VI. An Internal Argument for Christianity

{363} THE word "remarkable" has been so hacked of late in theological criticism—nearly as much so as "earnest" and "thoughtful"—that we do not like to apply it without an apology to the instance of a recent work, called "Ecce Homo," which we propose now to bring before the reader. In truth, it presents itself as a very convenient epithet, whenever we do not like to commit ourselves to any definite judgment on any subject before us, and prefer to spread over it a broad neutral tint to painting it distinctly white, red, or black. A man, or his work, or his deed, is "remarkable" when he produces an effect; be he effective for good or for evil, for truth or for falsehood—a point which, as far as that expression goes, we by adopting it, leave it for others or for the future to determine. Accordingly it is just the word to use in the instance of a Volume in which what is trite and what is novel, what is striking and what is startling, what is sound and what is untrustworthy, what is deep and what is shallow, are so mixed up together, or at least so vaguely suggested, or so perplexingly confessed,—which has so much of occasional force and circumambient glitter, of pretence and of seriousness,—as to make it impossible either with a good conscience to praise it, or without harshness and unfairness to condemn. Such a book is at least likely to be effective, whatever else it is or {364} is not; it may be safely called remarkable; and therefore we apply the epithet "remarkable" to this Ecce Homo.

It is remarkable, then, on account of the sensation which it has made in religious circles. In the course of a few months it has reached a third edition, though it is a fair-sized octavo, and not an over-cheap one. And it has received the praise of critics and reviewers of very distinct shades of opinion. Such a reception must be owing either to the book itself, or to the circumstances of the day in which it has appeared, or to both of these causes together. Or, as seems to be the case, the needs of the day have become a call for some such work; and the work, on its appearance, has been thankfully welcomed, on account of its professed object, by those whose needs called for it. The author includes himself in the number of these; and while providing for his own wants he has ministered to theirs. This is what we especially mean by calling his book "remarkable." It deserves remark, because it has excited it.


Disputants may maintain, it they please, that religious doubt is our appropriate, our normal state; that to cherish doubts is our duty; that to complain of them is impatience; that to dread them is cowardice; that to overcome them is inveracity; that it is even a happy state, a state of calm philosophic enjoyment, to be conscious of them;—but after all, unavoidable or not, such a state is not natural, and not happy, if the voice of mankind is to decide the question. English minds, in particular, have too much of a religious temper in them, as a natural gift, to acquiesce for any long time in positive, active doubt. For doubt and devotion are incompatible with each other; every doubt, be it greater or less, {365} stronger or weaker, involuntary as well as voluntary, acts upon devotion, so far forth, as water sprinkled, or dashed, or poured out upon a flame. Real and proper doubt kills faith, and devotion with it; and even involuntary or half-deliberate doubt, though it does not actually kill faith, goes far to kill devotion; and religion without devotion is little better than a burden, and soon becomes a superstition. Since, then, this is a day of objection and of doubt about the intellectual basis of Revealed Truth, it follows that there is a great deal of secret discomfort and distress in the religious portion of the community, the result of that general curiosity in speculation and inquiry which has been the growth among us of the last twenty or thirty years.

The people of this country, being Protestants, appeal to Scripture, when a religious question arises, as their ultimate informant and decisive authority in all such matters; but who is to decide for them the previous question, that Scripture is really such an authority? When, then, as at this time, its divine authority is the very point to be determined, that is, the character and extent of its inspiration and its component parts, then they find themselves at sea, without the means of directing their course. Doubting about the authority of Scripture, they doubt about its substantial truth; doubting about its truth, they have doubts concerning the Object which it sets before their faith, about the historical accuracy and objective reality of the picture which it presents to us of our Lord. We are not speaking of wilful doubting, but of those painful misgivings, greater or less, to which we have already referred. Religious Protestants, when they think calmly on the subject, can hardly conceal from themselves that they have a house without logical foundations, which contrives indeed for the present {366} to stand, but which may go any day,—and where are they then?

Of course Catholics will bid them receive the canon of Scripture on the authority of the Church, in the spirit of St. Augustine's well-known words: "I should not believe the Gospel, were I not moved by the authority of the Catholic Church." But who, they ask, is to be voucher in turn for the Church, and for St. Augustine?—is it not as difficult to prove the authority of the Church and her doctors as the authority of the Scriptures? We Catholics answer, and with reason, in the negative; but, since they cannot be brought to agree with us here, what argumentative ground is open to them? Thus they seem drifting, slowly perhaps, but surely, in the direction of scepticism.


