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But he iaid, 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 the harvest, 1 will say unto the reapers, Gather ye the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them : but gather the wheat into my barn.”
This parable, as our Lord afterwards explained it to his disciples, relates to the different states of men at the end of the world. The husbandman is our great Redeemer himself; the field is the Christian church. planted in various parts of the world ; those Christians who are enabled by the Holy Spirit to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and bring fruit worthy their high profession, are the wheat; and those who make an empty profession, without knowing the power of true religion are the tares. These are seduced into the paths of wickedness by the enemy of God and man; and the parable elegantly represents, the mixed state of the professing church on earth, and the deplorable end of the hypocrite and those who know not God. Such characters as these may mix with the real Christians, and may deceive for a time, by assuming the appearance of superior sanctity and strictness of life; yet they will not fail sooner or later, to betray themselves, and make it manifest that they are but tares amongst wheat. Yet we are taught by this parable, how sincerely soever we may wish to free the church from all corruption both in doctrine and practice, it is not lawful for us to assume the prerogative of the great Judge of heaven and earth, by persecuting, or following with any corporeal punishment, any who we apprehend to be hypocrites and corrupters of true religion. The tares and the wheat are to grow together till harvest, they are not to be separated, lest by mistaking the character of the persons, we bestow those censures, on the true Christian which belong to the hypocrite: but the harwest will come when they will be separated by our great Redeemer himself, and his attending angels; then the tares will be bound up in bundles and burnt, but the wheat carefully gathered into the barn. For at the end of the world, our great Redeemer will distinguish between the pretended & the real Christian ; the wicked will be condemned to eternal torment, but the righteous will be received to life eternal; when they “shall shine forth, as the son, in the kingdom of their Father.”
The next parable which our exalted Redeemer thought fit to propose to the listening multitudes, was that of the seed which sprang up and grew imperceptibly. “So is the kingdom of God,” said he, “as if a man shoald east seed into the ground, and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself; first the blade and then the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” This beautiful picture representā'the gradual and silent progress of the gospel in the heart of man ; as the husbandman does not by any power ef his own, cause the seed to grow when he has sown it; but the blade and the fruit are produced by the power of the great Creator, and by those laws of nature which he hath established in the vegetable creation: so the seed of divine truth does not thrive in the heart of man by the power of the preacher, but by the silent and efficacious energy of the Spirit of God. Thus Jesus and his apostles, having preached the gospel in the world. and taught the doctrines of true religion, they gave no commission to any to use the terrors of fire and sword to propagate them, but left it to the silent and secret influence of the Holy Spirit. And it is very probable that the blessed Jesus spoke this parable to convince the Jews of their mistake, in supposing that their Messiah would set up a temporal kingdom. and advance his dominion by the means which are used in the world to rise to sovereign greatness: and also it might be intended to quiet the minds of his disciples, and prevent them from being discouraged when they saw that an immediate and rapid success did not attend their labours in the gospel.
ness in opposing the truth, should be left in unbelief, cut off from being a
designed to take him home with them, and persuade him to attend to se: cular affairs. But our exalted Redeemer was not to be diverted from following his father’s work, and performing the great duties of his mission.— . On these grounds he appears to have declined the desired interview, with this answer, “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the wordof God, and do it. - o Evening now approaching, the blessed Jesus dismissed the multitude, and retired with his disciples to an house in Capernaum; where, at their desire, he explained to hem the parable of the tares of the field in the manner before related; and then he proceeded to deliver to them the parable of the treasure hid in the field, and the parable of the pears of great price. The first of these parables holds forth the abundant glory, excellency, and value of the gospel, above all earthly possessions; and the last denotes the willingness of all those who are made acquainted with the high excellency and abundant worth of the gospel, to part with their all in this worldto obtain it. But, that the disciples might be informed that a mixed multitude of people would make a profession of the gospel, and the hypocrites would be blended with the Christians in such a manner as it would be difficult to separate them, he compared the gospel church to a net, which enclosed every sort of fish, good and bad, but were carfully separated when they were drawn to land; the good were preserved: and the bad. thrown away; alluding to the great day of universal and eternal decision and separation, when the righteous will be received into life eternal, and the wicked cast into hell. - Qur Lord having finished these discourses, he asked his disciples if they -- understood them, they answered in the affirmative; and our great Re* deemer added that every teacher of the gospel ought to resemble a person
