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§ 69. Order in which the Parables were Delivered.—Their Perfection.—Mode of Interpreting them.

We find many parables placed together in Matthew, xiii.; and the question naturally arises whether it is probable that Christ uttered so many at one and the same time. We can readily conceive that he should use various parables in succession in order to present the same 109truth or several closely related truths, in different forms; this variety would tend to excite attention, to present the one truth more clearly by such various illustration, to put the one subject before the beholder’s eye more steadily, in many points of view, and thus to imprint it indelibly upon his memory. But it is not to be supposed that Christ delivered a succession of parables different both in form and matter, or, if somewhat alike in form, different in scope and design; for this could only have confused the minds of his hearers, and thus frustrated the very purpose of this mode of instruction.

It will be easy to gather what is necessary to the perfection of the parable, from what we have said of its nature. In the first place, the fact selected from the lower sphere of life should be perfectly adapted, in its own nature, to give a vivid representation of the higher truth; and, secondly, the individual traits of the lower fact itself should be clearly exhibited according to nature. Hence, in order to understand the parables correctly, we must endeavour to seize upon the single truth which the parabolic dress is designed to illustrate, and refer all the rest to this. The separate features, which serve to give roundness and distinctness to the picture of the lower fact, may aid us in obtaining a more many-sided view of the one truth, the higher sphere corresponding to the lower in more respects than one (e. g., the parables of the shepherd and the sower); but we must never seek the perfection of the parables of Christ in giving significancy, apart from the propel point of comparison, to the parts of the narrative which were merely intended to complete it; for this, by diverting the mind from the one truth to a variety of particulars, can only embarrass instead of assisting it, and must thus frustrate the very aim of the parable itself. Such a procedure would open a wide field for arbitrary interpretation, and could not fail to lead the hearer astray.

The separate parables will be treated in their proper connexions in the course of the narrative.

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