The Gospel according to Matthew

J. N. Darby.

Chapter 13 with an outline of 1 - 12
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24, 25
Chapter 26, 27
Chapter 28

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{The first part of these notes was originally given as an exposition of Matthew 13, and was so published, translated from the French. But, as even here the exposition gives a general sketch of the preceding chapters, and as I am enabled to add a version of the notes on the chapters which follow, I have ventured so to modify the title as to suit the paper as a whole. The early part dwells only on chapter 13. - Ed.}

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Matthew 13

It is seldom that a chapter of the word is so isolated that we can give the exposition of it without taking account of the connection with what precedes and what follows. There are some which contain a single subject developed enough for us to be able to consider it separately. Sometimes, even a single verse presents some feature of the precious Saviour which may supply matter for meditation during many blessed hours But to unfold the ideas which are presented in a chapter, it is always necessary to consider it in relation to those things with which, according to the intention of the Spirit, it is connected. This is what I shall endeavour to do with regard to the chapter before us.

This Gospel may be called the gospel of the kingdom. That is, it relates the history and discourses of Christ, specially with a view to the establishment of the kingdom of heaven. This thirteenth chapter reveals to us the mysteries of the kingdom.

Let us consider the position in which the revelation of the kingdom was found when the Lord pronounced it; in other words, what were its relations to the Jewish people at that time. With this object, let us review a little the contents of this Gospel.

In the first chapter we find, after the plan of Genesis, Numbers and Chronicles, the genealogy of the royal family, and the two great stems with which the promises were bound up, and from which Christ descended: David and Abraham. The promises were made to the seed of each. The miraculous conception of Jesus, according to the predictions of scripture, is then related.

Next, in the second chapter, we are told of this royal birth (a subject of alarm to Herod, who was in the enjoyment of the Jewish royalty), as well as of testimony and joy to the ends of the earth; the flight of Jesus into Egypt and His return; and in all these circumstances the fulfilment of the prophecies is established.

2 In the following chapter (Matthew 3) the approach of the kingdom of heaven is announced. The prophet warns the people of the wrath to come, from which it was necessary to flee; of the axe which was laid to the root of the trees; then he announces that God was seeking fruits, and that it would be useless to boast of being a child of Abraham, if one produced none. Jesus subjects Himself to the condition of the Jews and receives at the same time the testimony that He is the Son of God. His subjection and humiliation, and the testimony thereupon rendered, and rendered to Himself respecting the glory of His person, are here profoundly instructive.

In Matthew 4, Jesus, thus identified in humiliation with the Jews, and owned as the Son of God by the Father, undergoes the temptation of the enemy who must be conquered and bound, as the strong man, if one would spoil his goods; a temptation suited to the circumstances in which the Messiah stood. Satan seeks to turn the Lord aside from the path of obedience, by urging Him to make use of His glory, or to take it according to His will, and as being Himself in subjection to Satan; by His natural wants, as hunger; by His privileges, that is to say, the promises which had been made to Him (His Jewish privileges or those of Messiah, according to Psalm 91); and by glory in the world, a glory indeed which He will really possess as the gift of God hereafter, even "all the kingdoms of the world"; and all this by prevailing upon Him to deviate from the path of obedience on which He had entered. But in vain. Then Jesus begins, after John is put in prison, to preach the approach of the kingdom, His abode in the place described in Isaiah 9 giving place to the foretold difference between the last afflictions of the Jews and all those which preceded the manifestation of the light of Messiah.* He preaches the gospel of the kingdom and confirms His doctrine, and gives testimony to the glorious truth of His presence, by miracles of goodness which announced the visitation of the God of Israel.

{*When Satan cannot prevail to withdraw the believer from the path of obedience, he begins to act upon his adversaries, and to excite them to opposition and persecution. Jesus retreats before this rejection thus began, and hence becomes the centre of light and blessing, in the midst of the distress of Israel, according to the passage quoted.}

3 Having thus attracted the attention of the multitudes, He unfolds the principles of the kingdom and the effect of the testimony which was to be rendered to Him (Matthew 5-7) Observe, there is no question here about redemption. There is the spirituality of many parts of the law, or rather the application made by Jesus of His ordinances to the heart as well as to acts, and the introduction of the name of the Father as the motive, principle and rule of conduct. Israel is here, as it were, on the way, in danger of being given up to the judge if he agrees not with his adversary. It is the light of heaven which shines on the conduct of men, by means of Him who came from heaven.

In Matthew 8, before the historical dealings with Israel, we have an introductory display of the power come in and its effects. It was Jehovah cleansing the leper or leprosy in Israel, and sending the cleansed one to the priests. It was, since it was Jehovah, that which reached in power over the limits of Israel and shewed that, while Gentiles would come in from east and west, the children of the kingdom would be thrust out. Next He was come down in gracious participation in all their sorrows and infirmities; but hence withal, having no place amongst men; but in the midst of the tossings and heavings through which those who were content to identify themselves with this rejected One for His own sake must pass, they were secure by that very fact in all, in the same boat with Him who was there in divine power and counsels, however low He might be come. This was the place of the remnant. As to the others, they would turn Him away; but Israel, left to the power of Satan, would rush as unclean headlong to destruction. Such is the whole history of the coming of Messiah, Jehovah, Jesus. Note here, we have not the demoniac sent back to tell of the power which had healed him. For it is the ministry of the Lord which is pointed out, and its course, reception and effect. Hence this is the connection of these events in order to present the history of the Lord's presenting Himself. It is in a certain sense complete in itself.

In Matthew 9 He continues to labour personally in the ministry of the kingdom. Acknowledged as the Son of David by the blind men, and received by the multitudes with admiration, He is accused by the jealousy of the Pharisees of casting out devils by the prince of the devils; but the time of grace towards this poor people was not yet over. When Jesus sees the multitudes, He has compassion upon them; they were as sheep without a shepherd.

4 In Matthew 10, as the Lord of the vineyard, He sends His disciples to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," to declare to them that the kingdom was at hand; a prefiguration (so to speak) of the transmission of this ministry to His disciples, when He should have been Himself rejected. But there is no question of any but Israel. They were not to go into the way of the Gentiles. Nevertheless, on account of this general mission, the Lord, in His directions and encouragements, expresses Himself in a manner which might serve them as a guide in all circumstances wherein they might be found, whether in their actual mission, or during His absence from the earth: still, He regards their mission simply as a mission to Israel, whether then, or even at the last times. They were not to have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man should have come. The capture of Jerusalem has deferred that event until God resumes His labours towards Israel.

The Lord, resuming His labours of love, recounts, on the occasion of the arrival of the disciples of John, all the history of that work among the Jews (Matthew 11). John Baptist, himself, takes the place of a disciple instead of that of a prophet, and the Lord bears testimony to him, instead of receiving testimony from him. The kingdom of heaven, instead of being established in power, being rejected, is invaded by violence only, in defiance of difficulties and the opposition of men; for the Jews, whether one had lamented or piped to them, had not responded to the testimony of God. The rejection of Jesus, a rejection which He accepts with entire submission, is explained by this: only the Father could know the Son, and only the Son could reveal the Father. The Messiah disappears, so to speak, in His glory too pure for man to receive. But grace only springs up in greater abundance, and all things having been delivered to the Son, it is no longer a question about the Messiah of the Jews. He invites all those who are "weary and heavy laden" to come to Him. It is a chapter of the highest interest.

Hereupon in Matthew 12 the Lord breaks with the Jews decidedly. He is Lord of the sabbath given as a sign of the covenant with them, the Lord in grace, but still Lord. The Pharisees seek to kill Him. He hides Himself, and the light of the Gentiles begins to dawn in the testimony of God. Acknowledged anew by an astonished people as the Son of David, the Pharisees put the seal to their iniquity and their condemnation, in again attributing His works to the power of the prince of the devils. Thereupon Jesus pronounces their judgment: the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is not pardoned. The sign asked for by the perverse generation is refused them: there shall no other sign be given them than the sign of the prophet Jonas. Even the people of Nineveh and the queen of the South shall condemn them, and at last the unclean spirit that had gone out of the people shall return into them with other more wicked spirits, and its last state shall be worse than the first.* Such will be the end of the generation that rejected the Saviour. Thereupon He renounces the ties of nature which connected Him, as the Messiah after the flesh, with this people, and acknowledges no other relationship than obedience to His Father.

{*I believe this will be verified in the idolatry of the Jews under Antichrist, in the last days.}

5 This rapid sketch of the contents of these twelve chapters of the precious revelation of God will shew us the importance of the position of chapter 13, at which we are now arrived, and which is to occupy us more particularly. It is based on the rejection of the Son of man, the Messiah, by the self-righteousness of Israel; and, in fact, on the judgment passed on the latter in consequence of this rejection of the Heir of the promises.

