And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered to him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship…
Lay down some rules to assist in the interpretation of parables.
1. The first and principal one I shall mention is, the carefully attending to the occasion of them. No one, for instance, can be at a loss to explain the parable of the prodigal son, who considers that our Lord had been discoursing with publicans and sinners, and that the proud and self-righteous Pharisees had taken offence at His conduct. With this key we are let into the true secret of this beautiful parable, and cannot mistake in our comment upon it. Understanding thus from the occasion of the parable what is the grand truth or duty meant to be inculcated.
2. Our attention should be steadily fixed to that object. If we suffer ourselves to be diverted from it by dwelling too minutely upon the circumstances of the parable, the end proposed by Him who spake it will be defeated, and the whole involved in obscurity. For it is much the same here as in considering a fine painting; a comprehensive view of the whole will have a happy and striking effect, but that effect will not be felt if the eye is held to detached parts of the picture without regarding the relation they bear to the rest. Were a man to spend a whole hour on the circumstances of the ring and the robe in the parable just referred to, or on the two mites in that of the good Samaritan, it is highly probable both he and his hearers by the time they got to the close of the discourse, would lose all idea of our Saviour's more immediate intent in both those instructive parables.
3. That great caution should be observed in our reasoning from the parables to the peculiar doctrines of Christianity.
(1) An intemperate use of figures tends to sensualise the mind and deprave the taste. Sensible objects engross the attention of mankind, and have an undue influence on their appetites and passions. They walk by sight, not by faith.
(2) The misapplication of figures, whereby false ideas are given the hearer of the things they are made to stand for. It is easy to conceive how men's notions of the other world, invisible spirits, and the blessed God Himself, may in this way be perverted. A licentious imagination has given rise to tenets the most absurd and impious. To this the idolatry of the pagan world may be traced up as its proper source (Romans 1:21-28).
(3) The reasoning injudiciously from types and figures, begets a kind of faith that is precarious and ineffectual. We have clear and positive proofs of the facts the gospel relates, and the important doctrines that are founded thereon. But if, instead of examining these proofs to the bottom, and reasoning with men upon them, we content ourselves with mere analogical evidence, and rest the issue of the question in debate upon fanciful and imaginary grounds, our faith will be continually wavering, and produce no substantial and abiding fruits. An enthusiast, struck with appearances, instantly yields his assent to a proposition, without considering at all the evidence. But as soon as his passions cool, and the false glare upon his imagination subsides, his faith dies away, and the fruit expected from it proves utterly abortive.
(S. Stennett, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.