Imágenes de páginas

one who for him had been utterly dead. can suggest to those who have dreamt of If the dialect of the boudoir seems to us a universal family and a universal father, a dreadful substitute for the dialect of the thought that we acknowledge either. the Evangelists, it may be his first step I am afraid there is much in our theoto the apprehension of a language which logical language which may lead them is meant for human beings, and not for to suppose that we regard Christ as a veil doctors. If as yet he can only trans- between us and such a Father, not as late a “Son of God," into “one who One who has undrawn the veil and takes a great step in religion,” he may shown Him to man as He is. I do not be advancing to the conviction that think we have any right to say through human relations are the true images of what instruments the necessity of such the divine-are the means by which we a revelation may be made known to the are raised from the adoption of a reli- people of the South, by what strange gion to faith in a God.

methods they may be brought actually I could not have used the strong to confess a true sense in the words language in which I have expressed my which they have uttered daily with their convictions of the meaning and nature lips. If we believe that those words of the book, without also using this lan- are true—that the children have a guage respecting its author. One does father-His ways of making that relanot, in my judgment, qualify the other; tion known to them may not be each strengthens the other. The voice at all like our ways. M. Renan may which says, “Children, you have no awaken the inquiry which he cannot Father," rises to me out of every page satisfy. His Jesus, who died 1800 years in the “ Vie de Jésus.” If I believed ago in Jerusalem and never rose again, it to be the Vie de Jésus, I should be can tell them of no Father, can lead sure those words were coming from Him. them to none. They may be driven to But He may be speaking other words ask heaven and earth if there is One through this very book. Have the who can. numerous readers of M. Renan's “Vie But the more we cherish this hope, de Jésus" in France or Italy ever the more bave we a right to demand of thoroughly believed that the Paternoster M. Renan, What is that phrase Fils means what it says? Have they not de Dieu which we meet with so thought that the only person really continually in your pages ? Sometimes entitled to the name of Father over it appears to be profoundly important. them all, dwells in the City of Rome; You call out, “Then he was a Fils de a vicar of Christ perhaps, certainly not Dieu indeed.” When he spoke of a one from whom He came? I do not God who was not worshipped in Jerupresume to say what influences are most salem or Gerizim to the Samaritan likely to act upon them, how they may woman, He had a right to the name. be best fitted to bear the shock which Sometimes it seems to be the merest has come upon so many of them when delusion. He fancies himself to be that they have been obliged to contemplate which he is not; the name indicates his the earthly father as the incubus upon enthusiasm ; he is the victim of an idea. their moral, their political, their spiri. Now, M. Renan has told us (p. 252), tual life, and the shock which WILL “ Pour nous, races profondément sécome upon them if all reverence for “rieuses, la conviction signifie la sinthat father should depart, if they should “ cerité avec soi-même. Mais la sinbe left to feel that, so far as he is con- “ cerité avec soi-même, n'a pas beaucoup cerned, they are orphans. But I must “ de sens chez les peuples orientaux peu confess a strong doubt, whether Protes- “ habituées aux delicatesses de l'esprit tant preaching or Protestant examples, “ critique. Bonne foi et imposture sont however edifying, will avail them the “ des mots qui dans notre conscience least in that great crisis. I fear there is “ rigide, s'opposent comme deux termes very little in our divided societies which "inconciliables. En Orient, il y a de

No. 51. — YOL IX.

