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some of the manuals of La Petite Dévotion,' which he desires to supersede, as replete des faiblesses, des erreurs, des choses qui entretiennent la femme dans la fâcheuse habitude de trop practiser avec l'absurde.' More guarded must be our attitude towards his claim that he alone, in his time, has really understood the Divine Founder of Christianity, and the Umbrian Saint, in whom the image of the Crucified seems most perfectly reproduced (* J'ai pu seul en mon siècle comprendre Jésus et François d'Assise). Still, unquestionably, whatever grave objections may be made, and ought to be made, from the point of view both of critical science and of religious reverence, to the Vie de Jésus,' we cannot deny that it presents a living embodiment of the purest idealism, where the popular theology had been too apt to offer a dead abstraction. M. Scherer claims for its author: C'est M. Renan qui, le premier, a fait rentrer Jésus dans le droit commun de l'histoire, et par conséquent dans la réalité. Il a rendu ainsi au Christianisme, au Christianisme durable, au Christianisme spirituel un service.'* No doubt this is too strongly put. But there is enough truth in the view which M. Scherer thus expresses to render his words worth citing. And assuredly there are in the Vie de Jésus,' as throughout M. Renan's writings, many passages which the most orthodox of his critics might be well pleased to have written. How true and how admirably expressed is the following !-

Ce vrai royaume de Dieu, ce royaume de l'esprit, qui fait chacun roi et prêtre ; ce royaume qui, comme ce grain de sénevé, est devenu un arbre qui ombrage le inonde, et sous les rameaux duquel les oiseaux ont leur nid, Jésus l'a compris, l'a voulu, l'a fondé. . . . Il a conçu la réelle cité de Dieu, la “palingénésie” véritable, le Sermon sur la montagne, l'apothéose du faible, l'amour du peuple, la réhabilitation de tout qui est humble, vrai ot naïf. Cette réhabilitation il l'a rendue en artiste incomparable par des traits qui dureront éternelle

Chacun de nous lui doit ce qu'il y a de meilleur en lui. . . . De nos jours mêmes, jours troublés où Jésus n'a pas de plus authentiques continuateurs que ceux qui semblent le répudier, les rêves d'organisation idéale de la société, qui ont tant d'analogie avec les aspirations des sectes chrétiennes primitives, ne sont, en un sens que l'épanouissement de la même idée, une des branches de cet arbre immense où germe toute pensée de l'avenir, et dont "le Dieu” sera éternellement la tige et la racine. Toutes les révolutions sociales de l'humanité seront entées sur ce mot-là. Mais entachées d'un grossier matérialisme, aspirant à l'impossible, c'est à dire à fondu l'universelle bonheur sur les mesures politiques et économiques, les tentatives “socialistes” do notre temps resteront infécondes

ment.

royaume de

* Mélanges d'Histoire Religieuse,' p. 132.

jusqu'à

*

jusqu'à ce qu'elles prennent pour règle le véritable esprit de Jésus, je vous dire l'idéalisme absolu, ce principe que pour posséder la terre il faut

у

renoncer.' How profound again the dictum — which recalls one of Spinosa's weightiest sayings—La plus haute conscience de Dieu qui ait existé au sein de l'humanité a été celle de Jésus.' And once more how penetrating the appeal in the · Études d'Histoire Religieuse :'• Si vos facultés vibrant simultanément n'ont jamais rendu ce grand son unique que nous appellons Dieu je n'ai plus rien à dire; vous manquez de l'élément essentiel de notre nature.'

True indeed. Das ist alles recht schön und gut.' But now, if we turn from the priest to the critic, we learn that it is very doubtful whether this Deity, concerning whom, and whose kingdom, such excellent things have been spoken, really exists. We read in the Souvenirs’ that the clear scientific view of a universe where no volition higher than man's acts in an appreciable manner, has, since the first months of 1846, been to M. Renan an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast. And again, in another page of the same volume, we are told, “It is by chemistry at the one end, and by astronomy at the other, it is above all by general physiology, that we truly grasp the secret of existence, of the world, of what people call God.' And if we turn to M. Renan's last published volume,t as likely to contain the ultimate light which he is able to radiate upon the high theme we read as follows :- The word God is in possession of the respect of humanity; it has in its favour a long prescription ; it has been employed in the finest poetry. To suppress it, would be to turn humanity aside from its path (dérouter l'humanité). Although it is what the scholastics call “univocal," it corresponds to a sufficiently precise idea—the summum and the ultimum: the line at which humanity stops in the ladder (échelle) of the infinite . . . God, Providence, Soul, are so many good old words, a little heavy, but expressive and respectable. Science will explain them. It will not, with advantage, find substitutes for them. What is God for humanity but the transcendental summary of its supra-sensible wants, the category of the idealthat is to say, the form under which we conceive the ideal, just as space and time are the categories under which we conceive bodies. Do we say, Well and good; but are we to understand that this category of the ideal' exists? Ce Dieu est-il ou n'est-il pas ?' M. Renan replies, ' Questions of being

