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of probably the greatest moral reformer and martyr to that mission who ever existed upon earth ... it remains a possibility that Christ actually was what he supposed himself to be-not God, for he never made the smallest pretension to that character, and would probably have thought such a pretension as blasphemous as it seemed to the men who condemned him ; but a man charged with a special, express, and unique commission from God to lead mankind to truth and virtue."
M. Ernest Renan's Portrait of Jesus presents greater alternations of light and shade. He tells us, at the conclusion of his book, “Jesus is the highest of those pillars which show to man whence he comes, and whither he ought to tend. In him was condensed all that is good and elevated in our nature.” But “He was not sinless ... it is probable that many of his faults have been concealed.” Still, “there never was a man, Chakya-Mouni perhaps excepted, who has to this degree trampled underfoot family, the joys of this world, and all temporal care. ...
Whatever may be the unexpected phenomena of the future, Jesus will not be surpassed . . . all the ages will proclaim that, among the sons of men, there is none born who is greater than Jesus.”
We have taken note of a confession of faith in Jesus to the effect that his greatness is unsurpassable, that “the tireless wrestling of God” after a perfect man has in him been successful.
We are now to notice and record some expressions of an opinion not exactly coinciding with this, and in some respects decidedly the opposite thereof-pausing just an instant to remind those who need the reminder that Professor Huxley has not withheld his tribute, since, quoting the two great commands in which “the law and the prophets” are epitomized, he terms them "That Noble Summary of the whole duty of man.” *
The late Ralph Waldo Emerson, while affirming that only the genius speaks from himself, and that “that sublime spirit” “Jesus always speaks from within, and in a degree that transcends all others," distinctly records a belief in his imperfection, and his looking for the appearing of a greater than he-a complete man. “Jesus,” says Emerson, in his Essay on History, "astonishes and overpowers sensual people. They cannot unite him to history or reconcile him with themselves. As they come to revere their intuitions, and aspire to live holily, their own piety explains every fact, every word.” Jesus, therefore, was to Emerson “conceivably great, not inconceivably.” “The saints and demi-gods whom history
” worships we are constrained to accept with a grain of allowance." “ Before the immense possibilities of man, all mere experience, all past biography, however spotless and sainted, shrinks away” (Essay on the Over Soul). Shakespeare is greater in mental power ; both Jesus and he looked on the universe of Nature and Man with results opposite in the extreme. must be conceded,” says “the wise American,” at close of his Lecture on Shakespeare (see “ Representative Men"),
* See Contemporary Review, November, 1871.
“that these are but half views of half men. The world still wants its poet-priest, a reconciler . for love is compatible with universal wisdom.” In this essay on Shakespeare, Jesus is not, it is true, mentioned by name, only alluded to as an Israelite.
But in his “Song of Nature," Emerson unmistakably expresses the sentiments we have attributed to him, in respect to the relative greatness of Jesus. Thus:
“Still the man-child is not born,
I travail in pain for him,
One in a Judæan manger,
“But fell the starry influence short,
The cup was never full."
“ The sunburnt world a man shall breed
“No ray is dimmed, no atom worn,
And the fresh rose on yonder thorn
Gives back the bending heavens in dew.” Theodore Parker attributes to Jesus some degree of moral as well as intellectual imperfection, while showing, however, a warm and sympathetic appreciation of him as a great and good Being, a living and true Man. But he, too, shall speak for himself (see works edited by F. P. Cobbe, vol. i. p. 165). "Jesus, a young man full of genius for Religion." On p. 193, “Sometimes he is said to be an enthusiast who hoped to found a visible kingdom in Judæa by miraculous aid. ... Even if the fact be admitted, as I think it must be, ... his honesty, zeal, self-sacrifice, heavenly piety still shine out in the whole course of his life.” On pages 195, 196, “Jesus ... in this nation of forms'. . . falls back upon simple Morality, simple Religion, united in himself the sublimest precepts and divinest practices, thus more than realizing the dream of prophets and sages; rises free from so many prejudices of his age, nation, or sect; gives free range to the spirit of God in his breast; sets aside the law, sacred and time-honoured as it was, its forms, its sacrifice, its temple, and its priest; puts away the Doctors of the law, subtle, learned, irrefragable ; and pours out doctrines, beautiful as the light, sublime as Heaven, and true as God. The philosophers, the
, poets, the prophets, the Rabbis, -he rises above them all. Yet Nazareth was no Athens, where philosophy breathed in the circumambient air; it had neither porch nor lyceum, not even a school of the prophets.
Doubtless he had his errors, his follies, faults, and sins even ; it is idle and absurd to deny it.” On p. 200 we meet with the following hearty tribute :
“Serene in awful loveliness a Man of the highest type. Blessed be God that so much manliness has been lived out, and stands there yet, a lasting monument to mark how high the tides of divine life have risen in the human world. It bids us take courage and be glad, for what man has done he may do; yea, more.
“Jesus, there is no dearer name than thine,
virtue set his triumph-seal ;
“Here was the greatest soul of the sons of men; a man of genius for religion; one before whom the majestic mind of Grecian sages and of Hebrew seers must veil its face."
Professor F. W. Newman's estimate of Jesus is far lower than any we have yet quoted. He ranks him, it is true, among the “kindling souls,” to be “named with special honour,” but quotes a sentence from the