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external could add to the grandeur of his character. The fact, that without availing himself of a single external advantage, he established his religion which disappointed the hopes of his own nation and offered no bribe to any of the passions to which the ambitious appeal with so much success,—that he told his followers from the first, that they were to reap no worldly advantage from their connexion with him,-that his disciples were utterly destitute of those acquirements by which any cause is usually carried forward, -all these things throw the philosophical back upon the only sufficient cause of his success, the reality of his mission from God, the moral power which truth always carries with it, and those miraculous attestations which are the strongest evidence to the unsophisticated mind of man, of a mission from the Most High.
It may at first sight seem strange, when he might have gone up to Jerusalem and chosen his disciples from the most learned, gifted and accomplished of the Rabbinical schools which were then flourishing there, that he should have made such a choice. Over them he would have manifested the same immeasurable superiority, and might have wielded them to accomplish his purposes as easily as those humbler persons whom he actually chose as his companions. Between him, and the intellectual and cultivated, there would seem to have been a closer
sympathy than with those uneducated Galileans, who as far as we at this distance are able to see, were mere children in his presence. But this arrangement, like every other, was founded in the highest wisdom. The function which they were appointed to fill, did not call either for great talents or for extensive learning. They were to originate nothing, they were to add nothing to what he had taught. Their office was simply that of witnesses of what he had said, and done, and suffered. “And ye also shall bear witness,” said he to his disciples, “because ye have been with me from the beginning.” After his resurrection he says to them: “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved the Messiah to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.” These words are found in the Gospel of Luke. In the Acts, the conversation is related at greater length: “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”
This being the office of the disciples, intellectual cultivation was not a necessary requisite. The qualities most necessary to a witness are, simplicity, integrity and courage. Through them the world has
received the Gospel. The more transparent the medium through which we receive it, the less coloring it takes from the minds through which it was transmitted. The consequence is, that we have in the Gospels the most simple and childlike narrative that the world has ever read. We do not see the historians at all. All we see, is Jesus Christ, bis doctrine, his character, his life, his miracles. There is no attempt at the introduction of the philosophy or opinions of the times, with the exception of the beginning of the Gospel of John; and it is unnecessary to say that those fourteen verses have created more controversy in the Christian church than all the rest of the Gospels. What Jesus wanted of his Apostles was principally to be his witnesses to the world, and to all succeeding ages. On their testimony in fact, the faith of the successive millions of the Christian church has depended. The Gospels are nothing more or less than their testimony. Jesus himself left nothing written. All that we know either of him or his doctrines, we receive through them.' Without their testimony we should not know that such a person had ever existed. Without their testimony we should not know what he taught, or how he lived. It was on the strength of what they had seen and heard, that they claimed to be the religious teachers of the world. The relation which the Apostles apprehended themselves to sustain to
Jesus as witnesses, is fully and clearly brought out in Peter's speech to Cornelius and his friends; “How God anointed Jesus 'of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem, whom they slew and hanged on a tree, him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly, not to all the people, but unto witnesses, chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.”
When the Saviour bowed his head upon the cross, and said, “It is finished,” the Gospel was complete. He had discharged his office as a teacher. Nothing could be added to it, and nothing could be taken from it. The system was perfect. The duty of the Apostles was to promulgate it to the world. So you will observe, that the promise of divine assistance, so far as doctrines are concerned, goes no further than strengthening their memories; “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost which the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” They were ocsionally instructed what to do, but never, that we read of, to preach any new doctrine which had not been taught by Christ himself.
It may seem strange to those who are accustomed to dispute about words and phrases, that Christ should have left nothing written, nothing which we can identify as the very words which he spoke. The stickler for creeds and formulas may lament that all the disputes of after ages were not anticipated and prevented by a written declaration of the Saviour, which would have been so plain that no dulness could have misapprehended, no ingenuity perverted it. We are fully justified, I believe, in asserting that no such precaution would have been effectual. Human language is essentially ambiguous, every word having a variety of significations, any one of which becomes probable only because it better suits the connection, the purpose, or the sentiments of the writer. Language is always addressed to reasonable beings, and it is necessary for them to exercise their reason in order to understand it. It is so with Christ's plainest instructions. We are always obliged to use our reason in order to decide in what sense his words are to be taken. When he tells us, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple;”—are we to interpret this literally, and say that no man can be a Christian without hating father and mother, and sisters and brothers? By no
And why? Because it is not reasonable to