* • Vie de Jésus, pp. 282–288, 7ème ed.

+ 'L'Avenir de la Science: Pensées de 1848,' p. 475. This volume was published early in the present year.

are nom.

are beyond us.' ("Les questions de l'être nous dépassent.' *) In which connection the conclusion of his eloquent prayer upon the Acropolis naturally occurs to the student of his writings. • Un immense fleuve d'oubli nous entraîne dans un gouffre sans

O abîme, tu est le Dieu unique . . . Tout n'est ici-bas que symbole et que songe. Les dieux passent, comme les hommes, et il ne serait pas bon qu'ils fussent éternels. La foi qu’on a eue ne doit jamais être une chaîne. On est quitte envers elle quand on l'a soigneusement roulée dans le linceul de pourpre où dorment les dieux morts.'

M. Renan is, in fact, a priest, whose gospel is religious sentiment; and a critic, whose last word is that for such sentiment no basis of fact is within our reach. But his scepticism wherein, as he tells us, he finds the happiness of his life is not confined to the domain of religion. As his theodicy is the negation of God, so is his morality the negation of Duty. There is no real recognition in his writings of that eternal distinction between Right and Wrong—not made, but apprehended by our practical reason—which is the only true foundation of ethics: no confession of the moral law as a Divine order ruling throughout the universe, in voluntary submission whereunto human virtue consists. True, indeed, passages may be found in his writings, in which this august doctrine is proclaimed. Thus, in his Preface to his translation of the Book of Job, we read, 'Duty with its incalculable philosophical consequences, in imposing itself upon all, resolves all doubts, reconciles all oppositions, and serves as a foundation to rebuild what reason destroys, or allows to crumble away. Thanks to this revelation, free from ambiguity or obscurity, we affirm that he who has chosen the right is the truly wise man.' But here—and in other like utterances- —we must take M. Renan to be speaking en prêtre.' If we turn to the critic, we find that this lofty teaching crumbles away at the annihilating touch of Positivism. . The morality of the critical school,' he tells us, in his Philosophical Fragments,' rests not upon the Categorical Imperative, but upon a sentiment of the nobility of man.'

It seems a frail foundation whereon to rear the moral order. Elsewhere, he asserts, • le bien et le mal se transforment l'un dans l'autre

* We quote from the Table Analytique.' We give M. Renan's words as we find them. But when he writes ‘univocal' we suspect he means 'analogical,' which is the proper school term. In his Philosophic Fragments,' M. Renan tells us, • Toute proposition appliquée à Dieu est impertinente, une seule exceptée : “ Il est."

But in another place, in the same volume, we read, “L'absolu de la justice et de la raison ne se manifeste que dans l'humanité: envisagé hors de l'humanité cet absolu n'est qu'une abstraction. ... L'infini n'existe que quand il revêt une forme finie.' The italics are our own.

