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of devout conduct, to arm ourselves with the security of the former. We do not, for the most part, love God sufficiently to fear him as we ought. We too commonlyst and first in our own estimation; and, thus virtually deny to the Almighty
; both his dignity and his rights. A true and lively faith in him will beget love, and that fear, which is its twin companion, to the exclusion of all those tormenting alarms which often only agitate and distract the soul, without removing its defilements. Let us only
only “seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," and we shall not then miss the path which leads to it: love will impel us onward, and fear will prevent our stumbling by too heedless an advance. Finally, let us “fear the Lord” rightly, and we shall not fail to “depart from evil.”
WHY CHRIST ADDRESSED THE UNBELIEVING
JEWS IN PARABLES.
St. MARK, iv. 11, 12.
"Unto them that are without, these things are done in
parables, that, seeing, they may see and not perceive, and hearing, they may hear and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”
It must be confessed that, at the first view, this is not a very intelligible passage, for it seems to exhibit the Lord of Life under the character of an omnipotent tyrant; as if he really blinded the eyes and darkened the understandings of the wicked, in order that they should not be converted, but become eternally aliens from his kingdom. The whole public ministry of Christ, however, places him before us in an aspect so amiable, so pure, so holy, so perfect, so anxious for the welfare of sinners, so diligent in doing them kind offices, so eager to reclaim them, so full of gentleness, so “easy to be entreated, so full of mercy and good fruits,” that not even the greatest enemies of his religion have ever presumed, since his death, to
impeach his integrity, his clemency, or his justice. These words, then, which appear to represent him under a character so unlike his own, and to sanction a doctrine, to which the whole scheme of Christianity is opposed, are to be very duly weighed, lest we should attach to them that erroneous signification, which will follow their literal interpretation.
I think it will be admitted to be only a fair and prudent caution, to hesitate in receiving the literal import of a text, when it evidently contravenes any established doctrine of the Christian faith, or contradicts any natural or well-authenticated truth. In the Scriptures, it is admitted on all hands, that there are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest unto their own destruction;" and, therefore, when we find a passage which does not immediately strike our minds as consistent with the general tenour of Scripture truth, we should rather endeavour to search out its congruity, by patiently collating parallel passages, and their contexts, which will generally remove every difficulty ; than, by rashly following our own hasty impressions, put a harsh or violent construction, where the meaning is not immediately obvious, and is to be obtained only by patient investigation. For, after all, Scripture is its own best interpreter.
Now, the words of the text are, in substance, a quotation from Isaiah. The same passage is cited by all the four Evangelists, although the terms in which it is expressed are not precisely alike; for it is no uncommon thing for the writers of the New Testament, where they quote from the Old, to give the meaning, rather than the exact words. The same interpretation, however, will nearly apply to all.
A careful reader of the prophetic writings will readily discover, that they abound in proverbial forms of speech; and that many of these would be perfectly unintelligible, if they were taken according to the simple letter of their construction. These proverbial modes of expression were, no doubt, exceedingly significant where they were understood, which they evidently were by the Jews, who adopted them so generally in their writings. The Saviour, in quoting from the Prophets, as in the instance before us, did not always strictly adhere to the precise form of words in the original; he observed, nevertheless, the exact mode of expression, in order that those to whom he addressed himself, and who were generally well acquainted with their own Scriptures, might not be able to deny the force of an authority, which every true Israelite acknowledged. St. Mark, in the text, has a little amplified the words of the prophet; the proverbial character of the expression is, however, carefully maintained. We shall perceive, that the parallel passage in St. Luke, literally taken, is full of incongruity: “that, seeing, they might not see,
and hearing, they might not understand ;" so that here a literal interpretation cannot be admitted, since it is manifestly impossible that they should see and not see at the same time;—and, although Matthew, Mark, and John, have evaded the paradox, they still present to us the most repulsive difficulties, if we take their words in their strict acceptation.
In order, then, the more clearly to explain the text, I shall remind you that a considerable proportion of those who resorted to Christ's ministry were hostile to his doctrines, and that many of them were persons sent by his enemies “to entangle him in his talk.” He knew the motives of these persons, and as they came to him with a determination to resist the clearest evidence as to the truth of what he taught, he, of course, did not compel them to be converted against their wills; but afforded them, nevertheless, sufficient light to see their errors, if they would only use their faculties aright; so that their blindness proceeded from their own wilful obstinacy, in turning from the light which Christ attempted "to shed abroad in their hearts," and not from his affording them none.
The Saviour, from the very beginning of his ministry, had endeavoured to instruct them, but “ their heart was waxed gross,” so that they would not learn. “They turned away their ears from the truth, and turned them unto fables.” Thus, it appears, that, upon their shutting their eyes, and