Page images

in clear, plain, and express terms, but some- | hearing they hear not, neither do they untime heightened and enlivened by the ad derstand. dition of beautiful parables. Similitudes of this kind are, indeed, the most simple me The blessed Jesus added, that there was thod of teaching, and best accommodated no reason for their being surprised at what to the apprehension of the vulgar and un he had told them, as it had long before been learned, and very casy to be remembered, predicted by the prophet Isaiah. “ By understood, and applied. At the same hearing, ye shall hear, and shall not undertime, they are the finest veil for mysteries, stand ; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not and the best means of convicting the proud perceive. For this people's heart is waxed and obstinate, as well as concealing from gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, him those truths, which his perverseness and their eyes have they closed ; lest at any and infidelity rendered him unworthy of har time they should see with their eyes, and ing more clearly displayed.

bear with their ears, and should understand

with their hearts, and should be converted: But to return. The parable being finish and F should heal them.” Matt. xiii. 14, 15. ed, his disciples asked, Why he taught the There is some variation in the words, as people in parables ? to which he answered, quoted by the evangelist, and those found * Because it is given unto you to know the in Isaiah, but the import of both is the same, mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to and may be paraphrased in the following them it is not given. For whosoever hath, manner; " The sons of facob shall, indeed, to him shall be given, and he shall have hear the doctrines of the gospel, but not unmore abundance : but whosoever bath not, derstand them; and see the miracles by from him shall be taken away even that he which these doctrines are confirmed, withhath. Therefore speak I to them in para out perceiving them to be wrought by the bles: because they seeing, see not: and finger of God; not because the evidences hearing, they hear not, neither do they un produced by the Messiah are insufficient, derstand.” Matt. xii. 11, &c. As if he but because the corruption of their hearts had said, you, my beloved disciples, who will not suffer them to examine, and weigh are of an humble, docile temper, and are these evidences ; for the sins of this people willing to use means, and resort to me for have hardened their hearts; their pride and instruction, and the explanations of the vanity have shut their ears, and their hypotruths I deliver : to you it shall be no dis crisy and bigotted adherence to traditions advantage, that they are clothed in parables. and forced interpretations of the law and Besides, my discourses are plain and intel. the prophets, have closed their eyes, lest ligible to all unprejudiced minds : truth the brilliant rays of truth should strike their will shine through the veil in which it is ar sight with irresistible force, and the pow. rayed, and the shadow will guide you to

erful voice of divine wisdom force their the substance. But these proud, these self attention, and command their assent; being conceited Pharisees, who are so blinded by unwilling to be directed to the paths of their own prejudices, that they will neither righteousness which lead to the heavenly hear nor understand a thing plainly deli Canaan. vered ; to them I preached in parables, and hide the great truth of the gospel, under Such are the reasons given by our blessed such metaphorical robes, as will for ever Saviour for his teaching the people by paconceal them from persons of their temper.

rables : and to embrace the great privilege They have, therefore, brought upon them his disciples enjoyed, he added, that many selves this blindness, that in seeing they patriarchs and prophets of old had earnestly see not, and this wilful deafness, and in desired to see and hear these things which

No. 5


they saw and heard, but were denied that commerce with men ; á circumstance that favour; God, having till then, shewed could not escape the observation of St. Luke, them to his most eminent saints, in shadows who tells us, that the seed was trodden only, and as they lay brooding in the womb down, or destroyed, by their own headof futurity, " But blessed are your eyes, strong lasts, which, like so many birds for they see ; and your ears, for they hear. pinched with hunger, devour the seed im. · For verily I say unto you, that many pro planted in their minds. phets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not The rocky ground represents those hearseen them, and to hear those things which ers, wbo so far receive the word into their ye hear, and have not heard him," Mait. bearts, that it discovers itself by good rexiii. 16, 17.

si The

solutions, which are, perhaps, accompanied

with a partial reformation of some sins, and Our Lord, by these means, excited ihe the temporary practice of some virtues. desires of his disciples, proceeded to explain But the word has not sunk deep enough in to them the parable of the sower.

their minds, to reinain constantly there ; its sower (said he) soweth the word.” The abode with them is only for a season ; and, seed, therefore, implies the doctrines of therefore, when persecution ariseth for the true religion, and the various kinds of soil sake of the gospel, and such bearers are the various kinds of hearers. The ground exposed to tribulations of any kind, the by the highway side, which is apt to be blade which sprung up, quickly withers for beaten by men ireading upon it, is an image want of being watered with the streams of of those who have their hearts so hardened piety and virtue ; like the vegetable prowith impiety, that though they hear the ductions of the earth, when deprived of the gospel preached, it makes no impression enlivening rains and dews of neaven, and a o their callous hearts, because they either want of earth (o contain this balmy Auid, hear it inattentively, or quickly forget the when the rays of the sun dart in full vigour words of the preacher. And surely no si

“But he that received the seed militude could more strongly represent this into stony places, the same is he that hearimsensibility, and inattention, than the beaten eth the word, and anon with joy receiveth ground, bordering on the highway, into it ; yet bath he not root in himself, but which this seed never entering, it is picked dureth for a while: so when tribulation up by the fowls of the air, or trodden in or persecution ariseth, because of the word, pieces by the feet of passengers.

