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The Parable as Proverb.

The Parable as Proverb.

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Published by glennpease

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Published by: glennpease on Jul 01, 2013
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THE PARABLE AS PROVERB.BY ALFRED BARRY, D.D., DThe relation of the proverb to the idea of the parable. — Theconception of the wisdom of man and the wisdom of God : — I. The poetical introduction to the Book of Proverbs, — the praise of the Divine Wisdom, and the personificationof that Wisdom. The relation of this personification to thedoctrine of the WORD; the connexion of the proverb withpsalm and prophecy. II. The chief body of the Book asa collection of proverbs : their various classes — ia) proverbsof prudence, ip) proverbs of morality, {c) proverbs of religion. III. The proverbs of Job and Ecclesiastes.THE proverb, in contrast with other phases of parabolic teaching, may be considered as animplicit or undeveloped parable. It is constantlydesignated by the name of Parable {Maskdl) inthe Old Testament ; and it has been alreadynoted that the same connexion is occasionallymarked in the ew Testament also. For wefind in Luke iv. 23, that the proverb, " Physicianheal thyself," is in the original cited as a " parable";and, on the other hand, in John xvi. 25, 29,our Lord, contrasting His previous teaching, sooften veiled in parable, with the fuller revelationpromised in the future, describes it as a " speakingTHE OLD TESTAMET. 191in proverbs." The reason of this connexion, as hasbeen already explained, is, first, that the proverbfrequently expresses, and still more frequently im-plies, metaphorical comparison and suggestion of general rule through individual examples, and, there-fore, contains in implicit form what might easily be
unfolded into the true parable ; and next, that italmost invariably preserves the antithetical form, inwhich, either for comparison or for contrast, "onething is set over against another."It may be added that it manifestly subserves twogreat practical objects of teaching by parables. Onthe one hand, it is by its very nature popular ; itsvivid and picturesque presentation of truth arreststhe attention and kindles the imagination of thepeople at large. On the other hand, it is eminentlysuggestive of further thought ; and therefore acts asa touchstone of distinction between the thinking andthe unthinking.This proverbial class of parables is the most fullyrepresented of all in the Old Testament. To saynothing of occasional specimens presenting them-selves elsewhere (as in i Sam. x. 12 ; Jer. xxxi. 29 ;Ezek. xviii. 2), it forms the whole substance of theBook of Proverbs. It is occasionally exemplified inthe Psalms, frequently in the Books of Job and Eccle-siastes. In the Book of Proverbs as a whole it shouldbe mainly studied, and it will be evident on carefulexamination that we have presented to us in the192 THE PARABLES OFpoetical opening (cc. i.-ix.), and in the more prosaicbody of the book, two very different forms of thisproverbial teaching.In their leading characteristic both are alike ; forthe key-note of both is struck in the first verses of the book, the desire " to know wisdom and instruc-tion, to discern the words of understanding."But what, in the Scriptural sense of the word, is
that wisdom, which, as Solomon's dream implies, isGod's choicest gift, and which is the link betweenHis special revelation to the prophets of Israel, andHis general enlightenment of man as man "i It maybe observed that " wisdom," as is seen in the crucialinstance of the Wise Man himself (i Kings iv. 29), isexpressly distinguished from ''understanding," underwhich may be classed all intellectual gifts, and fromthe " largeness of heart," expanding into knowledge,manifold " as the sand on the sea-shore." Bothunderstanding and knowledge subserve wisdom ;neither is identical nor coextensive with it. The trueidea of wisdom is singularly striking and profound.Wisdom in man may be briefly described as theknowledge of the true work and purpose of life, forwhich God has sent him into the world. Wisdom inGod, considered in the abstract, is the great purposeof His dispensation — the " First Law Eternal " (asHooker expresses it) " which God hath set downwith Himself to do all things by." But — in accord-ance not more with the true religion which sees allTHE OLD TESTAMET, 193things ill God, than with the comprehensive philo-sophy which recognizes that the individual can beunderstood only in relation to the totality of thewhole — Holy Scripture goes on to teach that thiswisdom of man (this discovery, that is, of the trueobject of his life) is possible only through a know-ledge, real but imperfect, of the higher wisdom of God, and a resolution to subordinate his will to it byendeavouring to be In it " a fellow worker with God."It is of course clear that such knowledge can be butpartial ; that, if it is in part the result of deep andreverent thought, it must be, in still greater measure,the fruit of faith in God's revelation of Himself; and,accordingly, that the action following upon it is at

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