whose house. was completely furnished, and bringeth “forth out of his treasures things new and old.” . . . . . ... Not long after this our great. Redeemer left Capernaum, and repaired to Nazareth, ihe,city where he had spent his younger years, and where he had dwelt with his relations till he entered on his public ministry, and eached, amongst his old friends and countrymen, the glad tidings of the H. But they, though astonished at his doctrine, could not overcome the prejudices they had formerly conceived against him, on account of the meanness of his family, and therefore would not own him to be the Messiah; they could not overcome the strong national prejudice they had conceived against their promised Deliverer's appearing in a low mean condition in the world; nor could they give up their ideas of the glory and grandeur of the to: appearance, so far as to suppose it possible that Jesus should the man. Our Lord, therefore, finding them in the same temper of mind as when he formerly visited them, did not chuse to stay long with them, but departed and taught in the neighbour'ng villages. During our Saviour's .# at Nazareth, he sent out his disciples to preach in different parts of Galilee, and proclaim the glad tidings-that God was going to establish the glorious kingdom of the Messiah, in which he would be worshipped in spirit and truth; and that they might confirm the doctrines they taught, and convince the whole nation that they received their commission from the Son of God, they were endowed with the i. of working miracles. The evangelists have not informed us how ong they continued their preaching : but it is reasonable to suppose that they spent a considerable time in carrying on their work in several parts of the country. - * * - - - - - - - - . The people perceiving such wonderful works preformed by the disciples of CH R1st, were exceedingly amazed, and their expectations were raised yery high ; for they could not recollect that the old prophets had ever given to their servants the power of working miracles, and of consequence, they concluded that Jesus must be greater than any of them. This extraordinary circumstance raised the attention of the nation, and spread his fame so effectually about the country, that it reached the ears of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. This prince having lately, in an unJust and cruel manner, taken away the life of John the Baptist, he heard of the mighty works performed by Cup 1st, and his disciples, with the utmost uneasiness & concern. His attendants endeavoured to dissipate his fears, by telling him that one of the old prophets was risen from the dead; but a conciousness of his guilt would not permit him to rest; for he apprehended. that the illustrions person he had so basely murdered, was risen from the dead, and would doubtless be revenged on his murderer. He said unto his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore mighty, works do shew forth themselves in him.” It has been before related, on what occasion, & in what manner the Baptist was put to death; and the news of this mournful event having reached the disciples of Christ, while they were preaching in Galilee, those of them who . formerly been the disciples of John, went and paid their last respects to the remains of their master, whom having decently interred they carried the tidings to Jesus. When our great redeemer had heard of the death of his relation and fore-runner, he found himself disposed for retirement, and sought the silent shades of the desert of Bethsada: he departed as private as possible, that he might not be incommoded by the multitude, and for the greater ". he went by sea. But every precaution was insufficient to screen him from the penetrating eyes of the multitude who followed him ; and his departure was not long concealed, for great numbers repaired to the desert, and found out the place of his retreat. The miracles which he performed, the benefit which the helpless, and miserable always found from his goodness, and the strain of M
divine eloquence which flowed from his lips, had such an effect of the honest, open hearted part of the nation, that the multitudes who had seen the wonders he performed, and heard his heavenly voice, thought no disticuities too great to surmount, no hardships too great to endure, nor no place too retired for them to penetrate, in order to attend on his ministry. The kind and compassionate Saviour of sinners, seeing the multitude had found out his place of retreat, and beholding them crowding about him, he viewed them with tenderness and love, because they were as sheep havling no shepherd; for, having none to instruct them in those things which - concerned their everlasting peace, they wandered about without a guide, without a defender. Their situation indeed, was like that of a large flock of sheep wandering upon the mountains, without a shepherd to feed and defend them from the ravenous jaws of the various beasts of prey which waited to devour them. The blessed Jesus therefore, “that good shepherd, who came to lay down his life for the sheep,” beheld them with compassion : that same pity which brought him down from the throne of glory in heaven, for the sake of his lost and wandering sheep, now brought him to this multitude of people; his heavenly goodness healed all the sick amongst them, and from his lips they heard the words of eternal life. 