« When by and by he is offended.” Matt. xiii. any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catchetb away that which The ground 'encumbered with thorns, was sown in his heart ; this is he which

which sprung with the seed, and choked it, received seed by the way side.” Matt. represent all those who receive the word xiii. 19.

into their hearts, already filled with the

cares of this world, which will, sooner or We must not suppose, that the devil has later, destroy whatever good resolutions are the power of robbing bearers of their kaow raised by the word. The cares of the world ledge, by an immediate act of his own, are compared to thorns, not only because because he is said to catch away the word of their pernicious efficacy in choking the sown in their hearts, but by the opportu word, but because they cannot be eradi. nities they give the deceiver of mankind, cated without great pain and difficulty. In for exerting his strong temptations, and par the parable, the hearers of this denominaticularly those which have a relation to their tion are distinguished from those who receive

upon them.

20, 21.

the seed on stony ground, not so mach by the effect of the word upon their minds, as by the different nature of each, for in both the seed sprang up, but brought forth no fruit, Those represented by the stony ground, bave no depth of soil; those by the thorny ground, are choked by the cares of the world, by deceitfulness of riches, and the love of pleasures, which, sooner or later, will stifle the impressions of the word; by which means they at last become as unfruitful as the former, But both are distinguished from those bearers represented by the seed sown by the highway side, that they receive the word, and, in some mea. sure, obey its precepts. Whereas the first never receive the word at all, bearing with. out attention; or if they do attend, forget it immediately. “ He also that received seed among the thorn, is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." Matt. xiii.

apartment, enlightens the whole. He added, that though some of the doctrines of the gospel were then concealed from the people, because of their prejudices, yet the iime would come when these doctrines should be preached openly and plainly, through the world; and therefore it was their duty, to whom God had given both an opportunity of hearing, and a capacity of understanding, these doctrines, to listen with the utmost attention. “ Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed ? And not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear. Mark iv. 21, 22, 23.

But as it was a matter of great importance, that the disciples, who were to publish the gospel throughout the whole world, should listen with the closest attention to his sermons, he repeated bis admonitions, adding, that their present privileges and future rewards should be both proportioned 10 the fidelity and care with which they discharged the important trust committed to them. “Take heed what you hear; with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you ; and unto you that hear, shall more be given." Mark iv. 24.

Having, explained these parables to his disciples, he turned himself to the multitude on the shore, and, in his usual endearing accent, delivered the parable of the enemies sowing tares among the wheat: and, on their first appearance, astonishing the husbandman's servants, wbo knew the field had been sown with good seed, in order to free the wheat from such injurious plants, proposed to root them up. But this the husbandman abundantly refused, lest by extirpating the one, they injured the other; adding, that he would take care, at the time of harvest, to give orders to his reapers that they first gathered the tares into bundles, and burned them, and afterwards to carry the wheat to the granaries. "The

In opposition to these unprofitable hearers of the word, others are represented, whose goodness of heart (agreeable to the similitude of the soul) receive the word with gladness, and bring forth larger increase. These are convinced of the truths delivered, and practise it, though contrary to their prejudices, and opposite to their inclinations. All those bring forth, some an hun. dred fold, some sixty, and some thirty, in proportion to the different degrees of strength, in which they possess the graces necessary to the profitable hearing the word of rightepusnesss.

Having ended this interpretation of the parable of the sower, he continued his discourse to his disciples, explained to them, by the similitude of a lighted lamp, the use they were expected to make of all the excellent instructions they had and should receive from him. Their understanding, he told them, was to illumine the world, as a brilliant lamp placed in the centre of an

kingdom of heaven," said the blessed Jesus, ever, from hence imagine, that religion will " is likened unto a man which sowed good flourish without their carefully and imporseed in his field : But while men slept his tunately pressing its precepts upon the minds. enemy came and sowed tares among the of their hearers. The parable was spoke towheat, and went his way. But when the inform the Jews in particular, that neither blade was sprung up, and brought forth the Messiab nor his servants would employ. fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the force to establish the kingdom of God, as servant of the householder came, and said they vainly expected the Messiah would unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed have done; and to prevent the disciplesin the field ? From whence then hath it from fainting, when they saw that an immetares ! He saith unto them, an enemy hath diate and rapid: success did not attend their done this. The servants said unto him, labours. “ So is the kingdom of God, as Wilt thou then that we go and gather them if

if a man should cast seed into the ground, up? But he said, nay, lest while ye ga and should sleep, and rise night and day, ther up the tares, ye root up also the wheat and the seed should spring and grow up, he with them. Let both grow together until the

knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth barvest; and in the time of harvest I will forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn But when the fruit is brought forth, imthem; but gather the wheat into my barn." mediately he putteth in the sickle beMatt. xiii. 24, &c.

