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darkness to him is only like that of a cloud, which for a little while overshadows the moon, and then passing off causes it to appear the more bright and beautiful. The parables of our Lord no doubt required a good deal of attention from His hearers; but those who were really desirous of instruction would be attentive; and thus you see how useful parables were in distinguishing the earnest inquirer from the more idle hearer, and in checking those who were pressing upon Christ to hear, from indolent curiosity, without any sincere anxiety to become wise unto salvation. Heavenly wisdom is worth all the pains that can be bestowed upon it; and we shall be sure to find out that it cannot be attained without earnestness and diligence on our part.
There is also another thing required in the search after truth, which the parables of Christ brought to the trial; I mean humility. For not only did they require attention to understand them when they were explained; but, more than this, an explanation was necessary to show to what each parable applied. Until the key was given, it was a treasure locked up, which no one could use. Do you understand what I mean?
E. Yes, Mamma; for I am sure I should never have found out what religious lesson I was to learn from the parable of the sower, if I had not been told.
M. And thus it would have been with all who heard or read it. Every one would see that it was not respecting the growth of corn that Jesus meant to instruct them; all would see that there was some hidden meaning in his words, of a far more important
kind. But what that meaning was, it was next to impossible they should find out, without applying to Him for some further explanation, without asking Him, as we said before, for the key which should unlock the treasure. Now this none would be likely to do, but those who were really in search of truth, and were willing to be not only hearers, but disciples of Christ ; that is to say His scholars, to learn of Him the way of eternal life.
Thus you see that teaching by parables, which seem at first so dark and unintelligible, was an admirable method of trying the hearts of the many different hearers who crowded after Jesus, and of proving how far they were really thirsting for divine knowledge. It separated the diligent from the indolent inquirer; the earnest from the lukewarm; the humble from the proud; the sincere from the hypocritical. Those who were really in earnest would give to our Lord's words the most diligent attention.
E. And if, after trying all they could, they were not able to understand His words, I suppose they had nothing to do but to ask the Lord Jesus to explain them to them?
M. Yes, in that case they must go in the spirit of a little child to Him. They must humbly ask Him to remove their ignorance, to grant them further instruction, to unravel the mystery of His teaching, to chase away the darkness which hung around His speech. This is what the disciples really did; and if any of his hearers had done the same, there is no doubt that our Lord would have received them, and allowed them to hear that explanation of His
parables, which in private He gave to His disciples. We cannot doubt this, my dear Edward; for you know our blessed Lord has said Himself that He would not cast out any that came to Him.
Let us then learn a valuable lesson from this part of the sacred narrative. Let us remember that, by nature, we are quite as dull, and ignorant, and careless, respecting divine things, as any of our Lord's hearers when He was here on earth; and that, without His help we may read our Bibles for ever, yet know nothing of the things of God; yea His own heavenly words, which fall perhaps so sweetly on our ears, will never touch our hearts. But let us remember, for our encouragement, how graciously our Lord treated His inquiring disciples, explaining to them word for word all that He had spoken. Let us remember too the awful punishment of those who came to hear Him either from curiosity or malice; and how the dark speech of the parable was a just rebuke to the idleness of the one, and a wise check to the wickedness of the other. Persons, who thus trifled with their salvation, and lost or abused these precious opportunities of advancing it, persons who saw our Lord's miracles without being convinced by them, and heard His sermons without being the better for them; these had no just reason to complain at being spoken to, afterwards, in language which they could not understand. Do you think it was strange, Edward, that they should be thus dealt with?
E. No, Mamma; because I am sure our Saviour would have forgiven any of them, that were sorry for their wickedness, and have allowed them to join his
own happy disciples when He taught them in private. And then, you know, the dark speech would have been changed into a bright lamp.
M. So it would; or it might have become a glass, in which they might have seen reflected continually some blessed truth of the "kingdom of God." The most interesting and successful teachers among men have generally allowed their instructions to abound with comparisons. The greatest and best Teacher the world ever saw, has shown how much He approves this method of conveying knowledge. The whole world, under His teaching, was changed into a mirror, reflecting heavenly things. Wherever He trod, sacred truths sprung up as it were under His feet. Read the history of His life attentively, my child, as it is given us in the Gospels, and you will soon see the truth of what I say. I can only now give you a few specimens of it. Did the disciples, at Christ's bidding, enclose in their nets a miraculous draught of fishes? He showed them in that an image of their success, when they should become ministers of His Gospel— "fishers of men." Did He give sight to the blind? He has no sooner done so, than He declares to the people, that He is the light of the world, to give spiritual sight to the souls of men. From the fields ripening for the reaper's sickle, He bade His disciples look upon the nations, now ready for the preaching of the Gospel, white with their spiritual harvest. He taught us, in fact, things that we knew not, by comparing them with things already well known to us, and raised the thoughts of men to spiritual and heavenly truth, by pointing out their likeness to the objects which they beheld every day of their lives.
But the subject of our Lord's parables is a copious one, and may furnish us still with interesting matter to talk over another evening; when I hope to renew it with you.
See Matt. xiii. 1-17. Mark iv. 1-13.
TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY EVENING.
E. You did not explain to me the meaning of our Lord's parable of the Sower, Mamma.
M. No, there was not time last Sunday; indeed I have some hopes that you will be able to tell me what heavenly truth we are there taught. What in the first place was meant by the seed?
E. The seed was the word of God, sown by those who preached it, I think?
M. Just so, but with different effects, according to the kind of hearer by whom it is received. As you know the parable very well, I dare say you can tell me of how many different sorts of hearers our Lord spoke of in His explanation.
E. I think there were four kinds of hearers: one like the hard footpath; another like the stony ground; another like ground covered with thorns; and last of all the good ground.
M. Yes; first of all the careless and inattentive hearers, who do not receive the word into their hearts at all, but no sooner hear, than they forget it again: