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conception of the story impossible. In this satisfied and unpolemical mood the biographer proceeds to his picture, drawing it, as we have said, tenderly, and lingering upon the beautiful outline with patronising but genuine admiration. M. Rénan himself is much better educated, and more thoroughly informed than the noble young enthusiast whom he contemplates in the valleys of Galilee-and he is not unconscious of his advantages; but, nevertheless, he is aware that the figure he portrays is one unparalleled in the world. It is this, apart from all theories, which is the chief feature in his book its argument in respect to miracles, and its criticism of the Gospels, are matters important enough to be treated in detail; but the grand peculiarity of the work is its full and clear confession of the personal sublimity and singularity of Christ. That excellence without parallel, that unequalled purity and moral grandeur, are not legendary. M. Rénan has heart and power to perceive that the human imagination is incapable of so magnificent an invention; and so far from desiring to detract from the glory of the figure which it his ambition to portray, his evident desire and intention is to add to it, and record more distinctly, according to his own ideas, its wonderful elevation and majesty. In so doing, it is impossible not to feel that he has served the cause which he means to injure. As it is, however, not only the French philosopher but the Christian critic whom we have at present before us, we prefer to give Principal Tulloch's conclusions on this subject rather than our own. In an eloquent passage he thus sets forth, in the first place, the profound importance to Christianity of this unparalleled
character of Christ :
"There is no religion whose interest centres in the person and character of its founder in the same degree as Christianity. Christ is Christianity. In Him are all its truths, all its mo
tives, all its glory summed up. In this respect it differs entirely from Mohamreligion which has largely influenced medanism or Buddhism, or any other the world. They rest upon many influences. Christianity rests, above all, on Christ. It is the spiritual beauty and perfection of His character which has given it the hold it has upon the intelligence of the most intelligent nations of the world-which has given it and exalted souls that have ever lived the sway it has over the most spiritual in the world. Christianity has been the highest spring of human civilisation; its most preserving strength. Why so? Because it has given to humanity a spiritual ideal—a perfect religious conception-which has been the light of the world. There has been no visible growth in this ideal, and no decay in it. It burst upon the world with a sudden illumination, perfect as it now is. It grew up occulto velut arbor arvo-a 'root out of a dry ground.' In the lapse of ages it has suffered creeds have imperfectly defined, Chrisno change, no diminution. Christian tian institutions tian institutions imperfectly represented it. Some Christian heroisms have even feebly imitated it. But nowhere has there been any advance beyond it. It remains the Light of the World, as it declared itself to be eighteen centuries ago. Whatever has suffered change, or seems like to suffer change-whatever revision may await systems or ceremonies, modes of Christian thought or Christian government-this ideal remains lustrous with the same radiance -'the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever'
nobleness of all grace and all true an example of all love and grandeur; inexhaustible in its spiritual fulness, incapable of improvement in its spiritual proportions. Art and life alike—the responsive intellectual and found in it, and continue to find in it, the responsive moral ideal in us-have a perennial fountain of inspiration: they catch some newer and higher and more celestial aspect of it; they reach perhaps, with the deepening thoughtfulness of increasing ages, some truer comprehension of it; but the manifoldness of its excellence exceeds their imitative grasp. It still towers above
them, sympathetic at every point to the touch of human aspiration, but outreaching the highest possibility of human endeavour."
