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PREACHED NOVEMBER 20, 1774,
MATTH. xiji. 10.
The Disciples came, and said unto him, Why
speakest Thou to them in Parables ?
Two things are very observable in our Lord's conduct towards the Jews. He came to instruct them in the principles of a new religion, and to convince them of its divine authority. Yet to such of them, as were least enlightened by his doctrine, he generally addressed himself in Parables : And before such, as were backward to admit his pretensions, he was sparing of his Miracles. Now the contrary of this conduct, it is said, might be expected : That he should have explained himself in the clearest manner to the uninformed Jews; and should have multiplied his miracles, for the conviction of the unbelieving.
I propose to consider both these circumstances in the history of Jesus; and to shew that his conduct, in either case, was suitable to his character and mission.
I, now, confine myself to the PARABLES, and shall take another occasion to consider the
The Disciples, having observed that their Master spoke to the Jews in a more obscure and indirect manner, than he was wont to do in private to themselves, came and said unto him, Why speakest thou to them in Parables ?
This method of conveying instruction in Parables, that is, in some feigned story, where one thing is put for another, and in which the circumstances of the story are to be applied to something different in the intention of the -speaker, is well known to have been of constant and familiar use in the old world, and especially in the Eastern nations. This figurative cast of language had its rise from necessity,
the rúde conceptions of men requiring general truths to be presented to them, in sensible images. But it soon came to be affected as an ornamental way of speaking or writing, the liveliness of the image awakening curiosity, and affording amusement to the mind. Lastly, it was sometimes employed as a mysterious cover of important truths, to which a more than ordinary attention was to be raised, and especially of such important truths as could not be communicated openly and directly without offence. Under this last idea, the Parable, properly so called, presents itself to us. It was contrived on purpose to throw some degree of obscurity over the information, it contained : And it is in reference to this use and character of the Parable, that the Disciples ask why Jesus thought fit to address the Jews in this way.
To this question, why he spake to the Jews in Par ables, and not to the Disciples, our Lord's reply is in these words - Because, to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to them it is not given.
By this answer we learn, First, that the things delivered by him in this obscure way were not the fundamental truths of the Gospel,
but the mysteries of the kingdom of God, that is, certain secrets relating to the progress of the Gospel, and the event of it in the world; a consideration, which will be enlarged upon in its place: And, Secondly, that it was not given to the Jews, at large, to be let into those mysteries, but to the disciples only.
But why not given to the Jews ? why was it thought less fit for them, to be initiated in these mysteries, than for the Disciples? Our Lord condescends to answer, or rather to anticipate this question, likewise - For whosoever hath, 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.
The answer, we see, is formed on this general principle, “ That information in the councils of God is not to be claimed as a debt; but accepted as a reward: that he, who hath acquired some knowledge and improved what he hath, deserves a further communication of it; but that he, who hath been at no pains to acquire any, or who puts his knowledge to as little use, as if he had acquired none, is so far from having a right to more, that he even des serves to have the pittance, he may already
possess, taken from him.” And what more indisputable rule of reason, than this, That, in a inatter of pure favour, we should deserve, by our good dispositions at least, this distinction, before we obtain it. So that the answer comes out thus — “I speak to the Jews in parables, because they do not deserve, by the pains they have hitherto taken to learn of me, and by the dispositions they have shewn to improve what I have taught them, to have further information plainly and openly conveyed to them: But to you,' who have already profited by my doctrine, and are disposed still further to profit by it, to you I address myself in a plainer manner, because ye deserve to be more fully and abundantly instructed by me.” And to this answer, thus understood, what objection, or even what cavil, can be opposed ?
But, further, when Jesus said to his Disciples, that to them it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the Jews, at large, it was not given, this determination must be understood as founded, not nerely on the fitness of the thing, as here explained, but on the positive will and declared purpose of God. This appears from what follows. For therefore, proceeds our Lord, speak I to them in Parables, because they