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The Parables Of Our Lord by William Arnot


In the first two parables the kingdom of heaven is represented in conflict with its enemies; in the next two it stands alone, putting forth its inherent life and power. There we learn the strength of its adversaries, and here we learn its own. There we saw the efforts made to check the progress of the kingdom; and here we see the progress which, in spite of these efforts, the kingdom makes. There the combat is exhibited, and here the victory. Devils and men, conscious conspirators or unconscious tools, did their utmost, as explained in the first pair of parables, to strangle the kingdom in its infancy, or to overpower it at a later stage; but the kingdom, as we learn from the second pair, shakes its assailants off, emerges unhurt from the strife, and goes forward from strength to strength, until it has subdued and absorbed all the world. I have seen clouds gathering at dawn on the eastern horizon, with dark visage and a multitudinous threatening array, as if they had bound themselves by a great oath either to prevent the sun from rising or afterwards to quench his light; but through them, beyond them, above them, slowly, steadily, majestically rose the sun, nor quivered from his path, nor halted in his progress, until by the power of his mid-day light he had utterly driven those clouds away, so that not a shred of their tumultuous assemblage could any more be seen on the clear blue sky. Such and so impotent in Christ's hands are the adversaries of Christ's kingdom, although they seem formidable to men of little faith: such and so glorious will be the final victory of the King, although even his true subjects may fret and fear over his incomprehensible delay. The coming of the kingdom is like the morning, as slow, but as sure. As smoke is driven before the wind, so shall the Redeemer in the day of his power drive away all those adversaries, whether within his people or without, that now impiously say, |We will not have this man to reign over us.| Christ's disciples are on the winning side, whatever may be the present aspect of the world. |He that believeth shall not make haste.|

The two parables which now claim our attention, although closely allied, are not in meaning and application precisely identical. Both show the progress of the kingdom from a small beginning to a glorious consummation; and both indicate that this growth, as to cause, is due to its own inherent unquenchable life, and as to manner, is silent, secret, unobserved. Thus far these two are in the main coincident; but besides teaching the same lesson in different forms, they teach also different lessons. The parable of the mustard-seed exhibits the kingdom in its own independent existence, inherent life, and irresistible power; the parable of the leaven exhibits the kingdom in contact with the world, gradually overcoming and assimilating and absorbing that world into itself. Both alike show that the kingdom increases from small to great; the first points to the essential, and the second to the instrumental cause of that increase: in the mustard-seed we see it growing great because of its own omnipotent vitality; in the leaven we see it growing great because it uses up all its adversaries as the material of its own enlargement.

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