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-as the persons with whom he had to deal were, many of them, of obstinate and malicious tempers.
But the minds of all his hearers were not of this envenomed disposition. It is probable that numbers of them were only thoughtless and inconsiderate, who flocked around him from the mere curiosity of hearing something new. To them the allegorical mode of instruction could not be unsuitable. As they came for mere amusement, they must, at least, have been gratified ; for that kind of discourse is delightful to men, from the tender and imaginative years of childhood to the maturity of reflecting age. If it ended in amusement, no harm was done,-no offence was taken,-and consequently no obstacle was thrown in the way of his ministry. If any persons went from him without deriving some valuable instruction, the blame was with themselves. Their carelessness was their crime ; for carelessness in affairs of such importance is unquestionably criminal,—though not so much so as obstinacy attended with rage and malice. It is invincible and involuntary ignorance alone that can acquit men of the imputation of sin. Any other species of it may assuredly be conquered by a winning, insinuating, and instructive parable. If even a little knowledge were acquired in this way, more would, to a certainty, have soon accrued. To begin thus to “have” is a safe presumption that more “ will be given,” and of gaining “more abundance;" but the careless hearer who “ has it not,” never can have,-and if ever he had any, from him will be
virtually “ taken away” even the pittance that he had. This is another of our Lord's own reasons for speaking in parables. He would have persuaded the careless to take a diligent heed of their souls, but he would not force them. To constrain is not to instruct ;-and conversion must be effected by rational persuasion. If a parable was ineffectual, nothing could fix the attention of such men, and win them over to the side of truth. They must, therefore, be left by the Divine Teacher to the consequences of their own slothful and intractable disposition. The human mind is formed for a progression in knowledge and virtue ; but if it is not suffered to advance, it will, by the law of its being, go backward. An increase of mental and spiritual acquirement makes a further increase gradually more easy. On the other hand, if we resign ourselves to ignorance and sin, we shall sink into them deeper and deeper, till the hope of reformation is entirely and irrecoverably gone.
To negligent hearers it is “not given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God ;" for they can neither estimate such an acquisition, nor comprehend its high importance. Their inability, however, is not of a natural, but of a moral kind. God has not been penurious in the share he has given them of mental faculties ; but their wilful inattention, their cherished depravity, and their distorted passions, pervert the application of their intellect, and involve them in darkness. If, therefore, the light which was intended for their guidance, be presumptuously extinguished, how great must their darkness be! Reason and free agency have a natural connexion ; and the one of them supposes the other :-so that every rational creature is, on account of the freedom of his will, subject to intellectual and moral darkness, if he wilfully shuts out the light of truth. Many there are, even now, of professed Christians, to whom Christ, speaking either with or without a parable, remains practically unintelligible. They are altogether strangers to the mysteries of his kingdom ;-his precepts are to them dark sentences ; his parables are inexplicable enigmas :-and for this plain reason,because, from habits of sin and folly, their hearts are waxed gross ; their ears are dull of hearing, from a dislike of his doctrines ; and their eyes they have closed, through a wilful aversion.
But our Saviour speaks of another class of persons, -persons of an honest and good heart, who were not only disposed to hear, but willing also to improve by what they heard. To such of these as understood the parable, and could draw out the moral and apply it for themselves, there was no need of further explanation. At this investigation, indeed, the disciples were not expert at first; but they had a wish to know the general reason of their Master's peculiar mode of teaching; and beyond that, to understand thoroughly his particular drift and purport. To such requests he was always favourable :-he encouraged their useful and well-meaning curiosity. He distinctly explained to them the obscure incidents of his parable,
cleared up its mysterious circumstances, and by this and other means, he gradually made them wise and intelligent in the whole method of salvation.
Let us now consider why he favoured them with these particular interpretations.
Some of these reasons are immediately obvious. If we recollect with what motives he spoke in parables to some, we shall see why he moulded them into plain and perspicuous instructions to his disciples. They were not prejudiced as others were, either against his doctrine or his person ; nor were they indifferent as to their own moral and religious edifi. cation. They were convinced that his intentions were pure and benevolent ; they saw that he taught with authority and with dignified wisdom. They could not, therefore, be regardless of his real purpose and aim in his particular instructions. They were desirous of improving by his lessons ;-and they knew that a competent knowledge of them could not be acquired, unless they first understood them clearly, and afterwards thoroughly digested them in their minds. The bare inclination to do this would, of course, recommend them to especial notice. The desire of improvement is generally coupled with the ability of attaining it, and gives men, in some measure, a right to receive it. Our Saviour, therefore, was always disposed to gratify these honest requests of his disciples.
This, too, is the kind and condescending behaviour that is requisite in every teacher,--and is natural and
congenial to every good one. Quick conceptions and ready apprehensions in his pupils yield him pleasure and admiration ; but where the genius is slower and the capacity less forward, still if there is an attentive and industrious application, it engages his affections, and makes him earnest and vigilant to quicken the progress of his pupils, and to give the necessary light to their understandings. It is difficult to say whether such assistance is more useful, to those who receive, or to him that gives it. The disciples certainly were men of no great capacities, and of no erudition at all
, when first they attended their Divine Master. But though their minds bloomed with no fruit, they were choked with no weeds ;-and if they were cultivated with care, the harvest would be abundantly productive. Accordingly, our Saviour, the husbandman of docile minds, finding that the ground was good, committed to it the seed of his divine word, watched the plants in their springing up and in their growth
, and cherished them till they reached the proper degrees of maturity and use.
For these reasons, it was fit, and, in a manner, requisite that the obscurer and figurative lessons of their Lord and Master should be more particularly explained to his disciples :—but there were other reasons more valid and more important.—The great plans of Divine Providence for the salvation of mankind required it. They who were afterwards to instruct the whole world must first of all be clearly and fully enlightened themselves. “ Unto you,” says