Images de page

that haih done this thing shall surely die, and he shall restore the man four-fold becanse he hath done this thing, and because he had no pity." How striking then became the application of the parable! How overwhelming the solemn annunciation of the subject—"Thou art the man!"* Again, comparisons are introduced before the subject they are designed to illustrate, for the purpose of exercising the mind upon things with which it requires time to become conversant, and inculcaring certain leading truths, which are in due time required to be fulfilled in the subject of comparison. The effect of comparisons, thus presented, is to excite the eagerness of curiosity and engage the faculries of the mind in a close and anxious search for their hidden meaning, while any truths which they may teach incidentally, or which may be connected with them, produce in the mean time a lasting impression. Thus the Mosaic instirution preceded and shadowed forth the Chris. tian, and while by the most graphic imagery it displayed its various parts. and exhibited by the most appropriate syn:bols the greai sacrifice which was to be offered up for the sins of the world, it impressed at the same time upon the minds of men these all-impor:ant truthsthe unity of God, the ho’iness of his character, his justice, his mercy, his faithfulness, the nature and exceeding sinfulness of sin, and that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission,-preliminary lessons which it required time to communica'e, and without which the world could never have understood, or in any degree appreciated the atonement made by Him who was the "end of the law," in whom "the veil was done away,” in whom ('he true subject of comparison) all types and symbols had their explanation, and without whom these would have remained forever mysterious and incomprehensible. Just so have the minds of Christians been excited, exercised, and prepared by the symbols of the Apocalypse.

If we now turn our atiention to the 13th chapter of Matthew, we will find presented the very case which we have just been considerinç ; and will perceive that the first parable, that of the Sower, was delivered to the muliitude by the Messiah, without any statement or definition of the subjects or persons to which it was intended to apply. “He spoke many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold a sower weni forth to sow," &c. But they were not informed who was represented by wthe sower," nor of what "the seed" was made a symbol, ņor was there any thing previously pre:en ed 10 their minds to which they could apply the comparison of seed fallen why the way side," "among thorns," or "upon stony places,” or “in good ground.”. Consequently the parable could not be understood; and that the want of

* This affords a striking proof of the power or illustration which parables possess as soon as the subject of comparison is stated.


definition or application was the only cause, will appear abundantly evident when we observe the manner in which the Saviour expounded it, which was by simply stating what the symbols he employed stood for. “The seed,” says he, “is the word of God;'* the usower," he who "sows it;" that “which fell by the way-side," and was “picked up” by the "fowls of the air," represents the case of one who "hears the word of the kingdom and receives ii noi, then cometh the wicked one and taketh it away;"—hat which fell upon “stony places,” represents the case of one who “at first receives the word,” but having “no root in himself, soon withers away;"—that which fell (among thorns" exhibits the case of one who "hears and receives" ihe word, butocares” and riches render it unfruitful; and that which fell into good ground," and "brought forth fruit abundantly,” is an illustration of the effect produced by the reception of the word in "a good and honest heart.” So we see that however striking the parable may appear to us, after we are supplied with a statement of the subjects to which its various parts relate, it would, without such aid, only serve to embarrass, and confuse the mind. In these cases, indeed, definilion is to knowledge what eyes are to vision; and as the radiant noon-day sun would pour forth floods of light in vain, if we were without eyes, or if our eyes were closed; so the most appropriate and beautiful comparison which could be imagined, would, unless the mind distinctly perceived the subject to which it applied, not only fail to enlighten, but actually become itself an insolvable enigma, and as difficult of comprehension to us as light to one born blind. Yet as the sun is intended and fitted to give light to those who liave eyes, and will use them, so a just comparison is eminently calculated to communicate knowledge 10 those who are furnished with, or will receive a definition.t

* Mark and Luke.

