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And when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosannah to the son of David, they were sore displeased. Why had not these teachers and guardians of religion conceived some indignation against those buyers and sellers who had really profaned the temple by their iniquitous practices ? Alas, they are ready to vent their displeasure where it is not deserved, and to act in apparent defence of religion where their interference is little needed; but how poor a substitution is this for an honest and enlightened zeal in the cause of truth and in the service of their God! Would that religious zeal, as it is called, were always worthy of its name, and always directed to a proper end! And let us learn, from the example before us, a lesson respecting the deceitfulness of the human heart, and the dangers by which we are surrounded. Simplicity of holy purpose, and an humble heart, as well as real undissembled charity towards all men, are indispensably requisite

to preserve professors of religion in the path of duty, even when they find themselves zealously affected in an apparently good cause. When true unaffected piety and an upright intention are wanting, into what self-contradictions and awful impieties may not the most zealous fall! How offensive in the sight of heaven may their conduct be, even while they are loudly exclaiming, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are we!" These chief priests and scribes were negligent and indifferent about real corruptions and abuses in the church, but very indignant on the appearance of an irregular piety or uncanonical zeal. They were sore pleased; and said unto him,-appealing to Christ himself, be it observed (which has often been done since), for a confirmation of their ecclesiastical censure, Hearest thou what these say? Men often delude themselves by supposing that Christ himself is ready to take their part in suppressing some forms or modes of worship which they are ready to condemn. But the only way to have Christ on our side is first to range ourselves on his, in all simplicity of faith, in truth, in humility, meekness, and brotherly love.


And Jesus saith unto them, Yea, have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? The reference is to the eighth Psalm, which is quoted several times in the New Testament as prophetical of the Messiah. How encouraging the thought that the praises of the feeblest and the young

est, if offered with simplicity of heart, are acceptable to him who is made head over all things to his church! Children and men of guileless minds are fitted to sing Hosannah to the son of David. See chap. xviii. 1-6. In the morning, as he returned into the city, he hungered. The Lord Jesus, as he was truly man, so he partook of all the sinless infirmities of human nature. He hungered, and thirsted, and was weary, as we are. He was made "in all things like unto his brethern, yet without sin." And when he saw a fig tree in the way by the road side, he came to it, hereby denoting that reasonable expectation of finding fruit, which men might have been led to form under such circumstances, and found nothing thereon but leaves only, -and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.The practical lesson which our Lord immediatly deduced from this circumstance, and which was occasioned by the remark of his disciples concerning the punctual fulfilment of his sentence, is that of faith in God, especially with reference to the answer of our prayers. He taught them that the power of faith in prayer would lead to still more striking and important results than that which they had just witnessed. "To remove a mountain " means, according to a figure then in common use among the Jews, to overcome a difficulty. When difficulties arise, or meet us in our path, let us remember this word of encouragement and promise. Every thing

which may threaten to obstruct us in the path of duty or in our way to heaven will certainly be overcome by the exertion of almighty power on our behalf, if we are men of faith and prayer. All things which we ask in prayer we shall receive, provided only, according to the limitations elsewhere described, that the grant of such things is consistent with the will of God, that we ask as true believers in the name of Christ, and that we are living in the exercise of love and charity towards our brethren, and in conscientious obedience to all the commandments of God.

We cannot help regarding this history of the barren fig tree as adapted also to convey instruction of a more general kind. "The fruitless leafy tree" is an apt emblem of the empty professor of religion, who says, Lord, Lord, but neglects to do the things which the Lord commands. Profession without practice in religion, is like leaves without fruit. All may appear green and flourishing to the eye of a distant beholder; but, to him who comes seeking fruit, all is worthless and unsatisfactory, because no fruit appears. Words without works, the appearance without the reality, the form without the substance, are an abomination in the sight of God, and render a man subject to a severe rebuke corresponding to that which our Saviour addressed to the fruitless tree. "He that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have." If a Christian have only the leaves of

forma or profession, the time will come when he will be stripped even

that showy covering, and left 23 a bare and withered trunk, a monument of the power of Divine displeasure, and a warning to all intelligent creatures who profess allegiance to their maker. May webe continually partakers of that heavenly grace and succour whereby we may be enabled not only to make a good profession of our faith before men, but also to bring forth those fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise of God by Jesus Christ! "The righteous shell flourish like the palm tree he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Tose that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they sho be fat and flourishing. To show that the Lord is upright; he is may rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him." Ps. xcii. 12—15. "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Psalm

i. 3.


