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Christ, “it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” The secrets that he revealed to them were—what were the virtues and dispositions that qualified men for his heavenly kingdom,—what were the duties by which a title to it could be acquired,—and what were the offences by which that title would be forfeited. Without such information, they never could have efficiently acted as his Apostles. They could not have preached, unless they had been sent ;—and they could not be sent without their instructions and credentials.
Their willingness to understand the compass and true meaning of their blessed Master's doctrine, is proved by their applying to him for explications of such particulars as they could not of themselves, interpret. This gradually enabled them to enter into his meaning ; and it quickened their natural apprehension : for afterwards when he, continuing to use the same vehicle of his discourses, purposely asked them whether they understood him, they answered him in the affirmative. Once, when he had delivered several parables, all emphatical, and all tending to shew that righteousness and true holiness were the highest glory of man, and the only means of procuring him the greatest happiness that his nature could enjoy, “ he said unto them, Have ye
understood all these things ? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.” Pleased with their ready conception of his doctrine, and with their earnestness to improve their understandings, and to become so enlightened in themselves as to be, consequently, able to enlighten others, he replied to them in terms that commended their past attention, and encouraged them still to hearken and improve. “ Therefore said he unto them, Every scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasures things new and old.” Though, even in this reply, he still used figurative language, they no longer wanted an explicit detail of his meaning. They knew that, by his instructions, they were become more usefully learned than the arrogant Jewish scribes ;-and they were now taught to treasure up their Master's divine instructions in their hearts, for their own private benefit, and for the more extensive benefit of other persons. They understood that they were to resemble that good economist, or provident master of a family,
who always keeps in store, for the subsistance of his household, not only the produce of the present year, but also a reserve from the stock of former years.
So progressive was the improvement of the disciples, till they were qualified as apostles to instruct and convert a world. First, as they were honest
, though illiterate men, they began to be amused and interested with parables ;—from being favoured with illustrations of such as were too obscure for their comprehension, they learned to ascertain promptly the moral of what he afterwards spoke, and to apply it readily. One particular set, however, of his parables must be excepted. Those that denoted the
dissolution of the Jewish polity, and represented the kingdom of Christ as a most pure and spiritual institution, they were still unable, because they were unwilling, to understand. It was not till he personally conversed with them after his resurrection, that they had a clear insight into these :—but when once they had gained a comprehensive and suitable idea of the kingdom of God, they were then, by the miraculous gift of tongues, furnished with the means of disseminating the Gospel among all people. In the first instance, they were ignorant plebeians :—then they were assiduous scholars or disciples ;—then by a considerable enlargement of their knowledge, they became teachers ; — afterwards, they were Apostles, appointed to reform an ignorant and sinful world ;--then, to facilitate this great commision, they were, by the plentiful effusion of the Holy Ghost, complete linguists ;--and last of all, by the providence of God, to perpetuate their Master's doctrines and the whole tenor of the Gospel, they were inspired penmen. To this extent we reap the fruits not only of their knowledge, but also of their igno
We learn, at least in some degree, in the same manner that they learned ; and happy shall we be, if we improve and grow in grace, with the same due and regular gradation with which they improved
Yes,—the Apostles,--such of them, at least, as have written the history of the Gospel, have most impartially related to us their own ignorance,--their
slowness of capacity, -and the gradual, but often obstructed enlightenment of their minds. This should recommend their writings to every honest reader ;-and it should especially recommend the frequent perusal and the devout study of them to every Christian. This remarkably distinguishes their love of truth, and illustrates their candour and impartiality. The parables and figures that our Saviour used, are not at all mysterious or obscure to us. We are enabled, at first reading to view their comprehensive meanings further and more clearly than his newly-called disciples could. They contain a fund of the most useful learning, to adorn and polish every understanding ;-and what is better ---to amend and purify every heart. “ Unto us it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God," —and thus to “ make our calling and election sure.”
If the general and particular reasons for our Saviour's frequent use of parables are sufficient, -as it is presumed they are-- to satisfy every mind, it may seem needless here to add, that this method of instruction had been in long-established vogue in the Jewish schools, as best calculated to open, in a just measure and by gentle degrees, the young, unprejudiced, and tender minds of their pupils. It was used also by the philosophers and best teachers, among the Gentiles ; — though with them it was called, not parable, but fable, allegory, or apologue. Our Saviour took up this method, improved it, and carried it to the highest perfection. He taught with
superior authority and grace. The scribes and professed teachers among the Jews were soon deserted ;-and the people, in great numbers, flocked to hear this Divine Instructor. “ They were astonished at his doctrine," --confessing, in the first emotion of their hearts, and in spite of obstinacy, incredulity, and faction, that he “spake as never man spake.” “ Whence had he this wisdom ?" was the question which those who would not effectually hearken, were compelled, by the force of truth and conviction, to ask respecting him.
“ Blessed,” therefore, “ are the eyes” of all faithful and sincere Christians, "for they see” and enjoy the light of the holy gospel.
66 Blessed are their ears, for they hear” the salutary truths that it contains. Happy are they in their knowledge; but incomparably more happy if they exemplify that knowledge in their practice ! Then
Then that wicked one can never “ catch away the word” of truth and righteousness “ which is sown in their hearts.” Firm to their principles of duty, and fitted for perseverance, they will not be overcome by the temptations of sin ; neither “the cares of this world,” nor “the deceitfulness of riches,” will, “choke the word,” or defeat its fertility. They will bring forth in abundance the fruits of holiness and of the Spirit,-each person in proportion to his capacity and means,—“ some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundred fold.”