Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

lation of modesty that you make manifest to the world that you have passed from death to life, and that you are the ever improving disciples of Him to whom alone you are ready to ascribe the glorious change. Put forth, for the promotion of his glory, exertions corresponding with your renovated pow. ers. Let your life be spent in their holy self-denying dedication to his service, that you may become every day more matured for the never ending lise which is to follow. “ If ye be indeed risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.” Renewed and ransomed spirits ! Break the fetters that bind you to earth. The tendency of the living principle within you is to heaven. Let your conversation be there. In affection and in privilege, in love and in duty, rise with your risen, glorified Redeemer. “ Stretch your imaginations to the utmost. Raise your wishes higher and higher, while you live.

.

Not a wish shall be disappointed. The gates of life are already unfolding to admit you." Anticipate, then, in holy hope, the joys that are to follow, “When Christ, who is your life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory," and ye shall be like him ; fot ye shall see him as he is.”

SERMON CCXV.

BY JAMES MILNOR, D.D.

THE PARABLE OF THE TARES.

Matthew xiii. 24–30. Another pdrable put he forth unto them, saying i The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field : but while men slept, the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the household came unto him and said; Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field ? From whence then hath it tares ? He said unto them, 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 urith them. Let both grow together, until the harvest ; and in the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, Guther yo together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them ; but gather the wheat into

my

barn.

There is a rich variety of instruction in the parables delivered by our blessed Lord. That which we have now read affords a clear solution of a difficulty that has greatly perplexed the minds of many, and conveys a lesson calculated, if duly attended to, to avert a'ch mischief from the church of God.

In order to derive the proper instruction from this interesting passage, I shall consider it first, generally, in reference 10 the world at large; se.

condly; specially, in reference to the Church of Christ. And thirdly; close the subject with a brief application of the truths thus elicited.

I. Let us deduce from the paráble such' instruction as it affords in refer. ence to the existence and continuance of moral evil in the world.

Whence has moral evil its origin? If there be a superintending and Al. mighty Providence, why is its continuance permitted ? How happens it, that the earth is covered with violence and oppression ; ihat wicked men are exalted to riches and honor, and the virtuous made the subjects of degradation and misery; that triumphant villany so frequently exults in pride and power, while humble virtue is neither raised to prosperity, nor suffered to pursue her lowly path uninterrupted and in peace? Whence so strange an inequality in the states of men with respect to the comforts and enjoyments of life, and so manifest a pre-eminence of worldly prosperity, in many instances, granted to the unworthy and base ?

These are difficulties urged by infidels against the providence of God, to confirm their own skepticism, and to uvsettle the faith of others. They have also, at times, disquieted the minds of professors of religion; and much ineffectual labor has been expended for their solution. By both classes they have been exaggerated as to their nature and extent; by the former design. edly, for the most malignant and mischievous purposes; by the latter unin. tentionally, from perverted or mistaken apprehensions; not unfrequently from à natural temperament of mind disposed to melancholy, or from an influence upon their judgments proceeding from their own particular allotment in the world.

Thât inuch evil, bowever, does exist, must be admitted ; and although unbelieving philosophers may speculate about its origin, 10 the derogation of infinite wisdom and goodness, or perhaps to the utter denial of a supreme intelligence, still the humble Christian will resort, with satisfaction, to the only authentic source of information on the subject. His Bible unfolds the origin of all this evil. It proceeds from the sinful disobedience of man, and formed no part of the stupendous creation of God. All things were originally formed, by the great Creator, in a manner perfectly agreeing with his divine perfections.

Man, the noblest of his sublunary works, he endowed with an innocence and integrity of character, that, if retained, would have been a perpetual bar against those desolating miseries which have followed his transgression. The entire freedom of his will, and an uncorrupted and unclouded reason to assist his choice, were the original gift of his Creator. Under the influence of that enemy of his peace, the devil, mentioned by Christ in his explanation of this parable, he violated the commandment of God. The primary author of moral evil, therefore, is this great adversary of the human race. Yielding, volun. tarily, to his machinations, our first parents introduced sin and all its ruinous consequences into the world, and from them a seed of evil-doers have, in all successive

ages, “risen up in their fathers' stead." All the fanciful theories and vain systems, invented to account for the origin of the evil, can furnish no such satisfactory information ou the point, as this sure word of God.

