In reading the letter of sister Hannah Shields, which will be found in this paper, we have felt inclined to offer some remarks explanatory of the parable from which the text at the head of this article are copied. There has been, especially in some of the Western and Southern States, much speculation, controversy and confusion which has involved some of our brethren on the subject of what has been denominated the "Two Seed Doctrine," and to the extent that some churches and associations have been rent asunder and many loving hearts have been pained in witnessing the alienation of feelings engendered by the injudicious and intemperate discussions which have been indulged in by those who have taken part in the strife. What we allude to transpired many years ago; of late years we have heard but very little on the subject. Our present object is not to provoke a renewal of the controversy by any means; but simply to give what appears to us to be the very clear and manifest meaning of the parable. To avoid ruffling the feelings of any who may feel sensitive on the subject, we will in this article carefully avoid, as far as possible, a description of the positions formerly taken, the arguments employed, and the parties most prominent in the debates. It is very possible that all parties may have erred to some extent at least, either in their views, or in the spirit and temper which they evinced. Nor dare we claim that what we may write shall be without fault. We only ask that our views be carefully considered and received only so far as manifestly sustained by the scriptures of truth. We shall studiously avoid giving anything like a banter to any who may fail to entertain the same views that we hold; for the reason that we are unwilling to open our columns for debate on the subject. The interruption of harmony in years that are past is perhaps a sufficient reason why we should guard against a recurrence of a similar evil.
The words on which we are about to comment were spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ in reply to the enquiry of his disciples concerning the parable of the wheat and tares, which he had just before spoken (among other parables) to the multitude. When he had sent away the multitude to whom it had been addressed, and "went into the house," his disciples requested him to "Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. And 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; the reapers are the angels," etc. We do not attempt to explain the parable; for our Lord has himself explained it; but our object is to elucidate as far as we may be enabled the explanation which he has given. And in doing this we propose to notice his declarations.
First. The field is the world.
Second. The good seed are the children of the kingdom.
Third. The tares are the children of the wicked one. And in connection with these three propositions we shall have occasion to notice by whom, in what manner, and for what purpose the good seed are sown by the Son of man: and also the enemy by whom the tares were sown, and when and how, and for what purpose.
First. The field is the world. That is, the field of the parable, or the parabolical field; the field is used in the parable to mean the world. But the term world in the scriptures is variously used, sometimes in a general or literal sense, to signify the natural heavens and earth, and all things which they contain. At other times the same word is frequently used to signify only the human family, including both Jews and Gentiles. And again at other times its application is restricted to either all the elect of God, Jews and Gentiles, or all the non-elect, both Jews and Gentiles, as in I John 2:2, and I John 5:19. The world in this case intended is the world which answers to the field, into which the Son of Man has sown the good seed of the children of God. Is there any conceivable sense in which the precious, incorruptible seed has been sown in the world only as it has been implanted or sown in the hearts of the Jews and Gentiles, which are redeemed from the kindred of the earth? The natural elements of the material world, earth, air, fire and water, cannot be intended; for it is not in them that the Son of man has sown the good seed; for that seed being the children of the kingdom is not of this world. Nor can this field mean all the animal world; for in no part of the animal creation is the incorruptible seed sown, but in the children of men.
The world answering to the field of the parable is then the world of mankind; not of the beast of the field, or the fowls of the air, for "his delights were with the sons of men, before there were any fountains abounding with water, or ever the highest parts of the habitable world were made."
That there was no distinction in the nature or condition of the race of mankind in their relation to Adam or to the earth, is so fully declared in the scriptures as to require from us but very few words. The apostle has demonstrated that all the world of mankind are in their nature alike, and there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Understanding then that the world of mankind are the field of our parable, we pass to consider:
Second. "The good seed are the children of the kingdom," that is of the kingdom of Christ; of heaven. This cannot mean the children of the flesh, nor the fleshly nature of even the children of the kingdom.
1. Because that Christ is not the sower of our fleshly nature, he is a spiritual Head, and his seed are not of this world, even as he is not of this world. His kingdom was chosen and set up in him, and its subjects are the "seed that shall serve him, and be accounted to the Lord for a generation (Psalm 22:30)." This generation is "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people (I Peter 2:9)." Not peculiar in our natural organization or origin; but in our spiritual relation to Christ. "Being born again, not of corruptible [that is fleshly] seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass (I Peter 1:23,24)." The grass, or flesh is not born of the incorruptible seed, which the Son of man soweth; for that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and is born of corruptible seed, and therefore likened unto grass; the seed of which was not sown by Christ, as the Son of man.
