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CHRISTIANITY NOT SELF-DEVELOPED.
may exist in a certain form in a nation of savages as well as in a nation of philosophers, yet its specific character will almost entirely depend upon the character of the people who are its votaries. It must be considered, therefore, in constant connexion with that character; it will darken with the darkness, and brighten with the light, of each succeeding century; in an ungenial time it will recede so far from its genuine and essential nature as scarcely to retain any sign of its divine original: it will advance with the advancement of human nature, and keep up the moral to the utmost height of the intellectual culture of man.
While, however, Christianity necessarily submitted Christianity to all these modifications, I strongly protest veloped. against the opinion, that the origin of the religion can be attributed, according to a theory adopted by many foreign writers, to the gradual and spontaneous development of the human mind. Christ is as much. beyond his own age, as his own age is beyond the darkest barbarism. The time, though fitted to receive, could not by any combination of prevalent opinions, or by any conceivable course of moral improvement, have
• Euseb. i. p. 20.
P Compare a very curious passage which expresses the same opinion in the commencement of the Ecc. Hist. of Eusebius: Oùк îν πw xwрeîv oiós τε τήν τοῦ Χριστοῦ πάνσοφον, καὶ πονάρετον διδασκαλίαν ὀ πάλαι τῶν ȧvēрúπшv Вíos. Read the whole. By the accounts of Bruce, Salt, and recently of Pearce, the Christianity of Abyssinia may be adduced as an instance of the state to which it may be degraded among a people at a very low state of barbarism. All later
accounts of Abyssinian Christianity fully confirm this. The conversions among the South Sea islanders, it will of course be remembered, were effected, and are still superintended, by strangers in a very different stage of civilisation.
This theory is sketched by no means with an unfair though unfriendly hand by Chateaubriand, Etudes sur l'Histoire; a book of which, I am constrained to add, the meagre performance contrasts strangely with the loftiness of its pretensions.
CHAP. I. CHRISTIANITY NOT SELF-DEVELOPED.
produced Christianity. The conception of the human character of Jesus, and the simple principles of the new religion, as they were in direct opposition to the predominant opinions and temper of his own countrymen, so they stand completely alone in the history of our race; and, as imaginary no less than as real, altogether transcend the powers of man's moral conception. Supposing the Gospels purely fictitious, or that, like the Cyropædia of Xenophon, they embody on a groundwork of fact the highest moral and religious notions to which man had attained, and show the utmost ideal perfection of the divine and human nature, they can be accounted for, according to my judgment, on none of the ordinary principles of human nature. When we behold Christ standing in the midst of the wreck of old religious institutions, and building, or rather at one word commanding to arise, the simple and harmonious structure of the new faith, which seems equally adapted for all ages—a temple to which nations in the highest degree of civilisation may bring their offerings of pure hearts, virtuous dispositions, universal charity, our natural emotion is the recognition of the Divine goodness, in the promulgation of this beneficent code of religion; and adoration of that Being in whom that Divine goodness is thus embodied and made comprehensible to the faculties of man. In the language of the apostle, "God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself."s
Dirons nous que l'histoire de l'Evangile est inventée à plaisir ? Ce n'est pas ainsi qu'on invente: et les faits de Socrate, dont personne ne doute, sont bien moins attestes que ceux de Jésus Christ. Au fond c'est reculer la difficulté sans la détruire; il seroit plus inconcevable que pluVOL. I.
sieurs hommes d'accord eussent fabriqué
THE history of Christianity without the life of its Divine Life of Christ Author appears imperfect and incomplete, para history of ticularly considering the close connexion of Christianity. that life, not only with the more mysterious doctrines, but with the practical, and even political influence of the religion; for even its apparently most unimportant incidents have, in many cases, affected most deeply the opinions and feelings of the Christian world. The isolation of the history of Christ in a kind. of sacred seclusion has no doubt a beneficial effect on the piety of the Christian, which delights in contemplating the Saviour, undisturbed and uncontaminated by less holy associations; but it has likewise its disadvantages, in disconnecting his life from the general history of mankind, of which it forms an integral and essential part. Had the life of Christ been more generally considered as intimately and inseparably connected with the progress and development of human affairs, with the events and opinions of his time, works would not have been required to prove his existence, scarcely perhaps the authenticity of his history. The real historical evidence of Christianity is the absolute necessity of his life, to fill up the void in the annals of mankind, to account for the effects of his religion in the subsequent history of man.
Yet to write the life of Christ, though at first sight Its difficulty. it may appear the most easy, is perhaps the
A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY.
most difficult task which an historian can undertake. Many Lives have been composed with a devotional, none at least to my knowledge, in this country, with an historic design; none in which the author has endeavoured to throw himself completely back into the age when Jesus of Nazareth began to travel as the teacher of a new religion through the villages of Galilee; none which has attempted to keep up a perpetual reference to the circumstances of the times, the habits and national character of the people, and the state of public feeling; and thus, identifying itself with the past, to show the origin and progress of the new faith, as it slowly developed itself, and won its way through the adverse elements which it encountered in Judæa and the adjacent provinces. To depart from the evangelic simplicity in the relation of the facts would not merely offend the reverential feelings of the reader, but tend likewise to destroy the remarkable harmony between the facts and doctrines, which characterises the narrative of the Gospels, and on which their authenticity, as genuine historical documents, might to an intelligent mind be safely rested. The three first Gospels, unless written at a very early period, could scarcely have escaped the controversial, or at least argumentative tone, which enters into the later Christian writings, and with which the relation of St. John is imbued. The plan then which the author will pursue, will be to presume, to a certain degree, on the reader's acquaintance with the subject on which he enters: he will not think it necessary to relate at length all the discourses or even all the acts of Christ, but rather to interweave the historic
See Appendix I., on the recent Lives of Christ.
b See Appendix II., on the Origin of the Gospels.
HEROD THE GREAT-ANTIPATER.
illustration with the main events, disposed, as far as possible, in the order of time, and to trace the effect which each separate incident, and the whole course of the life of Jesus, may be supposed to have produced upon the popular mind. In short, it will partake, in some degree, of the nature of an historical comment, on facts which it will rather endeavour to elucidate, than to draw out to their full length.
The days of the elder Herod were drawing to a close. His prosperous and magnificent reign was ending in darkness and misery, such as the deepest tragedy has rarely ventured to imagine. His last years had revealed the horrible, the humiliating secret, that the son, at whose instigation he had put to death the two noble and popular princes, his children by Mariamne the Asmonean, had almost all his life been overreaching him in that dark policy, of which he esteemed himself the master; and now, as a final return for his unsuspecting confidence, had conspired to cut short the brief remainder of his days. Almost the last, and the most popular exercise of Herod's royal authority, was to order the execution of the perfidious Antipater. Intrigues and Fearful times! when the condemnation of a Antipater. son by a father, and that father an odious and sanguinary tyrant, could coincide with the universal sentiment of the people! The attachment of the nation to the reigning family might have been secured, if the sons of Mariamne, the heiress of the Asmonean line, had survived to claim the succession. The foreign and Idumean origin of the father might have been forgotten in the national and splendid descent of the mother. There was, it would seem, a powerful Herodian party, attached to the fortunes of the ruling house; but the body of the nation now looked with ill-concealed