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and unprofitable. But the good christian hears the word attentively, keeps it retentively, believes it stedfastly, applies it particularly, practises it universally, and brings forth fruit with patience and perseverance; fruit that will redound to his account, in the great day of account. Learn, 1. That no hearers are in Christ's account good hearers of the word, but such as bring forth the fruits of an holy, humble, and peaceable conversation. 2. That a person may be a good hearer of the word, if he brings forth the best fruit he can, though it be not in so great a proportion as others do; as some ground brings forth thirty, some sixty, and somean hundred-fold: inlikemannerdoall the sincere hearers of the word, they all bring forth fruit, though not all alike; all in sincerity and reality, though not all to the same degree, and none to perfection. Observe, lastly, Satan is here compared to the fowls of the air, which pick up the seed before it takes any root in the earth. The devil is very jealous of the success of the word, and therefore labours all he can to destroy the word, before it comes to operate upon the heart: which he doth sometimes by the cares of the world, sometimes by vain companions, who prove mere quench-coals unto early conviction: if he can steal away the word, or choke it, he has his desire and design.
24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first
the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
The design and scope of this parable is, to show that there is no expectation of universal purity in the church of God in this life; but as the tares and the wheat grow together in the same field, so hypocrites and sincere christians are and will lie intermixed in the same church, and can hardly be discerned one from the other. St. Jerome observes, That in the eastern countries, the tares and the wheat were so like one another, whilst they were in the blade, that there was no knowing them asunder. Learn, 1. That in the outward and visible church there ever has been and will be a mixture of good and bad, of saints and sinners, of hypocrites and sincere christians, until the day of judgment. 2. That in that day Christ will make a thorough and a perfect separation, and divide the tares from the wheat: that is, the righteous from the wicked. 3. That in the mean time none ought to be so offended at this mixture in the church, as to separate from church-communion on that account: until the harvest it is not to be expected that the tares and wheat should be perfectly separated. Yet observe, 4. That though the tares are forbidden to be plucked up when sown, yet it is the church's duty, all she can, to hinder their sowing. Though we must not root the wicked up, yet we must prevent the rooting of wickedness all we can. Our Saviour, that forbad to pluck up the tares, did not forbid to hinder their sowing-. Note here, How vain is the collection of the Erastians from hence, that the wicked are not to be cut offby excommunication from the communion of the church; nor doth this text prove that the magistrates may not cut off evil-doers; seeing this was not spoken to them, but to the ministers of the church.
31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard-seed, which a man took and sowed in his field: 32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. 33 Another parable spake he unto
them: The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. 34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: 35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
Our Saviour's design in this parable is, to show how the gospel, from small and little, from unlikely and contemptible beginnings, shall spread and increase, fructify and grow up: like as mustard-seed, one of the smallest of grains, grows up to a considerable tallness: and as a little leaven turns a great heap of meal into its own nature; so the gospel shall spread and increase, nations and countries becoming christian. Learn, That how small beginnings soever the gospel had in its first plantation, yet by the fructifying blessing of God it has had and shall have a wonderful increase.
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said unto them, He that snweth the good seed is the Son of man: 38 The field is the world: the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one: 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil: the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom ail things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun,
in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
The parable of the tares of the field Christ is pleased to explain to his disciples alter this manner. The person sowing good seed was himself, the Son of man; who first planted the gospel: the field in which the seed was sown, was the world; that is, the church in the world: the good seed, called, Me children of the kingdom, are sincere christians; the tares, called Me children of the -wicked one, are profane sinners, and unsound hypocrites: the enemy is the devil, the harvest is the end of the world, and the angels are the reapers. Learn, 1. That the mixture of the tares and the wheat, of the righteous and the wicked, must and shall remain in the church unto the end of the world. 2. That in the end of the world the angels shall perform the work of separation, gathering the righteous from among the wicked; when every one's harvest shall be according to his fruit: the righteous shining in the kingdom of their Father, the wicked cast into a furnace offire.
44 Again: The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hicleth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buycth that field. 45 Again: The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
By the treasure hid in the field, and the pearl of great price, are understood, Christ, the grace of the gospel, and the way to life and salvation therein discovered: he that is thoroughly convinced of the worth and excellency of Christ's grace, will part with all that he has to purchase and obtain it. Learn, That the sinner who will have an interest in Christ, and a part in gospel-grace, must part with all that he has to purchase and obtain them, even his goods and lands, with his wife and children; for Christ and his grace are a real good, a substantial good, a durable good; he outhids all the offers that the world can make, and therefore it is our wisdom to part with all for him, and especially our sins, dearer to us than all the rest.
