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SERMON I.

THE PROPERTIES OF PARABLE.

Matthew Xiii. 34.

All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables: and wit hold a parable spake he not unto them.

THE customary method of our Seem.
Saviour's preaching to the common I.
people, as the Evangelist reports, wasv^v^'
by similitude or parable. In this re-
spect his language was agreeable to the
prophetic intimation given in the book
of Psalms; I will open my mouth in para-
bles: I will utter things which have been
kept secret from the foundation of the
world*. These words indeed in their
original sense represent that stile of law,

* Psalm Ixxviii. 2.
* B guage>

Seem. guage, in' which the Psalmist was about i. to treat of God's providential dealings

v*^v^; under the economy of the Law: but as adopted on this occasion by the Evangelist, they with equal fitness of application represent that mode of speech, in which our holy teacher Jesus Christ was accustomed to discourse of God's more gracious dispensations under the economy of the Gospel.' He chose the language of similitude to convey those doctrines of divine grace, emphatically stiled the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, which had hitherto been concealed from the knowledge of mankind since the creation of the universe.

Now this account impliesv that his parables contain a fund of religious truth, important and beneficial in a high degree, yet not so plain and ob- vious, as to be fully comprehended without some patient and diligent re-' search.

In order to facilitate and improve this research, I propose to treat upon the parables in a series of discourses. And that the way may be opened for a clearer investigation of parable, I shall employ my first discourse, to delineate its Characters, to display its Uses, and to point out some principle of a right s Interpretation.

i. I Am first to consider the characters of parable. Now this appellation has a very comprehensive meaning in the Scriptures of the Old Testament: being used in general to characterize the sacred poetry of the Hebrews; and being in particular applied to these three modes of speech, the sententious, the figurative, and the sublime b. But from the more appropriate usage of the Gospel the term is restricted to that kind of similitude, so common in the discourses of Jesus Christ, in which by natural and sensible images are represented moral and spiritual truths.

Now parable thus understood was a favourite vehicle of instruction among all nations from the remotest ages of antiquity. It was adopted by the poets, the philosophers, and the orators both of Greece and Rome. It was yet more copiously employed by the sages of the East. And while cultivated much among the Heathens, it was at least in

h See Lowth's Prelections on the sacred Poetry of the Hebrews. Prelec. iv.

B 2 equal.

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