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MARK Xi. 19, 20, 21.
And when even was come, he went out of the city. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, calling to remembrance, saith unto him, Master! behold the fig-tree which thou devotedst to destruction is withered away.
ONE wonders that, after so many just observations have been made in vindication of this miracle of our Lord's, some persons should still continue, in writing and in conversation, to asperse his character on such groundless and frivolous pretences.
Some degree of this, perhaps, might have been obviated, if, instead of cursing the figtree, it had been translated, as I have put it, agreeably to the meaning of the original, devoting it to destruction;' as the word 'cursing,' in our language, carries the idea of violent anger. From which some have been induced
with great impropriety to say of our Lord, that he was in a passion, because he was disappointed when he came up to the tree in finding nothing to eat upon it.
I propose to consider the useful design and propriety of what he is here represented to have done, however contrary to our manners and customs; and how suitable the whole was to his character of a divine teacher and reformer; in which light he is always to be viewed, if we would avoid forming wrong judgements concerning him; and shall afterwards attend to some of the objections made to it, closing the whole with one or two practical remarks.
But it will be proper to cast our eyes a little to the history, the better to comprehend the subject.
It was now but a very few days before our Lord's course was to be cut short by a violent unjust death, of which he had a full foreknowledge given to him. He was busied every moment of his time in speaking to the crowds about him on subjects the most important; in warning his enemies, with that boldness that became a prophet of God of the highest rank, of their danger in rejecting him; and in watching
ing and guarding against their ensnaring questions, by which they sought to draw out from him something against himself, that would make him obnoxious to the Ro-, man power which then ruled in Judea.
Wearied as he must have been with all this intense application of mind, he did not choose to lodge all night in Jerusalem, but retired to Bethany, an adjoining village, to repose at a friend's house his tired body and anxious mind; anxious, not so much for what he knew he was soon to undergo himself, as that those whom he so ardently wished and endeavoured to save from sin and ruin, should be so incorrigibly wicked as to seek his life.
He might not think it proper at this time to continue all night in Jerusalem, for two reasons: to avoid giving umbrage to the Roman governor by too great a concourse of people, who might otherwise have been gathered about him out of that vast multitude that were usually collected from all countries at this religious festival, to the amount ordinarily of two millions;
And also to keep out of sight of his enemies, and give them no provocation or opportunity to surprise or seize him before his hour
came; the eve of the passover, the time appointed of Almighty God when he was to suffer.
Our Lord thus declining to stay all night in the city, we proceed to consider the history of the event before us, which happened in consequence of it.
"On the morrow," says our evangelist, "when he and his disciples were coming from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing a fig-tree afar off, he came if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it; No man eat fruit of thee hereaf ter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
"And when even was come, he went out of the city. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, calling to remembrance, saith unto him; Master! behold, the fig-tree which thou devotedst to destruction is withered away."
This is the whole of the passage. We proceed now with our illustration of it, and of our Lord's conduct; which the more we see, the more we have cause to admire, and therefore ought
ought to be the more excited to imitate his virtues and excellencies.
First, then, consider the holy Jesus, full of zeal for God's honour, and of love to men, to draw them from their sins; grieved more especially for his countrymen, the children of Abraham, their common progenitor, and the present ruin they were bringing on themselves and their nation by their rejecting him, and the lasting displeasure of Almighty God, which they would incur if they repented not:-deeply impressed with these sentiments as he was travelling on the road, and going up to a fig-tree which grew by the side of it, with a desire to eat of its fruit, as it appeared very flourishing in leaves, and promised much, but it afforded nothing at all.-Upon this, being willing to lose no part of his short time of edifying in the best manner he could, it immediately occurred to him to apply this circumstance to his present benevolent purpose, in his usual lively way of drawing instruction from what at the instant offered itself; and with this view he straightway devotes the tree to destruction, bids it bear no more fruit for ever; and this