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extended to every country under heaven.

The person

who sowed is Jesus Christ, or, as he here stiles himself, in order to express his own ideas of his mean condition, notwithstanding the high honours conferred upon him by this important office, the son of man. The good seed was intended to represent good men: they are also called by Christ the children of the kingdom, because they are the proper subjects of that spiritual kingdom which God established among men; the chief design of which was to make men good.


But while men slept, "during the time of sleep," his enemy came, and sowed tares, rather, "weeds," among his wheat, and went his way.

The English word tares does not exactly correspond with the meaning of the word used in the original: for by it is evidently intended some useless, noxious weed, which men burn in the fire: whereas tares are an useful

kind of pulse. These weeds are wicked persons, who assume the name of Christians, and join themselves to them. These professors of religion are so like good men that, like weeds among the wheat, they cannot be distinguished from them. The enemy that sowed them is the devil: he is the adversary of Christ, and constantly endeavours to counteract his benevolent designs, being an enemy to all goodness. Wicked men who mix themselves with the good, are called his children; not merely because they resemble him in their temper and dispositions, but because he is the professed patron of all wickedness.

26. But when the blade was sprung up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the weeds also.

When the wheat first appeared on the surface of the ground, it could not be distinguished from the weeds which were mixed with it; but when it grew up to the

ear, it then appeared to be of quite a different species. Thus also wicked men associate themselves with the good, and cannot be distinguished from them for some time; yet something occurs, before it be long, to betray their character.

27. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it these weeds?

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?

In the conduct of these servants, we see a just representation of the officious zeal of some Christians, who, from a mistaken regard for the honour of their master and the purity of his religion, are ready, without being called upon, to exterminate from the world all those whom they deem to be corrupt members of the church. In doing this they imagine that they are accomplishing his wishes, and defeating the designs of his enemies; but he disapproves and condemns such measures, as totally opposite to those rules of mercy and forbearance which he has laid down to himself, for the government of the church.

29. But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the weeds, ye root up also the wheat with them.

To remove wicked men from the church, might appear to be removing a common ground of reproach, which its enemies are fond of employing as an argument against the purity and excellence of its principles, and to be effectually cutting off the source of further

corruption: but as even good men are liable to be deceived in the judgment which they form of the characters of mankind, it is possible that they might regard as the enemies of Christ, those who are his best friends, and, under the idea of destroying weeds, root up much good wheat. The history of the Christian church abundantly confirms the truth of this supposition: it would on this account, therefore, be dangerous to en trust fallible men with this authority: but this is not the only evil that would arise thence, nor the reason here given for withholding it: for wicked men are so closely connected with the good in the present world, by the bonds of nature and the common intercourse of life, that to destroy the one would greatly injure, if not destroy, the other. From a regard, therefore, to the happiness of his own people, God forbids them to be separated. Other reasons may likewise be assigned for their continuing to live together, which, though not mentioned here, may easily be collected from other parts of Scripture. Among vicious men there are some who are capable of being reformed, and God patiently waits for their repentance. Such characters also serve to exercise the constancy and the benevolence of good men; ---their constancy, by teaching them not to suffer themselves to be drawn aside from the right way by corrupt examples; and their benevolence, by leading them to endeavour, in every way in their power, to reclaim sinners from their vices. This prohibition against destroying wicked men must not be considered as forbidding Christians to disown those of their brethren who walk disorderly; or the civil magistrate to execute the sentence of the laws enjoining death upon daring offenders. Yet it were well if both, in the exercise of their authority, paid a greater regard to the example of patience and forbearance set them by the Divine Being.

30. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the weeds, and bind them in

bundles to burn them; but gather ye the wheat into my barn.

The harvest here mentioned is intended to represent the end of the world, till which time it is the will of God that the righteous and the wicked continue together: at that time the son of man will order his angels, here represented by reapers, to separate the wicked from the good, and command the former to be cast into a place of torment, here expressed by being burnt, or cast into a furnace of fire; the latter, to be taken into the kingdom of their Father.

31. Another parable put he forth unto them: The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field;

32. Which indeed is the least of all seeds; but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree; so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

By this and the following parable, our Lord represents the very small number of Jews who would believe in him, and the incredible multitudes who, by their aid, should be brought from the Gentiles to the knowledge of true religion. How widely the word of God spread in a short time, and what progress it made without the assistance of human power, and even in opposition to it, we learn from the book of Acts, and from the epistles of Paul. Since that time it has been still further extended. Christ, therefore, compares his religion to a grain of mustard seed; which is one of the smallest of seeds, so that to be small like a grain of mustard seed, came to be a proverbial expression among the Jews; but when it springs up, it becomes, in the country of Judæa, though not in our own, as large as a tree, so

that the birds of the air roost in the branches of it. In mentioning this last circumstance, our Lord seems to allude to the tree in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which was intended to represent his vast kingdom. Like such a tree, springing from a small seed, would be his religion.

33. Another parable spake he unto them: The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid, rather, "mixed," in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened.

By this parable our Lord intimates that his religion, although small and insignificant in its beginning, would be diffused throughout the world: for he compares it to leaven, which leavens the whole mass. The reason why three measures of meal are mentioned, is that this was the quantity of meal used at a time for making bread.

34. All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; 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.

These words are taken from the 78th Psalm; but are by no means to be considered as a prophecy relating to Jesus Christ, or the manner in which he should teach; but the evangelist Matthew, finding that they were fitted to express his ideas of that method of instruction which Jesus had adopted, employs them for this pose, and applies to him what Asaph had before ap


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