« ZurückWeiter »
washing their feet, Christ did for his disciples, as a servant, to teach them humility. Hence St. Paul reckons it as an instance of piety, to wash the saints' feet?. The same usage still continues in the east; for when pilgrims a arrive at Jerusalem, they are received with this kindness of washing their feet.
Eleventh remark. For the understanding of the parables, observe, Ist, That the way in which the Jewish rabbies and doctors instructed their scholars, according to the custom of the eastern countries, (observed by one of the ancients who lived therein) was frequently by stories and parables ; which set forth spiritual things under certain representations or similitudes taken from affairs and customs in the world. Thus, for example", one of the rabbies encourages a diligence in God's servants : “ This matter (says he) is like unto a king, who invited his servants, but did not appoint the time. Those of them that were wise adorned themselves, and sat at the gate of the palace, to be ready ; but the foolish went to their business. The king on a sudden enquires for his servants; the wise entered with their ornaments on the other in a mean and indecent dress: the king rejoiced in the wise, but was enraged against the foolish.”
Another of the rabbies e teaches humility, by the following parable: “ Three men (says he) were bidden to a feast; a prince, a wise man, and an humble man. The prince sat highest, next him the wise man, and the humble man lowest. The king observed it, and asked the prince, Why sittest thou highest? He said, Because I am a prince. Then he
did not appoil themselves,
y John xiii. 5. z 1 Tim. v. 10. Thevenot. Trav. part i. chap. 36. b Grot. et Lightf. Hor. in Matt. xiii. 3. Familiare est Syris, et maxime Palestinis, ad omnem sermonem suum parabalas jungere. Hieronym. in Matt. xviii. 23.
Lightf. Hor. in Matt. xxv. 2. • Lightfoot's Harmony, Ann. 33. p. 49.
said to the wise man, Why sittest thou next ? He said, Because I am a wise man. And to the humble man, Why sittest thou lowest? Because I am humble. The king seated the humble man highest, and the wise man still in his place, and the prince lowest.”
After this manner, the Jewish doctors used to instruct their people, who had a kind of natural genius to that sort of discoursing. Hence our Lord complied with the customs of the Jews, and spake so many parables, which tended much to edification, of the Jews especially, who were accustomed to that method; for thereby the thing was shewed as it were in an image or picture; and the story delighted the hearer, and so the more engaged attention, and fixed the instruction: also a reproof found an easier entrance this way, than when offered in downright termsf.
Secondly, Notwithstanding parables were thus suitable to the custom and temper of the Jews; yet Christ gives another reason for his speaking by parables to some of the peoples, because to them it was not given, or allowed, to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; or”, that seeing they may see, and not perceive. Not that they were unavoidably deprived of the means of conviction; for, first, most of his parables were intelligible enough to the welldisposed and attentive among them; of whom many became his disciples : but as for those that were without', no better prepared to receive the truth than heathen persons, their own wickedness and perverseness was the cause of their not understanding them, because they had not, that is, were not disposed to
sf Thus Nathan reproved David, 2 Sam. xii. 1, &c. See also the parable of Jehoshaphat, king of Israel, 2 Kings xiv. 9. and of the vineyard, Isaiah v. 1, &c. & Matt. xiii. 11. h As in Mark iv. 12. i Mark iv. 11. " As it is more fully explained in Matt. xiii. 12.
