Page images
PDF
EPUB

V

PREFACE.

The History of the Jews was that of a Nation, the History of Christianity is that of a Religion. Yet, as the Jewish Annals might be considered in their relation to the general history of man, to the rank which the nation bore among the various families of the human race, and the influence which it exercised on the civilisation of mankind: so Christianity may be viewed either in a strictly religious, or rather in a temporal, social, and political light. In the former case the writer will dwell almost exclusively on the religious doctrines, and will bear continual reference to the new relation established between man and the Supreme Being: the predominant character will be that of the Theologian. In the latter, although he may not altogether decline the examination of the religious doctrines, their development and their variations, his leading object will be to trace the effect of Christianity on the individual and social happiness of man, its influence on the Polity, the Laws and Institutions, the opinions, the manners, even on the Arts and the

Literature of the Christian world: he will write rather as an Historian than as a religious Instructor. Though, in fact, a candid and dispassionate survey of the connection of Christianity with the temporal happiness, and with the intellectual and social advancement of mankind, even to the religious inquirer, cannot but be of high importance and interest; while with the general mass, at least of the reading and intelligent part of the community, nothing tends so powerfully to the strengthening or weakening of religious impression and sentiment, nothing acts so extensively, even though perhaps indirectly, on the formation of religious opinions, and on the speculative or practical belief or rejection of Christianity, as the notions we entertain of its influence on the history of man, and its relation to human happiness and social improvement. This latter is the express design of the present work, of which the plan and scope will be more fully explained at the close of the Introductory Chapter.

If at any time I entertained doubts as to the expediency of including an historical view of the Life of the Saviour in the history of his religion, those doubts have been set at rest by the appearance of the recent work of Strauss. Though, for reasons stated in a separate Appendix to this work, I have no hesitation in declaring my conviction that the theory of Strauss is an historical impossibility, yet the extraordinary sensation which this book has produced in the most learned and intellectually active nation of Europe, gives it an undeniable importance. Though, till recently, only accessible to the small, yet rapidly increasing, number of students of German literature in this country, and, from its enormous length and manner of composition, not likely to be translated into English, it has, however, already appeared in a French translation.* After reading with much attention the work of Strauss, I turned back to my own brief and rapid outline, which had been finished some time before, and found what appeared to me a complete, though of course undesigned, refutation of his hypothesis. In my view, the Life of Christ (independent of its supernatural or religious character) offers a clear, genuine, and purely historical narrative, connected, by numberless fine, and obviously inartificial links, with the history of the times, full of local and temporary allusions, perfectly unpremeditated, yet of surprising accuracy, to all the events, characters, opinions, sentiments, usages, to the whole life, as

were, of that peculiar period; altogether, therefore, repudiating that mythic character which Strauss has endeavoured to trace throughout the Evangelic narrative. In all its essential character it is true and unadulterated History.*

* The only good view of Strauss's dinary reader, is an article in the work with which I am acquainted, Révue des Deux Mondes, by M. in a language accessible to the or- E. Quinet.

In this, however, as in all respects, I have been anxious and studious not to give my work a controversial tone. My “Life of Christ” remains exactly as it was originally written ; excepting in one or two notes. I have reserved entirely my reference to the work of Strauss for a separate Appendix. In these animadversions, and in some scattered observations which I have here and there ventured to make in my notes, on foreign, chiefly German, writers, I shall not be accused of that narrow jealousy, and, in my opinion, unworthy and timid suspicion, with which the writers of that country are proscribed by many. I am under too much obligation to their profound research and philosophical tone of thought, not openly to express my gratitude to such works of German writers as I have been able to obtain, which have had any bearing on the subject of my inquiries.

I could wish most unfeignedly that our modern

- une æuvre

* I agree on this point with comprise, la connaissance rigouthe author of a work which ap- reuse de son histoire, de ses lois, peared last year in Paris, M. Sal- et de ses meurs anciennes, des vador. He is speaking of the localités, préjugés, du langage, des Evangelic History,

opinions populaires, des sectes, enfin dans laquelle le lieu de la du gouvernement, et des diverses scène, le héros, les figures acces- classes de Juifs existant soires, tout le matériel, appartien- époques ou les évènements sont nent a cette nation même, et où

rapportés.

Jesus Christ ; chaque ligne exige, pour être Doctrine, &c. tom. i.

p.

159.

aux

sa

« PreviousContinue »