It is under these circumstances that they are invited, in the Volume of which we have spoken, to betake themselves to the contemplation of our Lord's character, as it is recorded by the Evangelists, as carrying with it its own evidence, dispensing with extrinsic proof, and claiming authoritatively by itself the faith and devotion of all to whom it is presented. Such an argument, of course, is as old as Christianity itself; the young man in the Gospel calls our Lord "Good Master," and St. Peter introduces Him to the first Gentile converts as one who "went about doing good;" and in these last times we can refer to the testimony even of unbelievers in behalf of an argument which is as simple as it is constraining. "Si la vie et la mort de Socrate sont d'un sage," says Rousseau, "la vie et la mort de Jésus sont d'un Dieu." And he clenches the argument by observing, that were the picture a mere conception of the sacred {367} writers, "l'inventeur en serait plus étonnant que le héros." The force of this argument lies in its directness; it comes to the point at once, and concentrates in itself evidence, doctrine, and devotion. In theological language, it is the motivum credibililatis, the objectum materiale, and the formale, all in one; it unites human reason and supernatural faith in one complex act; and it comes home to all men, educated and ignorant, young and old. And it is the point to which, after all and in fact, all religious minds tend, and in which they ultimately rest, even if they do not start from it. Without an intimate apprehension of the personal character of our Saviour, what professes to be faith is little more than an act of ratiocination. If faith is to live, it must love; it must lovingly live in the Author of faith as a true and living Being, in Deo vivo et vero; according to the saying of the Samaritans to their townswoman: "We now believe, not for thy saying, for we ourselves have heard Him." Many doctrines may be held implicitly; but to see Him as if intuitively is the very promise and gift of Him who is the object of the intuition. We are constrained to believe when it is He that speaks to us about Himself.

Such undeniably is the characteristic of divine faith viewed in itself: but here we are concerned, not simply with faith, but with its logical antecedents; and the question returns on which we have already touched, as a difficulty with Protestants,—how can our Lord's Life, as recorded in the Gospels, be a logical ground of faith, unless we set out with assuming the truth of those Gospels; that is, without assuming, as proved, the original matter of doubt? And Protestant apologists, it may be urged—Paley, for instance—show their sense of this difficulty when they place the argument drawn from our Lord's character only among the auxiliary Evidences of {368} Christianity. Now the following answer may fairly be made to this objection; nor need we grudge Protestants the use of it, for, as will appear in the sequel, it proves too much for their purpose, as being an argument for the divinity not only of Christ's mission, but of that of His Church also. However, we say this by the way.

It may be maintained then, that, making as large an allowance as the most sceptical mind, when pressed to state its demands in full, would desire, we are at least safe in asserting that the books of the New Testament, taken as a whole, were existing about the middle of the second century, and were then received by Christians, or were in the way of being received, and nothing else but they were received, as the authoritative record of the origin and rise of their Religion. In that first age they were the only account of the mode in which Christianity was introduced to the world. Internal as well as external evidence sanctions us in so speaking. Four Gospels, the book of the Acts of the Apostles, various Apostolic writings, made up then, as now, our sacred books. Whether there was a book more or less, say even an important book, does not affect the general character of the Religion as those books set it forth. Omit one or other of the Gospels, and three or four Epistles, and the outline and nature of its objects and its teaching remain what they were before the omission. The moral peculiarities, in particular, of its Founder are, on the whole, identical, whether we learn them from St. Matthew, St. John, St. Peter, or St. Paul. He is not in one book a Socrates, in another a Zeno, and in a third an Epicurus. Much less is the religion changed or obscured by the loss of particular chapters or verses, or even by inaccuracy in fact, or by error in opinion, (supposing per impossibile such a charge could be made good,) in particular {369} portions of a book. For argument's sake, suppose that the three first Gospels are an accidental collection of traditions or legends, for which no one is responsible, and in which Christians had faith because there was nothing else to put faith in. This is the limit to which extreme scepticism can proceed, and we are willing to commence our argument by granting it. Still, starting at this disadvantage, we should be prepared to argue, that if, in spite of this, and after all, there be shadowed out in these anonymous and fortuitous documents a Teacher sui generis, distinct, consistent, and original, then does that picture, thus accidentally resulting, for the very reason of its accidental composition, only become more marvellous; then is He an historical fact, and again a supernatural or divine fact;—historical from the consistency of the representation, and because the time cannot be assigned when it was not received as a reality; and supernatural, in proportion as the qualities with which He is invested in those writings are incompatible with what it is reasonable or possible to ascribe to human nature viewed simply in itself. Let these writings be as open to criticism, whether as to their origin or their text, as sceptics can maintain; nevertheless the representation in question is there, and forces upon the mind a conviction that it records a fact, and a superhuman fact, just as the reflection of an object in a stream remains in its general form, however rapid the current, and however many the ripples, and is a sure warrant to us of the presence of the object on the bank, though that object be out of sight.


