THE TARES AD THE WHEAT.

BY THE REV. DAIEL MOORE, M.A.
" Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kiugdom of beaverr is
likened aoto a man which sowed grood seed in his field : but while men slept, his
eueiiiy tame and Bowed tares among the wheat." — Matthew xiii. 24, 25.
This parable forms one of the series which supplied us with matter for medi-
tation last Tuesday,* and, as then intimated, was given by our Lord to set
forth the true principles of the Divine government — to show us how God has
dealt, is dealing and will deal with our world unto the end. It seemed a dark
saying to his disciples, as they heard it delivered in public, and so as soon as they
were alone, they said to our Lord, " Declare unto us the parable of the tares
of the field." He complied, and by the time he had finished his first sentence
all was clear. A rich mass of light was projected upon the whole picture.
" He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man ; the field is the world ; the
good seed are the children of the kingdom ; but the tares are the children of
the wicked one ; the enemy that sowed tiiem is the devil ; the harvest is the
end of the world ; and the reapers are the angels." In these few words we
have the complete scheme of moral providence — the permitted frustrations of a
Divine purpose, the struggles going on between good and evil, the errin"
judgment and mistaken zeal of good men, and the final separations of character
which shall mark the proceedings of the great day.
Let us look again at the circumstances of liie parable. "The kingdom
of heaven," or the dispensation of things under the gospel, "is likened unto a
man which sowed good seed in his field." In the interval between its spring-
ing up, "and while men slept," an enemy comes and casts into the ground a
closely resembling but far inferior seed. This act of malice remains undis-
covered, until the blade springs up, when the servants of the sower, pained
and astonished at the appearance of so much bad wheat intermixed with the
* Soo Gol.lpn Lectures, Sft-ond ii-rii-s. o. 19, Tenny Pu!i,it, o. 3,701.
o. 2,761, 4 s
THE TARES AKD THE WHEAT.
good, repair to the Master for an explanation. *' Sir, didst not thou sow good
seed in thy field ? from whence then hath it tares ?" The Master resolves the
difficulty at once. He knows of one who much envies him the prosperity of
his fields, who would mar the success he cannot rival, and injure what he is
unable to destroy. ** An enemy hath done this." Hereupon the servants, in
the true spirit of the world's revenges, ask permission to root out utterly this
spurious and corrupting grain, saying unto the Master, " Wilt thou then that
we gather them up V * ay,' saith the Master, ' the intermixture is too close,
the difference between good wheat and bad too nice and delicate for your rude
discriminations ; so that whilst intending to gather up tares, it is to be feared
you would gather up wheat also.' " 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 burn them : but gather the wheat
into my barn."
The true rendering of this parable being given by its Divine Author, relieves
us, in so far as its main purport is concerned, from the necessity of any con-
jectural solutions. It plainly tells us, that with all the care we can use there
must be in every society a mixture of good men and bad ; that any attempt to
mend this state of things by a retributive economy would only add to the
existing evil, and that it must be left to the righteous siftings of the future
world to separate the precious from the vile, and to vindicate the ways of God
to man. To the parable, therefore, as illustrative of these points, we may now
proceed to address ourselves.
And first, let us consider that part of the discourse which tells us, that we
live in a world of good and evil, that even religious society has its unavoidable
admixtures, that men who by outward profession have one Lord to serve, one
faith to subscribe, one baptism to acknowledge, may yet be growing up toge-
ther like wheat and tares in a corn field, only at the time of harvest to be
separated eternally. Let us see how the parable sets forth this fact.
Thus it imports, that all God's original provisions for this our world were
beneficent and wise, and tending to moral happiness. The sower " sowed
good seed in his field." "God made man upright." Eden was the abode of
moral purity ; there were no tares in that field ; and if man had been obedient
to the one command given unto him, a holy posterity might have grown toge-
ther until the harvest. And now that man has fallen, all the provisions of the
gospel tend to the same point — the establishment of a restored spiritual reign.
