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tinguished with the means and opportunities of improvement; after the expiration of which, certain destruction would befall their country, unless prevented by a general amendinent.
In the parable of the wheat and tares, we find several particulars which may have no reference to the subject signified, being inserted merely to fill out the plan of the narrative, and to give it the air of probability. The tares are said to have been sown while men slept, that is, in the night; because this was the season which an enemy would be most likely to choose for such a purpose, at the same time that it naturally accounted for the mischief having been done without the knowledge of the master's servants. It cannot have been intended to denote any time of special languor and carelessness in the church, if the parable referred, as is probable, to the state of things which was to close with the destruction of Jerusalem; for it does not appear that there was such a declension in that age. Nor does Christ, in the explanation which he subjoined to the parable, make any application of this particular. There is probably no application to be made of it; nor of the surprise manifested by the servants on discovering the tares, nor of their hesitation with regard to the course they ought to pursue. The same may be said of the sleeping, mentioned in the account of the ten virgins, on which the event of that parable is made to turn. Their slumber is not treated as a fault on the part of the wise virgins, but seems introduced merely from its being necessary to the consistency of the narrative. The plan of the parable required that the cause why the foolish virgins were excluded, should be, their neglect to provide themselves with oil. They would have escaped the catastrophe, had they perceived the approaching extinction of their lamps before the oil was quite exhausted. If the bridegroom had come early, the oil that yet remained would have been sufficient for their purpose; or if his coming had been timely known, there would have been an opportunity of procuring a fresh supply. It was therefore necessary to represent them as having perceived the extinction of their lamps only when the oil was already exhausted and the bridegroom at hand. And it was also necessary to suppose the wise virgins to have slept as well as the others, lest they should be accused of cruelty in neglecting to give
7 Matt. xiii. 24, &c.
their companions seasonable warning of the danger, which, if awake, they must have known. Again, in the parable by which the kingdom of heaven is likened to a treasure hid in a field, it is not requisite to attempt any application of the idea of concealment which runs through it, and to seek some sense in which the religion of Christ was to be kept a secret. This representation was necessary to the peculiar tenor of the narrative, since it would have been folly to purchase a field on account of a treasure it contained, while that very treasure was left exposed and liable to be removed; but the object, and the only object, of the parable was to teach the disciples the propriety of parting with all they held dear, in order to possess the riches of the gospel.
Let these instances suffice for examples in which no application is to be sought of many of the particulars in a parable. It should be observed, however, before we close, that even when they are significant, it sometimes happens that they are directly opposed in the most important respects to the subjects which they are actually meant to denote. In the parable of the unrighteous judge, there is no resemblance, except in the single point of office, between him and Deity, whom he still represents; and it is only when the account of him is taken as a whole that it conveys the purport intended: And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a judge, who feared not God nor regarded man. And there was a widow in that city, and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary. And he would not for a while; but afterwards he said within himself, Though I fear not God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith; and shall not God avenge his own elect which cry night and day unto him?'9 Accordingly, the force of the parable, taken as a whole, is this: that since even an unjust judge, when wearied with continued entreaties for justice, will deliver the innocent from injury, we may expect with far greater reason, that the perfectly just judge of all will grant the constant prayers of men whom he loves, how long soever their relief be delayed. It is well known that the parable of the unjust steward 10 affords another instance of the
8 Matt. xiii. 44.
9 Luke xviii. 1, &c.
10 Luke xvi. 1, &c.
most striking dissimilarity between the figure in detail, and the instruction conveyed: so great an incongruity indeed that the meaning of the whole passage is considerably obscured. In the parables of the lost sheep and lost piece of silver,11 which were spoken in answer to the murmurs of the scribes and Pharisees, it is plain enough from the context and occasion that these proud and wicked bigots were meant to be represented by the sheep that never strayed, and the pieces of silver which were never lost, although none had strayed farther than they, and none were more properly lost. Here, however, it is prob able that our Lord designed to take them on their own ground, admitting them to be truly as righteous as they thought themselves, and then to show them, even on this supposition, the propriety of seeking and restoring the publicans and sinners, who were regarded on all hands as wanderers lost in transgression. Similar remarks may be made of the parable of the prodigal son, which immediately succeeds.
