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tious stories, which go under the names of fables or apologues among the ancient heathens, and of parables in the sacred writings. It is found by experience, that this sort of composition is better calculated to command attention, to captivate the imagination, to affect the heart, and to make deeper and more lasting impressions on the memory, than the most ingenious and most elegant discourses, that the wit of man is capable of producing. The very obscurity, in which parables are sometimes involved, has the effect of exciting a greater degree of curiosity and interest, and of urging the mind to a more vigorous exertion of its faculties and powers, than any other mode of instruction. There is something for the understanding to work upon; and, when the concealed meaning is at length elicited, we are apt to value ourselves on the discovery as the effect of our own penetration and discernment, and, for that very reason, to pay more regard to the moral it conveys. When the mind is under the influence of strong prejudices, of violent passions, or inveterate habits; and when, under these circumstances, it becomes necessary to rectify error, to dissipate delusion, to reprove sin, and bring the offender to a sense of his danger and his guilt; there is no way in which this difficult task can be so well executed, and the painful truths, that must be told, so successfully insinuated into the mind, as by disguising them under the veil of a well-wrought and interesting parable. It was probably these reasons, which
gave rise to so general and so ancient a custom, of conveying moral instruction under the cover of imaginary agents and fictitious events. We find traces of it in the earliest writers; and it was more peculiarly cultivated in the East, the region where religion and science first took their rise. The most ancient parables perhaps on record are those we meet with in the Old Testament. Those of Jotham, for instance of Nathan-of the woman of Tekoah-and of Jehoash. From the East, this species of composition passed into Greece and Italy, and thence into the rest of Europe ; and there are two celebrated writers, one in the Greek, the other in the Roman tongue, whose fables every one is acquainted with from their earliest years. These, it must be owned, are elegant, amusing, and, in a certain degree, moral and instructive. But they are not, in any degree, to be compared with the parables of our Bless ed Lord, which infinitely excel them, and every other composition of that species, in many essential points. In the first place, the fables of the ancients are many of them of a very trivial nature, or at the best contain nothing more than maxims of mere worldly wisdom and common prudence, and sometimes perhaps a little moral instruction. But the parables of our Blessed Lord relate to subjects of the very highest importance ; to the great leading principles of human conduct, to the essential duties of man, to the nature and progress of the Christian religion, to the moral government of the world, to the great distinction between vice and virtue, to the awful scenes of eternity, to the divine influences of the Holy Spirit, to the great work of our redemption, to a resurrection and a future judgment, and the distribution of rewards and punishments in a future state : and all this expressed with a dignity of sentiment, and a simplicity of language, perfectly well suited to the grandeur of the subject. In the next place, the fables of the learned heathens, though entertaining and well composed, are in general cold and dry, and calculated more to please the understanding than to touch the heart: whereas those of our Blessed Lord are most of them in the highest degree interesting and affecting. Such, for instance, are the parable of the lost sheep, of the prodigal son, of the rich man and Lazarus, of the pharisee and publican, of the unforgiving servant, of the good Samaritan. There. is nothing in all heathen antiquity to be compared to these ; nothing that speaks so forcibly to our tenderest feelings and affections, and leaves such deep and lasting impressions upon the soul.-Lastly, the Greek and Roman fables are most of them founded on improbable or impossible circumstances, and are supposed conversations between animate or inanimate beings, not endowed with the power of speech; between birds, beasts, reptiles and trees; a circumstance which shocks the imagination, and of course weakens the force of the instruction. Our Saviour's parables, on the contrary,
are all of them images and allusions taken from nature, and from occurrences which are most familiar to our observation and experience in common life ; and the events related are not only such, as might very probably happen, but several of them are supposed to be such as actually did : and this would have the effect of a true historical narrative, which we all know to carry much greater weight and authority with it, than the most ingenious fiction. These circumstances give a decided superiority to our Lord's parables over the fables of the ancients; and, if we compare them with those of the Koran, the difference is still greater. The parables of Mahomet are trifling, uninteresting, tedious, and dull: and, among other things which he has borrowed from Scripture, one is the parable of Nathan, in which he has most ingeniously contrived to destroy all its spirit, force, and beauty.
