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the age of CHRIST, the former class was more numerous; in the present, this persecution, because of the word, is not now so frequent as formerly; rather, perhaps, from the lukewarmness or religious indifference of the rulers, than from increase of genuine liberality of sentiment, and of the mild spirit of Christian toleration. Now, worldly interests of grandeur and ambition, and, above all, increasing luxury, keeping pace with increasing wealth, so weaken and stifle the word every where, that there is abundant cause to dread, that when CHRIST cometh again, he will scarcely find HIS FAITH established in its purity any where upon earth, according to his own foreboding, Luke xviii. 8.
4. The last are compared to the good ground, who in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and "bring forth fruit with patience:" and also with the same variety as the bad soils, "some thirty fold, some sixty fold, and some a hundred fold," according as they possess, more or less, the foregoing qualifications; first of" hearing the word with an honest and good heart," or a candid and virtuous disposition, which was wanting in the first class; next of "keeping," or retaining it, which was wanting in the second; and lastly, of "bringing forth fruit with patience," or perseverance in well doing, which was wanting in the third t.
From this instructive parable we learn not to vilify or defame human nature in the gross, as bad, totally degenerate, and altogether "devilish," with some gloomy sectarists. Though unhappily," the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and
This is the order of the produce in Mark iv. 7; who judiciously reverses the order of Matthew xiii. 8, to furnish a regular climax from the worst soil to the best. + This agricultural imagery is frequent in the heathen classics :
Cultor enim Juvenum, purgatas inseris aures
"'Tis thine, the soil of youthful minds to weed;
Cultura animi PHILOSOPHIA est, quæ extrahit vitia radicitus, et præparat animos ad satus accipiendos; eaque mandat his, et, ut ita dicam, serit, quæ adulta fruges uberrimos ferant.
"The culture of the mind is PHILOSOPHY, which eradicates the vices, and prepares the heart for receiving seed; and infuses, and, as I may say, sows [seeds,] which, when come to maturity, may bear the most abundant fruits." Cicero, Tuscul. II. This may more truly be said of THE GOSPEL.
desperately wicked, who can know it?" (Jer. xvii. 9,) in too many instances; yet He who knew it best, and who originally "made it in the image and likeness of GOD," kindly and consolingly admits, that " an honest and good heart" may still be found among "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," amidst the prevailing errors and corruptions of the world, where "the spirit, indeed, may be willing," or disposed to good, though the flesh is weak, or frail, and easily seduced to evil, Matt. xxvi. 41. See the foregoing scriptural account of human nature, p. 3-5.
In this second parable, according to OUR LORD'S master-key of interpretation, the field is the world, the good seed the sons or heirs of the kingdom of heaven, or "children of GOD;" the sower, the SON OF MAN, or CHRIST; and the servants, the ministers of the GOSPEL: the tares are children of the Devil, who is the enemy of CHRIST, that sows them, or seduces them into sin; the harvest is the general judgment at the end of the world, and the reapers the angels.
The drift of this parable is, 1. to shew, that notwithstanding all the care and vigilance of CHRIST'S ministers, "offences must needs come into the world," through the craft and subtilty of the Devil, working at unseasonable hours, "while men slept," in the dead of night, to sow his mischief in the hearts of his children, or those incorrigible sinners, of whose repentance and amendment there is no hope. For tares, let them grow ever so long, will still be tares; they can never turn to wheat by any care or skill in the cultivation. And 2. to "vindicate the ways of GOD to man," and his long sufferance to such sinners, by furnishing a satisfactory answer to the intemperate zeal of some "sons of thunder" among his servants, who would fain "root up the tares" directly, or call down fire from heaven to consume them" without delay; "not knowing of what manner of spirit they ought to be," that spirit of "forbearance," which our gracious LORD, and our heavenly FATHER daily exercise toward the wicked, in compassion to the good: "Nay, lest while ye gather the tares, ye root up also the wheat." For, in the field of this world, the righteous and the wicked are so closely connected, united, and intermixed in their interests, like the wheat and the tares, that in the present state the wicked could not be every where extirpated, without involving the righteous in his
doom *; for his children, his family, his relations, and his friends may be innocent, and not partakers of his sins; and therefore" the righteous JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH," in mercy to them, spares the guilty; while, 3. to silence the cavils of infidels," Why do the wicked prosper in this world?" which are as old as the days of Job, xxi. 7, Psalm lxxiii. 12, Jer. xii. 1, or, There is one event to the righteous and the wicked! but one event to all!" Eccl. ii. 14, viii. 14, ix. 2, 3, from the days of Solomon to the present; the parable predicts a future discrimination, at the general judgment, when CHRIST shall say to his reapers, Gather first the tares, and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my granary; when he shall send forth his angels to gather out of his kingdom all offences, and cast them into a fiery furnace, where shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth, but shall collect the righteous into the kingdom of their heavenly Father, where "they shall shine forth as the sun" for evermore.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
THE MUSTARD SEED.