improve the knowledge they had enjoyed; and they seeing, see not', that is, wilfully shut their eyes against the light. Secondly, The doctrine which Christ taught concerning faith and manners is very plain and evident; and if some of the parables were obscure, they are those which m contain the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven", which they might have asked him the interpretation of, (as his disciples did, and as scholars and hearers were wont to do.) These mysteries concerned the divine dispensation under the state of the Gospel, and the event of its institution, both among Jews and Gentiles; which Christ thought not fit more plainly to shew those, who were of such an obstinate and perverse temper, and came not with a sincere design to improve themselves ; but discovered those mysteries to the apostles, as he dido in the parable of the sower, shewing the effect which the preaching of the Gospel would have according to men's dispositions. So the wonderful progress of the Gospel, from so small a beginning, is signified P by the strange growth of a small mustard seed, in the country of the Jews 4, above all other like sort of seeds. Again, the powerful influence of the Gospel on the hearts of men throughout the world is set forth, by the working and dispersing of a little leaven over the whole lump of meal". . Thirdly, The parables are to be understood as to the main design or scope 8 of them, other circumstances being added to fill up the story; as the unjust steward † is propounded to us for an example, not in the unjust part of cheating his lord, for that is only the filling up the story, but in using what of the world is now in our hands, with prudence for our future advantage ; as that steward was cunning in making friends of his lord's creditors, by lessening their debts, and thereby provided for himself, that when he was dismissed, they might receive him into their houses ; so we should contrive to make our worldly treasures subservient to our future benefit, by disposing a part of them charitably, thereby laying up beforehand a treasure iri heaven. So againų, Christ is compared to a thief, not in respect of theft, but the sudden surprise.
| Matt, xiii. 13. m Grot. in Matt, xiii. 10. n Matt. xiii. 11. • Ver. 18. p Ver. 31. 9 See the tenth remark on the Gospels above, numb. 5. Ver. 33. Maimon. in præfat. ad .Mor. Nevoch. Sensum interiorem parabolæ, sub literæ externæ cortice latentem assimilent (sapientes] margaritæ pretiosæ, &c. et paulo post, Ubi tota parabola rem significatam totam exhibet, multa quidem habentur yerba, sed non singula pondus habent, verum inserviunt tantum ad elegantiam, &c. t Luke xvi.
Fourthly, As for the expression at the beginning of most of the parables, The kingdom of heaven is like: &c. Here the kingdom of heaven signifies some times the Gospel of the kingdom, or the state of the Gospel, or the manifestation of the Messiah, and the success thereof; and sometimes God's dealing with men under the Gospel state; as*, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; that is, in the Gospel state, and at the publishing Christ the Messiah, many, both good and bad, pretend to be his disciples and followers, and are outward members of the visible church of Christ; but at the judgment-day they shall be distinguished. Again", The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, who would take account of his servants; that is, God's dealing with man ace cording to the covenant of the Gospel, is resembled to a king calling his servants to account.
Fifthly, Some parables are to be understood, not as having respect primarily to the case of particular Christians, but the calling of the Gentiles in general, and the rejection of the Jews; as ? the parable of the householder, that went out at the ninth and eleventh
u Luke xii. 39. * Matt. xiii. 47. Matt.xviii. 23. Matt. hour, or the latter end of the day, to hire labourers into his vineyard, seems chiefly to signify the calling of the Gentiles in the latter age of the world; and the complaint of those who were first hired, for being made but equal to them who were called afterwards, seems to point out the Jews being offended at their equality with the Gentiles in the dispensation of the Gospel. In like manner, the parable of the two sonsa may denote the state of Jews and Gentiles; the latter of which, although, like the prodigal son, they had cast off the true religion, and run into wickedness, if, upon the preaching of the Gospel, they repent and believe in Christ, even they shall be kindly received into the church, as well as the elder brother the Jew. Andb, the parable of the unthankful husbandmen, to whom a vineyard was let out, and who slew the householder's servants and his son, for which they were destroyed, shewed God's judgments on the Jews, who resisted and persecuted the old prophets, and even Christ the Son of God himself, that they should be cast off, and the kingdom. of God given to another nation, viz. the Gentiles Sod the parable of the persons invited to the marriage feast, who would not come, no doubt signified the Jews refusing the terms of the Gospel, and their rejection; and the inviting those on the highways, imported the calling of the Gentiles; though, in a secondary sense, these parables may be applied to particular cases and persons; as the rewards allowed to that person who came into the vineyard late, may comfört such to whom the Gospel was only revealed in their old age, and as soon as they are hired, or have the knowledge of the Gospel, labour in the vineyard, discharge their Christian duties : so the prodigal son's penitence and return, being accepted, may encourage the timely and true penitent.