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Home » Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Gospels ! Chapter 34 - Mark 11:13 - The Fruitless Life Light & Truth: The Gospels by Bonar, Horatius
Quick Access Chapter 1 - Matthew 1:1 - Very Man... Chapter 2 - Matthew 1:16 - Jesus the See... Chapter 3 - Matthew 2:3 - Jesus the Trou... Chapter 4 - Matthew 3:10 - The Desert Vo... Chapter 5 - Matthew 4:23 - Jesus in Seas... Chapter 6 - Matthew 5:45 - His Sun... Chapter 7 - Matthew 8:1-3 - Human Lepros... Chapter 8 - Matthew 8:34 - Man's Dislike... Chapter 9 - Matthew 11:28 - The Rest and... Chapter 10 - Matthew 11:29 - The Three E... Chapter 11 - Matthew 12:41 - Nineveh and... Chapter 12 - Matthew 13:25 - The Two Sow... Chapter 13 - Matthew 19:6 - Herod's Ball... Chapter 14 - Matthew 19:15-16 - Man's Wa... Chapter 15 - Matthew 14:24-31 - The Help... Chapter 16 - Matthew 17:17 - The Graciou... Chapter 17 - Matthew 18:1-4 - The Peerag... Chapter 18 - Matthew 18:2; Luke 19:10 - ... Chapter 19 - Matthew 21:44 - The Stone o... Chapter 20 - Matthew 22:42 - The Things ... Chapter 21 - Matthew 24:12 - The Chill o... Chapter 22 - Matthew 24:42, 44 - True Vi... Chapter 23 - Matthew 25:3 - Religion wit... Chapter 24 - Matthew 25:31, 33 - The Gre... Chapter 25 - Matthew 24:70 - The Denying... Chapter 26 - Matthew 27:4 - The True Con... Chapter 27 - Mark 3:35 - Relationship to... Chapter 28 - Mark 4:39 - The Great Calm... Chapter 29 - Mark 5:36 - Only Believe... Chapter 30 - Mark 6:6 - Jesus Wondering ... Chapter 31 - Mark 6:33, 34 - Christ's Te... Chapter 32 - Mark 6:53-56 - Jesus and Hi... Chapter 34 - Mark 11:13 - The Fruitless ... Chapter 33 - Mark 10:52 - Christ's Recog... Chapter 35 - Mark 11:22 - Faith in God... Chapter 36 - Mark 13:33 - Watch and Pray... Chapter 37 - Mark 13:34-37 - The Master ... Chapter 38 - Mark 14:62 - The Coming of ... Chapter 39 - Luke 4:16-31 - The Gracious... Chapter 40 - Luke 6:19 - Health in Jesus... Chapter 41 - Luke 7:36-50 - Much Forgive... Chapter 42 - Luke 11:13 - How Much More!... Chapter 43 - Luke 15:2 - Jesus Watching ... Chapter 44 - Luke 15:10 - God's Joy Over... Chapter 45 - Luke 15:20 - The Father's L... Chapter 46 - Luke 15:22 - God's Free Lov... Chapter 47 - Luke 17:26, 27 - Noah Days... Chapter 48 - Luke 19:11-27 - The Lowest ... Chapter 49 - Luke 14:40 - Christ Must ha... Chapter 50 - Luke 21:28 - Signs of the T... Chapter 51 - Luke 21:36 - Deliverance in... Chapter 52 - Luke 22:18 - The New Wine o... Chapter 53 - Luke 22:19, 20 - The Heaven... Chapter 54 - Luke 23:32-43 - The Three C... Chapter 55 - Luke 24:29 - The Disciples'... Chapter 56 - John 1:12, 13 - Reception o... Chapter 57 - John 3:2 - The World's Need... Chapter 58 - John 3:14, 15 - Life in Loo... Chapter 59 - John 3:29 - The Filling Up ... Chapter 60 - John 3:34, 35 - The Fullnes... Chapter 61 - John 4:10 - The Living Wate... Chapter 62 - John 5:39, 40 - Bible Testi... Chapter 63 - John 6:17 - Night with Jesu... Chapter 64 - John 6:50 - The Bread of Im... Chapter 65 - John 6:51 - Christ's Flesh ... Chapter 66 - John 7:37 - Come and Drink... Chapter 67 - John 7:53; John 8:1, 12 - J... Chapter 68 - John 8:31, 32 - Truth and L... Chapter 69 - John 8:54 - The Father Hono... Chapter 70 - John 11:40 - The Honour Giv... Chapter 71 - John 12:12 - Inquiring afte... Chapter 72 - John 12:32 - The Great Attr... Chapter 73 - John 12:35-36 - Light and i... Chapter 74 - John 12:46 - Light for the ... Chapter 75 - John 12:48 - The Judging Wo... Chapter 76 - John 14:8-10 - The Revelati... Chapter 77 - John 13:16, 17 - The Abidin... Chapter 78 - John 14:26 - The Mighty Com... Chapter 79 - John 14:27 - The Divine Leg... Chapter 80 - John 16:25-28 - Christ in H... Chapter 81 - John 16:33 - Tribulation, P... Chapter 82 - John 17:26 - The Declaratio... Chapter 84 - John 18:28 - Ritualism and ... Chapter 84 - John 19:2 - The Greater Sin... Chapter 85 - John 20:17 - Christ's Work ... Chapter 86 - John 21:5 - The Tender Love... Light & Truth - The Gospels - Footnotes...