"The good seed are the children of the kingdom ;" and these children are the
" lights of the world, the salt of the earth," the purifying leaven of a corrupt
mass. " I planted thee a noble vine," said the Lord unto Israel, " wholly
a right seed ;" and the ground is blessed, and enriched, and sanctified wherever
this good seed falls. Consider what an ennobling thing Christianity is, when its
influence can be brought to bear upon the nations. How does it tend to elevate
character, to refine manners, to enlarge the boundaries of thought, to subdue
natural jealousies, and to bind man to man ! How, if, good seed met with no
hindrance, no discouragement, no tares, would it turn " swords into plough-
shares, and spears into pruning-hooks," and barracks into hospitals, and prisons
into schools, till the nations had ceased to learn war any more, and conquerors
THE TARES AD THE WHEAT.
vrere hunted out of the world ! Yea, so precious is this good seed, that a
single grain of it may be made a blessing to mankind. Our Adelaides in the
court, our Hales on the judgment-seat, our Clarksons and Wilberforces in the
senate, our Gardiners in the camp, our Boyles in the walk of philosophy,
and our Cowpers in the department of sweet song — who can tell how great the
world's debt to such good examples ? And many a grain of good seed that grew
not up so high as these may yet be equally a blessing to those around by
the silent influences for good. "The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house," we
are told, ** for Joseph's sake;" and many among us may be similarly indebted.
Masters, mistresses, employers of all kinds, indifferent as they may be about
being served by such qualities, little know how much they are blessed, and
prospered, and kept from evil, through having about them faithful and pious
dependents. How little thought the proud aamau that he was being remem-
bered in the little captive's prayers !
"The good seed," then, "are the children of the kingdom" — those who
have been made alive by the word of God, those righteous in a nation that save
it from ruin, those godly in a legislature who would deliver us from statute
infidelity, those Christians in commercial life who regulate all their dealings by
the Bible, those spiritually minded men in a neighbourhood who keep its
religious light from going out, those parents, masters, children, servants in a
family, who feel that they live not to themselves, that good seed must not be
unfruitful, but that each blade must labour to bring forth its fruit unto hoU»
ness, and even to try improve the tares that are growing up at its side-
But having taught us that the seed which God sowed was good seed, the
parable next sets forth how it came to pass that the field yielded any other.
" While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares anjong the wheat, and
went his way." " His enemy came." Mark the expression, brethren ; for it
takes us up to the great source of all our moral perplexities and problems j and
if it do not tell us how evil came into the world, at least tells us this, that it
did not come in with the consenting purpose aud will of God. In what sense
anything can be said to exist without that consenting will would involve a
discussion I have not time to pursue now; but the truth can never be brought
out too plainly or too often, that the will of God is essentially antagonistic to
all evil — that come when it may, or come how it may, all the attributes of th«
Divine nature must have been opposed to it, and that in whatever form it now
shows itself upon the earth, there is but one solution to be offered for its
existence — "An enemy hath done this;" God's enemy, truth's enemy, the
enemy of all purity, and love, and light, and righteousness. From this posi-
tion no speculative difficulties should ever move us. The awful mystery of
evil will never be entirely cleared up, take what view we may : and therefore let
us at least take that which shall leave without reproach or stain the equities of
the Divine character. It may be, as some have affirmed, that the infinite
creative mind must have an irrepressible tendency to diffuse and communicate
and multiply reflections of itself ; and certainly from this, as a postulate, we
might deduce conclusions which would relieve the subject at all events of a
portion of its darkness ; for if God must create, if to diffuse himself by
means of creative forms be a necessity of his nature, then must these crea-
803
THE TARE8 AD THE WHBAT,
lions be intelligent and moral creations ; then must there exist in them the power
of moral refusal and moral choice ; then must there be permissions for things
between which such choice is to be made. And thus, without willing, God
might permit the entrance of that which is wrong; but wrong, as wrong, he
hates, and must hate eternally. He sowed good seed in his field ; from his
enemy and ours alone hath it tares.
