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clerical fraternity; and, not only by them, but by many distinguished and enlightened members of the laity of the Anglican Church. thought that the deceiving spirit of Rationalism had stolen into the study of the historian, and beguiled him of his reverence for sacred things, and bewitched him that he should not render full submission to the truth, as set forth unto us in the oracles of God. It is true that certain compurgators, of no mean note, stood forth to vouch for the simplicity of his faith. But still there has, somehow or other, adhered to his name an odour, by no means savoury in the nostrils of devout and reverential orthodoxy, which nothing but the tears of penitential sorrow could be expected to cleanse away,
The penitential tears, however, it would seem, have not been shed. Serene, as we would presume, in conscious innocence, the author has carried on his lucubrations from that time to this. He has laboured to show himself worthy of the public confidence by the application of something like a neutralizing process to the poison which lurks in the pages of Gibbon.
And now-nothing daunted by the somewhat unceremonious reception of his first work, in certain quarters-he launches intrepidly upon another adventure : and the historian of the Jews appears before the world as the historian of early Christianity.
· For ourselves, we must frankly confess, that, in spite of the past, we sat down to the examination of these volumes, with a sturdy resolution to put the very best possible construction upon every sentence, and upon every phrase. And, so far, we more than anticipated the wishes of the writer himself, who (somewhere in the course of his narrative, or notes) deprecates all misconstruction. We resolved to forget (so far as forgetfulness was in our power), that the breath of suspicion had ever gone forth against him; and to read his book, just as if it had dropped down among us from the clouds, without a name. The result has been, first, that we have derived a great deal of entertainment and instruction from some parts of the work; and, secondly, that we could have been well content if some other considerable portions of it never had been written.
We will now endeavour to explain ourselves.
In the first place, then, it does appear to us that the author has proposed to himself a task, the execution of which, in one department of it at least, is almost beyond human power. Of its awful difficulty he seems, himself, to have been deeply sensible. He professes to write rather as an historian than as a religious instructor; and the History of Christianity, he tells us, without the Life of its Divine Author, must be imperfect and incomplete ; and yet, he adds, to write the Life of Christ, though at first sight it may appear the most easy, is perhaps the most difficult task which an historian can undertake. The main difficulty, indeed, which he appears to contemplate is that of " keeping up a perpetual reference to the circumstances of the times, the habits and national character of the people, and the state of public feeling: of throwing one's self completely back into the age, when Jesus of Nazareth began to travel, as the Teacher of a new religion, through the villages of Galilee ; and thus, showing the origin and progress of the new faith, as it slowly developed itself, and won its way through the adverse elements, which it encountered in Judea and the adjacent provinces." And this, doubtless, as a mere literary adventure, must VOL. XXII. NO, VII,
demand the highest resources of historical genius. But there is another difficulty, still more overpowering. Sacred history, and more especially the earthly history of the Incarnate Son of God, refuses companionship with all other history. The Son of Man, who came down from heaven, never can become a mere historical personage. The very attempt so to represent him must involve the desecration of a theme unutterably solemn and mysterious. It has been admitted, even by infidels, that any attempt to write the history of God's chosen people, solely with a view to their worldly fortunes and vicissitudes, and without a steady and continuous reference to supernatural agency, would inevitably turn · out a miserable failure, be the powers of the historian what they might; and for this simple reason,-that the ordinary and the miraculous are so interwoven, that to strip the miraculous away would be to destroy and tear to pieces the whole texture of the narrative; or rather, it may be said, that the two elements interpenetrate each other, so that the effort to disengage them from their intimate connexion would be attended with results somewhat similar to those of scientific experiment, when it decomposes the atmosphere we breathe. Ingredients are obtained, which, in their separation, are unfit for the purposes for which the atmosphere was designed by the Creator. Now, if this, or any thing like this, be true of the incidents related in the Hebrew Scriptures, with what fear and trembling should any man approach the task of secularizing, if we so may speak, the biography of Jesus Christ, and bringing down that most sacred of all histories towards the level of a human record? How deep must be the peril of drawing forth that History from the hallowed seclusion wherein it has hitherto been enshrined, and surrounding it with a motley train of low and earthly associations ? It has been truly and reverently said, that the sufferings of the Saviour (and what sorrow was like his ?) are such as to disdain all human sympathy. “Weep not for me,” was his own language;
weep not for me, ye daughters of Jerusalem ; but weep for yourselves and for your children.” And, even so, the acts and the sayings of the Saviour form, together, a series of events unspeakably too awful to be thrust into the midst of the jostling and the tumult of worldly interest and vulgar passion. Or, if this should be thought an extreme and hazardous assertion, thus much, at least, may probably be conceded,—that to group the Lord of Life with a vast multitude of ordinary figures, in the great drama of those times, and to do this without lowering the pulse of holy and reverential emotion, is a work which might almost demand the powers of a Superior Intelligence.
