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Life of Jesus Christ in Its Historical Connexion and Historical Developement.
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§ 64. His mode of Teaching adapted to the Stand-point of his Hearers.

WE shall first seek, in the intimations of Christ himself, for the principles of his mode of teaching, and the grounds on which he adopted it.

Such an intimation may be found in Matt., xiii., 52. After he had uttered and expounded several parables in regard to the kingdom of God, and had been assured by the apostles that they understood him, he continued: “From the example I have given you, in thus making hidden truths clear by means of parables, ye may learn that every scribe who is instructed into the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” As a householder shows his visitors his jewels; exhibits, in pleasing alternation, the modern and the antique, and leads them from the common to the rare, so must the teacher of Divine truth, in the new manifestation of the kingdom of God, bring out of his treasures of knowledge truths old and new, and gradually lead his hearers from the old and usual to the new and unaccustomed. Utterly unlike the rabbins, with their obstinate and slavish adherence to the letter, the teachers of the new epoch were to adapt themselves freely to the circumstances of their hearers, and, in consequence, to present the truth under manifold varieties of form. In a word, Christ himself, as a teacher, was the model for his disciples.

As the passage above quoted referred primarily to the parabolic mode of teaching which Christ had just employed, we find in it an important reason for the frequent use which he made of figures and similitudes. It was, namely, in order to bring new and higher truths vividly before the minds of his hearers, by means of illustrations drawn from objects familiar to them in common life and nature.

But the passage can be applied also to many other features of his mode of teaching; for instance, to his habit of leading his hearers, step by step, from the stand-point of the Old Testament to that of the New adapting himself to the old representations and the Jewish modes of thought and speech derived from them (especially those which referred to Messiah’s kingdom), and thus imparting the new spirit under the ancient and accustomed forms. All his accommodation to forms finds its explanation here.

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