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then hath it tares ? He said un- From our apostate race, Christ to them, an enemy hath done this. is raising up a spiritual kingdom. The servants said unto him, wilt This kingdom he has for a time thou then that we go and gather stationed on earth, in the midst them up ? But he said, nay ; lest, of a wicked world. Nevertheless while ye gather up the tares, ye it is a distinct body. Though root up also the wheat with them. his people are in the world, they Let both grow together till the are not of the world, but are cit. harvest; and in the time of the izens of heaven. They have a harvest, I will say to the reapers, character in some measure suitgather ye together first the tares, ed to their final home. Christ and bind them in bundles to burn has chosen them out of the them; but gather the wheat into world, and ordained them that
they should be holy, the sons of To his disciples Jesus after- God without rebuke, bearing the wards gave the following expla- resemblance of their Saviour and nation of the parable.
King “ He that sowed the good seed Upon them he sets the marks is the Son of Man ; the field is of his special love, forms them the world; the good seed are the into one family, and lets the children of the kingdom ; but world know, that it is the place the tares are the children of the of gracious abode and rest. The wicked one; the enemy that real members of Christ's kingsowed them is the devil; the dom are truly good. Though by harvest is the end of the world; nature the children of disobediand the reapers are the angels. ence, they are renewed in knowAs therefore the tares are gath- ledge and holiness after the im. ered and burned in the fire ; so age of God. Oh, how beautiful shall it be in the end of this is Zion, the holy city and habworld. The Son of Man shall itation of God! send forth his angels, and they But the parable teaches, that shall gather out of his kingdom the church in the present state is all things that offend, and them not pure ; that it has a mixture who do iniquity, and shall cast of the children of the wicked one, them into a furnace of fire; The field had tares among the there shall be wailing and gnash- wheat. All who belong to the ing of teeth. Then shall the visible kingdom of Christ are righteous shine forth as the sun not of the same character. A in the kingdom of their Father.' part of those who number themWho hath ears to hear let him selves among the people of God liear."
are the servants of sin. The The first sentiment which church universal, and perhaps presents itself from the parable is almost every particular church, this; that Jesus Christ has a contains some, who love the people in this ruined world ; a creature more iban the Creator, people redeemed by his blood, and are slaves to the lust of the sanctified by his Spirit, and set flesh, the lust of the eye, or the apart for himself. “ The field is pride of life. This was the the world; the good seed are the case in the first and purest children of the kingdom.” age of Christianity. Some,
who confessed Christ before those only, who are the devoted men, forsook the doctrines and servants of Christ. When it is practice of Christianity, and thus otherwise, it is the work of the manifested that they had never enemy. The servants, survey. been washed from their sins. ing the field, and observing tares “ They went out from us,” says with the wheat, say to the houseJohn," but they were not of us; holder, “ Didst not thou sow for if they had been of us, they good seed in thy field? whence would have continued with us; then hath it tares ?”
He anbut they went out, that they swers ;
enemy hath done might be made manifest, that this. they were not of us.” It is to be In like manner, when we surfeared, that our best churches vey the visible church, and find embrace many, who are in real that it contains many, who are ity foes to truth and holiness. strangers to grace, we must conOf those, who surround the same clude that an enemy hath done it. sacramental table, eat of the same Satan and bis adherents hate the bread, and drink of the same purity, and envy the happiness cup, some are travelling in the of the church, and therefore way to Zion, others in the way strive to introduce corrupt printo death. Those, who belong ciples, false teachers, and hypto the same visible church, will ocritical members. In this way hereafter, in many instances, be the peace of the church is disseparated from each other, and turbed, the excellence of religion have the impassable gulf placed is sullied, and great advantage between them. A foundation put into the hands of the adverfor such a difference in their sary. It gratifies his malignant future condition is now laid by spirit to see those profess religthe difference which marks their ion, who are dead in trespasses characters. Some professors and sins; for he well knows, it are as distant from others in the will occasion offences, injure the temper of their minds, as the church, and open the mouth of bosom of Abraham is from the the opposing,
blaspheming dreadful fire of perdition.
