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LECTURES ON THE PARABLES. .
THE COMING HARVEST.
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 forth with they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no 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 hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables ? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 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 : because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which said, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed ; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catched away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that
heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while : for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word ; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an
hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.—Matt. xiii. 3-23. Hearken ; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: and it came to pass, as he
sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth : but when the sun was up, it was scorched ; and because it had no root, it withered away, And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable ? and how then will ye
know all parables ?–Mark iv. 3–13.
and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.
THE parable is a far loftier vehicle of truth than the fable, and far more suited to the character and lessons of Jesus. It is the framework of a spiritual and a heavenly meaning, the network of silver, containing apples of gold; the elaborately chased basket, replenished with the bread of everlasting life. It descends from the skies. It is a heavenly utterance. It is the consecrated messenger of God. The fable is the mere vehicle of prudential maxims,
of relative and social action, of domestic economy and prudence. It is the creation of man--the invention of genius—the device of human benevolence. The first teaches the morality and truth that God reveals and requires, and so shines in the splendour of its origin and end; the second inculcates the efforts that man appreciates, and that the world applauds. They differ from each other as far as divine inspiration differs from human invention. The only two fables in the word of God are contained in Judges ix. 8: “ The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, where with by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig-tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig-tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow : and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”—And in 2 Kings xiv. 9: 6 And Jehoash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, The thistle that was in Lebanan sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, Give thy daughter to my son to wife : and there passed by a wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trode down the thistle." The first teaches the folly, not the sin, of making something a king; by the second, Jehoash makes Amaziah see his pride—“Thou hast indeed smitten Edom, and thine heart hath lifted thee up.” The fable jests at the follies, and ridicules the faults, and taunts the disappointments of mankind; yet without responsibility or passion. But the parable never does so. It is full of righteous anger, of holy rebuke, and condemnation of wrong-doing; it is always earnest, affectionate, solemn. The fable is fit for the instruction of the heathen that know not the gospel, in the hands of heathen teachers; the parable is the appropriate instructor of those who are possessed of the word of God, and teach and value the things that belong to their everlasting peace.
The parable is also perfectly distinct from the allegory. “I am the true vine"_“I am the good Shepherd”—are instances of the allegory. It differs from the parable in this, that it needs no accompanying interpretation. It is either designedly wrapped up in mystery, or it is perfectly transparent of itself, and needs no running or appended interpretation; it expounds itself. The parable is not a mere elucidation of a truth, but a vivid exposition of it: not only so, but it is a confirmation and proof of the truth. The parable is a witness summoned from the recesses of the outer world, to attest the truth and the reality of moral and spiritual things, and to prove that by unseen, but real roots, the productions of the moral and material universe cohere. It sounds deep and mysterious harmonies in every sphere and section of the universe, to show that earth has copies and prefigurations of heavenly things, beautiful even in their ruin, and that one hand made both the heaven and the earth, the soul and the body, the nutriment of the one and the maintenance of the other; and that a deep, rich, and lasting unity runs, like a chord, through heaven and earth; and that this world, notwithstanding its defects, is God's world, yet to be restored, as this Book, with all its excellencies, is God's Book.
I believe that all relationships and excellencies on earth are but dim reflections of higher and sublimer ones in heaven. This corrects a notion of ours, that the Scripture representations of God are the employment of merely human things, to depict, otherwise incomprehensible, spiritual and eternal things. This is not the fact. The human is only the lower form of the heavenly. The latter is the original, the former is the copy. Earth is the foreshadow of the future. The relation of the husband and wife is not a happy human accident merely, illustrative of the relationship of Christ and his church, but it is a copy exhibited on earth of the grand and untouched original in heaven. Christ and his church is the original, the husband and wife are the feeble translation or the copy. Christ is called in Scripture a King; this is not a title borrowed from the earth, but Christ is the original, and his title is lent to man in order to reflect on earth a shadow of the heavenly, a foreshadow of the future King; and so kings are but the dim types of a higher mystery. Spring and harvest, sunbeam and rains, are not the archetypal things, after which the heavenly are formed; they are the mere copies, now mutilated by sin, of the holy originals that still breathe, and grow, and bloom in heaven. God sits on his throne, and the skirts of his majestic train stretch over the whole temple of creation. Material things are the sacred hieroglyphs of heavenly things. The sun and stars, and all things in creation, are to a Christian mind the teachers of God-lesson-books of his wisdom, his glory, his majesty, and his love—blossoms, apparent to the outward eye, indicative of the richness and the inexhaustible magnificence of that source which lies beyond them, and from which they are all emanations. Mere teachers of science, ignorant of Christianity, thus entertain angels unawares. They handle things, whose mag