But still, admitting the truth' of this account, it is not unusual to indulge a secret murmuring at the severity of God in connecting such terrible results with “ the offence of one man." This is a subject of too great difficulty and extent to be entered into elaborately in this discourse. A few general reflec. tions suggested by the parable may perhaps be useful.

Let me again repeat, that, great as is the acknowledged evil in the world, infidelity, misanthropy, and ignorance are prone to overestimate its comparative amount, and to overlook many alleviating circumstances, which more honest, unbiassed, and lucid views will readily discover. Unequal as the conditions of men may appear at a transient glance, a closer view would often detect the fallacy of first impressions. The enlightened Psalmist acknowledges that he was, for a time, under the delusion of such a partial and imperfect apprehension of the ways of divine Providence. A view of the temporal prosperity of the wicked made him exclaim, “I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency." David, however, soon learned to estimate with more justice and reverence the dispensations of Heaven. Instead of looking only at the surface of things, or adverting merely to their present state," he went into the sanctuary of God, and understood their end." He confesses his former ignorance and foolishness, and no longer distrusts the wisdom, or the goodness of God. He saw in the ultimate issue that there was no reason for arraigning any attribute of the divine nature, because of a temporary allowance of the predominance of vice. He no doubt also ascertained that no inconsiderable portion of the outward prosperity of the wicked was unaccompanied even by present felicity. Not unfrequently, when God gives men all the desires of their hearts, he sends leanness and wretchedness into their souls.

Wealth is often accompanied by the gnawings of conscience, at the unhallowed means that have procured it; by a restless anxiety and apprehension for its safety, and by an insatiable thirst for augmenting still the useless horde. Worldly honor hangs in trembling suspense upon the varying breath of the multitude, is haunted by a jealous fear of opposing rivals, and, even when most fully secured, soon palls with satiety, and often ends in utter dissatissaction and disgust. Pleasure and gayety not unfrequently play their fantastic and deceptive arts before the world, when, could their votary be followed to the retirement of his closet, he would be found to be the victim of remorse, or of sullenness and gloom.

Thus, true happiness is less dependent than most imagine upon outward circumstances. Often are a tranquillity of soul, and complacency of feel. ing, enjoyed by the poor and despised Christian, to which the abandoned Jibertine, the ardent seeker of worldly honor, and the miserly accumuJator of riches, are utter strangers.

Neither does it always happen that virtue is not ostensibly seen to be its own reward, and vice its own pun. isher, in the external events of this life. The possessions of the unprincipled are frequently torn from them by the most surprising and unexpected

The temporary idol of popular adulation is outrun in the race of competition, or having attained his desired eminence, grows giddy, totters,

reverses.

and falls into degradation and ruin. The silly follower of licentious pleasures finds in the loss of property and health, and the tormenting stings of a guilty conscience, the certain results of his short-lived gratifications. And offenders of a still more aggravated grade, while deriving from occasional success the most encouraging hopes of continued impunity, are arrested in their course, and made awfully responsible to the demands of retributive justice.

The history of the world supplies abundant illustration of these truths, in relation both to individual and to national crimes. How soon did the appointed punishment follow the transgression of our first parents ! What instantaneous evidence of the justice of God overtook the first shedder of human blood ! How awful and speedy the termination of the rebellious at. tempts of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and their wicked adherents! How sudden and dreadful the fate of Ananias and Sapphira! The extinction of nearly the whole human race in a mighty deluge of waters ; the raining of fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah; the entombing in a watery grave of Pharaoh and his host; the extermination of the idolatrous Canaanites; the successive judgments upon the Israelites themselves for their rebellion and idolatry; and the present dispersed and degraded condition of that people; as well as numerous other events found in the annals of ancient and inodern history, fully attest, that the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, and will avenge with signal inflictions of his wrath the crimes both of individuals and of nations. Still, however, must we acknowledge, that, in numerous instances, the tares and the wheat are not only suffered to grow together, but the former are even permitted to choke and to destroy the latter. Why this is so, our finite faculties can never fully comprehend.