Wherefore, addressing Himself the same day to the multitudes, Jesus appears as no more seeking fruit. It was no longer a question of His vine or His fig-tree. He sows - He is a sower. He finds nothing: He brings with Him that which by His grace may spring and produce fruit. He fully distinguishes His disciples; to them it is given to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, which is not granted to the multitudes whose heart is made fat. He speaks to them in parables - a precious light for the remnant led of God; darkness to the people led of their own blindness.

Here, then, the Lord takes the place of a sower, and the word falls, here and there, on every kind of ground. But, having taken this character, it is no longer a question about the Jews merely (there one would have sought fruit), but, in principle, about every hearer of the word. However, we have not here the unity of the church, the body of Christ, in heaven, but His work on earth; and then, after that, the forms which the kingdom and the judgment connected with it, on the earth, should take. I would not say that the consequences of that would not go further, but herein is contained the subject of this chapter. It was sowing time, because there was nothing. Every individual that heard bore fruit according to the nature of the ground where the seed fell. For here we have, not the secrets of the efficacy of the grace of God, but the responsibility of man, and the outward effects that would follow in consequence of the work wrought in this world. Thus the word was "the word of the kingdom," - the testimony borne to the rights of Christ by the grace of God - the proclamation of the establishment of the authority of God on the earth - in grace it might be, but still requiring the subjection of man. The kingdom thus proclaimed had a moral character, because it was the kingdom of God, having precious promises and a security which was beyond all price. But it was, at the same time, the kingdom of the heavens whose authority was to be established over the earth, the government of God here below, and His work in respect of this government; and not the church united to Christ in heaven.

6 Still, in this first parable the Lord does not present a similitude of the kingdom of the heavens, although the word was "the word of the kingdom," because here the question is not about the effects and results of the seed generally, under the government of God, but about the fact of the sowing and the individual result, according to the ground where the seed fell. As far as the work of the sower was concerned, it was an affair of individuals. The result would be a whole, which would indeed require a work of separation, but which was nevertheless meanwhile a whole. The work did not adopt the Jewish corporality as its- ground; it did not acknowledge the ancient vineyard. A sower sowed, and each grain, so to speak, had such or such an effect in the heart where it fell. Herein there was an important point in the work, or in the preaching of the kingdom; individuality and individual responsibility.* This was a principle, moreover, always true, but which the work itself brought out, - which was at the root of the work, because God and man were fully manifested. It was not merely a question about the government of a people; but the first principle, the basis of Christianity, was to be that each one should bear his own burden. Grace unites those who have received this seed with good effect, for the life is common and the Spirit is one. Still, each one receives for himself, and cannot withdraw himself from his own responsibility in that respect; a responsibility which has reference, not only to his moral conduct as a man, but to the reception of the testimony which the activity of the love of God comes to scatter, like seed among men, upon the heart. The principle of individual responsibility was ever true for the purpose of eternal judgment, and must be so if God is judge! He will judge every man; nevertheless, it was not the principle on which the Jewish system was based here below; but, after the rejection of the Messiah by this people, this principle was brought out, and connected itself with the only thing which remained as a ground of relationship between God and man; namely, the testimony of His love and the revelation of His claims upon the heart.

{*It is a principle which Popery completely destroys, by putting the church and the acknowledgment of its authority before the reception of the word under individual responsibility, while still, in the end, it leaves to every man his own burden. It is the church making war against God, and not the fruit of the blessing to which man is called.}

7 I forbear to enter deeply into the meaning of this first parable, not because it is unimportant (far from it), but only because I think it must have been so often dwelt upon, both in public and in private, in the presence of the readers of these pages, that it is hardly necessary. The only thing that I will repeat here is, that what we have presented is not a doctrinal explanation of the origin of good, but the actual work, and its actual result under the responsibility of man - the facts of the new dispensation, and not the counsels of God.

That which distinguishes the good ground, as far as the reception of the word is concerned, is a man's understanding the word. In the contrary case, strictly speaking, he does not understand it: in the two other cases, there is the appearance of it, but no fruit: here one regards nothing but fruit.

Thus far, we have only "the word of the kingdom." In the six following parables we have similitudes of the kingdom itself, or the forms which the kingdom takes after the rejection of the king on the earth, and in consequence of the word being sown. It is easy to distinguish them into two parts; namely, the three first and the three last with the explanation of one of the first. The former are addressed to the multitudes; the latter, to the disciples apart. The former, it seems to me, present to us the exterior of the kingdom in the world, its state such as the world views it, without absolutely pronouncing the judgment of God thereupon. They are historical, as we have already seen. The latter give us the thoughts and intentions of God in the kingdom which exists here, and the result of this external whole. The efficacy of grace is never touched upon in this chapter; it is a history and not an explanation of doctrine.*

{*In the three first, it is the actual result of the seed in the world. In the three last, it is the powerful motive which governed the heart of him who was led by this motive according to the secret of God.}

8 It will be remarked that we find here, as in many other places, when the Spirit would present to us some general view of the thoughts of God, the perfect number of seven, divided, as is generally the case, into four and three - four parables addressed to the multitudes, and three to the disciples.

I have said that the three first parables present to us the exterior, the aspect of the kingdom towards the world; but that does not prevent a spiritual man discerning the principles which are there at work, nor his judging them according to the mind of God; on the contrary, it is what we ought constantly to do, in order to walk rightly according to the wisdom of God.

However, I shall chiefly concern myself with the explanation of that which occurs in the parable itself. The first idea which is presented to us of the kingdom thus described in these mysteries, is a work done in a field by its owner; but all that he does now is to sow the good seed there. The work which he has wrought may fail in its general result, in the field, although the seed cannot be changed; and this is what comes to pass.

While men sleep, the enemy of Him who sows the good seed and to whom the field belongs, comes to sow tares; and the field, or the beauty of the harvest, is spoilt. The owner of the field leaves those two things to bear their proper fruits. He to whom the field belonged had done His work; the enemy had done his, while men slept; then he also went his way: the effect was a sad mixture in the world, of which men might accuse the owner of the field; but the thing being manifested by its effects (for it had been done in secret) the servants discover it when it becomes public. The master explains to the servants who come to Him and receive their instruction from Him, that it is the work of the enemy, and that the harvest, as far as the world is concerned, will be spoiled. At the time of the harvest He will apply a remedy, that is to say, at the time of the judgment, which will make a distinction in the field between the good and the bad. It was not the servants' business to destroy the tares. They were not the executioners of the world's judgment, and the time itself was not yet come.

9 The kingdom only being established by sowing here below during the absence of the king, and not in power, and consequently by judgment, the confusion resulting therefrom would be the sad character of the kingdom, until it should be established in power, and the judgment should put an end to the disorder produced by Satan.

Compare here the manner in which the Lord presents His ways with the account of the seed in Mark 4:26. The kingdom of God is as if a man, after having cast seed into the ground, should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow, he knows not how; for the earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear; and when the corn is ripe, immediately they put in the sickle, because the harvest is ready. During the time of the mixture, and while the corn is not yet ripe, no judgment takes place; if it did, it might root out of the world the unripe corn.

An attempt has been made to confound all this with church discipline; but the subject is different. The question is not about the church or discipline, but about the kingdom and about judgment to be exercised on the evil which Satan has introduced among the good corn.*

{*My object is not controversy, but exposition of the parables i nevertheless, I must here add a word on the value of an interpretation often put upon this parable. That there is a mixture of Christians with the world is a matter of fact.

Many take advantage of this parable to justify themselves, or at least to say that we cannot root up the tares or exercise discipline. In the world-church this may be all very true; but, in the first place, if any one would reason thus to prove that the world-church system is good (for its existence is allowed as a matter of fact), such an one professes as a Christian to be willing to bring down the church on earth, in principle, to the level to which Satan has reduced it in fact; which is enough to convince me that one who has the glory of Christ at heart will not lend himself for a moment to such an idea. Again, when I find the whole is bad, I do not begin by rooting out the tares from this evil system; that is what they would do who stay there and would try to purify it. I do not quit the field; I cannot do it, for "the field is the world"; but the evil which I did I cease to do. I am still corn in the tare-field, I have not touched the tares; I have only as a Christian corrected my individual walk in some respects, and am thus separated by the fact itself from those who persist in the evil. If I can unite myself in peace with others to find the presence of Jesus according to His promise, so much the better; it is a great blessing. But I do not enter upon that question. My object is only to expound the parable, avoiding what is a mere sophism.

10 As for discipline, properly so called, that is always exercised on corn, and that not with a view to rooting it up, but curing it and even restoring it here below, if possible. The incestuous man was given up to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord. In fact, he was restored on earth, because he repented. It is not my intention to pursue this subject, but to expound the parables. I have only referred to it for the purpose of saying, that the two subjects have not one idea in common. We may here observe also how the Lord regards the kingdom and everything in it as a whole, from the beginning to the end of it.

