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M. RENAN AND MIRACLES.

Ζεύ πάτερ, αλλά συ ρύσαι υπήέρος υιας 'Αχαιών.
Ποίησον δ' αίθρην, δος δ' οφθαλμοίσιν ιδέσθαι»
Εν δε φάει και όλασσον, έπει να του εύαδεν ούτως.

WHETHER or no the civilised world be in its actual practice manifesting an increased regard for morals and religion, there seems at least to be no doubt that those subjects occupy now a larger space in its thoughts than has been the case since the Reformation. Discussions of this kind pervade all schools of opinion, and Goethe himself could scarcely in our days maintain his antique impassiveness amid the problems of man's life and destiny. To students of the historical sciences these questions are necessarily of the first importance. A language and a religion are the legacies of every race, and these two things are for the most part indistinguishably fused together into a single record of the minds of far-off men. In Germany and Holland, and less markedly in France and England, the current of research has for some time set strongly in the direction of the history of religions. And no book of this kind has attained a greater fame, as none has dealt with a theme more important, than M. Renan's Origines du Christianisme, now on the eve of being concluded by the volume entitled Marc-Aurèle, after occupying twenty years of its author's labours.

Detailed criticism on a learned work of this magnitude would be hardly in place in a review which addresses itself to the general public. It must suffice here to indicate some general points of view, often overlooked amid the desultory and acrimonious comment to which a work of such scope and novelty, on themes of such close concern to all, is not unnaturally exposed.

We may remark, in the first place, that M. Renan's great work almost exactly fills up the gap between the two most considerable histories of ancient times to which modern erudition has given birth. Between the foundation of the Roman Empire, where Mommsen ends, and the reign of Commodus, where Gibbon begins, the main event in the world's history is the rise of Christianity, and of this, with much reference to contemporary occurrences, M. Renan treats.

Better examples than these three writers it would be hard to find of the various tempers of mind in which the historian may approach the facts and personages with which he has to deal :-examples of philosophic indifference, of strong and clear convictions, of manysided sympathy. Gibbon's method lays him least open to criticism, but it is suited only for a Byzantine abasement of human things. Many tracts in his thousand years of history still seem as if they had been made to suit him; but wherever extraordinary characters or impulses of strong life and passion claim a place on his canvas, we feel that all his learning does not save him from being superficial. Mommsen, on the other hand, is by far the most effective as a teacher. A third, if one may so say, in the intellectual triumvirate, with Bismarck and von Moltke, he hurls upon his readers a greater mass of knowledge with a greater momentum than any of his rivals. Yet through the garb of the historian is sometimes visible the pamphleteer; and the unimpassioned Gibbon would scarcely have repudiated Renan's Jesus so decisively as Mommsen's Cæsar. The chameleon sympathies of M. Renan, his critical finesse, bis ready emotion, again have both advantages and dangers of their own. On the one hand, they enable him to see more of truth than ordinary men; for insight requires imagination, and the data of history cannot always, like the data of physical science, be best investigated in a dry light.' Rather may we say-if it be allowed to specialise the metaphor—that they often need to fall upon some mind which, like a fluorescent liquid, can give luminosity to rays which were dark before, and extend by its own intimate structure the many-tinted spectrum of the past. On the other hand, he who attempts to descend so deeply into the springs of human thought and feeling cannot but unconsciously lay open also the limitations of his own being. Gibbon may dismiss all events alike with majestic indifference or a contented sneer. The definite and straightforward judgments of Mommsen give little grasp on their author's idiosyncrasy. But M. Renan,-explaining his characters from within, indicating their subtler interrelations and intimate desires, attempts much that is usually left to the poet or dramatist; and, like the poet or dramatist, whatever else he is depicting depicts himself. And thus it is that one defect in him,-a defect, it is fair to say, in which he does not stand alone among his countrymen,-has appeared so conspicuously, and has been so readily seized on by opponents, that it has come to colour the popular conception of him to a quite unjust extent. This is his want,-one cannot exactly say of dignity, for the master of a style so flexible and so urbane cannot but be dignified whenever he pleases,-but of the quality to which the Romans gave the name of gravitas, the temper of mind which looks at great matters with a stern simplicity, and which, in describing them, disdains to introduce any intermixture of less noble emotion. Such, at least, has undoubtedly been our English verdict. Yet it is

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so hard to say in what manner a history which many centuries have held for sacred is to be retold in the language of historical science, that it is only just to inquire whether others have been more successful, and in what points precisely M. Renan's deficiency lies.