47 Again : The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: 48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. 49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just. 50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The design and scope of the parable also is, to set forth the state of the gospel-church, which is like a floor, where chaff is mixed with wheat; a field, where tares are mixed with good corn; a net, where bad fishes are involved with the good. As the wheat must not be removed out of the floor before the time of winnowing; nor the tares gathered out of the field before the time of reaping; nor the good fishes break through the net to get from the bad before the time of separation; so must not christians forsake a church's communion, because of the present mixture of good and bad in the church. For a mixed communion in the church, and the good christians communicating with the bad, doth neither defile the ordinances of Christ nor pollute those that sincerely join in them.
51 Jesus saitb unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. 52 Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
Observe here, 1. The title which our Saviour puts upon gospel-ministers; they are household stewards. 2. He points out the office of those stewards; and that is, to provide for the household both with plenty and variety. He must bring forth out of his treasure in plenty; and things new and old for their variety. There are two essential qualifications in a steward, faithfulness and prudence; he must be honest and faithful, in bringing out of his own treasure, not another's; and he must be prudent, in bringing things new, as well as old; not new truths, but old truths in a new dress; lest the household, by always feeding upon the sdme dish, do nauseate it, instead of being nourished by it.
53 And it came to pass, that, when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. 54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? 57 And they were offended in him.—
Observe here, 1. Christ's tender and compassionate regard to his own countrymen, the people of Galilee and Nazareth; he preached to them in their synagogue.
2. The effect which his doctrine had upon them; they were astonished at it, but not converted by it; they admire, but did not believe. 3. The cause of their rejecting Clirist's ministry was the meanness of his person, the contemptibleness of his outward condition, the poverty of his relations: Is not this the carpenter's Son . * Mark vi.
3. he is called the carpenter; whence the fathers concluded, that our Saviour, during the time of his obscure privacy, wrought at the trade of Joseph his reputed father; and Justin Martyr says, he made ploughs and yokes. Sure we are, our Lord spent no time in idleness, though we are not certain how he employed his time before he entered upon his public ministry. Note, That the poverty and meanness of Christ's condition was that which multitudes stumbled at; and which kept many, yea, most, from believing on him. None but a spiritual eye can discern beauty in an humbled Saviour: Is not this the Son of the carpenter? 2. That it is no impediment to nor hinderance of our faith, that we never saw Christ's person in the flesh, nor knew his parentage and education; for here are his own countrymen, who daily saw his person, heard his doctrine, and were witnesses of his holy conversation, yet instead of believing in him they were offended at him.
—But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.
Our Saviour tells them, he doth not wonder that so many of his own countrymen, to whom he had been so familiarly known, did despise his person and reject his doctrine; for a prophet generally has least esteem where he has been brought up; because perhaps the follies of his childhood, and indecencies of his youth, are remembered and reported to his disparagement. Learn, 1. That there is a real tribute of honour due and payable to every prophet or faithful minister of Jesus Christ . 2. That the ministers of Christ, for the most part, have least honour from their own countrymen, to whom they are best known. 3. That although it be so, yet this may not be through their own fault, for Christ was so amongst his.
58 And he did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
This sin not only locks up the heart of a sinner, but also hinds up the hands of a Saviour. Unbelief obstructed Christ's miraculous works when on earth, and it obstructs his gracious works now in heaven. Ah! cursed unbelief! which shuts up, O sinner, thy heart, and shuts out thy Saviour, and will effectually shut thee out of heaven, and not only procure damnation, but no damnation like it! Mark xiv. 16. Christ was unable, because they were unwilling; his impotency was occasioned by their infidelity: he did not, because he would not; and that he would not, proceeded from a defect in their faith, not from any deficiency in Christ's power: their unbelief bound his hands, and hindered the execution of his power.
The former pari of this chapter given ui an account of the death of John the ttaptiat, together with the occasion of it, which waa, his plain and faithful reproving of Herod for ihe uncleanuess lie lived in.
A T that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus; 2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist: he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
Observe here, 1. How strange it was that Herod should not hear of the fame of Jesus till now: all the country and adjoining regions had rung of his fame, only Herod's court hears nothing. Miserable is that greatness which keeps princes from the knowledge of Jesus Christ. How plain it is from hence, that our Saviour came not
at court! He once sent indeed a message to that fox (Herod) whose den he would not approach; teaching us, by his example, not to affect, but to avoid, outward pomp and glory. The courts of princes are too often a very bad air for piety and religion to thrive in. Observe, 2. The misconstruction of Herod, when he heard of our Saviour's fame: this, says he, is John the Baptist, whom I beheaded. His conscience told him he had offered an unjust violence to an innocent man; and now he is afraid that he is come again to be revenged on him for his head. A wicked man needs no worse tormentor than his own mind. O the terrors and tortures of a guilty conscience! how great are the anxieties of guilt, and the fears of divine displeasure, than which nothing is more stinging and perpetually tormenting!