In fine, that which we have revealed is, that the effect of Satan's work where Christ had sown the children of the kingdom, that is, this state of things on the earth, must remain till the harvest. The tares are not simply unconverted men; they are persons whom Satan has brought in, under the form of Christianity, to spoil God's harvest in the earth - in the place where Christianity was established. It was not the church in heaven, it was not churches gathered in certain localities; these ideas are not found here. They are the children of the kingdom, regarded as plants of God in this world, but who are found in the place where Satan had power to sow his own seed. The effect, apparently not to the honour of the owner, is explained for those who learn from Him. The judgment will explain it to such as will not be taught.

As regards the judgment, the parable states that there is a time of harvest, and not the harvest merely. At that time the tares are first gathered and bound in bundles for the purpose of being burnt the corn is laid up in the granary.*

{*The rapture of the church belongs to this age, to the harvest, to the end, but to this age, as to its time. It seems it will appear in another age.}

11 Generally speaking, the judgment or the harvest, such as it is presented in the parable itself, does not go beyond that which is manifested in this world. The tares are gathered for the purpose of being burnt: that is all; this is what is proper to the earth. The only thing which goes beyond what is external here below is the fact that the wheat is gathered into barns. It is a negative fact - the wheat no longer belongs to the field: that which takes place in the barn does not appear. God interposes by means of the reapers to bind the tares in bundles (not heathen or unconverted men as such, but the wicked ones of Christendom, at least of the place where the good seed was sown) and He quite removes His own people from the scene. The natural state of the tares is destroyed, but it is not removed from the field. This then is the result in this world, the field which belongs to Christ, the sowing which He has performed.

The second parable presents to us the kingdom during this period. Of the small grain of seed, such as it was at the beginning, there is formed a great power in the earth, so that men seek its protection, sheltering themselves under its branches. For the explanation of this symbol, compare Ezekiel 17:23, also 31; Daniel 4:10, 12, 14.

The third presents it to us, not in its outward, secular power, but as a principle or doctrine which spreads and completely pervades that which is submitted to its influence. It is not here the heart, or the world, but the kingdom established in this world. The idea of the doctrine of Christ, in other words, His name, must spread.

A certain definite sphere is submitted to its influence, and entirely filled with the profession of the name of Christ. I see here that the particular subject in hand is the existence within certain limits of the external profession of the doctrine or the name of Christ. These parables, as it seems to me, have no reference to spiritual good, neither is it the purpose of them to present the dark side of that which has come to pass. They are, as we have said, historical. A spiritual perception, perhaps cultivated and improved by other passages of scripture, may enable me to see that a secular power, like Nebuchadnezzar or the Assyrian, is not a good thing, when the question is about what Christ has established and about my spiritual standing; but here the matter is presented to us as an historical fact; the kingdom was to receive such a character.

12 The word leaven, in general, does not suggest the idea of good to one who is familiar with the scriptures; but the purpose of the parable is to state the fact of the general existence of the external profession of the name of Christ, leaving it to the spiritual discernment of the child of God to judge of that which so exists.

We now come to the explanations given to the disciples, and to the parables which were for their ears only. Here the seed is not properly the word; it is the children of the kingdom brought into the world by Christ, who have their life - their moral existence - from Him. We sow the word; but here the great fact is, that the Son of man brings His own into the world; it is a work which He begins. The vineyard being rejected, He does not look for that in the world which was not found in Israel. He introduces, but in the world, His own, because it was all over for the time, at least with Israel. When He has done that, Satan does the same; active in evil, on the ground where good has been done.

Israel, the people of God, is become wicked, and, led by the prince of this world, they reject their Saviour, their Messiah. God being thereupon active in good in the world, Satan assumes an attitude of active hostility. To spoil the effect here below, is all he can do. But the judgment takes effect upon it: the harvest is the end of the age, the reapers are the angels; for the question here is about the government of this world by God. As to the expression "this age," we are accustomed to apply it to the church; but it is not here a question of the church, but of the introduction of the kingdom of heaven, Messiah being rejected by the Jews. What was the age in which the Lord was found with His disciples? Was it the church, or the dispensation of the church? By no means. It was a certain age of this world, which was to end by the reception of the Messiah, and the re-establishment of the law as a rule by the government of this Messiah. The people of Israel having rejected Him, this age becomes purely and simply this present evil world (age), from which Christ delivers us, but in the course of which God has set up His kingdom, in the way we have just spoken of.

The final close of the age is suspended while these acts are in progress, but at last its end arrives. Then the Son of man (for here the world is concerned, not merely the Jews and their Messiah) will purge His kingdom of all things that offend, and of them that commit iniquity, and they shall be cast into the furnace of fire. That will be the judgment of everything that is opposed to the glory of Christ, when He will execute it. But here He appears as the Head of the providential government of God, not as the Bridegroom coming to seek His bride, nor as the King coming to reign in Israel, or over the Gentiles in immediate relationship with them. It is the Son of man, supreme Head of the government of God, who sends the angels of His power to purge His kingdom, long defiled by the presence of the children of the wicked one, of everything that offends.* It is an act of His own power, acting as from on high; it is not the servants who will execute it. He sends His own messengers to gather the tares and cast them into the fire. He does not Himself enter into the earthly kingdom already established. He acts as from on high by His messengers, and the righteous are not established and blessed in the marred kingdom, but they shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.**

{*The first act here regards the wicked, the tares. In the case of the net, the first step was to separate the good. Because, in the case of the tares, it is the exterior of the government in the world, the present result; in the latter parables, the motives and the spiritual discernment; although the judgment arrives at last afterwards.}

{**The righteous shining as the sun shews us how these parables apply at the same time to Christ and to believers. He gives up His earthly glory, despises the shame, and endures the cross, in view of the joy that was set before Him; but this necessarily involves the church seen in glory according to the counsels of God: - the righteous will shine. We see our own glory in the sun to which we shall be like. In the two cases there is the glory. "The glory which thou hast given me, I have given them," so that He, while yet looking forward to it for Himself, gives up all His Jewish and even personal glory, in a certain sense, as of right, to bring the church in there; in a word, He gives it up for the church. We, seeing that glory as ours, see it in Christ; and so in the application of the parable, we may say, Jesus has done it for the church as His treasure - we do it for Christ as our treasure. The counsel of God is, that we should be together in that glory.}

13 This, then, is the result of the kingdom having been defiled by means of the work of the enemy; the judgment is the answer to the absence of all judgment in the kingdom, in the interval between the sowing time and the harvest. It is neither the joy of the church nor the establishment of the throne of judgment over the earth, but the purification of the kingdom, the general idea of government from on high. The servants had thought of re-establishing here below, by rooting the wicked out of the world, the order of things which existed then at the commencement, that the field here below might be in accordance with the intention of Him who had sown; or, in other words, that the field that He had sown should be a just representation of His labour and His thoughts; but this was not what was to take place there - this was no longer possible.

14 It is a matter of further revelation, that then the righteous (and it seems to me that the term is not necessarily limited to those who had lived after the seed of the kingdom had been sown) will shine as the sun in the kingdom of the Father. This then is the reason why there was no question in the meanwhile of purifying the field here below. God had better counsels in store for us. It is a revelation which belongs to the disciples. The rest was the public government of God, intelligible, or what ought to have been intelligible, to a Jew.

The succeeding parables present to us rather the secrets of the kingdom - that which only concerns the initiated, the disciples. It was no longer that which was merely external for the multitudes which surrounded Him. In what was said to the multitudes, everything took place in the world, that is to say, in the field, with the exception of the one fact that the good seed would be taken from it and hid in the barn. All belonged, properly speaking, to this age, unless we may except the existence of the barn. But in the explanation of this first parable, the Lord goes beyond what He had said, passes the limit, so to speak, and shews us the terrible result of the judgment of the tares in the weeping and gnashing of teeth: then He raises the curtain on the other side also, and the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. But this throws an entirely new light on the principle of the kingdom. It is a motive to action wherever this revelation is understood, and wherever we act according to the understanding of this purpose of God.

It is no longer a question how to establish clearly the relations between the old system and the forms which it took after the rejection of Christ, or on account of the barren state of the vineyard; but how to comprehend the effect of the counsels of God, which went much farther. There was something there to influence the heart. We have before had the effects here below of the sowing: the fact of the mixture, and the separation, and the form which in consequence of that the kingdom took in the world; here we have the revelation to the disciples of the effect outside the world, and consequently the motive which directed him who had understanding in the kingdom (it was this that characterised the kingdom in this respect); lastly, the discernment which knew how to act, even in the circumstances of this confused state of the kingdom, and not only the fact of this confusion in the world. That explains the order of the parables. In the two cases, the historical part for the multitude gives the sowing and the divine judgment at the end (this is all that the mind of the multitude takes notice of); and after that, the great historical facts, the tree and the leaven.

