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friends, who imagined that He was being carried beyond the point of self-control by the enthusiasm of the populace. He rebukes the diabolic charge of the one, by the intimation that Satan was not likely to “cast out Satan;" and the carnal views of the other, by declaring that “whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother :" such alone could understand His spirit and His work. To all others He speaks “the sharply-judging prophecies of chapter xii.”
The scene which He had just witnessed was well fitted to awaken the profoundest thought and feeling in relation to the future. But thought and feeling in Him, however profound, were always commanded by the perfect balance of His wonderful powers. The prophetic history of the church and the world in their mutual relations rose before Him; and He proceeded to give utterance to it in the calm teaching of the parabolic series which Matthew has recorded, and which presents to us the vitality and varied aspects of His kingdom in its progressive development to the great end. The march of historical periods which is here indicated we have already in a former paper pointed out, in an exposition of the first of these parables.
Their intimate connexion should also be clearly apprehended. They are the different aspects of one grand whole. This relation is especially apparent between the “grain of mustard seed" and the " leaven." Both indicate the rise of active principles, from small beginnings, producing their results with secret unobtrusiveness, but, in their ultimate development, with striking effect. The figure of the mustard.seed becoming a large tree was probably suggested to the mind of the Saviour by the prophetic intimations of Isaiah, that “the branch of the Lord should be beautiful and glorious ;” and “ a rod should come forth out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch should grow out of his roots ; " but especially by that of Ezekiel xvii. 22-24, where the Messiah and His kingdom are compared to a high tree, grown from a tender twig, so that all birds dwell under the shadow of its branches. The prophetic figure for the kingdoms of the world is here appropriated by the Founder of the true kingdom, who declares that, though His kingdom takes its rise from an apparently insignificant commencement, it will nevertheless prevail and spread its branches everywhere, and by its might and power afford a protection to men exceeding that of all earthly powers. It is quite true, when properly understood, that " as the mustard-seed even changes its species, passing from a herb to a sort of tree, so does the kingdom of heaven pass into the species and likeness of a great world-state.” We must not, however, forget that the kingdom of Christ “is not of this world." The ignoring of this vital truth has involved the church and the world in mischief, which may only terminate in the great historic close. The evil as well as the good seek the protection of the spreading tree," so that the outward appearance by no means corresponds to its internal nature." In the parable of the "leaven" we have not only the idea of the Church's extension, but also that of the internal, penetrating, and renewing power of the truth and grace which constitute the spiritual elements of the kingdom, and which are the producers of its outward expression. Its relation to the individual is here again made prominent; and the two ideas are blended to intimate the mode of its development, and the certainty of its ultimate success. These points will be made to appear in our exposition of the parable, which will be directed to the figures which it contains, and to the results which it declares.
The homely figures of this brief but significant passage first invite attention. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto," sóun, “ leaven.” This term is everywhere else used in an evil sense. In chap. xvi. 6, the Saviour bids the disciples “ beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees," by which He refers to their false doctrines and their unhallowed spirit; and in 1 Cor. v. 6, 7, the Apostle exhorts the Corinthians to "purge out the old leaven," to expel from among them the scandalous person to whose case he has referred in the strongest terms,-to put away the various forms of vice which our corrupt nature produces. As the process of fermentation involves the idea of corruption, the term "leaven was figuratively applied to whatever has the power of morally corrupting." For this reason some have maintained that it also here refers to the corruptions which have crept into the Church. But the wording of the parable renders this interpretation obviously wrong: it does not represent "the kingdom of heaven” as “ three measures of meal" into which the "leaven” was introduced, which in that case might be a corrupting element; but it declares that “the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven," thus showing that the “ leaven" represents the subduing power of the Gospel. It is not improbable that the Saviour uses the term with a side glance at the evil leaven, which He prophetically saw would work in the Church's condition, which the mustard-tree represented. And against the various powers of evil which find their wide sphere of action among men, He places His own good and heavenly doctrine which would prove its virtue and power by the extraordinary success which it would achieve. The application of the term is thus “changed from what is bad to what is good.”
By the “leaven," therefore, we are to understand that which is peculiarly Divine in Christianity,—the power of the Spirit of God operating through the instrumentality of His word, which proclaims the doctrines of grace and salvation, through the death and mediation of Christ. However much the Church in its external form may be corrupted by the admixture of evil elements, this true
"leaven " repels all attempts to defile it, and remains in its own intrinsic purity and unchangeable character. Men may surround it by human additions, and render it inoperative upon each other; but it will ever and again assert itself in its own Divine singularity, and come forth in the lustre of its inherent energy, as "the power of God unto salvation.” In the eyes of men it may appear insignificant as a piece of common leaven. There is nothing to please the eye in its outward aspect. The meretricious glare of a false philosophy is entirely absent; and the pride of fallen intellect turns away from it as a thing of nought. Like the "leaven,” its very odour is offensive to the fastidious senses which are ever craving for the fragrance of human compounds, the evanescence of which proves their artificial character. But, as the “ leaven," it is powerful in its operation. Who would suspect the wondrous chemical powers which lie hidden in the unsightly and offensive piece of sour dough? Employ it aright, place it in its proper relations, and its action becomes marvellous. In this respect also it well represents the doctrine of the Cross, which to the self-sufficiency of men ever appears as “ foolishness," but which is in fact “the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” In it the Divine“ wisdom" appears in its perfection and beauty as devising the method of human restoration to purity and peace; and through it " the power of God” makes itself manifest in raising man “from the death of sin to the life of righteousness.” Employ this Divine element according to its nature, and it will work grandly and irresistibly in the production of moral and spiritual results, which all the appliances of man vainly attempt to realize.
