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The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of musa
tard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds ; but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches of it.
This elegant similitude, addressed by our
Saviour to the multitudes who followed him to the sea of Tiberias, contains a most lively description of the first rise, and amazing subsequent progress of the Gospel, which is here called the kingdom of heaven. Planted in an unfriendly soil by an obscure Galilean, and cultivated under every possible disadvantage by the hands of a few illiterate fishermen and mechánics, it might well seem to resemble the smallest and most unpromising of all seeds : but notwith
standing this unfavourable appearance, supported by its own natural strength, and refreshed by the dews from heaven, it soon sprang up into a great and flourishing tree;' so that the fowls of the air, that is, the various nations of the world, were able to find shelter and protection under its wide and umbrageous branches.
And if we examine the state of the Gospel in its several successive stages, we shall find that it will abundantly justify the description here given.
Let us begin with the infant state of this great scheme of a new system of religious truths, and see what was its first introduction into the world. And here what a melancholy and unpromising scene presents itself to our view! One might have expected, that a plan formed by the hand of God himself, should have opened with some -signal display of his divine power; should have contained something in its first appearance suited to the majesty of its divine Author, and which might strike resistless conviction into the hearts of those to whom it was proposed. But, instead of this, an obscure Jew, whose name was John, commissioned indeed by God himself, but whose commission was known only to his own family and neighbours, takes upon himself