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MATTHEW xxi. 19.
And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he
came to it 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.
IN my last Lecture, we left our blessed Lord talking with the Pharisees about his driving the buyers and sellers out of the temple. This was done on one day: and on the following morning, having lodged the night between in a neighbouring town, he was returning into the city, when he saw a fig tree by the way-side. Being hungry, he went to it in order to see
whether it had figs; and finding nothing but leaves on it, and knowing by that circumstance that it must be barren, he said, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever." And presently, as we read, "the fig tree withered away." When the disciples saw it, they were astonished and said, "How soon is the fig tree withered away!" Jesus then answered them and said, "Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done unto the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
Now from this little story we may learn some useful things. Let us consider them.
In the first place, it shews the great use of prayer to God, when you pray with a right faith or belief in him. After our
Lord went up into heaven, he gave his disciples power to do as great things as he had done himself. He gave them power to heal the sick, to cast out devils from the poor creatures possessed by them, to raise the dead, besides other very wonderful things. Now in order to do these great acts, our Lord expected them to have a full faith or belief in him. If they had this faith, this belief, that he could make them do it, they would be able to curse a barren tree, to remove mountains, if it were required, and to work works beyond the strength and power of men. If they were without this faith, the power would be lost. Now this was the case soon after our Lord went up into heaven, because the men who went about preaching the Gospel, stood in need of this power. It was because the nations of the world saw them doing such mighty things, that the people of those nations became Christians. None of us have, nor is it necessary that we should have, this power in these days.
The Holy Bible is enough for you: and if you will not believe what that tells you, neither would you be persuaded, though you saw one raised from the dead. But still God though Jesus Christ is willing and ready to hear your prayers, and he is never better pleased with you than when you shew, by praying to him, that you depend upon him. He knows your wants, before you ask: but yet, he expects that you should tell your wants to him, because you will then act like creatures depending on him to supply them. And indeed, my friends, I can do you no greater service, than by persuading you to this duty, the duty of prayer to God. And I am certain, that when you take care to perform it, you are in the way to become good Christians. For every good and every perfect gift cometh from God. He not only gives you all the comforts and necessaries of life, but he gives you the heart and the wish to believe and be saved. He makes people to become true Christians. He fills us
with trouble for our past sins, and with a desire to wash them away in the blood of Christ. He makes us to will and to doto wish for all holiness and to practise it. And therefore let me advise you to seek from Him not only the supplies of your wants, and health and strength and life and happiness, but also, what is better than all these, the wish and the power to serve Him, to obey Him and to be saved. Perhaps most of you are careful to pray to God. But what do you pray to Him for? Is it only for what is to make you happy in this world? Do you not know that you have souls? Do you pray to Him to take care of those souls-to guard them from evil thoughts, as you would wish your bodies guarded and defended from evil accidents to clothe those souls with holy, and religious and virtuous feelings and desires, as you would that your bodies should be clothed with decent and suitable raiment to feed those souls with religious knowledge and instruction, with good