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Jouffroy, and heard rumours of German thought. But the authors he read habitually were Pascal, Malebranche, Euler, Locke, Leibnitz, Descartes, Reid, Dugald Stewart. The physical sciences—especially general natural history and physiology-greatly attracted him, and his studies in this department shook his confidence in metaphysics. "J'aperçus l'insuffisance de ce qu'on appelle le spiritualisme : les preuves Cartésiennes de l'existence d'une âme distincte du corps me parurent toujours très faibles: dès lors j'étais idéaliste et non spiritualiste, dans le sens qu'on donne au mot. Un éternel fieri, un métamorphose sans fin me semblait la loi du monde. La nature m’apparaissait comme un ensemble où la création particulière n'a point de place, et où, par conséquent, tout se transforme.' Do we ask how it was that these conceptions did not banish from M. Renan's intellect scholasticism and Christianity, with which they are clearly at variance? He replies: ‘Parce que j'étais jeune, inconséquent, et que la critique me manquait.'
But others, or at least one other, already saw in M. Renan, what his youth, his want of logic and of criticism, prevented him from seeing in himself. His professor of philosophy, M. Gottofrey, observed him narrowly; and, with the instinct of piety, divined the true state of his mind.
At last, upon a certain occasion, M. Renan was engaged in a public disputation, upon some philosophical matter; when the vigour of his objections to the orthodox position, his manifest dissatisfaction with the arguments traditionally accredited and received, provoked a smile from some of the listeners, and M. Gottofrey, who was presiding, stopped the argument. In the course of the evening, the Professor sent for the too candid disputant, and, with the eloquence of deep conviction, warned him that overweening confidence in reason was contrary to the spirit of Christianity—that rationalism was incompatible with faith. Growing strangely animated, M. Gottofrey went on to reproach the young man with his too exclusive devotion to study. • Research? What is the good of it? All that is essential has been already found. It is not by science that souls are saved.' And then, gradually becoming more excited, he said, in passionate accents, “You are no Christian.'
I have never in my life,' M. Renan tells us, "felt more fright than that which I experienced on hearing those words uttered in a ringing voice. I tottered, as I left the room. And all night long “You are no Christian” resounded in my ears like a great peal of thunder.' The next day he poured his trouble into the ear of his confessor, an excellent man, who saw nothing, and wished to see nothing; who soothed him with
pious words, and bade him dismiss the matter from his mind. · He did not in the least understand the character of my mind, nor divine its future logical evolution. M. Gottofrey did. He saw clearly enough. He was right ; fully right. I now recog. nize it completely. Writing thirty-five years afterwards, I discern the deep penetration of which he gave evidence. He alone was clear-sighted, for he was quite a saint. It needed his transcendent illumination of martyr and ascetic to discover what completely escaped those who directed my conscience with so much sincerity, so much goodness, in other matters.'
Yielding, then, to the counsels of his confessor, M. Renan put aside, for the time, the revelation of himself made to him by M. Gottofrey; and, when his two years at Issy were accomplished, proceeded for his theological studies to Saint Sulpice. There his conduct was irreproachable, as it had been throughout the whole of his previous career, and in due course he received the tonsure and was admitted into minor orders. Theology and Biblical exegesis were now his chief subjects of study, with results which all the world knows. But it is
necessary, present purpose, to indicate, briefly, how those results were reached. At the basis of dogmatic theology lies the treatise, 'De Vera Religione,' the object of which is to prove the supernatural character of the Christian religion—that is, of the canonical scriptures and the Church. The next step is to prove the dogmas of the Church by Scripture, the Councils, the Fathers, and the theologians. M. Renan gradually became convinced of the impossibility of demonstrating that the Christian religion is, more specially than any other, divine and revealed ; nay, further, it appeared to him certain, that in the field of reality accessible to our observation, no supernatural event, no miracle has ever occurred. He was led to the conclusion of M. Littré, that 'investigate as you will, you will never find that a miracle has been wrought under conditions where it could be observed and verified.' Again, historical facts seemed to him absolutely irreconcilable with the theory that the doctrines of Christianity, as they were defined at Trent, or even at Nicæa, were what the Apostles originally taught.
While his mind was revolving these weighty matters, he betook himself to the study, first of Hebrew, and then of German, which introduced him to the new exegesis, distinctive of the nineteenth century, and led him to apply to the Semitic documents of Christianity the grammatical and historical interpretations which are applied to the other books of antiquity. The result was that 'the traditional thesis' as to the date, authorship, and inerrancy of the Hebrew Sacred Books—a thesis which he had been taught to consider essential to Christianity—soon grew incredible to him. But let us, in this connexion, quote his own words :
Dans un livre divin, en effet, tout est vrai, et, deux contradictoires ne pouvant être vraies à la fois, il ne doit s'y trouver aucune contradiction. Or l'étude attentive que je faisais de la Bible, en me révélant des trésors historiques et esthétiques, me prouvait aussi que ce livre n'était pas plus exempt qu'aucun autre livre de contradictions, d'inadvertences, d'erreurs. Il s'y trouve des fables, des légendes, des traces de composition tout humaine. Il n'est plus possible de soutenir que la seconde partie d'Isaïe soit d'Isaïe. Le livre de Daniel que toute orthodoxie rapporte au temps de la Captivité, est un apocryphe composé en 169 ou 170 avant Jésus-Christ. Le livre de Judith est une impossibilité historique. L'attribution du Pentateuque à Moïse est insoutenable, et nier que plusieurs parties de la Genèse aient le caractère mythique, c'est s'obliger à expliquer comme réels des récits tels que celui du paradis terrestre, du fruit defendu, de l'arche de Noé. Or on n'est pas catholique si l'on s'écarte sur un seul de ces points de la thèse traditionnelle. Que devient ce miracle, si fort admiré de Bossuet : “ Cyrus nommé deux cents ans avant sa naissance”? Que deviennent les soixante-dix semaines, bases des calculs de l'Histoire universelle, si la partie du livre d'Isaïe où Cyrus est nommé a été justement composée du temps de ce conquérant, et si pseudo-Daniel est contemporain d'Antiochus Épiphane ? L'orthodoxie oblige de croire que les livres bibliques sont les livres de ceux à qui les titres les attribuent. Les doctrines catholiques les plus mitigées sur l'inspiration ne permettent d'admettre dans le texte sacré aucune erreur caractérisée, aucune contradiction, même en des choses qui ne concernent ni la foi, ni les meurs. . . . Cette théorie d'inspiration, impliquant un fait surnaturel, devient impossible à maintenir en présence des idées arrêtées du bon sens moderne.' *
The conclusion of the whole matter for M. Renan was that his direct study of Christianity, undertaken in the most serious spirit, did not leave him enough faith to be a sincere priest ; while, on the other hand, it inspired him with too much respect to allow of his resigning himself to playing an odious comedy with beliefs most worthy of respect." He had the courage of his convictions. On the 6th of October, 1845, he quitted SaintSulpice, leaving behind him the faith which he had once hoped to teach. It was with him as with the Patriarch of old, when with his staff he passed over that Jordan. He parted with all that his heart loved, and turned his face towards a strange land. He went with the doubt whether he should have bread to eat or raiment to put on.' 'Ceux qui me connaissent,' he wrote to his confessor, avoueront, j'espère, que ce n'est pas l'intérêt qui m'a éloigné du Christianisme. Tous mes intérêts
* Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse,' p. 292.
les plus chers ne devaient-ils pas m'engager à le trouver vrai? Les considérations temporelles contre lesquelles j'ai à lutter eussent suffi pour en persuader bien d'autres; mon coeur a besoin du Christianisme; l'Évangile sera toujours ma morale, l'Eglise fait mon éducation, je l'aime. Ah! que ne puis-je continuer à me dire son fils ! Je la quitte malgré moi. . . . Le Christianisme suffit à toutes mes facultés, excepté une seule, la plus exigeante de toutes, parce qu'elle est de droit juge de toutes les autres.'