Such, we conceive, though stated in our own words, is the argument drawn out in the pages before us, or rather {370} such is the ground on which the argument is raised; and the interest which it has excited lies, not in its novelty, but in the particular mode in which it is brought before the reader, in the originality and precision of certain strokes by which is traced out for us the outline of the Divine Teacher. These strokes are not always correct; they are sometimes gratuitous, sometimes derogatory to their object; but they are always determinate; and, being such, they present an old argument before us with a certain freshness, which, because it is old, is necessary for its being effective.

We do not wonder at all, then, at the sensation which the Volume is said to have caused at Oxford, and among Anglicans of the Oxford school, after the wearisome doubt and disquiet of the last ten years; for it has opened the prospect of a successful issue of inquiries in an all-important province of thought, where there seemed to be no thoroughfare. Distinct as are the liberal and Catholicizing parties in the Anglican Church both in their principles and their policy, it must not be supposed that they are also as distinct in the members that compose them. No line of demarcation can be drawn between the one collection of men and the other, in fact; for no two minds are altogether alike; and individually, Anglicans have each his own shade of opinion, and belong partly to this school, partly to that. Or rather, there is a large body of men who are neither the one nor the other; they cannot be called an intermediate party, for they have no discriminating watchwords; they range from those who are almost Catholic to those who are almost Liberals. They are not Liberals, because they do not glory in a state of doubt; they cannot profess to be "Anglo-Catholics," because they are not prepared to give an internal assent to all that is put forth by the {371} Church as truth of revelation. These are the men who, if they could, would unite old ideas with new; who cannot give up tradition, yet are loth to shut the door to progress; who look for a more exact adjustment of faith with reason than has hitherto been attained; who love the conclusions of Catholic theology better than the proofs, and the methods of modern thought better than its results; and who, in the present wide unsettlement of religious opinion, believe indeed, or wish to believe, Scripture and orthodox doctrine, taken as a whole, and cannot get themselves to avow any deliberate dissent from any part of either, but still, not knowing how to defend their belief with logical exactness, or at least feeling that there are large unsatisfied objections lying against parts of it, or having misgivings lest there should be such, acquiesce in what is called a practical belief, that is, accept revealed truths, only because such acceptance of them is the safest course, because they are probable, and because to hold them in consequence is a duty, not as if they felt absolutely certain, though they will not allow themselves to be actually in doubt. Such is about the description to be given of them as a class; though, as we have said, they so materially differ from each other, that no general account of them will apply strictly to any individual in their body.

Now, it is to this large class which we have been describing that such a work as that before us, in spite of the serious errors which they will not be slow to recognize in it, comes as a friend in need. They do not stumble at the author's inconsistencies or shortcomings; they are arrested by his professed purpose, and are profoundly moved by his successful hits (as they may be called) towards fulfilling it. Remarks on the Gospel history, such as Paley's, they feel to be casual and superficial; {372} such as Rousseau's to be vague and declamatory; they wish to justify with their intellect all that they believe with their heart; they cannot separate their ideas of religion from its revealed object; but they have an aching dissatisfaction within them, that they should be apprehending Him so feebly, when they should fain (as it were) see and touch Him as well as hear. When, then, they have logical grounds presented to them for holding that the recorded picture of our Lord is its own evidence, that it carries with it its own reality and authority, that His "revelatio" is "revelata" in the very act of being a "revelatio," it is as if He Himself said to them, as He once said to His disciples, "It is I, be not afraid;" and the clouds at once clear off, and the waters subside, and the land is gained for which they are looking out.