2. Because that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; it cannot therefore be that seed which is the children of the kingdom of which Christ was speaking. The inspired apostle declares most positively that, "They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed (Romans 9:8)." And the same apostle shows the incapacity of the children of the flesh, or the seed of the earthly Adam to inherit the kingdom. "Now this I say brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption (I Corinthians 15:50)." And our Lord himself has said, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." This should settle the point. If flesh, or that which is born of the flesh, as the seed of the flesh cannot inherit, nor even see the kingdom of God, how can the distinct relationship be in the flesh?
3. We would rest the argument on the testimony already presented if it were not that some have seemed to understand and to apply the parable of the wheat and tares to some supposed distinction in the natural creation or procreation of the two seeds, in the earthly Adam. Elder Parker, if we have understood him, held that all the children of the kingdom were sown in their natural creation in the first Adam, and they only were originally created in him; and that all the children of the wicked one were afterwards added to the conception of Eve by the Devil.
If that were the case, and if this parable were intended to illustrate that doctrine, it would prove quite too much for Elder Parker's purpose; for if the children of the kingdom were sown by the Son of man in the natural creation of the earthly Adam, they would not require a second birth; for in that case the children of the kingdom would be developed as such in being born of the flesh. Whereas God has informed us that those to whom Christ has given power to become the sons of God were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The parable cannot be so construed as to represent the Son of man as sowing the good seed twice; first in the natural, and afterwards in a spiritual birth.
But this matter is put to rest by the sweeping declaration of Paul in the midst of Mars Hill. "God that made the world and all things therein," etc. "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation (Acts 17:24,26)." All were created in Adam, all fell in him, all die in him. And of those of his race whom God has chosen to salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, we are told that they "were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Ephesians 2:2)." The awful depravity of all the natural progeny of the earthly Adam is set forth in striking language, "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understanderth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way; they are together [mind that, they are together, not apart] become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known; there is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-18)." Should any one attempt to argue that this description does not include those whom Christ came to redeem; that the children of the kingdom were not in their earthly nature so vile as these, then they must encounter Paul again in verse 9 of the same chapter, "What then, are we better than they?" Whose damnation he had just said was just. "No, in no wise." If Paul and all that were at that time in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints (Romans 1:7) were in no wise better by nature than those of whom Paul says "whose damnation is just;" where shall we find in the earthly nature of man any development of the good seed sown by the Son of man. Certainly not in Paul himself, for he himself testifieth that in his flesh was no good thing. We will pass to the third general division of our subject.
Third. "The tares are the children of the wicked one." But, in what sense are we to understand this relationship to consist? Certainly not in their nature; for the scriptures make a wide distinction between the nature of men and of devils. All men are of one nature, as we have already proved; all descended by natural generation from the first Adam: were all made of one blood and all were by nature alike children of wrath. All men have their original formation of the dust of the ground, and all by one decree must return to dust alike. All mankind are, as we have shown, but the field into which the good and bad seed is sown. Devils are not composed of souls and earthly bodies, like men. Adam was made a living soul, but such was not the record of Satan. The relationship must therefore be understood as of a spiritual nature, not by the order of generation which is peculiar to the children of men. The Devil is the spirit that works in the children of disobedience; and it is impossible in the nature of things that spirit should beget matter or anything out of its own nature. The tares in our parable then are the production of the Devil in those who have received of his spirit. When Jesus said unto the murderous Jews, "Ye are of your father, the devil (John 8:44)," he proved it by showing that they were actuated by his spirit which they possessed, for he admitted at the same time that they were Abraham's seed, that is according to the flesh; but he denied that they were the children of Abraham in the spirit which they had received from the wicked one. What proved them to be of their father the Devil was that the works of their father they would do. The spirit and faith of Abraham would recognize Christ; but the spirit of Satan would go about to kill him. The father of that wicked spirit in them was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. "When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar, and the father of it." The spirit of murder, of falsehood, and of opposition to Christ was the child in them of which the Devil is the parent; hence these reasons are urged in confirmation of his declaration that they were of their father the Devil. How else could they be at the same time the children of Abraham, and the children of the Devil? Their earthly nature, or flesh, was the seed of Abraham, according to the flesh; but not in that spiritual sense in which Abraham was the father of the children of promise. They were Jews outwardly in the flesh, in the letter; but not in the spirit, whose praise is not of men but of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ was himself of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh; but that did not constitute him the Son of God, for he was the Son of God before Abraham existed in the flesh. "Before Abraham was, I am." The children of the flesh, these are not the children of God. So, on the other hand, these Jews being the children of the flesh of Abraham, or of Adam did not constitute their relation to the Devil. So also we may say of all the children of God; this relationship is purely spiritual, "For as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God," whether they be of the circumcision or of the uncircumcision. "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision;" for if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his; and we may also infer, if any man have not the spirit of Satan, he is none of his. In all cases in the Scriptures where men were called serpents, vipers, or children of the Devil, it has been in reference to the spirit which they have received of Satan. John says, "Cain was of that wicked one [the same wicked one who sowed the tares] and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous (I John 3:12)."
