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s. Whose fan is in his liand, and he will thoroughly purge his
floor, and gather his wheat into the garner : but he will burn ap the chaff with unquenchable fire." Mat, iii. 12.
The main central idea contained in this versc, and that which we understand thereby, is easy and familiar to our senses, and signifies a change from a state of nature. While wheat is growing in the field, it is encompassed with chaff; this is its natural state, which shews the natural state of man in ishich he is encompassed with the imperfections of Adam the first, who was made subject to vanitr. When the wheat is brought into the floor, it is for the purpose of taking its substance from its state of nature, that it may be the better prepared for acceptable use ; by which we are taught that circumstance into which God will bring the creature. For, as I have before represented the crcature by the tree cut off from its root, so now we see him represented by wheat rept down, or cut off from the stock on which it grew in the field, and lying on the floor.
Here pause, and open Four bible to Micah iv. 11, 12, 13, and learn the intention of the Lord in bringing the enemies of Zion into his floor'as sheaves. The daughter of Zion is commanded to arise and thresh; for which purpose, God promises to make her horn iron and her houghs brass, that thereby many people might be beaten to pieces, but their gain was to be consecrated unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth: So as wheat is the substance of the growth, it is to be gathered into the garner of Christ, which is the church, or covenant represented by Sarah, or Jerusalem which is above.
which is the mother of us all. “ But lie shall burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." We cannot conceive of more than one anquenchable fire, and that one is God, as it is written, our God is a con suming fire ; it cannot be supposed that this fire is quenchable, neither can we with propriety suppose another unquenchable fire, as that would be supposing another nature equal to God himself.
This fire is often alluded to in scripture, but Isaiah xxxiii. 14. is sufficient with the other hints already given: there the question is asked, “ Who among us shall dwell with devouring fire ? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings ? And in the 15th verse the question is answered: ** He that walketh righteously,” &c. By which we learn, that unholiness cannot abide this fire, nor the wicked in the character of sinfulness, but purity and holiness ; and men, in that character, may dwell even on high, and their place of defence be the munition of rocks, to whom bread shall be given, and waters be sure.
ILLUSTRATION. The common use which has been made of this parable, is the same which has been made of the former; and it is evident that they were both spoken on one subject, and that their meaning is similar.
By wheat, in this text, commentators in general understand righteous men, and by chaff, wicked men; by gathering the wheat into the garner, meant the receiving of the righteous into heaven and eternal happiness, and by burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire, is meant the future eternal, unmerciful punishment into which the wicked
ll be cast.
Ås this use of the text is as dishonorable to the Saviour, and as tormenting to man as any use that could possibly be made of the text, the reader will not be surprised if there should appear to be no relation between the text, with the context, and the common use which divines have made of it. What do our divines mean by the righteous ? Answer, those who have been regenerated and born again. What were they before ? Answer, children of wrath even as others. If an unconverted man be chaff, and this same man by con. version become wheat, then chaff is converted into wheat. Why then does the text say that the wheat is to be gathered into the garner, but the chaff burned
up with unquenchable fire ? Would a grower of wheat burn his chaff, if he could convert it into wheat, especially if he could procure no wheat but by the conversion of chaff? Again, what analogy can any body see between the ideas of the burning up of chaff, and the future eternal, unmerciful punishment of wicked men? The burning up of chaff surely means a total destruction of chaff. Who would pretend that chaff could be burnt UP in a fire, and still remain chaff as before? As it is easy for the reader to see the impropricty of converting chaff into wheat, or of burning up the chalf in unquenchable fire, and having the chaff still remain chaff in the fire eternally, so it is equally casy to see the total want of any relation between the test and the use which divines have made of it.
In the notes on this parable the reader may see their analogy with the text, the context, and the gencral tenor of the gospel. Man is represented in two characters in the scriptures, as may be seen in St. Paul's Ist epistle to the Corinthians, xy. 45,
46, 47, 48, 49. “ And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit
. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the carth, earthy ; the second man is the Lord from heaven. And as is the earthy, such are they also that are carthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the carthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." As wheat is encompassed with chaff while growing in the field, so are mankind encompassed with the imperfections of the first man, Adam ; and as the wheat is separated from the chaff, so the gospel dispensation is designed to separate mankind from all the imperfections of this natural statc, and perfect the whole in Christ, the second man, who is the Lord from beaven.
It may be well for the reader to open his bible and read the context, and observe that fire is spoken of in verses 10, 11, 12. In the 10th verse John says that every tree which bringeth pot forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire ; in the 11th verse he tells the Pharisees that Christ should baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire ; and in the 12th he says that Christ will burn пр the chaff with unquenchable fire. From these passages it is evident that the fire into which the trees were to be cast, the fire with which the Saviour baptizes, and the fire which burns up the chaft, are the same fire. And as this is the fire which accompanies the Holy Ghost, in its quicker ing and life giving operations, it is perfectly consistent with the text and context to suppose that this
unquenchable fire is the fire of divine love, which is God himself, for God is love. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. This eternal, unquenchable fire of divine love is the great love which St. Paul speaks of to the Ephesians, chap. ii. 4. &c. “ But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.” Rom. v, 8. " But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while wę were yet sinners, Christ died for us." These scriptures show us as plainly as can be expressed, that God loves his offspring, man, while he is a sinner, even while he is dead in sins. Where then can be the propriety of explaining the above parable, or any other, to prove and enforce the idea that God will punish eternally, and unmercifully, those his offspring, whom he loves with an unquenchable love?
It is honed that none into whose hands these notes may fall, are so blinded by the unwarrantable prejudices of education, as not to see that to explain this and other parables to mean the final reconciliation, purification, and complete sanctification of sinners, is more consistent with the general tenor of the gospel than the contrary idea.
I said above, that the idea generally entertained of this parable, was the most dishonorable to the Saviour, and tormenting to man, of any to which the text could be applied, and I am satisfied that the statement is correct, and that no person will undertake to controvert it in any way by which they can conveniently be answered. To suppose that he who was seat of God, for the express purpose of saving sinners, to which end all power in heaven and on earth are committed to him, will