<< THE TARES AMONG THE WHEAT >>
INFERNAL EFFORTS TO OVERCOME DIVINE INFLUENCES.
24Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?' 28" 'An enemy did this,' he replied. "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' 29" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' ". . . . .36Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." 37He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (MATTHEW XIII: 24-30, 36-43)
Our minds are battle-grounds between good and evil influences. Heaven seeks to win us to its blessings, and hell strives to drag us into its miseries. And the choice between them lies with ourselves.
We notice that this parable somewhat resembles that of “The Sower." And, in fact, there is a close connection between all the parables in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. These parables form a connected and progressive series, showing the progress of regeneration in the good man, and of the confirmation of evil in the bad man.
In the parable of "The Sower," we are taught about the sowing of truth in men's minds, to arouse, in them, a new and spiritual life. That parable treats of the different kinds of reception given to the Lord's truth, by different classes of men.
And now the parable of "The Tares" exhibits the perils which attend the good seed of truth, even after it has been sown in the good soil of a loving heart. These dangers arise from the efforts of evil spirits to counteract the work of the Divine Sower.
In this parable, the trouble is not with the nature of the ground, but with the work of the devils. There are two sowers, the Lord, sowing good seed, for a harvest of heavenly life, and the devil, sowing bad seed, and secretly propagating an infernal life.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
The kingdom of heaven is the Church of the Lord, in the heavens and on the earth; it is wherever the Lord is acknowledged as King, and loved and obeyed as such. It is not merely a place, but also a state, a condition, in , which the Lord's love and wisdom are the ruling principles in men. The Lord, by His holy Word, sows the seeds of His truth in the minds of men. The good seed is the Divine Truth, from the Divine Love; it is truth, carrying within it, as a germ, all heavenly good.
It is said that the good seed are the children of the heavenly kingdom. Personally, these are the regenerate men whose spiritual Father is the Lord, and whose spiritual mother is the Church. Abstractly, the seed is the truth; but men in whom the truth is, are figuratively called the seed, because the seed of truth makes such men to be what they are; the germ of a new life, producing fruit in those men, gives them their characteristic quality. The children of our mental kingdom are our affections and thoughts. The good seed of Divine truth, controlling the character of the regenerate man, makes him a living form of that truth, a human embodiment of that principle.
"The field," where the seed is sown, "is the world." It is the mental world, the natural mind, which is the world's part of man's mind. The principles of good and truth are implanted in the interior parts of man's mind, his spiritual mind; but they must be implanted in his outward or natural mind, also. The Church-militant, on earth, must hold and govern man's natural mind, that he may be prepared for the Church-triumphant, in heaven.
The Lord sows the seed of His holy truth, not only in man's spirit, but also in man's natural mind, that it may grow up, and govern his outward life. The Church is in the world, though not of the world, in its character, not worldly in quality. When our Lord said, "And this gospel shall be preached in all the world, for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come," He meant not only that the gospel should reach all parts of the earth, but also that it should reach and influence all parts of the natural mind, that part of the mind which deals with the things of the world. Then should be “the end” of the unregenerate state, as the man passes into a regenerate condition.
And it is in the world, also, that we come into contact with evil influences. In the heaven of our inward spirit, the angels come to us, and operate upon us, to lead us to heavenly things. But in the mental world of our natural minds, engaged with natural things, evil influences are about us, claiming our attention, and making their suggestions. And thus, in our natural minds, good and evil influences struggle for the mastery. The Lord sows good seed, but the devil sows tares. Thus, it is in the world that we form our character, according to our life.
In our higher and spiritual life, we are spiritually awake. But when we descend into external and natural life, amid the things of the senses, we are, comparatively, asleep; dull and drowsy towards the inward life. This is the sleep indicated in the text.
THE LITERAL MEANING.
In the literal sense, the text refers to a mean act of a cowardly and malicious man, who desired to injure another, and who, in the dead of night, sowed the seeds of an evil weed among the freshly-sown wheat of his victim. The" tares" mentioned in the text are not the plants commonly called tares, for these are often intentionally sown for fodder : and they call be easily distinguished from wheat, at all stages of their growth. The word "zizania," translated "tares," does not occur in the Bible, except in this parable. The common judgment of investigators has decided that "zizania " is the" zowan " of the Arabs of Palestine, the weed called" darnel," which greatly resembles wheat, especially in its early stages of growth. It is also called "bastard wheat."
The danger of rooting up the wheat, with the darnel, is, then, two-fold; a mechanical danger of dragging up the roots of the wheat while pulling up the darnel, and a mental danger of mistaking the growing wheat-plant for the darnel. The darnel seeds are poisonous.