“ l'un à l'autre mille fuites et mille concerns the whole of humanity, than 4 détours.” I take this statement as I when we speak of that which concerns our find it. Belonging, like M. Renan, to one own separate households. This language of those western races which produced is the language of the God of Truth, or Jesuitism-having been taught to hate it is hateful to Him. It sustains human all which we represent to ourselves relations, or it mocks them, and prounder the name of Jesuitism by an claims them to be unreal. oriental—one who is a special object of I have hinted at the effects which this M. Renan's dislike-one who said "that book may produce in the southern coun" no lie is of the truth ;” who said tries of Europe, where it has already " that there is no greater joy than to found such acceptance. I am much “ hear of those who walk in the truth ;" more interested in the inquiry—“What whose Master told Pontius Pilate that influence is it likely to have in Eng" for this end He was born, and for land ?” Now that it comes forth in an “ this cause He came into the world, authorized translation, that question may " that He might bear witness of the reasonably engage some of our thoughts. " Truth”-I cannot with a very clear To one class of our countrymen and conscience accept the compliment for countrywomen this last circumstance will my people or for myself. But, since make no difference. The book will M. Renan feels that he has a right have found its way in its original costo it, he must understand that he tume to drawing-room tables; it will lays himself under a very strict obli- lie on them beside sensation novels; gation. He represents “the profoundly it will supply a topic for agreeable conserious races." He embodies in him- versation where they fail to supply self “the delicacies of the critical spin one. How will it be received in this rit,” in which the unhappy Orientals circle ? I have too little acquaintance are so deficient. However, then, they with the class to be capable of judging, may palter with words in a double even perhaps of guessing. There is sense, he must do no such thing. Let one suggestion upon the subject which them idealise, or materialise, as they will occur to some of my readers. It please, this expression, Son of God, to will be said “A biography which so him it must import the divinest truth summarily disposes of the supernatural as or the most dreadful lie. Mists may incredible, as impossible, will encounter belong to the eastern atmosphere. M, much resistance from the spiritualistic Renan assures us that the bright sun of and table-turning tendencies of refined western criticism scatters them all. I people. They are flying to strange and call upon him to exhibit conviction in unwonted methods of obtaining commuits clear occidental sense. I beseech him nications from the unseen world ; they to instruct me by an example of perfect will hardly be prepared to say that sincerité avec soi-même. I am sure the communication which Christendom that we all need it. I am thankful that assumes as the ground of its existence he is putting us all to tests and trials has no reality." The statement is which make such sincerity absolutely in- plausible; nevertheless I entirely distrust dispensable. I do not, indeed, think that it. A temper or state of mind cannot be we should advance the interests of sin- tried by rules of logic : you may argue, cerity by trying to provide a definition “if this is so, then that at all events of the phrase which he employs so may be so," but such arguments will loosely and variously. I do not know have no weight, they will breed no conthat relations can be defined. If they viction. The anxious longing for the exist they must be lived in. The child touch of an infant's finger, or an ugly must know its father, not find terms to scrawl, to assure us that we are not absodescribe what his name imparts. But lutely cut off from all who once dwelt on we must not be more careless, less earth, may issue at last no doubt in the rigorous, when we speak of that which confession of a substantial bond of union

between us and them. The sense of the speaks it easily and gracefully. He vanity of charms and Babylonian num- exchanges tokens of freemasonry with bers did drive men of old to seek for One scientific men as a member of one of who is the same yesterday and to-day, and their lodges. It is quite possible that for ever. Weariness of table-turning may these signs may be recognised and be a way back to that conviction ; no one returned by some who belong to the can tell. But to say that the frivolous English lodge. temper, the restless longing for signs What will our men of letters say to (and such signs !) can of itself dispose the book? I must think that those of any one to believe in the Christ of the them who are real artists, who are New Testament, or to disbelieve in the able to conceive a character or to excharming rose-water substitute for him hibit one, will discover in M. Renan's which M. Renan has provided, is not hero a most incoherent jumble of reasonable.

