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The common people indeed had more favourable sentiments both of his words and works. Disappointed as they were in the lowliness of his appearance, yet when they heard the energy of his doctrines, they could not forbear saying, Never man spake like this man 8 ; when.. they saw the power of his miracles, they were compelled to acknowledge, It was never so seen in Israelh. Thus they had no scruple to regard him as a Prophet mighty both in word and deed. And when he had miraculously fed five thousand of them in the wilderness they were brought to look upon him in a still superior light as the long-expected Minister of heavenly grace; This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world i. Yet still they were perplexed with doubt, that the person whom they looked for in the most exalted character should appear in the garb of poverty and humility. To reconcile this appearance with their long-cherished prejudices, they were willing to believe, that he was then for a time under a veil, out of which he would shortly break in every cir
& John vü. 46.
* Mat. ix. 33.
* John vi. 14.
cumstance of worldly greatness. And SERM. we find them forward to verify these carnal hopes even by lawless and unwarrantable means. For as soon as he had given this high testimony of his divine character in miraculously feeding the multitude in the wilderness, they were minded to come and take him by force to make him a king'.
When thus the different orders of the Jews were under the dominion of their respective prejudices, they were by no means competent to receive the fulness of that light which he had to communicate. And hence in speaking to a mixed assembly of hearers he judged it prudent to assume some reserve in the stile of his discourse, so as equally to defeat the malice of the Pharisees, and to repress the carnal expectations of the common people.
Yet we must not hence by any means infer, that he had a design to cover his doctrine from any class of men with an impenetrable shade: for otherwise he would not have so earnestly called upon the attention of all, as he frequently does at the close of a parable, IPho hath
John vi. 15.
SERM. ears to hear, let him hear.
In calling the attention of the ear he unquestionwably demands the application of the
mind: And therefore these words import no other sense but this, Who hath faculties of understanding, let him understand. It was indeed the character of too many among his hearers, that they had ears to hear, yet they did not hear. But this dulness of apprehension, if in part it be ascribed to that figurative language in which he spoke, must principally be imputed to that carnal and worldly prejudice with which they heard him. Though he covered his instruction with the shade of parable, yet the shade was not so deep, as to baffle the research of those, who endeavoured to divest themselves of prejudice, and applied all their diligence with humility to explore it. For in this exhor: tation he soleinnly invites them to understand; though he would not press conviction on them, when they came so much disposed to misconceive his word, and shewed a careless indif. ference, whether they understood or no.
The Disciples' attended withi à "purer aim and therefore to a more effectual
purpose. For though they do not appear serM. to have been exempt from the common prejudice of their countrymen in their notions of their Master's person and character, yet this prejudice was more than counterbalanced by a desire to understand the word, and a disposition to improve it. He therefore gratifies their honest wish for spiritual truth by speaking to them in a plainer stile: and whenever they found themselves incompetent to understand those parables, which he had been delivering to a mixed audience, he was always ready, when apart with them, to supply them with an interpretation. In conversing with the multitude, as the Evangelist observes, without a parable spake he not unto them; but when they were alone, he expounded all things to his Disciples in
In harmony with this is the language, which our Saviour uses on another occasion, at a time when his Disciples had been endowed with extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise
m Mark iv. 34.
SERM. and prudent, and hast revealed them unto
babes". . He thankfully acknowledges the wisdom of divine Providence in suffering the mysteries of the spiritual kingdom to evade the understandings of the Pharisees, who were wise in their own conceits, as well as of the common people, who were prudent according to the notions of the world in their search after temporal opulence and honours, while they were freely laid open to the artless and comparatively unprejudiced minds of his followers, who possessed the simplicity of little children.
On this economy he enlarges in the sequel of his present conversation. To the multitude, who came with prejudice to hear, he applies a denuncia, tion of displeasure, as given by the Prophet under the law; while to his Disciples he pronounces from himself a beatitude of grace more congenial with the spirit of the Gospel: And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which suith, Ilearing ye shall hear, and sluall not understand ; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive. For this ple's heart is wured gross, and their ears
* Luke x, 21,