THE PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND THE TARES.

BROTHER JEWETT: - I send you my views of this parable, as found in Matt.13:24-30 & 36-40. It is one among the many which our Lord used, to teach the nature of his kingdom and the events which should be connected therewith. And “without a parable spake he not to the multitude,” that the prophecy {Ps.78:2} might be fulfilled. See verses 34 & 35 of this chapter. These parables were designed for the instruction of his disciples in every age, but to the Jews they were like tongues, for a sign.

This parable he declares is a similitude of the kingdom of heaven, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is likened,” &c. From the different applications, which have been made of this parable, it seems important to examine the import of the expression “the kingdom of heaven.” It is a term repeatedly used by Matthew, and I believe only by him of all the New Testament writers; a corresponding as used by the other evangelists, is the kingdom of God. This kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God, evidently relates to the new dispensation which Christ was bringing in. Hence the preaching of John, as well as of our Lord, was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand;” that is, it is about to be set up. Matt.3:2 & 4:17. This idea of the setting up of a distinct kingdom by the Messiah, answers to the prophecies going before; as in Dan.2:44, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a Kingdom, which shall never be destroyed,” &c. See also Isa.32:2 & Micah 4:7,8. This kingdom of the Messiah, or kingdom of heaven, is not of this world; “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36. It was to be set up in the world; hence Christ says to his Father, “I pray not, that thou shouldst take them out of the world,” &c., and adds, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. John 17:15,16. This he says of the subjects of his kingdom. God had set up a kingdom in the fleshly Israel, but that was a kingdom of this world; those who were born of the flesh were the subjects of it. Not so of this kingdom of heaven; “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” That fleshly kingdom was ultimately given to other people, but this kingdom shall not be given to other people. Dan.2:44. In the former kingdom, God ruled over his subjects by external laws, written on tables of stone; in this spiritual kingdom, God reigns in the hearts of the subjects; his Law is written in their hearts. Hence Christ says, “the kingdom of heaven cometh not with observation, for behold the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20,21. Hence it must be manifest, that this kingdom of heaven is peculiar in its nature, and therefore what is distinctly said of it, we are not justifiable in applying to any of the kingdoms of this world.

Elder Parker applies this parable to the introduction of sin into the world, making the good seed to represent the elect, as created in Adam; the tares, the non-elect and as such the seed of the serpent. He thus makes the parable a similitude of the world in its natural creation, instead of Messiah’s kingdom to be “set up” in the world. And in so applying it, he makes the similitude rather a riddle, than a parable, as being a representation of things past instead of things to come. Again, others have given an application of this and similar parables to the Jews. But the Jewish dispensation had long been, instead of being about to be manifested, or being at hand, when John commenced his ministry. Besides, that dispensation was earthly and carnal, instead of being heavenly and spiritual, as the Scriptures point out the distinct character of the other. But this is confounding the kingdom of Heaven with that which was earthly, and Christ with Moses.

I must therefore, as I said before, understand this parable as having a distinct reference to the Gospel dispensation, or that kingdom which Christ set up in the world. Considering it as having this application, we will notice, First; The Field. In the parable it is said, in his field, {verse 24.} In the explanation given by Christ we are told the field is the world, and the Son of man is he who sowed the good seed, {verses 37, 38.} So that the Son of man, he who was manifested in the flesh, claims the world as his field; that in which he was to accomplish the great work of Redemption and Salvation. Indeed it was created by him and for him. Col.1:16. When the earth and all the inhabitants thereof were dissolved, he bore up the pillars thereof, {Psal.75:3,} and that for the sake of the elect; here they must be born and born again, and power was given him over all flesh, that he might give eternal life to as many as the Father had given him. Into this field he sends forth his laborers; and here he is accomplishing the whole purpose of God in giving occasion and opportunity for the man of sin, or the tares to be fully developed and thereby, as by contrast, showing the glory of his religion, the riches of his grace and His power to save.

Second. The good seed; these are the children of the kingdom. Verse 38. The preached gospel is represented as seed in the parable of the sower, verses 3-8 & 18-23 of the same chapter. Again, Christ represents himself as seed or wheat sown, when he says, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” John 12:24. But in this case our Lord expressly declares, that “the good seed are the children of the kingdom;” and so of course we must understand it. And who are more definitely “the children of the kingdom,” than the apostles? As seed, when sown, is scattered over the field, so Christ sowed his twelve Apostles in the field of the world, sending them forth into all the world, &c.; and hence he says unto them, “I have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain.” John 15:16. And they have been bringing forth fruit unto this day, in the believers and gospel churches which have been growing up from their testimony or gospel. For it is through a belief of the gospel which they testified unto, that persons are brought into the liberty of gospel grace; and it is through a belief in and submission to the order which they established, that gospel churches have grown up.

