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gered at the hardness of his heart, and can SERM, scarce bring ourselves to believe he had XVII, ever a clear view of the chief duties of life; yet this was manifestly not the case,
, but passion and prejudice had blinded him. When Nathan brought these matters to his mind, by the fable of the poor man's lamb*, he could discover clearly the line of moral duty once more, and could condemn a lesser crime in another, though he had unaccountably excused the greater sin in himself. When the Sechemites, as related in the book of Judges-t, madly chose for their king the murderous Abimeleck, the very worst of all the sons of Jerubbaal, Jotham avoided all direct expostulation with them, knowing they were too blinded by their prejudices to see the folly and indiscretion of their conduct; he pronounced the curse therefore that hung over them under the disguise of a fable; representing the trees of the forest as engaged in a like choice of a king to rule over and go
SERM. vern them; foolishly passing by the fruitXVII. ful olive, the fig-tree, and the vine, and
fixing on the worthless bramble, from whose boughs they could expect neither shelter nor shade. In the first Epistle to the Corinthians, we find St. Paul having recourse to the same expedient, to suppress all murmuring and discontent in regard chiefly indeed to the diversities of spiritual gifts in the Church, but incidentally also, for it is equally applicable, in regard to the different ranks and conditions of men in this life-a subject upon which we are generally as much liable to mistake as upon any other whatsoever. This distinction he shews to be a necessary circumstance in society, and that without rich and poor, superiors and inferiors, no community could exist; but he uses no learned argument to prove it, knowing they might be indisposed to listen to such; but he simply refers them
; to a consideration of their own bodies, composed of many members, yet all so dependent, the one on the other, that " the eye cannot say to the band 1 bave no
"need of thee; nor yet the head to the foot SERM.
“I have no need of you
In the second lesson of this morning's service†, we have several parables ;—the sower and his seed; the parable of the trees; of the grain of mustard-seed; the leaven; the hidden treasure; and of the net cast into the sea; all of which are admirably calculated to set forth the design, the importance, and the effects of the preaching of the Gospel. The time will not admit of my discussing these parables at length; nor is it indeed at all necessary, for as it happens, the curiosity of our Lord's own disciples has anticipated our's, and secured to us a regular explanation of most of them from the mouth of our blessed Saviour himself, as may be seen by reference to the chapter; which from beginning to end is full of instruction and advice. But, in the Gospel of this day, we have a very beautiful specimen of this mode of instruction, in which the parable is not ex
+ Sept. 12, Matt. xiii.
* 1 Cor. xii. 21,
13th S. after Trinity.
SERM. plained so at large, but left in a great mea
sure to our own interpretation. It seems, our Saviour had been addressed by a certain lawyer or scribe to instruct him in the great duties of life. It was no honest or religious motive that led him to put this question to our blessed Lord, but he did it to tempt or try him ; to measure the extent of his knowledge in these matters ; of his own sufficiency he had great assurance. When therefore he had satisfied our Savi, our with respect to his reading, and had intimated that he knew the two great commandments of the law, the love of God, and the love of our neighbour, he thought to ensnare our blessed master, by a further question—" and who is my neighbour ?" for the Jews, upon a corrupt tradition, had confined all neighbourly offices to those of their own tribe and nation. Our Saviour, therefore, knowing his heart, and all the false prejudices that prevented his seeing, in its right light, the great duty of universal benevolence, avoided any direct explanation or expostulation, judging truly that the seed of divine truth was choaked by
weeds and tares in the breast of him whom SERM. he was addressing; and that no immediate XVII. remonstrance would have any weight or effect with him. Still, however, he knew that such was the irresistible beauty of this high virtue, when set in a proper light, and proposed without violence to any secret passions and prejudices, that, instead of reason and argument, he had recourse to a parable; so that when the lawyer asked “ who is my neighbour ?” Jesus made no direct reply, for that would have awakened his prejudices as a Jew; but, in order to disengage his mind from their baneful influence, he simply related to him, as an accidental tale, (though founded possibly on fact *) the following short story.
A certain man of our own nation went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and passing through the wild deserts and dangerous roads which are in those parts, he fell among thieves, who having not only plundered, stripped, and bound him, but also wounded him in a cruel and dangerous
* See Grotius and others.