These tares, or darnel, represent false principles, originating in evil, and leading to evil. "The tares are the children of the wicked one;" i. e., they are outbirths of evil and false principles. Or, personally, they are the wicked persons, in whom these false principles are embodied, and who are forms of such false principles.
Thorns, in the parable of" The Sower," represent the spontaneous outgrowth of the unregenerate mind, the lusts of the flesh, the hereditary tendencies toward evil. But the tares are sown in the mind. They represent the false suggestions that are secretly insinuated into the mind, by evil spirits. While the Lord sows truth, the devil sows falsities, even in the good ground.
And the devil does his sowing while men sleep; that is, while they are immersed in the things of the senses, and paying little attention to spiritual things. These suggestions reach us by means of our natural tendencies to evil and falsity. Very naturally, we suppose these suggestions of evil spirits to be our own thoughts. And the enemy goes on his way, unsuspected, We do not recognize the origin of our sensuous thoughts.
It is said that "the enemy that sowed" tares, "is the devil.” The devil is the personal name of the hells. Accurately speaking, the devil is the evil principle of self-love, which opposes the Lord. Every evil man, fixed and confirmed in an evil character, is a devil, because he is a form of self-love, an embodiment of self-love. The old idea of one great personal devil, is an impersonation of the principle of self-love. The language of the Bible concerning the devil is figurative. There is no such devil, who was once an angel in heaven. All devils were once men on earth. Men make themselves to be devils, by perverting the life which the Lord gives them. Hell was made by man, not by the Lord. The devil of self-love is an enemy to men, and to the Lord. Every evil principle in our hearts, and every false thought in our intellects, is an enemy to our souls, and to our Lord. The more we turn to evils, and listen to the promptings of evil spirits, the more we turn away from the Lord, and from heaven. Nothing that any devil would suggest to us could be true, because" he was a liar from the beginning, and there is no truth in him." But the difficulty is to induce us to recognize the fact that the influences which sow wrong notions in our minds are our enemies. While we are asleep in our sensuous indifference to spiritual life, false suggestions seem to promise us pleasure.
See, through the centuries of Church-history, how the devils have sown their tares among the Lord's wheat even in the Churches. Whenever the Church has grown popular and worldly, it has grown to be sleepy in spirit; and the devils have taken advantage of this condition, to sow heretics, and to justify men's sins. How often the devils have done their cunning work, in the name of the Church, and of
the Lord, and then have gone their way, leaving men ignorant of the actual quality of their own characters! The Lord has had to say to the men of the Church, in every age, as He had to say, even to the beloved disciples, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are or."
How often the devils sow their infernal seed of false persuasions in our too-ready minds, when we know not the origin of our thoughts; and when we discover their quality only by their results; knowing them only by their fruits. Our hereditary tendencies to evil attract the presence and the influence of evil spirits.
THE BLADE SPRINGING UP.
" But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares, also." When the truth begins to take root in our minds, and to grow to fruit, making changes in our minds, then we discover, also, the tares: then we, begin to see something of the character of the things which the evil spirits have suggested to us. As the truth begins to affect our will, we see that opposite things, things of selfish and sinful life, have been sown in our natural minds. We knew these things were in our minds, before, but we did not know their real character.
DISCOVERING THE TARES.
"Then appeared the tares, also;" i. e., then it appeared that they were tares. Before that time, we supposed they were wheat. As the tares grow among the wheat, at first they appear alike; but, the more fully each is developed, the more their difference is seen. In their fruit they are most fully distinguished; "By their fruits ye shall know them." We are best able to discover the quality of our own evils and falses, by the growth of good and truth, in our own minds; for these reveal the opposite character of the evils and falses. As we grow to be better, our evils are shown to be worse. A bad man will not give up evil habits, except in the outward appearance, and from policy. But the better a man becomes, the more he feels a repugnance towards his own bad habits.
As the wheat matures and shows its character, the tares show their distinct character. Until we are sufficiently interested in the truth to love it, and to live by it, its influence is not strong enough to reveal to us the real character of our mental" tares." Only from the love of good, can evil be thoroughly distinguished.
But when the servants of the householder discover the tares, they ask, "Didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? Whence then, hath it tares?" In the supreme sense, the Householder is the Lord, who holds our inward house, our mind, in His keeping. He is called, also, the Son of Man, or the Divine Truth. So, in another sense, the householder is the Divine Truth, which holds our inward house, our mind, under its influence.
The servants, who serve the householder, are the knowledges, the teachings which we know, and which serve our mind. These knowledges of truth discover the character of the false suggestions which have also taken root in our natural minds.
