Obrazy na stronie

in which it moved, joined to a lowly and most sympathetic heart, to which no tale of present trouble ever was addressed in vain. It is the combination of the highest self-reliance with the most patient humility; a self-reliance which took up the task of reforming all the world, without seeking to propitiate the political powers, without the aid of armed force, without the resources of science,--a humility which withdrew itself from outward praise and honour, which never chafed under poverty, or contempt, or even under the worst indignities. Scattered through that mixed society lay all the materials of political conflagration ; fanatics brooding over the desperate prospects of an ancient nationality; a Roman yoke which the nation hated in the name of God; bands of zealots ready to gather sword in hand on every mountain side, in every desert retreat, upon the call of some self-elected leader; and, behold, here is a young and ardent mind, accepted as a worker of miracles, acceptable as King of the Jews, if so he will have it; here he stands with the torch ready to his hand, and a touch will kindle the loose flax and straw into a flame. And the tempter comes to him with scowl of a double treason on his face, and, faithless to Cæsar and Messiah both, asks if it is lawful to pay Cæsar tribute; there is an infinite self-reliance and selfdenial in the calm reply : “Render unto Cæsar the things that be Cæsar's, and unto God the things that be God's." Again the combination is not less singular, of claims unspeakably high, joined to the most perfect self-abnegation. Ever there spoke in his mind the consciousness that the powers of nature, that sin itself, that the powers of hell, were subject to him, and yet his life was one continued act of self-sacrifice, of self-abasement. The King of kings walking about Galilee as the servant of servants, with a court around him of fishers from the Sea of Tiberias, often with the starry vault of a Galilean sky for a palace, common to him and the leper and the beggar. This is what a reader of the Gospels finds. M. Renan thinks we shall never see the like, and we are glad to agree with him. It is this balance of qualities which is the true evidence of the Lord's perfection. History records for us many strong characters, many sweet ones. But human heroes pay the price of their good qualities in the shape of a certain one-sidedness. Great independence and self-reliance have been shown by many a reformer. But opposition hardens these qualities into something like ferocity. Many a Christian has so well learned his Master's lesson as to give himself wholly to works of love, and to resign all worldly pleasures in this behalf. But to blend the reformer's public mission with the private labours of charity, and to do this without the slight

Renan-Vie de Jésus.


est trace of self-consciousness, was reserved for one alone. We might re-write the pages of Ullmann, Dorner, and De Pressensé? without exhausting this subject. But we commend it to the reflections of any honest reader of the Bible. It is the picture of a perfect man, of one adorned with the highest virtues, yet rich in sympathy for every human creature, for every incident of human life. And the sacred writers do not present any evidence of plan and contrivance, they do not even assert that they are describing the perfect. They overstrain nothing. They leave all the facts to our own interpretation; and a very few of them, as the “What have I to do with thee?” addressed to Mary at Cana, have been explained wrongly. The world has since confessed that the Gospels do describe a faultless moral character. M. Renan speaks of him as a “demi-god." The centurion who saw the close of his life said, “Truly this was the Son of God." We hold with the centurion. Jesus Christ himself is the great miracle of the gospel.

One argument that has been glanced at would require explanation. The claims of Jesus and his apostles are not a question of more or less. They are either true, or false beyond all pardon. Jesus was either a deliverer of men, a revealer of the Father, a worker of wonders in the power of God, a pure and spotless spirit free from the universal taint of human nature; or else. We will not fill up the sentence with those terms that seem to belong to one that had usurped the awful prerogative of God. Now, no one questions that the Gospel has been a successful system, whether as to the extent of its conquests, the civilisation that has gone along with it, the literature that it has amassed, the power over human character to soften, raise, elevate, and control, which it has exerted all along. In point of results no system can compete with it. Now, are we to ascribe these results to the truth or to the falsehood of the message that has produced them? Do not glance over kingdoms and count the millions that delight to call themselves by Christ's name. But think only upon one single soul reclaimed from vice, re-fashioned for God in the image of Christ, ruled as from afar by the will of Christ, as the trained horse obeys the touch of a finger upon a rein; is this real work (how real any pastor knows) to be traced to the fact that one falsely called himself the Sent of God, put forth false claims to miraculous power, made fantastic promises of intercession with the Father, and was held up as sinless only by a fond delusion of his followers? If falsehood about the holiest things is so blessed with fruit that is not false, then surely there is no such divine rule of truth and justice over the world as we had supposed ; and grapes may blossom upon the thorns, and figs be sought among the thistles. God blesses alike the truth and the lie. And the record of eighteen centuries of Church history is the account of the exuberant vitality of a pious fraud at best, and at worst of simple fraud and falsehood. From the edge of this precipice even the non-Christian would try to struggle backwards. This moral earthquake, where an underlying falsehood shakes all the firm ground of truth, which we thought solid to the axis, we can only think of with horror.

1 Ullmann, Sündlosigkeit Jesu; Gotha, 1863. Dorner, on the same sub. ject, in Jährbücher für Deutsche Theologie, vol. vii. E. De Pressensé, Rédempteur. Second Edit. Let us mention here an excellent work on the whole subject : Dr. Young's Christ of History.