This third parable was designed to represent the wonderful progress of the kingdom of heaven, or Church of CHRIST, from a small and inconsiderable beginning, as the kingdom of the "stone" in Daniel; until it shall become the kingdom of the "mountain," and fill the whole earth; so that "all nations. shall finally flow" to "the mountain of the LORD's house," to receive spiritual instruction from the fountain head. The ultimate conversion of the Gentiles to CHRISTIANITY, which was the chief drift of the parable, was a mystery so revolting to the bigotry of the Jews, even of our LORD's own disciples, (Acts x. 34, 35, xi. 1—3,) that it could not be early proposed to them. It was, therefore, of necessity to be veiled under a parable, of which he then waved the interpretation; because they could not bear it now, (John xvi. 12.) It was obscurely intimated by "the birds of the air lodging in the branches of the mustard tree," when arrived at its full growth; and finding there shelter, protection, and nourishment. The Talmud mentions a mustard tree
This was Abraham's plea for Sodom, "Far be it from thee to slay the righteous with the wicked!- -Shall not THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH do right?" Gen.
so large, that one of its branches covered a tent. See Lightfoot. We should, indeed, be much mistaken, if we judged of the size of vegetables in the east, from those of the same species in our colder climate.
This fourth parable expresses the influence of the Gospel upon the minds of mankind, under the imagery of a little leaven, which, by its fermentation, leavened three measures of meal, the usual quantity that was kneaded at once; signifying that "the word of GOD, which is lively and powerful" in its operation, would “leaven," improve, and meliorate "the whole heap" or mass of which man is composed, his spirit, soul, and body, with the affections, appetites, and passions, (1 Thess. v. 23.)
THE HIDDEN TREASURE, &c.
This and the two following parables are addressed peculiarly to the Apostles, and seem to represent the various dispositions of the converts they would make to the Gospel; some would embrace it with joy, when found as it were by accident, like treasure hidden in a field; others when found after long and diligent search, like the merchant seeking precious pearls, both purchasing the field and the pearl of great price for all their substance. The last represents them (in conformity with their usual occupation of fishermen) as casting a net into the sea, and "catching men" indiscriminately of all sorts, good and bad, to compose the visible Church of CHRIST, or "all who profess and call themselves Christians:" of whom a selection should be made, when "the net should be drawn ashore," or in the general judgment at "the end of the world," when "the good should be gathered into vessels," in heaven, but "the bad cast away," and thrown into hell-fire. The former parable of the tares seems to describe the final lot of mankind in general, under all the dispensations; this of the net, under the Christian, in particular.
When JESUS had finished these parables, he asked his disciples, "Whether they understood all these?" And upon their answering in the affirmative, "Yea, LORD," he told them that every scribe," or Jewish teacher, who should be "disciplined," and made a Christian teacher, should bring out of his treasures or stores of knowledge, "fruits new and old," or the modern
mysteries of THE GOSPEL, in addition to the ancient, of THE LAW, Matt. xiii. 51, 52.
And now when our Lord had sufficiently trained or disciplined his Apostles in the rudiments of Christianity, by his public discourses and parables, and by his fuller explanations and interpretations to them in private, he graciously expressed his tender compassion, (EOTλayxvion) for the multitudes, as "sheep without a shepherd," who were too numerous, and too "scattered," to receive the benefit of his divine instructions, and were too much neglected by their own teachers, the scribes. Then said he to his disciples, "The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore THE LORD of the harvest, that he would speedily send forth (εKßaλy) labourers into his harvest," Matt. ix. 36—38.
MISSION OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES.
Accordingly, Jesus sent forth the twelve Apostles, in pairs, to proclaim the approach of CHRIST's spiritual kingdom, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand," at first exclusively to the Jews, or "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," but neither to the Samaritans, nor to the Gentiles; and to secure credit to their preaching, he invested them with miraculous powers, gratuitously to expel demons, and cure disorders; and gave them several wise and prudent rules for the regulation of their conduct, as itinerant preachers. 1. Not to provide superfluities, of money or cloathing, but to depend upon the bounty of the city, village, or house, to which they preached, for their support, for the labourer is worthy of his hire. 2. To salute the owners civilly, and depart quietly, if they were not entertained, but to shake off the dust of their feet, in token that they were to be considered in future as heathens, who despised or rejected CHRIST and his Gospel, as practised afterwards by Paul and
Matthew, x. 8. inserts a clause, vεKDOUG EYELPETE, "raise the dead," which is wanting in the parallel places, Matt. x. 1, Mark vi. 7, and Luke ix. 1, 2; and also in the subsequent commission to the seventy disciples, Luke x. 1-17; and which, in fact, the Apostles do not now appear to have exercised, Mark vi. 13, Luke ix. 10, nor until after they had received the baptism of THE SPIRIT at the day of Pentecost. Accordingly, it is omitted by several MSS. and versions. See Griesbach's second edition, and Wetstein. Still, however, it may be retained as an anticipation of their future larger commission, Mark xvi. 15-18, Matt. xxviii. 20, especially as the present commission predicts their future sufferings and persecutions from the Jews, and from kings and rulers, Matt. x. 16-23. But the arguments for its rejection seem stronger.