In this last text we have a clear illustration. Abel was righteous and a child of God, had received the spirit of God, and by that faith which John says is born of God, offered a more excellent offering. Cain was of that wicked one, and therefore "slew he him;" clearly manifesting the spirit of murder, of false religion, and persecution, which emanates from the wicked one. Yet Cain and Abel were brothers, and of the same parentage in the flesh. The spirit of murder, fanaticism and falsehood in Cain was born of the Devil; but in his nature he was the first born of Adam and Eve. While Abel, his brother, born of the same parents after the flesh, possessed the spirit of truth and righteousness which is born of God.
Fourth. "He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man." By the Son of man our Lord Jesus Christ is intended. The good seed is that spirit of life and immortality which was with the Father, and was manifested (I John 1:2) which was given to the saints in him according to the divine record. "And this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man.
1. Presuming that none will deny that Christ in his incarnation is the Son of man, we shall not occupy much time or space in proving what we think none will deny. He claims not only to be the Son of man, but also the Son of God. While in his flesh he was the Son of man, and seed of the woman, in his divine nature as the Immortality and Quickening Spirit of his body and members, he is the Son of God, the Word which was with God in the beginning, and the Word which was God; by whom and for whom all things are and were made. This Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and revealed his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. Taking on him not the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham, he made his advent to our world as the child born, the Son given, whose name is "Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Of him the holy psalmist sang in prophecy, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him (Psalm 126:6)."
2. The good seed, the spirit of immortality, was given to all the saints of God in him, as the natural life of the human family was given them in the earthly Adam. It is therefore contrasted with that corruptible seed by which the life of the first Adam is transmitted to his posterity, thus the saints, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. For all flesh is as grass," etc. "That which is born of the flesh," and all flesh is as grass. Grass which springeth up out of the earth, and is corruptible and perishable, soon decays, and goes back again to the earth. But that incorruptible seed which is by the Word of God, liveth and abideth forever; for it is that life of God which was in the Word; and of which the Word has testified, saying, "I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." Peter informs us that the good seed which is by the Son of man, or by the Word of God, who was made flesh, and in whom was life is developed by the new birth of the children of the kingdom. Will any one say that the new birth develops in us anything but the spirit of immortal life by which it is begotten? Jesus says, "That which is born of the Spirit." Then it cannot be matter; it cannot be flesh; it is spirit, and it is the spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus our Lord which makes its possessors free from the law of sin which is in their members; that is, in their flesh. This seed being not only uncorrupted, but absolutely incorruptible, produces in its development the spirit of Christ, the spirit of truth and holiness. John, by inspiration, draws the line of discrimination between the two seeds, the children of God and the children of the devil. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his [that is God's] seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God," that is, not born of God. "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him (I John 3:9,10,15)." The distinction is this: they who are born of God have eternal life in them; and this eternal life in them is the production of the incorruptible seed, which remaineth in them, where the Son of man has implanted or sown it; and its legitimate fruits are love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, etc., against which there is no law; and as, where there is no law there can be no transgression, so where this incorruptible seed remains, there can be no sin. We do not mean that that nature which is born of the flesh cannot transgress, or sin, for John said, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Our earthly nature is not the production of the good or incorruptible seed, for it does not live and abide forever; it is called the old man, which is to be put off with its affections and lusts; but that good seed which the Son of man soweth, produces the life of Christ in us, and is therefore known in distinction from our old man as the new man, which after God (not after Adam) is created in righteousness and true holiness.
