THE TARES A D THE WHEAT.

By John William Burgeon

S. Matthew xiii. 27 — 30. The Servants of the householder came and said unto him. Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field f from whence then hath it tares? — Se said unto them, An enemy hath done this. — The Servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up f — But he said, ay ; lest while ye gather up the Tares, ye root up also the Wheat taith them. Let both grow together until the harvest : and in the time of harvest I will say to the Reapers, Gather ye together first the Tares, and bind them in bundles to bum them : but gather the Wheat into my bam. By the Parable of the Tares of the field, our Saviour explained the mystery of the evil which exists in the visible Church : — how its existence is to be accounted for : — why it is tolerated : — how long it will be sufiered to last : — and what will be its final doom. On each of these points, I propose to say a few words. 1. First then, observe how plainly our Lord ascribes the evil which exists in the Wotld \.^ the active malice of the chief ot t\v^ i«5^Ka

THE FIFTH SU DAY AFTER THE EPIPHA Y. Angels, — that '* enemy of all goodness, the Devil." » • . *' An enemy hath done this," — said the householder. ** The enemy that sowed them is the Devil," says our Blessed Lord. And accordingly, fi-om the beginning, how foul a record

of his successes is to be found in every page of the Bible ! It would be endless to enumerate. The one thing I invite you clearly to discern is Satan, — revealed by the very finger of the Eternal Son, — as the Author of all this evil which exists in the World. God's work in Creation and in Redemption was altogether good. " While men slept," — in seasons, that is, of national supineness, or of private and personal unconcern, — *' His Enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way." 2. The picture would have been incomplete if, besides being told the origin of Sin, we had not been also reminded how the sight of Sin, — or rather of sinners, — afiects us. And it may, I suppose, be at once affirmed that Impatience is the prevailing sentiment in the Servants of the Householder. The parable represents the Servants inquiring whether the Tares ought not to be gathered up out of the Wheat at once : or rather, they oflTer iheir services to go and gatheic them up* ow

THE TARES A D THE WHEAT. there is more than one class of persons who find their own image and likeness here. (1.) First, there are those who wonder why Evil is suffered by God to exist at all. They are offended (as well they may be) at the sight of the depravity and wickedness on every side. And the heart is tempted to exclaim, — the

thoughts at least fly to God and say, — "Wilt Thou then that we go and gather them up?" . . . The impatient heart, I mean, would gather out the Tares at once, — only if it might. (2.) ext, there are those who arc content to let things go on as they may in the World ; but who are very jealous as to tlie existence of anything like sinfulness within that sacred society which we call the Church. And observe how they act. They either separate from the great Christian body, and set up a little conventicle of their own: or else they stand aloof, staying away from Divine Service, and the Table of the Lord ; or coming with reluctance, and shewing by their language how uneasy they are to find themselves members of such a mixed society. In other words, — they either gather themselves out from among the Tares, in order (as they fancy) that they may grow freely apart ; ot d^^ ihey are so impatient and angry becixvx^^ ^lXv^

THE FIFTH SU DAY AFTER THE EPIPHA Y, Tares ore not gathered out from among themselves, that their own spiritual growth is interfered with, and they yield no increase. ow the reason which He assigns for His refusal to comply with their suggestion, is the great point we have to attend to. He says, — " ay, lest while yc gather up the Tares, ye root up also the Wheat with them." . . . The severance, you see, is not to take place in this world. We may not pretend to gather up the Tares from among ourselves, and grow as Wheat alone. o, nor may we be so rash as to gather ourselves out, and try to form a select society of

Saints, — our very act of schism being a sin which would taint our whole body and ruin all our acts. . . . And whf/ may we not do this ? whff may no attempt be made to "gather up the Tares ?'' For the reason which our Lord gives, — " Lest while ye gather up the Tares, ye root up also the Wheat with them." ow this is a most remarkable statement, to which I particularly invite your attention. There is so great danger, we learn, of rooting up the Wheat along with the Tares, that it is absolutely necessary to let the whole matter alone. This js the reason our Lord gives why Evil is tolera^d in the World. And thete «c^ V«o virays of JJ6