15 But here we have the motive which governs and influences the man who has the mind of Christ - in the first place, Christ Himself and us by His Spirit - in regard to that which has been revealed within the veil; then the separation made with discernment when the net is full. It is not a case of sowing seed, which issues in a mingled crop left in its natural state till the time of God's acting. It is an activity, the result of understanding and motive, based on the discovery of a hidden thing, or on the perception and search of a loveliness that is appreciated, and which is worth the giving up of all; or on the need of having separated, and so united together, those who constituted the sole object of all the toil, and who previously had been mingled in the net with that which was worth nothing to the fishers.

The one part presents the exterior, on which God will certainly act at last, but which is left as a picture in its complete character before the eyes of the world: a great tree, a leaven which leavens the whole mass. The other, the intelligence and activity of the Spirit of Christ, which gives up everything, and perceives good things to seize upon them in giving up all else.

Now, the first principle, the general principle of the two first of these three parables, based, as I have said, on the revelation of the glory of the righteous, made in the explanation of the first of the three former, is the energy which renounces everything on account of the discovery of that which becomes of inestimable value to the soul. This would not have been the character of the kingdom, if it had been established among the Jews; there were principles and a conduct which would have suited it. Its authority would have been exercised for the maintenance of good and justice, and great happiness would have been the fruit of its establishment. But the kingdom, once rejected by those who were the children of it, was no longer of this world, and it became necessary for one to give up everything that he possessed, according to the discovery made of the glory, which thereupon belonged to the faithful in the kingdom of their Father. This glory causes a renunciation of everything in order to possess it, according to the counsels of God, of which He has made a discovery in the revelation of this treasure - the church, properly so-called. Christ Himself did so, and even in two different ways.

16 He gave up everything, He emptied Himself to accomplish this work and buy the church. But again, of how great value to Himself and for God must the church, thus brought to glory before Him, have been, that He should quit the glory of His Father, His bosom, to have and to bring back His church with Him! In effect, it was because it was infinitely precious to the Father, and because He wished to have it before Him holy and without blame, that the Son, according to His love for the Father, gave Himself for it, the Father having entrusted to Him this work, and the church itself, that He might bring it to Him; for if the Father loves the Son, and has delivered all things to Him, so also the Son has given His life, that the world may know that He loves the Father, and that as the Father has given Him commandment, so He does. For He came to do His Father's will.

Still, as royal Heir of the kingdom, lawful and perfect Head, according to God, of the Jews, the people of God, and heirs of the promises according to the flesh, it was necessary for Him to give up all that, even this peculiar height of exaltation. He could weep over Jerusalem, whose children He would so often have gathered. He could understand the value of whatever was glorious in that situation. He could feel all the force of those words: "thou hast lifted me up and cast me down," Ps. 102. Nevertheless, for the joy of possessing the church, this fair and precious creation of the Father in grace and light, this jewel of the light of God, this expression of the thoughts of the Father in grace, witness during the ages to come of the grace which it has received (and that because it is the reflection of it) - for the joy, I say, which followed upon the discovery of this treasure which was not of the world, but of God, in the light, He gave up all He possessed among the Jews; He looked upon all else as nothing.

17 Answering perfectly to the thought of God His Father, in regard of that which was the glorious object of the love of God, a creation not external to Himself as Creator, but formed to be before Him, according to His nature which He had communicated to it as far as was possible, Christ - who had emptied Himself indeed, but who answered not the less on that account but so much the more to the whole thought of the Father, gave up everything to fulfil the will of the Father and to possess Himself of this treasure. So the kingdom takes this character. It is in Christ that we see it, even this reflection of the nature of the Father, for He is not only by grace (a creative and communicative grace) but essentially the reflection and the image of the glory of the invisible God. He is morally the manifestation of it in all things, and beyond that, inasmuch as all the Godhead dwells in Him bodily. Thus we also, for the sake of Christ glorified before the Father, for this glory which we shall have with Him, when we shall be like Him, seeing Him as He is, but which henceforth we see in Him - we also renounce everything now. (Compare Phil. 3:7-8.) Still it is Christ who has given us the example of it, by devotedness to His Father; Paul was only a weak imitator of Him who inspired him, and had supplied him with the perfect model of that devotedness.

But then Christ, however He might renounce His earthly glory and rights could not yet possess the church all pure and glorious as being His peculiar property, separate to Himself. He must take it in the world; but that does not hinder Him, He places it there and buys the whole field. But the treasure is His object, and is sufficient to engage Him to take the whole field; for the subject here is not the beneficent government which shall be established over the world, when the judgments which will have purified it will have been executed, but of something which He takes for the sake of the treasure which is hid there. Elsewhere, in the prophets we see all the blessings which will flow from His reign (the church, the new Jerusalem, being glorified, so that the nations will walk in its light), blessings which will be the effect of the public administration of the kingdom of the Son of man. But here we have the mysteries of this kingdom presented to a spiritual understanding.

But, first of all, let us notice here: Where these revelations of the secrets of the kingdom take place; Where this joy which is motive sufficient to cause Him who possesses it to give up all, which causes Him to feel that all is loss in comparison with this glory; Where this discernment which can so perceive the beauty of the pearl of great price, as to enable us to understand that we gain everything in giving up everything; - this discernment, whereby the spiritual understanding, which can judge all things, perceives that to keep anything else is only to hinder the possession of that which this divine intelligence tastes and appreciates, and which decides thus in the full knowledge of the case. The choice is made, the nature which seeks pearls has found the pearl which suits it. Where is the place, I say, that these revelations, which excite and satisfy this divine nature, take place? It is "in the house" they were made known to the disciples who followed Jesus, who were attached to Him. They followed Him already, they followed Him in separation; in separation they received that from which belonged to Him, as being Himself in separation from the world. The multitude does not receive them.

18 Let us come to the application, or rather to the explanation, followed by the parable of the treasure hid in the field. We have here the secret thought of God. The subject is not properly that external character of the kingdom, but the inward thought of Him who is acting there. Christ Himself has taken to Himself a field, but for one who understands His thought - is the field His object in taking it now? No; it is the treasure in it. There is that which fills His heart, and which was the motive to that which He did. God gave Him power over all men, that He might give eternal life to all those whom the Father had given to Him. I would not be understood by that to say that all men are the field, but only to shew how there could be two thoughts in the counsels of God.

In the kingdom of heaven a field has been purchased. In appearance perhaps, the field is the object which the purchaser had in view. Christ has the right of possession over this field; His authority should be acknowledged there, because He has purchased it; but the joy of His heart, His object in all that, is the treasure (the church) which is hid there. That which was purchased by Christ and which belongs visibly to Him, there where His name is eternally acknowledged in the times of the mysteries of the kingdom, that which is His right, and which the understanding of man might recognise as the purchase which He made, that which is as a field which a man bought, is not what He has at heart, for He thinks of the treasure which is hidden there. It is the form which the kingdom has taken.

19 He cannot yet possess the church, all pure, removed to heaven to reign with Him. In the meanwhile, it is in the world; and the kingdom takes the character of a whole which, in appearance and by right, is a lordship, a possession which belongs to Christ, but of which the secret and the real object is only known to those who have the mind of Christ. He has taken the field for the sake of the treasure,* but it is the treasure quite pure as it is known to Himself that He has at heart. The ministry of Peter did not yet distinguish the two, although he and all the saints after him made part of the purchased treasure. Peter had the keys of the kingdom. Paul was converted by the doctrine of the union of Christ and the church attached to Him in glory; he did not know Christ after the flesh.

{*Although the great principle of giving up all for Christ is a true one (and we have already spoken of it), we cannot apply the details of this parable to the history of an individual soul. A soul is never called on to buy anything to have the treasure; but to seek to have nothing except it. In fact, in the history of souls, something similar often occurs; that is to say, one embraces Christianity, true Christianity, with a joy which seizes all in an indiscriminate manner, so to speak. The soul possesses in effect the true treasure, but has not yet at all discerned the whole beauty of this exquisite pearl. The joy then becomes in appearance more subdued, but the spiritual perception of the thoughts of God is far more real and deep.}

This is what His disciples must understand, when they see that which is as a possession that has accrued to Christ, that which belongs to Him. His disciples would understand what was the real object of His heart, and would clearly distinguish between the field and the treasure which it contained, although the treasure or the church being for the time hid in the field, the administration of the government of God must take this outward form.*