The author before us, then, has the merit of promising what, if he could fulfil it, would entitle him to the gratitude of thousands. We do not say, we are very far from thinking that he has actually accomplished so high an enterprise, though he seems to be ambitious enough to hope that he has not come far short of it. He somewhere calls his book a treatise; he would have done better to call it an essay; nor need he have been ashamed of a word which Locke has used in his work on the Human Understanding. Before concluding, we shall take occasion to express our serious sense, how very much his execution falls below his purpose; but certainly it is a great purpose which he sets before him, and for that he is to be praised. And there is at least this singular merit in his performance, as he has given it to the public, that he is clear-sighted and fair enough to view our Lord's work in its true light, as including in it the establishment of a visible Kingdom or Church. In proportion, then, as we shall presently find it our duty to pass some severe {373} remarks upon his Volume, as it comes before us, so do we feel bound, before doing so, to give some specimens of it in that point of view in which we consider it really to subserve the cause of Revealed Truth. And in the sketch which we are now about to give of the first steps of his investigation, we must not be understood to make him responsible for the language in which we shall exhibit them to our readers, and which will unavoidably involve our own corrections of his argument, and our own colouring.


Among a people, then, accustomed by the most sacred traditions of their Religion to a belief in the appearance, from time to time, of divine messengers for their instruction and reformation, and to the expectation of One such messenger still to come, the last and greatest of all, who should also be their king and deliverer as well as their teacher, suddenly is found, after a long break in the succession, and a period of national degradation, a prophet of the old stamp, in one of the deserts of the country—John, the son of Zachary. He announces the promised kingdom as close at hand, calls his countrymen to repentance, and institutes a rite symbolical of it. The people seem disposed to take him for the destined Saviour; but, instead, he points out to them a private person in the crowd which is flocking about him; and henceforth the interest which his own preaching has excited centres in that Other. Thus our Lord is introduced to the notice of His countrymen.

Thus brought before the world, He opens His mission. What is the first impression it makes upon us? Admiration of its singular simplicity and directness, both as to object and work. Such of course ought to be its character, {374} if it was to be the fulfilment of the ancient, long-expected promise; and such it was, as our Lord proclaimed it. Other men, who do a work, do not at once set about it as their object; they make several failures; they are led on to it by circumstances; they miscalculate their powers; or they are drifted from the first in a different direction from that which they had chosen; they do most where they are expected to do least. But our Lord said and did. "He formed one plan and executed it" (p. 18).

In the next place, what was that plan? Let us consider the force of the words in which, as the Baptist before Him, He introduced His ministry: "The kingdom of God is at hand." What was meant by the kingdom of God? "The conception was no new one, but familiar to every Jew" (p. 19). At the first formation of the nation and state of the Israelites, the Almighty had been their King; when a line of earthly kings was introduced, then God spoke by the prophets. The existence of the theocracy was the very constitution and boast of Israel, as limited monarchy, liberty, and equality are the boast respectively of certain modern nations. Moreover, the Gospel proclamation ran, "Pœnitentiam agite; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand:" here again was another and recognized token of a theophany; for the mission of a prophet, as we have said above, was commonly a call to reformation and expiation of sin.

A divine mission, then, was a falling back upon the original covenant between God and His people; but again, while it was an event of old and familiar occurrence, it ever had carried with it in its past instances something new in connexion with the circumstances under which it took place. The prophets were accustomed to give interpretations, or to introduce modifications {375} of the letter of the Law, to add to its conditions and to enlarge its application. It was to be expected, then, that now, when the new Prophet to whom the Baptist pointed, opened His commission, He too, in like manner, would be found to be engaged in a restoration, but in a restoration which should be a religious advance; and that the more, if He really was the special, final Prophet of the theocracy, to whom all former prophets had looked forward, and in whom their long and august line was to be summed up and perfected. In proportion as His work was to be more signal, so would His new revelations be wider and more wonderful.