Religious unbelief, contemptible when it is the outcome of animal passions, rebelling against creeds that refuse and restrain,' is, at all events, respectable if it is the result of conscientious inquiry. There is a true sense in the oft-quoted lines of Lord Tennyson concerning the faith that lives in honest doubt. It is not surprising to learn that M. Renan met with nothing but kindness from the worthy ecclesiastics with whom his youth had been passed. M. Dupanloup, in particular, was goodness itself to the ex-seminarist, as might, indeed, have been expected from so noble and generous a nature. Are you in need of money ?' he wrote. • It may well be that you are. My poor purse is at your service. Would that it were in my power to offer you goods more precious. I trust that my very simple offer will not hurt your feelings.' M. Renan expressed warm thanks for this proposal, as indeed he well might; but he did not avail himself of it. His deeply-cherished sister, Henriette, placed at his disposal twelve hundred francs, which she had saved ; and this sum, relieving him from immediate anxiety as to the morrow, was, he tells us, the foundation of the independence and dignity of his life.
It would be beside our present purpose to follow, in detail, M. Renan's subsequent career.
At first he felt himself an utter alien-dépaysé—in this work-a-day world, where his lot was
It was to him as a cold and arid desert, peopled by pigmies. And his distress was heightened by his mother's unhappiness; her letters rent his heart. She passed her days in singing the old religious verses known as Les Cantiques de Marseilles,' her favourite among them being The Song of Joseph:'
O Joseph, ô mon aimable
Fils affable !
D'être en vie;
• I exerted all my ingenuity,' M. Renan says, 'in inventing ways of proving to her that I was still the same fils affable' as in the past. Little by little the wound healed. When she saw me still good and kind to her, as I always had been, she owned that there were several ways of being a priest, and that nothing was altered in me but my dress, which was indeed the truth.'
Yes, that was indeed the truth. Cucullus non facit monachum.' Secular costume does not make the layman. The external change which had passed over M. Renan made no change in his way of thought. “The studies which I had so long pursued at the seminary,' he tells us, had taken such hold upon me that my only thought was to go on with them. The sole occupation which seemed to me worth living for, was to continue my critical researches upon Christianity by the more abundant methods which lay science offered.' M. Renan is what he has called himself, . un prêtre manqué.' 'I was born a priest a priori,' he elsewhere says, and the work of his life has been to engraft modern criticism upon his sacerdotal temperament. It is a saying of Jouffroy, Man believes by instinct and doubts by reason. The faith of his childhood dwells with M. Renan as a sentiment. Its poetry survives, side by side with the criticism which has been fatal to it as a creed. Here is an explanation of the two voices which are constantly heard throughout his writings. His utterances differ, according as he speaks, en prêtre,' or 'en critique.' It would be easy to accumulate from his volumes passages breathing the purest spirit of piety; that abnegation, that elevation, that idealism which are the essence of all religion. Indeed, as all the world knows, he has himself, for some years, cherished the project of extracting from his works a number of edifying extracts which might serve
a book of devotion for fair readers while assisting at Mass. The height of his ambition, he asserts, would be obtained if he might thus make his entry into the Church, sous la forme d'un petit volume in-18, relié en maroquin noir, tenu entre les longs doigts effilés d'une main gantée. Unquestionably, the effect upon these charming devotees might be salutary if the compilation were made with sufficient care.
* Das ist alles recht schön und gut.
says poor Gretchen, after listening to Faust's eloquent exposition of his somewhat nebulous creed. The fashionable lady might say the same of the volume of Lectures Pieuses' with which M. Renan thirsts to present her. Nay, it may even be conceded that he is not without warrant when he reproaches