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ON THE PARABLE OF THE TARES.
S E R M O N
MATTHEW XIII. 24, 25.
The kindgom of heaven is likened unto a man
which Towed good feed in his field; but when men Nept, his enemy came and fowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
the ingratitude of mankind, that whilst the manifold blessings poured on them by their divine Benefactor, are utterly forgotten or difregarded; the few evils which they suffer are most warmly resented, and moft grievously complained of The goodness and mercy of the Almighty are every day called in question by his murmuring and discontented subjects, who boldly arraign his Providence, and impi, ously accuse him of partiality and injustice: because it was in the power of God to have made men unchangeably and perpetually happy, they hastily and rashly conclude that he ought to have done so. God, say they, might, had he fo pleased, have communicated to man a much larger share both of happiness and virtue, and rendered us throughout the exact image of his own divine perfection.
Thus argueth the pride and self-fufficiency of man, which dareth to dispute the wisdom and goodness of that God who made him. In opposition to these weak and impious suggestions, our blessed Redeemer hath, in the parable now before us, taken upon him to defend his almighty Father, and to vindicate the divine conduct in this important particular.
The image which he hath thought fit to make use of in this beautiful allegory, is adapted, we may observe, to the meánest capacity, taken from an humble state of life, and therefore more proper to convey general and universal instruction
God is here represented to us as a careful and industrious husbandman, cultivating and improving his farm to the best advantage, by sowing good feed in his field; after which he appointed (which, though not expressed, is visibly implied) proper persons to guard and look after it. His enemy, however, (and such the most innocent will always have) watching his opportunity, came by night, whilst the men slept, sowed tares amongst the wheat, and went his way. The consequence of this malevolent action was such as might naturally be expected: when the blade was fprung up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also; and the servants came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not fow good feed in thy field? whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, an enemy
hath done this. Then the servants said unto him, Wilt thou that we go and gather them up? But he said, nay; left, whils ve gather up the
tares, ye root up the wheat also. Let both
grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest, I will say to the
ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles, to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.
Thus endeth this beautiful parable, which our blessed Saviour not only delivered, but did himself graciously condescend to explain.
He that soweth the seed, says he, is the Son of man: the field is the world: the good feed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one: the enemy that fowed them is the devil.
The parable being thus fairly explained by him who doubtless was beft able to explain it, it remaineth only for us, who read, to make the
proper use of it, by such reflections on the various parts, as may best tend to illustrate the design, and to enforce the precepts inculcated in it.
And first, then: Those who accuse the Su. preme Being as the author of evil, would do well to observe, that the husbandman reprefented in the parable fowed not evil but good feed in his field: and in like manner also did our beneficent Creator, when he made all things, see that all things were good. But when Sin and Satan came into the world, they indeed polluted this clear stream, marred his divine work, defaced the image of God, and spread error, vice, and deformity over the fair face of nature.
God moreover not only fowed the good seed, but appointed also proper persons to guard and
protect it. In spite, notwithstanding, of all his care and caution, the servants were idle and flothful; the carelessness of those who were set to guard the field, excited the vigilance, and ensured the success of their adversary: whilst they Nept, the enemy came, and sowed tares among the wheat. Here, my bre. thren, let us stop a moment to observe, that this hath ever been the case with regard to the word of God. The supineness and indolence of mankind in general, and particularly of those who have been appointed to watch over and direct human affairs, have caused all the errors and innovations, all the fects and heresies, which from time to time have altered, polluted, and disguised true religion. These have affifted and encouraged Satan to sow his tares in the field, and cover it with those baneful and pernicious weeds which choak
up the rising harvest.
Our blessed Saviour fowed the good feed of the Gospel: his disciples watched it for a time, but foon grew listless and inattentive; when the enemy came, and lowed the feeds of error, atheism, and infidelity: these took root, sprang up, mixed with, and have ever since been growing with Christianity,
What then, my brethren, is the leffon which this part of the parable doth most naturally suggest unto us? Is it not plainly and indifputably this ? that we should be awake, vigilant and active; that we should not sleep as thofe did who were appointed to guard the field, but watch carefully to prevent, if possible, the
intrusion of Satan: tares enough are already sown in the field; it is our business to take especial care that no more be dropped in it. When those to whom the guardianship of religion and virtue is more peculiarly intrusted neglect their duty, then it is that error and fuperftition, bigotry and enthusiasm, rush in
To this we are indebted for Arians, Socinians, Gnostics; Popes, and Antichrists; for all the idle fopperies that from age to age have polluted the sweet fountain of Christianity. To this we are indebted for all the various fects and heresies, all the causeless separations, which have been made from the church efta. blished. To this indolence and fupineness, both of teachers and hearers, we are also indebted, I will venture to add, for the fashionable enthusiasts of the present age, whose abfurdities it is easier to ridicule than to put a ftop to; whose tenets and principles may produce evils which we are not sufficiently aware of, and be attended with fatal consequences which we little expected. The charge of indolence and remifsness, which they lay upon us in excuse for their separation, may perhaps have some degree of justice in it: be it our first and necessary business to remove this objection by our future conduct: this may bring them back to the plain road of sense and reafon, turn aside the waters of piety from these new currents, and teach them once more to run into their own purer channel.
But the chief end and scope of this divine parable seems, as I before observed to you, to