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which disturb the peace of society and the security of its members, will not bear a delay of justice; and this world would scarcely be habitable if such crimes were to wait for their punishment in another.
Our Saviour's reasoning, when applied to this case, leads to another conclusion: that the righteous may not suffer, God delays the final punishment of the wicked: for the same reathat is, that the righteous may not suffer, he has commanded the magistrate to cut off all the sons of violence, all disturbers of the public peace. And thus he has followed the same reason in both cases: this point enlarged on to the end.
MATTHEW, CHAP. XIII.-VERSE 29.
But he said, Nay; lest, while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
To understand the text we must look back as far as the twenty-fourth verse of this chapter, where our Saviour put forth a parable, comparing the kingdom of heaven to a man who 'sowed good seed in his field; but, while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat.' When they both sprang up and appeared in the field, the servants, under a surprise at the disappointment, report it to their master; Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?' He said unto them, 'An enemy hath done this.' The servants reply, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up ?' In answer to which follows the words of the text, But he said, Nay; lest, while ye gather up the tares, also the wheat with them.'
Take away the dress of parable, and what our Saviour here delivers amounts to this; there will always be a mixture in the world of good and bad men, which no care or diligence can prevent; and though men may and will judge, that the wicked ought immediately to be cut off by the hand of God, yet God judges otherwise, and delays his vengeance for wise and just reasons; sparing the wicked at present for the sake of the righteous; reserving all to that great day in which the divine justice shall be fully displayed, and every man shall receive according to his own works.
The view of this parable has, in some parts of it, I think,
been misapprehended. It is intended to represent the necessary condition of mankind, some being good, some bad; a mixture which, from the very nature of mankind, is always to be expected; and to justify God in delaying the punishment of those sins, which all the world think are ripe for vengeance. This being the view of the parable, it is going out of the way to consider the particular causes to which the sins of men may be ascribed; for the question is not, from whence the sins of men arise; but why, from whatever cause they spring, they are not punished. In the parable therefore our Lord assigns only a general reason of the wickedness of the world, ‘An enemy hath done this.' But there are who think they see another reason assigned in the parable, namely, the carelessness of the public governors' and rulers, intimated in those words, 'But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat :' and this text always finds a place in such complaints. And there is indeed no doubt but that the negligence of governors and magistrates, civil and ecclesiastical, may be often one cause of the ignorance and wickedness of the people but that it is assigned as a cause in the parable cannot be proved; for these words, while men slept,' instead of charging the servants with negligence, plainly show that no care or diligence of theirs could prevent the enemy. Whilst they were awake, their care was awake also, and the enemy had no access: but sleep they must, nature requires it; and then it was the enemy 'did the mischief. Had it been said, while men played or were careless or riotous, that would have been a charge on them ; but to say 'while men slept,' is so far from proving that their negligence caused it, that it plainly proves their diligence could not prevent it. For, what will you say? Should husbandmen never sleep? It is a condition on which they cannot live, and therefore their sleeping cannot be charged as their crime. This circumstance therefore in the parable is to show, not the fault of the husbandmen, but the zeal and industry of the enemy to do mischief. Watch him as narrowly as you will, yet still he will break through all your care and diligence. If you do but step aside, compelled by the call of nature, to eat, to drink, or to sleep, he is ready to take the opportunity to sow his tares; and the ground, which will not
answer the husbandman's hope without his toil, and labor, and cost, will produce the ill seed of its own accord, and yield but too plentiful a crop. Farther, the character of the husbandmen throughout the parable agrees to this exposition: when they saw the tares spring up, they betrayed no consciousness of guilt or negligence; they did not come with excuses to their master, but with a question, which plainly speaks how little they mistrusted themselves: Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?' Would any servant, who had suffered the field to grow wild by his own laziness, have expostulated the case in such a manner? The master, far from charging any of his family with the fault, lays it at another door, An enemy hath done this.' On which the servants, not sparing of their own pains, were desirous to go to work immediately, and to root out all the tares at once. What is there in all this that suits with the character of a lazy, idle, negligent servant? What is there that does not speak a care and concern for their master's affairs? As soon as they discover the tares, they go directly to their master, and inform him, and offer their service to root them out. In this particular he corrects their judgment, though he does not condemn their diligence. And, in truth, one main view of the parable is to correct the zeal of those who cannot see the iniquity of the world without great indignation; and not being able to stop or to correct it themselves, are apt to call on God to vindicate his own cause, by taking the matter to himself, and punishing the evil doers. The men who have this zeal and warmth against iniquity, are not commonly the idle, negligent rulers; nor can we suppose that our Saviour would paint the same men in such different colors in the compass of a short parable, representing them idle and careless at the twenty-fifth verse, active and zealous at the twenty-eighth. Besides, as was observed before, to charge the wickedness of the world on the negligence of this or that part of men, answers no purpose of the parable, which is to justify the wisdom of Providence in permitting the sins of men to go unpunished for the present: but the justification does not arise from considering the causes of iniquity, but from considering the effect which immediate punishment would have. In the other way now explained to you, this circumstance,
* that while men slept the tares were sown,' promotes the main end of the parable, and completes the justification of the providence of God: for this shows that offences must needs come;' they are not to be prevented without disturbing the very course of nature, without God's interposing miraculously to suspend the workings in second causes; since all care exercised in a human way is too little, for even when men sleep, and sleep they must, the enemy will sow his tares. Since therefore the parable shows that iniquity can neither be prevented nor immediately punished, consistently with the wisdom and goodness of God, it shuts out every complaint, and forces us to acknowlege that God is just in all his ways, and righteous in all his dealings with mankind.
The scope of the parable being thus accounted for, let us now proceed to consider the text more particularly; which contains the reason why God delays to punish the sins of men in this world, reserving them to the judgment which shall be hereafter. There are two ways in which we may consider the words of the text:
First, as they regard the particular case in view, and account for the justice of God in suspending his judgments.
Secondly, as they furnish us with a principle of reason and equity applicable to many other cases.
First, as they regard the particular case in view, and account for the justice of God in suspending his judgments. To see the full force of the reason in this respect, it is necessary to understand what sort of sinners are spoken of; for this reason is not applicable to all cases, many sinners are spared on other accounts than this which is given us in the text. The sinners intended in the text are spared merely on account of the righteous, that they may not be involved in the punishment due to the sins of others: but some sinners are spared out of a mercy which regards themselves, in hopes of their amendment. Thus St. Paul has taught us that the riches of God's goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, lead to repentance.' The sinners, who are represented by the tares in the text, are such of whose repentance and amendment there is no hope; for tares, let them grow ever so long, will still be tares; they can never