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The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat

24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”


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In order to reap the advantage of this parable, it is necessary to ascertain the object which Christ had in view. Some think that, to guard a mixed multitude against satisfying themselves with an outward profession of the Gospel, 209209     “Pour retirer le commun populaire d’une folle presomption, a cause qu’en apparence externe ils faisoyent quelque profession de l’Evangile;”— “to withdraw the common people from a foolish presumption, because in outward appearance they made some profession of the Gospel.” he told them, that in his own field bad seed is often mixed with the good, but that a day is coming, when the tares shall be separated from the wheat. 210210     “Qu’on separera l’yvroye d’avec le bon ble;” — “when the tares shall be separated from the good corn.” They accordingly connect this parable with the one immediately preceding, as if the design of both had been the same. For my own part, I take a different view. He speaks of a separation, in order to prevent the minds of the godly from giving way to uneasiness or despondency, when they perceive a confused mixture of the good along with the bad. Although Christ has cleansed the Church with his own blood, that it may be without spot or blemish, yet hitherto he suffers it to be polluted by many stains. I speak not of the remaining infirmities of the flesh, to which every believer is liable, even after that he has been renewed by the Holy Spirit. But as soon as Christ has gathered a small flock for himself, many hypocrites mingle with it, persons of immoral lives creep in, nay, many wicked men insinuate themselves; in consequence of which, numerous stains pollute that holy assembly, which Christ has separated for himself. Many persons, too, look upon it as exceedingly absurd, that ungodly, or profane or unprincipled men should be cherished within the bosom of the Church. Add to this, that very many, under the pretense of zeal, are excessively displeased, when every thing is not conducted to their wish, and, because absolute purity is nowhere to be found, withdraw from the Church in a disorderly manner, or subvert and destroy it by unreasonable severity.

In my opinion, the design of the parable is simply this: So long as the pilgrimage of the Church in this world continues, bad men and hypocrites will mingle in it with those who are good and upright, that the children of God may be armed with patience and, in the midst of offenses which are fitted to disturb them, may preserve unbroken stedfastness of faith. It is an appropriate comparison, when the Lord calls the Church his field, for believers are the seed of it; and though Christ afterwards adds that the field is the world, yet he undoubtedly intended to apply this designation, in a peculiar manner, to the Church, about which he had commenced the discourse. But as he was about to drive his plough through every country of the world, so as to cultivate fields, and scatter the seed of life, throughout the whole world, he has employed a synecdoche, to make the world denote what more strictly belonged only to a part of it.

We must now inquire what he means by the wheat, and what by the tares These terms cannot be explained as referring to doctrine, as if the meaning had been that, when the Gospel is sown, it is immediately corrupted and adulterated by wicked inventions; for Christ would never have forbidden them to labor strenuously to purge out that kind of corruption. With respect to morals, those faults of men which cannot be corrected must be endured; but we are not at liberty to extend such a toleration to wicked errors, which corrupt the purity of faith. 211211     “Mais c’est autre chose de la doctrine: car il ne faut iamais endurer les erreurs meschantes qui corrompent la purete de la foy;” — “but it is quite otherwise with doctrine; for we must never tolerate the wicked errors which corrupt the purity of faith.” Besides, Christ removes all doubt, by saying expressly, that the tares are the children of the wicked one And yet it must also be remarked, that this cannot be understood simply of the persons of men, as if by creation God sowed good men and the devil sowed bad men. I advert to this, because the present passage has been abused by the Manicheans, for the purpose of lending support to their notion of two principles. But we know that whatever sin exists, either in the devil or in men, is nothing else than the corruption of the whole nature. As it is not by creation that God makes his elect, who have been tainted with original sin, to become a good seed, but by regenerating them through the grace of his Spirit; so wicked men are not created by the devil, but, having been created by God, are corrupted by the devil, and thrown into the Lord’s field, in order to corrupt the pure seed.




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