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wheat, good seed, these tares are not of my sowing, an enemy hath done this. "The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay: lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and in the time of harvest, I will say unto the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."
Now I shall take occasion from this text to speak a few words on a subject which must often cross our thoughts-the mixture of good and evil in the Church of Christ, and the tolerance of evil, which seems to be enjoined by our Lord in the parable of the tares. And, first, let me recall to you the Parable, or rather the interpretation of the Parable, as given to us out of the mouth of our Lord himself. After he had sent the multitudes away, and was gone into the house, His disciples came to him, and said, "Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field." He answered, and said unto them, 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 them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As, therefore, the tares are burned in the fire, so
shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and those that do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire : there shall be wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
The reading of the parable in all its main outlines is here made plain. The field, the world-no less space-not a part, but the whole world, which the Son of Man claims for a seed bed : the good seed are good and true Christians, seed of the Lord's own sowing, and trees of His planting, that He may be glorified. The tares are the wicked one, the enemy
, that sowed them, sowed them in the Lord's field, is the Devil.
Satan has always been opposed to Jesus Christ, Satan has always sought to mar and spoil Christ's husbandry. He is an enemy ever watchful, full of malice, full of subtlety, crafty and cunning,who works in the dark. It was while men slept that the enemy came, and wrought mischief, sowed tares amongst the wheat. And these tares, this seed of evil doers, these children of the wicked one, are to be found in all parts of the field. For a time they are not distinguishable from the good seed. It was only when the blade has sprung up and has brought forth its
good fruit that you can know with certainty the evil from the good. In its early stages both are much alike: but if much alike then, if allowed to grow together then, they will be distinguished and separated hereafter, finally, and for ever. The harvest, Christ tells us, represents the end of the world, and at that harvest, that ingathering of the fruits, the reapers are the angels. Their task will be to divide the righteous from the wicked, their task will be to do what the officious servants of the householder would have done long before, rootout the evil from the Lord's field. They will gather (we are told in words too plain to be mistaken) “ they will gather out of the Kingdom all things that offend”—all causes of hurt and harm to others—"and them that do iniquity, and will cast them into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father." Then shall be the manifestation of the sons of God, then shall a glory be revealed in his saints. Then without mistake, without any possibility of mistake, shall the children of light be known and acknowledged by the Father of Light.
That is the general teaching of this parable. It shows to us in a figure how well it will be for God's people hereafter, how evil for those who are not his people. But this is taught in other places as wellin the parable of the Net, which gathers of every
kind; in the Parable of the wise and foolish virgins ; in the description of the Judgment Day, when the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all His Holy angels with Him : when He shall sit upon the throne of His glory, and before Him shall be gathered all nations, and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats.
This final sifting and separating is again and again declared to us in the Gospel. But in the parable of the tares, that lesson, though plainly and powerfully taught, is not the only lesson : another lesson is there which needs to be enforced, and that is, that good and bad by the Lord's own sanction and permission are allowed to live together, to live unseparated, unchallenged in his Church all their lives long.
This has been the case from the very earliest ages of Christianity. You will find, if you read the history of our religion, that good and bad have ever been mingled together in Christ's visible Church, Even in the days of the Apostles, there were brethren whose ill lives caused scandal, and because of these, good men's hearts have been grieved, and attempts have been made to purify the Church by casting out the offenders, by what is called excommunication ; and when these attempts have failed, men have withdrawn from the Church and formed sects, made churches for themselves, with a stricter rule than obtained in the Church at large. There has been in all ages a desire to do what the servants of the Householder requested leave to do, “ To gather the
“ tares out of the master's field. We who are churchmen are sometimes taunted by our nonconformist brethren with a want of discipline in our church, with allowing members to belong to it whose lives are notoriously evil. See, they say, how easy it is to be a churchman! A man may be a drunkard, or a rogue, or given to swearing, a breaker of all God's commandments, and yet he is welcome in your assemblies, you don't shut him out, as we do, you treat him as a brother.” To which I reply, “ Yes,
, we do this, and we have good warrant for it, for did not our Master say, 'let both grow together till the harvest'? and did He not consort with publicans and sinners?" Those words of Jesus Christ checking the servants who were for rooting up the tares are words of wide toleration, they bespeak a mind of mercy, of forbearance, of unwillingness to despair of a man's improvement, a wish to give even the most unpromising a large space in which to improve ; and this is the mind of our Church. We are acting in our Master's spirit when we refuse to draw too strict a line between man and man, when to those who urge sharp measures, cutting off the unworthy member from our Communion, casting out of our body