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so plain, for the subjects of Christ live in the world, and may enjoy the blessings of his reign in every part of it, and the territory of every kingdom is where the subjects live under the government of their king. So we perceive that the kingdom of heaven is not the church, and that in this parable, the church is not at all the subject of comparison; in short, that it has in reality no more to do with it than holiness has to do with the Pope of Rome. Being therefore always applied to a wrong subject, it has always been misunderstood, or rather not understood at all; nay, for want of a correct definition it has been a means of confusion and the occasion of erroneous views and practices.
It is worthy, however, of inquiry here, if this parable of the darnel in the field, do not apply to the church, how does it apply to the kingdom of heaven as we have now defined it? This inquiry brings us to the consideration of the 3d case in which comparisons may produce confusion-viz. Where the comparison is applied to a part of the subject to which it was not intended to be applied. This is indeed equivalent to applying it to a wrong subject; for, as every parable relates to a particular subject, and all subjects have various parts, and may be looked at in various poin's of view, so every parable or comparison has some particular part of that subject to illustrate, and will only confuse the mind and lead to error, if applied to the whole subject, or 10 any other part of it, than that which it is intended to elucidate. In this respect, a parable reseinbles a painting, which can give but one side of an object; it may be a front, back, or side view, but it cannot present all sides. Or it may be compared to a lamp shining upon an opaque body; it cannot shine upon all sides at the same time; but if one part is illuminated, others are left in the shade. Yet as we can, by a series of paintings, display all sides of an object; and as the whole of an opaque body can be illuminated by surrounding it with lamps, so every part of a subject may be illustrated by a series of appropriate comparisons. Hence the necessity for so many parables to illustrate one subject—the kingdom of heaven. *
To what part, then, of the kingdom of heaven relates the parable of the darnel in the field? Can we apply it to the king? No: this is wholly out of the question. Can we apply it to the subjects? This would be equally incorrect; for though the subjects might be fitly represented by the wheat, they cannot be supposed to be like the field, and the comparison is between the kingdom of heaven and a field cortaining both wheat and darnel. In what particular, then, we repeat, does the kingdom of heaven resemble such a field? Certainly, as it regards its territory. And this is just the explanation given of it by the Saviour—“The field,” says he, is, or represents "the world," which is the territory of that kingdom. We can now perceive the whole beauty of the parable. The main purpose of it is to show that in the territory of the kingdom of heaven the righteous and the wicked must be perinitted to remain together till the end of the world;——that a separation cannot be made sooner; else, as Paul says, "we must needs go out of the world” For “the darnel cannot be rooted out without tearing up also the wheat.' If the Lord Jesus would descend in flaming fire, with all his holy angels, to reap the "harvest of the earth,"'* and to take vengeance on those who know not God and obey not the go-pel, while the rightrous and the wicked are mingled together as at present, both being equally susceptible of injury, would equally suffer—both would be destroyed. But at that time, says the Apostle, the sainis "shall be caught up to meel the Lord in the air," and thus be far removed from danger. Till this "reaping time” has come, however, it seems they are to remain together. And why not? Do we not know that people may live in the territory of a kingdom without being subjecis? How many thousands live in the territory of Great Britain who are not subjects of King Williamt-foreigners, strangers, aliens, who yield no homage, and own no allegiance? So is it in the kingdom of heaven As it régurds its territory, every one is in the kingdom of heaven; but every one is not in the church—every one is not a subject! Nay, the aliens and rebels are by far the most numerols, and many false kings exercise dominion over different portions of this territory, and even oppress the people of God, during this the suffering state of Christianity; but the time will come wlien the rightful sovereign shall be revealed, the “Lord of Lords," the “King of Kings,” who is called also the “Blessed and Only Potentate”- the "King of Sainis;" when he “shall cause his enemies who would not have" him to "rule over them," to be slain before him, and “shall reign before his ancients gloriously.” Then shall the righteous shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father!
* There is perhaps no point or trait in the kingdom of heaven which the Saviour han not illustrated hy a comparison It would he both pleasing and profitable to draw out an analysis of the kingdom, marking the true application of the parable, to its various parts, and racing accurately every point of resemblance.
How perfect, then, how strikingly descriptive is the parable! How important the lesson which it teaches! How joyful the truth which it confirms! Let us then rejoice, for this territory is ours
ars—this beauiiful earth with all her green valleys, and her lofty mountains, “rock-ribb’d and ancient as the sun;" with all her pleasant islands and mighty continents, her boundless oceans and her winding streams; with all her fields and forests, her fruits and flowers—this world is ours! Thanks * See Revelations, chap. xiv. 14–20.
| Written in April, 1834.
be to God! Well, indeed, may we say with the Apostle, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things!"