ON THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST:
It is an observation not more common than it is just, that, of all methods of moral instruction, example is the most attractive and persuasive. The finest disquisi. tions on the beauty and fitness of virtue, while they may convince the understanding, yet seldom reach the heart. But, in beholding deeds of virtue, or perusing the lives of great and virtuous men, generous souls burn with the lofty ambition to imitate the greatness they admire, and the goodness they love,-to place themselves in the like situations, and to act the same part, with the fond object of their admiration,—to “ live o'er each scene, and be what they behold.” Hence it has been the admonition of the wise of every age to their disciples, continually to set before them some object worthy of imitation; some great example, which may call off their souls from every thing that is base, and animate them to noble deeds. But where is such a standard of perfection to be found ? In the lives, nay, in the best deeds of the very best men, we too often find an admixture of frailty, which we readily lay hold of, in justification of our own follies and vices.
The lives, too, of those, who in the estimation of the world are accounted great, have little in them that can fall within the sphere of imitation of ordinary men. But to the Christian world there has been presented, in the person of their great leader, a perfect model, adapted to the imitation of his followers in every rank and condition. In him has been exhibited a pattern of the most exalted piety, the most active beneficence, unshaken integrity, and unsullied purity,—of universal love, combined with the strictest regard to the peculiar claims of kindred, of friendship, and of country, -of obedience to the laws even of heathen rulers, in matters not inconsistent with his allegiance to his Father, -of cheerful conviviality, without intemperance or levity,-of ready and cordial forgiveness, without tame insensibility, -of prudence and guileless simplicity,—of firmness and gentleness,--of dignity and condescension,-ofrigid principle withoutausterity of manners,--of courage without temerity,-of equanimity amid popular applause and popular clamour,-of humility amid success and triumph, and patience in suffering and adversity,-humility without meanness, patience without stoical apathy. How well this faint outline has been filled up by the Evangelists, a minute and careful perusal of their writings alone can fully testify. Yet, in order to show that the above is not an ideal 'sketch of imaginary perfection, but one drawn in the closest adherence to the great original, it may be necessary to descend to a few particulars.—Our Blessed Master's PIETY to his Father is exhibited in every page of his history. We read of his regular attendance at the synagogues on the Sabbath day,-of his frequent retirement from the haunts of man, to the sequestered mountain and the lonely desert, to “ commune with his God in secret prayer,"--of his habitually imploring his Father's aid, and his Father's blessing, at the commencement of every important undertaking,—and of the gratitude with which, in his moments of success, he exclaimed, “ I thank thee, O Father, that thou hast heard me.” But, while he thus, in the strongest possible manner, impressed upon his disciples the importance of prayer, and of attendance upon the external ordinances of religion, his piety (as must ever be the case with all true piety) most conspicuously displayed itself in the uniform tenor of his conduct.
Father, not my will, but thine be done,” was the habitual language, not of his lips alone, but of his life, from the moment when the child Jesus, in the temple at Jerusalem, told his mother that he must be about his Father's business, to that black but eventful hour, when the Redeemer of the world, having said, “ It is finished," bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.-As piety to God, which our Blessed Master inculcated as the first and great commandment, was the ruling principle of his own life, so he no less constantly exemplified in his conduct that BENEVOLENCE to man, which he declared to be the second commandment, and like unto the former. His whole life was a series of beneficent actions. He went about doing good. He healed the sick and infirm, he restored the dead to their mourning relatives, he instructed the ignorant, he spake peace to the guilty soul. Nor was the kindness of his heart exhibited in acts of compassion alone. He was not less ready to rejoice with them that rejoice, than to weep with them that weep. His very first miracle he performed to promote the hilarity of a marriage-feast: and it was laid to his charge by his censorious countrymen, that he mingled more with the gayer scenes of life, than, according to their notions, befitted a teacher of righteous.
His goodness, too, embraced all within its comprehensive grasp. He granted the petitions, not of the Jew only, but of the Samaritan, the Canaanite, the Roman. His kindness extended to all of every rank in life who were willing to receive it; the despised publican, and the most degraded outcast of society, were not beneath the notice of the Saviour of men. Injury and ingratitude were no obstacles to his love. The last miracle, that he performed before his death, was healing the wound inflicted on one of his assailants; and, among the last words that he uttered on the cross, was a fervent prayer for his murderers. But, though his love was thus comprehensive, it was not indiscri. minate. His example gives no countenance to the notion, that the citizen of the world ought to be in