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reason with it, and to explain how such a state of things, trying as it may be, is only what might reasonably have been expected.
An enemy hath done this.
The consequence of our having been placed in a state of salvation, is, not that our great Enemy is bound so as to be unable to assail us, but that we have arms given us, sufficient, if we use them rightly, to overcome him. You may observe that we are very apt to mistake a state of salvation for a state of safety, or in other words, a state in which we may be saved for a state in which we have been saved. We are very apt to look at our Christian armour as an ornament rather than as an implement of warfare, and to imagine the battle over, and ourselves at rest, whereas the object of CHRIST is to arm us with heavenly weapons, which, if used aright, must necessarily prevail, and ultimately gain for us that place of safety which we have not reached as yet.
The springing of the tares is the consequence of sowing the wheat. So far from showing that there was no good seed, they prove that there was good seed to be imitated. As S. Augustine observes,-" False Prophets came after THE PROPHETS, false Apostles after APOSTLES, Antichrist after CHRIST." They could not have gone before them; they could not have been at all, had not a truth existed somewhere. A shadow implies a substance, a counterfeit something real to be counterfeited. It was "because he saw that this man bore fruit a hundred fold, and this sixty and this thirty," continues Augustine, "and that he was not able to carry off, or to choke that which had taken root, that the Devil turns to other insidious practices, mixing up his own seed which is counterfeit of the true, and thereby imposing upon those who are prone to be deceived. So the parable speaks not of another seed but of 'tares' (lolium) which bear a great likeness to wheat corn."1
This is one of the few parables to which the LORD has
1 Jerome also notices this. His words are,- "Between the wheat and tares, (which in Latin we call lolium,) so long as it is in the blade, and before the stalk has put forth an ear, there is a very great resemblance, and none or little difference to distinguish them by."
affixed His own explanation. Chrysostom says that "He had spoken to them in parables in order that He might induce them to ask the meaning, yet though He had spoken so many things in parables, no man yet had asked Him aught, therefore He sent them away." Jerome implies, as is not unlikely, "that having put forth the parable openly, He then entered into the house for the express purpose that His disciples, to whom He had already explained much, might have the opportunity of asking Him about those things, which the people neither deserved to hear, nor were able to hear. In the former parable, the disciples hesitated to ask Him. They now ask freely and confidently, because they had heard, 'To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven.' They pass over the parables of the leaven and mustard seed, and ask concerning that of the tares, which evidently had some connection, whatever it was, with the parables of the sower and the buried seed, and discloses something more than had been revealed as yet."
"This the LORD spake," says Chrysostom, (and considering the age in which he lived, and his own fiery and uncompromising temper, his words are very remarkable,) "to forbid any putting to death; for we ought not to kill a heretic, seeing that so a never ending war would be introduced in the world. He does not forbid restraint upon heretics that their freedom of speech should be cut off, that their synods and confessions (creeds) should be broken up (refuted ;) but He does forbid that they should be put to death."
Why should GOD permit wickedness to exist in the world at all, seeing that He hates wickedness, and seeing that He is Almighty? This has been a stumbling block before now, and many "inventions" has man found out to account for it. Why can we not be satisfied with our LORD's own explanation, it is simple enough,—“ Lest while ye gather up the wheat, ye root out the tares with them. This does not mean only or principally, that He spares bad men for the sake of good men connected with them, though the Bible would give us many instances of that; but that He spares vice for the sake of virtue. In a world constituted as ours is, virtue itself could not
exist without the existence of vice. S. Augustine sees this, when he says in explanation of this passage,-“ He forbids that such should be taken away out of this life, lest that benefit should be lost to the good which would accrue to them, even against their will, from mixing with the wicked." Who could exercise forgiveness if there were none to injure ? who could be meek if there were no proud and overbearing? who could exercise courage if there were nothing to fear; or Fortitude if there were nothing to bear; or Justice if there were no wrong? Nay, who could have Faith if there were nothing to doubt ?
What then? Must there be no forgiveness, nor meekness, nor courage, nor fortitude, nor justice, nor faith in the world? If all the tares in CHRIST's field were rooted up, see what good wheat would be rooted up with them.
It is at the harvest,-it is when the LORD, with His Angels as reapers, shall have put in the sickle to reap the good works which are the fruits of the Cross, and which, because they are the fruits of the Cross, cannot exist without evil intermixed,-that He shall examine each according as his works shall be. From other sources we know that mercy will be shown to him who in an honest and true heart has built amiss upon the heavenly foundation. If any man build upon this foundation (JESUS CHRIST,) gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work shall abide which he hath built THEREUPON, he shall receive a reward; if any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss, yet he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire."