Such a wonderful existence, he proceeds to show, must have had a
fit cause and origin; and it is perfectly consistent and intelligible to the Christian who recognises the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," in this most marvellous and unparalleled Man. "It is but fair, however, to require from one who denies this supernatural origin, an adequate and consistent explanation of a fact which has appeared to the general intelligence as well as to the eye of faith, so clearly to involve the supernatural, and to be unintelligible without it." M. Rénan admits the fact fully and clearly, and he accounts for it as he can with much elaboration and care for naturally it is a matter upon which a man of candid mind, kept back by inexorable theory from the only simple explanation, must have found it hard to satisfy himself. A thousand dead men raised to life would be less of a miracle
to account for than this Jesus, to the secret of whose existence even great Semitic scholarship can give but little clue; indeed, to pause upon the question of miracles at all, while this greatest of all wonders remained to be discussed, is but another proof of the limited nature of human perceptions even in their most acute development. M. Rénan's explanation is, that Christ was produced by Judaism, the most austere and narrow of all religious systems, and by the lovely pastoral landscapes and simple rural manners of Galilee-these two working together, but chiefly and most powerfully the last, upon the gracious and tender influence of which he enlarges with a dainty eloquence which makes one fain to believe, though experience is little in favour of the idea, that the soft hills and green pastures, the sweet shadow of olive woods and glimmer of inland waters, are not only full of moral influence, but of the loftiest inspiration. It is thus that Dr Tulloch examines the singular explanation which M. Rénan gives of the origin of Christ :
"Jesus, according to M. Rénan,
was the natural offspring of Judaism. He was the incarnation of its moral
genius and its Messianic dreams-nothing more. Nature, the teaching of the synagogue, and the enthusiasm of the populace, made Him what He was. Could such a character spring out of such influences, and be produced from such sources? It appears to us wholly impossible. We may allow even so the charming susceptibility of Jesus, much for the sweet natural genius and but the result is still incredible; for let genius be of the most transcendent sort, it must yet connect itself by definite links with its age and time. The most admirable and unique human genius is found to stand in close intellectual and moral relation with its contemporaries. Its growth is understood from what they were, and the influences, direct or indirect, which they exercised upon it. There is in all cases, if not an entirely clear, yet an intelligible affinity between the highest genius and the tendencies in the midst of which wanting in the case of Jesus. M. Rénan, This connection is entirely
indeed, talks of moral maxims that were rife in the synagogues, and kindred teachers, such as Hillel and Gamaliel.
But his constant affirmations on this
subject rest on no evidence, and receive
no countenance even from his own detailed descriptions. The whole picture of Judaism which he draws is opposed to them. He keeps repeating statements about the moral teaching of the synagogue statements, let it be remembered, confessedly founded on
sources not in existence till two cen
turies after the Christian era-but he tures in the actual Judaism of the time. cannot point to any correspondimg feaThe features which this Judaism presented are sufficiently well known. Phariseeism and Sadduceeism represented its two predominant tendencies; and what they were, especially how utterly immoral they were, no one has former had lost the very idea of morality had obscured and perverted its most obvious and fundamental obligations. A superstitious formalism, consecrating the most frivolous external observances, was its only principle, and baneful and malicious fanaticism its only passion. The Sadducees were without terialists by profession, ambitious of any pretence of spiritual feeling-mapower, wealth, pleasure, but without a particle of serious thought or sentiment. With both these great parties Christ
better shown than our author. The
had confessedly no relations except those of hostility. It is even a subject of congratulation to M. Rénan, that his hero, in the progress of His moral development, was so far removed from them in the quiet village of Galilee. But when we look for any evidence of moral culture in the north any more than in the south-in Galilee any more than in Jerusalem-M. Rénan gives us nothing but picturesque description and dogmatic appeal to the Talmud. He has nowhere indicated, nowhere even explained, the marked contrast which, according to him, existed between the Judaism of Galilee and of Jerusalem. And for such a contrast there is not the slightest historical foundation. The spirit of the north was of a more free, simple, and natural character. The tendencies of Judaism had not then developed into the same hardened opposition. All that was characteristic in Judaism necessarily reached its most prominent expression in the capital. But withal, the Judaism of the north and of the south was substantially the same. The disciples were Galileans. They were, one and all, members of the northern synagogues, and may be taken, from the mere fact of their association with Christ, as above the average examples of the religious and moral spirit which characterised the synagogues. Do they then show, apart from the direct influence and instruction of their Master, any lofty spiritual tendency, any characteristics of spiritual wisdom? Could St Peter, or even St John, before the day of Pentecost, when they accompanied our Lord on His Galilean journeys, be conceived as giving utterance to any such sermon as that on the Mount?