Did our Lord fulfil these expectations? Yes; there was this peculiarity in His mission, that He came, not only as one of the prophets in the kingdom of God, but as the King Himself of that kingdom. Thus His mission involves the most exact return to the original polity of Israel, which the appointment of Saul had disarranged, while it recognizes also the line of Prophets, and infuses a new spirit into the Law. Throughout His ministry our Lord claimed and received the title of King, which no prophet ever had done before. On His birth, the wise men came to worship "the King of the Jews." "Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel," cried Nathaniel after His baptism; and on His cross the charge recorded against Him was that He professed to be "King of the Jews." "During His whole public life," says the author, "He is distinguished from the other prominent characters of Jewish history by His unbounded personal pretensions. He claims expressly the character of that Divine Messiah for which the ancient prophets had directed the nation to look."—P. 25.

He is, then, a King, as well as a Prophet; but is He as one of the old heroic kings, David or Solomon? Had {376} such been His pretension, He had not, in His own words, "discerned the signs of the times." It would have been a false step in Him, into which other would-be champions of Israel, before and after Him, actually fell, and in consequence failed. But here this young Prophet is from the first distinct, decided, and original. His contemporaries, indeed, the wisest, the most experienced, were wedded to the notion of a revival of the barbaric kingdom. "Their heads were full of the languid dreams of commentators, the unpracticable pedantries of men who live in the past" (p. 27). But He gave to the old prophetic promises an interpretation which they could undeniably bear, but which they did not immediately suggest; which we can maintain to be true, while we can deny it to be imperative. He had His own prompt, definite conception of the restored theocracy; it was His own, and not another's; it was suited to the new age; it was triumphantly carried out in the event.


In what, then, did He consider His royalty to consist? First, what was it not? It did not consist in the ordinary functions of royalty; it did not prevent His payment of tribute to Cæsar; it did not make Him a judge in questions of criminal or of civil law, in a question of adultery, or in the adjudication of an inheritance; nor did it give Him the command of armies. Then perhaps, after all, it was but a figurative royalty, as when the Eridanus is called "fluviorum rex," or Aristotle "the prince of philosophers." No; it was not a figurative royalty either. To call oneself a king, without being one, is playing with edged tools—as in the story of the innkeeper's son, who was put to death for calling himself "heir to the crown." Christ certainly knew {377} what He was saying. "He had provoked the accusation of rebellion against the Roman government; He must have known that the language He used would be interpreted so. Was there then nothing substantial in the royalty He claimed? Did He die for a metaphor?" (p. 28.) He meant what He said, and therefore His kingdom was literal and real; it was visible; but what were its visible prerogatives, if they were not those in which earthly royalty commonly consists? In truth, He passed by the lesser powers of royalty to claim the higher. He claimed certain divine and transcendent functions of the original theocracy, which had been in abeyance since that theocracy had been infringed, which even to David had not been delegated, which had never been exercised except by the Almighty. God had created, first the people, next the state, which He deigned to govern. "The origin of other nations is lost in antiquity" (p. 33); but "this people," runs the sacred word, "have I formed for Myself." And "He who first called the nation did for it the second work of a king: He gave it a law" (p. 34). Now it is very striking to observe that these two incommunicable attributes of divine royalty, as exemplified in the history of the Israelites, are the very two which our Lord assumed. He was the Maker and the Lawgiver of His subjects. He said in the commencement of His ministry, "Follow Me;" and He added, "and I will make you"—you in turn—"fishers of men." And the next we read of Him is, that His disciples came to Him on the Mount, and He opened His mouth and taught them. And so again, at the end of it, "Go ye, make disciples of all nations, teaching them." "Thus the very works for which the [Jewish] nation chiefly hymned their Jehovah, He undertook in His name to do. He undertook to be the Father of an ever-lasting {378} state, and the Legislator of a world-wide society" (p. 36); that is, showing Himself, according to the prophetic announcement, to be "Admirabilis, consiliarius, pater futuri sæculi, princeps pacis."

To these two claims He added a third: first, He chooses the subjects of His kingdom; next, He gives them a law; but thirdly, He judges them—judges them in a far truer and fuller sense than in the old kingdom even the Almighty judged His people. The God of Israel ordained national rewards and punishments for national obedience or transgression; He did not judge His subjects one by one; but our Lord takes upon Himself the supreme and final judgment of every one of His subjects, not to speak of the whole human race (though, from the nature of the case, this function cannot belong to His present visible kingdom). "He considered, in short, heaven and hell to be in His hand" (p. 40).