Observe, next, the act spoken of is attributed to a personal enemy. The
personality and distinct existence of Satan, as a fallen angelic intelligence, as
the chief of a mighty principality, as a being unfettered by our conditions of
motion and visibility, as having a limited, but still intimate access to human
thoughts and purposes, as waging incessant war with God and holiness, and
.IS being principally bent on the destruction of man's immortality — these are
things which, with the Bible in our hands, we must believe. o philosophy
could disprove it; because on the revealed hypothesis Satan assumes cer-
tain conditions of being which no human philosophy is competent to in-
vestigate. Man's status in the gradation of intelligence fixes the upper limit
of his inquiries. An angel could not comprehend a nature one grain higher
than his own. You will observe, too, that in the parable our Lord speaks of
Satan as his enemy. For "he that sows the good seed is the Son Man,'' says
the explanation ; and it was the personal enemy of the Saviour that threw in
the tares. It is observable that Scripture sets forth the conflict with Satan as
carried on by Christ, rather than the Father. It was Christ who was to bruise
the serpent's head; and it was Christ who was to cast out the prince of this
world ; it was Christ who was to " destroy him that had the power of death."
The reason given for this by the ancient fathers is acute and just; namely,
that the victory over evil was to be achieved not by the putting forth of
power, but by the use of moral means, and the force of moral right. The utter
crushing of Satan after the fall, the ejection of him and his angels from this our
world altogether, and the pursuing them thenceforth to their own dark realms,
would have been a display of Omnipotence only ; the spectacle given to other
intelligences and other worlds was to be one of moral majesty — Satan over-
come by one of the nature of her whom he had beguiled. For the prince
of darkness to have been routed by the armies of heaven, for him to have
quailed before Gabriel, the Strength of God, had been neither a wonder nor a
dishonour; his shame was, that he, once among the host of the throned poten-
tates of heaven, and intellectually their equal still, should now be overmastered
in his policy by flesh and blood, and by the seed of the woman have his
empire and his hopes destroyed.
But note also the action here attributed to Satan. He " sowed tares among
the wheat," or, as some would read it, " between the wheat ;" indicating the
systematic malignity of the act. The exquisite naturalness of our Lord's parables,
their perfect harmony with oriental usage, was adverted to in our last lecture.
We have another instance here. The spoiling of a crop by throwing handfuls
of vetch among it is the practice to this day. The following passage from
Roberts, the great oriental traveller, is very striking. " See," he says, " that lurk-
ing villain, watching for the time when his neighbour shall plant his field. He
carefully marks the period when the work shall be finished, and goes in the night
following, and casts in a seed of rapid growth, which springs up between the
good seed, and scatters itself before the other can be reaped ; so that the poor
owner of the field will be toiling for years before he can get rid of this trouble-
some weed," There is another point of severe local truthfulness which is very
striking. I made a moral application just now of the fact, that those repre-
sented by the wheat should try to improve the adjacent tares. If the parable
mean tares, as we understand it--that is, a seed originally and essentially dif-
ferent in nature, such an application would be out of place j but testimonies
THE TARES AD THE WHEAT.
botli ancient and modern go to prove, that the word here rendered tares,
describes only a degenerate and inferior description of wheat, which in its
sprout, and blade, and all its earlier appearances, would resemble the good
seed so closely that the most practised eye could not discern the diflFerence.
The difference, in fact, is declared by eastern naturalists to consist in the quan-
tity of fruit yielded, that which is here called " tares" usually containing a
few grains only in the largest ear, and these easily shaken out by the wind.
Brethren, what learn we from this, but that Satan's deepest and most ma-
lignant plots are laid in the very heart of the church of God, in the encourage-
ment of a hollow and fictitious Christianity, in keeping up a form of godliness,
even where there is no experience of its power? The grand artifice of false-
hood is to appear like truth. Satan is ever trying to make the church and the
world assimilate; and to this end he will use the church's weapons, inveigh
against pharisaic separations, suggest the good we may do by associating with
persons of less fixed principles than our own, the great danger to our
spirits, when, without any wish to uproot the degenerate grain, we take upon
ourselves to say which are tares and which are wheat ; and the danger is to be
admitted. The good seed and the spurious, the almost Christian and the
quite, the Demas that forsakes the truth, and the Luke that is faithful to it,
have all, up to a certain point, something in common. It was not until the
blade had brought forth fruit that the servants discovered the tares. A test of
sincerity you must apply, not for the judging of your neighbour's conduct, but
for the guidance of your own. " We command you, brethren," says the
apostle, " in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves
from every brother that walketh disorderly." In a man's profession you may
be deceived ; you cannot in his walk. The world followed after, pleasure
loved, riches coveted and amassed, pride displayed, the purse closed against
the claims of God and the poor, no recognition of great spiritual realities at
home or abroad, or in business, or among friends : men must be known by
their fruits. They may come as the Lord's people come, and sit as his people
sit; but they are only Satan's imitations of godliness — the tares he has cast
in among the wheat.
