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father's will, by which he had the kingdom of Judea left to him.
These circumstances give a decided superiority to our Lord's parables over the fables of the ancients; and, if we compare them with those of the Koran, the difference is still greater. The parables of Mahomet are trifling, uninteresting, tedious, and dull. Among other things, which he has borrowed from Scripture, one is the parable of Nathan, in which he has most ingeniously contrived to destroy all its spirit, force, and beauty; and has so completely distorted and deformed its whole texture and composition, that if the commentator had not informed you, in very gentle terms, that it is the parable of Nathan a little disguised, you would scarcely have known it to be the same. Such is the difference between a prophet, who is really inspired, and an impostor, who pre tends to be so.
Nor is it only in his parables, but in his other discourses to the people, that Jesus draws his doctrines and instructions from the scenes of nature, from the objects that surrounded him, from the most common occurrences of life, from the seasons of the year, from some extraordinary incidents or remarkable transactions. "Thus," as a learned and ingenious writer has observed*, curing a blind man, he styles himself the light of the world, and reproves the Pharisees for their spiritual blindness and inexcusable obstinacy in refusing to be cured and enlightened by him. On little children being brought to him, he recommends the innocence, the simplicity, the meekness, the humility, the docility of that lovely age, as indispensable qualifications for those, that would enter into the kingdom of heaven. Beholding the flowers of the field, and the fowls of the air, he teaches his disciples to frame right and worthy notions of that Providence which supports and adorns them, and will therefore assuredly not neglect the superior order of rational beings. Observing the fruits of the earth, he instructs them to judge of men by their fruitfulness under all the means of grace. From the mention of meat and drink, he leads them to the sacred rite of eating his body and drinking his blood in a spiritual sense. From external ablutions, he deduces the necessity of purifying the heart, and cleansing the affections. Those that
* See Bishop Law's Considerations on the Theory of Religion.
were fishers, he teaches to be fishers of men; to draw them by the force of argument and persuasion, aided by the influence of divine grace, to the belief and practice of true religion. Seeing the money-changers, he exhorts his disciples to lay out their several talents to the best advantage. Being among the sheep-folds, he proves himself the true shepherd of souls. Among vines he discourses of the spiritual husbandman and vine-dresser, and draws a parallel between his vineyard and the natural one. Upon the appearance of summer in the trees before him, he points out evident signs of his approaching kingdom. When the harvest comes on, he reminds his disciples of the spiritual harvest, the harvest of true believers; and exhorts them to labour diligently in that work, and add their prayers to Heaven for its success. From servants being made free in the sabbatical year, he takes occasion to proclaim a nobler emancipation and more important redemption from the slavery of sin, and the bondage of corruption, by the death of Christ. From the eminence of a city standing on a hill, he turns his discourse to the conspicuous situation of his own disciples. From the temple before him, he points to that of his own body: and from Herod's unadvisedly leading out his army to meet the king of Arabia, who came against him with a superior force and defeated him, a lesson is held out to all who entered on the Christian warfare, that they should first well weigh and carefully compute the difficulties attending it, and by the grace of God resolve to surmount them.'
In the same manner, when he delivered the parable of the sower, which we find in this chapter, and which will be the next subject of our consideration, it was probably seed time, and from the ship in which he taught he might observe the husbandmen scattering their seed upon the earth. From thence he took occasion to illustrate, by that rural and familiar image, the different effects which the doctrines of Christianity had on different men, according to the different tempers and dispositions that they happen to meet with.
"Behold," says he, 66 a sower went forth to sow. And when he sowed, some 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 forthwith 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 sprang up and choked them. But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundred-fold, some sixtyfold, some thirty-fold." As our blessed Lord, soon after he had uttered this parable, explained it to his disciples, it is highly proper that you should have this explanation in his own words. Hear ye, therefore," says he, "the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the wayside. 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 cares 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."
Such is the parable of the sower, and the explanation of it by our Saviour; which will furnish us with abundant matter for a great variety of very important reflections. But as these cannot be distinctly stated and sufficiently enlarged upon at present, without going to a considerable length of time, and trespassing too far on that patience and indulgence which I have already but too often put to the test, I must reserve for my next Lecture the observations I have to offer on this very interesting and instructive parable.
MATTHEW XIII, CONTINUED.
THE last Lecture concluded with a recital of the parable of the sower, and our Lord's explanation of it; and I now proceed to lay before you those reflections which it has suggested to my mind.
In the first place, then, it must be observed, that this parable, like many others, is prophetic as well as instructive; it predicts the fate of the Christian religion in the world, and the different sorts of reception it will meet with from different men. And as this prediction is completely verified by the present state of religion, as we see it at this hour existing among ourselves, it affords one very decisive proof of Christ's power of foreseeing future events, and of course tends strongly to establish the truth of his pretensions, and the divine authority of his religion.
In the next place it is evident, that there are four different classes of men here described, which comprehend all the different religious or irreligious characters that are to be met with in the world. The first consists of those "that hear the word of the kingdom," as our Lord expresses it," and understand it not; then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in their hearts. These are they," says he, "which received seed by the way-side." By these are meant those persons whose minds, like the beaten high road, are hard and impenetrable, and inaccessible to conviction. Of these, we all know, there are too many in the world; some who have imbibed early and deep-rooted prejudices against Christianity; who, either conceiving themselves superior to the rest of mankind in genius, knowledge, and penetration, reject with scorn whatever the bulk of
mankind receives with veneration, and erect favourite systems of their own, which they conceive to be the very perfection of human wisdom; or, on the other hand, having been unfortunately very early initiated in the writings of modern philosophists, implicitly adopt the opinions of those whom they consider as the great luminaries and oracles of the age, receive ridicule as argument, and assertion as proof, and prefer the silly witticisms, the specious sophistry, the metaphysical subtlety, the coarse buffoonery, which distinguish many of the most popular opponents of our faith, to the simplicity, dignity, and sublimity of the divine truths of the Gospel. These are the professed infidels, or, as they choose to style themselves, the disciples of philosophy and reason, and the enemies of priestcraft, fanaticism, and superstition.
But, besides these, there is another description of men, on whom the good seed makes little or no impression; these are the thoughtless, the inattentive, the inconsiderate, the trifling, the gay, who think of nothing beyond the present scene, and who do not consider themselves as in the smallest degree interested in any thing else. These men, without professing themselves unbelievers, without formally and explicitly rejecting the Gospel, yet do in fact never concern themselves about it. It forms no part of their system, it does not at all enter into their plans of life. The former sort above described are infidels on principle; these are practical infidels, without any principle at all. Being born of Christian parents, and instructed perhaps in the first rudiments of Christianity, they call themselves Christians; they attend divine service, they repeat their prayers, they listen to the discourses of the preacher, they make no objections to what they hear, they question not the propriety of what they are taught: but here their religion ends; it never goes beyond the surface, it never penetrates into their hearts, it lies on the hard beaten highway. The instant they leave the church, every idea of religion vanishes out of their thoughts; they never reflect for one moment on what they have heard; they never consider the infinite importance of what is to happen after death; the awful prospects of eternity never present themselves to their minds, neither excite their hopes nor alarm their fears. "With their mouths, indeed, they confess the Lord Jesus, but they do not be