† The question may arise here, Why did the Messiah address the Jews in parables without stating the sin hject of comparison, or without communicating ins ruction to them? This inquiry was made by the disciples, and the reply was, "Wat they seeing might nou see, and hearing might not understand 's And this was justice. For "o him that has, more shall be given; but from him that has not, shall be taken even that which he seenis to have.” These self righteous Jews supposed themselves already wise. They seemed to have eyes-nay, they had eyes; but, as the Saviour declared, quoting the prophrcy of Isaiah, "heir eyes they had closed," lest they should "see with their ryes;" their ears they had stopped, "lost they should lear,” and be converted and healed by the Messiah. Their eyes they had closed against the light, and their ears would not liar the instructions of Jusus; for bring tilled with thoughis of worldly grandeur and distinction, "their hearts" having become gross,” they had pre judged his character, and aircarly virtually rijccted him as the Messiah. As, therefore, it would have bern fruitless and unwise to have attempted to teach or reveal any thing to those who obstinately closed their eyes Against the light of truth, so it was perfectly consonant to justice and propriety that their prriended wisdom stru!d be uiterly confounded by parabies without a definition. "Be. cause you say, we see," o'served the Saviour, "ferefore your sin remains" Again, "l'or judgment am I come into this world, that they which see vint miglit see, and ihere who see ivight be made blind." And even if he had stared ili subject of comparison, they would not liave received his instructions; for in colle cases in whicle he did do so, as in the parables following the Sower where he stated the sudijeci, the kingdom of heaven, the result was the game. In a word, they had eyes, but noi lo see-They had ears, but not to hoar. Therefore, on such occasions the Saviour usually concluded by saying, “He


e come now to the consideration of the second case, Where there is in the mind an erroneous definition of that which forms the subject of comparison. Here the subject is slated, but is imperfectly or erronedusly understood; that is, the idea which the mind has conceived of the subject, is erroneous, anil consequenily is not a representation of the true subject of comparison. The comparison, therefore, not being applied to ihe true subject, and having no legitimate application to any other, either leads to error or becomes a source of doubt, conjecture, and confusion. Thus when baptism is compared to a being born of water, lo a washing, to burial and resurrection, these comparisons serve only to confuse the minds of those who imagine that baptism is sprinkling or pouring, while they appear very fit and striking illustralions to those who have a correct definition of the term. But the parable which follows that of the “sower” is so striking an exemplifi. cation of this, and has, for this reason, been so long misunderstood, that it deserves our parıicular attention. It is as follows:-"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a field in which the proprietor had sown good grain; but while people were asleep, his enemy came and sowed darnel among the wheat and went off. When the blade was up and puiting forth the ear, then appeared also the darnel. And the servants came and said to their master, Sir, you sowed good grain in your field; whence, then, has it darnel? He answered, An enemy has done this. They said, Will you, then, that we weed them out? He replied, No, lest in weeding out the darnel, you tear up also the wheat. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the aime of harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather the darnel, and make them into bundles for burning; then carry the wheat into my barn." Thus explained to the disciples: -"He who sowed ihe good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world: the good seed are the sons of the king. dom; and the darnel are the sons of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the conclusion of this state; and the reapers are the angels. As, therefore, the darnel is gathered and burn', so shall it be at the conclusion of this state. The Son of Man will send his angels, who shall gather out of his kingdom all seducers and iniquitous persons, and throw them into the burning furnace: weeping and gnashing of teeth shall be there. Then shall the righteous shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."- Dr. George Campbell's Translation.

This parable has often been appealed to in justification of corrupt communion. When sects have been charged with harboring in their mat has ears to hear let him hear; and to his disciples who were teachable, and desired to know the meaning of the parablex, lic rimarked, Blessed are your eyes because they see, aud your ears because they lear.'

