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24.

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.

T

The GOSPEL.

St. Matth. xiii. 24.

HE Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto
a Man, which fowed good Seed in his
Field.

25. But when Men flept, bis Enemy camè and fowed Tares among the Wheat, and went his way.

Chrift propagates in all Parts of the Earth a Doctrine of Truth and Purity: The Fruits whereof are Men of See Ver. 37, 38. found Principles, and holy Lives.

26. But when the Blade was Sprung up, and brought forth Fruit, then appeared the Tares alfo.

vantage from the Negligence of fome, and the Infirmities of the Best Men) corrupts this Doctrine, and obftructs the Succefs of it, by introducing falfe and pernicious Princi ples; the Product whereof are Hereticks and Schismaticks, and fcandalous Lives.

27. So the Servants of the Houfholder came and faid unto him, Sir, didft not thou for good Seed in thy Field? From whence then bath it Tares?

(According to our Lord's Interpretation of the Parable, v. 37, &c.)

26. This was carried on fo fubtilely and fecretly, as not prefently to be perceived; but in process of time the thing difcovered it

felf.

28. He faid unto them, An Enemy bath done this. The Servants faid unto bim, Wilt thou then that we go, and gather them up?

24. The State of the Gofpel, and of them that live under it in the prefent World, is this.

29. But be faid, Nay, left while ye gather up the Tara, ye root up also the Wheat with them.

25. But the Devil, a conftant Enemy to all Goodness, (taking ad

See Ver. 38, 39, 41.

and Men of wicked

&trines of the Gospel, plainly difcern the difference between them, and know that They, whatever they pretend, do not follow the Inftructions of Chrift, but of the Devil.

L 2

27. For Good Men, by comparing the Tenets and Practices of thefe Men with the Do

the Will of God, that it fhould be done by utterly wicked Men, and fending them out of the World, and barbarous Executions.

28. Mean while, how zealous foever their concern may be to remedy this Mifchief; it is not. exterminating such in Methods of Blood,

29. This God difallows, both because the Inconveniencies of fuch

a Proceeding would prove greater to the Good, than any, which the fuffering Evil Men to continue among them at prefent can produce;

30. And

30. Let both grow together until Harveft, 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.

30. And, because the Punishment of Such is referved for the end of the World. At which time God will command his Angels, to fe

ver the Evil and the Good, when both fhall be brought to Judgment. And then the wicked shall be caft into a furnace of fire, there fhall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Thus fhall they be punished for all the Mischief done, and the Scandal given by them, in this World. Then fhall the Righteous alfo fhine forth, as the Sun, in the Kingdom of their Father. Thus fhall they be rewarded for that Patience, and Meeknefs, and Conftancy, which the evil Principles, and evil Deeds of thofe Wicked are permitted to exercife, with many hard Tryals, in the prefent Condition of things.

COMMENT.

See Ver. 3.---9.

O

UR Bleffed Saviour had, in a former Parable of the Sower, fignified 19----23. the different Succeffes of his Word, proportioned to the different Difpofitions of its Hearers. This concerned the Seed-time, the very Act of Planting and Propagating the Gofpel. But here He, in another Parable, denotes a Disadvantage, to which even the best Seed, and the beft Soil, would be liable, after it was fown, from Tares being fown upon it. Of which Figure, in regard Himfelf hath condefcended to be his own Interpreter; all we have left to do on this occafion, is to observe the Substance and main Scope of the Parable, which plainly amounts to thus much.

That it is the Pleasure of God, to fuffer a Mixture of Bad with Good Men, during the State of his Church, in the present World. That, notwithstanding the many Inconveniences, which may and do arife from fuch a Mixture; He doth not think fit, either by Judgments from his own Hand immediately, or by Authorizing Men to be the Minifters of his Vengeance upon one another, utterly to extirpate all Corruption of Doctrine and Manners. That there are very wife and good Reafons for this Forbearance;

particularly, that it is grounded, partly upon Such, as regard the Good Men, with whom thofe Wicked are mix'd; and partly upon Such, as concern thofe Wiced themselves.

Now my design is, First, To confider the Reasons of this Proceeding, fo far as the Parable hath directed us to them: And then, to conclude with fuch Inferences, as this Subject will naturally fuggest to us.

