ELDER G. BEEBE & SON: – As I do not remember ever having asked you a question, if it will not trouble you too much I will now ask two. In Matthew xiii we find the field is the world. Does man represent the field, in which the good and bad seed were sown? In John xvii. 6: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” Were these men (or church) given to Christ, or was Christ given to the men (or church), to be crucified for their offenses, and raised again for their justification? I understand that Christ was given to the church as the violated law demanded blood, which man could not pay and live again.
Your brother in hope of life everlasting,
J. D. PARKER.
Birdsville, Texas, Feb. 13, 1880
REPLY: – We confess our lack of ability to expound, with much satisfaction to our own mind, the parables which were spoken to the multitudes by our Lord, only so far as we are instructed in regard to their meaning and application by the interpretation of them which he gave to his disciples. We seldom select the parables as texts to preach or write upon, fearing that we may fail to give a correct explanation. We have sometimes read the explanations of them as given by others, and have been often reminded of the words of Elder John Leland, who said, in substance, “If it was as easy for him to give a clear and faultless interpretation, as it was to discover faults and imperfections in the views of others, he might boast.” Brother Parker asks if in this parable men represent the field in which the good and bad seed was sown.
Our Lord says the field is the world; that is all we are sure that we know about it. Whether he designed to be understood to speak of the whole world of mankind, including the Jews and Gentiles, or the Jewish world only, we will not presume to say; but we have understood him to be speaking of the Jewish world. That people or world, as a field, God says he had “planted a noble vine, wholly a right seed;” but it had become the degenerate plant of a strange vine. – Jer. ii. 21. If we look back to Abraham and Sarah, we can find in them the original seed of which that field was sowed; but looking forward from the days of Abraham to the end of that dispensation, we find the wheat and tares growing together, in such manner that the carnal Israelites could not be destroyed without rooting up the wheat also. Many among them who may be regarded as wheat, prophets and saints, were the fleshly descendants of very depraved parents; and the good and bad were suffered to grow together until the time of harvest, when the Son of man should send forth his angels and make the separation, binding the tares in bundles, and gathering the wheat into the barn, or gospel kingdom.
In this field the wheat, or good seed, are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one, and the enemy that sowed them is the devil. This parable, if we rightly understand it, does not discriminate between the fleshly nature of the Israelites, for they were in that nature precisely alike; and those who are represented as the wheat were by nature children of wrath, even as others. It was not in their fleshly nature, origin or natural generation that they were represented by the parable of wheat and tares; but as the children of God, or of the spiritual kingdom of God, which no man can see except he be born again, born of God, of incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. The apostle has informed us that “they are not all Israel [wheat] which are of Israel: neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children [of the kingdom, compared to wheat]: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” That is, as children of the promise, not of the flesh. “That is, 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.” – Rom. ix. 6-8. In the parable, Jesus says, “The good seed are the children of the kingdom;” and Paul says the children of the flesh are not the children of God, or the good seed, which is sown by the Son of man.
“But the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil.” Jesus said to the carnal Jews who sought to kill him, “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed.” But while he recognized them as the seed of Abraham after the flesh, he knew them also to be children of their father the devil, and so declared in the most positive manner. “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do: he 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.” – John viii. 37, 44.
