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Him from whom cometh every good and perfect gift ; and to show us our entire dependence upon Him. If we are indeed believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we owe the benefit to Divine grace. It is because it hath pleased the Lord to make us His people, that we are numbered
This is here ascribed to our Lord Jesus Christ : He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man.
Sometimes it is ascribed to God the Father : Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning : of His own will begat He us with the word of truth. Again, it is ascribed to the Holy Ghost : Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.8 Thus that which is the work of God alone, is ascribed to each of the Divine Persons in the ever-blessed Trinity, the One Jehovah.
Our blessed Saviour proceeds, But while men slept, his 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. The explanation is, The tares are the children of the wicked one: the enemy that sowed them is the devil. Here we learn that those who outwardly profess to be members of the church of Christ, and yet have not received
6 1 Samuel xii. 22.
7 James i. 17, 18.
8 John iii. 5. :
the truth as it is in Jesus in the love of it, and have not become new creatures in Christ Jesus; have not been planted in the church by God, but by His enemy, Satan. Although these persons may partake of all the outward privileges of Christianity, “yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation” do they participate in them. Surely this declaration of the word of God calls upon us for deep self-examination and humiliation before Him. Let us ask ourselves, What spiritual benefit do we derive from our profession of Christianity? That we have borne the name of Christians in this world will do us no good hereafter, unless we are also influenced and actuated by the Spirit of Christ. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.' So our Saviour Himself declared, Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.10 It appears from this parable, that it is by their fruits that the children of God are to be distinguished from others. This is the only way in which mankind are able to judge of one another. If the practice be bad, Christian principle cannot be operative in the heart.
The appearance of the tares in the field excited surprise and indignation among the servants of the householder. It is truly painful to the servants of God to see persons who make a profession of religion, dishonouring it by unfruitfulness. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, 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 with them.
9 Romans viii. 9.
10 Matthew vii. 21.
We are often ready to think that if the church of Christ were conducted according to our ideas of the fitness of things, it would be in a much better condition than it is. But the Great Head of the church permits the things that offend, and that do iniquity to remain mingled with His believing people; and at the time of the end the mystery will be solved. While false professors try the faith and patience of the true servants of God, it should be the business of the Christian to endeavour to do all the good in his power to those who are around him; and thus to prove his conformity to his Lord and Master, who went about doing good ;" and even prayed for His most cruel enemies, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.12 It
11 Acts x. 38.
12 Luke xxiii. 34.
seems peculiarly grievous that men should derive worldly advantage from a profession of true religion ; while at the same time they bring a reproach upon it. But so it has ever been. This was the case with Judas among the apostles of Christ; and such characters have been found in the church ever since. The Saviour says, Let both grow together until the harvest. The tares and the wheat are growing side by side in the field of the world ; and are often so like each other, that the difference cannot be discerned by man. We are all of us professors of Christianity; and all have the form of godliness, as we come to the house of God to worship Him and to hear His holy word. But whether we worship Him in spirit and in truth ; 13 whether we are doers of the word, and not hearers only,14 is known to the Searcher of hearts.
The Eastern tares are said to be so like wheat in their appearance, that a cursory observer would not perceive the difference during their progress towards maturity. But at the time of the harvest the distinction becomes manifest. Then the ear of wheat bends with its own weight, while that of the tare remains erect, because it contains no grain. In like manner, the difference between the formal and the sincere professor of Christianity may not be perceived otherwise than by the humility of the one, and the pride or the insensibility of the other. One is self-abased in the presence of God; the other is self-complacent. One is dissatisfied with himself and his attainments, and longs after entire conformity to the Divine image; the other is pleased with the observance of his duties, and prides himself upon having performed them. Both may be outwardly moral, and respectable in society ; but their conduct is governed by different principles. One is actuated by the fear and love of God; the other by the fear of man, and a desire to obtain the good opinion of his fellow-creatures. One has a desire to please God; the other seeks only to promote his own worldly advantage, and to raise his own character among those who are around him. In one the word of God takes root downward, and makes him deeply humble before God, and then brings forth fruit upward in his life and conduct, to the praise of the glory of Divine grace.15 In the other, the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.16 With these persons outward circumstances are favourable to the continuance of a religious profession, and therefore it is maintained. There may be no remarkable difference in the outward character
13 John iv, 24.
14 James i. 22.