1. I begin with the Reafons for continuing a Mixture of Bad Men, during the prefent state of Chrift's Church in this World. And of Thefe, with the Former fort; Such as have refpect to the Good Men, with whom thofe Bad are mixt. For, That their Benefit is confulted by fuch Forbearance, is manifest from the Eight and Nine and Twentieth Verfes. Where, upon the Servants proffering their Pains, to go and gather up thefe Tares; the Mafter of the Field is reprefented, difallowing the Forwardness of their Zeal, as overofficious, highly unfeafonable, and of very dangerous Confequence. He faid, Nay; left while ye gather up the Tares, ye root up alfo the Wheat with them. And, that this Prohibition is of Service to good Men, will, I conceive, fufficiently appear, from the three following Confiderations.

1. First, Look upon the matter, as propounded in this Parable, where the Servants were offered for the Inftruments of rooting out thefe Tares; and the Danger of good Men perifhing, together with the Wicked, foon manifefts it felf. Let us fuppofe the moft favourable Circumstances, that fuch a Difpenfation can poffibly bear. Allow thefe Purgers of the Field to have no other Views, but the Honour of God, the Peace and Security of the Church, the undisturbed Exercife and Advancement of Piety and Virtue: Admit this Zeal of theirs to be, not only untainted with Secular Interest and Ambition, but perfectly void of Rashnefs and Heat; tempered with all imaginable DifcreL 3 tion,

tion, proceeding with the moft fcrupulous Caution, executing Vengeance upon no fingle Perfon, without the beft Information Mankind are capable of: Yet even in fuch a Cafe (and fuch a Cafe, however poffible in Suppofition, I doubt was never true in Fact) the Wheat cannot be fafe; becaufe fuch Gatherers are never able to make a perfect Diftinction between the Tares and It. That is, They cannot know exactly, who are truly Good, and who Bad Men. And the Reafon is, because That, wherein the Effential Difference between thefe two forts confifts, lics deeper than any Human Eye can penetrate, even in the Heart, the Will, and

the Intentions.

If then the Tares they endeavour to root out, be Herefie and corrupt Doctrine; Men can enter no farther into the Merits of this Caufe, than Outward Profeffion will guide them. They may know, who lifts himself of fuch a Party, orefpoufes fuch an Opinion: But they cannot difcover, who embraces the Truth out of Temporal Intereft, and who out of a fincere Conviction of the Mind: Who refufes it from a Spirit of Obftinacy, and Who from Want of Capacity, or better Inftruction. And yet the Honest Mistaken Man is, in a Judgment of Equity, pitiable at leaft: and the diffembled temporizing Orthodox, of very small account in God's Efteem.

Put Cafe again, this Tare be Vice and Immorality, Men can fee, and animadvert upon, the openly diffolute and fcandalous. But, can they purfue the demure and fecret Sinners, through all the intricate Mazes of their Hypocrifie? Can they unlock their Closets, draw the Curtains of their polluted Beds, or defcry the Filthinefs of their Thoughts? Can they diftinguifh the Vain-glorious from the Sincere, or feparate between the gaudy Outfide of a laboured Formality, and the native Luftre of an inward Purity? Both thefe Men may affect the Eye alike; and yet One is

a whited fepulchre, full of rottennefs, and dead mens bones; the Other a living Temple of the Holy Ghost. The One hath the Power of Godliness, the Other only the Form; and, for want of the Power, is as errand a Tare, as if he had not even the Form. But ftill that Tare may be mistaken for good Corn, and fo may this good Corn be fometimes too for Tares. So that an ab- · folute Separation is not poffible to be made, and confequently neither fafe to be trufted with, nor fit to be attempted, by Men. No. This must be reserved to that God, who alone can discern between Reality and Difguife. For They who are not able to do so, can never gather up all the Tares. To that God, who fees and makes allowance for Mens particular Circumftances; the Unaffectedness of their Ignorance; the Violence of their Temptations; the Suddennefs of their Surprizes; the Uprightness of their Intentions; the Simplicity of their Hearts; their want of Opportunities to know, or to do, better. All these no Man can understand perfectly, and therefore no Man can make just abatements for them. And, without fuch abatements, the Security of many honeft and good People cannot be effectually provided for. For, upon any other Terms, there is no Remedy, but they, who go about to gather out the Tares, will root up also a great deal of Wheat with them.

2. Secondly, To this Difficulty, on the part of the Gatherers, may be added another, no lefs infuperable one, from the Pofture and Condition of thefe Tares themselves; whofe Roots are fo intangled with those of the good Corn, that there is no difengaging them; no drawing out the One, without tearing up the Other, at the fame time. My meaning is, That the Affairs of Men, in this Life, are fo intricate and perplexed, and the Interests of the Good and Bad fo nicely mingled, fo mutually interwoven; that it is abfolutely impoffible, according to the prefent and ordiL 4

nary

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