These scriptures, we think, very clearly show both negatively and affirmatively what the wheat and tares do not and what they do mean. It is quite evident to us that all the fleshly offspring of Abraham were in their fleshly nature alike; and the distinction intended to be symbolized by the good and evil seeds in the parable was in reference to the spirit developed by those who are the children of the kingdom of God on the one hand, and those who developed the spirit of the wicked one on the other. All children possess and manifest the nature of their parents; and as in the animal, so in the vegetable parts of the creation, every herb, plant or tree yielding fruit contained seed in itself for the propagation of its own kind; and while all the people of Israel, yea, and all mankind, are of the same nature and origin in their fleshly being, they are manifested as children of distinct parentage as to the spirit developed by them severally. All who are born of the spirit of God are manifestly the children of God, and children of the spiritual kingdom of God. “For as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans viii. 14. And God’s spirit bears witness with their spirit that they are the children of God. – Verse 16. These are the production of the good and incorruptible seed sown by the Son of man, and are children of the kingdom; while others, who were equally children of Abraham after the flesh, or by a fleshly birth, who were led by the spirit of Satan, possessing his spirit of opposition to God, are made manifest as his children by their works. He was a murderer, and they were possessed of a murderous spirit. He is a liar, and the father of lies, and there is no truth in him; and the same spirit of murder and falsehood was manifested by them. The wicked spirit which they possessed was born in them and developed by them, demonstrating its emanation from him as their father, so far as related to the murderous and lying spirit evinced by them. Thus, as the good seed sown by the Son of man was a spiritual, immortal and incorruptible seed, by which the children of the kingdom of God are born; so the tares, which were sown by the enemy, is the spirit of iniquity, sown by the devil while men slept, or while as men they were unconscious of their real state, knowing not what manner of spirit they were of.
It was not from lack of knowledge on the part of God that the tares were growing, nor lack of power to exterminate them that God allowed the wheat and tares to grow together until the harvest; but for the preservation of the wheat, lest in destroying the tares, the wheat or some of it should be rooted up. The time of growing together extended to the end of the Jewish world, then came the harvest; then came the owner of the whole field, whose fan was in his hand, who said to his disciples, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest. Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” – John iv. 35. His coming to make the separation between the wheat and the tares is called the end of the world, meaning, as we presume, the end of the old, legal or Jewish dispensation. “But now once in the end of the world hath he [Christ] appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” – Heb. ix. 26. Jesus said, “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom [tares, who were Abraham’s seed according to the flesh] shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matt. viii. 11,12; Luke xiii. 25-30.
Neither our creation in the earthly Adam, nor our descent from him by natural generation, can distinguish us as children of God, or as children of the devil; both these relations are spiritual. God’s children are in his appointed time born of his spirit, of incorruptible seed, and they shall serve him, and be accounted to the Lord for a generation. “They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.” – Psa. xxii. 30,31. “Thus saith the Lord, As the new win is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all. And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountings: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there.” – Isa. lxv. 8,9. This seed existed in Christ from of old, from everlasting; were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, and according to that choice were blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in him, according to the purpose and grace of God, which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began; therefore are they called, “A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people,” chosen from the beginning unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. God is the Father of our spirits, if we are his children, and Satan is the father of that murderous, lying spirit by which his children are known as a generation of vipers, and a seed of evil does; so it is the Spirit of which we are born, and not our fleshly nature which is born of the flesh, that distinguishes the children of the wicked one from the children of the living God.
In answer to the other question, there can be no doubt that our Savior was correct in his words recorded John xvii. 6, and in every word which was ever spoken by him. The men unto whom he had manifested the name of the Father were most indisputably men whom his Father had given him out of the world. His words are too explicit and definite to admit of any other construction; for he adds, “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” And in John x. 29 he says, “My Father which gave them me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” We do not for a moment admit that any argument would be in place on our part to prove that his words are always faithful and true; and while we accept his positive declaration that his people were given him of the Father out of the world, we also accept as equally true the declaration of the inspired apostle, that God, the exceeding greatness of whose power raised up Christ’s crucified body from the dead, has given him to be the head over all to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. – Eph. i. 19-23. How sweetly sang the spouse, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” – Song. ii. 16. What an unspeakable gifts is Christ to his church! No language at our command can express its immensity. Given to be our Savior, our Prophet Priest and King, our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, our Advocate with the Father, our Husband, Shepherd, and our salvation. It is true, no blood of sinful mortals could have met the demands of the law which we have transgressed, or could wash from our pollutions; but he is not only given to be the propitiation for our sins, but to be the life of all our delights and spiritual comfort for time and for eternity.
We have given such views as we have on the questions submitted, and leave brother Parker and all who read them to compare them with the divine standard of truth, and accept them only so far as they are sustained by the word and spirit of God.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 8
April 15, 1880