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4. The tares are the children of the wicked one.' Who are signified by the children of the wicked one ?
5. The enemy that sowed them is the devil. What is here meant by the devil?
6. The harvest is the end of the world (aion.) Vers. 39, 40. What world is here meant ?
7. The reapers are the angels. are these?
8. Those signified by the tares were to be cast into a furnace of fire," ver. 42. What was this furnace of fire?
9. The righteous, after the destruction of the wicked, were to shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who were these righteous?
In regard to the first question there will be no dispute, that by the son of man Jesus intended himself. This was one of the common terms by which he made himself known.
The field in which the tares and wheat were both planted, was the world. Here the word world is a translation of the Greek word kosmos, which usually signifies the material universe; and world, therefore, is to be understood in its usual sense, in the instance before us.
It next devolves on us to consider who are intended by the "children of the kingdom." It is a fact well known to every Biblical student, that the Hebrews made a peculiar use of the terms son and child, and adopted them to signify any kind, and almost every kind of relation whatsoever. Hence
1 The word one is here supplied by the translators, and may, of course, be ommitted, if we think the sense does not require it.
2 The following passage from Prof. Stuart's Letters to the Rev. Dr. Miller, is the best illustration we can offer in support of what is here said.
"The word son was a favorite one among the Hebrews and was
'children of the kingdom' may signify either those to whom the kingdom was preached, or those who had actually embraced the gospel, and entered into it. In Matt. viii. 12, we read that "the children of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness.” Here the unbelieving Jews are called the 'children of the kingdom,' because the kingdom of Christ was designed first for the Jews, and preached first to them; and hence, when the woman of Canaan came to Jesus, he declared that he was not sent
employed by them to designate a great variety of relations. The son of any thing, according to oriental idiom, may be either what is closely connected with, dependent on it, like it, the consequence of it, worthy of it, &c. But this view of the subject must be explained by actual examples from the Scriptnres. The following, I have selected from the Old and New Testaments.
"The son of eight days,' i. e. the child that is eight days old; the son of one hundred years,' i. e. the person who is one hundred years of age; the son of a year,' i. e. a yearling; the son of my sorrowing, i. e. one who has caused me distress; the son of my right hand,' i. e. one who will assist, or be a help to me; 6 son of old age, i. e. begotten in old age; son of valour,' i. e. bold, brave; 'son of Belial, [literally, son of good-for-nothing] i. e. a worthless man; son of wickedness,' i. e. wicked; son of a murderer,' i. e. a murderous person; son of my vows,' i. e. son that answers to my vows; son of death,' i. e. one that deserves death; son of perdition,' i. e. one that deserves perdition; son of smiting,' i. e. one that deserves stripes; son of Gehenna,' i. e. one that deserves Gehenna; son of consolation,' i. e. one fitted to administer consolation; 'son of thunder,' i. e. a man of powerful energetic eloquence or strength; son of peace,' i. e. a peaceable man ; son of the morning,' i. e. the morning star; son of the burning coal,' i. e. sparks of fire, son of the bow,' i. e. an arrow, son of the threshing floor,' i. e. grain, son of oil,' i. e. fat; son of the house,' i. e. a domestic slave; 6 son of man,' i. e. man as it is usually applied, but perhaps in a sense somewhat diverse in several respects as applied to our Saviour. Such is the wide extent of relation, similarity, connexion, &c. which the term 6 " son is employed to designate in the Hebrew, and in the idiom of the New Testament, a latitude far greater than is given to it in occidental languages, and which no one who is not conversant with the Hebrew, can scarcely estimate in an adeqnate
but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and that it was not meet "to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs. Matt. xv 24, 26. We know of but one other sense which we can affix to the phrase children of the kingdom' in the parable before us-it must signify these who had actually and heartily embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, and who are said Matt. xxv. 34 to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.'
The tares represented the children of wickedness, which, as we have shown, simply signifies wicked persons. These were such as had been incorporated into the church, and mixed with the sincere followers of Christ, and we find them referred to under various figures, in several of his parables. At the time the son of man sent forth his angels, they were to gather out of his kingdom all things which offend, and them which do iniquity,' which plainly shews that Jesus intended such →persons as had professed to know him, but were unfaithful disciples.
