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23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it ; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty
cise of the same wisdom and goodness which riches so often prompt, as they design to withhold, the vitality of every afford the means of gratification ; " and gracious principle must be languid ; faith, the lusts of other things,” desires after hope, and spirituality all rapidly lose their honour, distinction, show, and the praise vigour and influence; prayer becomes of men. Thus men are deluded into sin, distracted and formal; intercourse with and truly prove that the growth of the God, which can only be maintained by a good seed has been choked in them by calm, watchful, and subjected spirit, is THORNs and Briers, by weeds and poi. lost; and moral dearth is the necessary
Worldly cares,” says an old result. The deceitfulness of riches, anath writer, are fitly compared to thorns ; TOU THOUTou, is a strongly admonitory for as they choke the word, so they phrase ; for it indicates, not merely that wound our souls; neither can the word riches promise more satisfaction than grow through, nor the heart rest upon, they give, or, after tempting men to them.” If God in his providence make a an ardent pursuit, they suddenly elude man rich, let him rather tremble than their grasp, and so in either case rejoice ; for then indeed he will have deceive ; but that the worldly spirit ap- need to pray that he may prove a faithful proaches those who have been truly steward. brought for a time under the influence Verse 23. Good ground.-Not only deep of religion, in various seductive and delu- earth, prepared for the seed by the sive forms, which throw them off their ploughing, but kept free from weeds by guard. A prudent provision for the diligent and watchful labour. future, so as to banish care, and not in- Understandeth it.-So considers it and crease it, is one; the increase of our meditates upon it; maintains in his mind ability to be liberal, another; the addi- so deep and lively a conviction of its extional influence which may be acquired cellency and supreme importance, as to and employed in favour of the cause of apply it to practical ends, both in the Christ, the greater leisure which may be regulation of his heart and conduct. commanded thereby to employ in works Hence in St. Luke it is, “And keeps it in of piety and usefulness, with various an honest and good heart ;” a heart renother plausible suggestions, are apt to dered so by the grace of God communi. disarm the mind, and open the way to cated through previous religious advanstrike a fatal blow at the spiritual habits tages, -as the word of God contained in which may have been acquired by kindling the Jewish scriptures, or the preaching the keen desire of gain. How many have of John the Baptist,—and maintained and been deluded here! They have surren- perfected by the word of Christ, KEPT dered themselves to the ardent pursuit of within it. And bring forth fruit with pawealth, and have in some instances at- tience; with persevering resistance to all tained it; but sordid cares have increased, temptations, to a strong and unyielding not diminished; the appetite has become endurance. more voracious with that by which it has Some a hundred fold, &c.—All are fruitbeen fed ; and liberality and sacrifices of ful; but some, from the enjoyment of sutime for the public good have become perior opportunities, and furnished also more stinted and grudging. Other and with stronger natural capacities, and new temptations have come in : hence placed in circumstances to call forth the St. Luke adds to the deceitfulness of visible expression and activity of their inriches, “the pleasures of this life,” to ward principles of faith, love, and zeal,
24 | Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field :
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
bring forth a hundred fold. This parable the corruption of the church, which even appears to have been specially intended vigilance could not wholly have prevented. for the instruction and admonition of This we may collect from the case of JuChrist's disciples. It explained to them das, who was a tare sown among the true the reason why so many of his hearers, disciples even in the time of our Lord. who had given hopeful symptoms of in- Still, had not great lukewarmness precipient piety in the commencement of his vailed, and a disposition to rest in the ministry, had degenerated into indiffer. outward exercises of religion; and had ence or opposition; and it was a solemn that tone of spirituality continued which caution to those who still continued in marked the church immediately after the the profession of discipleship, and follow- day of pentecost, and fixed the attened him. The next parable prepared them tion of all wholly upon the religion for that mixed state of his own visible of the heart, and subordinated all church which was to be more fully dis. forms and circumstances to that alone; played in future times.
the field would have been well guarded Verse 24. A man which sowed good seed by the servants against the enemy, and in his fields.—The sower, as we are taught little encouragement would have been by our Lord's own explanation of this found in such a state of the church for parable, is the Son of Man, disseminating false or even superficial professors to have truth by his own ministry, and through connected themselves with it. The kind that of his servants, whose strength and of plant called sisavia, by us translated success are derived from him. The good “tares,” has been disputed. That the zizaseed are the children of the kingdom ; those nia did not at all resemble our tare or who in truth receive his whole doctrine, vetch, which is a useful plant, is evident and come under his spiritual rule: a brief from their being gathered at the harvest but clear description of real Christians. and burned. The word is not mentioned
The field is the world.—This evidently in any other part of scripture, nor in any means the church in the world, the Chris ancient Greek writer ; but a similar word tian church, which was shortly to be ex- S1:1 is found in Jewish writings, and tended into all nations of the whole civi- is described to be a degenerate and worthlized world. This church, in truth, less kind of weed, bearing, however, a wherever it is planted, only consists of strong resemblance to corn. Others take “ children of the kingdom;" but Satan it to be the darnel, “lolium temulentum," has always introduced others of an which is called zuvan by the Arabs. Traopposite character within its visible vellers state that “in some parts of Syria pale.
