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5. There is also untimely fruit : “ Even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs," Rev. vi. 13. Fruit out of season, and so no fruit to God's liking.
There are two sorts of professors subject to bring forth untimely fruit: 1. They that bring forth fruit too soon: 2. They that bring forth fruit too late.
(1.) They that bring forth too soon. They are such as at present receive the word with joy; and anon, before they have root downward, they thrust forth upwards; but not having root, when the sun ariseth, they are smitten, and miserably die without fruit. These professors are those light and inconsiderate ones that think nothing but peace will attend the gospel; and so anon rejoice at the tidings, without foreseeing the evil : Wherefore, when the evil comes, being unarmed, and so not able to stand any longer, they die, and are withered, and bring forth no fruit : “ He that received the seed in stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it: Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while ; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by they are offended, Matth. xii. 20. 21. There is in Isa. xxviii. 4. mention made of some, “whose glorious beauty shall be a fading flower,” because it is fruit before
Both these are untimely fruit. (2.) They also bring forth untimely fruit, that stay till the season is over, God will have his fruit in his season; I say, he will receive them of such men as shall render them to him in their seasons, Matth. xxi. 41. The missing of the season is dangerous ; staying till the door is shut is dangerous, Matth. xxv. 10, 11. Many there be that come not till the flood of God's anger is raised, and too deep for them to wade through : “Surely in the floods of great waters, they shall not come nigh unto him," Psal. xxxii. 6. Esau's (afterwards) is fearful : “ For ye know how that afterward when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears,” Heb. xii. 16, 17.
So the children of Israel, they brought to God the fruits of obedience too late ; their “Lo, we be here," (Numb. xiv. 40, 41, 42.) came too late : their “We will go up,” (ver. 21, 22, 23.) came too late: The Lord had sworn, Matth. xxv. 10. xxvii. 8. before, “ that they should not possess the land.” All these are such as bring forth untimely fruit, Heb. xii. 17. Luke xii. 25, 26, 27. It is the hard hap of the reprobate to do all things too late ; to be sensible of his want of grace too late ; to be sorry for sin too late ; to seek repentance too late ; to ask for mercy, and to desire to go to glory, too late.
Thus you see that fruit smitten in the growth, that withereth, and that comes not to maturity, is no fruit : That hasty fruit, such as the “corn upon the housetop," Psal. cxxix. 6. withereth also before it groweth up, and is no fruit : That the fruit that is vile, and ill tasted, is no fruit: That wild fruit, wild grapes, Rev. si. are no fruit : That untimely fruit, such as comes too soon, or that comes too late, such as come not in their season, are no fruit. And he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
Nothing will do but fruit, Matth. xxi. 34. he looked for grapes; when the time of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruit of it.
Quest. But what fruit doth God expect?
Ans. Good fruit. “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down,” Matth. vii. 19. Now, before the fruit can be good, the tree must be good: for good fruit makes not a good tree, “but a good tree bringeth forth good fruir: Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ?" A man must be good, else he can bring forth no good fruit; he must hare righteousness imputed, that he may stand good in God's sight from the curse of his law; he must have a principle of righteousness in his soul, else how should he bring forth good fruits; and hence it is, that a
Christian's fruits are called, Gal. v. 22, 23. “the fruits of the Spirit,' the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ,” Phil. i. 11. The fruits of the Spirit, therefore the Spirit must be there ; the fruits of righteousness, therefore righteousness must first be there. But to particularize in a few things briefly :
i. God expecteth fruit that will answer, and be worthy of the repentance which thou feignest thyself to have. Every one in a profession, and that hath crowded into the vineyard, pretendeth to repentance : now of every such soul, God expecteth that the fruits of repentance be found to attend them, Matth. jii. 8. “ Bring forth fruits therefore meet for repentance," or answerable to thy profession of the doctrine of repentance. Barren fig-tree, seeing thou art a professor, and art got into the vineyard, thou standest before the Lord of the vineyard as one of the trees of the garden ; wherefore he looketh for fruit from thee, as from the rest of the trees in the vineyard ; fruits, I say, and such as may declare thee in heart and life, one that hath made sound profession of repentance. By thy profession thou hast said, I am sensible of the evil of sin; now then, live such a life as declares that thou art sensible of the evil of sin. By thy profession thou hast said, I am sorry for my sin: Why then, live such a life as may declare this sorrow, By thy profession thou hast said, “I am ashamed of my sin," Psal. xxxviii. 18, yea, but live such a life, that men by that may “see thy shame for sin,” Jer. xxxi. 19. By thy profession thou sayest, I have turned from, left off, and am become an enemy to every appearance of evil, i Thess. v. 22. Ah! but doth thy life and conversation declare thee to be such an one ? take heed, barren fig-tree, lest thy life should give thy profession the lie. I say again, take heed, for God himself will come for fruit : " And he sought fruit thereon."
