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the innocent cheerfulness of social converse, yet we must be aware of giving way too much to trifling, foolish, unprofitable, and unmeaning talk. Even this, when carried to excess, becomes in some degree criminal; it produces, or at least increases a frivolous turn of mind; unfits us for the discharge of any thing manly and serious; and indicates a degree of levity and thoughtlessness, not very consistent with a just sense of those important interests, which as candidates for heaven we should have constantly present to our thoughts, nor suitable to those awful prospects into eternity which the Christian revelation opens to our view, and which ought to make the most serious impressions on every sincere believer in
the Gospel of Christ.
LECT U R E XI.
MATT H E w xiii.
E are now arrived at the thirteenth
chapter of St. Matthew ; in which our blessed Lord introduces a new mode of conveying his instructions to the people. Hitherto he had confined himself entirely to the plain didactic method, of which his sermon on the mount is a large and a noble specimen. But his discourses now assume a different shape, and he begins in this chapter, for the first time, to address his hearers in parables. “The same day,” says the evangelist, “ went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea-side; and great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore, and he spake many things unto them in parables.” The word parable is sometimes used in Scripture in a large and general sense, and applied to short sententious sayings, maxims, or aphorisms, expressed in a figurative, proverbial, or even poetical Illan 1] er. But in its strict and appropriate meaning, especially as applied to our Saviour's parables, it signifies a short narrative of some event or fact, real or fictitious, in which a continued comparison is carried on between sensible and spiritual objects; and under this similitude some important doctrine, moral or religious, is conveyed and enforced. This mode of instruction has many advantages over every other, more particularly in recommending virtue, or reproving W1Ce. 1. In the first place, when divine and spiritual things are represented by objects well known and familiar to us, such as present themselves perpetually to our -- observation, observation, in the common occurrences of life, they are much more easily comprehended, especially by rude and uncultivated minds (that is, by the great bulk of mankind) than if they were proposed in their original form. 2. In all ages of the world, there is nothing with which mankind hath been so much delighted as with those little fictitious stories, which go under the name of fables or apologues among the ancient heathens, and of parables in the sacred writings. It is found by experience, that this sort of composition is better calculated to command attention, to captivate the imagination, to affect the heart, and to make deeper and more lasting impressions on the memory, than the most ingenious and most elegant discourses that the wit of man is capable of producing. 3. The very obscurity in which parables are sometimes involved, has the effect of exciting a greater degree of curiosity and interest, and of urging the mind to a more vigorous exertion of its faculties and # #: powers,
powers, than any other mode of instruction. There is something for the understanding to work upon ; and when the concealed meaning is at length elicited, we are apt to value ourselves on the discovery as the effect of our own penetration and discernment, and for that very reason to pay more regard to the moral
it conveys. 4. When the mind is under the influence of strong prejudices, of violent passions, or inveterate habits, and when under these circumstances it becomes necessary to rectify error, to dissipate delusion, to reprove sin, and bring the offender to a sense of his danger and his guilt; there is no way in which this difficult task can be so well executed, and the painful truths that must be told, so successfully insinuated into the mind, as by disguising them under the veil of a well
wrought and interesting parable.
This observation cannot be better illustrated than by referring to two parables, one in the New Testament, the other in the