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structors 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 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
* From the Greek atootellw (apostello), “I send.”
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 everything. 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 corresponding 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 par.
tially again amidst the moral darkness which surrounded them.
One other purpose, which the connection 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. 1 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 self-evident 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 into history, and to transmit to the latest ages an indubitable standard of Christian truth.
Such appear to be our Saviour's motives, as far as we are authorized to judge of them, in nominating his twelve disciples. It becomes a matter of no inconsiderable interest to us to know something of the history, to ascertain something of the character, of those who were so peculiarly and so highly distinguished.
Who were those, in the first place, whom the Saviour of men, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, chose out of the whole world, to be his companions, his friends, his pupils, his witnesses, his historians, his apostles ? What were their qualities? How were they recommended to the notice of Jesus? What were their occupations, their condition, education, principles? It was a remarkable station which they were called upon to hold, so near the person, so high in the confidence, of the most exalted being who ever appeared on our earth. As disciples ourselves,
though it may be unworthy of the name, and as distant from them in merit as we are in time, yet as professed disciples of that heavenly Master, we are naturally curious to learn more than simply the names of our favored predecessors. We would make ourselves acquainted with those men who saw, and heard, and touched, and lived and conversed with, that holy prophet of God, for whom we feel a reverence only inferior to that which we entertain toward Him who sent him.
And who were those, we would ask, in the second place, who were appointed by Jesus Christ to publish his religion, and enabled by the assistance of the Holy Spirit of God to publish it successfully? Who were those, who, in obedience to their Master, went out into all nations, teaching, converting, and baptizing, and planting the parent churches of our faith in learned Greece, and lordly Rome, and benighted Africa, and among those rude people of the North from whom we ourselves are descended ? It was no mean work in which they were employed. No revolution of recorded time can equal it in glory; for thrones were subjected to its power, and the poor and humble of the earth were raised by it to an elevation far higher than thrones. They, like their Lord, were invested with a control over the operations of nature; and, more than that, they, like him, and by his authority, and with his instruction, founded