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Christians. And if any man, or any body of men, were to attempt to draw the line between the real and the nominal disciples of the Saviour, can there be a moment's doubt that, in many cases, they would pluck up the wheat with the tares? Would not he who talks loudly of his religious experience, and under this 'same confident boasting' conceals a worldly or self-sufficient spirit, be likely to be mistaken for the true follower of the cross of Christ? Would not the humble, and modest, and retiring disciple be sometimes classed among the indolent and indifferent? Would not ostentatious display oftentimes pass current for self-denial? Might not humility be set down as weakness, generosity as love of praise, and charitable toleration as utter indifference to error? It is God alone who knoweth the hearts, God alone who can decide between the tares and the wheat, the hypocritical professor, and the sincere believer.
It may, however, be thought that it would have been well if the Great Head of the Church had, in this respect, ordered things differently, and had given an infallible power to men to discern between good and evil. What, however, would be the consequence? Would not the true servants of Christ be inclined to shun the company of the hypocrites? would they not dread intercourse with them? And thus many opportunities of applying the influence of good example, the which now happily exist, would be almost entirely lost. Thus there would be no occasions, as there are at present, on which the lukewarm and the indifferent
disciple might witness sacrifices readily made, hardships cheerfully endured, temptations manfully resisted, injuries meekly forgiven, sickness and pain patiently borne, by the true follower of Christ. Το act thus would be to place a candle under a bushel or under a bed.' This forms no part of the divine dispensation. It is God's will that the light of his true disciples should so shine before men that they may see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in Heaven.'
THE GRAIN OF MUSTARD SEED.
MATT. xiii. 31, 32. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
MARK iv. 30-32.
And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: but when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
LUKE xiii. 18, 19.
Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.
T. MATTHEW and St. Mark both record this
parable to have been delivered at the same time with that of the Sower and the Seed and other parables. St. Luke separates this parable from that of the Sower and the Seed, and states another occasion on which it was spoken by our Lord. After he had healed on the Sabbath Day a woman with a spirit of infirmity,' he was rebuked by the ruler of the synagogue for breaking the fourth commandment. St. Luke adds, that thereupon 'all his adversaries were ashamed, and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things
that were done by him.' The parables of the Grain of Mustard Seed and of the Leaven immediately follow, by which our Lord probably intended to point out that the influence of himself and of his little flock, in spite of all the opposition which the malice and hypocrisy of the Jews offered, would gradually gain strength, and would finally prevail.
St. Matt. xiii. 31.-Grain of Mustard Seed. It is not known what this plant was, though in all probability it bore no resemblance to that which is now called mustard. The original word is Sinapi. We learn from the Rabbinical writers that the Sinapi at times grew to the size of a fig-tree, and shadowed a whole tent. It must not, however, be supposed that it ever attained the size of a forest tree. The smallness of the seed, and the greatness of the plant which grew out of that seed, are comparative terms; and it is in the contrast between the two, and in the power of expansion which the seed possessed, that the force of the similitude consists.
32. Greatest amongst herbs, and becometh a tree. Not that the seed loses its original nature, and assumes that of a tree; but merely that from its great growth it attains to a size beyond which many trees do not extend.
This parable is prophetical; and the object of it is to represent the rise from small beginnings and the future greatness of that kingdom of Heaven which Jesus of Nazareth came on earth to found. The smallness of the grain of mustard seed corresponds
well with the apparently insignificant source from which the Church of Christ took its origin. The son of the carpenter, and the small band of fishermen of Galilee, together with a tax-gatherer and a few other men and women, seemed in the eyes both of the selfrighteous Jews, and the speculative Gentiles, the last persons who were likely to plant a society which should spread itself over the world, and cast its shadow over all the nations of the earth. Still less did this result seem likely when the founder of this sect was put to an ignominious death; or when the one hundred and twenty forlorn disciples met together, under no visible head, in an upper chamber at Jerusalem, to form plans how they should go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.' The vigour of that seed which the Lord had sown in his garden soon showed itself. These one hundred and twenty became within a very few days a considerable community. Three thousand were added to their numbers the very first day on which the seed put forth its shoots; in a few days afterwards, the number of those that believed was about five thousand. The branches of this plant extended rapidly; first over Judæa, then into Syria and Asia Minor; from thence into Greece, the centre of all learning and philosophy; and finally into Rome, the capital of the world.
By a reference to the history of the Gospel, we see how the parable foretells the silent though rapid advances of that kingdom which at its first beginning seemed weak and helpless, and was treated with scorn.