To return, however, to our subject:—We have seen that parables have each some peculiar point of application, and that if applied to any other, they produce obscurity and lead to error. Of this we have other instances in the parables which follow that of the tares of the field. In the two immediately succeeding, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a grain of muslard-seed which became a great tree; and to leaven, which, hid in three measures of meal, increased until the whole became leaveued. These evidently illustrate the great increase, from a small beginning, of the kingdom of heaven as it regards subjects.They have no relation to the king, territory, laws, privileges, or any thing else belonging to the kingdom, but to this single point alone, and consequently would be without meaning if applied to any other. The three following parables, delivered to the disciples alone, also afford examples of this. In the first, he compares the kingdom of heaven to treasure hid in a field, which, when a man has discovered, he conceals the discovery, and for joy thereof sells all that he has and buys that field.” In the second, he compares it to "a pearl extremely precious, which a merchant, in quest of fine pearls, having found, sold all that he had and purchased it.” In these the only point illustrated is the value of the kingdom. For, as we have before observed, one kingdom may be more valuable than another, and more to be desired, as it regards the privileges to be enjoyed in it, the perfection of the government, and the happiness of the subjects. In the third, it is Jikened to a sweep-net cast into the sea, which encloses fishes of every kind, &c., which are separated when it is drawn ashore. This exhibits the same point as the parable of the darnel in the field. The territory of the kingdom is as a sweep-net, &c., containing good and bad, which are to be separated at the end of the world. “Then,” says he, “the angels" (before compared to reapers gathering the darnel from among the wheat) “will come and separate the wicked from among the righteous, and throw them into the burning furnace; weeping and gnashing of teeth shall be there.” Having the subject thus plainly before them, the disciples, it appears, understood these parables; and when Jesus inquired, “Do you understand these things?” they replied, “Yes, Master."
While we are speaking of the error of attempting to apply a parable to every part of a subject, while it relates only to a single part of it, it may be well to notice another error connected with it-viz. that of seeking to find an application for every part of the parable. There are
many things introduced into parables, par icularly when these are drawn out in the form of short historical narrations, which have no applicazion whatever to the subject of comparison, though they are very necessary to the parable itself. These are like the ground or the drapery of a portrait, which forms no part of the person or figure represented, but serves to beautify the picture and render the portrait itself more conspicuous. Thus in the parable of the mustard-seed, it is represented as becoming a tree, and we are told that “the birds of the air took shelter in iis branches.” Now what have these birds to do with the kingdom of heaven? Just nothing at all! Spiritualizers, it is true, have found many an application for them, and displayed their ingenuity in furbishing up a fine story about the tree being the church and the birds representing the sinners as resting in it during dark seasons, &c. &c., for the parables have always afforded great scope for the exercise of the imaginative faculties. But the purpose for which these birds are introduced is extremely plain, being merely to impress the mind more strongly with the fact that the small mustard-seed had grown into a large tree; of which, its being capable of affording shelter to the birds is adduced as proof, thus constituting the imagery or drapery. Again, the case of the man who found the treasure and concealed the discovery of ir, has given rise to many wise conceits; and some, in this day of "seeking religion" and "getting religion," have supposed that when a person discovered where "religion” is to be got, like the man with his treasure, he should keep it a profound secret until he has helped himself. But the kingdom of heaven is compared to the treusure; and how greatly it enhances the value of that supposed treasure in our eyes, when we are told that he who found it was so alisious to secure it, that he carefully concealed the discovery until he had made the field his own? This is just what we would expect hini to have done: for had he made it known, some one might have antici. pated him in the purchase, and he would thus have been deprived of a treasure, to obtain which he willingly parted with all he possessed.
We come now to the 4th and last case which we have mentioned in which comparison may lead to error- viz. Where the object selected for comparison is mistaken for the subject itself
This case is most likely to occur where symbols are employed, and we have several examples of it in the New Testament. On one occa. sion the Saviour said to his disciples, (Matth. xvi) Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” On which they said, reasoning among themselves, “This is because we have brought no loaves with us," fopposing the leaven itself to be the subject of which he spoke. But Jesus said to them, “How is it that you do noi understand that I
spoke not concerning bread, when I bade you beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? Then they understood that he cautioned them not against the leaven which the Pharisees and Sadducees used in bread, but against their doctrine.” The woman of Samaria fell into the same mistake when she supposed the Saviour to mean literal water when he spoke of "living water.” Accordingly sha spoke of the well being deep-of his having no bucket, and finally expressed a desire to obtain some of that water, that she might never be thirsty, nor have the trouble of coming to draw. The Roman Ca. tholics also have committed the same blunder: for they, when it suits their purpose, are quite ready to jasist that the scriptures mean what they say;" and in endeavoring to substantiate transubstantiation, are wont triumphantly to ask, “Does not Christ say this [bread) is my body?"! Yes, we would reply, most assuredly he does!—and just as certainly he says in another place, “I am bread." Now the same argument which will prove that the bread and wine are the real flesh and blood of Christ, will prove that he himself was bread, and consequenily possessed of neither flesh nor blood. 'To such absurdities are men driven from ignoranre of the common figures and rules of language!
It would seem, then, that the phrase "ithe scriptures mean what the say,” is not correct, if when we say it, we mean what we say.For when they speak figuratively and symbolically, they do actually say one thing and mean another; and though in order to know what tiey do mean we must certainly first know what they say, yet it is equally necessary to know how they say i:: that is, whether they speak literally or figiratively. This being determined, they are of course to be understood according to the common rules of language, and just as we understand each other. It is therefore more correct to say, "The scriptures speak as those to whom they were written were wont to speak—they are in the language of men, and are to be interpreted not by ihe power of imagination, but according to the laws that govern language.'
But we must conclude for the present. We trust that we have ascertained that parables or comparisons are eminen ly fitted for illustration, and that we have sufficiently explained the circumstances which sometimes cause them not only to fail of this, but to become a means of involving the mind in uncertainty, and, like ignis futui, rather to lead into the quagmire of errür, than, like a steady and brilliant lamp, to guide us to the firm and everlasting abode of truth.