THE TARES AKD THE WHEAT. explaining His saying; and they seem to me equally instructive, equally striking : and indeed there is something singularly affecting in both. (1.) First, it seems to be implied that the good and the evil are so connected here belowi that it is impossible to disconnect the one from the other, without destroying both. (2.) ext, it is implied that there is danger of mistaking the one for the other. And this is a very curious circumstance, — depending upon a little matter which is lost sight of in consequence of our word " Tares." " Tares'* are so unlike '.Wheat, that whatever danger might ensue from gathering them out from among the com, there would be no risk at all events of ndstaJdng the one for the other. But in Pales-

tine, there grows a weed among the Wheat, (here translated Tares), which is, in fact, so very like Wheat, that not until both are grown up, is the one clearly distinguishable from the other. Hence the peculiarity, (and propriety,) of our Lord's language, — "But when the blade was sprang up," (He says,) " and brought forth fruit, then appeared the Tares also." Both are tall and spiky; both grow up leafy, and with promise : but when they are fully grown, it is dv&eovered that while the Wheat bears a ivvSi eu ^^

THE FIFTH SU DAY AFTER THE EPIPHA Y. grain, — is fruitfal and has multiplied a hundred-^ fold, — the imitation, the weed, is utterly barren and unfruitful. There is not to be found a single kernel in the ear. It is seen at last which was Wheat, — and which was Tares. And if the other image was somewhat sad and touching, — this one, I am sure, is exceedingly grave and solemn, and somewhat startling as well as comfortable too. We may not presume to go and gather up the Tares, lest perchance in our blind zeal, and uncharitable haste, and mistaken spirituality, we prove so miserable as to have plucked up what was good Wheat ; what, if let alone, and softened by the refreshing rain, and fed by the heavenly dew, and fanned by the cooling wind, and warmed by the sunshine of God's grace and favour, might have ripened, — would have ripened, — into fruit fit for the heavenly garner. . . . And that is why we may not ''go and gather them up." We have not the skill to do it. And if we had the skill, we could not do it with safety : for the roots arc intertwined ; and to pull up some, would be to

dislodge others, and to destroy all. The heart of too many Mothers would be broken if the young man must always be cut off while his sin jsjret in the blossom : there would be too many

THE TARES A D THE WHEAT. orphans, — too many widowed hearts in the worlds — if the worthlessness of a Parent were to be the signal for his being made a castaway. • . • And this is why Sin is tolerated by God. He wills that there shall be no mistake made. ^^ By their fruits yc shall know them/* (3.) We may take the last two heads at once : — " Let both grow together until the Harvest." Such is the decree of the Lord of the Harvest, — the Lord of the whole Earth !...** Let both grow together:" — that is the charter of our lives, yours and mine ! " Until the Harvest :** — that prescribes the limit of God's endurance ; defines the moment at which the awful severance will take place ! Some important considerations follow, with which I shall conclude. First of all, you are to notice that this Parable cuts away all pretence for complaint or wonder at the state of things in the Church or in the World. The Parable is a prophecy, — a prophecy of what the World was to be, and how the Church was to look ; namely, like a field in which Tares and Wheat are growing together : in some cases, scarcely distinguishable; but, whether distinguishable or not, not to be disturbed or separated the one from the other. The chief lesson o! all is one ot se\l-^\^\.twsX.^

THE FIFTH SU DAY AFTER THE EPIPHA Y. and most unbounded Charity : anxiety for self,-^ cheerful generous hope for all beside, . . . And then, when we look on others, O to remember always that however backward, — however frail, — however broken, — however stunted, — however unpromising, the plant which we look upon, — it may prove to be Wheat after all ! And shall we, — who may prove (God forbid !) the Tares of the parable ; — shall tve ask leave that we may, — or even wish that we might, — " go and gather them up ?" . . . ay, — for every reason, nay ! And if any there be who sigh for the society of Saints, and Saints only; who deem nothing worthy of the name of Church, which is not such a Church as that: — let them know that such bliss is not for Earth, but is reserved in Heaven for the Saints of God hereafter : that it is the Church of the Redeemed in Heaven for which they sigh ; the society of just men made perfect, for which they thirst. Till then, — O thou, whoever thou art, — have patience ! God grant thee, at the latter day, all that thy soul now pineth after ; even a place in the Heavenly Jerusalem ; which hath " no need of the sun^ neither of the moon to shine in it ; for tlje Glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the JLigbt tbereoV*

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