We shall mention one further function of the new King and His new kingdom: its benefits are even bound up with the maintenance of this law of political unity. "To organize a society, and to bind the members of it together by the closest ties, were the business of His life. For this reason it was that He called men away from their homes, imposed upon some a wandering life, upon others the sacrifice of their property, and endeavoured by all means to divorce them from their former connexions, in order that they might find a new home in the Church. For this reason He instituted a solemn initiation, and for this reason He refused absolutely to any one a dispensation from it. For this reason, too ... He established a common feast, which was through all ages to remind Christians of their indissoluble union" (p. 92). But cui bono is a visible kingdom, when the great end of our Lord's ministry is moral advancement and preparation {379} for a future state? It is easy to understand, for instance, how a sermon may benefit, or personal example, or religious friends, or household piety. We can learn to imitate a saint or a martyr, we can cherish a lesson, we can study a treatise, we can obey a rule; but what is the definite advantage to a preacher or a moralist of an external organization, of a visible kingdom? Yet Christ says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," as well as "His justice." Socrates wished to improve man, but he laid no stress on their acting in concert in order to secure that improvement; on the contrary, the Christian law is political, as certainly as it is moral.

Why is this? It arises out of the intimate relation between Him and His subjects, which, in bringing them all to Him as their common Father, necessarily brings them to each other. Our Lord says, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am in the midst of them." Fellowship between His followers is made a distinct object and duty, because it is a means, according to the provisions of His system, by which in some special way they are brought near to Him. This is declared, still more strikingly than in the text we have just quoted, in the parable of the Vine and its Branches, and in that (if it is to be called a parable) of the Bread of Life. The almighty King of Israel was ever, indeed, invisibly present in the glory above the Ark, but He did not manifest Himself there or anywhere else as a present cause of spiritual strength to His people; but the new King is not only ever present, but to every one of His subjects individually is He a first element and perennial source of life. He is not only the head of His kingdom, but also its animating principle and its centre of power. The author whom we are reviewing does not quite reach the great doctrine here suggested, but he goes near it {380} in the following passage: "Some men have appeared who have been 'as levers to uplift the earth and roll it in another course.' Homer by creating literature, Socrates by creating science, Cæsar by carrying civilization inland from the shores of the Mediterranean, Newton by starting science upon a career of steady progress, may be said to have attained this eminence. But these men gave a single impact like that which is conceived to have first set the planets in motion. Christ claims to be a perpetual attractive power, like the sun, which determines their orbit. They contributed to men some discovery, and passed away; Christ's discovery is Himself. To humanity struggling with its passions and its destiny He says, Cling to Me;—cling ever closer to Me. If we believe St. John, He represented Himself as the Light of the world, as the Shepherd of the souls of men, as the Way to immortality, as the Vine or Life-tree of humanity" (p. 177). He ends this beautiful passage, of which we have quoted as much as our limits allow, by saying that "He instructed His followers to hope for life from feeding on His Body and Blood."


O si sic omnia! Is it not hard, that, after following with pleasure a train of thought so calculated to warm all Christian hearts, and to create in them both admiration and sympathy for the writer, we must end our notice of him in a different tone, and express as much dissent from him and as serious blame of him as we have hitherto been showing satisfaction with his object, his intention, and the general outline of his argument? But so it is. In what remains to be said we are obliged to speak of his work in terms so sharp that they may seem to be out of keeping with what has gone before. With whatever {381} abruptness, we must suddenly shift the scene, and manifest our disapprobation of portions of his book as plainly as we have shown an interest in it. We have praised it in various points of view. It has stirred the hearts of many; it has recognized a need, and gone in the right direction for supplying it. It serves as a token, and a hopeful token, of what is going on in the minds of numbers of men external to the Church. It is so far a good book, and, we trust, will work for good. Especially as we have seen, is it interesting to the Catholic, as acknowledging the visible Church to be our Lord's own creation, as the direct fruit of His teaching, and the destined instrument of His purposes. We do not know how to speak in an unfriendly tone of an author who has done so much as this; but at the same time, when we come to examine his argument in its details, and study his chapters one by one, we find, in spite of, and mixed up with, what is true and original, and even putting aside his patent theological errors, so much bad logic, so much of rash and gratuitous assumption, so much of half-digested thought, that we are obliged to conclude that it would have been much wiser in him, instead of publishing what he seems to confess, or rather to proclaim, to be the jottings of his first researches upon sacred territory, to have waited till he had carefully traversed and surveyed and mapped the whole of it. We now proceed to give a few instances of the faults of which we complain.