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The Fruitless Life.
"Nothing but leaves."-Mark 11:13.
It was the eye of the Son of God that searched this tree, and made this discovery. It must have been true that there was "nothing but leaves." Man's eye might be deceived; his could not. That which He found barren must have been really so. No fruit could be concealed from Him. And He who searched the fig tree is the searcher of souls, and the searcher of churches. "I know thy works."
He found leaves, but nothing more. Leaves are proper to the tree, but not the main thing. They are something, but not all; nay, they are the least part of that for which the tree is made. They are ornaments; they are shade; they cover the bare branches; they protect the fruit from the sun. But they are not substitutes for fruit. Leaves and something more would have been the thing. Not fruit without leaves, nor leaves without fruit. Leaves and fruit would have been the true condition. Leaves are necessary, but not for satisfying hunger.
It was the hunger of the Son of God that led to the discovery. He was "an hungered," for He was truly man. He thought that on this tree He would find something to satisfy his hunger. It promised well at a distance; and he judged of it at first simply as a man does who sees a thing afar off. But the verdict against the tree is, "nothing but leaves."
(1.) It is a remarkable description. It is the least offensive way of describing barrenness. Everything is here but fruit. No exaggeration. This is Christ's simple description of a fruitless Christian. Nothing but leaves. Nothing to satisfy the hunger of the Son of God. Much that looks well; but that is all. Nothing but words! Nothing but forms! Nothing but profession!
(2.) It is an expression of disappointment. It was a fig tree, not a fir tree; it was not planted in the wilderness, but in a fruitful soil. There ought to have been fruit, for the harvest had not yet been gathered. Leaves are promises. As they wave in the wind, or glisten in the sunshine, they say there is fruit here. All Christian profession is a promise,-to man and to God. Christ comes to satisfy his hunger, and his verdict against the promising but fruitless professor is, "Nothing but leaves." This is the language of disappointment; as in the case of God's vine in Isaiah (v. 4), or of the fig tree planted in the vineyard (Luke 13:6).
(3.) It is a declaration of uselessness. The purpose of the tree has not been served. It was made for fruit, and there is nothing but leaves! It was planted in a fruitful soil, in one of the pleasant Bethany hollows; but it bears no fruit. Nothing but leaves! Then (1.) Nothing to do credit to any one; to the gardener, or the garden, or the soil, or the owner, or the root itself. (2.) Nothing to be of any use to any one; all a cheat, a sham, a mockery; something for the eye, but no more; a fair outside, but useless; not perhaps a white sepulcher, but a useless growth; a well without water; a pretence, an unreality, a falsehood. (3.) Nothing to satisfy the hunger of the Son of God; He craves fruit, not leaves.
(4.) It is a sentence of doom. Or at least it is preliminary to it. Nothing but leaves! Then wither away! Leaves and branches perish! This is the condemnation of the fruitless professor.
