« PreviousContinue »
UNBELIEF OF OUR LORD'S FAMILY.
This was still more remarkable and extraordinary than that of the Pharisees, or of the Jews in general. But the same worldly-minded notions of the temporal power and grandeur of the MESSIAH's kingdom, which infected even his own Apostles, until the regeneration on Whitsunday, infected them also. Hence, they wished to check his exertions to instruct the people, which they conceived to be extravagant and enthusiastic. For when he and his disciples were so thronged by the multitude, that they had not time to take bread, or their ordinary meals, “his friends, when they heard it, went out to lay hold on him; for they said, he is beside himself," Mark iii. 20, 21. And so again, during his argument with the Pharisees, apprehending, perhaps, that he might commit himself too far with that malignant and powerful sect, and exasperate them by the severity of his reproofs; even "his mother and his brethren," or cousins, wished to interrupt his discourse; and when they could not reach him for the crowd, they sent a message to him that they wanted to speak with him abroad. But he reprimanded the intrusion, and declared, that the connexion of disciples, whom he was then instructing, weighed more with him than the ties of kindred: "Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?"And looking round on his disciples, who were sitting in a circle about him, and stretching forth his hand to them, he said, "Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of MY HEAVENLY FATHER, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother," Matt. xii. 46-50; Mark iii. 31--35; Luke viii. 19-21. And when a woman of the company, transported with delight, during this interesting conversation, lift up her voice, and said, with admiration, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked!" he answered, "Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of GOD, and keep it," Luke xi. 27, 28, thus equally repressing enthusiastic transports, as religious indifference. Even at a more advanced period, at the feast of Tabernacles, before his crucifixion, he
Thus when Paul was taxed by Festus, with being mad, he denied the charge; "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and soberness," Acts xxvi. 25; and alluding thereto, he says, to the Corinthians, "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is for GOD's sake; or whether we be sober-minded, it is for your sake," 2 Cor. v. 13.
repressed the ambition of his brethren, wishing that he would shew himself in Judea, and display his miracles there, upon a more public theatre than in Galilee; "The world," said he, "cannot hate you; but they hate me, because I testify of their works that they are wicked. Go ye up to this feast: I will not go up yet," and when he did go, afterwards, it was not openly, as they wanted, but as it were, "in secret," John vii. 2-10.
Having thus vindicated his divine mission from the calumny of his enemies, in the foregoing discourse, he quitted the house, and went to the sea side, whither he was followed by the multitude, eager to listen to his divine instructions; and getting into a ship, or boat, that he might not be incommoded by the throng, he taught the people from thence, who stood on the shore, within hearing, ranged as in an amphitheatre. The mode of instruction he confined himself to on this occasion, was by parables, or "similes," for several wise and benevolent reasons.
1. It was a popular and interesting mode of instruction, adapted to all ranks, from the highest to the lowest; in which the meanest capacity might find entertainment; and the most intelligent information, if not at the very time, yet afterwards, as the application of the parable might happen to be unfolded by succeeding events, Judg. ix. 8-20; Psalm lxxviii. 2, &c; Matt. xiii. 35.
2. It was peculiarly well calculated to veil offensive truths, or "hard sayings," in figurative language, until, in due season, they should be disclosed with greater evidence and lustre, when they were able to hear and bear them, Mark iv. 22, lest they should revolt at a premature disclosure of the mystery, Mark iv. 33; John xvi. 25.
3. It was a necessary screen from the malice of his inveterate enemies, the chief priests, Scribes, and Pharisees, who would not have failed to take advantage of any express declaration which they might turn to his destruction, John x. 24; but yet could not lay hold on the most pointed parables, which they were clear-sighted enough to perceive were levelled against them, Matt. xxi. 45; Mark xii. 12; Luke xx. 19.
4. It was peculiarly fitted to awaken the curiosity of his disciples, and lead them to apply for more particular information
in private, afterwards; when he graciously furnished them with the key to the mysterious parables delivered in public, Matt. xiii. 10-36; Mark iv. 34.
This discourse consists of seven parables; four of them were addressed to his hearers in general; the three last to his disciples in particular.
This is the first and preliminary parable; inculcating attention to his divine instructions, as the prophet like Moses, whom they were required to hear, or hearken to, under pain of incurring God's displeasure, Deut. xviii. 15-19, as intimated in its awakening conclusion, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," or hearken; an admonition peculiarly necessary for a careless and inattentive, a gross and sensual people, as they were described by Moses and the Prophets, Deut. xxxii. 15; Ezek. ii. 7; Isai. vi. 9, 10; and by OUR LORD himself, citing the last, Matt. xiii. 9-15; and as Isaiah encouraged attentive hearers, "The eyes of them that see, shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear, shall hearken," Isai. xxxii. 3: so our Lord declares, "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall abound: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away, even what he hath *," Matt. xiii. 12, or "what he seemeth to have," Luke viii. 13.