{*All this does not by any means affect the question of the conduct or the duty of a saint in these circumstances. The parable only presents the thoughts of God in regard to facts. This was the form which the kingdom would take, or rather a figure which represents it. The purchased field is quite an abstract thought; we are always in danger of confounding it with the actual state of things, while the parable only presents to us the principle. I have endeavoured to avoid this snare, but am not sure that I have succeeded. In principle, Christ has bought the world, and the church is in it. His authority only extends to a very small part of the world; and one part, formerly subject to His authority, has now even revolted from it; but the parable does not at all touch upon these facts. It only presents the principle, that is to say, that there is a treasure hidden, which was not even bought but found, and something external was bought for the love of this treasure, thus hidden there, necessarily, and as a matter of fact; whether the treasure exists as an individual whole, or in several pieces, is not the question here. The purchaser takes the whole, such as it is, for the sake of the treasure. The delight which He finds in the beauty of it (the church) is the subject of this parable. Here it is the fact of the field purchased as a whole, that He might possess the treasure that was dear to Him. Neither is it a question of the establishment of the authority of Christ in blessing in this world, nor of His joy in the deliverance of the creation itself. That will take place in the world to come, when there will no longer be a question about the mysteries of the kingdom. This mystery of God will be finished; the natural results of the reign of the Saviour will be manifested, also the beauty of the church will be manifested on high; and its glory will shine everywhere.}

20 Moreover, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant-man seeking goodly pearls. Here we see the Lord judging, according to His perfect intelligence, the moral beauty of that which He would have for Himself at any price. It is not here merely the joy of possessing a treasure, but of discriminating and valuing the treasure which He sought and which He was able to prize and distinguish from every other. Thus the Spirit of Christ in its actual operation only rests definitely upon the church, and that not in the joy of possessing it only, nor of that of accomplishing salvation in the redemption of it, but in the accomplishment of all the thoughts of God, of all that moral beauty which can have its source in the heart and reproduce itself for Him in that church which He gave to Christ. The epistle to the Ephesians in particular presents to us this thought: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and without blame before Him in love. This is its reproducing itself in grace. And what is the calling according to which we ought to walk? It is that we are "the habitation of God by the Spirit." He has given us a place which is to the praise of the glory of His grace.

The more we examine this epistle, and the more we comprehend the thought of God which appears there, the more we shall perceive the pearl which is of great price in the esteem of the merchantman who alone is capable of estimating it. The repetition of the emphatic word Himself, His own will, etc., which occurs in the Greek, gives additional force to this remark.* What thoughts, then, ought we to have, my brethren, of such a calling of the church, and of the church itself, thus before God, such as He can have before Himself, and find satisfaction therein, and find again His own thoughts in it, that it may be the delight of Him who is Himself the only source of that which can be suitable to Him, and that it may be fit to be ever before Him! But, in order to receive it, in order to give it to Christ, it was necessary that He should make it such. What a thought for us! In order that we might enjoy it, He gave us the Spirit itself, and of His own Spirit. Compare Ephesians 3:16-21; see also 1 John 4:13. In this latter passage, the subject is an individual - his state, and the practical proof resulting from it. But there is yet another idea for us to bring out, and which causes this to explain the state of the kingdom; it is, that Christ stripped Himself of everything, in order to possess this treasure. Where is His glory, His kingdom, His judgment, His power?

{*I give these expressions here according to their force in the Greek: "According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and without blame before himself, in love, having predestinated us to the adoption to himself by Jesus Christ, … to the praise of the glory of His own grace." Again, verse 8, "Having made known to us the mystery of His own will, according to his own good pleasure which he purposed in himself," and, verse 11, the "counsels of his own will."}

21 The kingdom has not one of these characters; but we, disciples, we know Christ, who, though He was rich, became poor for us, that we by His poverty might be made rich. He is hid in God. The epistle to the Ephesians speaks of these counsels of God in regard to us, of these counsels so precious for us. Here we have the same idea, but the idea of the kingdom lost in that of grace. Christ loves the treasure, He prizes the pearl. He is Himself not merely the reflection, but the perfect expression of what the Father was. He knows how to present to Himself the church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. The pearl is in His thought before He finds it as the object of His love. But then He is presented here as a man who finds, not as God who creates and who is the source of the beauty of the object found, as His thoughts are the prototype of it, of the beauty which suits the finder and the Creator.

22 Although the church is of God in its existence and its beauty, we must also take account of that which Christ has done, according to the counsels of God, according to the fulness of His desire, and the delight which He takes in these counsels. He gives Himself up to that, and strips Himself of everything, in order to possess the church, such as it is according to the thought of God; and, to the disciple who has understanding, this is the character which the kingdom takes. It is Christ's treasure in this world, in the field which He buys; it is the pearl quite pure, out of whatever shell it may have come, which answers to all that His heart seeks.

Hitherto we have the spiritual intelligence, in order to the understanding of the principle which characterises the kingdom in the thought of Christ, upon which, in consequence, the believer acts, according to the measure of his intelligence. But there is, besides, an actual separation of the elements which are mingled within it. In effect, the net has gathered all kinds of persons out of the sea of peoples. When the net is full, those who have drawn it, the fishermen, sit on the shore; they gather the good into vessels, and throw aside the bad. Here let us pause a moment, because important principles present themselves to our thoughts. The fishermen are occupied about the good: they put them into vessels. As for the bad, they only reject them, and put them aside: there is the effect of the understanding of the fisherman. What is his object? with what does he concern himself? With the good fish. To have them according to his desire and purpose, he must in passing, reject the others, but it is only that he may have the good. Except in this respect, he has nothing to do with the bad - they are not his concern; they are only an encumbrance to him: the net was not cast for them. He gathers the good into vessels. Neither is their ultimate destination his concern: his business is to catch them, and gather them into vessels apart. In this his capacity, his diligence, and the success of his toils, appear. Without these, he could not do it. All this is addressed exclusively to a spiritual mind, without which we cannot understand these instructions. But there is one work, the effects of which will be of necessity intelligible; and as in the exposition of the parable of the tares, we have the additional fact of the glory of the righteous in another sphere - a fact which represented in a good light the seeming negligence that had taken place in the government of the kingdom; so in the explanation of the net, we have a fact which is not in the parable, namely, the judgment of the wicked.

23 The angels will come forth at the end of the age, and will separate the wicked from among the righteous (they do not here concern themselves with the righteous, as the fishermen did), and they will cast them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is quite clear that this is a procedure quite different from what is related in the parable, and which goes beyond the contents of it. The subject is not the net merely, it is a general and definite separation of the wicked from among the righteous at that time. The fishermen were only concerned with the contents of their net, and with the good found in it. The angels, at the end of the age, separate the wicked; it is a general work; and in this world, where they are mingled, it is not the angels that have to do with the net.

The two things, we should remark well, take place in this world. There is nothing about separating the good and bad in heaven. Neither is there anything here about the great white throne, but about the end of this age. The good which are found in the net will be separated and put in vessels by those who have drawn the net to shore, according to their discernment of the good and bad; then the angels will take the bad in this world, and separate them from the righteous who will be found there, and will cast the former into the furnace of fire. This was not the affair of the fishermen. But the two events take place in the world; at the end of the age. The angels have nothing to do with the good, but to leave them; while the fishermen occupy themselves with the good, to dispose of them, in rejecting and leaving the bad.

The disciples here are supposed to understand all these things; the Lord looks upon them in this light; they are wise, the understanding ones of Daniel. Wherefore, says He, every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like a householder, who brings out of his treasure things new and old. We see by these words the character of the instructions which the Lord has just given; there is no question about the church as the church. It is true the disciples became part of it afterwards, but He does not look upon them in that character. What we have here is the application of lessons on the kingdom of heaven to knowledge acquired as by scribes in the Old Testament. There is nothing about the mystery hidden and afterwards revealed by the Holy Ghost to the apostles and prophets; but we have light thrown by the kingdom and its mysteries on the promises and the government of God, which a scribe would have found in the law and the prophets. These were new things, but they were connected with the old things; they did not set them aside. If Paul had known Christ after the flesh, he did not know Him so any more. In his case, the subject was things altogether heavenly, even Christ Himself. He notices, it is true, in some digressions, in the way of argument, that which relates to the old things; but as far as his direct ministry is concerned, he knows them no more.

24 Having completed what I had to say on this chapter, I pause. Others may probably add much to what I have communicated. In every passage of the word there is always the germ of that which is infinite. I only bring forward a general explanation, but I have no doubt of its being of God, certainly mingled with imperfection, but still of God. Another time, if God will, I may send a continuation of the summary of this gospel.


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Some think there is an historical order in the parables, an order which I proceed to state without making any comment upon it, as a thought upon which every brother will form an opinion according to the light which he possesses. First, the general fact of the sowing of the word, begun by Jesus Himself; then, as we have seen, the beginning of the mysteries of the kingdom: the Son of man sows the good seed, the enemy does his own work there. The first effect: the hierarchical or ecclesiastico-secular power in the world. The second effect: nominal Christianity, a leaven which only corrupts the whole lump. Then comes the discovery that it is the treasure hid in this field which is precious; those who have spiritual understanding distinguish this treasure, although it is hidden in the field. This would be the Augustinian and Protestant doctrine of an invisible church. But, beyond that, there is the perception of the beauty and purity which become this treasure, and they are sought by those who are led by the Spirit of Christ. Lastly, there is the practical separation of the good fish put into vessels by those who are concerned with that work.

