Then said he, To what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?…
The kingdom of God is an expression of various significations in the sacred volume. Sometimes is meant by it the universal dominion of the Deity; sometimes the final blessedness to which the saints are heirs; and in a more confined sense it frequently signifies the gospel state, or Church of Christ. In this last sense, it is used in the text; and the thing signified is illustrated by a comparison, remarkable for that aptness and beauty, with which all our Saviour's parables are distinguished.
I. We are first led by the resemblance, to which our Saviour likens His kingdom, to remark THE SMALLNESS OF CHRISTIANITY IS ITS BEGINNING. Seeking for the symbol with careful consideration, He chooses one, proverbial among the Jews for littleness, the smallest object possessed of life and expansive force. Small as is the symbol, it is not smaller than the thing it was designed to represent. An obscure prophecy was the first germ of Christianity, and its only label, a simple rite: the prophecy-God's promise to the woman, and sacrifice — the rite. We have ever to bless our God that-as early as death laid claim to our race, the seed, whose fruit is to nourish us into immortality, was sown by His hand; and in due season made to spring up into lively appearance before an expecting and wondering world.
II. This brings me to remark, from the image which Christ furnishes in the text of "the kingdom of God," ITS PROGRESSIVE CHARACTER. In the visible ministry of the Messiah and promulgation of the gospel it assumed its definite appearance. This took place under the most unfavourable circumstances. The soil in which it appeared was incongruous with its nature, and the clime inclement. In its genuine state Christianity had to withstand many a blast; to endure both chilling cold and scorching heat; to encounter everything which could threaten to check its growth, and crush it in the dust. But it was a plant of an inherent vigour, which no climate could kill, nor rudeness impair; and, under the fostering care of Him who rules all seasons and disposes all events, it grew daily, it rose in height, and spread the wonder of the world; it became established.
III. This brings me to observe, THAT THE PARABLE CARRIES US FORWARD TO A PERFECTED GROWTH AND TRIUMPHANT STATE OF THE GOSPEL KINGDOM. Though now it presents the sure refuge to all people, its branches are not filled; there is room for much further growth, and dread occasion for much pruning. As yet, defiling vines cling to the stately tree, obstructing its spread, and defacing its beauty. As yet, the Jews "look" not "on Him whom they pierced"; and to many Gentile tribes, the Cross is "foolishness." As yet, there is need to cry to the children of men, "Know the Lord"; and many of them are fluttering wildly, and wandering into dangers, for want of the places in which they may find rest and shelter. But the figure by which the Church is described, and which has appeared hitherto so apt and exact, apprises us of a mature and triumphant state of our Redeemer's kingdom. The plant of the little seed, through its progressive growth, is to attain to a perfect height, and strength, and greatness. It is to become a "great tree"; yea, greater than all the trees that are in the earth. Its root is fixed; and it shall continue to extend its growth till all the inhabitants of our world rejoice in the shadow of the branches of it. The Christian religion is composed of such elements; there are in it such principles and arrangements as suggest of themselves that if it be true it is designed for universal extension and perpetual duration. We have now considered the beautiful and exact resemblance furnished by Christ of "the kingdom of God." There are inferences from this subject of great weight and variety. Let me entreat your patience while I adduce only a few which are too instructive to be omitted.
1. The first is, that this is one of those singularly important comparisons or parables which are not only illustrative but prophetic.
2. Another important inference from what has been said is, that the gospel is the object of constant providential care.
3. The last inference I shall make from our Saviour's lively representation of His kingdom is, the encouragement it is calculated to afford to His pious people.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?