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But many of the disciples, as we have seen, despised their privilege, took offence at his teaching in the synagogue, and apostatized from the profession they had made, and walked no more with him; an evident proof to my mind, that the notion of what is called “ believers' baptism,” or refusing baptism to any but those who approve themselves to the church as regenerate, is an error: for this supposes them to have received the baptism of the Spirit, which is the greater, before they are eligible to water baptism, which is the lesser; whereas the admission to discipleship, and to instruction in the mysteries of the kingdom, was granted by our Lord, to those who had not the greater, for they turned away from Him and walked with Him no more.
But the disciples mentioned in the first verse of our text, were clearly those who prized their privileges, a select number; for when he had dismissed the multitude or congregation, including themselves, to whom he had spoken publicly, and had gone to the house, they came to him for a private conference, saying, 66 Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.” Why this parable ? for you will observe he had spoken three others in connexion with it, and this was the second of the four. At verse 3, there is the parable of the sower ; at verse 31, that of the grain of mustard-seed ; and at verse 33, that of the leaven. Concerning the three, and perhaps the succeeding ones also, it would seem they had no difficulty, for there is no inquiry, on record, about them, so they thought they understood them ; but the parable of the tares they understood not. Perhaps they imagined it contradicted the other. They possibly received the idea that all people by degrees were to receive the good leaven of the Gospel, that the Gospel-tree would spread by little and little until it should fill all the earth, and that therefore the sower of the good seed, verse 24, whose the field of right is, would have his field full of wheat, the world converted, and the declaration of our Lord, that tares would be found in the field even at the time of harvest, startled and crossed them, and they wanted to have their difficulty solved* ; so they came unto him and singled this parable out from the rest, and said, “ Declare, explain it unto us.”
Learn from this conduct, my dear hearers, that it is the privilege of the baptized, the discipled, who are inquirers and learners of the mysteries of the kingdom, to apply privately to any of those, who are appointed to teach, under Christ the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, respecting any thing which in the public assembly they may not have understood, saying, Explain to us that statement, or parable it may be, which occurred in your sermon, which we understood not. And, my brethren, let me say, that while it is cowardly and wicked to annoy a servant of Christ with anonymous or nameless letters, it is becoming and right to follow the example of these early disciples. I thank God that I am rarely troubled with letters of this kind, and to shew the folly of the practice, if it were so, I should return them, on discovering the same to be anonymous, unread and unpaid for, to him that brought them; a privilege which is righteously allowed, against such an annoyance, while to be followed into one's privacy, by a sincere inquirer after truth, is, and will be the greater privilege: and whether that inquirer be the poorest or the richest, the wisest or the most ignorant, attention to his difficulty will not only be given as a duty, but given with delight and rejoicing of heart for the truth's sake.
* When the above view is given the harmony is destroyed; but if the parable of the
grain of mustard-seed” is understood as descriptive of the Gospel going through the earth, and not of universal conversion ; and if the leavening of the whole three measures of meal is considered to signify the conversion of all the children of the kingdom-(see the burial service,“ That it may please thee of thy gracious goodness shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect and hasten thy kingdom ") then the harmony is preserved with the parable of the tares, and with all our Lord's parables : and this seemeth to be right, inasmuch as a tree is not a perfect covering, though its branches spread around-nor is three a perfect number.
Now an inquiry was so made by one of you during the last week, respecting a passage in a sermon which was difficult or dark, and which, being met privately, has also appeared of sufficient importance for public improvement, lest the same difficulty should be common with others; and without more special notice of it, it will be intelligible to such, and sufficient to observe that the parable before us is pertinent and blessedly suited to our purpose. It sets forth the supreme authority of Jesus in his church; but at the same time the awful influence and dreadful power of Satan against the church and in the world. But hear it. Verse 37: Jesus "answered and said unto the disciples, He that soweth 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 ; so shall it be at the end of this world.”
In attempting to enlarge upon, or, by the aid of other scriptures, to draw out the meaning of this our Lord's explanation of the parable, I propose to notice, The field; the sower of the good seed; the sower of the tares; and the end or result,
First, THE FIELD. Verse 38: " The field is the world.” Now the word translated world in this verse is xoopis the word ; which is always used when the globe, the whole earth on which we live, is meant, which is therefore the field. In verses 39 and 40 you read of the end of the world, and perhaps infer, which is most natural, that our world is to have an end, is to be done away; but not so; for in both these verses the Greek word is awwi, and this is always used, when time and not substance—when an age or dispensation, and not the material earth, is meant. It is therefore the end of the Christian dispensation, and not the end of the field; for the field is the globe, whose foundations are not to be removed at
any time (Psalm civ. 5). In this field the sufferings have been seen, and in it shall also the glory be revealed. But more upon this by and bye: we have shown that the field is the whole earth ; let us speak,
SEED IN THIS FIELD.