25 This then is the idea; each Christian, I repeat, will judge of it, according to his measure of spiritual understanding. However it may be, there is yet something to be said on the subject of the great tree and the leaven, in reference to what may be discovered in them by a spiritual mind. The difference between that which is described in these parables, and what is said in the three last, is very remarkable. Here there is no trace of spiritual affection, nor of a taste for divine things, nor of distinction between good and evil. The love of the Spirit is completely missing, and is even lost. I say lost, because at the beginning the servants distinguished between the good seed and the tares, and that perfectly well, and were astonished to find tares in a field where their master had been sowing, although it did not belong to them to execute the judgment on the tares. They were employed near the master, attending to the good condition of the field which belonged to him, but the field could only be cleansed by judgment. Didst Thou not sow good seed in Thy field? (that was their question): from whence then hath it tares? Afterwards, a spiritual understanding perceives that the field is only a secondary object, fully admitting that it was bought; it seeks for the pure and precious pearl, and also separates the good fish and puts them into vessels.

But here it is not that; it is a picture of a dark worldly and outward effect. The attachment to the interests of Christ fails; it is an external matter, a common condition, where nothing appears but what the world can see. We do not say that there are not children of God hidden in this system, or such as have been separated from it; but the Spirit of God takes no account of them in these parables, nor of any spirituality which perceives them, or which distinguishes between that which is agreeable to Christ in His kingdom and the contrary: the result of the work exactly corresponds with the world. We could not (according to these parables) distinguish them: it is "a great tree," a symbol, throughout scripture, of human power and pride, the objects of God's judgment.

It is only when Christ will establish His own kingdom in power, that this kingdom will become a great tree in the earth, according to the counsels of God in righteousness. (See Ezekiel 17:22-24.) Meanwhile the event takes place, but as we have seen, with a total absence of spiritual discernment, which contrasts with what precedes and what follows. Also observe, with respect to the leaven: this is not external and earthly power; it is the universal diffusion of a doctrine within certain limits. Here we must remark that it is not the Son of man who sows the good seed, that idea is lost: it is the state of the kingdom which will bear a resemblance to the effect of a woman's deed who acts thus. Thus there is not any distinction made here between the sowing of the Son of man, and the work of the enemy. If there is good seed, it is quite lost sight of. The parable of the good seed and the tares proves to us that this distinction had been made by the servants of Christ, but all appearance of it is lost; we cannot say that all is good, for the tares must grow till the harvest. All spiritual discernment is therefore completely excluded from this state of things; all true testimony to the work of God is lost; for one cannot say that all is good, that would be the testimony according to the heart of God. All distinction between the good and evil is destroyed; it is one lump, so that this testimony to the difference of good and evil is also lost; and thus evil under the name of Christ is that which presents itself as a uniform mass.

26 I would not here say that the Holy Spirit designed to present this idea to the multitude. I have already said that these parables speak of what is outward, of the external aspect of the kingdom; but he who studies the word judges according to the mind of Christ of that which is presented thus to the world. There is that which distinguishes the true Christian - the spiritual man discerns all things. He does not think that the lump will be changed, for the spiritual man distinguishes and loves what is good; but the state of the mass does not govern him: he knows for himself that everywhere else the great tree is the symbol of exalted man. Ought man to be exalted before the manifestation of Christ? He knows that leaven everywhere else is the symbol of that which is bad. Has not the history of Christendom supplied that which fully corresponds to such a symbol? If it is so, it is that which according to the Lord characterises the state of the kingdom. In that case, what ought the Christian to do? Ought he to be contented with bearing such a testimony as being Christ's?


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It is most important for us to remember, that all that, which is the power of death in the unbeliever, is the hindrance and blight of the fruit-bearing power of the believer's life, to which the energies afforded us in the divine Persons apply themselves. This is brought out into full light, with its specific remedy, in the graciousness of God in this parable. There is the case of the fowls of the air, the stony ground, the sowing among thorns, and in the good ground, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold. The first of these we know is the power of Satan - the power of death. There is no life in the soul. When the word of it is sown in the unbroken heart, the devil takes it away as soon as it is sown; he holds it in unremoved death. The word is the power of life. "Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." It is indeed the lie of the devil, by which he brought in death and holds men in it, in which he is a murderer; so on the other hand, by the truth of God are we made alive.

But there is One (Himself indeed the WORD), who is specifically the quickening power, even the Son of God. "The last Adam is the quickening Spirit." He then who vindicates from this state of death, and makes alive, is the Son of God. The Son of man sows the seed, but it is the Son of God who quickens; "for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." It is the special distinctive character of His sonship, that He quickens with divine power, as indeed none else could. Compare John 5:21, 24, 26. This is most explicit, and no one acquainted with scripture can have failed to recognise this power of life in the Son of God, as distinctly representing His power and character. He declares Himself, "I am the resurrection and the life"; and this by His word, "Lazarus, come forth." The results of this we shall not follow; but we have the Son of God, by the word, destroying the works of the devil in the state and power of death. This is the first case of the parable. That which is in Him is the opposite power, which overcomes the evil case mentioned; and a man brings forth thirty-fold, for being really alive he must increase and bring forth fruit.

But there is another case put, not so apparently desperate, but equally destructive - the receiving the word into shallow ground. There was no root. It was received superficially; it speedily "sprang up, because it had no deepness of earth"; it had no searching process of power in which it entered into the conscience and quickened the inner man. It rested in the natural affections and understanding which are after all the flesh; it is received merely by the natural feelings, and therefore immediately acts, and with joy, since it reaches not the conscience; and the same natural feelings were of course as speedily acted on by trouble and persecution, and "immediately they are offended." Compare Mark 4. This, then, is all merely the flesh, and comes to nothing. To this we know how uniformly the Spirit is opposed. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other." "They that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds," etc. It needs not to multiply passages of scripture to shew the opposition of these two.

28 But, we must observe that we have here in the Spirit the antagonist power which overcomes the flesh, and assuming a man to be alive, still does so. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit"; hence we know that this case is still the natural man, and that the things of the Spirit are what he has never received, though affections or intellect may have been moved or delighted with the marvellous plan of redemption. But the same point holds good in a believer; that is, we find when men do not walk in the Spirit, of course they are profitless and low in their estate. It is in mortifying the flesh by the Spirit, that the fruits of the Spirit find comparatively free growth - it produces sixty-fold. This, then, is the contrast here - the flesh and the Spirit; and we find in it, that the fairest form of the flesh, the apparently joyful reception of the word of the kingdom, whether it be in affection or intellect, comes to nothing; whatever it be occupied on, it is but "the desires of the flesh and of the mind."

The third case, compared with other scriptures, is equally clear I think. The hindering power is declared directly, "the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things." Compare Mark 4; Luke 8. Now, the world and the love of it we continually find opposed to the Father. "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world." "Love not the world, neither the things of the world; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." The hatred of the world to the Son, shewed that it was not of the Father; and the children were not of this world any more than the Father, as allied to Him, even as Christ the Son was not of the world.

29 Every one familiarly and spiritually acquainted with the Gospel of John must have noticed the opposition between the world and the sonship of Christ; one being associated with the Father, and the other directly opposed to the glory of the Father, in the great question of that sonship in which alone it was known. Our Lord thus concludes the whole presenting of His work and His people to the Father: "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me." The whole chapter illustrates the question. Now we shall hence well understand the opposition between the two, and how He "who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world," closes that statement by saying: "and I have declared unto them thy name and I will declare it, that the love," etc. But, in the believer, even when not only quickened, but in the Spirit exercising himself to mortify the deeds of the body, who recognises at once the evil of the flesh (though we are little aware how subtly and widely its beguiling and deceiving influence is spread, how fair a form inbred selfishness may assume), and in whom, in an ordinary sense, the flesh is habitually in a measure mortified; how often do we find the world holding a prevailing power and recognised title over the judgment or habit, and the fruitfulness, comparatively speaking, utterly marred!

"Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples." Let us then recognise, on the sole basis of scripture (excluding the consideration of the circumstances in which the lie of this world has power over our mind), that the world is a positive hinderer of fruitfulness, the much fruit in which the Father is glorified; and for this plain reason, that our sonship, our inheritance, the kingdom is not recognised. The devil, as he acts on us by the flesh, "the lust of the flesh," "good for food," or "of the eyes," and the like, is the god and prince of this world; and the Spirit in them that are quickened, where not dimmed and darkened by the spirit of this world, is not only the power of the difference of the carnal and spiritual nature, but bears witness that we are sons and heirs. Thus at liberty, we cry by it, Abba, Father; and the fruits are an hundredfold, where we are free from the system in which we are fettered. The energy of the kingdom is there, the Saviour of the kingdom is there, the stamp of the Father of glory, and hence, in deadness to the world, power over it. The whole stamp of nature is different; we are not of the world as Christ is not of the world. Accordingly, as we find the Lord the true vine, so we find the Father the husbandman, purging the branches, that they may bring forth more fruit. We may be isolated indeed, but isolated sons, upon whom the glory of the Father shines in hope and the power of inward association; the sons of God, though in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. In a word, the children of God (the God who hath called us to "His own kingdom and glory," the living God) is our distinguishing title; and, as the Jews were affianced to Jehovah, we are called to be "perfect as our Father which is in heaven is perfect."

