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§ 65. His Teaching presented Seeds and Stimulants of Thought.

Again, he told his disciples (John, xvi., 25) that up to that time he had veiled the truth in parables, but that the time was approaching when he should declare plainly and openly all that he had to tell them of his Father. He thus taught them that they would be enabled, at a later period, by the aid of the illuminating Spirit, to develope from his discourses the hidden truths which they enfolded. It must, therefore, by no means surprise us to find that the full import of most of his words was not comprehended by his contemporaries: such a result, indeed, was just what we might expect. He would not have been “Son of God” and “Son of Man,” had not his words, like his works, with all their adaptation to the circumstances of the times, contained some things that were inexplicable; had they not borne concealed within them the germ of an infinite developement, reserved for future ages to unfold. It is this feature (and all the Evangelists concur in their representations of it) which distinguishes Christ from all other teachers of men. Advance as they may, they can never reach him; their only task need be, by taking Him more and more into their life and thought, to learn better how to bring forth the treasures that lie concealed in him.155155   Schleiermacher says beautifully (Christliche Sittenlehre, p. 72), that all our progress [in Divine knowledge] must consist solely in more correctly understanding and more completely appropriating to ourselves that which is in Christ.

The form of his expressions, whether he uttered parables, proverbs, maxims, or apparent paradoxes, was intended to spur men’s minds to profounder thought, to awaken the Divine consciousness within, and so teach them to understand that which at first served only as a mental stimulus. It was designed to impress indelibly upon the memory of his hearers truths perhaps as yet not fully intelligible, but which would grow clear as the Divine life was formed within them, and become an ever-increasing source of spiritual light. His doctrine was not to be 103propagated as a lifeless stock of tradition, but to be received as a living Spirit by willing minds, and brought out into full consciousness, according to its import, by free spiritual activity. Its individual parts, too, were only to be apprehended in their first proportions, in the complete connexion of that higher consciousness which He was to call forth in man. The form of teaching which repelled the stupid, and passed unheeded and misunderstood by the unholy, roused susceptible minds to deeper thought, and rewarded their inquiries by the discovery of ever-increasing treasures.

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