If the religious feeling of Galilee had been so much higher than the religious feeling of Jerusalem, would we not have had in the Gospels abundant traces of the fact? 1f such maxims as compose the Sermon on the Mount had been a common moral currency in the Galilean synagogues, could we not have found some evidence of this in the disciples of our Lord as well as in our Lord Himself? In short, M. Rénan's elaborate contrast, and the inferences he founds upon it, have, as we have said, no historical foundation.. The Christ of the Gospels, then, is unintelligible on M. Rénan's principles. There is really no foundation for the character which he has drawn. The origin of Christianity cannot be explained even by the most favourable
concurrence of natural causes in Galilee eighteen centuries ago. Nature may do much for a responsive soul; but even its most glorious combinations have in themselves no creative effect. Sweet genius and a charming spiritual susceptibility may constitute an attractive character, and even rise to a height of powerful and commanding influence in dealing with current spiritual influences.... This is the obvious secret of such characters as those of St Francis of Assisi and others. Marvellous as their career and the power which they exercised may be, we understand them readily, because we see the conditions out of which they sprang. But these conditions we nowhere see in the case of Jesus. Let nature and genius have all the effect that can be ascribed to them, they have nowhere produced such a character; they have in no case -not even in one memorable case which will occur to most minds, that of Socrates-approximated to the production of such a character. No mere human influences have ever germinated into such a consummate expression of wisdom and love, of grace and truth. The loftiest human model still stands, with its strange mixture of loftiness and lowness, of Divine light and human darkness, of righteousness of aim and error of practice, at an infinite distance. Nor was this model, be it remembered, the production of Jewish soil and of an effete age."
We have quoted so largely in order to give a fair idea of the grave and searching yet gentle examination which M. Rénan's popular book has here met with. The point is, to our own thinking, of all others the one only and utterly vital point for Christianity. Christ is Christianity, as Principal Tulloch well says.
If it was in the power
of any assault to dim that spotless image, there would then be occasion in earnest to tremble for our faith, with all its divine consolations-consolations for which neither sceptic nor philosopher has any substitute to offer. Perhaps there is nothing which more clearly shows the wonderful pre-eminence of the portrait of the Gospels, than to contrast it not only with the ideal characters which from time to time Genius has produced, but even with the
reproductions through the hands of lesser artists of that picture which came fresh out of the tender memory of John and Matthew, and their brother evangelists. From the Jesus of a popular sermon to the Son of God in Milton's majestic epic, almost every man who has touched the subject has thrown an involuntary cloud over the original portrait; and in respect to Art, the failure has been yet more striking. Here and there a gleam of divine significance has stolen into the face of the child-Saviour, as depicted by the greatest of painters; but we have never seen a picture which expressed divinity in the maturity of manhood, or would lead an uninstructed mind to the idea that the greatest of beings was there represented. It is the poise of the suspended figure, the reality of an attitude which is neither flying nor standing, which touches the spectator even before so famous a canvass as that of the Transfiguration;' it is not any divine effulgence in the image of the Redeemer; and still less is there any sentiment of Godhead in the muscular Christ of Michel Angelo. The only pictures of Him in which we remember to have felt a kind of shadow of the Divine, are those of the early Byzantine Christ, large and severe and pathetic, in which primitive art, struggling in chains of palpable difficulty, has yet set an expression of ineffable tenderness and sorrow and awful simplicity, which, to our own thinking, is the most impressive yet attained by art, unless, indeed, we were to except Mr Holman Hunt's wonderful 'Light of the World,' under the eyes of which one would scarcely dare to think an ill thought.
If, however, we were to accept M. Rénan's account of the Gospels as books which grew into their present proportions under the hands of an innumerable quantity of authors, each man adding to his scanty MS. any incident or utterance that struck him specially, the wonder would be
more and more increased; for of all modes of producing a picture full of such divine unity, this is about the last which could be supposed successful. At the same time, the account he gives of the Gospels is, in our judgment, a very important part of M. Rénan's book. It is one which perhaps his peculiar scholarship makes him more capable of treating thoroughly; and though we feel Principal Tulloch's explanation of his theory in respect to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark to be quite satisfactory, there is a little haste and imperfection in the lecture which discusses this point. M. Rénan dwells very strongly upon the difference between the earlier Gospels and that of John, which is indeed a very interesting distinction, and one which, apart from the learned and inaccessible discussions of scientific theology, the ordinary public would be more likely to find interest and instruction in than in many sermons. How far this characteristic distinction may have arisen from a difference of audience we do not undertake to decide; but an intelligent reader will perceive that in various specified cases the audience mentioned in the Gospel of John is of an altogether different character from the rustic crowds of Matthew. There is, in the first place, Nicodemus, with whom the Master treated in private of high and difficult matters, which it would have been utterly impracticable to discuss on the mountain or the shore of the lake, in presence of a fluctuating and ignorant multitude; and, towards the end of the Gospel, it is with the intimate circle of His immediate disciples, gathered round Him in awe, and dismay, and painful half-comprehension, like people at a deathbed, that the Saviour talks
speaking to them things which they understood "afterwards," as the record itself pathetically says. Such an auditory was little likely to be addressed in the broader general discourses with which the ministry of
Christ began. To deliver to them, under such circumstances, another Sermon on the Mount, would have been a proceeding entirely false to that human nature which was ever surpassed but never contradicted by Jesus of Nazareth; and what is unquestionably true of the discussions which begin, and of the wonderful and affecting intercourse which closes this Gospel, has also, so far as we are able to judge, every appearance of being applicable to the intervening portions. It is not the outdoor crowd which can do nothing but listen, but the groups in the porches of the synagogues, on the steps of the Temple, curious and hostile, laying traps for the speaker, whom we perceive dimly through John's narrative; and the distinction is natural enough, and easy to understand. But the question is one which demands larger space and fuller treatment. It is to John we owe the narrative, unequalled in human literature, of these last communings with His chosen friends, which are to most Christian souls the most profoundly affecting part of the history of Christ. His is the story of that last mortal meal, where, as yet unassailed and uncondemned, the Redeemer sat among His followers with the prescience of death in His eyes, addressing to them those counsels and those promises of which it was hard for them to see the occasion; while they, alarmed and dismayed and awe-stricken, asked bewildered questions, and knew not what they said. The other day we went with reverence to see the remains of the great picture in which this subject has been represented by one of the greatest of painters, and which, to our eyes, looked more impressive under its film of decay and partial destruction than had it been as fresh and perfect as at first. John is unspeakably a greater artist than Leonardo. With him there is no conventional grouping—no arbitrary attitudes. The awe and perplexity of the sad group, the expla
nations they seek in each other's eyes, the baffling veil of incapacity which bewilders their human comprehension of the Divine Sufferer, and makes even sympathy and love fall short in the effort, are such as no imagination ever gave form to. The difference between the painter and the evangelist, reminds us of a still greater difference in the comparison of Christ with Socrates, which is so much in favour with critics. Nothing could be more striking than the contrast between the last act of our Lord's life and the scene in the Athenian prison, where the philosopher accepts his doom while discussing general principles with his friends, and receives death with a certain indifference which is not even destitute of humour, treating his judges and executioners with a sober and tolerant contempt which is altogether human, and has not a spark of divinity in it. They have done their worst, poor creatures as they are; and now let us talk of more interesting matters. Such is the sentiment of the scene in which one of the very greatest of merely human personages is the chief actor, and which is told by lips no less skilful than those of Plato. So far as literary power goes, the evangelist had little chance with the philosopher; and it would be hard to explain, even by M. Rénan's learned commission of “ mission of "physiologists, physicians, chemists, and persons trained in historical criticism," how the simple apostle has so infinitely transcended the great Italian and the greater Greek. Such a miracle is harder to account for than even restoration from the dead.
This is not a place to enter into any discussion of that which we, in common with all Christians, regard as the most awful event ever consummated in this world; but we cannot refrain from making one final extract from Dr Tulloch's valuable little book, in which he sets forth, with what seems to us a fine originality as well as unquestionable