Yet there are many considerations calculated to vindicate the ways of God to man. The text furnishes a very striking one, that of the danger likely to result from rooting up the tares ;-the rooting up the wheat also. The fabric of human society is composed of many parts mutually dependent upon each other. Take away some of the materials which compose it, and you endanger its safety, solidity, and permanence. The world not only consists of the evil and the good, but, in the ramifications of the social state, they are often so connected, that the immediate punishment of the guilty would inevitably involve that of the innocent. This sometimes necessarily occurs in the adjudication of criminals to the punishinents prescribed by the laws of human society. The innocent wife of a guilty husband, the helpless children of a wicked parent, share the punishment of crimes in which they have

May not the goodness of God withhold in some cases the merited punishment from such a consideration as this? In others may not the long suffering of Almighty God be extended for the benefit of the of. sender himself; that time being afforded for repentance, he may unto the Lord, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, who will abundantly pardon ?" In others, again, may we not be mistaken as to the measure or degree of unpunished criminality? Outward conduct is, of ne. cessity, the criterion of our decision. But we can lay no claim to infallibility of judgment. Our decisions may be harsh or erroneous. We may be ignorant of many real palliations. We know not, even in instances of unquestionable error or crime, what Providence may have in store, either of mercy, or of judgment, for those who appear to us in the light of fla. grant offenders against his laws. There are some particulars of daily observation, in which it is easy to discern how the providence of God produces good out of evil, and makes even the wrath of man to praise him, and bene. fit his creatures. If there were no victims of suffering, the requisite trials of human character could not be had. Where, in the absence of misfor: tune and of pain, would be the evidences of fidelity, of patience, and of fortitude? If the feelings of the heart were not excited by objects calling for the exercise of commiseration and relief, might not those virtues languish or become extinct in the breast ? Activity in duty, humility of temper, submission to the divine will, and many other valuable properties of the mind, have been the product of vicissitudes of fortune, apparently the most discouraging and afflictive. Even the temporary triumphs of the wicked are often rods in the hands of an all-wise and affectionate Parent, whereby his children are aroused from sloth and inactivity. O how many can thankfully acknowledge; that their best instructions have been received in the school of adversity !

had no part.

" return

In short, while the existence of moral evil is a permanent and incontrover tible evidence of the wilful degeneracy of man, its direction to beneficial ends is equally decisive proof of the goodness of God. These, it is true, may at present be beyond the reach of our faculties; yet we may rest assured that "the Judge of the earth will do right.” Without daring presumptuously to except against his moral government, let us look forward to that period to which our Savior has in this parable directed our attention, when “God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil;" when, the wise purposes of his providence having been answered, all mystery and darkness will be removed, and the final destiny of mortals be determined by a sentence which shall receive the plaudits of an assembled universe.—" Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil; but glory, honor, and peace to every man that worketh good."

II. But although the instruction to be derived from a due consideration of this parable may have the latitude already assigned it, in reference to the world generally, it was probably designed to apply more especially to the Church of God.

Christ could not have intended, surely, that his Church should be defiled and discredited by retaining in her communion openly profligate and dissolute offenders. Such “children of the wicked one” as should presumptuously associate themselves with his people, and yet manifest themselves to be “ aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” by profligacy and vice, it never could have been meant to tolerate within the bosom of his holy Church. The readiness with which such characters may be distinguished, would prevent all injurious mistakes, and their separation could be attended with no danger to the general body. On the contrary, the eradication of the most

« AnteriorContinuar »