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literally fulfilled. Here Jesus introduced the parable of the barren fig tree. The owner came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. He said to the keeper of his vineyard, these three years I have sought fruit on this tree, and find none-cut it down, why cumbereth it the grouud ? He is persuaded to let it alone one year, till it shall be dug about, and nurtured ; after which, if it bore fruit, well; if not, it was to be destroyed.
By the fig tree our Lord intended the house of Israel. Isaiah described them under the figure of a vine that brought forth wild grapes, which, in consequence, was to be destroyed. v. 1-7.
The fig tree brought forth no fruit. The Jews were barren in works of righteousness; they were la seed of evil doers.'
The fig tree was preserved after it was worthy only of destruction, and was nourished, but to no effect, it continued barren. Thus the house of Israel had been dealt with. They had long been unfruitful, and were fit for the fate which awaited them. God sent them his Son to preach to them, and to them alone; the apostles were sent to this nation only ; and the gospel was faithfully proclaimed to them. No other tree was nurtured, until this fig tree, after all the care bestowed on it, had failed to bear fruit, and had been cut down.
This fig tree was cut down. The axe was laid at the root. See the notes on the parable of the axe. . The observations of Adam Ciarke on Matt. iii. 10 are worthy of insertion here.
66 It was customary, with the Jewish prophets, to represent the kingdoms, nations and individuals whose ruin they predicted, under the figure of forests and trees, doomed to be cut down. See Jer. xlvi. 22, 23. Ezk. xxxi. 3, 11, 12. The Jewish nation is the tree, and the Romans the axe, which, by the just judgment of God, was speedily to cut it down. It has been well observed, that there is an allusion here to a woodman, who, having marked a tree for excision, lays his axe at its root, and strips off his outer garment, that he may wield his blows more powerfully, and that his work may be quickly performed. For about sixty years before the coming of Christ, this axe had been lying at the root of the Jewish tree, Judea having been a province to the Roman Empire, from the time that Pompey took the city of Jerusalem, during the contentions of the two brothers Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, which was about sixty-three years before the coming of Christ. See Josephus Antiq. 1. xiv. c. 1–5. But as the country might be still considered as in the hands of the Jews, though subject to the Romans, and God had waited on them now nearly ninety years from the above time, expecting them to bring forth fruit, and none was yet produced, he kept the Romans, as an axe, lying at the root of this tree, who were ready to cut it down the moment God gave them the permission.
Parable of the Master of the House.
LUKE XIII. 24-29.
“Strive to enter in at the strait gate : for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the Master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are : Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are ; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.”
In this passage the parable and the application are closely blended, so that it is with difficulty we can separate the one from the other. This will not, however, hinder us from obtaining the true application.
It seems that a person came to Jesus with this question : Lord, are there few that be saved ?' In answer, he replied, strive to enter in at the strait gate,' &c. It ought in the first place to be settled, what did this person mean, when he inquired, are there few that be saved? Did he intend to inquire, are there few who will finally be saved from hell torments in the world to come ? We think not. In order to ascertain the proper import of this question, we must seek the true
sense of the word saved. It is generally supposed that it signifies deliverance from misery in the future existence, but we are confident that a brief examination, will shew the incorrectness of that supposition. Horne says, “it is not uncommon, even in the best versions, to find meanings put upon the sacred text, which are totally foreign to the intention of the inspired penmen. If the translators of our common version, had rendered the original of Acts ii. 47 literally, it would have run thus—the Lord added daily to the church, the saved; that is, those who were saved from their sins and prejudices.' Dr. Whitby says, 'the Christians are styled the saved. So 1 Cor. i. 18, to us the saved, Christ crucified is the power of God; and when the means of salvation, or that grace of God which brings salvation, was vouchsafed to them, salvation is said to come, Luke xix. 9. Rom. xi. 11, or to be sent to them, Acts xiii. 16. xxviii. 28.12 This fact should be kept in remembrance, that this expression—the saved—was a common term that the Christians chose by which to designate themselves. They did not mean by it persons who had been translated to an immortal existence, but persons who had been turned from darkness to light, from the
power of sin and satan unto God, and who had been translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. Thus, when the jailor said to Paul and Silas,
Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' the import waswhat must I do to be one of the saved ? what must I do to be as you are ? And hence they returned the very answer which, in that case, we should have expected, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.' Acts xvi. 31. The intention, therefore, of the person who 1 Introduction ij. 683, 684. 2 Com. on Acts ij. 47.
asked Jesus the question, are there few that be saved ?' seems to have been this—are there few that have embraced the religion you teach ? Is it to be embraced by many, or confined to a few ? He seems to have expected to justify his rejection of the gospel by the example of the many. Jesus replies, strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.' Entering at the strait gate was embracing the religion of Christ, and was the same thing as being saved. Hence Kenrick very judiciously observes; “Believing in Christ, is, with propriety, called being saved, because it was attended with temporal deliverance; whereas unbelief produded inevitable destruction, in the calamities which awaited the Jewish nation. Christ, therefore, in his answer to the question, exhorts the person who made it, and others who might hear it, to enter the strait gate, that is, to embrace his religion, which was at that tiine attended with many difficulties, and which might fitly be compared to entering a strait or narrow passage; and he enforces this exhortation, by assuring them that the time would come, when many would seek an entrance into the kingdom of the Messiah, but would be refused admission.'1
The very exhortation, strive to enter in,' shows that there were difficulties to encounter. These difficulties bowever, were not in the nature of the religion of Christ abstractly considered; but existed in the errors and vices of the times, and the corrupt prejudices of the age, to which his religion was directly opposed. This state of things made the entrance into the gospel difficult, and men had to strive to attain it. Had the religion of Jesus been 1 Expos. on the passage.