His opening remarks will serve as an illustration. In p. 41 he says, "We have not rested upon single passages, nor drawn from the fourth Gospel." This, we suppose, must be his reason for ignoring the passage in Luke ii. 49: "Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" for he directly contradicts it, by {382} gratuitously imagining that our Lord came for St. John's baptism with the same intention as the penitents around Him; and that, in spite of His own words, which we suppose are to be taken as another "single passage," "So it becometh us to fulfil all justice" (Matt. iii. 15). It must be on this principle of ignoring single passages such as these, even though they admit of combination, that he goes on to say of our Lord, that "in the agitation of mind caused by His baptism, and by the Baptist's designation of Him as the future Prophet, He retired into the wilderness," and there "He matured the plan of action which we see Him executing from the moment of His return into society" (p. 9); and that not till then was He "conscious of miraculous power" (p. 12). This neglect of the sacred text, we repeat, must be allowed him, we suppose, under cover of his acting out his rule of abstaining from single passages and from the fourth Gospel. Let us allow it; but at least he ought to adduce passages, single or many, for what he actually does assert. He must not be allowed arbitrarily to add to the history, as well as cautiously to take from it. Where, then, we ask, did he learn that our Lord's baptism caused Him "agitation of mind," that He "matured His plan of action in the wilderness," and that He then first was "conscious of miraculous power"?

But again: it seems he is not to refer to "single passages or the fourth Gospel;" yet, wonderful to say, he actually does open his formal discussion of the sacred history by referring to a passage from that very Gospel,—nay, to a particular text, which is not to be called "single," only because it is not so much as a single text, but an unfair half text, and half a text such, that, had he taken the whole of it, he would have been obliged to admit that the part which he puts aside just runs counter {383} to his interpretation of the part which he recognizes. The words are these, as they stand in the Protestant version: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Now, it is impossible to deny that "which taketh away," etc., fixes and limits the sense of "the Lamb of God;" but our author notices the latter half of the sentence, only in order to put aside the light which it throws upon the former half; and instead of the Baptist's own interpretation of the title which he gives to our Lord, he substitutes another, radically different, which he selects for himself out of one of the Psalms. He explains "the Lamb" by the well-known image, which represents the Almighty as a shepherd and His earthly servants as sheep—innocent, safe, and happy under His protection. "The Baptist's opinion of Christ's character, then," he says, "is summed up for us in the title he gives Him—the Lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world. There seems to be, in the last part of this description, an allusion to the usages of the Jewish sacrificial system; and, in order to explain it fully, it would be necessary to anticipate much which will come more conveniently later in this treatise. But when we remember that the Baptist's mind was doubtless full of imagery drawn from the Old Testament, and that the conception of a lamb of God makes the subject of one of the most striking of the Psalms, we shall perceive what he meant to convey by this phrase" (pp. 5, 6). This is like saying, to take a parallel instance, "Isaiah declares, 'Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts;' but, considering that doubtless the prophet was well acquainted with the first and second books of Samuel, and that Saul, David, and Solomon are the three great kings there represented, we shall easily perceive that, by 'seeing the King,' he meant to {384} say that he saw Uzziah, king of Judah, in the last year of whose reign he had the vision. As to the phrase 'the Lord of hosts,' which seems to refer to the Almighty, we will consider its meaning by-and-by:"—but, in truth, it is difficult to invent a paralogism, in its gratuitous inconsecutiveness parallel to his own.