world. You will further learn from But although this corrupt the parable, that mingling the mixture in the church is to be children of the wicked one with mainly ascribed to the malice the children of the kingdom is the and subtlety of the enemy, the work of the enemy. It is a la- real servants of Christ are not exmentable, circumstance of the cusable. It is partly through church in the present world, their supineness and sloth, that that it contains such a mixture men of the world are so often of characters ; that so many found within the pale of the profess the religion of Christy church. The enemy came and without knowing its power. sowed tares, while the servants Though for wise ends it is di- of the husbandman slept. Had vinely permitted, yet, in itself, it: they, according to their duty, is a great evil. It is evidently maintained a strict and unremitdesirable, in itself considered, ting watchfulness, the enemy that the church should contain would have found it more diffi
cult to sow his tares. If church- evil. When the servants, seees and pastors were suitably ing what was done, and willing watchful ; if they would attend to make some amends for their with sufficient care to the negligence, proposed to go and characters of those, who offer gather up the tares, the Master themselves for admission; if said, nay ; lest, while ye gather up they would faithfully and de- the tares, ye root up also the voutly examine their exercises wheat with them. This is not inand sentiments, and observe their tended to forbid the proper exconduct, and seriously endeave ercise of church discipline 10our, according to the rules of the wards offenders; which cannot gospel, to keep the church pure; be neglected without great guilt. we inight hope, there would be The intimation in the parable is a much smaller proportion of evidently designed to guard aunbelievers joining in profession gainst rash and irregular prowith the followers of the Lamb. ceedings. The work, which the
But, alas ! Christian churches, servants proposed, was of a hurtwhat matter of lamentation it is, sul tendency. So, should the to see so much negligence in this servants of Christ proceed at great concern. How little do once to extreme measures with Christians watch against the de- every erring brother; especially, signs of the enemy? How does should they enter on the rash almost every one care for his design of expelling all the unown things, and not for the godly, of gathering out all the things of Christ? And have wę tares, and purifying the church, not cause to fear, that some not they would not meet the approonly neglect to guard against the bation of their Lord. He would work of the enemy, but, with tell them, “ nay." It is a diffi. their own rash hand, sow tares cult, and, to you, an impossible among the wheat ? Does not
work. Timely care and faithful. this charge lie with peculiar force ness would, indeed, have done against those who, without any much to prevent these evils. But discriminating regard to charac, now they must be left to the great ter, are earnest to gather as ma- day. There may be many pere Hy as possible into the visible sons in the church, who give litchurch?
tle evidence of the Christian Another observation, which spirit, and are far from conductnaturally occurs, is, that season- ing themselves according to their able watchfulness and resolution profession, who must, neverthemay prevent evils, which, having less, be suffered to continue in once taken place, cannot be remov- the church. There are many ed. Faithful attention to the ad- ways of manifesting the want of inission of members will do religion, for which a church much more to secure the church cannot publicly censure a memfrom corruption, than equal ex- ber. His conduct may be such, ertion afterwards. By unremit- as to give the church just reason ting vigilance the servants might to fear he is unrenewed, and yet have kept the enemy from sow- may not be such, as to authorise ing lares. But after they were any direct proceeding against sown, it was too late to avoid the him. That a church censure
may be unexceptionable, there their character. Many sins are must be a manifest violation of committed in secret, the discovgospel rules. There must be ery of which would leave no satisfactory evidence of palpable doubt in our minds respecting immorality. As, on the one those who commit them. But hand, a person out of the church while men's sins are undiscovermay have many seemingly good ed, we may be totally deceived qualities, and yet not give that concerning their character. And evidence of godly sincerity, most of all does our ignorance of which justly entitles him to a the heart disqualify us for decidplace in the church ; so, on the ing the question of character. other hand, the conduct of a vis- So ignorant are we of the heart, ible member may be such, as de- which essentially constitutes the notes the want of piety, at least character, that if we should take such, as leaves his piety very upon us the office of judge, we doubtful ; and still may not be should be in great danger, in masuch, that the church can justly ny instances, of clearing the exclude him. Many must be guilty, and condemning the incontinued in the church, who, nocent. Many of those, whom with the selfsame character, we regard, as the disciples of could not properly be admitted, Christ, may be false professors. if they were out of the church. Many that we esteem as gold, We must let the tares continue and silver, and precious stones, in the field where they are sown, in the building of the church, though we ought not willingly may be hay, and wood, and stubto suffer them to be sown there. ble. While others, whom our To introduce them is the design wayward judgment condemns as of the enemy; to let them remain worthless and vile, may be numtill the harvest is the dictate of bered among Christ's jewels. Christian prudence.