par

par des nuances aussi indiscernables que celles du cou d'une colombe.' And all the world knows his famous phrase about • l'énorme duperie qu'implique la bonté.' In his Discourse upon the occasion of the reception of M. Cherbuliez into the French Academy, he acquainted the world that his hesitation regarding the question, Où est le bien?' arose from the divine parable of the Prodigal Son.' •Le plus bel enseignement du Christianisme,' he declares, 'est que la vertu consiste moins dans les œuvres que dans les sentiments du cæur, si bien que l'Éternel a des tendresses pour la faute qui vient d'une ardeur généreuse ou d'un égarement d'amour.' Remarking, in passing, upon M. Renan's ingenuity in extracting from the parable of the Prodigal Son the doctrine that the Eternal is indulgent towards, not the faulty, but their faults, not the sinner, but his sins, we go on to observe, that he is by no means sure how far old world moralists are well founded in accounting virtue our true end. He tells us in his Souvenirs' of his inability to rid himself of the idea that perhaps, after all, the libertine is right, and practises the true philosophy of life. It fills him with melancholy, as indeed it well may, when he reflects that it took him ten years of profound meditation, and unremitting intellectual toil, to reach a conclusion which the gamin of Paris attains at one bound.* M. Scherer, a warm admirer of M. Renan, seems to us to have correctly summed up his friend's real view of ethics. Sa pensée de derrière la tête, c'est que la vertu, non plus que toute autre chose ne supporte l'examen ; on soulève le voile et, là comme partout, on découvre qu'il n'y a rien dessous.'t But whatever may be the real truth about virtue, M. Renan knows that beauty is just as good ; nay, better. La beauté vaut la vertu,' he declares in his . Marc-Aurèle.' 1 And in his “Souvenirs’ he goes further : •La beauté est un don tellement supérieur que le talent, le génie, la vertu même ne sont rien auprès d'elle, en sorte que la femme vraiment belle a le droit de tout dédaigner. M. Renan's practical conclusion is expressed in his declaration to the students at the Grand-Véfour, The old French gaiety is perhaps the profoundest of philosophies.' It is the philosophy practised by himself in the refined and cultivated form of a dilettante epicureanism to which, indeed, he finds himself inclined by nature : « le fond de mon caractère est la gaîté et l'acceptation resignée du sort.' Of the two men who are in him, the Gasconl'homme qui rit-has dominated his life since he left Saint Sulpice ; and he has indulged to the full his penchant de trancher beaucoup de difficultés par un sourire.' Life, for M. Renan, is a comedy, and he thinks himself fortunate in being provided with a comfortable seat in the stalls from which to witness it: placé au point de vue d'une bienveillante ironie universelle.'* Assuredly it is M. Renan himself who speaks to us by the mouth of Ganeo, in the Prêtre de Némi? Jouissons, mon pauvre ami, du monde tel qu'il s'est fait. Ce n'est pas une cuvre sérieuse : c'est une farce, l'ouvre d'un demiurge jovial. La gaîté est la seule théologie de cette grande farce. The French clergy may very likely be, as M. Renan alleges, respectablement bornés' in their view of the universe. But, assuredly, they can hardly be considered wrong in reckoning him among those ‘inimicos crucis Christi, quorum finis interitus, quorum deus venter est, et gloria in confusione ipsorum: qui terrena sapiunt.'

* "Je n'arrivai pas au point d'émancipation que le gamin de Paris atteint sans aucun effort de réflexion, qu'après avoir traversé Gesenius et toute l'exégèse allemande. Il me fallait dix années de méditation et de travail forcené, pour voir que mes maîtres n'étaient pas infaillibles. (“Souvenirs,' p. 15.)

† Etudes sur la Littérature,' vol. viii. p. 127.

| So also in his · Fragments Philosophiques':-—-Un beau sentiment vaut une belle pensée; une belle pensée vaut une belle action: une vie de science vaut une vie de vertu.' (P. 309.)

It has been observed by Joubert that the authors who bave influence are merely those who express perfectly what other men are thinking: who reveal in people's minds ideas or sentiments which were tending to the birth.' These words unquestionably indicate a chief cause of M. Renan's popularity. He has used his incomparable literary skill to interpret the mind of his generation to itself. He is, in intellect, a Positivist -we do not, of course, mean a professed follower of Comte, whom he rather despises—and so he appeals to the scientific feeling of his age as manifested in physics and the higher criticism. But he knows well that man does not live by the fruit of the tree of knowledge alone : that some transcendental ideal is, in the long run, necessary to humanity. And this renders him peculiarly acceptable to many. Some dozen years ago M. Berthelot began one of his books with these astounding words, . Le monde est aujourd'hui sans mystère.' We may be sure—such is the influence of the Zeitgeist—that this eminent physicist, if writing now, would not express himself in that wise. There is, at the present moment, a strong revival of mysticism in France, by a sort of natural reaction from the coarse and vulgar earth to earth philosophy, which for so long has made such proud boasting in that country. We find its tokens everywhere in literature, from the reasoned treatise to the unreasonable romance. It may doubtless be, in many cases, mere affectation, mere dilettantism. But, taken as a whole, it is something more. It represents the insatiable

craving

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