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Jesus delivers several Parables from a Ship, to the
Multitudes that were standing on Shore : le receives a second Visit from his Relations ; At erening he retires to Capernaum, und delivers more Parables to his Disciples : Afterwards, he returns to Nazareth, his own City, and sends his Apostles to preach about that Country: Ile then repairs to the Desert of Bethsaida and provides a miraculous
Repust for the whole Multitude. THE public debate in which Jesus was engaged with the Pharisees, and the miracle which was the occasion of it, brought together such a vast concourse of people, that, for the greater facility of instructing them, our great Redeemer repaired to the sea-side. The crowd pressed so close about him, that he was incommoded in his office of speaking, and for the greater conveniency, he entered a ship and put off to some small distance from the shore, while the attentive multitudes remained on dry land : being thus conveniently accommodated for public speaking, our divine instructor proceeded to lay down several precepts of the utmost importance, which he thought proper to intro, duce in the parabolical stile. This was a mode of instruction, very common in the Oriental nations, and it was the general method of the old prophets, John the Baptist, and our blessed Saviour, to inculcate divine and moral truths, in the beautiful method of allusion and fable ; and sometimes so to contrive the discourse, that it had an immediate reference to those objects, which at that very time presented themselves to the view of the audience. This method of iustructing was, on several accounts, particularly adapted to the designs of divine conduct, and the circumstances of the Jewish nation, at the time of the Messiah's appear. ance. Similitudes of this kind, are the most easy and simple methods of teaching; they are best accommo
dated to the apprehensions of the ignorant and unlearned, and are very easy to be understood, remembered, and applied at the same time; they are the finest veil for mysteries, and the best medium for concealing from the proud and obstinate, those truths which their perverseness and infidelity render them unworthy of having more clearly revealed.
These observations seem to be alluded to by our great Redeemer himself, when his disciples asked, why he taught the people in parables ? Because, said he, it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but to them it is not given : for whosoever haih, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance : but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away, even that he hath. Therefore, speak I unto them in parables ; because, in seeing they see not: and in hearing they hear not, neither do they understand, Matt. xiii. 11, &c. The beloved disciples, whom our Redeemer, by his divine power, had made of an humble, teachable disposition, whose minds, by an heavenly influence, were become docile, apt to learn, and open to instruction, were thus addressed by the divine Instructor, and he gives them to understand, that it would be no disadvantage to them, nor to any that sincerely desired to be instructed, and attended on him in humility of heart, that the truths he delivered were clothed in parables; for such persons would carefully consider his words, and resort to him for their explanation : and the truths themselves, clothed in this beautiful veil, would be more attractive to the humble inquiring mind : and, when carefully considered, appear, plain, simple, and easy to be understood.
But the proud, self-conceited Scribes and Pharisees, were so blinded by their prejudices, that they would not give themselves time to consider, but would heartily despise such methods of teaching, and condemn, as low and contemptible, the plain allusions in which
the divine truths were represented. Our great Redeemer did not alter his manner of teaching, for their sakes, but dressed the great truths of the gospel in such metaphorical robes as they did heartily despise, and which would forever conceal them from persons of their temper and conduct. Nor need it be wondered at, the blessed Jesus further observed, that he took this method with this sort of men ; for it had been prophesied of him, that he should open his mouth in parables, and utter things which had been kept secret from the foundation of the world. And concerning the pride, obstinacy, perverseness, and infidelity of the rulers of the Jews, Isaiah had long ago prophesied to them, that, by hearing ye shall hear, and not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this peoples heart is waxed gross, and their cars are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
There is some little variation between the words, as quoted by our Saviour, and those found in the prophecy of Isaiah, but the meaning is the same in each, and the sense manifestly is, that the Jewish nation should hear the doctrines of the gospel, but not understand them: and see the miracles wrought in confirmation of the truth of those doctrines but not perceive them to be wrought by the power of God: not because the evidences produced by our great Redeemer were insufficient to convince a judicious and impartial inquirer after truth; but because the corruption and depravity of the hearts of the proud Pharisees would not suffer them to examine and weigh these evidences; for the sins of that people had hardened their hearts, their pride and vanity had shut their ears, and their hypocrisy and bigotted adherence to tradition, and forced interpretations of the law, had closed their eyes; so that the bright 'rays of divine truth could not shine upon their dark minds, nor the
powerful voice of heavenly wisdom, awaken their attention, or command their assent.
Such were the reasons assigned by our great Redeemer, for his teaching the people in parables; and then he proceeded to remind his disciples of the great privileges they enjoyed, in having the opportunity of learning, from his heavenly lips, those things which the prophets of old so earnestly desired to know and understand: But blessed, said he, are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear : for verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which and have not heard them.
The first parable which the blessed Jesus delivered to the multitude, was that of the sower, who cast his seed into different kinds of soil, the product of which was answerable to the nature of the ground: some yielding a large increase and some none at all; by which he clegantly displayed the success of his own doctrine, amongst the several kinds of hearers to which it would be preached. A sower, said he, went forth to sove; and when he sowed, some seeds 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 sprung up and choaked them; but others fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundred fold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold.
This parable was peculiarly proper to be considered by the multitudes who attended on the Son of God, when such vast numbers heard his discourses, and so few practised his precepts, or profitted by the heavenly doctrines which he taught. Not only the multitude, but the disciples heard him with a mixture of pleasure and surprise; and, not understanding his meaning, they were impatient to hear it explained ; and were very urgent to know, why he chose that method of instruction.
The last of these questions, our Lord answered in the manner before related ; and then with condescending kindness, proceeded to give them the explanation of the parable of the sower: When any one, said he, 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 the seed by the way side. The persons who are here represented as hearing the word of God without understanting, are those careless hearers, whose minds are diverted from attending to those things which concern their everlasting peace, by the gay, trifling amusements and alluring objects of sense. Such persons hear the word of God with so little attention, that they scarcely know what they hear; and for want of an habit of serious thinking, their ideas are loose and scattered, and an universal dissipation of mind drives out all solid reflection. Such persons as these, are at all times proper objects for the great enemy of mankind to work upon; he well knows how to take advantage of the vacancy of thought, which exposes such minds to his malicious attempts; and, where he finds the mind empty, he takes care to enter there, and fill it with such furniture, as soon erases the slight impressions it may have received by hearing the word of God.
The second kind of hearers, described in the parable of the sower, are those who receive the word with a greater degree of attention, and in whom it produces an outward reformation of conduct and behaviour; but, not being impressed on the mind by the operation of the Divine Spirit, it does not effect a real change of heart. Such persons, while things go on smooth,