But should argument fail to prove our position, we have but one further appeal to make. Reader, have you been born again of uncorruptible seed by the Word of God? If so, what are the developments of that birth? Has it produced in you a life which you never had before? Has it been manifested by the fruits of the Spirit, such as joy, love, peace, gentleness, goodness and faith; and brotherly kindness, etc.? Has it produced in you any other than spiritual emotions, holy desires, ardent love to God, to his people, to his precepts, his laws and his ordinances? Surely the Word and Spirit of God are in unison.
Lastly. He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man. We have seen that the enemy who soweth tares is the wicked one, and the production of that evil seed is the spirit of devils in the children of men; for devils can only propagate their own kind. The spirit of the wicked one begets the spirit of falsehood, persecution, murder, and all that is anti-christian; and it is the business of the devil and all his emissaries to sow tares even among the wheat; but we may rest assured there is none but the Son of man that can sow the good seed. He only hath life and immortality dwelling in the light; therefore no other one can implant that life and immortality in the field, or in the sons of men. The incorruptible seed must be by him, for he is the Word of God. He is the Everlasting Father of all his chosen generation; there can be no intermediate parentage; all who are born of God are born of the incorruptible seed which none but the Son of man can sow. He does not say in his exposition of the parable, He that soweth the good seed; but he that soweth. The work is still progressing, and he is still sowing the precious seed, and will continue to sow until the handful of corn is sown in the earth, the fruits whereof shall shake like Lebanon. In conclusion, we will add a few remarks on the closing verses of Christ's explanation of the parable.
The harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Already those who are born and taught of God can see the angels, or messengers of the Son of man appearing to gather out of his kingdom. The children of the wicked one, who have lodged in the branches of the tree, are like briars and thorns intermingled with the wheat. Not only his commissioned ministers who in preaching that gospel which nominal professors and graceless hypocrites could never bear have been thus engaged; but the angels of his wrath, with the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, are pouring them out, and in the accomplishment of their commission, we feel a confidence that all of God's people shall come out of Babylon, and all the devil's tares will leave Christ's kingdom; for every plant that our Heavenly Father has not sown or planted shall be rooted up. "His fan is still in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff shall be burned."
In the parable the servants asked if they should gather up the tares? Their inquiry was in reference to the tares sown in the field which is the world or mankind. This they were forbidden to do; lest in their bungling attempts to exterminate heretics, hypocrites, and the children of the wicked one they should root up the good seed also. But he will see to it that all who have got into his kingdom without his grace shall be expelled without his favor.
But when the end shall come and with it the harvest spoken of, the church of God shall shine in her primitive glory, as the Sun in the kingdom of their Father. That day is surely near at hand. Let us watch and be sober, and "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
One word to sister Shields. There is no controversy that we know of among Old School Baptists on the scriptural doctrine of two seeds. That a seed shall serve our Lord Jesus, and be counted to him for a generation; and that there is also a generation of vipers, and seed of evil doers, who are called the children of the wicked one: but that this distinction is in our fleshly natures is disputed.
In regard to preaching the gospel on funeral occasions, and on all other occasions when a congregation is assembled, and willing to pay a respectful attention to the administration of the word, we had understood it to be our duty to so preach. We confess we did not know that the practice had its commencement with Rome. But even if the Romans practiced funeral preaching it still may not be wrong for us to preach Christ and the resurrection, when called on to do so. We are inclined, however, with sister Shields to believe the thing is sometimes carried to an excess. We believe some have imbibed a notion that the absence of some religious ceremony at a funeral betrays a disrespect for the dead; and some have gone so far as to call on preachers for whom they have no fellowship to officiate, rather than to bury their dead without religious service. We are no advocate for such superstition: but we do believe it is proper and expedient for the ministers of Jesus to preach the gospel whenever a solemn audience assembled desire it.
April 15, 1865.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 174 - 183