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.L. The parable of the tares of the field. Mat. xiii. 24,-30. Having thus privily in the boat explained the parable of the sower, and shewed by the similitude of the lighted lamp what use his disciples were to make of his instructions, Jesus turned about to the multitude on the shore, and raising his voice a little, delivered the parable of the tares cast into a field, which an industrious husbandman had sowed with good grain. Those tares in the blade being very like to wheat, were not at first observed, but as they grew up, they shewed themselves to the no small surprise of the husbandman's servants, who knew that the field had been sowed with good seed. They proposed therefore to root them out immediately. But the husbandman forbade it, lest they should hurt the wheat, telling them that at the harvest he would order his reapers to gather them in bundles, and burn them. In this parable therefore we are taught, that through the craft of the devil, incorrigible sinners will intrude themselves into the vi. sible church; that though good men may judge it for the interest of religion to extirpate such by violent methods, God does not allow it, both because wicked men cannot be certainly distinguished, and because they are oft times so connected with the righteous, that, if they are touched, the righteous will suffer withal, and that God has reserved the full exercise of justice upon wicked men, to the last day, when he will unerringly distinguish between the good and the bad. According to this view of the parable, we may consider it as a vindication of the wisdom of God, both in permitting the wickedness of men professing Christianisy, and in suffering it to go unpunished during this life. The wickedness of men cannot be prevented, without disturbing the fixed order of nature; that is, to prevent wickedness, men must be deprived of their freedom of agency, God must interpose miraculously, and the operation of second causes must be suspended. Nay, it is not fit to punish even incorrigible sinners in this life; because, being oft times closely connected by a variety of ties with the righteous, the latter would necessarily be involved in their ruin. Matt. xiii. 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: The erection of the kingdom of heaven by Messiah, or the establishment of a visible church on earth, and the corruption thereof through the creeping in of hypocrites, may be illustrated by a man's sowing good seed in his field. 25. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way: So zealous and industrious was this enemy to do mischief, that while the servants of the husbandman, compelled by the calls of nature, were refreshing themselves with sleep, he took the opportunity to spoil the field which he had cultivated with so much care, by sowing tares in it. 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 them up ? These tares, though very like to wheat, were in their nature so entirely different from it, that by no culture whatever could they be changed into wheat. The servants therefore proposed to root them out, because it was to no purpose to let them remain, or because they fancied they would spoil the wheat. 29. But he said, Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, 'ye root up also the wheat with them. The husbandman considering better of the matter than his servants, forbade them to meddle with the tares, because they might mistake them, and because, in rooting them up, they might pluck up much of the wheat along with them. 40. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the 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. Ý LI. The parable of the seed that sprang up imperceptibly.
Mark iv. 26,-29. AFTER the parable of the tares, Jesus delivered that of the seed, which sprang up imperceptibly, representing the influence of the preaching of the gospel upon mankind. Mark iv. 26. And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground. 27. And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how : The influence of the preaching of the gospel upon the minds of men, is oftentimes as imperceptible as the growth of corn, which cannot be discerned with the naked eye, though the person who has sowed it, looks at it ever so often and narrowly; it is likewise as inexplicable. However, as the earth of herself bringeth forth fruit gradually to perfection, so the preaching of the gospel, without any other care of iis ministers, will of itself, with the blessing of heaven, produce both faith and holiness in the world. 28. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. 29. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come : Though the ministers of religion, after having preached the gospel, can do nothing more for its propagation, just as the husbandman after having sown the seed can do nothing to make it grow, also, though they cannot discern the operation of the gospel upon the minds of men, any more than the husbandman can discern the growth of the corn, yet when their preaching has produced its effects, they can discern them just as
the the husbandman knows when his corn is ripe for harvest. Moreover, those who by the preaching of the gospel are converted, they can gather into the church, as the husbandman puts in the sickle because the harvest is come.
In this parable we are informed, that as the husbandman does not by any efficacy of his own cause the seed sown to grow, but leaves it to be nourished by the soil and sun; so Jesus and his apostles, having taught men the doctrines of true religion, were not by any miraculous force to constrain their wills, far less were they by the terrors of fire and sword to interpose visibly for the furthering thereof, but would suffer it to spread by the secret influences of the Spirit, till at length it should obtain its full effect. Moreover, as the husbandman cannot by the most diligent observation, perceive the corn in his field extending its dimensions as it grows, so the ministers of Christ cannot see the operation of the gospel upon the minds of men. The effects however of its operation when these are produced they can discern, just as the husbandman can discern when his corn is fully grown and fit for reaping. In the mean time, the design of the parable is not to lead the ministers of Christ to imagine that religion will flourish without due pains taken about it. It was formed to teach the Jews in particular, that neither the Messiah nor his servants would subdue men by the force of arms, as they supposed he would have done, and also to prevent the apostles from being dispirited when they did not see immediate success following their labours. Ý LII. The parable of the grain of mustard-seed. See g 90.
