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Quarterly Review respecting Madame Roland (“ To say that she was without fault would be to say that she was not human ”), as expressing or implying his own strong conviction of the moral frailty of every human being. Were a biographer to write a life of Jesus or of any man, in which no defect of moral character could be discerned, he would, nevertheless, believe that, being simply a man, he must be “frail and imperfect.” But in regard to Jesus, Mr. Newman says, * “I have given ... indications of points in which the conduct of Jesus does not seem to me to have been that of a perfect man: how any one can think him a universal model is to me still less intelligible.”
In a tract on the “True Temptation of Jesus,” he says, after allowing for exaggeration in the Gospel narratives," it comes before me as certain fact, that the true temptation of Jesus was the whisper made to him, 'Are you not possibly the Messiah?' and by it the legendary devil overcame him.”
And in respect of the relative moral position of Jesus, he says (or said in 1853), at the conclusion of the chapter above alluded to in “Phases of Faith,” “in consistency of goodness Jesus fell far below vast numbers of his unhonoured disciples."
The Jesus of Professor Newman is, perhaps, morally comparable to the "Savonarola ” of George Eliot.
Strauss, in his “Life of Jesus for the People,"
* “ Phases of Faith,” second edition, chapter on of Jesus.”
while admitting that the Nazarene had a “harmonious mental constitution,” yet does not hesitate to pronounce him an arrant enthusiast, “a fanatic, and not a common one either," if he ever expected a second advent, and this he leaves in some doubt; but he, too, had better speak for himself: "Jesus,” says he, * appears as a beautiful nature from the first, which had only to develop itself out of itself to become more clearly conscious of itself, ever firmer in itself, but not to change and begin a new life; a condition which naturally does not exclude individual uncertainties and errors, the necessity of a constant serious effort to overcome self and deny self, as Jesus acknowledged by disclaiming, as has been stated above, the predicate of 'good' attributed to him. For the different, or rather the evasive form in which this speech is represented in Matt. xix. 17, is certainly a later alteration."
And again he says, “ he who expects to come again after his death, as no human being ever has done, is, in our opinion, not exactly a madman, because in reference to the future imagination is more possible, but still an arrant enthusiast.” “Nor should it be said that a fanatic would not have produced the historical effects which Jesus did produce; would not have had the sound and lofty views which, up to this point, have been analyzed. This may be true of an impostor, and this character, therefore, we leave entirely out of the question. But it is no unusual
. phenomenon to see high spiritual gifts and moral
* Authorized Translation : William and Norgate, p. 283.
endowments tempered with an ingredient of enthusiasm ; and of the great men of history it might even be absolutely maintained that not one of them would have existed without enthusiasm ” (pp. 323, 324).
We are not acquainted with the works of any writer of the present day who does not account Jesus of Nazareth at least a good and great man. We know not one who would now speak of him in terms of pure censure or contempt. Perhaps Voltaire,” says Emerson, "was not bad-hearted, yet he said of the good Jesus even, 'I pray you, let me never hear that man's name again.' And if we go back to that last century, and cross the Channel, we may also chance to hear the Galilean termed an impostor. We believe it was Volney who wrote of “ The three ImpostorsMoses, Mohammed, and Christ." All that, we may well believe, is finally got rid of.*
And it will be well, perhaps, to terminate here our cursory survey of opinions relative to the Prophet
* We mean among respectable British writers at least, to whom the only alternatives are—either Jesus was, at lowest, a great and good man, or he was a person whose life was so enshrouded in fable that we have no right to form any opinion respecting him. It appears, however, that if we descend low enough we shall alight on expressions of opinion utterly hostile to the fame of the Nazarene, for since writing the above we have met with the following, bearing no earlier date than 1866 :-“Never since he ascended to his throne was he the object of a more passionate adoration than now ; never did he encounter the glare of a hatred more intense, and more defiant; and between these, the poles of a contemplation incessantly directed upon his person, there are shades and levels of thought and feeling, many and graduated, here detracting from the highest expressions of faith, there shrinking from the most violent extremities of blasphemy.”—“ Divinity of our Lord,” etc., by H. P. Liddon, M.A., p. 17.
of Galilee, since we do not see our way to the decision of any doubtful point respecting either the moral or intellectual rank of Jesus or the supernatural position claimed for him by the method of counting votes, nor by accepting the dictum of any writer, however notable or with whatever authority he may claim to speak.
It may, however, be interesting to append an account of the state of feeling respecting Jesus which recently existed (and probably does still) amongst some of our Asiatic fellow-subjects, who have emancipated themselves from their inherited faith, and who have adopted that of pure theism. We quote from an article in the Contemporary Review for February, 1870, by Sophia Dobson Collett.
“ The present state of feeling on this subject is thus epitomized in an article (avowedly by Keshub) on ‘The Spirit of Christ,' in the Indian Mirror, April 30, 1869 : 'There is an infinite diversity of feeling among Brahmos respecting Jesus of Nazareth, ranging from intense hatred on the one hand, to profound reverence and personal attachment on the other. Many there are, especially among the old Brahmos, who look upon him with almost the same spirit of sectarian antipathy and abhorrence as Hindus, and even go the length of calling him impostor. Such ideas are happily dying out. The vast majority of our brethren of the progressive school cherish respect and gratitude towards Christ, and some even accept him as a guide and master. Surely it is our interest and duty to receive from him that practical moral influence which he is appointed in God's economy to exercise on our souls, to love him, and revere him, and follow his teachings and example.'”
For ourselves, we shall not think it necessary to prove that Jesus was both morally and intellectually far above the average of men ; we shall assume that each of our readers is sufficiently familiar with the New Testament, and has enough soundness of judgment to conclude, without going further, that the great Nazarene was not, if we know anything of him, in any respect below the average human being ; a fair subject of inquiry being—how high above that standard he may be placed, if, indeed, the height be not infinite.