Page images
PDF
EPUB

for “the poor in spirit,” “the meek,” “ the hungry and thirsty after righteousness," "the merciful,” “the pure in heart,” “the peacemakers,” and “the persecuted for righteousness' sake :"—that for this end the Expiator of our guilt, did Himself explain and inculcate the laws of God, and the principles of all righteousness; and did Himself sojourn on the earth, a pattern of unblemished innocence, of active and various goodness, the perfection of piety towards God, and benevolence towards man; leaving us an example that we should walk in his steps.—We know these things — we preach them — we hear them:—“ Happy are ye”—it is the monition which our Saviour hath given us—“ happy are ye if ye do them.”*

20

* John xiii. 17.

SERMON XIV.

LUKE VIII. 10.

And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mys

teries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables ; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.

vre

Very different senses have been affixed to these words. Some have inferred from them that our Lord addressed the Jewish people in parables, in preference to employing a more intelligible mode of instruction, for the express purpose of confirming and perpetuating their ignorance and unbelief; and, moreover, have alleged them in confirmation of the doctrine termed Calvinistic_namely, that the Almighty predetermined from eternity to render the Gospel effectual to the sanctification and redemption of a definite portion of mankind. Others, rejecting this last deduction from the words, or disregarding it altogether, have understood them to import that our Lord made use of parables as a punishment upon his hearers for the inattention, prejudice, and hostile spirit with which they had received his more perspicuous communications; although he had offered them abundant evidence of his divine commission, and notwithstanding the especial, predicted proofs of his Messiahship. This, it appears, is the construction most generally put upon the language of our Lord before us, and it is certainly consistent with a rule of the divine conduct propounded by himself on the occasion when he delivered it :-“ For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance : but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables."* Nevertheless, we are not prepared to receive the declaration of our Lord in this sense, or, in other words, to understand his conduct in speaking to the Jews in parables as retributive or penal; but accord to the conclusion, that he announced the doctrines of the Gospel in the obscurity of parables because the minds of his hearers were so engrossed with things sensible and

* Matt. xiii. 12.

present, so inveterately prepossessed with the expectation of a temporal redemption and aggrandizement, that they could not have endured to contemplate the truths of Christianity through a more clear and transparent medium-could not have endured a distinct and palpable apprehension of them. We conceive that he mitigated the effulgence of divine truth, in pure condescension to a morbid imperfection in their moral vision; and, accordingly, that those parables of our Saviour which partook of a mystical or enigmatical character, or were of difficult apprehensionfor the larger portion of his parables, be it observed, were but more lively and affecting representations of familiar truths, or enclosed their sense in a texture of allegory which might have been unravelled without difficulty that those parables, we say, which were of difficult apprehension, so far from having been constructed for the purpose of impeding their acquaintance with the truths of the Gospel, were, in truth, the only means of engaging their attention to evangelical principles at all. Moreover, it has been justly alleged that our Saviour was placed in imminent personal danger by the malice of his enemies; and a more explicit, a less restrained and guarded annunciation of his doctrines might have given him into their hands before the hour was come in which he was to lay down his life as a ransom for the sinner; and might thereby have obstructed the general and ulterior objects of his mission. Such parables, however, were not without a minor and intermediate utility. They kept alive a certain degree of interest in our Lord's discourses; attracted a curiosity towards them; and doubtless afforded occasions for the exercise of candour, and the proof of an upright purpose towards God, to individuals who had withstood the common degeneracy, and who, with whatever limitation in their views, awaited in a devout and humble spirit the “ salvation of Israel.'

It is undoubtedly true, that the Jewish people were punished for their guilty prejudices against Jesus of Nazareth, on the occasion of his speaking to them in parables; but not, as we conceive, by Him in employing that method of discourse. They were punished by their own inaptitude to understand and believe the Gospel, if plainly unfolded to them.- But we shall return to this topic in the farther prosecution of the subject.

That inference from the text which was first stated-namely, that our Saviour addressed

« PreviousContinue »