of sin is death,’ ‘the sting of death is sin’ (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:56). Wherefore death comes not to this man as he doth to saints, muzzled, or without his sting, but with open mouth, in all his strength; yea, he sends his first-born, which is guilt, to devour his strength, and to bring him to the king of terrors (Job 18:13, 14). But to give you, in a few particulars, the manner of this man’s dying. 1. Now he hath his fruitless fruits beleaguer him round his bed, together with all the bands and legions of his other wickedness. ‘His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins’ (Prov 5:22). 2. Now some terrible discovery of God is made out unto him, to the perplexing and terrifying of his guilty conscience. ‘God shall cast upon him, and not spare’; and he shall be ‘afraid of that which is high’ (Job 27:22; Eccl 12:5). 3. The dark entry he is to go through will be a sore amazement to him; for ‘fears shall be in the way’ (Eccl 12:5). Yea, terrors will take hold on him, when he shall see the yawning jaws of death to gape upon him, and the doors of the shadow of death open to give him passage out of the world. Now, who will meet me in this dark entry? how shall I pass through this dark entry into another world? 4. For by reason of guilt, and a shaking conscience, his life will hang in continual doubt before him, and he shall be afraid day and night, and shall have no assurance of his life (Deut 28:66, 67). 5. Now also want will come up against him; he will come up like an armed man. This is a terrible army to him that is graceless in heart, and fruitless in life. This WANT will continually cry in thine ears, Here is a new birth wanting, a new heart, and a new spirit wanting; here is faith wanting; here is love and repentance wanting; here is the fear of God wanting, and a good conversation wanting: ‘Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting’ (Dan 5:27). 6. Together with these standeth by the companions of death, death and hell, death and evils, death and endless torment in the everlasting flames of devouring fire. ‘When God cometh up unto the people he will invade them with his troops’ (Hab 3:16). But how will this man die? Can his heart now endure, or can his hands be strong? (Eze 22:14). (1.) God, and Christ, and pity, have left him. Sin against light, against mercy, and the long-suffering of God, is come up against him; his hope and confidence now lie a-dying by him, and his conscience totters and shakes continually within him! (2.) Death is at his work, cutting of him down, hewing both bark and heart, both body and soul asunder. The man groans, but death hears him not; he looks ghastly, carefully, dejectedly; he sighs, he sweats, he trembles, but death matters nothing. (3.) Fearful cogitations haunt him, misgivings, direful apprehensions of God, terrify him. Now he hath time to think what the loss of heaven will be, and what the torments of hell will be: now he looks no way but he is frighted. (4.) Now would he live, but may not; he would live, though it were but the life of a bed-rid man, but he must not. He that cuts him down sways him as the feller of wood sways the tottering tree; now this way, then that, at last a root breaks, a heart-string, an eye-string, sweeps asunder. (5.) And now, could the soul be annihilated, or brought to nothing, how happy would it count itself, but it sees that may not be. Wherefore it is put to a wonderful strait; stay in the body it may not, go out of the body it dares not. Life is going, the blood settles in the flesh, and the lungs being no more able to draw breath through the nostrils, at last out goes the weary trembling soul, which is immediately seized by devils, who lay lurking in every hole in the chamber for that very purpose. His friends take care of the body, wrap it up in the sheet or coffin, but the soul is out of their thought and reach, going down to the chambers of death. I had thought to have enlarged, but I forbear. God, who teaches man to profit, bless this brief and plain discourse to thy soul, who yet standest a professor in the land of the living, among the trees of his 1 General Doctrine of Toleration, 8vo, 1781. 2 This awful destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans is narrated by Josephus in his sixth book of the Jewish Wars, in language that makes nature shudder. Multitudes had assembled to celebrate the passover when the invading army beleaguered the city; a frightful famine soon filled it with desolation: this, with fire and sword, miserably destroyed one million, three hundred and thirty-seven thousand, four hundred and ninety Jews, while the Christians fled before the siege, and escaped to the mountains. Well might the sun vail his face at that atrocious deed, which was so quickly followed by such awful punishment.—Ed. 3 Reader, do not imagine that this was peculiar to Bunyan’s days; look not upon your neighbours to find an example, but search your own heart—’Lord, is it I?’ and strive and pray that you may bring forth more fruit.