Infidel Hearers
Ezekiel 20:49
Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Does he not speak parables?

I. THE TOO PREVALENT DISPOSITION IN HEARERS TO MAKE LIGHT OF WHAT THEY HEAR, to turn sermons into fiction, and to put such flexible and accommodating constructions upon the heavenly message as shall divest it of all its point and application and purpose. Prove the moral sincerity of your faith in God's Word, in the same way as you would prove your sincerity of your faith in any other word; in the word of a friend, for example, who had put some written instructions into your hands as to the path to be chosen and the dangers to be avoided, in some new expedition you were undertaking. If those instructions of your friend were scarcely looked at, or seldom read, or never studied, with a view to determine what you should do, or what you should not do, would any profession of trust in such guidance be entitled to the least credit? Would it not be evident that your course was shaped by other influences, and that you had no more respect for the instructions of your friend than for the counsels of one who had a love for the extravagant, and whose very truths were darkened by parables? Well, of this subtle and unacknowledged infidelity, it is to be feared very much will be found among us. Whenever they hear anything tending to disturb their settled opinions, it is always some extravagance or straining of metaphor, or licence of rhetoric, or trick of declamation to keep drowsy audience awake.

II. SOME OF THOSE DOCTRINES AND STATEMENTS WITH REGARD TO WHICH THERE SEEMS TO BE A STRONG CONVICTION IN THE MINDS OF MANY, EITHER THAT THE BIBLE DEALS IN DESIGNEDLY POETIC REPRESENTATIONS, OR ELSE THAT MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL OVERSTATE THEIR CASE. Parable, in the sense of fiction, invented conceits, fond imagination, it is plain there must be somewhere. Teachers and hearers cannot interpret the same book so differently, and yet both be right. Which speaks in parables? For example, which speaks in the language of parable, as to the moral dangers of our probation, whether from temptations without or from a treacherous heart within? Has the preacher needlessly magnified these dangers, in exhorting you to incessant watchfulness, to a jealous vigilance over the first springs of thought, to a sacred custody of the heart's entrances and outgoings, as feeling that life and immortality were suspended on the issue? You demur perhaps to some of his descriptions of what that heart is, as the nursery of all evil, the fountain of all that is hateful and vile in human character, the ready slave to the purpose of Satan, whenever he has a design to accomplish against God and man; but strong as this language seems, is it stronger than saying, "The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," or "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, blasphemies, and such like"? Or perhaps he who speaks to you has given some dark sketches of an unseen and malignant foe, subtle in his plans, watchful for his opportunities, dreadful for the number of his emissaries, and fierce even unto the death. Doth not the Word that cannot lie declare of this enemy, that "his name is Legion," and that "your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour"? Or, once more, the preacher has spoken disparagingly of the world. Dear as it is to you who have happy associations, happy friendships, happy thoughts, he has exhorted you to beware of it, to have as little to do with it as you can, to make it the servant of your necessities, and not the master of your hearts. But on this point do the law and the testimony speak a more guarded language? Far otherwise; they have affirmed that the whole world lieth in wickedness, and that he who will be a friend of the world must consent to be considered as an enemy of God. Another topic on which men must suppose we use an unnecessary strictness, or they could not live as they do, is with respect to the proper moral signs of their being in a state of reconciliation with God — of their being partakers of a genuine repentance and a saving faith. Surely on such subjects we ought to speak in very faithfulness, for neither to our own souls nor to yours could anything be more perilous than fiction — than an extravagance which should outdo itself. Oh, then, is it our fault if, on reading in the solemn commission given to us, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord," we pronounce as banished from the everlasting presence the man who does not even desire that holiness, — whose habits are utterly at variance with the temper and spirit of holiness, — whose converse with God is restricted to the service of lip and knee, — who neither knows, nor cares to know, what is meant by the believer's struggles with sin, or conflicts with the law in his members, or aspirations, so broken and so feeble, after the purities of the heavenly state? There is yet one other topic on which, unless ministers of the Gospel be thought to speak in the most extravagant parables, the life of three-fourths of professing Christians is one continued mystery. I mean the retributions which await the Christless soul in another world. On this subject, to go in excess of the awful and thrilling description of the Word of God is not possible. No uninspired imagination could ever attain to such heights — the worm and the fire and the outer darkness and the separation ever widening between repentance and God, and hope. These, if they are parables, at least are not our parables, but the parables of One who must have chosen such a medium of illustration because the intense and overwhelming majesty of the subject could not be described in any other way. And yet, how are we to explain the fact — for fact you know it is — that if we were to collect all those revelations of Holy Writ together, and were to arrange them in such order that they who run might read, many would listen, would seem to be impressed, would profess entire belief in all that had been said, and yet afterwards they would neither love sin the less, nor fear God the more, nor examine their state more closely; but as they came so would they go away, unchanged, unresolved, unreconciled, unforgiven? Surely the fact admits of but one solution. Say what they will, they do not believe these things. Whatever the delusion be, certain it is that each one has sonic lulling process by which the penalties of the eternal world become stripped of their terribleness, insomuch that the words are all but uttered in regard to the man who preaches of them: "What doth this babbler say?" "Then said I, O Lord God! they say of me, Doth he not speak in parables?"

(D. Moore, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?

WEB: Then I said, Ah Lord Yahweh! they say of me, Isn't he a speaker of parables?

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