Secondly, OF THE SOWER OF THE GOOD Verse 37: “ He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;" and verse 38: 6. The seed which grows and bears fruit are the children of the kingdom.” Learn then a great and comprehensive truth-that though the whole human race, these children, as well as others, became guilty by the fall of Adam into sin, and thereby all of them by nature the children of wrath, and as such, subject to Satan's influence, yea, and rule, so long as disobedient and evil workers in their unregenerate state; yet because sons, according to the eternal purpose of their Father, in due time the seed of eternal life is sown in their hearts (Gal. iv. 6); and Jesus is the sower, and by this act of
he secures and reserves them unto himself, and for his kingdom. They are found indeed in the likeness of the first man, Adam ; but the second man, who is “ the Lord from heaven,” and “a quickening spirit,” puts fresh life into their souls, and by his spirit renews them in his own image (2 Cor. iïi. 18), and makes them his own by adoption and grace. He is “ formed in their hearts the hope of glory,” the glory of the kingdom to which they are heirs. But how so? Was there no difference between them and others? Are they not called “good ground” (verse 8), and answer to the “good seed ?” (verse 38). Whereas the seed of the sower is all good (verse 19), and he has none besides; which seemeth to denote a difference among men before the sowing of the seed.
Hearken, my brethren, there is no natural difference and yet a difference, and the Lord makes it. As the husbandman prepareth the good ground, and not the rock, neither the trodden way-side, for the reception of the seed he soweth, so the Lord prepareth the hearts of the children of the kingdom for his seed (Prov. xvi. 1). “ The preparations of the heart in man, is from the Lord.” If the hearts of men be not prepared when the Gospel-seed is sown (verse 19) then Satan, even in the assembly of the saints, catcheth away that which was sown in the heart, just as the birds of the air take away the corn from the rock or way-side; but when the hearts of the children are prepared, then Satan has no power to prevent its abiding, but the Lord omnipotent causes it both to enter and abide, and it is the quickening word, the incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever. Thereby are they the sown of the Son of man, the subjects of his grace, and the children of the kingdom about to be revealed.
Thus we have spoken of the sower, and of the good seed; he sows in the field, which is the world : let us now speak,
Thirdly, OF THE SOWER OF THE TARES. “ But the tares are the children of the wicked one: and the enemy that sowed them is the devil ” (verse 38, 39.) Awful truth; the wicked are the sown of Satan and children of his kingdom, as certainly as the righteous are the seed of the Lord Jesus Christ and heirs of his kingdom ; while the field, in which both the good and bad are sown, is the same, and both grow together (mixedly as tares and wheat) until the harvest, which is (ouvréance to asūvos) the end of the age.
But there is more truth yet to be stated, to which I beg your serious attention. We have said that the Son of man is supreme in his church; but that Satan has influence against the church and dreadful power in the world. It is now the time to show the same. When the world apostatized from God by sin, it was given over to Satan, the fallen spirit, the enemy of mankind, so that in a sense he spake not untruly when he said, “ the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them are mine ;" for our Lord Jesus himself, three times in the Gospel of St. John, (chap. xii. 31, xiv. 30, and xvi. 11), calleth him the Prince or Ruler of this globe, ó apxwe tou XoopOU TOUTOU, and although he speaketh of him as being judged, and cast out, yet it is only prospectively, for the Holy Ghost by St. Paul calleth him (2 Cor. iv. 4), the God of this age, à Oros του αιώνος τουτου, shewing that his kingdom extendeth over the whole globe, and to the end of the age, i.e. till the time of harvest : and that there is no exception, beside that which sovereign grace maketh, we may cite another proof; it occurred in the second lesson in the evening service of last week, (see 1 John, v. 19). “And we know that we are of God, and that the whole world lieth in wickedness." The words are ő roomos őros, the whole globe, lieth,
It EV TW Tonfã, not in wickedness only, but in the wicked one. is the same word as is so rendered in verse 38 of our text. So
that by a frightful, dreadful adoption, all (except the sown of Christ) are declared to be his children and to do his works, (John, viii. 44): “ Ye are of your father the devil, and the works of your father ye do.” This was spoken, indeed, by our Lord to the Jews; but the same authority telleth us, that “there is no difference; for that Jew and Gentile are both under sin ;" nay, and more than this, the children of Christ's kingdom, while in the flesh, are in that world of which Satan is the god and ruler for the time of the age; and therefore up to the time of the seed of eternal life being sown in their hearts, and so long as they are disobedient and doing his works, he rules in their hearts also, and leads them captive at his will (2 Tim. ii. 26). For remember, conversion is this, a deliverance “ from the power of darkness and a translation into the kingdom of God's dear Son” (Col. i. 13). It speaks where the convert was, and in whose power, up to the time of his conversion ; and the translation marks the change and turning of the sinner “ from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God;" nay, it shows where and what he was before. He was a slave of Satan up to the time of the holy seed entering his heart; yet though a slave, never a child of Satan, for in the purpose of God, from before the foundation of the world, was he foreseen what grace in time makes him, and all the seed likewise as marked by the former part of the verse, and especially by the pronoun we: “We know that we are of God," of the word of truth hath he begotten us, and Him have we received by faith, and are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John, i. 13). So that, beloved, salvation is of God; and if there be a doubt with regard to this great deliverance from the wicked one, and from his wicked works, let it be removed by the infallible word of truth; see that black catalogue of sins which were practised at Corinth (1 Cor. vi. 9, 10); and then read verse 11; “ And such were some of you : but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
It must now surely be evident to every one who bows to the authority of Scripture, and reveres its truth, that we are all in this field; and if not the sown of Christ, are the sown of Satan; or at least if not delivered by the grace of Christ from the ways of disobedience and sin, are more or less in the power of the enemy, and are doing his works. Of all subjects, therefore, to us the Gospel is most important, and ought to be the most welcome. Hearken then, I
pray you, to the Gospel of the blessed God, to good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. Believe, and they are