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This is the third instalment of the work which M. Rénan seems to regard as his special calling, and for which he would seem to have the necessary leisure, since his public duties as Membre de l'Institut have ceased. It followed the second division, “The Apostles,” nearly after the same interval as this had followed the first, “The Life of Jesus.” The book before us breathes exactly the same spirit as its two predecessors, and no one that has read with some care the first two productions of this fertile mind, could be at a loss as to the paternity of “St. Paul,” even if it did not bear on its titlepage the name of its author. This spirit is rather unique, and it is, accordingly, difficult, if not impossible, to rank Rénan with any school that pursues or has pursued the same end. This spirit is not that of the English Deist of the last century, nor that of the Wolfenbüttel Fragmentist, both of whom saw in the Gospels and the other writings of the New Testament nothing but a tissue of lies ; nor is it that of the Rationalismus
* Saint Paul. By ERNEST Renan, Membre de l'Institut. Translated from the original French. New York: G. W. Carleton. 1869.
VOL. XLII.-NO. IV. 33
Vulgaris of Germany, which saw in the writers of the New Testament honest, but mistaken and ignorant men, who suffered themselves to be carried away by the lofty appearance of Jesus, and converted natural phenomena or uncommon acts of their Master into miracles; nor is it identical with mythicism, since Rénan assumes too short a time between the occurrence of the events narrated and the composition of the narratives, to admit of the formation of myths, all the books of the New Testament, most of which he recognizes as genuine, having been written, according to him, within the first century of the Christian era. Rénan's writings differ in still another respect from most other works of a destructive tendency; while reading some of these, the reader is compelled to task his mental powers to the utmost in order to be able to form an independent judgment on what he reads; he has to read again and again certain passages, and to compare them with previous ones, in order to understand the writer's position; he has to read the passages criticised in the original in order properly to estimate the criticism offered, -in short, he finds the reading of these works one of the hardest tasks imaginable. Not so with the writings of M. Rénan; here every thing is plain and easy; the reader understands his author without having to put forth any great mental effort, and the account of the subject treated is such that it leaves no doubt whatever as to the author's conviction that he is right, and he alone,--that all other interpretations of the documents extant are false or imperfect. M. Rénan approves the avros čpa of the Pythagoreans. Hence he does not stop to discuss, much less to controvert or disprove, a position of an opponent, and regards it as a great defect in “St. Paul's” character that that he did not act in accordance with Rénanian principles. And now, what is the lofty position of this man that distinguishes him so much from all other writers, and enables him to look calmly from his height down upon the jarring opinions, strifes, and contentions of other mortals? This is the first question which the reader must answer for himself, and that correctly, in order to understand and to appreciate his author. Whoever would judge M. Renan by individual passages, apostrophes, etc., would find it absolutely iinpossible to come
to any thing like a settled opinion on this point. In his “ Life of Jesus” we read these words, addressed to his dead sister, Henriette: “Thou rememberest, in the bosom of God where thou restest, the long journeys
Reveal unto me, O good genius, unto me, whom thou lovedst, those truths which rule over death, dispel the fear of it, and make it almost lovely.” Whoever would draw from these words the natural inference, that M. Rénan believes in a self-conscious existence of the disembodied soul, or in an intercommunion of the departed and the living, would be sorely mistaken. Before having read many passages of his works, the reader knows in what kind of immortality Rénan believes, which does certainly exclude a self-conscious existence after death, In his “St. Panl” he calls Jesus repeatedly “God,” and “Son of God;" but whoever would infer from this that Rénan sees in Jesus any thing more than mere man would be equally mistaken. Hence it is absolutely necessary for the readers of Rénan's works to understand his philosophical and theological position, because his language must be interpreted by this standard, and from this alone it can be correctly understood.
