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compares it, first, to a grain of mus- SERM. tard seed, which being sown in a field. from the least of seeds becomes the greatest of herbs; and secondly, to a small quantity of leaven, which being put into a large measure of meal diffused its quality through the whole massh. To signify the joy that subsists in heaven on the repentance of a sinner, he represents it, first, under the image of a shepherd calling together his friends and his neighbours to rejoice with him on the recovery of a sheep which had gone astray; and secondly, of a woman calling together her friends and her neighbours to rejoice with her on finding the piece of silver that she had losti,
4. They are sometimes also drawn with an allusion to the peculiar manners, opinions, and civil constitution of the people to whom they are addressed. Thus in the parables of the Pharisee and the Publican", and of the Priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan', a particular reference is made to the distinctions of sect and order, that sub
h Matt. xii. 31, &c
k Luke xviii. 10, &c.
i Luke xv, 4, &c. | Luke x. 30, &c.
SERM. sisted at that time in the land of Pa.
lestine. In the case of the guest, who came to a marriage feast without a wedding garment, we may perceive an allusion to a custom in the courts of princes and superior men in Eastern countries, of being provided with a store of garments for the use of their guests on any solemn or festal occasion". In the case of the nobleman going into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return, we may also discover an allusion to a practice not unusual in the time of the Roman power, and recently exemplified among the Jews in the case of Herod their king, among the princes and nobles of dependent and tributary states, to repair to Rome, and solicit offices and honours from the superiors of the Roman empire".
5. And while the parables in their literal sense are adapted to the temporal habits and occupations of his audience, so also in their figurative sense they have a corresponding reference to their moral dispositions and characters. When our Saviour spoke to a multitude,
* Matt. xxii. 11, &c.
Luke xix. 12, &c.
who listened to his word with various
SERM, degrees of attention according to their various humours and inclinations, he represents himself under the character of a sower who went forth to sow, when the seed which he sowed fell on different kinds of ground, and failed in various ways, or throve in various degrees, according to the quality of the soil on which it fello, When he spoke to those two opposite descriptions of people, the Publicans and Sinners, who drew near for to hear him, and the Pharisees and Scribes, who murmured at his conduct in receiving sinners and cating with them; he represents the former of these under the character of a younger son, very dissolute on his first going forth, but afterwards very penitent; and the latter under the character of an elder son boasting of his fidelity and diligence in his father's service, and murmuring at the grace which his father shews to a repenting prodigal P.
I PROCEED in the second place to display the uses of parable.
• Matt. xiii. 3, &c.
p Luke xv. 11, &c.
1. Now the first and original use of it is, that it illustrates moral truth. In this respect it is not only a convenient, but even a necessary vehicle of instruction. The origin of parable in common with most other useful devices was probably from necessity. The teachers of early times, having terms of expression only for material objects, wanted language for the conveyance of intellectual sentiment: hence they were obliged to have recourse for images to the more obvious scenes of nature and of conmon life.
Now if this resource was found expedient by teachers of human wisdom for the conveyance of simply moral truth; we cannot account it less expedient for a teacher come from God, in order to communicate divine and spiritual truth, since there was a want not only of language to express, but even of ideas to conceive it. It was neither obvious to the senses, nor open to the capacities of human nature. In relation to the spiritual world the wisest of mankind are children, and require to be instructed after the manner of chil
dren by such images as are within the , compass of their understandings. And
therefore in gracious condescension to serm. the weakness of our capacities he has chosen to illustrate our spiritual concerns by temporal similitudes, and to describe the things of God according to the language and sentiinents of men. To this we must aitribute the complexion of his parables, when be represents the Lord of heaven and carth under the relation of a master, a father, or å prince, when he shadows forth the economy of the Gospel under the similitude of a farm or a vineyard, of a kingdom or a household.
2. A second use of parable, and that very comprehensive and important, is, that it embodies moral truth. As it was begun from necessity, so it was continued for convenience. It would have been of small avail for the teachers of early times to discourse to plain unlettered men in abstract language, of the beauty of virtue and the convenience of moral action. If they were anxious either to take or to retain a hold upon the mind, it was expedient for them to give some form to the virtue they would inculcate and the vice they would reprehend.
In order both to engage the attention and impress the memory,