Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): Death, I say, is the axe, which God often useth to take the barren fig-tree out of the vineyard.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): There is a time for felling fruitless trees, and there is an appointed season for hewing down and casting into the fire the useless sinner…It is right and reasonable to fell barren trees, and it just as right and reasonable that you should be cut down―you neglect the great salvation; you live in disobedience against God, who alone can do you good; even the preaching of the Gospel, that all-powerful engine, seems to have no effect on you.
ARCHIBALD ALEXANDER (1772-1851): Religious impressions opposed leave the soul in a more hardened state than before, just as iron heated and then cooled becomes harder.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Job 27:8. God shall take away his soul, sorely against his will. Thy soul shall be required of thee. God, as the Judge, takes it away to be tried and determined to its everlasting state. He shall then fall into the hands of the living God, to be dealt with immediately. What will his hope be then?
HOWEL HARRIS (1714-1773): “He that believeth not shall be damned!” Are you shocked at the expression? But if the sound of this truth be so harsh, what will the experience of it be?
JOHN BUNYAN: Death comes not to this man as he doth to saints, muzzled, or without his sting, but with open mouth, in all his strength; yea, he sends his first-born, which is guilt, to devour his strength, and to bring him to the king of terrors. But to give you, in a few particulars, the manner of this man’s dying―Now some terrible discovery of God is made out unto him, to the perplexing and terrifying of his guilty conscience. God shall cast upon him, and not spare; and he shall be afraid of that which is high, Job 27:22; Ecclesiastes 12:5. Yea, terrors will take hold on him, when he shall see the yawning jaws of death to gape upon him, and the doors of the shadow of death open to give him passage out of the world.
JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Terrors take hold on him as waters, Job 27:20. The terrors of death, and of an awful judgment that is to come after it; finding himself dying, death is the king of terrors to him, dreading not only the awful stroke of death itself, but of what is to follow upon it―the terrors of a guilty conscience lay hold on him, remembering his former sins with all the aggravating circumstances of them; the terrors of the law’s curses lighting upon him, and of the wrath and fury of the Almighty pouring out on him and surrounding him, and devils and damned spirits all about him. These will seize him “as waters”―like a flood of waters, denoting the abundance of them.
ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): They come upon him as an irresistible flood.
JOHN BUNYAN: Can his heart now endure, or can his hands be strong? Sin against light, against mercy, and the long-suffering of God, is come up against him―Death is at his work, cutting him down, hewing both bark and heart, both body and soul asunder. The man groans, but death hears him not; he looks ghastly, carefully, dejectedly; he sighs, he sweats, he trembles, but death matters nothing. Fearful cogitations haunt him, misgivings, direful apprehensions of God, terrify him. Now he hath time to think what the loss of heaven will be, and what the torments of hell will be: now he looks no way but he is frighted. Now would he live, but may not; he would live, though it were but the life of a bed-rid man, but he must not. He that cuts him down sways him as the feller of wood sways the tottering tree―and now, could the soul be annihilated, or brought to nothing, how happy would it count itself, but it sees that may not be. Wherefore it is put to a wonderful strait; stay in the body it may not, go out of the body it dares not. Life is going, the blood settles in the flesh, and the lungs being no more able to draw breath through the nostrils, at last out goes the weary trembling soul, which is immediately seized by devils, who lay lurking in every hole in the chamber for that very purpose. His friends take care of the body, wrap it up in the sheet or coffin, but the soul is out of their thought and reach, going down to the chambers of death.
C. H. SPURGEON: To all unprofitable, unfruitful sinners, we utter this hard, but needful sentence: to cut you down would be most reasonable. Another reason makes the argument for judgment very powerful, namely, that sufficient space for repentance has already been given…The gospel has been put close by your roots, hundreds of times; you have a Bible―some of you [have] had the advantage of godly training from your youth up. You have been warned again, and again, and again, sometimes sternly, sometimes affectionately―[but] you are barren still. What is the use then of sparing you?
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Flee from the wrath to come.
J. W. ALEXANDER (1804-1859): Flee!―to Jesus Christ.