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THE Lectures of the last year concluded
1 with an explanation of the parable of the sower; and immediately after this follows in the Gospel the parable of the tares, which will be the subject of our present consideration *. : · The parable is as follows: “ The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field; from whence then hath it tares ? He said unto them, An enemy bath done this.
* Matth. xiii. 24.
The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Letiboth grow together unto the harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them up in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."
After our Lord had delivered this parable, and one or two more very short ones, we are told that he sent the multitude away, and went into the house; and his disciples came unto him, saying, “ Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that sowed the good seed is the Son of man. The field is the world ; the good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of the - wicked one. The enemy that sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the, tares are gathered and burned in the fire, só shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his
Hiin. . . angels, angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father: who hath ears to hear let him hear.”
This parable well deserves our most serious consideration, as it gives an answer to two questions of great curiosity and great importance, which have exercised the ingenuity and . agitated the minds of thinking men from the earliest times to the present, and perhaps were never, at any period of the world, more interesting than at this very hour.
The first of these questions is, How came moral evil into the world ? .
The next is, Why is it suffered to remain a single moment; and why is not every wicked man immediately punished as he deserves ?
The first of these questions has, we know, in almost all ages, and in all countries, been a constant subject of investigation and controversy among metaphysicians and theologians, and has given birth to an infinity of fanciful theories and systems, to one more particularly
in our own times, by a man of very distinguished talents*; all which however have foiled of solving the difficulty, and have proved nothing more than this mortifying and humiliating truth, namely, the extreme weakness of the human intellect, when applied to subjects so far above its reach, and the utter inability of man to fathom the counsels- of the Most High, and to develop the mysterious ways of his providence, by the sole strength of unassisted reason -f-. That those who were never favoured with the light of revelation should indulge themselves in such abstruse speculations, can be no great wonder; but tbat they who have access to the original fountain of truth, and can draw from that sacred source the most authentic information on this point,
* Soame Jenyn*.
'f Among the dissertations of Plutarch (which go by the name of bis morals), there is a very curious and ingenious one, intituled xtf) Tsv 'vzo Ts ©ei'cy ^aSfaj; Ti/tuggMMnv, toncerning those whom the Deity is slow in punishing. In this, among other just remarks, he observes, " that many things which gre.at generals, and legislators, and statesmen do, are to common observers incomprehensible. What wonder is it- then, (says he,) if we cannot understand why the gods inflict punishment on the wicked, sometimes at an earlier, sometimes at a later period? Flut. Ed. Xyland. v. 2. p. 549/. Fl
ghould should have recourse to the fallible conjectures of human ingenuity, and should hew out to themselves "cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water," is a most unaccountable , 'error of judgment, and a strange misapplication of talents, and waste of labour and of time. We are told in the very beginning of the Bible, that he who first brought sin or moral evil into the world, was that great adversary of the human race, the devil, who first tempted the woman, and she the man, to act in direct contradiction to the commands of their Maker.
This act of disobedience destroyed at once that innocence and purity and integrity of mind, with which they came out of the hands of their Creator; gave an immediate and dreadful shock to their whole moral frame, and introduced into it all those corrupt propensities and disordered passions which they bequeathed as a fatal legacy to their descendants; of which we all now feel the bitter fruits, and have, I fear, by our own personal and voluntary transgressions, not a little improved the wretched inheritance we received from our ancestors. This is the true origin of