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from sorrow the grief may reach to all; the power of reformation only to those, whom it concerneth. It was but a just question, though ill propounded to Moses, Who made thee a judge or a ruler? We must all imitate the zeal of our Saviour; we may not imitate his correction. If we strike uncalled, we are justly stricken for our arrogance, for our presumption. A tumultuary remedy may prove a medicine, worse than the disease.
But what shall I say of so sharp and imperious an act, from so meek an agent? Why did not the priests and Levites, whose this gain partly was, abet these money-changers, and make head against Christ? Why did not those multitudes of men stand upon their defence, and wrest that whip out of the hand of a seemingly-weak and unarmed Prophet; but, instead thereof, run away like sheep from before him, not daring to abide his presence, though his hand had been still? Surely, had these men been so many armies, yea, so many legions of devils, when God will astonish and chase them, they cannot have the power to stand and resist. How easy is it for him, that made the heart, to put either terror or courage into it, at pleasure! O Saviour, it was none of thy least miracles, that thou didst thus drive out a world of able offenders, in spite of their gain and stomachful resolutions their very profit had no power to stay them against thy frowns. Who hath resisted thy will? Men's hearts are not their own: they are, they must be such, as their Maker will have them.
CONTEMPLATION XXVI.-THE FIG TREE
WHEN, in this state, our Saviour had rode through the streets of Jerusalem, that evening he lodged not there. Whether he would not, that, after so public an acclamation of the people, he might avoid all suspicion of plots or popularity; (even unjust jealousies must be shunned; neither is there less wisdom in the prevention, than in the remedy of evils :) or whether he could not, for want of an invitation. Hosanna was better cheap than an entertainment; and, perhaps, the envy of so stomached a reformation discouraged his hosts. However, he goes that evening supperless out of Jerusalem. O unthankful citizens! Do ye thus part with your no less meek, than glorious King? His title was not more proclaimed in your streets, than your own ingratitude. If he have purged the temple, yet your hearts are foul.
There is no wonder, in men's unworthiness; there is more than wonder, in thy mercy, O thou Saviour of Men, that wouldst yet return thither, where thou wert so palpably disregarded. If
they gave thee not thy supper, thou givest them their breakfast: if thou mayest not spend the night with them, thou wilt with them spend the day. O love of unthankful souls, not discourageable by the most hateful indignities, by the basest repulses ! What burden canst thou shrink under, who canst bear the weight of ingratitude?
Thou, that givest food to all things living, art thyself hungry. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus kept not so poor a house, but that thou mightest have eaten something at Bethany. Whether thy haste outran thine appetite; or whether on purpose thou forbearest repast, to give opportunity to thine ensuing miracle; I neither ask, nor resolve. This was not the first time, that thou wast hungry. As thou wouldst be a man, so thou wouldst suffer those infirmities, that belong to humanity. Thou camest to be our High Priest: it was thy act and intention, not only to intercede for thy people, but to transfer unto thyself, as their sins, so their weaknesses and complaints. Thou knowest to pity, what thou hast felt. Are we pinched with want? we endure but what thou didst, we have reason to be patient; thou endurest what we do, we have reason to be thankful.
But what shall we say to this thine early hunger? The morning, as it is privileged from excess, so from need; the stomach is not wont to rise with the body. Surely, as thy occasions were, no season was exempted from thy want. Thou hadst spent the day before, in the holy labour of thy reformation: after a supperless departure, thou spentest the night in prayer: no meal refreshed thy toil. What do we think much, to forbear a morsel, or to break a sleep for thee, who didst thus neglect thyself for us?
As if meat were no part of thy care, as if any thing would serve to stop the mouth of hunger, thy breakfast is expected from the next tree. A fig tree grew by the way side, full grown, well spread, thick leaved, and such as might promise enough to a remote eye: thither thou camest, to seek that, which thou foundest not; and, not finding what thou soughtest, as displeased with thy disappointment, cursedst that plant which deluded thy hopes. Thy breath instantly blasted that deceitful tree. It did, no otherwise than the whole world must needs do, wither and die with thy curse.
O Saviour, I would rather wonder at thine actions, than discuss them. If I should say, that, as man, thou either knewest not or consideredst not of this fruitlessness, it could no way prejudice thy Divine Omniscience. This infirmity were no worse, than thy weariness or hunger. It was no more disparagement to thee, to grow in knowledge, than in stature; neither was it any more disgrace to thy perfect Humanity, that thou, as man, knewest not all things at once, than that thou wert not in thy childhood at thy full growth. But herein I doubt not to say, it is more likely
thou camest purposely to this tree, knowing the barrenness of it answerable to the season, and fore-resolving the event; that thou mightest hence ground the occasion of so instructive a miracle: like as thou knewest Lazarus was dying, was dead, yet wouldst not seem to take notice of his dissolution, that thou mightest the more glorify thy power in his resuscitation. It was thy willing and determined disappointment for a greater purpose.
But why didst thou curse a poor tree, for the want of that fruit, which the season yielded not? If it pleased thee, to call for that, which it could not give, the plant was innocent; and if innocent, why cursed? O Saviour, it is fitter for us to adore, than to examine. We may be saucy in inquiring after thee, and fond in answering for thee.
If that season were not for a ripe fruit, yet for some fruit it Who knows not the nature of the fig tree, to be always bearing? That plant, if not altogether barren, yields a continual succession of increase. While one fig is ripe, another is green. The same bough can content, both our taste and our hope. This tree was defective in both; yielding nothing but an empty shade, to the mis-hoping traveller.