To some, we have little doubt, all this will appear vastly too fastidious. Fastidious it possibly may be ! But, at all events, it has not been said in a spirit of discourtesy or uncharitableness. We are not speaking as accusers of the author. We are only anxious to offer what we deem an amicable and not unnecessary caution, touching the pages which now lie before us. And, with that intent, we venture (with most unfeigned respect for the talents and accomplishments of the writer) to express our apprehensions, lest (whether so intended or not) they should be found more or less auxiliary to the Rationalizing Theology of the day; the tendency of which Theology (and here, at least, we may safely adopt the language of the Oxford Divines) is to
level every thing to the lowest and most tangible form into which it can be cast; and, to view the Saviour himself, not so much in his solitary and mysterious greatness-acting by means of his human nature, and, in it, ministered unto by angels—but rather as akin to lower natures, which have but an animal existence.* If, for instance, we might imagine a reader to be without any other sources of information but the narrative contained in this work, we greatly doubt whether he might not contract from the perusal of it something of an Humanitarian taint; whether the Incarnate Word would not appear to have lost something of His original majesty and brightness ; whether, in short, the Divine Redeemer of a fallen and perishing world, would not be partially merged in the moral reformer, the minister of civilization, the mighty purifier and refiner of the human race. The man might, probably, rise from the study without a regularly formed Socinian creed. But, would he rise from it without more or less of a Socinian taste and habitude of mind ? It is true that the author professes rather to compose a commentary on the history of our Lord, than the history itself; presuming that his reader is, of course, familiar with all the leading and essential facts. But this, we grievously fear, would prove but slender security from danger. There are numbers, alas ! who know the Gospels as if they knew them not. And, with these, the artless simplicity of the Evangelic narrative would, probably, be far less attractive than the fascinating recital of the highly gifted modern biographer. And thus, the stupendous and heavenly work of God's Messiah might chance to be forgotten ; and the mind be almost, if not altogether, absorbed in the contemplation of a vast religious revolution upon earth. Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, might gradually be lost sight of; and the wondrous Nazarene be all in all!
However, the volumes are now gone forth into the world. Let us, therefore, candidly acknowledge whatever good they may contain, instead of vexing our souls with prophecies of nothing but evil. In the first place, then, we are disposed to allow that a work of this description might be valuable in the department of evidence. The author, we apprehend, is warranted in presuming, that “ if the life of Christ had been more generally considered as intimately and inseparably connected with the events and opinions of his time, works would not have been required to prove his existence, or, scarcely perhaps, the authenticity of his history.” It may, further, be conceded that the weightiest evidence of Christianity is “ the absolute necessity of the life of Christ, to fill up the void in the annals of mankind, to account for the effects of his religion, in the subsequent history of man.” And if every reader would but consult these volumes, purely with a view to this object (keeping, throughout, an attentive and reverent eye upon the original and divine record, and disengaging his thoughts, from time to time, from low and secular associations), we should anticipate no inconsiderable benefit from the labours of the author.
But, again, we are bound to acknowledge that Mr. M. has done good service in exposing the speculations of that daring rationalist, Doctor Strauss ; the second edition of whose work, the Life of Jesus, appeared in 1837, and was immediately met by a counter-publication of Neander. Respecting these speculations, it would ill become us to pronounce any confident opinion of our own; for we have no acquaintance with the publication in question, save that which we have derived from the representation of Mr. Milman. But, if this representation be faithful and correct (and it would be injurious to doubt it), no words can adequately stigmatize the outrageous absurdity, the reckless and wanton extravagance, displayed by this monomaniac of Rationalism. We, accordingly, solicit the attention of our readers to the following remarks of Mr. M. upon this, perhaps, the ugliest offspring of that fruitful mother of prodigies, Neological Germany. The extract is long, but the importance of the subject will justify it.
* Tracts for the Times, No. 73.
I would, however, calmly consider the first principles of this work, which appear to me, in many respects, singularly narrow and unphilosophical—by no means formed on an extensive and complete view of the whole case, and resting on grounds which, in my judgment, would be subversive of all history.
The hypothesis of Dr. Strauss is, that the whole history of our Lord, as related in the Gospels, is mythic, that is to say, a kind of imaginative amplification of certain vague and slender traditions, the germ of which it is now impossible to trace. These myths are partly what he calls historical, partly philosophic, formed with the design of developing an ideal character of Jesus, and to harmonise that character with the Jewish notions of the Messiah. In order to prove this, the whole intermediate part of the work is a most elaborate, and, it would be uncandid not to say, a singularly skilful examination of the difficulties and discrepancies in the Gospels; and a perpetual endeavour to show, in what manner, and with what design, each separate myth assumed its present form.