As we grow to appreciate, more and more, the character of the truths which the Lord has taught us in His holy Word, the more we discover that certain other things are in our natural mind, suggesting an evil life. And we are surprised. For we know that the Lord sowed good seed in His field, in our mind. "Whence, then, hath it tares?" Why should these evil and false things come up in our minds, to trouble us? We are ready, we think, to uproot these evils and falses.
So we go to the Lord, in His Word, and to the Divine Truth, as it is in our inward minds; and we ask about the state of our minds. We do not doubt our ability, and our entire willingness, to put away all our evil and false things. And our Lord, by His truth, teaches us that these unregenerate things, which begin to show themselves in our minds, are the work of our spiritual enemy, the devil of self-love, which is not yet really and fully conquered, and which attracts the self-love of evil spirits mentally to associate with us.
Our inquiry on the subject is induced by the Lord, Himself, so that we may understand our own human nature, and so that we may more fully acknowledge the Lord as our Adviser and our Master,
The moment a man, from natural self-love, begins to regard as good, anything that is separated from the Lord, then evil is created, in the man's mind. For evil is the perversion of good; it is good separated from its Divine Source, and its quality thus changed to the opposite; as blood, the medium of physical life, in the body, when separated from connection with the heart, becomes a thing of danger and of death.
False ideas are often very much like truths, only they are turned to favor self-love, instead of leading to the Lord. And, in such cases, the man cannot put away such falses, until he reforms his life, and thus restores his connection with heaven and the Lord; and thus comes into condition practically to see the difference between false and true things.
GATHERING THE TARES.
When we first catch a glimpse of the character of the false persuasions which are in our minds, and which we fear will bring forth evil fruits, we are very confident that we can uproot them. With the hasty zeal of novitiates we want to sweep away all things that are not as we think they should be. We would call down fire from heaven upon them.
But our Lord teaches us that we are not yet in condition to do such work thoroughly; and that, in fact, the angels are the ones to do it. .
Look, for instance, at Peter's zeal, when he declared he would follow the Lord through anything, and never forsake Him. And see how Peter was astonished at the Lord's prophecy of his denial. And yet he did deny the Lord, afterwards.
When the servants asked the householder, " Wilt thou, then, that we go and gather them up?" he replied, ., Nay, lest, while ye gather up the tares, ye root up, also, the wheat, with them. Let both grow together, until the harvest." "The harvest is the end of the world;" i. e., the end of worldliness, in us. The general character of the mind keeps pace with regeneration. We cannot put away evil and false things, except as we outgrow them. Notice that the servants knew the tares to be tares; but the time had not come to uproot them. So, when we see the character of our false persuasions, we can understand what they are, and what is to be done with them, when the right time comes.
Take an illustration of the time of uprooting falses. Suppose you see that a false idea has been growing in your mind; and you determine to uproot it, because it is false. But you go to work in your own power, and are self-confident. Now, you think you have expelled the false idea. But you have dragged up, at the same time, your humble, growing trust in the Lord. It would have been better to acknowledge the false character of the falsity, and then to make an effort to outgrow it, in living by the opposite truth, in the name of the Lord. We cannot suddenly expel from our minds all ideas that are not strictly true. But, by a gradual development of the good and true principles of our inward minds, we can outgrow the falses of our natural minds.
For instance, as we grow into an intelligent knowledge of the internal and spiritual meaning of the Scriptures, we outgrow the false ideas that were formed from the merely literal sense. In our earlier stages of regeneration, we are liable to make many mistakes as to what things are false. See, for instance, how many natural-minded men, in their haste to put away false notions, go too far, and uproot from their minds all ideas of a personal God, and of the Divine character of Jesus Christ.
When we learn the Lord's truth, and love it, and live by it, and so form our minds in a good life, we come to harvest. Then the good that is in us, from the Lord, sees the character of the false things in the natural mind; and our hearts are brought into a state of complete aversion towards such falses, As we live ourselves into good and true principles, we live ourselves out of evil and false principles.
Suppose a man finds himself imagining that riches and fame are really good things, for their own sakes Now he cannot put away those ideas, merely by seeing, at times, that they are false. But, as he grows into the love of the neighbor, and the love of being useful, he will outgrow the false notions suggested by a lingering worldliness. The true and the false will be fully separated in the harvest of confirmed goodness. Practically, we can reject false ideas gradually, only, and as our character grows in goodness. And, for this reason, the Lord always protects the freedom of our will; for a man cannot be regenerated until his will consents to the change in character. And to root up the tares, prematurely, would be to force the man's will.
If it were otherwise, men would reject their false ideas, and put away their evil habits, as soon as they once discovered these things to be false and evil. But they do not do so. And, in fact, except in their better moments, they even defend and excuse their false notions and their bad habits. .
