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The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
(According to our Lord's St. Matth.xiii. 24.
Interpretation of the Pa
rable, v. 37, &c.) 24.
HE "Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto 24. The State of the a Man, wbich fowed good Sed in bis Gospel, and of them Field.
that live under it in the
present World, is this. Christ propagates in all parts of the Earth a Doctrine of Truth and Purity: The Fruits whereof are Men of Sce Ver. 37, 38. sound Principles, and holy Lives.
25. But when Men Nept, bis Enemy came and for- 25. But the Devil, a ed Tares
constant Enemy to all
Gcodness, (taking advantage from the Negligence of some, and the Infirmities of the Best Men) corrupts this Doctrine, and obstructs See Ver. 38, 39, 41. the Success of it, by introducing false and pernicious Principles; the Product whereof are Hereticks and Schismaticks, and Men of wicked and scandalous Lives.
26. But wbex the Blade was sprung up, and brougbt 26. This was carfortb Fruit, tben appeared tbe Tares also.
ried on so subtilely and
secretly, as sently to be perceived; but in process of time the thing discovered it self.
27. So the Servants of the Housholder came and said 27. For Good Men, unto bim, Sir, didft not i bou for good Secd in tby Field? by comparing the TeFrom whence then bath it Tares ?
nets and Practices of
these Men with the Do&rines of the Gospel, plainly discern the difference between them, and know that They, whatever they pretend, do not follow the Instructions of Christ, but of the Devil.
28. He said unto tbem, An Enemy barb done this. 28. Mean while, how. The Servants said unto bim, Wilt thou then that we go, zealous foever their conand garber obem up?
cern may be to remedy
this Mischief; it is not the Will of God, that it should be done by utterly exterminating such wicked Men, and sending them out of the World, in Methods of Blood, and barbarous Executions.
29. But be said, Nay, left while ye garber up the
29. This God difTarás, ye root up aljo the W beat with them.
allows, both because the
Inconveniencies of such a Proceeding would prove greater to the Good, than any, which the fuffering Evil Men to continue among them at present can produce ;
30. And, because the 30. Let both grow together until Harveft, and Punishment of Such is in the time of Harvest, I will say to the Reapers, reserved for the end of gather ye togerber first the Tares, and bind them in the World. At which bundles to burn them : but garber the Wbcat into my time God will com- Barn. mand his Angels, to lever the Evil and the Good, when both fall be brought to Judgment. And then the wicked mall be cast into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and graphing of teeth. Thus shall they be punished for all the Mischief done, and the Scandal given by them, in this world. Then fall the Righteous allo sine foreb, as the Sun, in the Kingdom of their Fatber. Thus shall they bé rewarded for that Patience, and Meekness, and Conftancy, which the evil Principles, and evil Deeds of those Wicked are permitted to exercise, with many hard Tryals, in the present Condition of things.
UR Blessed Saviour had, in a forSec Ver. 3.---9.
mer Parable of the Sower, signified
the different Successes of his Word, proportioned to the different Dispositions of its Hearers. This concerned the Seed-time, the very Act of Planting and Propagating the Gospel. But here He, in another Parable, denotes a Disadvantage, to which even the best Seed, and the best Soil, would be liable, after it was sown, from Tares being sown upon it. Of which Figure, in regard Himself hath condescended to be his own Interpreter ; all we have left to do on this occasion, is to observe the Substance and main Scope of the Parable, which plainly amounts to thus much.
That it is the pleasure of God, to suffer a Mixture of Bad with Good Men, during the State of his Church, in the present World. That, notwithstanding the many Inconveniences, which may and do arise from such a Mixture ; He doth not think fit, either by Judgments from his own Hand immediately, or by Authorizing Men to be the Ministers of his Vengeance upon one another, utterly to extirpate all Corruption of Doctrine and Manners. That there are very wise and good Reasons for this Forbearance ;
particularly, that it is grounded, partly upon Such, as regard the Good Men, with whom those Wicked are mix’d; and partly upon Such, as concern those Wiced themselves.
Now my design is, First, To consider the Reasons of this Proceeding, so far as the Parable hath directed us to them: And then, to conclude with such Inferences, as this Subject will naturally suggest to us.
