« ÎnapoiContinuă »
says (p. 243), "Look on our divinest symbol: on Jesus of Nazareth, and his life, and his biography, and what followed therefrom. Higher has the human thought not yet reached this is Christianity and Christendom; a symbol of quite perennial infinite character, whose significance will ever demand to be anew inquired into, and anew made manifest."
Mr. J. A. Froude also says, "The most perfect being who ever trod the soil of this planet was called 'the Man of Sorrows.'"*
Miss F. P. Cobbe, too, speaks of "The virtuous life and martyr-death of Christ—the most perfect of sacrifices ever made by man." †
A "Beneficed Clergyman of the Church of England," who thinks that if that Church wishes to continue long in existence she must completely abandon her dogmas and traditions, and whom therefore we class with the opponents of the miraculous, speaks, in p. 36, of a tractate entitled the "Gospel of the Kingdom," of " the religious consciousness of Jesus as the highest form of spiritual apprehension, the moral teaching of Jesus as the most perfect rule of life and conduct, and the example of Jesus as the purest type of active and disinterested goodness hitherto presented to the progressive imitation of mankind."
Mr. K. Chunder Sen, without comparing Jesus with any other, says of him, "The complete abnega
* From article "Calvinism," in the second series of "Short Studies on Great Subjects," p. 45.
"Religious Duty," p. 320.
tion of self he taught and lived, for the glory of God's name and the salvation of mankind. He wholly surrendered himself to God, and dedicated his will to the Divine." *
The late Thomas Scott, in his "English Life of Jesus," after condemning each of the Gospels as either wholly or partly unhistorical, says in conclusion (pp. 348, 349), "Our aim has been simply to test the historical character of the Gospel narratives, and the process has drawn out the image of one, of the facts of whose life we know indeed but little, but who stands out in himself pure, loving, gentle, and merciful to all men. We see before us one who embraced all the suffering and heavy-laden in the wide circle of his love, and who spoke of his mission specially as a charge to seek out and save that which was lost."
The late John Stuart Mill, towards the close of the posthumous volume "Essays on Religion," though, as might have been expected, he uses a qualifying "perhaps," yet testifies to the nobility of the character of Jesus. Speaking of the Jesus of the Synoptics, he says, "Who among his disciples, or among their proselytes, was capable of inventing the sayings ascribed to Jesus, or of imagining the life and character revealed in the Gospels?" Mill attributes to him "profundity of insight," and places "the prophet of Nazareth . . . in the very first rank of the men of sublime genius of whom our species can boast. When this pre-eminent genius is combined with the qualities
* "Inspiration," p. 20. An Anniversary Lecture: Calcutta, 1873.
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. "It must be conceded," says "the wise American,” at close
* See Contemporary Review, November, 1871.
of his Lecture on Shakespeare (see "Representative Men"), "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,
The summit of the whole.
I travail in pain for him,
My creatures travail and wait;
"Twice I have moulded an image,
And thrice outstretched my hand :
One in a Judæan manger,
One over against the mouths of Nile,
And one in the academe.
"But fell the starry influence short,
The cup was never full."
Yet, sooner or later, he that shall come, will come.
"The sunburnt world a man shall breed
"No ray is dimmed, no atom worn,