He spoke also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.…
Others there are that bring forth fruit as well as buds and leaves, and yet their fruit shall not be accepted.
1. For that it is not natural and kindly fruit, but degenerate. In the creation every seed and plant brought fruit after its kind; so it is in the regeneration, good trees bring forth fruit answerable to the stock wherein they are engrafted, and the sap they thence receive, and the profession that they make; but these men walk after the lusts of the Gentiles, and bring forth the fruits of the flesh (such as those mentioned, Galatians 5:19), no manner of way answering to the seed that hath been sown in them by the ministry of the Word, which they have heard, and the doctrine which they have been taught.
2. Say it be fruit of a better kind, yet it is not seasonable fruit. It may be that they are ten or twenty years in blooming, so long before they come to any good resolution to leave their vicious ways and courses; and then they trust to latter springs and showers for the perfecting and ripening of it, and so neglecting the due season of fruit, it happens that, with Esau, they find "no place for repentance, though they seek it carefully with tears."
3. Their fruit is not sound fruit, but rotten at the core (however it be goodly and fair to look upon), like those apple-trees in Assyria (of which Solinus writes), the fruit whereof is yellow as gold, but being touched is rotten; or like the apples of Sodom, beautiful to the eye, but being touched they fall to cinders. Zealous they seem outwardly, when they are cold at heart or else lukewarm. Their aims and ends in all their devotions is self.
4. Their fruit is not fair, it is shrivelled up, either in some few duties of the first table, as hearing, reading, praying, &c., but in the duties of the second table they are very tardy (Isaiah 58:3, 5, 6). So the Pharisees made long prayers, and under that pretence "devoured up widows' houses" (Matthew 23:14), and such is the fruit of all hypocrites. Or else they are observant in the duties of the second table, with neglect of the first (as Matthew 23:23), and such is the fruit of the civilian and moral man.
5. Their fruit is not lasting; it holds good for the summer season of prosperity, but when the winter of adversity and persecution comes, it fails (Luke 8:13). And such is the fruit of the temporary believer and time-serving Christian; his fruit lasts not all the year, not during term of life, when, as a good fig-tree is never without some figs hanging on the tender boughs, winter nor summer, a good Christian, like the palm-tree spoken of, Psalm 92:12, grows fat and flourishing even in old age. Let these and all such other be advised not to flatter themselves nor suffer themselves by vain pretences to be undone. It is not a fair blossom, a green leaf, nor fruit of outward profession, external reformation, common illumination, or any of the like nature, that will satisfy God's expectation. He looks for fruit, and good fruit too, from every fig-tree, and at your hands He will require it. Wherefore, be exhorted to be fruitful Christians, that you may answer God's expectation. Let your fruit be the fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1.11), "fruit unto holiness (Romans 6:22), "fruit unto God" (Romans 7:4), that is, to the glory and praise of God, and such as He will accept of. Now that this use may be the more profitable, I shall acquaint you with three particulars.
1. With the properties or qualifications of that fruit that shall find acceptance.
2. With the means that must be used for the producing of fruit so qualified.
3. With the motives that may stir us up to the bringing forth of such fruit. Of each of these briefly, and in order.
Parallel VersesKJV: He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.