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will nor can, by any means, be fruitful, but they must miserable perish. Now being come to the time of execution, I shall speak a word to that also ; " after that thou shalt cut it down." Christ at last turns the barren fig tree over to the justice of God, shakes his hands off him, and gives him up to the fire for his unprofitableness.
After that thou shalt cut it down. Two shings are here to be considered : 1. The executioner, thou, the great, the dreadful
, the eternal God. These words, therefore, as I have already said, signify that Christ the Mediator, through whom alone salvation comes, and by whom alone execution hath been deferred, now giveth up the soul, forbears to speak one syllable more for him, or to do the least act of grace further, to try for his recovery ; but delivereth him up to that fearful despensation, “to fall into the hands of the living God." Heb. x. 31.
2. The second to be considered is, The instrument by which this execution is done, and that is death, compared here to an ax; and for as much as the tree is not felled at one blow, therefore the strokes are here continued, till all the blows be struck at it that are requisite for its felling: for now cutting time, and cutting work, is come ; curting must be his portion, till he be cut down. “ After that thou shalt cut it down." Death, I say, is the ax, which God often useth, therewith to take the barren fig. tree out of the vineyard, out of a profession, and also out of the world at once. But this ax is now new-ground, it cometh well edged to the roots of this barren fig-tree. It hath been whetted by sin, by the law, and by a formal profession, and therefore must, and will make deep gashes, not only in the natural life, but in the heart and conscience also of this professor : “ The wages af sin is deah, the sting of death is sin," i Cor. xv. Wherefore death comes not to this man as he doth to saints, mozzled, or without his sting, but with open mouth, in all his strength; yea, he sends his first born, which is guilt, to devour
his strength, and to bring him to the king of terrors, Job. xviii. 13, 14.
But to give you, in a few particulars, the manner of this man's dying.
1. Now he hath his fruitless fruit beleaguer him round his bed, together with all the bands and legions of his other wickedness. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden in the cords of his sins, Proy. v. 22.
2. Now some terrible discovery of God is made out unto him, to the perplexing and terrifying of his guilty conscience. God shall cast upon him, and not spare; and he shall be afraid of that which is high, Job xxvii. 22.
3. The dark entry he is to go through, will be a sore amazement to him; “ for fear shall be in the way," Eccles. xii. 5. yea, terrors will take hold on him, when he shall see the yawning jaws of death to gape upon him, and the doors of the shadow of death open to give him passage out of the world. Now, who will meet me in this dark entry! how shall I pass through this dark entry into another world !
4. For by reason of guilt, and a shaking conscience, his life will hang in continual doubt before him, and he shall be afraid day and night, Deut. xxviii. 66. 97, and shall have no assurance of his life.
5. Now also want will come up against him ; it will come up like an armed man. This is a terrible army to him that is graceless in heart, and fruitless in life. This want will continually cry in thine ears, Here is a new birth wanting, a new heart, and a new spirit wanting; here is faith wanting; here is love and repentance wao:ing; here is the fear of God wanting, and a good conversation wanting : “ Thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting," Dan. v. 27.
6. Together with these standeth by the companions of death, death and hell, death and devils, death and endless torment in the everlasting flames of devouring fire. When God shall come up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops, Heb. iii. 16.
But how will this man die ! Can his heart now endure, or can his heart be strong? Ezek. xxii. 14.
1. God, and Christ, and pity, have left him : Sin against light, against mercy, and the long-suffering of God, is come up against him ; his hope and confidence now is dying by him, and his conscience totters and shakes continually within him.
2. Death is at work, cutting of him down, hewing both bark and heart, both body and soul asunder: The man groans, but death hears him not : he looks ghastly, carefully, dejectedly; he sighs, he sweats, he trembles, death matters nothing.
3. Fearful cogitations baunt him, misgivings, direful apprehensions of God terrify him. Now he hath time to think what the loss of heaven 'will be, and what the torments of hell will be : now he looks no way but he is frighted.
4. Now would he live, but may not; he would live, though it were but the life of a bed-rid man, but must not. He that cuts him down, sways him, as the feller of wood sways the tottering tree ; now this way, then that; at last a root breaks, an heart-string, an eye-string snaps asunder.
5. And now, could the soul be annihilated, or brought to nothing, how happy would it count itself! but, it sees that may not be. Wherefore it is put to a wonderful strait : stay in the body it may not, go out of the body it dares not. Life is going, the blood settles in the flesh, and the lungs being no more able to draw breath through the nostrils, at last out goes the weary trembling soul, who is immediately seized by devils, who lay lurking in every hole in the chamber for that very purpose : His friends take care of the body, wrap it up in the sheet or coffin ; but the soul is out of their thought and reach, going down to the chambers of death.
I had thought to have enlarged, but I forbear. God, who teaches man to profit, bless this brief and plain discourse to the soul, who yet standeth a professor in the land of the living, among the trees of his garden. Amen.