But, as the man becomes regenerate, gradually his unregenerate thoughts and habits will be thawed from him, like icicles before the noon-day sun of spring-time. You cannot altogether reject from your mind a falsity, until you reject the evil inclination which delights in that falsity. Of course, a man must, at all times, make an effort to put away all things evil and false. But his success will depend upon how much his heart is in the work. And this will depend upon the state of his regeneration. In fact , he can get rid of the tares, only in so far as he resists the enemy who sows the tares. He must shun evils because they are sins against God. And he cannot do any good, except in the degree in which he shuns evils, and ceases to do evil. But no man will. shun evil because it is sin, until he has learned to love good, and to hate evil. As our hearts grow warm in the love of good, our eyes open more fully in the light of truth; and we see things differently.
In winter you cannot distinguish the living tree from the dead tree, by outward appearance; but the summer, the season of full development, will soon display the condition of the trees. So, in our minds, the light of truth, without the warmth of love, will make little progress in growth. Even in the Church, possessed of the truth, see how many heresies have arisen, and how many evils have been practised, All have the same Bible ; but the devils of self-love, and the love of rule, have sown monstrous tares in the Churches.
WHY ARE TARES PERMITTED?
It may be asked, Why does the Lord permit these tares to be sown? For two reasons: in the first place, men's own hereditary tendencies to evil lay them open to suggestions of evil spirits, and incline them to hear, and to favor, such suggestions. And in the second place, such tares can, in the Divine Providence, be used for the good of men, as temptations, which allow men to see their own tendencies, and thus to put them away. Though men sleep, the Lord never does. "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber or sleep."
As men learn the truth, and seek to live by it, the evil spirits excite men's natural tendencies to evil. Thus men discover their own real condition. And, without this discovery, there could not be any regeneration. Without truth, men would not know their evils to be evils. And without temptations, they would not be able to reject evils. Thus the work of the devils is, in the Divine Providence, turned to the good of the regenerating man.
The Divine Truth acts in judgment, and expels from the man's character all things that are opposite to his ruling-love and his daily life. Divine truths are the angels, who act as the reapers of the harvest. They gather the wheat, the good, into heaven, as the Lord's barn; and they bind the evils and falses into bundles, and burn them; i. e., they set in order, or classify, the various things of our minds, putting every principle of regenerate life in its place, in heaven, and rejecting every infernal principle to its place in hell.
THE FIRES OF HELL, ETC.
The fires of hell are the evil lusts of evil hearts. "All things that offend" are falses: "all things that do iniquity" are evils.
"Wailing" is the sorrow which comes from false principles. "Gnashing of teeth" is the clashing of false reasonings from evil lusts. "But the righteous shall shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father;" i.e., they shall be in the active use and enjoyment of love and wisdom, the heat and the light of the spiritual sun.
The text does not mean that the righteous shall be paraded before the heavens, to make a paltry show of themselves; but that their character shall shine with love and wisdom, and shall exalt the goodness and wisdom of the Lord. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven."
We notice that the servants, representing our knowledges of truth, are not to do the work of separating the good from the evil, in our minds; but that this work must be done by the angels; i. e., by truths confirmed in the life, truth from the heavenly side, not from the earthly side.
We are placed between two kingdoms, heaven and hell. Influences from both kingdoms operate upon us. Seeds from both are sown in our natural minds. As we appreciate the heavenly seed, we need to go on and cultivate it, and not to be cast down by the sight of some tares among our wheat. For, if we press on to the harvest of our good principles, our Lord will give us light and strength to put away the tares. This parable teaches us not to expect that this earth will be, to us, an easy paradise, as soon as our regeneration begins. All things that offend cannot then be plucked from our minds. "In the world, ye shall have tribulation." We must overcome the world in ourselves. Then, like our Lord, we shall find the world our servant, not our master.
OUR FINAL HOME.
The God-given destiny of every man is a home in heaven. That home is open to us, and our place in it is prepared for us, by Divine Love. But whether we shall occupy that place, is a question which we must decide for ourselves, by our life on the earth. The Sower goes forth to sow, in our minds. He sows good seed only. He sows in the bright, warm daylight.
But, at the same time, the cunning devils observe what the Lord is doing for us ; and stealthily, under cover of mental night, in times when we are spiritually asleep, engrossed in the things of the senses, they come upon us, unawares, and sow in our unheeding minds, the infernal seeds of false and evil principles. And we have need to keep ourselves awake to the realities of our human life, that our Lord may succeed in His heavenly work within us; and that the devils may fail ill their infernal schemes. "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887