—Ed. 4 The mode of admitting a member to church-fellowship, among the Baptists, was and now is by introducing the trembling convert to a private meeting of the whole church, that they may hear why the union is sought, how the soul became alarmed, and fled for refuge to Christ, with the grounds of hope; inquiries having been previously made into Christian character and godliness. If, with all these precautions, a barren professor gains admittance, the punishment is not upon the garden, but upon the barren tree.—Ed. 5 ‘Humour,’ the temper or disposition of mind. Not out of love to humility, but these creeping things pretend to be humble, to gain some sinister end.—Ed. 6 However strange it may appear, it is true that the Ranters, in Bunyan’s time, used these arguments, and those so graphically put into the mouth of Bye-ends, in the Pilgrim, to justify their nonconformity to Christ. The tom-fooleries and extravagancies of dress introduced by Charles II, are here justly and contemptuously described. The ladies’ head-dresses, called ‘frizzled fore-tops,’ became so extravagant, that a barber used high steps to enable him to dress a lady’s head!—Ed. 7 A word not to be found in our dictionaries, being local and almost obsolete. It means a division, end, or border of a town or village.—Ed. 8 See the character of Talkative, in the Pilgrim’s Progress. ‘His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savour. There is in his house neither prayer, nor sign of repentance for sin. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion. Thus say the common people that know him, A saint abroad and a devil at home.’—Ed. 9 How great is the mercy that those horrid barbarities, perpetrated upon peaceful Christians, are now only heard of in those distance parts of Satan’s empire, China and Madagascar! Has the enmity of the human heart by nature changed? No; but the number of Christians has so vastly increased with a civilizing influence, as to change the face of society. What a paradise will this earth become when Christ shall reign in every heart!—Ed. 10 In the midst of these faithful admonitions, we venture to remark that, according to Lightfoot, so valuable was the fig-tree that it was never destroyed until means were carefully used to restore its fruitfulness, and that the use of these means occupied a period of three years. This illustrates the wisdom of our Lord in selecting the fig-tree as the principal object presented to view in his parable. It is a most valuable tree-capable of bearing much fruit; still, after every trial, if it remains barren, it must be cut down as a cumber-ground, and sent to the fire.—Ed. 11 A ‘hit,’ in some parts of the country, is used to express a good crop. A ‘hitting season’ means a fruitful season.—Ed. 12 This mode of infusing new vigour into plants and trees is thus described in the Gemara—’They lay dung in their gardens, to soften the earth. They dig about the roots of their trees, and sprinkle ashes, and pluck up suckers, and make a smoke beneath to kill vermin.’—Ed. 13 Among the superstitions of the ancients, Michaelis states that both the Greeks and Asiatics had a superstition that a tree might be rendered fruitful by striking it, at the intercession of a friend, three times with the back of an axe.—Ed. 14 However painfully unpleasant these terms may appear to eyes or ears polite, it is a homely but just representation, and calculated to make a lasting impression on every reader. Afflictions, trials, crosses, are used as a means of creating or reviving spiritual life, as manure is applied to vegetation.—Ed. 15 Mahomet professed descent from Ishmael, and that he came to revive the religion which God had revealed to Abraham, who taught it to Ishmael. Mahometanism is the religion of the outcast of God.—Ed. 16 Bunyan had been haunted with the temptation ‘to sell and part with Christ,’ and, under a fear that he had fallen under that temptation, the case of Esau made a dreadful impression upon his soul; extreme horror and anguish seized upon his spirit; ‘he was like a man bereft of life and bound over to eternal punishment,’ for two years. At length, after an awful storm, he found peace in the promise, ‘his blood cleanseth from ALL sins,’ and a proof that he had not sold Christ.—See Grace Abounding, No. 139–160. 17 How solemn a thought! What an appeal to perpetual watchfulness. Why have I not made shipwreck of faith? Most emphatically may we reply, Because God has sustained my soul.—Ed. 18 Bunyan’s tongue and pen are here fired by his vivid imagination of eternal realities. With such burning words, we need no messenger from the invisible world to alarm the consciences of sinners. What angel could arouse more powerfully, alarmingly, convincingly, the poor sinner, than the whole of this chain of reasoning.—Ed. 19 This picture is drawn by a master hand: the master is laid by for a season; or, as Bunyan quaintly expresses it, ‘a little a to side’: when raised from affliction earthly affairs absorb his attention, and he forgets his good resolves. According to the old rhyme:- ‘The devil was sick, the devil a saint would be The devil to well, the devil a saint was he.’—Ed. 20 This is referred to in the Pilgrim, at the Interpreter’s house, by the representation of a man in an iron cage, who says, ‘I cannot get out, O now I cannot!’ The awful account of Spira’s despair must have made a strong impression upon Bunyan’s mind. It commences with a poem. ‘Here see a soul that’s all despair; a man All hell; a spirit all wounds; who can A wounded spirit bear? Reader, would’st see, what may you never feel Despair, racks, torments, whips of burning steel! Behold, the man’s the furnace, in whose heart Sin hath created hell; O in each part What flames appear: His thoughts all stings; words, swords; Brimstone his breath; His eyes flames; wishes curses, life a death; A thousand deaths live in him, he not dead; A breathing corpse in living, scalding lead.’ —Fearful Estate of Francis Spira.—Ed.  Geo Offor. (2006). Advertisement by the Editor. In The Barren Fig-Tree (Vol. 3, pp. 560–585). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) Romans 7:19 - I Do Not Do Good But It is not the Will that leads men astray; but the corrupt Passions which oppose and oppress the will. (Dr. Adam Clarke) Rom 7:19 For the good that I would, I do not,.... The apostle here repeats what he had delivered in Romans 7:15 to strengthen and confirm this part of his experience; that though he had a will to that which was good, yet he wanted power, and had none of himself to perform; and therefore often did what he would not, and what he would he did not. (Dr. John Gill) For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. (NASB) For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (KJV) I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. (NLT) For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! (NET) It would be good here to reiterate that Paul is explaining what it is like to try to obey the law of God in the power of the flesh. This is the place where we daily live as long as we have breath and a pulse. The question then becomes then where is the victory? This will become apparent in Romans 8:1. For now it is good to see that even the Apostle Paul struggled. However, he also gave us a great many important ways to overcome this struggle with the victory that is ours in Christ Jesus! As I have said before, the fact that we struggle is a good sign that we belong to Jesus. If we had no struggle it would be because we were the unrighteous and ungodly against whom the righteousness of God is revealed (Romans 1:18). Our eyes have the power to see but without light they are rendered absolutely useless. Only in Christ's light may we see the threat that endangers us. Only in Christ's light may we find the victory! It is not the Will that leads men astray; but the corrupt Passions which oppose and oppress the will. It is truly astonishing into what endless mistakes men have fallen on this point, and what systems of divinity have been built on these mistakes. The will, this almost only friend to God in the human soul, has been slandered as God’s worst enemy, and even by those who had the seventh chapter to the Romans before their eyes! Nay, it has been considered so fell a foe to God and goodness that it is bound in the adamantine chains of a dire necessity to do evil only; and the doctrine of will (absurdly called free will, as if will did not essentially imply what is free) has been considered one of the most destructive heresies. Let such persons put themselves to school to their Bibles and to common sense. The plain state of the case is this: the soul is so completely fallen, that it has no power to do good till it receive that power from on high. But it has power to see good, to distinguish between that and evil; to acknowledge the excellence of this good, and to will it, from a conviction of that excellence; but farther it cannot go. Yet, in various cases, it is solicited and consents to sin; and because it is will, that is, because it is a free principle, it must necessarily possess this power; and although it can do no good unless it receive grace from God, yet it is impossible to force it to sin. Even Satan himself cannot do this; and before he can get it to sin, he must gain its consent. Thus God in his endless mercy has endued this faculty with a power in which, humanly speaking, resides the salvability of the soul; and without this the soul must have eternally continued under the power of sin, or been saved as an inert, absolutely passive machine; which supposition would go as nearly to prove that it was as incapable of vice as it were of virtue. (Dr. Adam Clarke) The law may discover sin, and convince of sin, but it cannot conquer and subdue sin, witness the predominancy of sin in many that are under very strong legal convictions. It discovers the defilement, but will not wash it off. It makes a man weary and heavy laden (Matthew 11:28), burdens him with his sin; and yet, if rested in, it yields no help towards the shaking off of that burden; this is to be had only in Christ. The law may make a man cry out, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me? and yet leave him thus fettered and captivated, as being too weak to deliver him (Romans 8:3), give him a spirit of bondage to fear, Romans 8:15. (Matthew Henry) Comments are closed.