You will observe (and compared with the passage just quoted from S. Paul it is very significant,) the LORD does not say them that offend, but all things that offend.1 He does not say that all those who have laid a stumbling
1 The original sense of the word "offend," (offendere, to strike against, to make to stumble,) is so well known, that it is hardly necessary to quote Jerome's explanation of this passage, in which he says, "By offences, may be understood those that give their neighbour an occasion of falling; while by those who 'do iniquity,' He designates all other sinners."
block in the way of their brethren shall be cast out, because it might have been done honestly, though mistakenly. That which offends,—the stumbling-block itself, will be cast out; but he who has placed it is reserved for the second clause of the sentence,-whether he has done it in iniquity, or in honest error. Here there is no doubt; in this case, it is very clearly the sinner as well as the sin; not that which does iniquity, but those which do iniquity. And observe, also, as Raban has remarked,-it is the present tense which is used even here; "it is not those that have done iniquity," he says, "but those which do iniquity; because not they who have turned to penitence, but they only that abide in their sins, are delivered to eternal torments."
"Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun;" not that they will be more righteous, but more evidently righteous; their deeds, hitherto obscured,-their motives, hitherto misunderstood, will then be as plain as the sun in heaven.
Then comes the caution pronounced by our LORD only on rare and solemn occasions, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear:" which Raban very truly explains to mean, "Let him understand who has understanding; because all these things are to be understood mystically, and not literally."
I have said already that we are individually, as well as collectively, the people of GOD, and that, consequently, every one of these parables relating to His kingdom has an internal and particular, as well as an external and general application; a lesson for our own private conduct, as well as a prophecy concerning the Church at large. It is in this sense that Raban has taken it; "when the LORD says, 'Sowed good seed,' He means that good-will which is in the elect; when He adds, 'an enemy came,' He intimates the watch that should be kept against him; when as the tares grow up He suffers it patiently, saying, 'an enemy hath done this,' He recommends patience to us; when He says, 'lest haply, in gathering in the tares,' He sets us an example of discretion; when He says, 'suffer both to grow together till the harvest,' He teaches us. long-suffering; and lastly, He inculcates justice, when He says, 'bind them into bundles to burn."""
Now, let us remember, "Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity with itself;" and that this, in the Bible version, is rendered by the words, "compact together." If we take this in its mystical sense, it must mean that the kingdom of CHRIST has some essential unity; that the individual parts of it, whether they be nations, or dioceses, or parishes, or individuals, must be each in themselves complete and perfect reproductions of the original type. That is to say, the characters of Christians must be consistent; for that is the real meaning of the expression, "at unity with itself:" consistent with themselves, and consistent with the general polity of CHRIST's kingdom.
And thus, if we cannot conceive it possible that ill thoughts, ill deeds, impatience, indiscretion, and injustice can exist with impunity in the universal kingdom of GOD, taken collectively, but are gathered into bundles for the burning, so neither can they exist in us, its parts, taken individually. CHRIST's Church is yet militant, and therefore yet imperfect; but we shall do well to remember that when it is perfect, that perfection will have been arrived at by casting out as essentially alien to its constitution, not only that which offends, but also all those that work iniquity. Something must be rooted out; something must be gathered into bundles for the burning. It may be our sins, and we may be the LORD's angels ourselves to bind them; for He has given us that mission, and by giving it has made us His angels. But if we will not take this office, He has other angels, whose office may be to root up us and our sins together. One or other must be done. As an old writer has quaintly said, "Heaven's gate is too narrow for us and our bundles of sins together. Let us, then, cast away our bundles, if we would enter ourselves."
NOTE. S. JEROME.-S. Jerome is an instance of wonderful natural powers obscured by an imperfect faith. This is a severe judgment to pass upon the man to whom the Catholic Church is indebted for the Vulgate translation of the Scriptures, and through whom the Church of England has derived the first seeds of its Reformation. But, great as are the services which S. Jerome has rendered in the holy warfare, they are small compared to what he might have effected, had he not chosen ingloriously to bury his talents in the solitudes of Syria.
He acknowledges this himself. "You ask me why I seek the deserts?" he says; "I answer, in order that I may avoid temptations