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§ 63. Choice and Training of the Apostles to be subordinate Teachers.

Those who had no ear to hear the teachings of Christ fell off one by one, and left around him a narrow and abiding circle of susceptible souls, who were gradually more and more attracted by him, and more and more deeply imbued with his spirit. A closer [the closest] circle still was formed of his constant companions, the Apostles. As the seed which he sowed was received and developed so differently in the soils of different minds, and as the import of his teaching could not be thoroughly comprehended until his work upon earth was finished, there was danger that the confused traditions of the multitude would hand down to posterity a very imperfect image of himself and his doctrines, and that the necessary instrument for the foundation of the kingdom of God, viz., the propagation of the truth, would be wanting.

It might be supposed that Christ could have best guarded against this result by transmitting his doctrine to all after ages in a form written by himself. And had He, in whom the Divine and the human were combined in unbroken harmony, intended to do this, he could not but have given to the Church the perfect contents of his doctrine in a perfect form. Well was it, however, for the course of developement which God intended for his kingdom, that what could be done was not done. The truth of God was not to be presented in a fixed and absolute form, but in manifold and peculiar representations, designed to complete each other, and which, bearing the stamp at once of God’s inspiration and man’s imperfection, were to be developed by the activity of free minds, in free and lively appropriation of what God had given by his Spirit. This will appear yet more plainly hereafter, from the principles of Christ’s mode of instruction, as set forth by himself. At present we content ourselves with one single remark. Christ’s declaration, “It is 101the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing,”153153   John, vi., 63. and his emphatic rejection of an act of worship that, without thought of the Spirit, deified only his outward form,154154   Luke, xi., 27. may serve to guard all after ages against that tendency to deify the form which is so fatal a bar against all recognition of the essence. What could have contributed more to produce such a tendency than a written document from Christ’s own hand?

Since, therefore, Christ intended to leave no such fixed rule of doctrine for all ages, written by himself, it was the more necessary for him to select organs capable of transmitting to posterity a correct image of himself and his teaching, Such organs were the apostles, and their training constituted no unimportant part of his work as a teacher.

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