qualities which never could co-exist, Will our scientific men accept M. which never could form a real man at Renan as their apostle ? Not, surely, if all, to say nothing of an "incomparable" science means what I take it to mean, a man. If, for instance, I might venture reverence for that which is ; for the per- to speak of one remarkable artist, from manent; for laws which live on through whom I have learnt the deepest lessons, a multitude of changes, and direct these the authoress of “Silas Marner” and changes. All the dislike which they “Romola," I think she must recognise have expressed for what they have called in this portrait the strangest combinathe thaumaturgy of priests and religious tion of strength and feebleness, of reality men, must be directed in full force against and unreality ; such a combination as the object of M. Renan's admiration. He might be produced if her own Adam affected to change laws. When he spoke Bede and Tito were thrown into the of the permanent and the eternal he did same cauldron, and a monstrous tertium not in the least understand himself. His quid arose out of the mixture. But highest praise is that he was an idealist. remembering how skilfully M. Renan Facts were nothing to him. Yet I dare has played with the words “idealist," not say that the scientific man, so far as “realist,” “democrat," with those forms he feels himself merely the member of a of speech which most commend themcaste which has an interest opposed to selves to the tastes and habits of litethat of the priestly caste, may not rary men in our day; still more, when welcome a man who he supposes will I think-oh, with what shame and hu give that caste some trouble, who will miliation-of the unreal form, neither throw discredit on some of its theories. divine nor human, but with a certain I cannot say that the compliments which dream of divinity to make the human M. Renan bestows upon the wisdom and unapproachable, with a certain dream of truthfulness of our age, and the patron humanity to make the divine fictitious, age with which he looks back upon the not awful, which we have continually innocent ignorance of former ages, may set before the minds of our countrymen, not have an attraction for men who have and invested with the sacred name of dwelt more upon our progress in dis- the Son of Man and the Son of God covery than upon the thought that I cannot determine how much accepthe highest discovery only shows us tance may be given by the class which what is not of to-day or of yesterday. he understands, and which we have There is a superficial phraseology which alienated, to a caricature, perhaps not belongs to every class of men as a class, more distorted than many of those which becomes a portion of its social which we have drawn. dialect, even though its members are Once more, I would fain hope that engaged in the deepest inquiries. In there is in our English people, as such, this current conventional dialect of that which will not be pleased or flatscience M. Renan is an adept; he tered with the kind of patronage which

M. Renan bestows upon a Galilean peasant, and with the kind of sympathy which he expresses for the religion of the poor. I trust that the sense of truth and reality, which is the result of actual en durance, will reject the dream of one who pretended to establish a kingdom of God, who cheated men into the belief of it by exhibitions of imaginary power. Can men of hard heads and stout hearts suppose that such a one was capable of inaugurating a great moral or political revolution in which they have an interest ? But on this point also I am afraid to express a confident opinion. Our clerical notions of the kingdom of God have been so confused, we have so little made our people understand whether they are under such a kingdom or not-whether it has any thing to do with either heaven or earth-whether it is not merely some cloud-land floating between them—that it is quite possible M. Renan's picture of this kingdom, vague and indistinct as it is, may come before them as a welcome refuge from one that holds out more definite promises to the heart of all human beings, and often seems to belie them more.

Indeed, it is the part of M. Renan's book that concerns the kingdom of heaven in which I have discovered most causes of reproach to us—I will add most excuses for sympathy with him. His contradictions on the subject are more numerous than on any other, but they are instructive contradictions; they are far more valuable than the passages which look symmetrical and satisfactory He believes that the kingdom of heaven must have been a kingdom over the spirit of man ; therefore the young Galilean fell into one of his usual delusions when he spoke of it as about to be established on the earth. Yet he intimates that the ideal kingdom must have a place on the earth ; that it must be for actual men, for poor men ; that it must affect all their relations to their fellows, all their relations to their superiors. Whilst he regards it as the greatest sign of enthusiasm and self-deception, that Jesus declared the kingdom of heaven

would be manifested before that generation passed away—whilst, with what I cannot call a délicatesse de l'esprit critique, he adopts the false translation of “world” for “age," in the passages wherein Christ and the Apostles speak of that which was departing, and that which was to come ; whilst he assumes, on the strength of this false translation, that they expected the earth to be destroyed in their day, though the changes of which they speak (and none more than the writer of the Apocalypse) must be changes affecting the earth ;-whilst he does all this, he yet intimates, very clearly, that a mighty revolution has been produced in the condition of the earth and its inhabitants, by the coming of Christ-a change which did begin to operate when He said it would begin to operate. And he utters a just protest against those writers on New Testament prophecy who have refused to take words in their exact and literal sense ; who have assumed that our Lord and his Apostles played tricks with their hearers, or were ignorant themselves; who have, therefore, transferred to an indefinitely distant period what they affirmed was close at hand. These, I repeat it, are inconsistencies of incomparable value, not for the confutation of M. Renan, far more for the confutation of ourselves. He is right that the kingdom of heaven does, according to the New Testament, contain all those elements of past, present, future, of divine and human, of transcendant and most common and earthly, which he sets in apposition to each other. He is right, that if Christmas-day does not import the beginning of a new heaven and a new earth, it is not what our fathers took it to be; it has been an imposition upon the universe. He is right in complaining of the members of the Church, in one age or another, for not proclaiming the great message to humanity which that day proclaims. He is right in calling us to account for these misdeeds, in reminding us that another than he will call us to account for them, I will not part from him without thanking him in my own name, and in the name