Rénan's position is that of the Pantheist. Hence there exists for him no personal God, no Creator and Preserver of the Universe; in man this Pan comes to self-consciousness, so that every man is in reality a son of Panor God, by whom he is re-absorbed in death. That no self-revelation of God to man, no influence exerted by the Deity on the human soul, no miracle as an attestation of a divine messenger is possible, not to say real, is for M. Rénan an à priori truth. The stand-point that admits such possibility, M. Renan has long ago left behind. M. Rénan, though not formally a positivist, or materialist, yet agrees with Büchuer's Force and Matter in essentials. Matter is to both eternal, is inseparably connected with Force, and the whole Universe is but the necessary outgrowth of the unchangeable laws of matter. To all the writers of the various books of the Bible in general, and to St. Paul in particular, Rénan denies all correct ideas abont matter and its laws, granting a partial insight into the laboratory of nature to only a few of the old Greek philosophers. Yet Christianity, the religion established by Jesus, and pro
mulgated by Paul and his co-workers, presents itself to M. Rénan, as it does to every other thinker, as a power, as the power which has wronght, not only in the feelings and thoughts of men, but also in their outward conduct, in society, in arts ånd sciences, in fact in every relation of life in which man can be placed, greater changes than any other cause, or all other causes combined, that have ever exerted an influence upon man. This is a fact which cannot be denied: it must be accounted for; and M. Rénan, like many others before and with hiin, considers himself adequate to the task.
Even the most hasty reader of Renan cannot but perceive that he works hard to represent himself, not as the enemy, but as the decided friend and advocate, of the Christian religion, which he fully understands,-knowing how to separate the kernel from the shell, the truth from errors that have united with it either through the incompetency of its author and first propagators, or through the perversion of others in the course of centuries. But these very efforts of Renan do not increase our respect for him as an honest man, or a man of veracity, who loves the truth and fearlessly proclaims what he considers as truth. He himself finds fault with German university professors for pretending to be atheists, a thing which he seems to regard as an impossibility, but we are free to declare, that we regard the censured conduct of these Germans in a far more favorable light than Rénan's, and “ Paul, the Fool,” we should consider a more appropriate title of his book than “St. Paul.” “St.” Paul, the other Apostles, and even Jesus himself, are to M. Rénan, at the very outset, in fact, can be for him, only mere fallible men, more or less well-meaning, but ignorant, devoted to an idea, to maintain and propagate which they considered as the work of their lives, and in the prosecution of which they shunned not labor, toil, sacrifices, dangers, yea, not death itself; shrinking, however, at the same time, from the use of no means whatever; practically carrying out the maxim which the Jesuits are charged with having invented, that the end justifies the means. So we are plainly told in the “Life of Jesus," that the miracle of the raising of Lazarus from the dead was the result of the collusion of Mary and Martha, the
sisters of Lazarus, and that if Jesus had no hand in laying the plot, he, at least, connived at it, knew all about it, and claimed the credit of having wronght a stupendous miracle, while he knew very well that no miracle whatever had been wronght, and this Jesus, this moral monster, M. Rénan calls repeatedly a “God;" to this Jesus he traces the greatest and grandest movement that has ever taken place on this our planet! That “St. Paul” was still less scrupulous in the choice of means he indicates may be presumed, and that the presumption will be abundantly sustained by the examination of the work.
Another difficulty of a-somewhat unusual character presents itself to the reader of M. Renan's works, which we had better mention at once. As in its predecessors, so he tells us also in the third work—and we do not doubt this his word—that he visited (in company of Cornelia Scheffer) Ephesus and Antioch, Philippi and Thessalonica, Athens and Corinth, Colosse and Laodicea, the localities where the main facts of his hero transpired. “At Seleucia,” he says, “upon the disjointed blocks of the old wall, we somewhat envied the Apostles who set out from there to conquer the world, filled with so fervent a faith in the speedy coming of the Kingdom of God.” The firmest believer in the divine origin of the Bible, the most enthusiastic Bible-student, what could he do more in order to acquire the necessary information enabling him to enter into the spirit and full meaning of the sacred records ? Scarcely any of the many learned commentators or expositors of the Bible has done this on so large a scale as M. Rénan, and he was persuaded at the time he made these tours, yea, before he set out on them, that his heroes were, on the whole, deluded and deluding men ! Did he, perhaps, visit these localities in order to gather proofs, that the Scripture records are not true? Lucus a non lucendo. Or had he some other object in view in making these extensive tours? Spreuger is writing a life of Mohammed with uncommon care, turning to good account many hitherto neglected sources of information, starting new theories in order to account for certain facts in the prophet's life. To finish the work, according to the author's original plan, may occupy almost a life-time. Sprenger's