The parable itself, in simple and familiar imagery, exhibits the most profound knowledge of human nature, and the most philosophical survey of the hearts or dispositions of the various classes of hearers, of which the mixed multitude was then, and is always composed. As in ground there is great diversity of soils, some bad, and some good, in different degrees and shades; so in mankind there is an equal diversity of hearts or dispositions, some bad, more or less, some comparatively good. But as the ground cannot produce any thing of itself, without culture, but briars, thorns, and weeds, even in the best soils; so neither can mankind produce, merely by themselves, without divine
• This seeming paradox is explained in the parable of the Talents, Matt. xxv. 28, to denote, that whatever talents or advantages a man hath received from God, if he improve them, to him more shall be given; but whosoever hath not improved them, from him shall be taken away the talent he hath received; or seemeth to have in his possession. Juvenal hath a parallel phrase, Nil habuit Codrus ::-et tamen illud Perdidit infelix totum Sat. III. 208. VOL. III.
cultivation, any spiritual fruit*, acceptable to God. All, in the state of nature, are alike barren and unprofitable, until the good seed is sown in the former, by the careful husbandman; and the word of God, in the latter, by CHRIST, his Apostles, and minis
1. The first, and the worst class, are compared to the beaten high way, which is so hard and impenetrable, that the seed, falling alike on all, can make no impression on this, but lies exposed on the surface, and is either trampled by the passengers, or devoured by the birds, so that no trace of it remains. Such is the hard and callous heart of some hearers; they understand not, because they mind not, the word; and it is either trodden down by evil company, or their commerce with the world, or else consumed by their rapacious appetites and lusts, which the wicked one, Satan, or the Devil †, uses as his instruments, to take away the word out of their hearts entirely. Of this irreclaimable class were those Pharisees who blasphemed CHRIST, as casting out demons through Beelzebub; those mockers, who, on the memorable day of Pentecost, represented his Apostles as drunk, Acts ii. 13; and those Epicureans, who derided Paul's preaching at Athens, Acts xvii. 32. And at the present day, those obstinate atheists and infidels, who scoff at all religion, and the CHRISTIAN religion in particular.
2. The next are compared to the stony ground, where the soil is shallow. On this the falling seed makes some impression, and even penetrates below the surface, and it quickly springs up, or vegetates, but is soon scorched by the sun's meridian heat, and "withers away for want of root," or due nourishment, as soon as it reaches the rock at bottom. Such are the light and fair weather converts, who no sooner hear the word, than they receive it with joy and gladness, and for a while believe, so long as circumstances continue favourable for its reception, but “when tribulation or persecution ariseth, because of the word, immedi
This is intimated in another beautiful agricultural parable, signifying the spontaneous growth of the seed sown in the ground, the husbandman himself knoweth not how; and its gradual vegetation and increase, first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear, then the ripeness of the grain, until the harvest, Mark iv. 26-29.
+ Matthew xiii. 9, calls him ò ovηpоç, "the wicked one," by way of bad eminence; as does OUR LORD, in his inimitable form of prayer, Matt. vi. 13, but to guard against ambiguity, Mark iv. 15, ascertains him by his Hebrew title, ò Σaravaç, Satan," or "the adversary," and Luke viii. 12, by his Greek title,—ò Aiaßodos, "the devil," or "6 calumniator," "the accuser of the brethren," Rev. xii. 10.
ately they are offended," and in "a season of fiery trial, fall away," or apostatize. Of this description there were many in the days of CHRIST and his Apostles: Herod, for a time, "heard the Baptist gladly, and did many things" in obedience to his sage admonitions, until the question of Herodias and his concupiscence arose; then he was instantly offended; he imprisoned, and at length beheaded that "just and holy man," knowing him to be such, Mark vi. 20; and thus the rich ruler, who came to CHRIST eagerly and respectfully, to learn what was necessary for Christian perfection, in addition to keeping all the commandments from his youth, could not bring himself to part with his ruling passion, when he was required to go and sell all that he had, and give to the poor, and follow CHRIST as a disciple, but went away sorrowful, because he had great possessions, and could not prevail on himself to relinquish them, and lead a life of poverty and hardship, contempt and persecution, Matt. xix. 22. Such was a large portion also of the multitude, who at first became CHRIST's disciples, " for the loaves and fishes" which they had eaten, and expected more abundantly, but who could not bear the idea of a crucified Saviour, but seceded, and walked no more with him, John vi. 66. Such were the fickle multitude, who, in the course of four days, converted their Hosannas to the Son of David! into clamours, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Such was Felix, that cruel, libidinous, and rapacious Roman governor, who "trembled" at Paul's preaching of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, for the time, but put off his conversion for a convenient season, which never arrived, Acts xxiv. 25. And such are those lukewarm Christians of the present day, who are “ashamed of CHRIST and his Gospel," and dare not "hold fast the profession of their faith," amidst the scoffs of infidels, the gainsayings of heretics, the evil example of degenerate and corrupt Christians, and the united opposition of a vain selfish world.
3. The third are compared to the thorny ground, in which the seed sown took root in a greater depth of soil, and grew, but was choaked gradually by the thorns that sprang up more luxuriantly along with it, so that it bore no fruit. Such are the worldlyminded, who hear indeed the word, and it sinks deeper into their hearts than in those of the preceding class, but the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of life, choke or stifle the word, so that it becometh unfruitful.