To conclude: all the minor discrepancies between the narrative and the subject signified, will occasion less difficulty to the reader, if he carefully attend to the fact, that the chief reason why parables are useful, is, that they do not so immediately present to notice the thing itself which is aimed at, but first prove, with reference to some other case, the general principle intended to be applied to the persons concerned. As the thing narrated is distinct from the thing signified, some particulars may be required to make the narrative perfect, which are unnecessary in the signification. The existence of this distinction will be no great hindrance to the discovery of the meaning, if we are only aware of it, and seek to arrive at the signification not so much from particular parts of the narrative, as from the whole taken with its context. See Storr's Dissertation, &c. § xv—xix.
11 Luke IV.
H. B. 2d.
God's Inheritance in the Wicked.
We hope the title given to this essay will produce no surprise nor other sensation which may either prevent it from being read, or so prejudice the reader against it, as to embarrass an impartial judgment.
The commonly received opinions and the views generally entertained by christian doctors and their adherents, are by no means favorable to the doctrine maintained in these pages. By them it is thought, that so far from having any interest in that part of his moral creation who are in Scripture de, nominated wicked, the Creator views them with abhorrence, and that their entire destruction, so far from infringing his rights, is absolutely required by his justice. It is true that these doctors teach, in a mysterious way, that for some end not fully comprehended by man, the divine Being has discovered what is called a plan of grace, by which divine justice, which required the endless destruction of sinful man, may be so far compromised as to consent to some conditions on which some of the wicked may be spared from its tremendous demands. But this must not be allowed to stand on the principle that God has any interest or inheritance in the wicked; for if this were allowed, it would lay a foundation on which might be built a reasonable hope that none of the wicked would be cast off forever. Such a hope is thought to be one of the most offensive items in the black catalogue of specifications which divine justice holds against the transgressors of the human family.
But the ground assumed by us, and which we profess to assume by divine approbation, and in defence of the rights of God, is that man, being created by God, and wholly supported by his ample and abundant goodness, is wholly his. If man has transgressed the commands of his Maker, this, we contend, does not alter the case as to his being the property of the Creator.
In order to make good the claim we have here set up, we shall endeavor to show that the true meaning of Scripture not only establishes the fact, but furnishes ample illustrations of the same. A few passages from the Psalms and from
Isaiah will be sufficient to establish our claim. Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance when it was weary.' Remember thy congregation which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed.' 'He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheep-folds; from following the ewes great with young, he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. For the Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance.' 'Remember me, O Lord, with the favor that thou bearest unto thy people; O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may glory with thine inheritance. We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.' 'Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.' 'In that day shal! Israel be the third with Egypt and with ́ Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land; whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.' 'O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants' sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.'2
The most of the above passages, we allow, embrace, not the whole sinful family of man, consisting of all the nations of the earth, but the house of Israel only; but as this particular nation was, to say the least, as wicked as any other, if God in his word testifies that they were his inheritance, it not only proves that he has an inheritance in the wicked, but affords good data on which to extend the divine right over all other sinners. In one of the foregoing passages, Egypt and Assyria are united with Israel as God's people, the work of his hands, and his inheritance. In the passage quoted from the 2d Psalm, the heathen and the uttermost parts of the earth are distinctly mentioned as a gift which God said he should give to his ever blessed Son.
It may be of no inconsiderable service to the interest of the case in which we are engaged, to set forth both the nature of the divine possession which God holds in the wicked,
'Ps. lxviii. 9; lxxiv. 2; lxxvii. 70, 71; xciii. 14; cvi. 4-6; ii. 8. 2 Isa. xix. 24, 25; lxiii. 17.