3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. 4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. 5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
Observe here, 1. The person that puts the holy Baptist to death; it was Herod, it was Herod the king, it was Herod that invited John to preach at court, and heard him gladly, 1. It was Herod Antipas, son to that Herod who sought Christ's life, chap. ii. Cruelty runs in a blood. Herod, the murderer of John who was the forerunner of Christ, descended from that Herod who would have murdered Christ himself. 2. It was Herod the king. Sad! that princes, who should always be nursing-fathers to, should at any time be the bloody butchers of, the prophets of God. 3. It was Herod that heard John gladly: John took the ear and the heart of Herod, and Herod hinds the hands and feet of John. O how inconstant is a carnal heart to good resolutions! The word has oft-times an awakening influence, where it doth not leave an ahiding impression upon the minds of men. Observe, 2. The cause of the Baptist's death; it was for telling a king of his crime. Herod cut of that head whose tongue was so bold to tell him of his faults. The persecution which the prophets of God fall under, is usually for telling great men of their sins; men in power are impatient of reproof, and imagine tliat their authority gives them a licence to transgress. Observe, 3. The plain dealing of the Baptist in reproving Herod for his crime, which in one act was adultery, incest, and violence. Adultery, that he took another's wife; incest, that he took his brother's wife; violence, that he took her in spite of her husband. Therefore John doth not mince the matter, and say, It is not convenient; but, It is not lawful for thee to have her: it was not the crown and sceptre of Herod that could daunt the faithful messenger of God. There ought to meet in God's ministers both courage and impartiality. Courage, in fearing no faces; impartiality, in sparing no sins. For none are so great but they are under the authority and command of the law of God.
6 But when Herod's hirth-day was kept, the daughter of Herod ias danced before them, and pleased Herod. 7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. 8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give rac here John Baptist's head in a charger. 9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless, for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. 10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
Several observables are here to be taken notice of. 1. The time of this execrable murder: it was upon Herod's hirth-day. It was an ancient custom among the eastern kings to celebrate their hirth-days. Pharaoh's hirth-day was kept, Gen. xL Herod's here; both with blood: yet these personal stains do not make the practice unlawful. When we solemnize our hirthday with thankfulness to our Creator and Preserver, for life and being, for protection and preservation to that moment, and commend ourselves to the care of his good providence for the remainder of our days, this is an act of piety and religion. But Herod's hirth-day was kept with revelling and feasting, with music and dancing: not that dancing, which in itself is a set, regular, harmonious motion of the body, can be unlawful, any more than walking or run
ning; although circumstances may make it sinful. But from this disorderly banquet on Herod's hirth-day, we learn, That great men's feasts and frolies are too often a season of much sin. Observe, 2. The instigator and promoter of the holy Baptist's death, Herodias and her daughter: mat good man falls a sacrifice to the fury and malice, to the pride and scorn, of a lustful woman, for being a rub in the way of her licentious adultery. Resolute sinners, who are mad upon their lusts, run furiously upon their gainsayers, though they be the prophets of God themselves; and resolve to bear down all opposition they meet with in the gratification of their unlawful desires. Observe, 3. With what reluctance Herod consented to this villany; the king was sorry. Wicked men oft-times sin with a troubled and disturbed conscience; they have a mighty struggle with themselves before they commit their sins; but at last their lusts get the mastery over their consciences. So did Herod's here; for, 4. Notwithstanding his sorrow, he commands the fact: he sent and beheaded John in the prison. And a threefold cord tied him to this performance: 1. The conscience of his oath. See his hypocrisy; he made conscience of a rash oath, who made no scruple of real murder. 2. Respect to his reputation: them that sat with him heard him promise, and will be witnesses of his levity, if he did not perform. Insisting upon punctilios of honour, has hazarded the loss of millions of souls. 3. A loathness to discontent Herodias and her daughter. O vain and foolish hypocrite, who dreaded the displeasure of a wanton mistress, before the offending of God and conscience! Observe, 5. These wicked women not only require the Baptist to be beheaded, but that his head be brought in a charger to them. What a dish is here to be served up at a prince's table on his hirth-day! a dead man's head swimming in blood! How prodigiously insatiable is cruelty and revenge! Herodias did not think herself safe till John was dead; she could not think him dead till his head was off; she could not think his head off till she had it in her hand. Revenge never thinks it has made sure enough. O how cruel is a wicked heart, that could take pleasure in a spectacle of so much horror! how was that holy head tost by impure and filthy hands! that true and faithful tongue, those sacred lips, those pure eyes, those mortified cheeks, dii now insultingly liandled by an inces