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SERM. of speech. In the structure of a para
ble there is always to be found a general correspondence between the literal and the figurative sense. But it is by no means requisite that the parallel should be complete in every point. Nor are we to understand every circumstance in the narrative as bearing its appropriate import in the spiritual signification, Every parable is formed with a sufficient resemblance in the leading design, though we sometimes find a latitude of comparison in subordinate and inferior parts, Now this latitude of comparison has a close relation to the various uses of parable which I have recently disa cussed. It is to be ascribed in some cases to necessity, in others to convenience, and again in others to prudential reserve,
1. It proceeds in the first place from necessity. If temporal images are necessary in the first instance to convey some idea of spiritual truths, yet it must be confessed, that temporal images are inadequate to delineate spiritual truths with an accuracy of resemblance. And therefore a teacher, who has recourse to parable to comniunicate his ideas, is compelled in some cases to form his simili
tudes with some degree of laxity: the SERM. resemblance cannot be exact in all par I. ticulars.
When the kingdom of Heaven is likened to an inheritance which a father distributes to his children, the comparison necessarily fails in this, that the bounties of a mortal father become impaired by distribution. Having provided for his children once, the less he has to bestow upon them afterwards; and the more he has given to the portion of one son, the less he has reserved for the inheritance of another. But the bounties of our heavenly Father are copious as the light of heaven: though shed every day and diffused in every direction, they continue still inexhaustible. Some allow, ance we may be disposed to make for the murmurs of the elder son, when apprised of the reception which his brother found on his return to their father's house; as in the economy of domestic life there might be room for jealousy, lest a parent should abridge the allotted portion of the diligent and sober son in order to repair the fortunes of the Prodigal. But the same excuse cannot possibly be made for the murmurs of the Pharisees and Scribes, when
SERM. they saw our Lord receiving sinners and I. eating with them; because in the house
hold of our heavenly Father the grace which God extends to sinners that repent, would make no abatement in the benefits of his favour toward those that are comparatively righteous. In the inheritance of Heaven there is abundant room for all, who attain the blessed privilege of being called the children of God.
When the kingdom of Heaven is likened to a feast, we must still bear in mind, that the happiness of the heavenly state has these 'two inestimable qualities, which no temporal image is able to convey, that it can never satiate, and that it will never cease.
When God is likened to a master or a father, we must also bear in mind, that human characters are not to be exactly drawn without some alloy of human frailty. If therefore we should imagine that the master in one similitude is too austere, or that the father in another is too soft and indulgent, we must be sensible that these diiferent features of character cannot possibly apply to God, who in his dealings with mankind duly tempers the authority of a master with the tenderness of a father,
Indeed so great is the difference be- SERM: tween things temporal and things eternal, between the attributes of God and the characters of men, that our Lord in some of his parables has chosen to place them in opposition rather than comparison; and to draw that inference of application from the contrast, which could not be obtained from a direct resemblance.
A steward is wise to his generation in disposing of the wealth of which he had the charge, by making to himself friends among the debtors of his Lord, who on his dismission from his office might receive him into their houses, and supply him with a maintenance for the remainder of his days. From this example of temporal wisdom, though exercised in a most dishonest way, our Lord instructs his Disciples, that they be wise to the generation that is to come, in disposing of the talents which their heavenly Master had committed to their stewardship, by making to themselves a certain friend in Heaven, who on their failure in this life and their ejection from the tabernacle of the body may receive them into everlasting habitations. * Luke xvi. 1, &c.
A. widow. is importunate in her suit for redress of grievance to a certain judge, who was a stranger to every principle of piety and justice: and by her importunity she finally prevails in her suit, when the justice of her plea would have passed without regard: From this example of success in prayer our Lord instructs his Disciples that they ought always to pray and not to faint, since their prayers are addressed to a judge of a very different character, who is righteous in all his ways and true in all his judgments; who lends a willing ear to the petitions of his votaries, and suffers himself to be moved by their continual prayers to the redress of all their grivances and the relief of all i their wants.
2. Again, this latitude of comparison must be attributed in some cases to convenience. If our Saviour sometimes used the language of parable because of its advantage to engage the attention and to impress the memory, this advantage is improved by the admission of several subordinate and interior touches of character and incident, which have no further design than to
I Luke xviii, 1, &c.