Arguing on the ground of Dr. Strauss, I would urge the following objections, which appear to me fatal to his whole system :
First, 'The hypothesis of Strauss is unphilosophical, because it assumes dogmatically the principal point in dispute. His first canon of criticism is (t. i. p. 103), that wherever there is any thing supernatural, angelic appearance, miracle, or interposition of the Deity, there we may presume a myth. Thus he concludes, both against the supernaturalists, as they are called in Germany, and the general mass of christian believers of all sects in this country, that any recorded interference with the ordinary and experienced order of causation must be unhistorical and untrue; and even against the rationalists, that these wonders did not even apparently take place, having been supposed to be miraculous, from the superstition or ignorance of physical causes among the spectators: they cannot be even the honest, though mistaken, reports of eye-witnesses.
But secondly, The belief in some of those supernatural events, e.g. the resurrection, is indispensable to the existence of the religion; to suppose that this belief grew up, after the religion was formed; to assume these primary facts as after thoughts, seems to me an absolute impossibility. But if they, or any one of them, were integral parts of the religion from its earliest origin, though they may possibly have been subsequently embellished, or unfaithfully recorded in the Gospels, their supernatural character is no evidence that they
Thirdly, Besides this inevitable inference, that the religion could not have subsequently invented that which was the foundation of the religion,—that these things must have been the belief of the first christian communities,—there is distinct evidence in the Acts of the Apostles, (though Dr. Strauss, it seems, would involve that book in the fate of the Gospels,) in the apostolical epistles, and in every written document and tradition, that they were so. The general harmony of these three distinct classes of records, as to the main preternatural facts in the Gospels, proves incontestably that they were not the slow
growth of a subsequent period, embodied in narratives composed in the second century.
For fourthly, Dr. Strauss has by no means examined the evidence for the early existence of the Gospels with the rigid diligence which characterises the rest of his work. I think he does not fairly state that the early notices of the Gospels, in the works of the primitive fathers, show not only their existence but their general reception among the christian communities, which imply both a much earlier composition and some strong grounds for their authenticity. As to the time when the gospels were composed, his argument seems to me selfdestructive. The later he supposes them to have been written, the more impossible (considering that the Christians were then so widely disseminated in Europe and Asia) is their accordance with each other in the same design or the same motives for fiction : if he takes an earlier date, he has no room for his long process of mythic developement. In one place he appears to admit that the three first, at least, must have been completed between the death of our Lord and the destruction of Jerusalem, less than forty years. (I myself consider their silence, or rather their obscure and confused prophetic allusions to that event, as absolutely decisive on this point, with regard to all the four.) But is it conceivable that in this narrow period, this mythic spirit should have been so prolific, and the primitive simplicity of the christian history have been so embellished, and then universally received by the first generation of believers ?
The place, as well as the period, of their composition, is encumbered with difficulties according to this system. Where were they written? If all, or rather the three first, in Palestine, whence their general acceptance without direct and acknowledged authority? If in different parts of the world, their general acceptance is equally improbable; their similarity of design and object, altogether unaccountable.
Were they written with this mythic latitude by Judaising or Hellenising Christians? If by Judaising, I should expect to find far more of Judaism, of Jewish tradition, usage and language, as appears to have been the case in the Ebionitish Gospel; if by Hellenising, the attempt to frame the myths in acordance with Jewish traditions is inconceivable. They Judaise too little for the Petrine Christians, (that is, those who considered the Gospel in some sort a re-enactment of the Mosaic law,) too much for the followers of St. Paul, who rejected the law.
The other canons of Dr. Strauss seem to me subversive of all history. Every thing extraordinary or improbable, the prophetic anticipations of youthful ambition, complete revolution in individual character, (he appears to allude to the change in the character of the apostles after the resurrection, usually, and in my opinion justly, considered as one of the strongest arguments of the truth of the narrative,) though he admits that this canon is to be applied with caution, are presumptive of a mythic character.
If discrepancies in the circumstances between narratives of the same events, or differences of arrangement in point of time, particularly among rude and inartificial writers, are to be admitted as proofs of this kind of fiction, all history is mythic; even the accounts of every transaction in the daily papers, which are never found to agree precisely in the minute details, are likewise mythic.
To these, which appear to me conclusive arguments against the hypothesis of Dr. Strauss, I would add some observations, which to my mind are general maxims, which must be applied to all such discussions.
No religion is in its origin mythic. Mythologists embellish, adapt, modify, idealise, clothe in allegory or symbol, received and acknowledged truths. This is a later process, and addressed to the imagination, already excited and prepared to receive established doctrines or opinions in this new form. But in Christianity (according to Dr. Strauss's hypothesis) what was the first impulse, the germ of all this high-wrought and successful idealisation ?-Nothing more than the existence of a man named Jesus, who obtained a few followers, and was put to death as a malefactor, without any pretensions on his part to a