Again : importance is attached by some to the circumstances under which
Satan is said to have accomplished all this mischief in the gospel field, " while
men slept." Assuming the men spoken of to be the under sowers in the
field. Bishop Latimer used to refer to this text, when he complained of sleep-
ing prelates letting the devil run up and down in their diocese. As a rule, it
is not well to press the accidental circumstances of a parable too far; and it is
just possible that by the expression, " while men slept," nothing more is
meant than in the dead of night, when the servants of the Great Sower were
lawfully and unavoidably off their guard ; but it is possible something more is
meant, even reproof to sleepy and unwatchful servants; and then the thought
should press upon us all, How many and great issues are suspended upon the
vigilance of those who are set as watchmen in Israel — upon their wise discern-
ing of the signs of the times, upon their zeal not only to blow the trumpet in
Zion, but in seeing that it gives no uncertain sound. either, if the resem-
blance between the wheat and the tares be so close, will the requisitions for
your safety be met by their mere laboriousness. There may be such a thing
as a sleeping diligence among the spiritual watchmen; that is, there may be
zeal, and watchfulness, and boldness for the truth, and faithful enurrciation of
great principle?, and unwearied effort to bring out of the treasury of truth
things new and old, and yet no bringing the people on, no leading them step by
step to further advances in piety and holiness, no care to see them so skilled in
the word of righteousness as to have need not of milk, but of strong meat. At
all events, whether in ministers or in people, it is sloth, supineness, ihe goiug
805
THE TARES AD THE WHEAT.
on from year to year in the same round of unimproved and unadvancing
piety, that leaves us exposed to the designs of the wicked one. During the
long slumber of the foolish virgins their lamps were gone out. "While men
slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way."
But I pass on to another division of our parable, which, taking it for
granted that good and evil, degenerate wheat and pure, must be in our world,
proceeds to assign reasons why they should be allowed to grow up together.
And, first, we have to observe upon the misguided zeal of the servants, who
would that they should not be allowed to grow up together. On being told
that those tares had been sowed by an enemy, the servants said, " Wilt
thou, then, that we go and gather them up ?" How strong is the desire in man
to hurl God's thunders ! Even John, the gentle, the placid, the loveable,
has no pity for the recusant Samaritan villagers — "Lord, wilt thou that we
command fire to come down from heaven to consume them ?" And so
it has been in every age. Persecution, that brute test of truth, as Words-
worth calls it, is a weapon that the church has always felt a temptation to
employ, as if men's thoughts could fashion themselves to the decrees of righte-
ousness, or as if the wrath of men were to work out the righteousness of God.
Men have been too apt to forget that the permission of a certain amount of
falsehood in the church is part of the appointed discipline for our spirits, and
it is permitted not to make us get angry, and use bitter words, and mount the
chariot of Jehu that we may display our zeal for the Lord, but to set us upon
the diligent use of moral means of securing the triumphs of truth, to make
us more active in feeding the springs of the gospel life among us, to show us
that we are not to keep down error by the power of the sword, but to live it
down by a pure spiritual Christianity, and to preach it down by the doctrines
of grace, and to pray it down by that holy violence which God is willing that
the kingdom of heaven should suffer. The use of defensive weapons is in no
way superseded here; for though it would be persecution for the wheat to
invoke an external power to aid them in rooting up the tares ; yet it would be
base treason to the cause of our common Christianity, if that power were not
called in when the tares were making an encroachment upon the wheat, and
falsehood devising new aggressions on the domain of the truth of God.
