the word parable is derived from a Greek verb, signifying to compare, and therefore it means a comparison made between things in their own nature different, but which yet in some points have a resemblance to each other.
The parables of Jesus Christ differ from other parables or comparisons in this respect, that they are not mere comparisons, but real agreements or correspondences between the things compared; thus they are the agreements or correspondence between things natural and things spiritual.
These agreements or correspondences are founded in the eternal laws of creation, by which it is appointed that all natural things and objects shall be the representative images and figures of those spiritual and eternal realities in which they originate, and that thus the universal world of creation, with all its parts, may be a representative theatre of that eternal world from which it is derived, and with which it is in perpetual connexion. When Jesus Christ, therefore, spoke in parables, He expressed eternal spiritual truths relating to His kingdom, under images of natural things relating to the kingdom of this world, and in this figurative language impressed those truths more beautifully and affectingly on the minds of His hearers than He could have done in any other way.
This mode of speaking answered a double purpose; first, in communicating to His humble and sincere disciples the lessons of Eternal Truth in the most significative and impressive language; and, secondly, by concealing Truth from others who were not in a disposition to receive and profit by it, and who, consequently, might have suffered injury by its reception.
It may seem a strange assertion, that man can suffer injury from admitting the truth into his understanding, but it is nevertheless true, for he has no greater enemy than the Eternal Truth, if he be not in a disposition to form his life accordingly, by rejecting those evils which the truth makes manifest, and by cherishing those graces and virtues which the truth recommends, and, at the same time, communicates; Jesus Christ therefore says, "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." (John iii. 19.) In receiving, therefore, into our understandings the knowledge of the Eternal Truth, we receive either life or death; life, if we suffer it to influence our wills, and conduct us to the possession of the Supreme Good, which is the love of God and our neighbour; and death, if we suffer it to remain fruitless, by burying it under the mire and clay of our natural evils, unforsaken and unrepented of.
It is said, (Matt. xiii. 34, Mark iv. 34.) that Jesus Christ spake nothing without a parable, from which we are plainly taught, how important it is to understand the parabolic language of Scripture, if we would be "wise unto salvation;" and the object of the following explanation is, that the devout reader of the Holy Word may have an enlightened and spiritual discernment of the divine things contained in the parables of our Saviour God, in order that his mind may be more opened to receive and to love the things of heaven and eternal life.