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the going forth of the apostles upon their evangelical commission, especially when they quitted Judæa, and went into all parts of the earth, than to the coming of our Lord into the world.
Fourthly, that if the counterpart of the representation in the parable is to be sought in the agreement of its material circumstances with the success of our Lord's ministry hitherto; it implies that the parable is historical, without any mixture of prophetical matter. Now there is no instance of an allegorical parable besides, in which the reference is entirely to the past; and the allegory, when decyphered, is found to contain simply a narrative of the past. There are many such parables in which there is no mixture of historical matter; there is none in which there is no mixture of prophetical : there are several in which there is a mixture of both; but in these instances the reference to the past is subordinate to that to the future, and the final end of the whole resides exclusively in the latter.
The design of the allegorical parables in general was concealment; and the reason why this was the end more particularly contemplated by them, as we made it appear in the proper place, was probably because they were intended to be the vehicles of prophecy; and of prophecy, which, for wise reasons, it was not expedient more plainly to reveal at the time. In every allegorical parable, therefore, we should expect to find a reference to the future; or if there is any reference in it to the past, that it should be in subordination to the future; not merely because the end of a disguised representation, under all circumstances, and whether with a view to a removal of the disguise in course of time or not, is necessarily better secured by a reference to the future, than by one to the past—but also because, where the subject of reference is the past, concealment of its meaning, if not impossible, is preposterous and out of place. No good reason can be imagined why past history should be disguised under the semblance of allegory, for its own sake, and without any reference to the future; though a variety of reasons might be assigned why such and such matters of fact, still future, under certain circumstances should not be too plainly revealed.
The end of allegory, when temporarily concealment, would always be endangered by an exclusive reference to the past, or to the present. An hearer of ordinary sagacity might penetrate into the meaning of a disguise, which was intended to keep from his view merely facts, with which he was previously more or less acquainted. Men's minds are sufficiently quick in apprehending resemblances between the subjectmatters of their own knowledge or experience, and other things to which they are or may be compared; particularly where their attention is excited, and the edge of their sagacity is sharpened, by the consciousness that soinething is purposely kept back from them, or is purposely put before thern as an object to exercise their curiosity, and as a test to try their acuteness and penetration. Under such circumstances, too, an hint of the truth is sufficient for the discovery of the secret ; a single coincidence, a single lucky or felicitous conjecture, will serve as a clue to the enigma. Even the perception of the future, though disguised by allegory, is far from dif
ficult, much more from impossible, to hearers of ordinary penetration, when the subject-matter of the description is something very simple in itself; and the images, under which the future is represented, are so close and congenial to the thing pourtrayed, as almost to suggest their own meaning. And this was eminently the case with the parable of the sower ; on which account, too, we may presume it was, that our Lord expressed his surprise that the disciples had not penetrated at once into the meaning of this in particular; and demanded of them, so significantly, If they had not been able to understand this one, how would they comprehend the rest?
The objections which might be urged against the application of the parable to the first half of our Saviour's ministry, would apply with equal force against the reference of it to the last half; for the course and success of the last half were just the same as the course and experience of the first : not to mention, that, as supposed to refer to this ministry in general, yet as delivered at the middle point in its duration, the parable would seem to belong to either as much as to the other; and we should not know whether it was entirely historical, or entirely prophetical, or both.
Not to dwell, however, upon these objections, but to come to more general considerations ; if it is reasonable to suppose that a series of parables, delivered in succession as these were, must possess something in common; the analogy of the rest, in repeated instances, is a clear proof that the general subject of them all was the kingdom of heaven, understood in that comprehensive sense, in which I explained it elsewhere b. More particularly to compare this first parable with that which most nearly resembled it, and most closely followed it, the parable of the good seed and the tares; if the field in the latter was the world, the field in the former must be supposed to be so too; if the agent, who sowed the seed in the latter, though declared to be the Son of man, did not personally or ministerially execute that office in the latter, he need not be supposed to have done so in the former; and if the moral of the latter related to the final settlement, and the permanent constitution of the visible Christian church, in such and such respects, that of the former might relate to its first commencement, and its original conformation in the same.
Our Lord's silence as to the special application of the parable to himself, and to the experience of his own ministry, is a strong presumptive argument that it had no such reference. Is it conceivable that none could be denoted by the sower, but himself—nothing by the seed, but his own word—nothing by the ground, but the hearers to whom he had already preached, or should continue to preachnothing by the different fortunes of the seed, but the success of his word with the different classes of his hearers—and yet not the least intimation to that effect, be furnished by his own interpretation of these circumstances ? nothing, to fix their application to himself, and to the facts of his ministry, whether past, or present, or to come? Supposing, indeed, such to have been the end and design of the parable,
h General Introd. chapter x.
will any one say it was not too essential to the right understanding of the allegory, not to be distinctly explained ? or that any interpretation of it, which kept back the fact of this reference, was an interpretation at all? Is it probable, too, that our Saviour would have kept back this fact in an interpretation of the parable, which, though withheld from the people, was expressly vouchsafed to his own disciples ? especially as their personal identity was just as much concerned in reference to the ground, as his own was in reference to the sower, and as the doctrine which he taught was in reference to the seed.
If it cannot be said that the variety of personal character in the hearers of the word, and the variety of personal conduct, as the natural result of that variety of character, in the reception or rejection of the word of God, might not be found in a single community, however limited, like that of the Jews, to which our Saviour's personal ministry was confined; still it must be allowed, that there would be much greater scope for all the diversities of human character to shew themselves, and for all the probable differences of human conduct to be exemplified in their proper natural effects, when the dispensation of the Gospel should begin to be carried on, upon so large a scale as by the ministry of the apostlesamong all communities of mankind, and in all parts of the inhabited world.
At least, if we restrict the moral of the parable to the success of our Saviour's personal teaching, we must suppose that the four divisions of character, which answered to the four diversities of situation, were to be found at this very time, among the body