But let us go on to notice the grounds on which this short-sighted proposal
of the servants is refused. The first is the moral certainty, that, if this up-
rooting power were committed to any human hand, there would be much in-
justice done. " ay," answers the Master, " lest while in gathering up the
tares, ye root up also the wheat with them." " Root up ;" for the roots of the
two kinds of plants are as much intertwined with each other under the earth,
as the plants themselves are upon the surface. We see the application by the
relationship of state, by the interchanges of commerce, by the united interests of
families; the fortunes of men are so interlinked together, that you could not
go down deep enough into these associations to find a point at which
we could punish the bad without doing some injury to the good. The
cunning enemy has sown his tares between the wheat; he would not fling the
grain broadcast, but cast it in furrows, so regular, and close, and deep, as that
the relations of human society should be penetrated with his mischief to its
roots. All weeding out, therefore, must be done with a careful and slow
hand. How near together may grow up respectability and villany ; how the
fraudulent speculator and his victim must cast their fortunes into a common
store, how manoeuvre, and finesse, and craft get intermixed with simplicity,
and openness, and unsuspecting truth; root of root, and branch of branch,
we need not at this day point out. It is this which makes all extirpatory
legislation, as applied to some of the vices of our social system, so hopelessly
difficult. Anything but restraints on gross success in oppression would not
806
THK TABES AKD THE WHEAT.
punish the ojipressor so much as injure tlie oppressed. The maxim is as
needful for human government as for Divine — " Lest while ye gather up the
tares, ye root up also the wheat with them."
But note another reason against our proceeding with these summary se-
parations between the tares and wheat in society, namely, our utter incom-
petency for the task — " For who ait thou that judgest another roan's ser-
vant?" Who gave us an infallible power of discrimination ? If the destroying
angel were to put his sword into our hands, with authority to slay all the
enemies of God. is there one of us who would dare to use it? dare to usurp
the functions of the Great Searcher of hearts, and say, "These are tares, and
this is wheat?" Had suck a commission been given to us in the first ages of
Christianity, and we had presumed to enter upon its fulfilment, we should
probably have singled out as our first victim one whom all evidence would
justify us in regarding as the enemy of God, without plea of office or call of
necessity, or hope of reward. We see a man breathing out threatenings and
slaughter against the disciples of the Lord ; he has gone at his own charges
on a mission of extirpation ; we see him dragging Christians, even the feeble
and delicate women, in chains, to Jerusalem ! May we not let our pious in-
dignation fall upon such a one ; and ignorant of his designation to be the
great apostle of the Gentiles say, as his own countrymen said : " Away with
such a fellow from the earth!" The extreme case alarms us ; and we see now
what kind of tares our erring judgment would be the first to pluck up. But
there are weapons of persecution beside the sword ; and there are many
who may never become apostles, who yet, in the last day, shall be reckoned
among the finest of the wheat. You have heard of the likeness between the
pure grain and the spurious, in its early stages. Do we not often, by our
harsh judgments, and inward censures, and perhaps unkind discouragements,
tear up much young wheat? Are we always hopeful of the day of small
things? Do we take heed that we injure not one of Christ's little ones.' Do
we not hastily conclude that such a one is to be reckoned with the tares, that
he must be left, must be uncared for, that he is beyond our pains to reach,
and past a place in our prayers ? And yet all this time he is the subject of
an unseen and unknown struggle. His pride will not let him speak ; yet he
would give worlds for a kind word from you, for an intimation that you were
hopeful about him, still felt an interest in him, had not jour hearts pronounced
judgment against him, that he was not one of the children of the kingdom.
Oh ! as new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, "destroy it not, for
there is a blessing in it," have a care of judging of the religious state of your
neighbour. You are acting inwardly the part of the persecutor, you are assum-
ing the forbidden right of gathering up the tares, alike forgetful of the benefit
to the world from their permitted growth, and the danger to yourself, " lest,
while intending to gather up the tares, you root up also the wheat with them."