Third. The tares. These are the children of the wicked; the translators add the word one, “the wicked one,” hence the word is printed in italics. I know not, that the passage needed that addition from them. I am inclined to believe, that by the wicked here is meant the same as by “that wicked,” in II Thes.2:8; namely, the man of sin, or that antichristian interest, which should grow up in the world. The original word here rendered tares, is supposed to mean a plant, which much resembles wheat in appearance until the fruit be formed; and so the words of the parable clearly imply. The seed of this plant when mixed and manufactured with wheat, is said to be hurtful. The tares therefore not only prefigure, but also strikingly represent that hurtful interest, which began to be manifested even in the apostles’ days, and which has grown up from another gospel than the gospel of Christ, and is in its branches the product of those “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves as the apostles of Christ.” II Cor.11:13. They assume to be believers in Christ and churches of Christ, growing up among them and for a time not distinguished from them, until they begin to bring forth their fruit of opposition to the truth and order of the Gospel. Instead of resting in the truth, in the doctrine of the apostles, they receive and advocate the doctrines of devils; having many systems. He, that sowed them, is the devil, hence Paul represents those false apostles as Satan’s ministers, II Cor.11:15. He instigated those persons to be disciples of Christ, and filled their imaginations with falsehood or false doctrines, and induced them to preach “their dreams” for the doctrine of Christ, and thus multiply disciples to their imaginary gospel. Satan set this interest afoot, as an enemy; thinking by the plausibility of his systems to drown the truth; or to render it and those, who adhere to it, odious, as contrasted with his flattering doctrines, and so to cause the truth to be perverted and put down. He sowed these tares whilst men slept. These false systems have generally been disseminated imperceptibly and the churches have slept over them, till they have been awakened by the awful inroads made upon the truth and order professed by the church, and the strong party, formed in the church against that truth and order, having ripened are sowing their fruits of bitter opposition.

Fourth. The enquiry of the servants, “Wilt thou that we go and gather them up?” and the answer, “Nay, lest whilst ye gather up the tares ye root up also the wheat with them.” We are here to bear in mind, that the field is not the church, but the world; and therefore the direction here given interferes not with that discipline, which the New Testament enjoins on the churches, such as to “Put away from among you that wicked person.” &c. It may be asked, whether the churches and servants of Christ have ever had power to root up or destroy the antichristian interest in the world. Not to any great extent. They might however had they not been restrained, have applied to the governments under which they lived, to put down these false interests and thus have manifested a persecuting spirit. To guard the disciples of Jesus against indulging in such a spirit, this instruction is here given. It is the nature of tares to supplant and root out the wheat; but the wheat yields to such encroachments upon it, rather than having a tendency to root out other plants that get among it. And herein is manifested the spirit of the Gospel, in distinction from Antichrist, as being of a yielding, and not of a persecuting nature. Where we see men disposed to put down by worldly force those, who differ from them in religion, or to use any other weapons against them than the sword of the Spirit and a faithful gospel testimony, there is not the spirit of Christ; he came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save. In the second place, this instruction of our Lord may be designed to show the tendency of a persecuting spirit; it knows no stopping place short of entire uniformity. It may begin with tares, but it will soon attack the wheat. The early professing church began with persecuting the Arians and other like sects, but it soon turned the army of Constantine against the Novatians and Donatists; because they would not fellowship the corruptions of the popular churches, in receiving members and restoring those, who had fallen away on account of persecution. So the recent persecutions in our country raised by popular excitements, have commenced with the Mormons and Catholics; but let O.S. Baptists look for the sequel. When we reflect, that so murderous an excitement could be raised against the Catholics in Philadelphia, and that a grand jury taken from that intelligent community, could be found to excuse, in their presentment, such excitement, on the ground that the Catholics had provoked it by contending for equal religious rights with the Protestants in reference to the public schools; and if at the same we consider how odious we, Old School Baptists are to the popular religionists on account of our opposition to their principles and measures, and also how far the public mind has been already excited against us by the degrading, opprobrious descriptions given of us by the popular party, we shall be satisfied, that not much more will be needed than Benedict, Peck & Co.’s perverted historical account of our religious character, and that generally circulated, to prepare the public mind, throughout the country, for as bloody an excitement to be raised against us, as was raised against the Catholics in Philadelphia.