1. I begin with the Reafons for continuing a Mixture of Bad Men, during the present state of Christ's Church in this world. And of These, with the Former fort ; Such as have respect to the Good Men, with whom those Bad are mixt. For, That their Benefit is consulted by such Forbearance, is manifest from the Eight and Nine and Twentieth Verses. Where, upon the Servants proffering their Pains, to go and gather up these Tares; the Master of the Field is represented, disallowing the Forwardness of their Zeal, as overofficious, highly unfeasonable, and of very dangerous Consequence. He said, Nay ; left while ye gather up the Tares, ye root up also the Wheat with them. And, that this prohibition is of Service to good Men, will, I conceive, fufficiently appear, from the three following Considerations.
1. First, Look upon the matter, as propounded in this Parable, where the Servants were offered for the Instruments of rooting out these Tares ; and the Danger of good Men perishing, together with the Wicked, foon manifests it felf. Let us suppose the most favourable Circumstances, that such a Dispensation can possibly bear. Allow these Purgers of the Field to have no other Views, but the Honour of God, the Peace and Security of the Church, the undisturbed Exercise and Advancement of Piety and Virtue : Admit this Zeal of theirs to be, not only untainted with Secular Interest and Ambition, but perfectly void of Rashness and Heat ; tempered with all imaginable Discre
tion, proceeding with the most scrupulous Caution, executing Vengeance upon no single Person, without the best Information Mankind are capable of : Yet even in such a Cafe (and such a Cafe, however possible in Supposition, I doubt was never true in Fact) the Wheat cannot be safe ; because such Gatherers are never able to make a perfect Distinction between the Tares and It. That is, They cannot know exactly, who are truly Good, and who Bad Men. And the Reason is, because That, wherein the Essential Difference between these two forts confifts, lies deeper than any Human Eye can penetrațe, even in the Heart, the Will, and the Intentions.
If then the Tares they endeavour to root out, be Heresie and corrupt Doctrine ; Men can enter no farther into the Merits of this Cause, than Outward Profession will guide them. They may know, who lists himself of such a Party, or espouses such an Opinion: But they cannot discover, who embraces the Truth out of Temporal Interest, and who out of a sincere Conviction of the Mind: Who refuses it from a Spirit of Obstinacy, and Who from Want of Capacity, or better Instruction. And yet the Honest Mistaken Man is, in a Judgment of Equity, pitiable at least: and the dissembled temporizing Orthodox, of very small account in God's Esteem.
Put Case again, this Tare be Vice and Immorality, Men can fee, and animadvert upon, the openly diffolute and scandalous. But, can they pursue the demure and secret Sinners, through all the intricate Mazes of their Hypocrisie? Can they unlock their Closets, draw the Curtains of their polluted Beds, or descry the Filthiness of their Thoughts? Can they distinguish the Vain-glorious from the Sincere, or separate between the gaudy Outside of a laboured Formality, and the native Lustre of an inward Purity ? Both these Men may affect the Eye alike ; and yet One is a whited sepulchre, full of rottenness, and dead mens bones ; the Other a living Temple of the Holy Ghost. The One hath the Power of Godliness, the Other only the Form ; and, for want of the Power, is as errand a Tare, as if he had not even the Form. But still that Tare may be mistaken for good Corn, and so may this good Corn be sometimes too for Tares. So that an ab-· solute Separation is not possible to be made, and consequently neither safe to be trusted with, nor fit to be attempted, by Men. No. This must be reserved to that God, who alone can discern between Reality and Disguise. For They who are not able to do so, can never gather up all the Tares. To that God, who sees and makes allowance for Mens particular Circumstances; the Unaffectedness of their Ignorance ; the Violence of their Temptations ; the Suddenness of their Surprizes ; the Uprightness of their Intentions ; the Simplicity of their Hearts; their want of Opportunities to know, or to do, better. All these no Man can understand perfectly, and therefore no Man can make just abatements for them. And, without such abatements, the Security of many honest and good People cannot be effectually provided for. For, upon any other Terms, there is no Remedy, but they, who go about to gather out the Tares, will root up also a great deal of W beat with them.
2. Secondly, To this Difficulty, on the part of the Gatherers, may be added another, no less insuperable one, from the Posture and Condition of these Tares themselves ; whose Roots are so intangled with those of the good Corn, that there is no disengaging them ; no drawing cut the One, without tearing up the Other, at the same time. My meaning is, That the Affairs of Men, in this Life, are so intricate and perplexed, and the Interests of the Good and Bad so nicely mingled, so mutually interwoven ; that it is abfolutely impossible, according to the present and ordi