30 I cannot pursue this subject farther here, though I may touch on it, with the Lord's permission, at a future time. As regards the explanation of the parable, I would say a very few words more. The inseparableness of the evils, as well as of the gracious agents of covenant remedy, is not in question; the devil, the world, and the flesh, are too intimately associated to need explanation of our distinct consideration of them; and I believe more intimately than people are commonly aware of. Of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, I need not speak; but while we have spoken of them in operation as to profit, we must not forget their unity in every act, whether of creation, or anything else: they invariably act in one, and as invariably, as far as I see, in the same order, that is, by the Son, through the energy of the Spirit.

Another remark is necessary. Although we have looked at the love of the world, as hindering the full characteristic fruitfulness of the children of God, and the knowledge and love of the Father as the contrasted character, we must remember that this knowledge in principle is the portion of every believer. "I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father"; nor could we otherwise put all believers under this responsibility. But I believe it will be found that the measure of the fruitfulness of the life that is in them much depends on their exercise in the truths here noticed and dwelt on; and that the character of their fruitfulness also much depends on their fuller and deeper apprehension of the one or the other; and that the apprehension of the Father in the full development of the sonship glory attaches quite a new character on the whole course of the Christian's life. This is our proper calling; and, while we must watch against the neglect of distinct reference to the Son (as administering the power of the kingdom against the "wicked one"), to the Spirit (as overcoming or detecting the workings and deceitful power of the flesh), to the Father (in contrast with the love of the world), a defective apprehension of the principle of heavenly glory will somewhere or other break down the efficiency of our christian service. The fulness of all was in our Lord; the fulness of all help in them is our practical responsibility; the enjoyment of fellowship with them our privilege. Ill-proportioned Christianity, I believe, continually springs from the power of Satan, through neglect of, or hindering the special power of one or another of the Persons, while indulgence of any of the evils is apt to throw us into the hands of Satan; and here is the wisdom of ministering to sick souls, for the source of the evil may be one, its manifestation may be another. How blessed to be able to refer to covenant assurance of a threefold Almighty help for the several difficulties one evil may bring! A believer will be healthful and strong against the enemy in proportion as he has just reference to all.

31 I do not say that a believer's progress is, from knowing the Son, to the Spirit and the Father - far from it; but I believe the manifestation of the power and glory of their work will gradually unfold itself, even as the quickening by the Son will make the believer discern well the operations of the Spirit against the flesh, and both of these find their full development in the manifestation of the Father's glory, in the consciousness (if he grow healthfully) that His kingdom is not of this world. In some cases of unusual energy of divine life, we see by God's calling, all these apprehensions promptly developed, and the man consequently abundantly exercised, and his service great, corresponding to the knowledge received of the Son in the kingdom, as in the apostles Peter and Paul; but I must not outstep the practical part of the subject.

I am quite conscious, indeed particularly so, of the imperfection of these remarks; but I feel the importance of the subject deeply, and the basis of the view has been given: they are open to the correction or fuller application of those more versed in divine life. The wondrous and blessed grace of a developed covenant, the bright witness of the Son, and of the Father, and of glory: the grace in which they minister to the necessities of those who have no help in themselves, while they are the growingly understood and adored objects alike of communion and worship, separating from all that is not of themselves. I feel too, that in speaking thus, I am treading on holy ground, but ground which our God in His mercy has opened to us, and on which we are set to walk; freed from every fear, unless of not justly estimating it, by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; cleansed from all that could offend Them, by His blood, and acquainted with the boundless love which has brought these by it, while never reaching it, never able to be filled with it, knowing that it has reached even to us and filled us into its own fulness.

32 Let us also remember, that the indulgence in one of these seemingly remote evils brings in the power of the others; for God is not there. Thus Solomon's indulgence of the world brought in the indulgence of the flesh, and the consequence was the direct power of Satan in the idolatrous worship of his wives. We might mention similar instances; but I close for the present.

Only one thing it is important to remark. It is not either by speculation or knowledge these things are obtained, though they may be ministered. "We are sanctified unto obedience." The spirit of obedience is the great secret of all the present and practical blessings of the believer; for the Spirit is not grieved, and so becomes the minister of the grace and knowledge both of the Father and of the Son; and the poorest simplest believer, walking thus, enjoys the blessings of the pledged faithfulness both of the Father, and the Lord, and the Spirit, to the blessed purposes of love in which we stand, and of divine glory.

We have only spoken of the parables which are found in this chapter. There remain still some verses which close it: they contain the judgment formed about the Lord by the unbelief of the Jews. He was in His own country; His works were not denied; but the Jews stumble against the stone of offence. He is the prophet without honour in His own country and in His own house. He is the son of the carpenter. In a word, He is judged even in Israel, according to the flesh.

Matthew 14

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But this carnal and blinded judgment of the people was not the whole of their history. The passions of the false king push him on to destroy the testimony of God, and Jesus withdraws. He shews, nevertheless, by acts marked in the Psalms, the presence of Jehovah who healed them, and all His compassion and His tenderness toward His people (Psalm 103:3; 132:15); but, having borne this testimony, He sends His disciples alone in the ship, He Himself dismisses the multitude and goes up towards God - the present position of Christ: having fully borne this testimony to the multitude in Israel, He separated His disciples from them and went on high to pray. His disciples are found alone in the midst of the tempest; the Lord rejoins them, and all again becomes calm.* It is ever here, it seems to me, the disciples viewed as Jews, though in principle Christians of all times, ought to have identified themselves with Him, and to take this position. A remnant of those who expect Him (among the Jews) would also go out to Him in the midst of this tempest of peoples, before He enters into the tossed boat of the heirs of the promises, and the Lord agrees to it; but their steps totter because of the trouble: the Lord sustains them, and, calm being restored by His presence, all those who are in the ship recognise Him as the Son of God. Thus will it be with Israel. In Peter, we have the remnant which goes before them; and in those who leave not the ship, we have the type of all those who remain in the ordinary course of Judaism until Christ is there Himself.

{*In chapter 8:23-27, where the state of the church rather is marked, Jesus goes into the ship with His disciples. Apparently He pays no attention to the danger; but their unbelief makes them afraid, as if Jesus, who had identified Himself with them, could perish, and with Him all the counsels of God.}

Matthew 15

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Having given this sketch of the position of the Jews, as the result of their rejection, as before had been given one of the kingdom of heaven, the Lord pronounces His moral judgment upon the religious forms and pretensions of the most religious among the people. It was only outside and hypocrisy, a walk already condemned by Isaiah: their worship was vain, their doctrines were but the commandments of man. God wished for realities.

34 Thence He passes to a more general thesis. Out of the heart of man (and the Jew was but a man, as to his heart, before God) proceed evil thoughts. Such is a man alas! whether Jew or Gentile; but let him be of the cursed race of the Canaanites, and from among the cities whose repentance would have been as a miracle, he who, owning his misery, should rest by faith upon the super-abounding mercy of God, would be heard according to his wish, for God is there, and He is love. Here it is not precisely the church. The rights of Israel, at least of its lost sheep, are owned; but this cannot hinder the grace and nature of God; far different from the selfishness and the ennui of the disciples, which attaches no value to the privileges of God's people. The Lord avows His special mission; but He cannot deny what God is, when faith penetrates to that point. Having thus shewn (all the while recognising Israel) that the poor Gentile is to be delivered, He returns to Israel, healing the people and refreshing them with bread. He feeds the poor of the flock.

Matthew 16

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These views of the kingdom and of the ways of God toward Israel having been given; the uselessness of a religion of forms by ordinances, however privileged, having been declared; the principles of man's heart, and the impossibility of closing the heart of God having been shewn; the Spirit of God enters, in this chapter, upon another ground. The existing generation is abandoned; there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. It was not so difficult to discern the times. Thereupon the Lord, amidst the uncertainty of the masses, on the answer of the faith of Simon Peter, reveals what is to succeed this generation, namely, the church, never named before.

Here it is not Christ who sows, but the faith of another, faith given to Peter, which discerns in Jesus the Son of the living God. The Jews had only the sign of a risen Saviour; the generation was then rejected, and nothing built upon the first mission of Jesus (the Messiah should " be cut off and shall have nothing");* but the Son of the living God - here is a power and a strength which the energy of the prince of this world could not overturn, against which evidently the gates of hades should not prevail; for in His resurrection, on the contrary, they should be broken by Christ. The resurrection of the Son of God, according to the power of life which was in Him, the foundation and measure of the life and security of the church, was sheltered, and the church by it, from all the attacks of him who had the power of death. In vain the tomb shrouded itself in darkness, out of the midst of which came forth the life more powerful than ever. Simon makes this confession by the revelation of the Father, and it is upon that the church is founded. Indeed Peter is the only one who adds this word "living" to the expression "Son of God." Nathaniel just owns Him as the Son of God and King of Israel; but Peter has the secret of the immovable security of the church of God. It will be found in his epistles that this idea of "living," associated with the resurrection of Christ, forms their basis and ruling thought.