the plant is drawn up by the hand in Verse 25. But while men slept, 8-c.—The the time of harvest along with the wheat, enemy, says our Lord, is the devil, the fa- and is then gathered out, and bound up in ther not only of all openly profane per- separate bundles.” In this parable our sons, but of all false professors of Christ's Lord alludes to the same circumstance. religion. The men represent the minis- These worthless plants sprung up among ters and members of churches, whose the grain ; they were suffered to grow up want of due attention to the cultivation with it; and in the time of reaping they of a decided piety and the upholding of a were separated loy hand, bound up in godly discipline, greatly increased an evil, bundles, and burned as fuel.
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field ? from whence then hath it tares ?
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather
29 But he said, Nay ; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up
also the wheat with them. Verse 26. But when the blade was sprung tention of our Lord, we have decided up, 8c.-In the first stage of vegetation proof, in the conduct of his apostles as to the difference was not so marked as to the moral regulation of churches, and awaken attention among the unsuspecting in those disciplinary directions they have and somewhat inattentive servants ; but left in their epistles. St. Paul comwhen the fruit of each appeared, it was so manded the Corinthians, by his apostoliopposite in character, that it could no cal authority, to “put away” an immoral longer pass unnoticed.
person, and strongly reproved them for Verse 27. The householder.—The mas- their supineness in the case. Christians ter of the family; the proprietor of the are prohibited from “ eating” with such
characters ; that is, from receiving the Verses 28, 29. Wilt thou then that we go Lord's supper in their company; by which and gather them up ? But he said, Nay, lest, they refused all communion with them. fc.—The chief point of difficulty in this A heretic, after suitable admonition, is to parable lies in this question of the ser- be“ rejected ; ” and St. John forbids those vants, and the answer of the master. Some to whom he writes “to receive ” false make a distinction between thorns, briers, teachers, or to bid them “God speed." and obvious weeds, which they say ought All these are obvious instances of separato be extirpated, and the plant here men- tion from the fellowship of saints. It is tioned; which, on account of its simi- clear, therefore, that we must seek anlarity to the wheat, so that it could not be other solution. Our Lord is to be unplucked up without danger, ought to derstood as prohibiting all civil coercion, be treated with greater tenderness ; and every species of persecution, on rebut it is clear that, when the servants ligious grounds ; all infliction of punishmade their complaint to the master, the ment upon men by his servants, his misimilarity had passed away, and each nisters, which should be a rooting up of plant, the wheat and the zizanion, having the tares, and thus doing the work of the attained more mature growth, was known harvest before the time of harvest, a work by its fruit. Others think that we are reserved to Christ alone. The parable cautioned against pushing discipline in must therefore be understood as not rechurches too far, lest by mistake the ferring at all to questions of church disgood wheat should be rooted up also ; but CIPLine. The seeds of evil, early sown this affords no reason at all why the in the church, sprung up at length into plants which could be easily distinguished innumerable heresies and immoralities, by their very fruit, should be suffered to and that under the Christian name; and remain growing together; and would so long as the civil power was arranged afford an argument, not against too rigid a against Christianity, the only defence of discipline, but against discipline of every the purer portion of the church was its kind. That this could not be the in- own legitimate ecclesiastical power to re
30 Let both grow together until the harvest : and in the
prove and to separate offenders from its in the final result, the good grain shall communion; though this began to be chiefly suffer. Every church of Christ done even at an early period, too often in has the right, nay, the duty is imposed a spirit which indicated that if greater upon it, of separating from its commupower had been at command, it would nion all who hold fundamental error, or have been unmercifully used. A new lead an unholy life, after due admonition, state of things arose when the civil power and with tender charity ; but to separate lent itself to obey the call of ecclesiastics, men from the church in order to punish to give greater force to these excommuni. them,—the work of Christ at the harvest, cations by the infliction of pains, penal- which is the end of the world, and his work ties, and finally death; and it is a re- alone,-is a matter which, though often markable fact, and one to which our Lord dictated by a forward and blind zeal, is in this parable may be supposed particu- here wholly prohibited. Grotius has larly to refer, that for so long a period of showed that Augustine, Chrysostom, and time even those ministers who were best Jerom applied the forbearance recomentitled to be called the servants of the mended in this parable to heretics. Aumaster of the field, were the advocates of gustine concluded from it that no punishcivil coercion in matters of religion, and ments should be inflicted upon them; and asserted the right of the magistrate to em- though the Donatists made him so far ploy the sword to punish offenders against accede as to allow of those punishments the doctrines and the rules of their respec- which admitted of time for repentance, tive churches; a principle which has in- he continued often to interpose to avert deed been renounced, though even still but sentences of death. Constantine, in his partially, in comparatively modern times. first edicts, gave all Christians the liberty For many ages almost all ministers, good of worshipping God according to their or bad, advocated the violent rooting up conscience; but he afterwards imposed of the tares by the arm of power, regard- penalties, chiefly pecuniary fines, on those less of the lesson taught them in this pa- who separated from the dominant church. rable ; and if any thing more than its own The succeeding emperors were more or internal evidence were necessary to con- less strict in this respect, as it suited their vince us of the profound wisdom of this les temporal interests; but all were averse to son, the proof which history has afforded of capital punishments. Thus the bishops the utter unfitness of weak and passionate in Gaul, who put the Priscillianists to man to wield the rod of the Almighty, death, were censured and excommunicafor ever establishes it.