churches the unjusi, the ungodly, and the profligate, their reply has usually been, “The Saviour himself declares that the church or king. dom of heaven would contain both tares and wheat, both wicked and righteous; that these tares or darnel must be permitted to grow with the wheat, and cannot be separated until the harvest—the church can: not be purged until the end of the world!' This has commonly been rebutted by saying, that the tares and the wheat are indeed 10 grow together, but not in the church; for, says the Saviour, "The field is the world." It is evident, however, that neither party have understood the parable; for the comparison is plainly between the kingdom of heaven and a field containing both durnel and wheat; so that it matters not what the field may be, whether the world or not, the kingdom of heaven is just like such a field: now if the kingdom of heaven be like such a field, and this phrase "kingdom of heaven" mean the church as is commonly supposed, and that by both parties, it follows that the church is actually coinpared to such a field, and that the children of the devil and the sons of the kingdom must remain together in the church until the end of the world. Besides, it is said that the angels will gather the wicked "out of the kingdom," and of course it must be admitted that they are now in it. But this conclusion that the openly wicked (for the darnel were observed as soon as the wheat, and were quite conspicuous) are not to be separated from the church is too sweeping even for the sects, who do sometimes excommunicate, the parable to the contrary notwithstanding; and it is plainly irreconcileable with many plain injunctions of holy writ, as well as the principles and genius of the Christian religion. Thus this parable has remained a source of confusion, obscurity, and error, and wholly in consequence of the want of a correct definition of the subject of comparison!

But it will be asked, If the phrase "kingdom of heaven” cannot be understood to mean the church without involving this difficulty, what does it import? To this we would reply, that as we have no reason to suppose these words to be used in an appropriated sense, we are bound to take them in their common acceptation; and that what ever meaning we ordinarily attach to the word kingdom or the word heaven, ihey should be permitted to retain. What, then, do we mean by kingdon? This term usually includes several ideas 1st. It implies a king, as a kingdom cannot exist without a king. 2dly. It implies subjects, without which there can neither be king nor kingdom. 3dly. It implies also a territory or real.m, in or over which the king reigns, and in which the subjects live. These three things, king, subjects, and territory, we conceive to be essential to the existence of a kingdom, When a territɔry is pessessed, and the subjects have sowed allegiance

to the king, we can say with truth, a kingdom exists, if it should have commenced but an hour before, and there should be as yet no constitution, no law promulgated or administered. Yet the adıninistration of Jaw, and perhaps a constitution, are to be considered as absolutely essential to the subsistence and perfection of a kingdom. Every kingdom 100 has its manners and customs, and kingdoms are distinguished from each other by these more perhaps than by any thing else; at least a peculiarity of manners and customs distinguishes nations from each other, more than a difference in laws, and is a more invariable attribute, as some nations possess peculiar manners and customs and have no laws-for example, the inhabitants of the Marquesas islands, who are regulated solely by their customs. Kingdoms may be also goo i or evil, and greatly prized and esteemed on account of the happiness and privileges enjoyed by the subjects, or be disliked or avoided by reason of the tyranny and oppression of the monarch. For our present purpose, it will suffice to consider these three essential attri. butes of a kingdom-viz. king, subjects, and territory.

In the kingdom of heaven, then, we must have a king, subjects, and a territory. It will be at once conceded that Christ is the king, Son of the Living God. "I have set my King,” says God, "upon my holy hill of Zion.” Therefore it is called the kingdom of heaven by Matthew, or the kingdom of God by the other Evangelists, being under the government of God in Christ, and belonging to God or to heaven. It is also evident that the subjects are those who have vowed allegiance to King Jesos, and submitted to his authority. And now where is the territory? Not in the moon certainly, not in Jupiter or Saturn, Mars or Mercury. No: undoubtedly it must be upon the earth. But does any particular part of the earth form this territory? Is it confined to any of the islands of the ocean- to any of the great continents? Is it limited to any district? By no means. Time was when the land of Canaan was the territory of God's kingdom among the Jews—they were the subjects, and the land in which they dwelt was the territory. But the landmarks of Judea have been broken down, the rebellious subjects have ceased to possess the land of promise, and THE WORLD—THE WHOLE EARTH has become the territory of a more glorious and extensive kingdom-the kingdom of heaven.Therefore said the Saviour to his Apostles, “Go ye into all the world."

Therefore said an Apostle to the subjects of King Jesus, “All things are yours, the world.

Therefore the saints rejoice before the King, saying, “We shall reign with thee upon the earth.Therefore said the Saviour, "The field is the world." It is scarcely necessary, however, to adduce further proofs of a matter




« PrécédentContinuer »