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OF PARABLES IN GENERAL: AND THE LEADING IDEAS
OF THIS IN PARTICULAR.
Matt. XIII. 3—9.— And he spake many things unto them in
parables, saying, Behold a sower went forth to sow. And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way-side ; and the fowls came and devoured them up. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth : and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth; and when the sun was up, they were scorched, and because they had not root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up and choked them. But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold. Who hath ears to hear,
let him hear. Our divine Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, possessed the qualifications of a prophet in their highest perfection. No one ever taught like him : he spake with authority, not as the scribes. Sensible, however, that his instructions could have no salutary effect unless duly received, he earnestly exhorted the multitude who attended his ministry to take heed how they heard. And to assist them in this great duty, he lays open, in the parable before us, the principles, motives, and conduct of the various sorts of persons who hear the gospel.
Our Saviour was constant and unwearied in the discharge of the duties of his prophetic character. On the morning of the day this parable was delivered, he had reproved the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, warning them of the tremendous consequences it would draw after it. And having retired for a while to a house for some refreshment, he went down to the sea of Galilee; and there entering into a ship sat on the side of it, and from thence discoursed to a great multitude gathered together on the shore to hear him. They were plain country-people, and so it is probable, well acquainted with husbandry. He therefore talks to them in their own language, presenting them with divine truth in a form easy to be understood, and adapted to please.
But here a difficulty occurs which will require a little consideration. The disciples, when our Lord had finished his discourse, ask him, why he spake to the people in parables. He replies, ver. 13. quoting a passage from Isaiah, Because seeing, they see not; and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand a. From whence it should seem, that our Lord himself considered the form of speech he had used as obscure, and that he adopted it in displeasure at their unreasonable stupidity and unbelief. And how is this to be reconciled with our idea of the parable, as easy to be understood and adapted to please ? I answer—This mode of instruction is certainly natural and proper. We often introduce similes into our discourse, to explain and illustrate what could not otherwise be so clearly comprehended. But then if a parabolical relation be given, without any intimation of the matter to which it is to be applied, it must be uninteresting, and the intention of the speaker remain obscure. Now, it is admitted, our Lord did not in so many words declare what was the point he had in view. Yet, had his hearers been attentive, and made a proper use of their reason, they could not have been at a loss to apprehend in general his meaning. · It was not probable that one who claimed the character of a prophet, and had wrought so many miracles before their eyes, should have nothing further in view than to amuse them with a tale of what often happens to husbandmen in sowing their ground. On the contrary, it was reasonable for them to conclude from his discourse previous to this, from the woes he had denounced upon their leaders for their inattention and unbelief, and from what he added at the close of the parable, Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. I say it was most reasonable for them to conclude from hence, that he meant to hold up to their view moral and divine truth. Which being the case, how natural for them to suppose, that by the sower's sowing seed,
a Chap. vi. 9.