'ffie divine instructor continued his heavenly discourses, and attended to the great work of healing the diseased, not dismissing the people, though the day were away, and the shades of the evening were approaching. His disciples, thinking this circumstance had escaped his notice, thought proper to remind him, that the day was far advanced, and the place a solitary desert, where neither food nor lodging could be procured: it would therefore, be convenient to dismiss the people, that they might repair to the towns or villages on the borders of the wilderness, and provide themselves food and other accommodations; for they had nothing to eat. But our Lord informed them, that he did not intend to dismiss the surrounding ruititude so hasty, for as they were weary and faint in the wilderness; it was his intention to give them a repast: at the same time, to try what opinion his disciples entertained of his power, he turned to Philip, "who was well aquainted with the country, and inquired, “Whence shi “we boy bread, that these may eat?” Philip, astonished at the proposal,. considering the vastness of the multitude, and the enormous quantity of rovisions which would be necessary to supply them, he apprehended it impossible to procure them in the desert; and not considering his Master's power to supply them by extraordinary means, he replied, “Two hun-. dred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that everyone of them may take a little.” Our blessed Lord might justly on this, as on a future occasion, have replied, “Have been so long time with you, and hast thou not known me, Philip " But he did not reproach his disciples with their inattention to his former character and conduct, but commanded them to give the multitude to eat. The disciples not yet understanding the design of their Master, repeated the objection of Philip, and proposed to go and buy a quantity of provisions: but this was not their Lord’s intention, who, without making them a direct answer, asked them, how ma. Ily loaves they had. It does not appear that they had any bread in posses: sien & for after the disciples had made a diligent inquiry, Andrew came and informed his Master, that there was a lad amongst the multitude, that had five barley loaves, and two small fishes, a quantity so inconsiderable, that they were ashamed to mention it: “What are they,” said the disciples, “amongst so many P" And what, indeed, would they have been among such multitudes of people, if they had not been distributed by the all-crea: ting hand of the Soil of God. o Josus, notwithstanding the smallness of the number of loaves, and scantiness of the provision, ordered them to be brought to him; and at the same time commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and ordered
his disciples to arrange them in companies at convenient distances, that their number might be ascertained, and that they might be regularly served. 1 n obedience to his command the people sat down as they were ordered, no doubt wondered what would be the consequence of such an arrange. ment, & what benevolent action our great Redeemer was about to perform. The multitude thus seated in order, our Lord, in open view, took the five loaves and two small fishes in his hands, and the whole multitude had an opportunity of beholding what a small quantity of provisions, in the hands of the Creator of all things, were sufficient to provide a repast for such a number of persons, as were then assembled. The great master of the feast then looked up to heaven, and returned thanks to his heavenly
: Falher, for his all-preserving and all-supporting goodness, manifested at
all times to his creatures, but particularly for his paternal care, in providing for their present refreshment; he praised his Almighty Father, for the miracles which he had been enabled to perform for the benefit of mankind, and particularly for that which he was now going to perform, for the refreshment of the multitude, who had left their habitations with desires to see his mighty works, and hear his words, and follow him into the desert, where they were weary and faint for want of provisions. After which, our great Redeemer blessed the bread, and his divine blessing had so wonderful an effect, that the five small barley loaves and two dry fishes were multiplied to a quantity sufficient to satisfy the craving appetites of ten thousand persons; for the men were five thousand, and it is very probable the women and children might not be less. The great Master of the feast distributed to his disciples, and they served the multitude as they sat on the grass; and so plentiful were the provisions, that every one was satisfied, and such fullness crowned our great Redeemer's board, that when all the people had eat and were satisfied, there were twelve baskets filled with the broken meat.
Thus, the great Son of God provided a feast in the desert, for the people who followed him ; and though they had no canopy but the azure sky, no table but the verdant grass, no better fare than barley-bread and dried fish, and no drink but the clear spring; yet they were more honoured by the presence of the illustrious founder of the feast, than ever was a royal banquet, which was given by the Assyrian or Persian kings; and doubtless
- there was more heart-felt joy, and solid satisfacticn at this feast, than ever
was found at the noble banquet of the gorgeous Ahasuerus, or the splendid entertainment of the imperious Belshazzar. Have we not reason to wonder at the obstinacy and perversenes of the heads of the Jewish nation, that such a manifest display of divine power would not convince them. The account of this miracle, as recorded by the several evangelists, is very plain and circumstantial; and, it may be observed, that the particular circumstances of time and place, tended to make it more wonderful, more conspicuous, and less liable to objections and cavils. The place was a desert, where no bread could be procured, and therefore, it is manifest, beyond contradiction, that it must he produced by a miracle. Had this repast been given to the surrounding multitude, at one of the towns or villages, it might have been objected, that bread had been secretly supplied: but neither the Pharisees of those days, nor the infidels of ours, can tell us, how it was possible for any deception of that kind to be practised in the desert. And it may he further observed that this mighty work was performed in the evening, when the people had been fasting all day, and, with the fatigue of travelling were, doubtless weary and very hungry. Had this repast been given in the morning, the miracle might have been depreciated, by supposing, that the people did not stand in need of refreshment, and this treat might have been represented as
unnecessary: but the particular circumstances attending this wonderful
work, cut off every shadow of an objection, and abundantly proved, that “God can surnish a table in the wilderness.”