This fruitless fig tree is a symbol. Though a real tree on the Bethany road, yet a symbol: of Jewish unfruitfulness; of Christian unfruitfulness; unfruitfulness in the individual and in the church; words without deeds, or deeds that contain neither life nor love, and make the doer as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
It is simple unfruitfulness that is represented here, as in the fig tree of the vineyard. It is not corrupt or poisonous fruit; it is not immorality or even total death; nor the twice-dead tree; nor the cloud charged with fire; nor the star shedding baleful fire; nor the whited sepulcher; but simply the absence of fruit. It is form with some show of life; a tree with foliage, with sufficient sap to produce leaves and verdure; a profession sufficiently fair to excite expectation; a fair-promising Christianity, an excellent external religion. The class described here is not that of the profligate, the scoffer, the drunkard, the theatre goer, the ball attender, the card-player, the turf-haunter, the Sabbath-breaker; but the brisk religious talker, the bustling planner, the church-frequenter, the man of the committee and the platform. The professor depicted here may be found at our communion table, among our elders, or Sabbath-school teachers, or visitors, or, perhaps, our ministers. He goes far; he promises much; he raises high expectations. Yet, after all, there is nothing but leaves! Nothing but leaves; then,
I. Our creed is vain. It may be excellent and sound; without a crack or flaw; orthodox, ancient, evangelical; with Christ as its alpha and omega. It may be noble and venerable; the creed of apostles; the creed of primitive days; the creed of the reformation; the creed of all protestant churches; the creed of our fathers, in which we have been instructed from childhood; yet if it produce no fruit, it is vain. We may be most intelligent in our apprehension of it,-zealous in our appreciation, and defense, and propagation of it,-yet if we are without that which God calls fruit, which is the offspring of life, and love, and faith, we are but as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. A man may say, "Lord, Lord," and yet be shut out from the kingdom.
II. Our religion is vain. By "religion" I mean the whole of a man's transactions with God; his whole worship and service; all the ways in which his creed acts itself out. If there be nothing of what God calls fruit, his whole religious life is vain; all his religious acts, whether of devotion, or service, or benevolence, are vain. In him the whole routine of religion may be perfect and unexceptionable, and there may be no positive inconsistency to contradict this,-no irreverence, no neglect, no contempt,-yet his religion may be unfruitful. It may look well, and promise well, yet after all there may be "nothing but leaves."
III. Our Bible is vain. We may read it intelligently, reverently, and regularly,-we may teach it to others, in the family, the Sabbath school, the Bible class,-yet it may profit nothing. It may be relished by us sentimentally or poetically, yet find no entrance into our conscience, no dwelling in our inner man. With our Bible in our hands and on our lips there may be no life. The Bible with all its glorious gospel may be in vain. That gospel itself may be in vain.
IV. Our churchmanship is vain. Zeal for a true church will not serve nor profit; it may sometimes cover lack of zeal for Christ. Love to a church and love to Christ are very different things. Churchmanship is not religion; it is not fruit, it is often mere "leaves."
V. Our faith and hope are vain. What is faith if it does not shew itself in fruit? What is hope if it have no loving, living, practical manifestations? Let us see what is the nature of our faith and hope, lest after all we have "nothing but leaves."
VI. Our whole life is vain. Not one part of it, but every part of it. All is unreal and hollow, beginning, middle, and end; the civil and social as well as the religious. It is one great unreality throughout; to bring forth nothing. All wasted! A mere show, or shadow, or piece of acting. How sad that our whole life should be vain! Nothing but leaves!
Woe to the fruitless! They have had all advantages, yet they bear nothing but leaves! Woe to the fruitless? The whole end of being is frustrated! Woe to the fruitless! Their whole course is a pretence, a falsehood!
If it be so for time,-then what for eternity? There is no possibility of improving the tree hereafter. No transplantation, nor grafting, nor pruning, nor digging hereafter. It is felled and given to the fire! Or put it in this way,-eternal barrenness! How awful, how wretched! Eternal unreality!
Even now the axe is laid at the root, in token of coming judgment; it will soon be lifted up; it will soon smite. So that, while pointing to the cross, we point also to the axe; while telling of the husbandman, planting, pruning, manuring, we must tell also of the same husbandman, examining, condemning, cutting down. Yes, the cross is yonder, but the axe is here.
Ah yes! these are awful words, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever! The curse of eternal barrenness! To be stripped of our green foliage as Adam of his fig leaves; to wither away! O fruitless sinner, bethink you of your doom. Bear fruit or perish! Fulfill your promise or wither away.
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