Besides that, I have learned that thou, O Saviour, wert wont not to speak only, but to work parables. And what was this other than a real parable of thine? All this while hadst thou been in the world; thou hadst given many proofs of thy mercy, (the earth was full of thy goodness,) none of thy judgments: now, immediately before thy Passion, thou thoughtest fit to give this double demonstration of thy just austerity. How else should the world have seen thou canst be severe, as well as meek and merciful?
And why mightest not thou, who, makest all things, take liberty to destroy a plant for thine own glory? Wherefore serve thy best creatures, but for the praise of thy mercy and justice? What great matter was it, if thou, who once saidst, Let the earth bring forth the herb yielding seed, and the tree yielding the fruit of its own kind, shouldst now say, Let this fruitless tree wither?
All this yet was done in figure. In this act of thine, I see both an emblem and a prophecy. How didst thou herein mean to teach thy disciples, how much thou hatest an unfruitful profession, and what judgments thou meantest to bring upon that barren generation! Once before, hadst thou compared the Jewish nation to a fig tree in the midst of thy vineyard, which, after three years' expectation and culture, yielding no fruit, was by thee, the Owner, doomed to a speedy excision: now thou actest, what thou then saidst. No tree abounds more with leaf and shade: no nation abounded more with ceremonial observations and semblances of piety. Outward profession, where there is want of inward truth and real practice, doth but help to draw
on and aggravate judgment. Had this fig tree been utterly bare and leafless, it had perhaps escaped the curse. Hear this, ye vain hypocrites, that care only to shew well; never caring for the sincere truth of a conscionable obedience: your fair outside shall be sure to help you to a curse.
That, which was the fault of this tree, is the punishment of it, fruitlessness: Let no fruit grow on thee hence forward for ever. Had the boughs been appointed to be torn down, and the body split in pieces, the doom had been more easy; and that juicy plant might yet have recovered, and have lived to recompense this deficiency: now it shall be what it was, fruitless. Woe be to that church or soul, that is punished with her own sin. Outward plagues are but favour, in comparison of spiritual judg
That cure might well have stood with a long continuance; the tree might have lived long, though fruitless: but no sooner is the word passed, than the leaves flag and turn yellow, the branches wrinkle and shrink, the bark discolours, the root dries, the plant withers. O God, what creature is able to abide the blasting breath of thy displeasure? Even the most great and glorious angels of heaven could not stand one moment before thine anger, but perished under thy wrath everlastingly. How irresistible is thy power! How dreadful are thy judgments! Lord, chastise my fruitlessness, but punish it not; at least, punish it, but curse it not, lest I wither and be consumed.
CONTEMPLATION XXVII.-CHRIST BETRAYED.
MATTHEW XXVI,; MARK XIV,; LUKE XXII.; JOHN XVIII.
SUCH an eyesore was Christ that raised Lazarus, and Lazarus whom Christ raised to the envious Priests, Scribes Elders of the Jews, that they consult to murder both. While either of them lives, neither can the glory of that miracle die, nor the shame of the oppugners.
Those malicious heads are laid together, in the parlour of Caiaphas. Happy had it been for them, if they had spent but half those thoughts upon their own salvation, which they misemployed upon the destruction of the innocent. At last, this results, that force is not their way; subtlety and treachery must do that, which should be vainly attempted by power.
Who is so fit to work this feat against Christ, as one of his own? There can be no treason, where is not some trust. Who so fit among the domestics, as he, that bare the bag, and overloved that, which he bare? That heart, which hath once en
slaved itself to red and white earth, may be made any thing. Who can trust to the power of good means, when Judas, who heard Christ daily, whom others heard to preach Christ daily, who daily saw Christ's miracles, and daily wrought miracles in Christ's name, is at his best, a thief, and, ere long, a traitor? That Crafty and Malignant Spirit, which presided in that bloody council, hath easily found out a fit instrument for his hellish plot. As God knows, so Satan guesses, who are his; and will be sure to make use of his own. If Judas were Christ's domestic, yet he was Mammon's servant: he could not but hate that Master, whom he formally professed to serve, while he really served that master, which Christ professed to hate. He is but in his trade, while he is bartering even for his Master; What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? Saidst thou not well, O Saviour, I have chosen you twelve and one of you is a devil? Thou, that knewest to distinguish betwixt men and spirits, callest Judas by his right name. Lo, he is become a tempter to the worst of evils.
Wretched Judas! whether shall I more abhor thy treachery, or wonder at thy folly? What will they, what can they give thee, valuable to that head, which thou profferest to sale? Were they able to pay, or thou capable to receive, all those precious metals, that are laid up in the secret cabins of the whole earth, how were this price equivalent to the worth of him, that made them? Had they been able to have fetched down those rich and glittering spangles of heaven, and to have put them into thy fist, what had this been to weigh with a God? How basely, therefore, dost thou speak of chaffering for him, whose the world was! What will ye give me? Alas! what were they? what had they, miserable men, to pay for such a purchase? The time was, when he, that set thee on work, could say, All the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them are mine; and I give them to whom I please: all these will I give thee. Had he now made that offer to thee in this woeful bargain, it might have carried some colour of a temptation: and even thus it had been a match ill made. But for thee to tender a trade of so invaluable a commodity to these pelting petty-chapmen for thirty poor silverlings, it was no less base than wicked.
How unequal is this rate! Thou, that valuedst Mary's ointment which she bestowed upon the feet of Christ at three hundred pieces of silver, sellest thy Master, on whom that precious odour was spent, at thirty. Worldly hearts are penny-wise, and pound-foolish; they know how to set high prices upon the worthless trash of this world; but for heavenly things, or the God that owns them, these they shamefully undervalue.
And I will deliver him unto you. False and presumptuous Judas! it was more than thou couldst do. Thy price was not more too low, than thy undertaking was too high. Had all the powers