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even in our own families, and in our own private amusements, be temperate, modest, decorous, and discreet. Think not, however, that I am here recommending gloom and melancholy, and seclusion from all society; far from it. This could answer no other purpose but to sour your minds and to deaden your devotions. The cheerfulness of social converse and friendly intercourse is by no means inconsistent with the duties of the week; but all those tumultuous assemblies, which are too strongly marked with an air of levity, gaiety, and dissipation, and may in fact be ranked in the number of public diversions, are plainly repugnant to that seriousness and tenderness of mind, which the awful and interesting events of that week must naturally inspire. Let me only request you to read over, when you return home, that plain, simple, unaffected, yet touching narrative of our Saviour's sufferings, which is selected from the Gospels, in the daily offices of the next week, and then ask your own hearts, whether, at the very time when your Redeemer is supposed to have passed through all those dreadful scenes for your sakes and for your salvation, from his first agony in the garden to his last expiring groan upon the cross, whether at this very time you can bring yourselves to pursue the pleasures, the vanities, and the follies of the world, with the same unqualified eagerness and unabated ardour, as if nothing had happened which had given him the slightest pain, or in which you had the smallest interest or concern. Your hearts, I am sure, will revolt at the very idea, and your own feelings will preserve you from thus wantonly sporting with the cross of Christ. And if to a prudent abstinence from these things you were to add a careful inquiry into your past conduct, and the present state of your souls; if you were to extend your views to another world, and consider what your condition there is likely to be; what reasonable grounds you have to hope for a favourable sentence from your Almighty Judge; how far you have conformed to the commands of your Maker, and what degree of affection and gratitude you have manifested for the inexpressible kindness of your Redeemer; this surely would be an employment not inconsistent with your necessary occupations, and not unsuitable to humble candidates for pardon, acceptance, and immortal happiness.
Is this too great a burthen to be imposed upon us for
a few days? Is it too great a sacrifice of our time, our thoughts, and our amusements, to an invisible world, and a reversionary inheritance of inestimable value? It certainly is, if the Gospel be all a fabricated tale. But if it contain the words of soberness and truth; if its divine authority is established by such an accumulation of evidence, of various kinds, as never before concurred
prove any other facts or events in the history of the world, by evidences springing from different sources, yet all centering in the same point, and converging to the same conclusion; if even the few incidental proofs, that have been offered to your consideration in the course of these Lectures, have produced that conviction in your minds which they seem to have done; what then is the consequence? Is it not, that truths of such infinite importance well deserve all that consideration for which I am now contending; and that we ought to embrace with eagerness every appointed means, and every favourable opportunity that is thrown in our way, of demonstrating our attachment and our gratitude to a crucified Saviour, who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification, and will come once more in glory to judge the world in righteousness, and to distribute his rewards and punishments to all the nations of the earth assembled before him? At that awful tribunal may we all appear with a humble confidence in the merits of our Redeemer, and a trembling hope of that mercy, which he has promised to every sincere believer, every truly contrite and penitent offender!
MATTHEW XIII, CONTINUED.
THE Lectures of the last year concluded with an explanation of the parable of the sower; and immediately after this follows in the Gospel the parable of the tares, which will be the subject of our present consideration*.
The parable is as follows: "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man, which sowed good seed in his field; 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. 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. 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 up in bundles to burn them but gather the wheat into my barn."
After our Lord had delivered this parable, and one or two more very short ones, we are told, that he 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. He answered and said unto them, He that sowed 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
* Matt. xiii, 24.
devil: the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
This parable well deserves our most serious consideration, as it gives an answer to two questions of great curiosity and great importance, which have exercised the ingenuity and agitated the minds of thinking men from the earliest times to the present, and perhaps were never, at any period of the world, more interesting than at this very hour.
The first of these questions is, How came moral evil into the world?
The next is, Why is it suffered to remain a single moment; and why is not every wicked man immediately punished as he deserves?
The first of these questions has, we know, in almost all ages, and in all countries, been a constant subject of investigation and controversy, among metaphysicians and theologians, and has given birth to an infinity of fanciful theories and systems, to one more particularly in our own times, by a man of very distinguished talents; all which, however, have failed of solving the difficulty, and have proved nothing more than this mortifying and humiliating truth, namely, the extreme weakness of the human intellect, when applied to subjects so far above its reach, and the utter inability of man to fathom the counsels of the Most High, and develop the mysterious ways of his providence, by the sole strength of unassisted reasont. That those, who were
• Soame Jenyns.
+ Among the dissertations of Plutarch (which go by the name of his Morals) there is a very curious and ingenious one, entitled περὶ τῶν ὑπὸ τῷ Θείον βραδέως τιμωρεμένων, concerning those, whom the Deity is slow in punishing. In this, among other just remarks, he observes, "that many things, which great generals, and legislators, and statesmen do, are to common observers incoinprehensible. What wonder is it then," says he, "if we cannot
never favoured with the light of revelation, should indulge themselves in such abstruse speculations, can be no great wonder; but that they, who have access to the original fountain of truth, and can draw from that sacred source the most authentic information on this point, should have recourse to the fallible conjectures of human ingenuity, and should hew out to themselves" cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water," is a most unaccountable error of judgment, and a strange misapplication of talents and waste of labour and of time. We are told, in the very beginning of the Bible, that he, who first brought sin or moral evil into the world, was that great adversary of the human race, the devil, who first tempted the woman, and she the man, to act in direct contradiction to the commands of their Maker.
This act of disobedience destroyed at once that innocence, and purity, and integrity of mind, with which they came out of the hands of their Creator; gave an immediate and dreadful shock to their whole moral frame, and introduced into it all those corrupt propensities and disordered passions, which they bequeathed as a fatal legacy to their descendants; of which we all now feel the bitter fruits, and have, I fear, by our own personal and voluntary transgressions, not a little improved the wretched inheritance we received from our ancestors. This is the true origin of moral evil; and it is expressly confirmed by our Saviour in the parable before us; in which, when the servants of the householder express their surprise at finding tares among the wheat, and ask whence they came, his answer is, "An enemy hath done this;" and that enemy, our Lord informs us, is the devil; that inveterate, implacable enemy (as the very name of Satan imports) of the human race, the original author of all our calamities, and at this moment the prime mover and great master-spring of all the wickedness and all the misery that now overwhelm the world.
To this account great objections have been made, and no small pains taken to confute, to expose, and to ridicule it. But, after all the wit and buffoonery which have been lavished upon it, it may safely be affirmed, and
understand why the gods inflict punishment on the wicked, sometimes at an earlier, sometimes at a later period?"— Plut. ed. Xyland. vol. ii, p. 549, F.