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of Adam in the earthly character. And as those Pharisees were ever desirous of performing something whereby GOD might accept them and delight in them, it was proper for them to be informed, that good works or fruits alone would receive approbation, of which they, in the character of vipers, were destitute.
"And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees." Note the axe is an instrument by which the tree is severed from its roots, which, in the Parable, signifies the executive power of the law; the trees every individual of mankind; the root, (not roots) that one Adamic nature from which we all sprang. "Therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." Has any one, in or by the carnal mind, brought forth good fruit? Is there any spiritual life in Adam the first nature? It was said to him, "In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." If we sprang from a spiritually dead root, can we possess any spiritual life derived from that root? If we have no spiritual life, can we bring forth the fruits of righteousness? If not, the axe must do its office; the trees must be hewn down, that is, severed from the old root, cut off from the Adamic nature; for in that nature we can never partake of the tree of life, for behold God placed cherubims and a flaming sword in the east, the place of light, that we, in that nature, cannot approach the tree of life. It is, therefore, shewed unto us, in the priesthood of the law, that neither the High Priests themselves, nor the people in their representatives, could enter the holy place until they were slain in the outer court, which was done by proxy, in those sacrifices which
were offered for the priests and the people. The trees, when hewn down, must be cast into the fire; that being consumed, in respect to the carnal or old man, there might no part of that life appear which was derived from Adam the first.
Further, see the nature of this fire, as described by Malachi iii. 2, 3. where Christ is represented by a refiner's fire, and by a fuller's soap; whereby the sons of Levi were to be purified, that their offering might be in righteousness. And that we are right in respect to this fire, is made sufficiently evident by the words of John, in that he saith, speaking of Christ, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire," speaking to the Pharisees, whom he called a generation of vipers; and herein he noted the difference between his own baptism and that which Christ would administer. John does not say that Christ would baptize them with the Holy Ghost and fire, if they would willingly consent to his ministry; but asserted, saying, "he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." We then observe, that the fire, into which the trees are cast, when hewn down, is the same with which he baptizes; and that is what always accompanies the Holy Ghost. He, who has happily experienced the work of grace, in taking him from the wild olive tree and grafting him into Christ, knows well that the Lord contended with him by fire.
As it is a thing well known that the foregoing parable has generally been applied, by christian commentators, very differently from the application, made by these notes, it is thought expedient
to enlarge this edition by candidly considering suitable evidences by which the subject may be the more easily judged of.
The same reason which renders an illustration of this particular subject necessary, requires an illustration also of notes on other parables, which I propose the execution of, in as plain, impartial plain, and scriptural a manner as God, by his grace, may assist me to do.
In my labors on this very important subject, I think it advisable to state the common use which has been made of the text, in as plain and concise a manner as is convenient; seek for the relation between the common explanation and the text with the context; consider suitable. arguments to show the impropriety of the common application, and also to show the consistency of the notes with the text, context and the general tenor of the gospel.
The doctrine of a future and eternal state of unmerciful punishment, having obtained almost universal assent in the christian church for many centuries, many of the parables spoken by our Saviour, as well as many other passages of scripture, have been generally used to prove and enforce that sentiment, among which this parable spoken by the forerunner of Christ is found.
I said a future and eternal state of unmerciful. punishment; for surely that punishment which is never to end, cannot be said to be administered in mercy, even by those who think they can see such punishment to be consistent with divine justice.
Agreeably to this doctrine, it has been generally supposed, that the true meaning of the above text is, that by trees is meant righteous and wicked men,
and that every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, signifieth every wicked man who bringeth not forth the fruits of righteousness. Hewing those trees down and casting them into the fire, signifieth the cutting off of the wicked from all their enjoyments, and casting them into the beforementioned state of future, eternal, unmerciful punishment.
Let us now look for the relation between the above explanation, and the text with the context. Why are the trees which bring not forth good fruit, hewn down and cast into the fire? Answer, because they did not bring forth good fruit, but evil fruit. This is the natural sense of the text. What is the evil fruit produced by those trees which are to be cast into the fire? Answer, sin. To this answer none will object. Now look carefully. Will the cutting off of the wicked from all possible comforts, and consigning them to future, eternal, unmerciful punishment, cause them to cease bringing forth evil fruit, and to bring forth good fruit? Answer, no, for that punishment
which weans the creature from sin, and inclines him to righteousness, is by no means unmerciful, nor can it be endless. And surely it does not require a very critical investigation to show the impropriety of hewing down and burning trees, because they bring forth evil fruit, if this hewing them down and burning them, will in no degree prevent their bringing forth this evil fruit.
In the 8th verse, John required of those whom he calls a generation of vipers, to bring forth fruits meet for repentance; but in the 10th verse, he intimates that they must be hewn down and cast into the fire: and in the 11th verse, he inform
them what he meant by their being cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with WATER unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoe I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with FIRE. We now see that if Christ's baptizing that generation of vipers with the Holy Ghost and with fire, mean their being cast into future, eternal, unmerciful punishment, then the common application of this parable is correct; if not, then it is easy to see that all mankind standing in the same charac ter, in which the unregenerate scribes and pharisees stood, they must be cut off from the olive tree which is wild by nature, and be grafted into the good olive tree, which is Christ, in order to bring forth the fruits of righteousness required, that Christ may be manifested as the Lord our righteousness. And that the Saviour's baptizing with the Holy Ghost and with fire, effects this necessary work of regeneration, will not be doubted. It is hardly necessary that I here say any thing on the subject of the consistency of my explanation of the above parable, with the general tenor of the gospel, as nothing can be more evident. If the gospel were a scheme of endless condemnation, sin and misery, I grant the explanation which I have given of this scripture would by no means accord with the general tenor of the gospel; but if the gospel be a scheme of salvation from sin and death, then these notes appear to agree with it.