When we look with the most Here we may reflect on our discerning eye upon the churchinability to know the hearts of es, we are unable to determine, men, and our consequent inability who will be approved of God, to make a certain distinction be- and who will be rejected. Iween the good and the bad. The
This introduces our last parfruit of tares, is, indeed, essen- ticular. tially different from that of There is a time at hand, when wheat, and when come to matu- the characters of men will be made rity and carefully examined, may known, and a complete eternal sepbe clearly distinguished from it. aration take place between the So when the whole practice of righteous and the wicked. This the impenitent is taken into view, is a most important sentiment in and sufficiently understood, there the parable." In the time of is no difficulty in distinguishing harvest, says the householder, I them from the penitent. But at will say to the reapers, gather ye present, we cannot survey the together first the tares, and bind whole conduct. Many parts of them in bundles to burn them ; men's lives are concealed from but gather the wheat into my our view, which, if known, might barn.” “The harvest is the end help us at once to determine of the world, and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the kingdom, and with them celetares are gathered and burnt in brated the dying love of Jesus, the fire ; so shall it be in the end will then be cast away, as chaff of this world. The Son of Man and stubble! How many, who shall send forth his angels, and have concealed a proud, selfthey shall gather out of his king righteous, or worldly heart undom all things which offend, and der the mask of religion ; how them which do iniquity.” Eve- many nominal Christians, who ry man's character shall be tried; have been secretly alienated from the all revealing day shall declare the cause of truth and sanctity ; it. Though we can look only how many such will then be on the outward appearance, there gathered as in bundles, and cast is one who searcheth the heart, into a furnace of fire, where shall and is thus qualified to divide be wailing and gnashing of teeth! the good from the bad, and as- And their anguish and despair sign to all their proper places. will be exceedingly aggravated Men may be unknown till the by all the privileges they once judgment day; but then every enjoyed, and by all the hopes secret thing shall be disclosed. they once entertained. Awful, At present we cannot determine momentous day, which shall what proportion of the visible burn as an oven, and consume all church are the children of this the proud and wicked as stubble, world ; but the great day will leaving them neither root oor declare it. Hypocrites may now branch. Oh Lord, gather not pass for Christians; but then the our souls with sinners. How veil will fall off, and the form different from them will the which it covered openly appear. saints appear! Delivered from Some upright persons may now all the corruptions of the world, labour under such disadvantages, and sanctified by the divine Spirthat we hardly imagine them the it, they will be a royal priesthood, heirs of God. But when that a holy nation, a pure and heavday arrives, they will be presente enly church ; will sit on thrones, ed faultless before their Father's and forever shine forth as the throne. At present the peace sun, in the kingdom of their of the church is interrupted, and
Father. its glory shaded by erroneous Churches of Christ, these are guides and unholy professors. the words of truth, and shall But then the church will be freed surely come to pass. What from the incumbrance of hypo- manner of persons, then, ought crites and unbelievers. Christ we to be! With what watchfulwill gather out of his kingdom ness, and prayer, and holy diliall things that offend. No unre- gence, should we wait for the day hewed sinner can then hold his of the Lord ! Behold, that day place among the people of God. cometh quickly! Blessed are How many, who have here come they, who are prepared for its before God, as his people, con- soleinn transactions. versed with the children of the