But now the wonders of Nazareth are complete. This little town gave birth to a poor carpenter, who, with nothing to redeem him from the usual conditions of poverty in an obscure town, came forth as a teacher of men, and offered them deliverance from sin, and reconcilement with an offended God, in the name of that Father whose Son he claimed to be. His whole message is admitted to be original, powerful, elevating to the soul. His character was unique in its purity and in its strength. The priests and rulers were able to kill him, but they were not able to prevent the spreading of his doctrine ; and multitudes embraced it, Jews and Greeks, upon the strange condition of belief in Jesus and his resurrection. God indeed has blessed this doctrine with marvellous success, and to this hour it is a powerful agent in the world, the cement of society, the comfort of mourners, the tamer of unruly wills and affections, the bringer of peace. Of the miracles that enforced the doctrine, we have as yet said nothing. In fact, a supposed antecedent impossibility of miracles leads some to a view of this history which is itself impossible. That this young unlettered man imagined, with no supernatural aid, a system which stands quite alone; that this youth, born in corrupt and evil times, in a town noted for worthlessness even in those times, of a people whose hopes were debased, whose apostasy from God was almost complete, whose literature was Talmuds and rabbinical trifling, stepped forth complete in all that makes a wise mind and a powerful will, and a fine and tender heart, with no savour whatever of the bad soil from whence he

that God blessed his teaching with unparalleled success; and yet that all the most characteristic features of his teaching and life were either imposture and delusion, is a great marvel. Why should we dogmatize against physical miracles, and be so easy of belief as to moral miracles The physical marvel, forsooth, is a mere rupture of the chain of causation : is not the moral miracle the same? Is it more surprising that Jesus called back


Renau---Vie de Jésus.


life to the widow's son, and changed the morbid pallor of the dead face into the rosy hues of life, than that he himself rose out of the pale corpse of Judaism in the young bloom of spiritual health and strength, and with a voice as from the dead proclaimed the meaning of law and prophets, and promised to fulfil them? Is it in the course of natural causation that, when Judaism was most corrupt, a character more perfect than that of all her prophets should illustrate her decline, and spring from a race whose every act and feeling was in violent contrast to his own? Surely if we understood moral causes as well as we do physical, and even this would be but a little, we should see it as a marvel, as a divine intervention, that Nazareth unconsciously produced One who contained all that the world required from its Saviour, power and wisdom and love unspeakable. If Christ rose not from the dead, if he wrought no miracles, then our conception of Christianity must be one that shocks every moral feeling; false claims of power, pretended miracles, deceived apostles, deluded converts, and a creed that placed on God's right hand an equal Son, blessed by that God whose glory it invades with every token of favour. It cannot be. By bandying about the records of the life of Jesus, and pruning and adding, the character, we are told, was shaped by degrees into its present purity, the doctrine acquired its present proportions. But this process, if it took place at all, was the work of the lowest orders; for such were the first believers. But what parallel is there in history for such a process? What notions were there, either Jewish and Pagan, at that time, out of which such an ideal could have been formed? We shall be answered that it was the Christians, those whom Christ attracted and formed, who formed the conception of Christ himself such as we have it. This is indeed reasoning in a circle. It would have needed preternatural wisdom in the disciples to fashion the system of the Gospel, and a higher standard of holiness than we have any trace of elsewhere to conceive his holy character. Fatigued with these speculations which have no historic basis, which are really undertaken to get rid of miracles, of facts that rest on as good evidence as any historical fact whatever, we rest at last upon the oldest and best hypothesis, that this Jesus of the Gospels is represented as wise beyond man, as pure beyond angels, as resolute to the death, because such a man so lived, so taught, so acted, so loved; because he is verily the Son of God, the Conqueror of death, the glorified Redeemer!



ART. VIII.-Thackeray.

That Mr. Thackeray was born in India in 1811; that he was educated at Charter House and Cambridge; that he left the University after a few terms' residence without a degree; that he devoted himself at first to art; that in pursuit thereof he lived much abroad "for study, for sport, for society;" that about the age of twenty-five, married, without fortune, without a profession, he began the career which has made him an English classic; that he pursued that career steadily till his death,--all this has, within the last few weeks, been told again and again.

It is a common saying that the lives of men of letters are uneventful. In an obvious sense this is true. They are seldom called on to take part in events which move the world, in politics, in the conflicts of nations; while the exciting incidents of sensation-novels are as rare in their lives as in the lives of other men. But men of letters are in no way exempt from the changes and chances of fortune; and the story of these, and of the effects which came from them, must possess an interest for all. Prosperity succeeded by cruel reverses; happiness, and the long prospect of it, suddenly clouded; a hard fight, with aims as yet uncertain, and powers unknown; success bravely won; the austerer victory of failure manfully borne; these things make a life truly eventful, and make the story of that life full of interest and instruction. They will all fall to be narrated when Mr. Thackeray's life shall be written; we have only now to do with them so far as they illustrate his literary career, of which we propose to lay before our readers an account as complete as is in our power, and as impartial as our warm admiration for the great writer we have lost will allow.

Many readers know Mr. Thackeray only as the Thackeray of Vanity Fair, Pendennis, The Newcomes, and The Virginians, the quadrilateral of his fame, as they were called by the writer of an able and kindly notice in the Illustrated News. The four volumes of Miscellanies published in 1857, though his reputation had been then established, are less known than they should be. But Mr. Thackeray wrote much which does not appear even in the Miscellanies; and some account of his early labours may not be unacceptable to our readers.

His first attempt was ambitious. He became connected as editor, and also, we suspect, in some measure, as proprietor, with a weekly literary journal, the fortunes of which were not prosperous. We believe the journal to have been one which

« PoprzedniaDalej »