We may admit then it is impossible to deny it--that a great part of the so-called orthodox scheme of Bible interpretation is a tradition of the least trustworthy kind,-a tradition of mistakes and misrepresentations, which have come down to us from an uncritical and unscrupulous age. We may admit that the German school of theology,-more persuasively represented by M. Renan than by any one among their own number,--have performed a task of urgent necessity, and have left Biblical exegesis no longer one of the opprobria of historical science. But along with these large admissions large reservations also must be made. The student, whatever his speculative opinions, who is really imbued with the spirit of the New Testament, will assuredly deny,—will be tempted to deny even with a touch of indignant scorn, -that this recent school of criticism has reproduced that essential spirit with anything like the potency and profundity which may often be found in the comments of an equivocating Father or an ill-educated Saint. Around the productions of Leyden or Tübingen there hangs the rawness of a revolutionary scheme of things; one feels at every turn that to treat these matters aright there needs not only patience, accuracy, ingenuity, which these men give us, but depth of feeling and width of experience, which they have not got to give. We are impressed, for instance, by Strauss' air of laborious thoroughness as he explains away the wonder and beauty of the Christian story with an arid logic which its very aridity seems to make more convincing. But our regard for his opinion drops rather suddenly when, as at the close of his old and New Faith, he takes a constructive, an edifying tone. One feels, at least, that it takes a very thorough-going Germanism to enable him to indicate Goethe's Elective Affinities, or the libretto of the Magic Flute, which no less a man than Hegel has long ago demonstrated to be a very good text,'' as a substantial consolation to which mankind, disabused of ancient errors, will always be enabled to cling.

Είθ' ώφελ' 'Αργούς μή διαπτάσθαι σκάφος
Κόλχων ές αίαν κυανέας Συμπληγάδας-

Would that the band of adventurous critics had never sailed between the clashing rocks of Tradition and Authority in quest of truth, if the golden treasure is to be set forth for worship by hands like these!

In F. C. Baur, again, the combination of sagacity and naïveté is German in a more agreeable way. Much of his work commands our adhesion, all of it deserves our respect. Never was there a more

· The Old Faith and the Nen, p. 418, English translation.

ingenious Professor. But his outlook on life has not enabled him to imagine any early Christian writer less ingenious or professorial than himself. To keep well-informed of each other's favourite doctrines, and then promptly to issue Tendenz-Schriften, or academical programmes, designed, beneath an appearance of amity, to put those doctrines down—such, it seems, was the leading preoccupation of these holy men. Nay, to such a pitch of subtlety did they push, in Baur's view, their damning insinuations, that surely the worst fate which pseudo-Paul could have wished for pseudo-Peter, or pseudoPeter for pseudo-Paul, would have been that he should be called on to explain his own sous-entendus to the satisfaction of the Tübingen school.

M. Renan's danger certainly does not lie in the direction of narrowness or pedantry. And indeed French tact, French elegance, French propriety of thought and expression, are so often and so justly proposed as models to our English bluffness and crudity, that there seems some presumption in taking to task for faults of taste the greatest living master of French prose. Yet it is surely no insular coldness that makes us shrink, for instance, from the phrase - roulant d'extases en extases,' as descriptive of the ideally religious man, or dislike the constant repetition of such words as ravissant and elélicieux in connection with the person and teachings of Christ.