“The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven hid in three measures of meal.” We here find a representation of the nature of man. The “meal," as it comes from the mill, possesses many excellent qualities, but in that condition is unsuitable for human consumption. Subject it to the leavening process, and it soon becomes a great life-sustainer, one of the richest blessings which a paternal Providence has bestowed on mankind. Our fallen human nature has lost the heavenly leaven : great powers and capacities are comprised within it, but they cannot in themselves be employed for the high purposes for which they were originally given. They require to be brought under the power of Christianity, and by it to be renewed and elevated. Then the order and the beauty of a new creation appear in the blessedness of a godly character. Those lofty powers become fit instruments for the service of God, and means of salvation to men. The designs of man's creation are then happily accomplished, and his noble capacities find their proper sphere of eternal action.
We cannot suppose the expression, “ three measures," to be in any sense accidental. “ Three is the symbolical number for spiritual
fanciful ; ne triparti
things.” Humanity in its spiritual necessities and relations is here brought before us. It is contemplated in all its aspects and extent. Some of the interpretations which have been given to this feature of the parable may appear at first sight to be fanciful; but further thought will discover grounds of probability in them. The tripartite constitution of man is thought by some to be here represented. If the division of body, soul, and spirit be the scriptural analysis of human nature, as many most decidedly hold, we may easily find a reference to those parts of our nature in the figure "three." The individual man, in all the parts and powers of his constitution, is to be operated upon, and renewed by the “leaven” of Christ. But the figure points beyond the individual to the whole unleavened mass of fallen humanity. “ The three seahs, which together make an ephab, appear in Scripture as the usual measure of a complete batch." In the mind of the Great Teacher the reference can be nothing less than to the entire race He came to redeem and to renew. To say that the number three embraces “the Jews, the Samaritans, and the Greeks,” is to express only a part of the truth. It may be supposed to point to the three then known parts of the world, though we cannot well conceive of the Saviour speaking in so limited a manner. Rather we would say, " When viewed as a prophecy, stretching throughout all future time, it may have reference to the three sons of Noah, by whom every land is possessed, and in whom the prophetic word sees represented the whole seventy' nations." Into the whole of human life, with its various forms of development, and into the entire history of the world, the good leaven is to enter. At the least, we must regard the figure as embodying the idea of completeness, and thus embracing humanity as a whole, into the midst of which the Divine truth is to be placed. As the Saviour afterwards said, “The Gospel must be published among all nations."
The agent indicated in the parable requires particular attention: “which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal." We cannot overlook the parallel between the äv@ponos, the “ man," of the previous parable, and the yurń, the “woman," of this. The figures of the Saviour are chosen with exquisite adaptation to the relations in which they are placed. Men sow the "seed;" and women employ the “ leaven," and knead the dough. We cannot hesitate to say that the “woman” here represents the Church, in its living activity, as the grand agent in the conveyance of the Gospel of salvation to men, as the case of the “woman " seeking her lost piece of silver represents it as the agent of the Spirit in His seeking love for souls. Pervaded by the renewing "leaven," it is required to employ it for its legitimate purposes. That the visible Church may remain crude, and only partially regenerate, and may prove faithless to its mission, as it has too often done, does not affect the teaching
of the parable. It is the Church in its multiplied agencies to which the reference is made; and, therefore, we are not to lose sight of the obligations of individual members of the Church to be active in the application of their spiritual power, and the word of truth, to the minds and hearts of men. A tendency to perform Christian duties by proxy easily takes possession of the minds of certain classes of Church-members. In this age of commercial enterprise, and desire to acquire wealth, even Christian people are apt to allow their entire time and energies to be absorbed in secular affairs. They are willing to con. tribute of their increased means in support of the work of evangelization; and some there are who do this in due proportion to their worldly prosperity. This is undoubtedly so far well; but it cannot relieve them of their personal obligations to be actively and directly employed as agents of spiritual good to their fellow-men. An undue devotion to their worldly interests cannot but injure the tone of their religious character, and so disqualify them for usefulness. The effectiveness of the Church as a whole is thus lowered; and though they seek relief to their conscience by a system of pecuniary contribution, their spirit and example depress the zeal of those around them; and the activities of the Church are in danger of sinking into mere formal service. If the Divine “ leaven," in its soul-renewing power, is to be more widely diffused, and if the Church is to be composed in the main of regenerated persons, too many of us need to be recalled to a sense of duty in this respect, and to the cultivation of that condition of character by which we shall be prepared to discharge that duty aright. With the deterioration of the Church's spiritual activity, all its agencies, of whatever kind, must become equally deteriorated. This question is of the largest and gravest import; and demands the serious consideration of all. The future of the cause of God is deeply involved
In the choice of the agent in the parable, the Saviour beautifully indicates the necessity of a suitable agency for the various departments of Christian work. It is "a woman " who hides the “ leaven" in the “meal.” This, as just observed, is a part of her household duty; and a work for which she has been instructed and trained ; and, therefore, for which she possesses special qualification. The performance of this homely office by one ignorant of the action of “leaven” would be productive of an unsatisfactory result. In all this we see the Saviour's intention to remind His Church of the importance of a careful selection of its agencies, with reference to their adaptations for the work to be performed. Men who are to be Ministers of God's truth must be chosen with special reference to their qualifications to preach that truth with sufficient clearness, and with power and efficiency. The great commission to the Apostles was, “ Preach the Gospel.” This is the chief means of " discipling"