Lord, 'tis a pleasant thing to stand In gardens planted by thine hand; Let me within thy courts be seen Like a young cedar fresh and green.

There grow thy saints in faith and love,
Blest with thine influence from above:
Not Lebanon with all its trees,
Yields such a comely sight as these.

The plants of grace shall ever live; (Nature decays, but grace must thrive);

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23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, by what authority doest thou these

And who gave thee things? And who this authority?

24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask

you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.

25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?



26 But if we shall say, men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.

27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

28¶ But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.


29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

31 Whether of them twain

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did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him and ye, when he had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

Both the narrative and the parable are expressed in terms so plain and simple as to render any verbal explanation needless.

READER. By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority? This question, considered in itself, was good and proper. But it was proposed of ascertaining the truth, but in the in a captious spirit; not with a view hope of entangling Jesus in his discourse, and finding matter of accusation or objection. It is right that we should seek for information respecting the authority, character, and mission of our blessed Lord; and that we should, as it were, bring our inquiries on this important subject to the written word. But let us remember that it is our duty to enter upon this investigation with all humility and simplicity of mind, and with a sincere desire of knowing and yielding to the truth. It is possible and easy to enter upon such questions in a very unbecoming frame of mind,-irreverently, with a design to establish our own preconceived opinions in spite of evidence to the contrary, in the unhallowed spirit of bitter and uncharitable controversy, or with a

« Mark xi. 27. Luke xx. 1.—6 Exodus ii. 14. Acts iv. proud design of establishing the

7; & vii. 27.-e ch. xiv. 5. Mark vi. 20. Luke xx. 6. - Ecelus. xix. 21.-e Luke vii. 29, 50.-ƒ ch. iii. 1, &c. -g Luke iii. 12, 13.

Reader. The former part of this section is repeated, with no important variation, by St. Mark (xi. 27 -33,) and St. Luke (xx. 1-8).

conclusions of our own weak and

erring reason. In such cases, we must not expect to learn the truth: our judgment may be baffled and perplexed, or our errors may be confirmed,-but we shall not attain

the light of truth and find a blessing from our God.

They answered Jesus and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. In reply to the question of these captious and dishonest men, our blessed Lord proposed another inquiry to themselves which it was not convenient to them to answer. And why not convenient? Because they were time-serving men, anxious not so much to uphold and declare the truth, as to retain their interest with the people. How wretched and how contemptible (so to speak) is the situation of men who are indifferent to the cause of truth and holiness, and are eager in the pursuit of their own fancied interest, and in the execution of their own selfish schemes! How far more honourable, as well as more happy, is the love of truth than the love of self! Let the shame and defeat of the crafty Jews in the history before us tend to determine, or to establish, our choice in favour of "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are lovely, and of good report." We have a good practical comment upon this transaction in those words of our blessed Lord which have already engaged our attention in the sixth chapter of this Gospel ;-"The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"

A certain man had two sons.-By this parable our Saviour intended to contrast, in the first instance, the character and conduct of those chief priests and elders who made loud professions of zeal for God's honour and of sincerity in his service, but yet after all refused to hear and obey the Messiah whom God had sent, with the opposite behaviour of those persons who had been apparently, and even really and culpably, indifferent with regard to matters of religion, but yet humbly received the message which was sent to them, and, having repented of their evil ways, conformed themselves to the commands of Christ. But the parable applies, with no less certainty and force, to men of every country and every age. It holds up to our view the practice of religion, even though tardy and late, as better and more precious in the sight of God than a long and loud profession without a corresponding practice. "The one son," says an old writer, "is an image of the penitent, the other of the hypocrite; the one a deed without a show, the other a show without a deed."

He came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not but afterwards he repented, and went.— It is indeed a great provocation to Almighty God, and a most awful affront put upon his Divine majesty, when any of his intelligent creatures resists, for a moment, the indication of his will. Who can declare the amount of guilt incurred by a rebellious worm of earth, who

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