A few excisions would remove this sentimental taint, which, indeed, seldom appears except in the Vie de Jésus, as an element in the quasi-poetical tone in which that volume is written; a tone which, to English taste at least, is on M. Renan's lips entirely mistaken and disadvantageous—a gratuitous divergence into a realm wbich is beyond his mastery

Another element in M. Renan's personal equation may be noticed as sometimes modifying his historical views. I mean his exclusively contemplative life, and the mood of gentle irony which such a life has begotten. In dealing with almost all subjects this disengagement of temper is an unmixed advantage. When the theme is one of the heroes of philosophy-a Marcus Aurelius or a Spinoza -the reader reaps the full benefit of this similarity between author and subject; their kinship in wise elevation and disenchanted calm. But M. Renan's favourite subjects are chosen from a race of men of nature, as he has himself remarked, as different as possible from his

It is the founders of religions whose career he loves to trace; and it is always perceptible how far his spontaneous sympathy carries him with them, and where his admiration for them becomes almost pity in that they had so little conception of the relativity of truth, the limitations of virtue, the vanity of all things beneath the sun. The Book of Job is the theme of the finest of his Old Testament expositions ; the mournful Preacher is in his eyes the most inspired of the sacred writers.'

OWD.

In a well-known passage he has given a half-humorous expression to the kind of provocation excited in his mind by St. Paul's confident self-assurance and dominating force of faith:

Certes, une mort obscure pour le fougueux apôtre a quelque chose qui nous sourito Nous aimerions à rêver Paul sceptique, naufragé, abandonné, trahi par les siens, seul, atteint du désenchantement de la vieillesse ; il nous plairait que les écailles lui fussent tombées une seconde fois des yeux, et notre incrédulité douce aurait sa petite revanche si le plus dogmatique des hommes était mort triste, désespéré (disons mieux, tranquille), sur quelque rivage ou quelque route de l'Espagne, en disant lui aussi, ' Ergo erravi!'

men.

It would, however, be grossly unfair to speak as if M. Renan’s peculiar temperament-emotional at once and philosophic-were productive, in his historical pictures, only of distortion and melodrama. So far is this from being the case that there is hardly a page of his history where there may not be found some touch of feeling which has real beauty, some connection of deep significance between early Christian faith and practice and the meditations of other times and

In his account of the resurrection, for instance, amidst much which may well seem to us merely futile, he has brought out, as few before him had ever done, what is in one sense the profoundest lesson which the life of Jesus has to teach. He has described, that is to say, the absorbing power with which one high affection may possess the soul; and most of all where wrongs nobly borne have added to reverence a solemn compassion, and given its last intensity to love. The object of that affection fades from our bodily sight, but stands forth more plainly revealed in its essential beauty; succeeding life is guided and glorified by the transcendent memory, and love is transfigured into worship in the deep of the heart. M. Renan has had the skill to make us feel how glorious a lot was theirs, who through all perils carried in their bosoms this ineffaceable joy; how true were the words which said that “kings have desired to see the things which ye see, and have not seen them.'

Again, a kindred spirit of unworldliness has enabled M. Renan to interpret with wise conviction the Beatitude of the Poor. He has dwelt on the tie which unites all those whose aim it is to subserve the spiritual welfare of men, and who turn with indifference or distaste from the rewards which the world bestows on its material benefactors. Speaking of the sect of those who took this evangelic poverty in its strictest sense, he says:

Bien

que vite dépassé et oublié, l'ébionisme laissa dans toute l'histoire des institutions chrétiennes un levain qui ne se perdit pas. . . . Le grand mouvement ombrien du XIIIe siècle, qui est, entre tous les essais de fondation religieuse, celui qui ressemblait le plus au mouvement galiléen, se fit tout entier au nom de la pauvreté. François d'Assise, l'homme du monde qui, par son exquise bonté, sa communion délicate, fine et tendre avec la vie universelle, a le plus ressemblé à Jésus, fut un pauvre. .. L'humanité, pour porter son fardeau, a besoin de croire

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