cause the harvest is come." Mark iv. 263,

&c. This parable of the tares being ended, he spake another, concerning the seed The next parable he spake to the multiwhich sprung up secretly, representing the tude was that of the mustard-seed, which gradual and silent progress of the gospel | though very small when sown, becomes in among the sons of men. He informed Palestine, and other parts of the East, a them under this similitude, that the hus large spreading tree. Intimating to his dandman does not by any efficacy of his audience, under this similitude, that note own, cause the seed he casts into the ground withstanding the Gospel would at first to grow, but leaves it to be nourished by appear contemptible, from the ignominy the teeming virtues of the soil, and the en flowing from the crucifixion of its Author, livening rays of the sun: in the same man the difficulty of its precepts, the weakness ner Jesus and bis apostles, having taught of the persons by whom it was preached, men the doctrine of true religion, were not

and the small number and mean condition: by any miraculous force to constrain the of those who received it; yet being founded wills, far less by the terrors of fire and on truth itself, it would increase to an astosword to interpose visibly in the assistance nishing magnitude, filling the whole earth, of it; but suffer it to spread by the secret affording spiritual nourishment to persons influences of the Holy Spirit, till it attained of all nations, who should enjoy all the priits full effect. And as the husbandman, can vileges of the Messiab's kingdom, equally not, by the most diligent observation perceive with the Jews. And surely a more proper the corn in his field extending its dimensions parable could not have been uttered, to encouas it grows; so the ministers of Christ were rage his disciples to persevere in the work of not, at the first planting of the gospel, to the ministry, notwithstanding it would in the expect to see it make a quick progress beginning be opposed by the learned, the through the world.

rich, and the powerful." The kingdom of

heaven is like to á grain of mustard-seed, The ministers of religion must not how which a man took and. sowed in his field.

Which indeed is the least of all seeds ; but, the same time, however sincerely we may when it is grown, it is the greatest among wish to see the Church freed from her corherbs, and becometh a tree : so that the rupted members, we must not extirpate birds of the air come and lodge in the them by force, lest, being deceived by outbranches thereof.” Matt. xiii. 31, 32. ward appearance we also destroy the wheat

or sound members. We must leave this Our blessed Saviour concluded his dis- distinction to the awful day, when the great course to the multitude, with the parable of Messiah will descend to judgment ; for the leaven, to intimate the influence of the then a separation will be made, the wicked doctrine of the gospel on the minds of par- cast into torments, that should have po end, ticular persons; “The kingdom of heaven is but the righteous received into life eternal, like unto leaven, which a woman took and where they “ shall shine forth, as the sun, hid in three measures of meal, till the whole in the kingdom of their Father.” Matt. xii. was leavened.”. Matt. xiii. 33.


While Jesus was thus employed in his heavenly Father's business, his mother and

Our Lord, on this occasion, delivered brethren came a second time, desiring to

the parable of the treasure hid in the field. see him. In all probability they feared that

and of the pearl of great price. The former the continued fatigue of preaching would in

was designed to teach us that some meet jure bis health ; and were therefore desirous

with the gospel as it were by accident, and of taking him with them, that he might re

without seeking after it, agreeable to the fresh himself. But the blessed Jesus, who

prediction of the prophet, “ That God is

found of them that seek him not.” Isa. Ixv. was never weary of doing good, answered his indulgent parent as before, “ My mo

1. But with regard to the latter, it was ther and my brethren are these which hear

designed to intimate, that men sometimes

take the utmost pains to become acquainted the word of God and do it.” Luke viii. 21.

with the great truths of the gospel. And Night approaching, Jesus dismissed the surely the similitudes, both of the treasure multitude, and returned to the house in

and pearl, are very naturally used to signify

the gospel : the former, as it enriches all Capernaum, where be abode, and there explained to bis disciples the parable of the

who possess it; and the latter, because it tares in the field. The busbandman, our

is more precious than rubies. blessed Saviour ; the field, the Christian Church, planted in different parts of the

But that the disciples must expect that world. The wheat are those Christians who

the Christian Church would consist of a mix. obey the precepts of the gospel, and are ed multitude of people, the good blended supported by the influences of the Holy Spi- with the bad, in such a manner, that it rit; and the tares, the bad Christians,

would be difficult to separate them, be conseduced into the paths of vice, by the temp

pared it to a net cast into the sea, which tation of the devil. Our blessed Lord, gathered fish of every kind, good and bad, therefore, by this parable represented the which were separated when the net vas mixed nature of the Church on earth, the

drawn to the land ; that is, at the last great dismal end of the bypocrites, and those who day of accounts, when the righteous will be forget God ; for those may deceive for a conveyed to life eternal, and the wicked cast time, by assuming the robes of virtue and into everlasting misery. religion ; yet they will not fail, sooner or later, to betray themselves, and shew that Our blessed Saviour, having finished these they are only wolves in sheep's clothing. At parables, asked his disciples, if they undera

No. 6,


« PreviousContinue »