In the third place; there may be some wheat entwined among the roots or branches of the tares, which may or may not as yet have put forth the blade; this of course would be rooted up with the tares, if they were pulled up in this state. That is, there may be some of the elect yet in the loins of those who are manifested as tares, or there may be yet some of the children of God intermixed with the antichristian professors, without discovering their error, consequently were the one destroyed, the other would be involved in the destruction. But preparatory to the harvest each will be ripened, so that each may be distinguished. Hence the prophetic declaration, “Come out of her, my people.” &c. Hence the Lord’s time is the only safe time to gather the tares to burn. Let us then beware of encouraging the putting forth of any legal or popular force for putting down any religionists as such.

Fifth. The harvest. This is the end of the world. Dr. George Campbell, in his translation, has the “conclusion of this state,” instead of the end of the world; and in his Notes he says, he renders the word, here used, conclusion, in distinction from another word which more definitely signifies the end or termination. At any rate, the general range of prophecy and Scripture declaration, seems to require that, by the expression in the end of the world as here used, we should understand rather the concluding period, than the final termination of the world in its present state. For I think, we are clearly taught, that at the final termination, Christ shall come a second time in Person; whereas in this case he only sends “his angels.” Besides his Second Coming is to receive his saints to himself, raised and changed into his likeness; and this before the resurrection of the non-elect; but in this case the angels are to be sent to gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, &c., which appears to correspond with the destruction of the man of sin and the whole Antichristian interest, and which evidently is to take place before the termination of the world. See Rev. from 14th to 19th inclusive.

Sixth. The reapers. These are the angels. This corresponds with Rev.14:17-20. I see no reason, why we should not understand by the angels, in this case, those spiritual beings, which are sent forth to minister to them, who shall be heirs of salvation. Gospel ministers certainly cannot be intended here by the term angels; for it is not the province of such to destroy the wicked, or to inflict those judgments upon the antichristian interest which are denounced against it, and which, I think, are here intended. The furnace here spoken of, corresponds with the wine press of the wrath of God.

As there are repeated instances, mentioned in the Scriptures, of angels being employed in executing the purposes of God in providence, both for good to Christ and his people, and for evil to their enemies; I see not why we should not believe, that God still employs these invisible spirits in accomplishing those special dispensations of his providence, which are manifestly beyond the agency of man. I certainly need not stop to prove, that angels were employed in acts of kindness, as in delivering Peter out of prison and other instances; but the idea of those pure spirits being employed in executing evil, may not be so readily received; I will therefore notice some instances in point, recorded in Scripture. Their being employed in pouring out the seven vials of the wrath of God, is fully in point. Rev.15:6-8 & 16th chapter. When our Lord said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” Matt.26:53, he evidently intended to convey the idea of their being given for the purpose of defending him against those who would take him. It was an angel of the Lord, that smote the camp of the Assyrians, II Kings 19:35. It was an angel of the Lord also that smote Herod, Acts 12:23. The angels spoken of, Psal.78:49, being called evil angels, may denote the character of those angels sent among the Egyptians, as being such as had not kept their first estate, or they may have been called evil from their being sent to inflict evil on Egypt, though for good to Israel. In either case it shows the employment of angels in the administration of God’s providence. Any person, who can believe that, in either of the above cases, mere human beings were intended by the term angels, must be able to believe more without proof or reason, that I can.

Seventh. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. This corresponds with Isa.30:26, “Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be seven-fold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people and healeth the stroke of their wound.” This I think, has special reference to the restoration of the Jews and their conversion; and also corresponds in idea with Zech.12:8. These texts thus show that the moon, the church, is yet in this world to be clothed with the full and perfect light of the gospel, and therefore to shine forth as the sun; and so of course will the righteous.

The above are what I conceive to be the leading ideas taught in this parable. And thus understood, it unfolds the nature and origin of those systems of religion, which have accompanied the Gospel and gospel Church thus far, in their spread in the world; and which, whilst they have assumed to be the gospel, and their votaries have claimed to be believers in Christ, they have no real affinity to the Gospel and gospel churches, and are therefore destined to be burned.

Yours, &c., S. TROTT.
December, 1844.