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§ 73. Necessity of Accommodation.

We must mention Christ’s adaptation of his instruction to the capacity of his hearers, as one of the peculiar features of his mode of teaching. Without such accommodation, indeed, there can be no such thing as instruction. The teacher must begin upon a ground common to his pupils, with principles presupposed as known to them, in order to extend the sphere of their knowledge to further truths. He must lower himself to them, in order to raise them to himself. As the true and the false are commingled in their conceptions, he must seize upon the true as his point of departure, in order to disengage it from the encumbering false. So to the child the man becomes a child, and explains the truth in a form adapted to its age, by making use of its childish conceptions as a veil for it.

In accordance with this principle, every revelation of God, having for its object the training of mankind for the Divine life (and we must never forget that this was the sole aim of Christianity, as well as of the preparatory institutions which preceded it), has made use of this law of accommodation, in order to present the Divine to the consciousness of men in forms adapted to their respective stand-points. And as Christ by no means intended, as we have before remarked, to impart a complete system of doctrine as a mere dead tradition; but rather to stimulate men’s minds to a living appropriation and developement of the truth which he revealed, by means of the powers with which God had endowed them; it was the more necessary for him to adapt his instruction to the capacities of those who heard him. His teaching by parables, in which the familiar affairs of every-day life were made the veil and vehicle of unknown and higher truths, was an instance of accommodation. The pedagogic principle of joining the old with the new, of making the old new and the new old, and of deriving the new from the old, is fully illustrated in the saying of Christ before referred to, viz., that the teacher, instructed in the kingdom of Heaven, is like “a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” To this principle, constantly employed by Christ in his teaching, we must ascribe the extraordinary influence of Christianity upon human culture from the very beginning. But, just as the “form of a servant” hindered many eyes from seeing the Son of God in the Son of Man, so the Divine, which adapted itself to human infirmities by veiling its heavenly grandeur, was often concealed by the very veil which it had assumed.

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