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professions of religion, and show not its blessed effects in their hearts by their conduct and character, must they not expect that, sooner or later, the Saviour's sentence will be pronounced against them, as it was upon this emblem of them, the unfruitful tree? And shall not they too wither and perish under its awful effects? for who can withstand the Redeemer's anger? Who can bear the blast of the breath of His displeasure ?
But there were other important lessons to be learnt by the side of that barren fig-tree; and some particularly applicable to all that was going on at that moment. Were not the people around, for instance, taught that He, at whose word the fig-tree withered away immediately, could not want power to protect Himself in His approaching trials, as well as to punish the Jews for their unfruitfulness: when coming to the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts which was the House of Israel,' and in particular to the men of Judah, His pleasant plant, He "looked for judgment, but behold oppression ;" (how cruelly was He Himself oppressed by them!) "for righteousness, but behold a cry,” a dreadful cry : “Crucify him, crucify him!" We may indeed look upon this act of our Lord as a kind of prophecy or sign of what afterwards happened to Jerusalem, when it withered away from the roots; its very foundations being turned up. But for the present it was a proof of our Lord's power; that nothing was impossible to Him, that all to which He submitted, He submitted to willingly. It was also a great encouragement to His disciples in the exercise of that wonderworking faith, which He promised to bestow upon -them—a faith, as they were now taught, by which they could remove mountains. For "when the dis
ciples marvelled saying, How soon is the fig-tree withered away! Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, if ye have faith and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig-tree; but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done.""
Another proof of His power and authority over the minds of men as well as over the inanimate trees and other works of creation did our Lord give again, Edward, on the same day.
E. I should like to know what that was, Mamma, for the fig-tree has interested me very much.
M. You remember, I dare say, that, very early in the ministry of Christ, He cast out of the temple those that bought and sold in that holy place. This He did again; overthrowing "the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and saying unto the people, It is written, my house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves." They dared not, they could not resist Him. Indeed if He had chosen so to exercise His power, not all the people of the Jews, nor yet all the armies of the Romans, could have done Him the slightest injury. In the temple our Lord then remained teaching, as He had done the day before, and as He now did daily until the evening; the people hanging upon His words with the greatest attention and astonishment. Indeed, so greatly did the people wonder at and admire our Lord, that the chief priests and His other enemies, much as they wished to destroy Him, were full of perplexity, and afraid of taking any steps against Him. On the following day, however, when Jesus
returned to the temple, they came upon Him, having arranged all their measures beforehand, and began once more to ask Him by what authority he taught in the temple, and cast out from that sacred place those who dared to profane it.
E. But I am sure, if they had chosen, they might have answered that question themselves now.
M. They might certainly. Our blessed Lord's works and His wisdom showed sufficiently whence He was, and who had sent Him. As Nicodemus, himself a ruler of the Jews, honestly declared, "No man can do these miracles, that thou doest, except God be with him." But unfortunately most of these rulers shut their eyes against the clearest evidence, and therefore they hypocritically asked Him, "By what authority doest thou these things; and who gave thee this authority?" Now can we wonder that our Lord did not vouchsafe an answer to such questions? He replied, it is true, but merely by another question, which they could not answer, respecting the baptism of John, whether it was from heaven or of men.
E. But surely, Mamma, they did know who it was that sent John to baptize?
M. They knew, no doubt, but they were afraid to answer either way. If they said, from heaven, our Lord would ask why they did not believe him; and if they should say that it was from men, the people, who believed John to be a great prophet, would be ready to stone them. So they answered that they could not tell whence it was. And Jesus said unto them, "Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things."
E. So they fell, Mamma, into the very snare which
they had laid for Christ. I remember it is said in one of the Psalms, "The wicked is taken in his own net."
M. Yes; thinking to perplex our Lord, and to find something of which they might accuse Him, they only entangled themselves, and exposed the malice, and prejudice, and ignorance of their own minds. Surely they should have settled who John was, before they took upon them to question Jesus.
But our Lord's reproof of the Pharisees was not over yet. He took occasion from the mention of John, to point out to them most seriously the danger they were in of the divine judgments. And this He did by speaking to them once more one of those simple but instructive parables which we have so often admired. Let us read the four short verses which contain it, see Matt. xxi. 28-32. Here you see are two sons; one, who at first refuses to obey his father's command, but in a little while sees his fault, repents of it, and goes to work in the vineyard. The other promised that he would go; but, when it come to the point, he went not. I wonder whether we can make out the meaning of it.
E. I was trying to do so, Mamma, in my own mind, whilst you were reading it; but I do not know that I am right. It seemed to me that the son who said he would not go, was like those very wicked people, the publicans and sinners, Mamma, who repented so many of them at the preaching of John.
M. Very well; go on.
E. Then I thought that they, as our Saviour said, were much more pleasing to God, than people who seemed outwardly to be very good, but would not re
pent and believe in Christ. You see, Mamma, it was those words of our Saviour which come directly after the parable that made me understand it.
M. Yes, they are quite an explanation of this striking story, and a very solemn one too. Let us take care of a mere appearance of goodness. pray that God may cleanse our hearts by the blood and Spirit of Christ, and make them sincere and upright before Him. Let us ask Him to give us that real repentance for all our sins, and that stedfast faith in His mercy through Christ, by which so many publicans and sinners have entered the kingdom of God; and without which none of us may hope for salvation. See John xii. 20-36. Matt. xxi. 12, 13, 17—32. Mark xi. 11-23. Luke xix. 45—48; xx. 1—8.
FORTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY EVENING.
CHRIST TEACHING IN THE TEMPLE.
M. I hope you are not tired of parables, Edward, for I have two more to talk over with you this evening.
E. No, Mamma, I should never be tired of listening to the parables of Scripture. What a beautiful manner of teaching it was !
M. Strikingly beautiful, and most profitable too, to those who had their minds set to unravel the sacred meaning.
Let us begin then with the parable of the vine