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which was meant that only they who applied their minds diligently and earnestly to our Saviour's doctrine, would take the trouble to investigate the intent of his words, and not that he was willing that any one, sincerely his disciple, should
perish for lack of knowledge;" and this is more evident from the circumstance of his explaining to his immediate followers, the intention of some of his parables, thus, as it were, giving them a clue to the remainder.
What further motives our Lord had for his adoption of the parable, we shall presently consider. We will now lead
your attention to the first which he uttered. We have already described his situation. Seated in a vessel on the sea-shore, he spake to the assembled multitudes on the land, and he told them the story of the sower, who went out to sow his seed. Can we conceive any narration more peculiarly apposite than this, whether considered as an introduction to the rest, or uttered by one who was about to implant a new religion in the world? And lest we should, by any possibility, misunderstand it, we have recorded by the Evangelist a full explanation of it, as given afterwards in private, by our Lord to his disciples, in which he told them that his object was to exhort them not to permit carelessness or apathy to render his instructions fruitless, as the seed which falls by the way side is unprofitable ; not to allow the persecutions of their enemies to damp their zeal, as the seed which falleth on stony ground is withered for lack of moisture; not to suffer the cares, and businesses, and pleasures of life, to stifle their religion, as the thorns prevent the growth of the otherwise good seed; but rather to endeavour, as much as was in their power, to bring forth fruit an hundred fold.
With this beginning of parables, and with such an explanation of them to his followers, our blessed Lord proceeded to make use of this mode of instruction; and with him who was himself the author of the stories which he related at hand
to unfold their meaning, and with such an opening as this explanation of one of them gave them, no one who was sincerely desirous of knowing the truth, could have any well-grounded cause for saying that the parables of our divine Teacher were dark or obscure.
We will now consider what further motives, besides those already mentioned, our Saviour had for his use of the
parable. Doubtless his first and great object was instruction, which he hoped might, by these means, be most pleasingly conveyed and most effectually impressed. For this end were the parables invented, and to this end do they all point. Those which were meant directly for this purpose, are, by far, the most numerous; and, indeed, there are few which, for whatever purpose they were originally designed, may not ultimately be resolved into this one great, universal end of instruction.' In furtherance of this object, he compares the kingdom of Heaven to
a secret treasure and to a goodly pearl. He commands his followers to exert their utmost abilities for the promotion of God's honor and service, and not to permit their talents to be buried in sloth. He warns them, from the example of the wise and foolish virgins ?, to have oil in their lamps, that is, faith in their hearts, and their lights burning, that is, uprightness and beneficence in their actions, lest the Judge of all men should come and find them sleeping. He bids them beware both how they reject their Lord's invi- . tation to his supper , lest finally they be entirely cast away by him, and also how they dare to come into his presence without having previously clothed themselves with the marriage-garment of holiness, and humility. By the tares and good corn, which were found growing together in the same field, he shews the activity with which our enemy, the devil, “goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour," and from their being permitted to continue together until the harvest, he points out that, though the long suffering of God may endure for a time, yet that there will hereafter be a certain day of recompense and retribution. By the parables of the sheep' and of the piece of silver which was lost, he inculcates the advantage and efficacy of repentance in the sight of that God, who rejoiceth not in the death of a sinner, but desireth rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live. By that of the rich man and Lazarus ?, he shews not only the folly and inutility of riches, but also the sufficiency of revelation, and the certainty of a future state. And lastly, in his awful account of the solemn and final separation of the sheep from the goats 3, he reads us a most serious lesson ; having in it, as we believe, given us almost an historical relation of what is hereafter to take place, on the last great day of judg
1 Matt. xxv. 14
2 Matt. xxv. 1.