Who did Jesus mean by the devil, that mixed the children of wickedness with his sincere and faithful followers? The Greek word diabolos signified an adversary in general; and was very often applied to human beings, instances of which are frequently occurring in the New Testament. In the instance before us, we suppose it to refer to that perverse and wicked spirit, so opposite to the true spirit of Christ, which led men to say Lord, Lord, while they performed not the will of God, and which induced them to profess to serve a master to whom they were not faithful.
To what time did Jesus refer by the harvest" which he said should take place at the end of the
(aion) world? Ver.39,40. By the answer to this question, it is settled whether the event of this parable refer to the future existence of mankind, or whether it had its proper fulfillment at the time of the destruction of the Jewish state. The phrase rendered 'end of the world' is sunteleia tou aionos, and signifies literally, the conclusion of the age. The same expression occurs Heb. ix. 26, where we read that Jesus appeared, at the conclusiou of the age, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. As Christianity may be said to have begun when the Jewish religion ended, so Christ is said to have appeared at the end of the Jewish age. The apostle Paul stated, that the end of the age had happened in his day, "Upon whom the ends of the ages (ta tele ton aionon) are come." 1 Cor. x. 11. The same subject is again spoken of Matt. xxiv. 3, where we are informed, that the disciples asked the Saviour, what should be the sign of his coming, and of the conclusion of the age, (sunteleias tou aionos.) He speaks of the end of that age, in verses 6, 13, 14 of the same chapter, and after pointing them to such signs as would infallibly enable them to discern its approach, he adds, ver. 33, Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. On the strength of this testimony, plain, clear and incontrovertible, we say that the harvest' took placé, at the conclusion of the Mosaic age; and we add, that there is not an instance in the New Testament, in which the Greck phrase, rendered, 'end of the world' in the parable on which we are remarking, has any other signification. It never should be forgotten, that the 'end of the world,' vers. 39, 40, at which the harvest was to take place, was not the end of kosmos, the world said to be the field, but the end of aion,
the age, and unquestionably clusion of the Jewish state. signed the harvest' to the made more evident by the noticed.1
referred to the conBut that we have asproper time, will be next particular to be
1 To shew that this interpretation of the parable is not peculiar to the denomination of Christians to which the author is well known to belong, the attention of the reader is invited to the following facts:
Dr. Hammond, a most loyal member of the English church, who flourished nearly two centuries ago, translates the phrase sunteleia tou aionos, conclusion of the age,' and he makes it refer primarily to the then solemn and approaching time of the visitation of the Jews. Paraphrase and Annotations in loco.
Adam Clarke, who as every body knows was zealously devoted to the doctrines of the Methodist church, closes his remarks on the parable by saying, "Some learned men are of opinion, that the whole of this parable refers to the Jewish state and people; and that the words sunteleia tou aionos, which are commonly translated the end of the world, should be rendered the end of the age, viz. the end of the Jewish polity. That the words have this meaning in other places, there can be no doubt; and this may be their primary meaning here;" but he adds that there are some particulars in the parable which agree better with the consummation of all things, but he does not tell us what those particulars are. Com. in loco.
The great commentator Pearce, Bishop of Rochester, translates sunteleia tou aionos, "end of this age, viz. that of the Jewish dispensation." "This is spoken,', he adds, "not of what is to happen at the end of the world, but of what was to happen at the end or destruction of the Jewish state. In a note to ver, 41 he says, “I have explained this and the foregoing verse, as relating not to the end of the world; but to that of the Jewish state, which was to be destroyed within forty years after Jesus's death: for the same manner of expression is made use of, when it is more certain, that not the time of the general judgment, but that of the visitation of the Jews is meant, viz. in Matt. xvi. 27, 28 where it is said, the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." This last verse, accomplished in one of the apostles at least (I mean John) plainly shews, that all the phrases used in the first verse were designed to express only the destruction that was to befal the Jewish state: at which time the Christians, who endured to the end, were to be saved, Matt. x. 22 and xxiv.