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showed a mind unreasonably attached to riches. The warning, therefore, contained in the parable was particularly suitable to his case.
1. The conduct of Christ, in declining to undertake the office of a Judge, to settle a difference between brethren, shows his prudence and his moderation: his prudence, inasmuch as, however he might have decided the question in dispute, he must have offended one, if not both, of the parties, and hereby have prejudiced their minds against the admission of that important doctrine which it was the great business of his life to recommend. To have devoted his time to any other purpose, must have interrupted him in executing this; which was of much more consequence to the human race. His moderation was manifested in refusing an honourable post, which must have exalted him in the opinion of others, when he might thereby injure the design of his mission. Let the ministers of religion, in the present day, copy this part of their master's conduct; and learn to decline honours, the acceptance of which might prove injurious to the cause in which they are engaged.
2. Let us be careful to avoid the character, if we wish to escape the doom, of this rich man. The character which he exhibits and the fatal issue in which it terminates, are not unusual in the world. We see men amassing riches with great anxiety and labour, and when they have succeeded in their pursuit, pleasing themselves with the prospect of spending them in sumptuous living, in every thing that can please the eye, gratify the taste or flatter pride, without thinking of the claims which God or their fellow-creatures may have upon them. We even find them taking no small merit to themselves from such a plan of life; because
they have a heart to enjoy what they have acquired, and do not imitate the folly of those who hoard up wealth without any design of using it, whom they call mean-spirited and narrow-minded men. Yet their own folly is scarcely less reprehensible than that which they despise and ridicule: for they build their happiness upon the sand. While they are pleasing themselves with the hope of many years of voluptuous enjoyment, God, whom they had not taken into their account, suddenly cuts short their lives, and they are obliged to leave to strangers what they had designed for their own use. From such examples, and from this parable, which was intended to remind us of them, let us learn the folly of trusting in riches, or of placing our happiness in them and in the pleasures which they afford. If we are favoured with riches, honour or power, let us remember that they are bestowed upon us as a trust; that they are put into our hands, as well for the good of others, as for our own improvement in virtue, by the opportunities which they afford of exercising good dispositions. Let us remember that our true riches consist not in the temporal gifts of Providence; but in virtuous attainments and in beneficent practices, in the warmth of devotion and the fervour of benevolence. If we are thus distinguished, whatever may become of outward wealth, though it should be taken away from us, as it was from this rich fool, we shall have a treasure in the heavens which faileth not.
Luke xii. 22-31. corresponds with Matt. vi. 25
20, 21. xxiv. 43, 44.
There were present at that season, some that told him, or, (6 some came
to tell him at the time," of those Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
Who these Galileans were, and what offence they had given to Pilate, to provoke him to such an outrage, we know not with certainty: for they are not meutioned by Josephus, the Jewish historian: but it is probable that they were the followers of one Judas Gaulonitis, who were so averse to the Roman power, as to deny the lawfulness of paying tribute to Caesar, and to refuse to call any one their sovereign, or lord. These people were come up to Jerusalem, to offer sacrifice at the passover; and when assembled in the temple for that purpose, Pilate took the opportunity of attacking and putting them to death. So singular and so unheard of a calamity might induce some to suppose that these men had been guilty of some extraordinary crime, which God thought proper to punish in this new and extraordinary manner: but Jesus cautions his disciples against making such a conclusion.
2. And Jesus, answering, said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things?
3. I tell you, Nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
-That is, not in the same way, by having your blood mingled with your sacrifices, (for this could never be true of all the Jews, if it were true respecting any), but you shall all perish, as well as they, by a violent death; which actually took place at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Those who informed him of this event were shocked with horror at the miserable fate of these wretched Galileans. Hence Jesus takes occasion to exhort them to save themselves from a like miserable end, by timely repentance.
4. Or those eighteen, on whom the
tower in Siloam fell, and slew them; think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
5. I tell you, Nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
The tower of Siloam was built near a pool of the same name in Jerusalem, where the inhabitants used to bathe themselves, and might perhaps be used for the . convenience of those who went down to wash. The fall of this tower had crushed to death eighteen persons; a calamity which some might consider as a judgment of God upon them for their crimes; the more especially, as it took place without the interposition of human agency, which could not be said of the massacre by Pilate: but Christ warns his hearers against such a rash conclusion, and renews his exhortation to repentance; telling them that it was the only way in which they could save themselves from like calamities. To impress them more strongly with their danger, and with the necessity of immediate reformation, he delivers the following parable.
6. He spake also this parable: A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
7. 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? or, "Why should it also make the ground useless?”
8. And he, answering, said unto him; Lord, " master," let it alone this Vol. 2.]
year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it;
9. And if it bear fruit, well; or, "then perhaps it will bear fruit ;" and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
The fig-tree planted in a vineyard was evidently intended to represent the Jewish nation, who enjoyed peculiar advantages for religious improvement, under that dispensation of religion with which they were favoured. The displeasure which the master of the vineyard expresses at finding no fruit, after looking for it for three years, represents the disappointment of God, when he perceived that the Jews did not improve the advantages which they had so long enjoyed. The means employed to render the barren tree fruitful, by digging about it and dunging it, refer to the extraordinary methods which God employed for reclaiming the Jews, by Jesus Christ and his apostles; and the order to cut down the tree, to the resolution which God had formed of utterly destroying the Jewish nation, who had so long disappointed his reasonable expectations.
Some commentators have supposed, that by the three years which the master of the vineyard is said to come seeking fruit, our Lord's ministry was intended, which had already lasted three years: but this interpretation will by no means suit the rest of the parable: for by the mutual agreement of the master of the vineyard and the gardener, the tree, that is the Jewish state, is to be spared no more than one year longer; whereas it appears that forty years elapsed from the time of the ascension of Christ into heaven to the destruction of Jerusalem.
The three years seem rather to allude to the time at which fig-trees, planted in Judæa, usually bear fruit, which is three years. A tree which bore no fruit for three years, must be abandoned, after that period, as incurably barren.
Others have also supposed, that by the vine-dresser