La foi, l’enthousiasme, la constance de la premiere generation chretienne ne s’expliquent qu’en supposant a l’origine de tout le mouvement un homme de proportions colossales.... Cette sublime personne, qui chaque jour preside encore au destin du monde, il est permis de l’appeler divine, non en ce sens que Jesus ait absorbe tout le divin, mais en ce sens que Jesus est l’individu qui a fait faire a son espece le plus grand pas vers le divin.... Au milieu de cette uniforme vulgarite, des colonnes s’elevent vers le ciel et attestent une plus noble destinee. Jesus est la plus haute de ces colonnes qui montrent a l’homme d’ou il vient et ou il doit tendre. En lui s’est condense tout ce qu’il y a de bon et d’eleve dans notre nature.... Quels que puissent etre les phenomenes inattendus de l’avenir, Jesus ne sera pas surpasse.... Tous les siecles proclameront qu’entre les fils des hommes il n’en est pas ne de plus grand que Jesus.
And of such an one we are told that it is a natural and reasonable view to take, not merely that He claimed a direct communication with God, which disordered reason could alone excuse Him for claiming, but that He based His whole mission on a pretension to such supernatural powers as a man could not pretend to without being conscious that they were delusions. The conscience of that age as to veracity or imposture was quite clear on such a point. Jew and Greek and Roman would have condemned as a deceiver one who, not having the power, took on him to say that by the finger of God he could raise the dead. And yet to a conscience immeasurably above his age, it seems, according to M. Renan, that this might be done. It is absurd to say that we must not judge such a proceeding by the ideas of our more exact and truth-loving age, when it would have been abundantly condemned by the ideas recognised in the religion and civilisation of the first century.
M. Renan repeatedly declares that his great aim is to save religion by relieving it of the supernatural. He does not argue; but instead of the old familiar view of the Great History, he presents an opposite theory of his own, framed to suit that combination of the revolutionary and the sentimental which just now happens to be in favour in the unbelieving schools. And this is the result: a representation which boldly invests its ideal with the highest perfections of moral goodness, strength, and beauty, and yet does not shrink from associating with it also—and that, too, as the necessary and inevitable condition of success—a deliberate and systematic willingness to delude and insensibility to untruth. This is the religion and this is the reason which appeals to Christ in order to condemn Christianity.
RENAN’S “LES APOTRES"
Histoire des Origines du Christianisme. Livre II.—Les Apotres.
Par Ernest Renan. Saturday Review, 14th July 1866.