of all who have taken upon them the Vows which I have taken upon me, for giving us these warnings; for calling us to the repentance which must be demanded of us, as it was of the Jews of old, if the kingdom of heaven is so near as they were told it was, as we profess to think that it is. To whatever other class the “Vie de Jésus" may not be of service, to us it may be of the greatest. It may teach us how unspeakable has been the benefit to us of those Jewish teachers of the old world, from whom M. Renan seeks to separate us, with whom be says Christianity has nothing to do. If the message of the I AM was not a real message — if the Jews only held a dry dogma about Monotheism--the Jesus of the New Testament was the vague dreamer about something divine, which might be only an apotheosis of the human, of something human, which was after all as much an imagination as the other—that M. Renan supposes him to have been. If the message was true, He either was the perfect image of Him whom He called His Father, or He deserved the name which the Scribes and Pharisees bestowed on Him. In

1 In reference to this point I may be permitted, perhaps, to set myself right with Mr. Arnold, who has imputed to me in the last number of this magazine a very "fanciful” opinion about the influence of Spinoza on Lessing and Goethe. It would have been worthy of that, or a more contemptuous name, if I have, as Mr. Arnold supposes, attributed any weight to the“ Hebrew nature" of Spinoza. The “ Hebrew nature” was (I derive my judgment from the only books which I know about it, those which might be most likely to exalt the Hebrew above other people) just as idolatrous as the nature of any Greek, or any Dutchman, or any Englishman. If the Hebrew ever believed in an I AM, it was by a struggle with his nature, by a victory over it. Through all the metaphysics of Spinoza I perceive the impression which this awful Name made upon him. It is this which led him to Being as the ground of all his thoughts. It is this which made his Pantheism not only unlike the Greek Pantheism, but the very reverse of it. Pantheism it was--a Pantheism which

that case, then, He was the great deceiver of mankind—the greatest of all atheists.

But most of all, the clergy, the English clergy, have this lesson to learn fro M. Renan. He considers the most wonderful step in human progress is to convince us that Jesus was born 1800 years ago, that He had no life before, or has had since. It has been our tendency to fall into this same habit of mind not from a desire of progress, but because we have thought we were only safe in going back. Every pious fraud, every denial of a common humanity, which ecclesiastical history or common history records, has, I think it will be found, sprung from the disposition to glorify the past, or the present, or the future, at the expense of the other; to deny the Eternal in which they meet. Every great reformation, every assertion of the true glory of our race, every overthrow of imposture and fraud, has had its root in the conviction that there is a direct relation between the God of Heaven and His creatures on earth. If we would cast down the thrones of the oppressor, civil or spiritual-if we would really believe the progress of our species-being content to part entirely with the fame and honour of believing it; if we would be in the true sense humanists, being willing to be denounced as bigots by those who usurp the title, we shall speak of a Living Christof One who is, and was, and is to come ; we should declare that from the highest throne of all, whether it sound from any altar on earth or not, a voice is saying, “ Children, you have a Father. I am the way to Him." swallowed up all Humanity and all Nature in God. It did not swallow up God in Nature or in Humanity. God was the first confession in Spinoza's mind; amidst all his theories of the Hebrew Scriptures, amidst all his strange ethical conceptions, it remained so to the last. This I said a year ago, this I hold more strongly now, to have been the secret of his power over the Hellenized Germans.

« AnteriorContinuar »