Lest ye root up
ted; and the council in the east was conwith them the wheat also,” says our Sa- demned, which burnt Bogomilus. Arius, viour; and the fact has been, that, with Macedonius, Nestorius, and Eutyches few exceptions, religious persecution, in suffered nothing beyond banishment. all its degrees, has in all ages been more The Arian emperors, and the kings of that fatal to the wheat than to the tares; and sect in Africa, appear to have been the that in an immense number of cases, under first who embrued their hands in the the pretence of destroying the tares, the blood of their opponents. Thus graduwheat alone has been the object of this ally did the caution of this merciful parablind and perverted violence. The proud ble lose its influence over the minds of persecuting spirit is wholly of Satan ; and professing Christians; and the barbarities when he impels his agents into the field of future times, induced by the “accursed to root up and destroy, he will generally ungodliness of zeal,” have infixed the take care of the plants of his own sowing; foulest blot upon the history of our reor if he sacrifice a few of them, it will be ligion. with the design to give a colour to a Verse 30. The reapers.—These, says our coercive and political process, by which, Lord, are the angels, not men having in
time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field :
32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds : but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
f Mark iv. 30; Luke xiii. 19.
firmity, pride, passion, prejudice, selfish- tard-seed, though it be not simply and in Dess, but perfectly pure and holy spirits, itself the smallest of all seeds, yet may be and yet these act under the direction of very well believed to be the smallest of the Son of Man, who appears in his glory, such as are apt to grow into a ligneous is present at the final separation, which, substance, and become a kind of tree.” being thus performed under his own eye, Scheuchzer describes a species of mussecures even angels from mistake. These tard which grows several feet in height. are to gather out of his kingdom all things of this arborescent vegetable he gives a that offend,--all those errors and evils print; and Linnæus mentions a species which have been as stumbling-blocks to whose branches were ligneous. “I have unbelievers, and made “the name of seen plants of mustard,” says Mr. Scott, Christ to be blasphemed among the Gen- “ in the deep rich soil of some low lands tiles, especially all teachers of these in Lincolnshire, larger than most shrubs, false and corrupting doctrines,—and them and almost like a small tree. Probably which do iniquity, under whatever guise in eastern countries, it is the largest plant or pretence; so that from this time of from the smallest seed that has yet been separation, so awful in its results to those noticed.” But whatever might be the who have unworthily borne the name of species intended by our Lord, it is clear Christ, the universal church of true be- from the fact that he was accustomed to lievers shall be free from spot, and shall take his illustrations from familiar obshine forth like the sun in the unsullied jects, that he spoke of a plant which was light of truth and holiness, in the king- remarkable among his hearers for the dom of their Father. Verses 41-43. smallness of its seeds, and which yet
Verse 31. A grain of mustard seed, &c. attained so large a growth as to afford - The intention of this parable is to set shelter for the birds of the air. Hence, forth the large increase of the kingdom as a grain of mustard” was a proverbof Christ from small beginnings : it is ial expression among the Jews for smallanother of those prophetic parables which ness; and in the Rabbinical writings the have been, beyond all question, illustri- mustard plant is mentioned as a tree ously accomplished ; and it is still receiv- growing to a size and strength that a man ing a not less striking fulfilment in the might ascend into it. The comparatives, spread of Christianity into heathen coun- μικροτερον and μειζον, are used for superlatries to this day. The seed is said to be tives. the least of all seeds, and to become a tree, The object of this parable was not only 80 that the birds of the air come and make to place on record a prophecy the accomtheir nests in its branches. This will not plishment of which should be an evidence appear strange," says Sir Thomas of the truth of our la mission, but Browne, “if we recollect that the mus- also to afford er