Matt. xii. 31, 32. Mark iv. 30,--32. The next parable he spake was that of the mustard, which from a small seed becomes in those eastern climes a spreading tree. Matt. xii. 31. Another parable put he forth unts them, saying, (Mark iv. 30. And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God, or with what comparison shall we compare it?) The kingdom of heaven, i, e. the conversion of the world to the outward profession of Christianity, is like to a grain of mustard seed, may be compared to the growth of a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowd in his field, 32. Which indeed is the least of all seeds, Mark, that be in the earth,) but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and * becometh a tree; (Mark, becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches,) so that the birds of the air come and + lodge in the Vol. II.
branches Ver 32. Becometh a tree. I yoveteen derdenv, arborescet. This phrase is :pplied by botanists to plants of the larger kind which grow to the magnitude of shrubs, and for that reason are called planta arborescentes
Fler. .2. Lodge in the branches.] Katarinu8y, they find shelter, and pass their time there, both in the day time while the weather is bad, and during the night while they sleep.
branches thereof, (Mark, may lodge under the shadow of it.) In this parable our Lord shewed his heaiers, that notwithstanding the gospel appeared at first contemptible, by reason of the ignominy arising from the crucifixion of its author, the difficulty of its precepts, the weakness of the persons by whom it was preached, and the small number and mean condition of those who re· ceived it; yet, having in itself the strength of truth, it would
grow exceedingly, and extend itself into all countries, and by that means afford spiritual sustenance to persons of all nations who should be admitted into it, not in the quality of slaves, as the Jews imagined, but as free born subjects of the Messiah's kingdom, enjoying therein equal privileges with the Jew's *.
This parable was well calculated to encourage the disciples, who, judging the gospel by its beginning, might have been apt to fall into despair, when instead of seeing it preached by the learned, countenanced by the great, and instantly received with applause by all, they found it generally opposed by men in high life, preached only by illiterate persons, and received by few besides the vulgar. These to be sure were melancholy circumstances, and what must have given great offence ; yet in process of time they became strong confirmations of the Christian religion. The treasure of the gospel was committed to earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power might appear to be from God.
*. This sense of the parable is the more probable, as our Lord seems how to have had his eve on Nebuchadnezzar's dream, (Dan. iv 10.) in which the nature and advantages of civil government are represented by a great tree with spreading branches, fair leaves, and much fruit, and in it was meat for all. The beasts of the field bad siadou under it, and the fowis of keaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. LIII. The parable of the leaven, see $ 90. Our Lord's mother comes to him a second time, see $ 48. Matth. xiii. 33,435. Mark iv. 33, 34. Luke viii. 19,-21.
Jesus next delivered the parable of the leaven. Matth. xiii. 33. Another parable spake he unto them, The kingdom of heaven, the operations of the doctrines, precepts, and promises of the pospel upon the minds of men, may, in respect of their efficacy, be represented by the following similitude: it is like unto learn, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, perhaps this was the common quantity that used to be prepared in order to be baked, till the whole was leavened. The meaning of this parable is commonly thought to be the same with that of the preceding. Yet there seems to be this difference between the two; the parable of the grain of mustard seed, represents the smallness of the gospel in its beginnings, together with its subsequent greatness ; whereas the parable of the leaven, which being hid in a quantity of meal fermented the whole, expresses in
a very a very lively manner, both the nature and strength of the operation of truth upon the mind. For though the doctrines of the gospel when first proposed, seemed to be lost in that enormous mass of passions and worldly thoughts with which mens minds were filled, yet did they then most eminently exert their influence, converting mens thoughts, and desires, and cares, into a conformity to truth. The precise difference therefore between this and the preceding parable is, that the former represents the extensive propagation of the gospel from the smallest-beginnings, but this the nature of the influence of its doctrines upon the minds of particular persons.
Mark iv. 33. And with many such parables spake he the word unto them as they were able to hear it: He preached the doctrines of the gospel in these and many other parables of a like nature, according as his hearers were able to receive them. 34. But without a parable spake he not unto them. He did not on this occasion speak any thing to them in plain language. His whole discourse was conceived in parables, so that it may justly be called his parabolical sermon. The reason why he addressed them in this figurative stile was, he judged it the most inoffensive way of proposing the great doctrines of the gospel, which in plain language they would not have received. And though they did not at the present understand them, the striking figures in the parables rivetted themselves in their memories, and were of great use to them afterwards, when they came to be explained by the events. In using this way of instruction, Jesus followed the example of ancient sages, and particularly Asaph, whose words the evangelist quotes on this occasion, accommodating them to Jesus. Matt. xiii. 34. And without a parable spake he not unto them. 35. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
While Jesus was delivering these parables, his mother and brethren came a second time, desiring to see him. Perhaps they were afraid that this continued fatigue of preaching might hurt his health, and would have had him rest a while to refresh himself. Luke viii. 19. Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. 20. And it was told him by certain, which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. But Jesus, knowing their errand, answered as before. 21. And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God and do it *. See on Matt. xii. 50. $ 48. .
* Our Lord's mother made this visit, probably with a design to carry him to Nazareth, where she hoped he would work miracles, and bless his countrymen with the benefits be so freely dispensed wherever he came.