You have some professors that are only saints before men, when they are abroad, but are devils and vipers at home : saints by profession, but devils by practice ;
saints in word, but sinners in heart and life. These men may have the profession, but they want the fruits that become repentance.
Barren fig-tree, Can it be imagined that those that paint themselves, did ever repent of their pride? or that those that pursue this world did ever repent of their covetousness? or that those that walk with wanton eyes, did ever repent of their fleshly lusts? Where, barren fig-tree, is the fruit of these people's repentance ? Nay, do they not rather declare to the world, that they have repented of their profession? Their fruits look as if they had. Their pride saith, they have repented of their humility: Their covetousness declareth, that they are weary of depending upon God; and doth not thy wanton actions declare, that thou abhorrest chastity? Where is thy fruit, barren fig-tree? Repentance is not only a sorrow, and a shame for, but a turning from sin to God. Heb. vi. it is called “
repentance from dead works." Hast thou that godly sorrow that worketh
repentance to salvation, never to be repented of?" 2 Cor. vii. 10, 11. How dost thou shew thy carefulness, and clearing of thyself; thy indignation against sin ; thy fear of offending; thy vehement desire to walk with God; thy zeal for his name and glory in the world? And what revenge hast thou in thy heart against every thought of disobedience ?
But where is the fruit of this repentance? Where is thy watching, thy fasting, thy praying against the remainders of corruption? Where is thy self-abhorrence, thy blushing before God, for the sin that is yet bebind? Where is thy tenderness of the name of God and his ways? Where is thy self-denial and contentment? How dost thou shew before men the truth of thy turning to God? “ Hast thou renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness ?" 2 Cor. iv. 2. Canst thou commend thyself “ to every man's conscience in the sight of God ?"
2. God expecteth fruits that shall answer that faith which thou makest profession of. The professor that
in the world, the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but enmity to God;" how then, (where these things bind up the heart) can there be fruit brought forth to God? Barren fig tree, see how the Lord Jesus, by these very words, suggestéth the cause of thy fruitlessness of soul. The things of this world lie too close to thy heart; the earth with its things have bound up thy roots; thou art an earth-bound soul, thou art wrapped up in thick
“ If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him;" how then can he be fruitful in the vineyard? This kept Judas from caring for the poor, John xii. 6. This kept Demas from the fruit of self-denial, 2 Tim. iv. 10. And this kept Ananias and Sapphira his wife, from the goodly fruit of sincerity and truth, Acts v. 5, 10. What shall I say? “ These are foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition: for the love of money is the root of all evil, i Tim. 9, 10. How then can good fruit grow from such a rpot, the root of all evil? " Which while some covet after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. It is an evil root, nay, it is the root of all evil: How then can the professor that hath such a root, or a root wrapped up in such earthly things, as the lusts, and pleasures, and vanities of this world, bring forth fruit to God?
Till I shall dig about it, Lord, I will loose his roots, I will dig up this earth, I will lay his roots bare ; my hand shall be upon him by sickness, by disappointments, by cross providences; I will dig about him until he stands shaking and tottering, until he be ready to fall; then, if ever, he will seek to
take * The desire of honour, dignities, titles, and places, which tend to gratify our pride, and pamper the flesh, are not of God; they are neither excited by him, nor are pleasing to him, but are the desires of the men of this world, who seek all their portion and happiness in it, and proceed intirely from that corruption which is in them, that carnal mind which is enmity against God.