{*The true translation of Daniel 9:26.}

35 Moreover, not only the church, more powerful than death, like its divine Founder, should be based on the confession of Peter; but the administration of the kingdom here below should be entrusted to him. Not he, but Christ builds the church upon the foundations which the Father Himself had laid in the revelation of His life in the Son; but the keys of the kingdom are entrusted to Peter. This administration was to begin among the Jews, and Peter was specially their apostle.

Here the Lord forbids them to announce Him as the Christ - that is no more the question, and from this time He speaks to them of His rejection and death; but the heart of Peter, favoured as he was, answered in no wise (for he was still in the flesh, not having received the Spirit) to this revelation which had been made to him. He opposes himself to the cross, and the Lord treats him as being identified with Satan and doing his work. Such is the flesh; whatever may be the revelations enjoyed by him who is not yet set free. On this occasion the Lord presents the cross as the portion of all those who followed Him, but He supports them in difficulty by the revelation of His coming in glory, and there were even some there who should see before their death the Son of man coming in His kingdom.

The church is built upon this confession of Jesus, the Son of the living God, manifested in resurrection; this supposes the death and cross of Christ; but one is sustained in cleaving to the good of the soul, even though life should be lost; for the Son of man will come in the glory of His Father.

36 Here we may remark that in verse 21, it is Jerusalem, the scribes, the chief priests who alone are presented as culpable. It is not the question yet of the Gentiles; but their very guilt puts Jesus in the position, not of Messiah only, but of Son of God in power, and of Son of man, coming in the glory of His Father with His angels, with a view to judging all men.

Matthew 17

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The immediate answer to this revelation which the Saviour makes of His glory as Son of man, is, in the three first Gospels, the transfiguration, compared by Peter himself to the power and coming of our Lord Jesus (2 Peter 1:16-18); the future glory of the Son of man, such as it will be manifested to the faithful remnant of the people, is revealed to the astonished eyes of the poor disciples. The risen and the changed are in the same glory as the Saviour, they are with Him, and hold converse with Him; the law and the prophets give way to the glorified Son of God, who alone is to be heard.

From this moment Jesus speaks only of suffering this faithless and perverse generation, but He is unwearied in doing them good. He shews to His disciples the part that men (not the Jews only) would have in His death. The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men! The point for the disciples is the power of faith; nevertheless it was needful to live near to God in withdrawment from all that belonged to the flesh, in order to conquer and cast out the power of the

At the end of the chapter, the Lord takes advantage of His rights as Son, to identify His disciples with Him in this same privilege; but still, not to offend, He submits to His position as a subject Jew, which Peter was forward to attribute to Him. In this beautiful passage He shews His divinity in the two-fold respect of knowledge of the thoughts, and of power over creation; but at the same time He identifies Himself with Peter (who had made of Him a Jew like any other), saying "lest we"; and if a fish is made to bring the money needed for Him, it is for His poor disciple as well as for Him - "for Me and thee." He places them with Him in the position of sons, and places Himself with them in theirs, though He was the God of all knowledge, whom every creature, save man, was eager to obey. He puts Himself on the same footing with them, where love and humility were happy in grace towards the poor, the poorest of all Himself!

Matthew 18

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It is upon this basis of the humiliation of the Saviour, a principle which is linked with grace and is its perfect manifestation, that all which follows here is founded. Jesus would have His disciples to take this place, and identifying themselves with what is least, as He had done Himself, to act also in grace; for He was come (a position infinitely more glorious than that of the Messiah, whence the Jews repulsed Him, because He spoke the truth) to seek and to save that which was lost. And such was the case with all men, children as well as others; for the Lord applies here to a little child the principles of Luke 15; but if they were lost, it was not the Father's will that they should perish. Even so in the church (for it is founded upon the rejection of the Messiah) His own ought to act in grace towards a brother, come what will.

Here is the rule, his brother must be gained; self-humiliation raises us to this elevation, and permits us to act in grace toward all. But this grace, pursued even to the end by the care of the congregation, and rejected by him who was the object of it, would place him (whether Jew or Gentile) in the position of a publican and a pagan. On the one hand, grace becomes the principle of action; on the other, the church, established and acting on the principle of grace, becomes the enclosure with reference to which one should speak of the without and the within of a publican and a pagan; for all that the disciples should bind on earth would be bound in heaven. Such is the marvellous effect of the rejection of the Messiah and the position of those identified with Him in this rejection; for now, where two or three are gathered in His name, Jesus is found in their midst. There has He put His name for a blessing. See Exod. 20:24; Deut. 12:5, 11, etc. Thus the effects of His rejection on the power of this accomplished work before the Father are unrolled (though this was as in a shadow) before His eyes.

In answer to Peter, who asks how far this walking in grace ought to be carried, the Lord shews that, as it was a principle essential to the nature which acted in grace, there was no limit; it would be a limit to the privilege of man and to the nature of God. In the kingdom of heaven, mercy triumphs over judgment.

38 The Lord gives, notwithstanding, not only a principle, but a similitude of the kingdom, which applies, it seems to me, historically. The Jews being guilty of ten thousand talents by the crucifixion of the Son of God, God acts in grace by the preaching of the gospel to the nation, in virtue of the intercession of Jesus, to which answers the preaching of Peter on the testimony of the Holy Ghost (Acts 3); but they refuse the grace to the Gentiles, much less guilty toward them than they themselves were toward God, and the wrath came upon them to the uttermost. Luke 23:34; Acts 3:17; 1 Thess. 2:16.

Matthew 19

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The Lord pursues the principles on which the relationships of the people with God subsist. He does not weaken those that existed: on the contrary, He confirms them; but He advances now and leaves the people under the consequences of the violation of the covenant under which they were found, and without the enjoyment of the new blessings into which He introduced those who accompanied Him in His rejection.

In answer to the Pharisees, who tempted Him by questions of their schools, where the fear of God was not - He traces things higher up than the law. He speaks as the Son of man. He confirms, in all their extent, the ties that God had formed; the ordinance of Moses did but suffer the hardness of their heart. The law just recognised the relationships which preceded it; what was more than those relationships was only for a time.

The second principle He enunciates is the humility, the teachableness, and the confidence of a little child: such is the principle whereby one enters the kingdom.

Thirdly, all goodness in man is denied; God alone is good. (See the position that Christ takes at the beginning of Psalm 16. He has said to God, Thou art My Lord; My goodness extendeth not to Thee, but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all My delight.) Then the Lord, repeating and taking up the word of the young man, confirms the law as a condition of life, and says to him: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." There was the principle of the law, and it is also what the young man had done outwardly.

39 On his answer to that effect, the Lord goes farther: Give up thy heart then - I myself am the touchstone for that - and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: other hopes are open through My rejection. The young man went away sorrowful. The only answer to this difficulty insurmountable for sinful man, the only key which opened the door of the kingdom of God, was, "With God all things are possible."

The chapter is remarkable in this respect, that is to say, for the manner in which Jesus confirms for the Jews that which was fundamental in the law, "These things do, and thou shalt live." He maintains the everlasting righteousness of God as regards the ties of nature: He founds all this upon that which preceded even the law, and (since the relations on which the law was based preceded the law) He appeals from it to what was of God at the beginning. He also goes beyond the law for him who observed it in his ordinary relationship, and presents Himself as the true touchstone for the heart - Him, the rejected One, who was not of the world. What is the only means of arriving at it? The answer is: "With God all things are possible." He recognises all that God had put in Judaism; but he ceases to be a Jew: the young man could not live on such a footing.

These words of Jesus excite in the spirit of Peter this question: What shall we have therefore - we who have forsaken all and followed thee? The answer, founded on the glory already revealed on the mount of transfiguration, is, that when the Son of man shall return in His glory, in the regeneration, the twelve shall be in their place on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

This answer leaves all aside, until the restoration of Israel, and places again the disciples in connection with this principle, omitting what, in the interval, was for the church; but it is also wholly outside the legal relationships of the people with God. If the law were accomplished, life would be the result. Those who followed Christ, when the Jews under the law rejected Him, should judge Israel in the day of the glory of the Son of man. They had followed the Lord in His rejection by Israel; they should participate in His glory when He should be the glorious Head of His people and of the entire world. Moreover, whoever had acted faithfully in this relation and taken Christ for his portion should receive an hundredfold here below, and besides life everlasting. Nevertheless one can judge nothing beforehand as to the relative degree of glory of individuals by their present position.