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Not finding this interpretation clear, we will look at the other, which states the children of the wicked one to be wicked people. This is a natural conclusion. But we are asked, did the devil produce them? Answer, he did. The enemy that sowed them is the devil. They are the children of the wicked one; and it is a natural idea, that a child is produced by its father. So the devil produced the Jews; for Christ said he was their fa. ther, and they did his works.
By this time our querist, whoever he may be, if he believes in revelation, is willing to have an explanation introduced. The Jews, he will say, were virtually the children of God, but in character, the children of the devil. We ask, are not the expressions as strong that the Jews were the children of the devil,as those mentioned in the parable? They evidently are. Then where is the absurdity of considering the tares, which are explained to be the children of the wicked one, and sowed by the devil, to be wicked people? In the sense in which the devil is their father, in the same sense he produced them. If he be their father only as it respects their wicked conduct, it is in this sense only that be produced them. To consider the tares, therefore, to represent wicked people, we find nothing repugnant to God's being the Creator of all, and all men's being his children as represented in scripture.
We will now notice the time mentioned, when the wicked shall be separated from the just, and punished. The harvest is expressly said to be the end of the world. "As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world." The kingdom of heaven which Christ in this parable compared to good seed sown in a field, undoubtedly represents the state of the church in the present gospel dispensation. As Christ meant to represent his own kingdom, he evidently intended by this world the gospel dispensation so far as it respects men in this life. To account the phrase this world to refer to the time of the law in this instance, would not be applying words properly, unless he was discoursing of the law; the term, this, always refers to the nearest object embraced in a discourse. And be. sides, is the kingdom of heaven, a phrase ever used to represent the law dispensation? If not, the parable must represent the believers and unbelievers, the righteous and the wicked, in the present dispensation of gospel grace. It must likewise represent the separation and misery of the wicked in the day of judgment, which is the end of man's probation in the gospel dispensation, from the righteous, who shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
It is objected by some that Christ meant a true representation of the kingdom of hea
ven by the parable, but intended to predict how his pretended followers would represent it. Such are not willing to allow a future time of separation of the righteous from the wicked; but expect that at the end of this world all will be righteous. They observe that Christ did not say the kingdom of heaven is like, as in parables where no separation is noticed; but said, the kingdom of heaven is likened, putting the word like in the passive form, and leaving it undetermined who has so likened it. Now if we can find a parable where a separation is noticed in which Christ said the kingdom of heaven is like, will not the point be decided that he was the agent by whom it was likened, and that such parables were intended to be a true and not a false representation? Then see Matt. xiii. 47-50, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like, (not is likened by false teachers) unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind which when it was full, they drew to the shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Will any conclude, the wicked means wicked men, and the just means righteous men? Will the wicked wail when wickedness is separated from them?
No; for they must be righteous, and no righteous man will mourn for the loss of his faults. Will wickedness, separated from the sinner, wail, because it is cast into the furnace of fire? It cannot; for separate from the sinner, it cannot exist. The subject must therefore be clear in favor of future punishment.
The next passage to be considered, Matt. xviii. 6, if it be not accounted direct in favor of punishment in future life; yet it must be acknowledged, it imposes a restraint against offences which no disbeliever of future punishment was ever known to use. Were it given to offenders to choose whether they would suffer the usual consequences arising in this life from offending those little ones that believe in Christ, or suffer the exemplary death of sinking in the sea, by the pondrous load of a millstone, it is believed they would readily prefer the former. But Christ has told them, they are in danger of something worse than the latter.
The scripture next following is, Luke xii. 4, 5. Here we are faithfully exhorted not to fear them that kill the body, because after killing the body they can do no more. But we are forewarned to fear him who after he hath killed the body, hath power to cast into hell. There must be then a power to cast into hell, after the killing of the body. Such a power being proved, it proves the power of future misery and punishment. It no longer re
mains in the light of scripture to say it cannot be, when we find a plain allusion to one that is able to execute it.
But perhaps it will be said the ability of our Maker to cast into hell after the killing of the body does not prove that there is any danger of future punishment strictly speaking; or that any will be punished in hell after the body is killed. But it must be acknowledged Christ forewarned to fear God through the medium of this motive. The question then is, whether he used imaginary ideas to terrify and induce to the fear of God, or whether he dealt in simplicity and honesty. Was he like those parents that tell their children, the bears will catch them, when they believe no bears are nigh? Experience has taught the most wise and prudent among men, that it is best in all persuasives to virtue, or dissuasives from vice, which are delivered as precepts that men have opportunity to examine, not to urge them on false and imaginary prin ciples, but on such as are founded in fact.Will they then attribute that to the Savior of men, of which they would not be guilty themselves? It seems they must, to avoid the idea of punishment in future life, from the passage under consideration.
The doctrine of restraint from vice through fear of impending evil, by some is considered useless and absurd. But it is evident it must have its proper use to restrain and deter, as