And this brings me to the last point I can notice, namely, that this mixture
of good and evil amongst us is an intended part of our moral and spiritual
discipline. " Let both grow together until the harvest." Many advan-
tages from this mixture are apparent. It supplies a test of character ; for
without laying ourselves open to the charge of Pharisaism, we must all ac-
knowledge that there must be a Lord's side, and that, as opposed to a halting
and undecided walk, these mingled and alternate rows of good seed and bad
will often compel from us an answer to the question : " Choose ye^ this day,
whom ye will serve." Again : such a mixture aff"ords scope and play for all
the Christian activities. Go through the chief parts of the human character,
and you will find that some form of moral evil supplies a principle for their ex-
ercise. What would be the effect of a geographical separation — all the wicked
gathered into one place by themselves, and all the good galliered into one
place by themselves — it might not he easy to conjecture furtlier than this,
807
THE tARES AD THE WHEAT.
that wickedness revelling in the licence of unbridled, unbroken pow^r, would
certainly become more wicked, wliilst righteousness, undisciplined by con-
flict, and kept at a distance from temptation, would never attain to that manli-
ness and strength of growth, which it often has attained, when evil has
been growing at its side. Indeed, the highest privilege of our being, that of
saving a soul, is connected with the appointment — " let both grow together."
The unbelieving husband is saved by the believing wife ; the slave that has
departed from his master is received again by him for ever. The spendthrift
child comes back to the parental roof, to find his father twice a father — a father
both in the flesh and in the Lord. But, then, take the worst case, that our
efforts for good fail, that the tares remain tares, and that the wheat remains
wheat; it is still for the good of the righteous and for the glory of God's great
name, that both should " grow together until the harvest." For the good man
loses none of his labour ; his efforts advance his own sanctification, his prayers
return into his own bosom. He has shown a mercy which must be once
blessed at least, " for it blesseth him that gives," when it is no blessing to
" him that takes." Whilst, lastly, God is still glorified, for we must give
full force to the expression — " let both grow together until the harvest."
The expression plainly implies, advancement, increase, progress, each in his
own way, to a definite and appointed end. The Christian is growing in grace,
and in the knowledge of his Lord and Saviour; the sinner is waxing worse
and worse, deceiving and being deceived , and side by side they grow up.
There is the same sun to shine upon them, they learn their lesson from the same
Bible, and in the same sanctuary they offer up their prayers. But not long
will they thus grow together; the day of days draws near, years as they roll
on are preparing for each their separate eternity — an eternity commencing
from that hour, when the Almighty Husbandman shall say to the reapers,
" Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them ;
but gather the wheat into my barn."
And now, brethren, it only remains that I should remind you of the collec-
tion to be made at the close of this service on behalf of the Schools belonging
to the Ward in which this Church is situated. I believe I follow in the
steps of my respected predecessor, when I make an announcement of the col-
lection, and do not take up any considerable part of the discourse in en-
forcing the claims of religious education. Indeed, in this day, and before
such an auditory, I should deem it to be a work of perfect supererogation, to
point out what would be the social and moral evils of a population growing up
"without God, without Christ, without hope in the world," to show how all the
dearest interests of society would become endangered, if we were to let the tide
of popular ignorance sweep through our land. This, I say, would be a most su-
perfluous task. I will, therefore, only stir you up to liberal things, by remind-
ing you of the one ground on which your contribution should be large on the
present occasion ; I mean, that this is the only opportunity afforded you in the
course of the year, for showing your sense of the great kindness manifested
by the Rector and Churchwardens in permitting us to assemble in this place
for worship, and for all liieir kind, and judicious, and considerate arrange-
ments, that from week to week we may be permitted to assemble here. On
this ground, I do hope, that all who are in the habit of attending this Lecture,
will take tlie present opportunity of testifying thankfulness for it. If they
can look back upon any time, when within these sacred walls they have
received a blessing from above, if tiiey can remember svhen their hearts have
been comforted, their spirits have been refreshed, their consciences stirred up
to awakening thoughts, their wills encouraged to new and persevering resolves,
now is the opportunity for testifying their sense of sucii benefit. And these
children will thank you — not indeed as they would desire. Although they
cannot recompense you, yel you " shall bo recompensed at the resurrection of
the just."
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