صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

companions could not have been. They were fitted, as in no other way they could have been so well, for the purpose of declaring to men the power from above with which their Master was invested ; and that they might be thus prepared, was one of his designs in choosing them. are witnesses of these things,” said he to the eleven, after his resurrection from the dead. He evinced a consciousness of innocence and sincerity, by admitting so many partakers of his secret counsels and his daily deeds; and he manifested his wisdom, by securing such an irrefragable testimony to the reality of those signs from Heaven, which pointed him out as truly the Son of God.

The apostles were selected, in the second place, in order that, by reiterated instruction, they might become well acquainted with the religion which their Master was about to establish on the earth.

It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus addressed himself to all who had ears to hear, but more particularly to those twelve, who were to preach in his name when he should be lifted up; because, through them, mankind were to receive the tidings of his salvation. He chose them, that he might teach them, so that they in

turn might teach. His doctrine was so new, so different from what men had been used to dignify with the title of religion, that occasional lessons to the multitude, uttered in a confined sphere and by a single individual, would hardly have served the purpose of rendering it familiar, and making it well understood. On this account it was more minutely, clearly, and repeatedly explained to a select class of pupils, who were thus prepared to become instructers themselves, and, by penetrating into different and distant countries, to disseminate among the nations of the earth a religious system, which was at first promulgated to the Jewish people, and limited to their small inheritance alone. They were called apostles, because they were sent out into the world.* Before they were sent, they were instructed in the purposes and powers of their mission. And how slow they were to comprehend, after all the pains which had been bestowed on them, the true nature of the Messiah's kingdom and laws, may be read in their own confessions of ignorance. It was late, and not till after supernatural illumination, that they were thoroughly initiated in the true meaning of the religion,

* From the Greek anootedàw, (apostello) • I send.'


which they were commissioned to preach and to spread. This is a fact which forcibly attests, not the dulness of the disciples, for their natural perceptions were as quick as those of other men, but the need there was of their being well grounded in the doctrines of Christ, and the opposition which existed between the entire simplicity and spirituality of those doctrines, and the grossness of their own expectations and of the common opinions of the world.

It may be well to add to the above reasons for the separation of the twelve, that they were brought into a close personal intimacy with the Saviour, in order that they might study his example, borrow his spirit, and so receive the image of his life that they might reflect it in their own. They were both the witnesses and the objects and recipients of that divine gentleness, compassion, and benevolence, which from that fountain flowed out all abroad on every thing. They could not be so much in his society, without being affected by the bland influences of his manners and character. It was very probably intended that they should be thus affected ; that they should behold the temper of Christianity in a living form; its doctrines set forth in conduct; its precepts illustrated by a perpetually corre

sponding practice; and that, beholding this, they should be touched by its beauty, and conformed in some measure to its likeness, and enabled to hold up, not only the description, but the copy of it, before the sight of men. It was almost an inevitable result of their situation, that they should imbibe a portion of the divine life of Christianity from their strict fellowship with its founder. Like those flowers, which are known to drink in the light of the sun while he remains above the horizon, and then to give it out in mild flashes when the evening shades come on, so the disciples, while their Master sojourned with them, while the sun of righteousness shone upon them, absorbed the beaming excellence of his character, and then, when he left the earth, emitted it partially again amidst the moral darkness which surrounded them.

One other purpose, which the connexion of the twelve disciples with our Saviour was fitted to answer, was, the qualification which it conferred on them for recording his deeds and words, and preserving to posterity the invaluable memorial. I know not how we, of this age, could have trusted implicitly to accounts of the origin and true principles of the Christian religion, which tradition alone might have brought down

to us; nor is it easily conceivable how any persons could have been better prepared to render an authentic, trustworthy, and interesting history of our faith, than were those who accompanied Jesus through the several scenes of his ministry, and immediately succeeded him in publishing the Gospel. Accordingly, we find that two, out of the four, relations of our Saviour's life and death, were written by two of the twelve disciples; and that the greater part of the remaining books of the New Testament were likewise composed by the original apostles, and by that distinguished individual whose apostleship was bestowed on him directly and miraculously from Heaven. It is true, that we are obliged to learn from tradition who the writers were of several of the sacred books; but a few facts of this simple nature might securely be trusted to its keeping, though at the same time it would be an improper depository, and an unsafe vehicle for the numerous occurrences, sentiments, and precepts which constitute the Christian system. It is a selfevident proposition, that the chosen companions of Jesus, having witnessed his miracles, having been instructed in his religion, and made intimately acquainted with his character, were qualified in the best manner to convert their experience

« السابقةمتابعة »