We must own that, with every wish to be fair to this author, we never recovered from the perplexity of mind which this passage, in the very threshold of his book, inflicted on us. It needed not the various passages, constructed on the same argumentative model, which follow it in his work, to prove to us that he was not only an incognito, but an enigma. "Ergo," is the symbol of the logician:—what is the scientific method of a writer whose symbols, profusely scattered through his pages, are "probably, "it must be," "doubtless," "on this hypothesis," "we may suppose," and "it is natural to think," and that at the very time that he pointedly discards the comments of school theologians? Is it possible that he can mean us to set aside, in his own favour, the glosses of all that went before him, and to exchange our old lamps for his new ones? Men have been at fault, when trying to determine whether he was an orthodox believer on his road to liberalism, or a liberal on his road to orthodoxy: this doubtless may be to some a perplexity; but our own difficulty is, whether he comes to us as an investigator or rather as a prophet, as one unequal or superior to the art of reasoning. Undoubtedly he is an able man; but what can he possibly mean by startling us with such eccentricities of argumentation as are quite familiar with him? Addison somewhere bids his readers bear in mind, {385} that if he is ever especially dull, he always has a special reason for being so; and it is difficult to reconcile one's imagination to the supposition that this anonymous writer, with so much religious thought as he certainly evidences, is without some recondite reason for seeming so inconsequent, and does not move by some deep subterraneous process of investigation, which, if once brought to light, would clear him of the imputation of castle-building.

There is always a danger of misconceiving an author who has no antecedents by which we may measure him. Taking his work as it lies, we can but wish that he had kept his imagination under control; and that he had more of the hard head of a lawyer, and the patience of a philosopher. He writes like a man who cannot keep from telling the world his first thoughts, especially if they are clever or graceful; he has come for the first time upon a strange world, and his remarks upon it are too often obvious rather than striking, and crude rather than fresh. What can be more paradoxical than to interpret our Lord's words to Nicodemus, "Unless a man be born again," etc., of the necessity of external religion, and as a lesson to him to profess his faith openly and not to visit him in secret? (p. 86). What can be more pretentious, not to say vulgar, than his paraphrase of St. John's passage about the woman taken in adultery? "In His burning embarrassment and confusion," he says, "He stooped down so as to hide His face ... They had a glimpse perhaps of the glowing blush upon His face," etc. (p. 104.)

We should be very sorry to use a severe word concerning an honest inquirer after truth, as we believe this anonymous writer to be; but we will confess that Catholics, kindly as they may wish to feel towards him, {386} are scarcely even able, from their very position, to give his work the enthusiastic reception which it has received from some other critics. The reason is plain; those alone can speak of it from a full heart, who feel a need, and recognize in it a supply of that need. We are not in the number of such; for they who have found, have no need to seek. Far be it from us to use language savouring of the leaven of the Pharisees. We are not assuming a high place, because we thus speak, or boasting of our security. Catholics are both deeper and shallower than Protestants; but in neither case have they any call for a treatise such as this Ecce Homo. If they live to the world and the flesh, then the faith which they profess, though it is true and distinct, is dead; and their certainty about religious truth, however firm and unclouded, is but shallow in its character, and flippant in its manifestations. And in proportion as they are worldly and sensual, will they be flippant and shallow [Note 1]. But their faith is as indelible as the pigment which colours the skin, even though it is skin-deep. This class of Catholics is not likely to take interest in a pictorial Ecce Homo. On the other hand, where the heart is alive with divine love, faith is as deep as it is vigorous and joyous; and, as far as Catholics are in this condition, they will feel no drawing towards a work which is after all but an arbitrary and unsatisfactory dissection of the Object of their devotion. Faith, be it deep or shallow, does not need Evidences. That individual Catholics may be harassed with doubts, particularly in a day like this, we are not denying; but, viewed as a body, Catholics, from their religious condition, are either too deep or too shallow to suffer from those elementary difficulties, or that distress of mind, {387} and need of argument, which serious Protestants so often experience.

We confess, then, as Catholics, to some unavoidable absence of cordial feeling in following the remarks of this author, though not to any want of real sympathy; and we seem to be justified in our indisposition by his manifest want of sympathy with us. If we feel distant towards him, his own language about Catholicity, and (what may be called) old Christianity, seems to show that that distance is one of fact, one of mental position, not any fault in ourselves. Is it not undeniable, that the very life of personal religion among Catholics lies in a knowledge of the Gospels? It is the character and conduct of our Lord, His words, His deeds, His sufferings, His work, which are the very food of our devotion and rule of our life. "Behold the Man," which this author feels to be an object novel enough to write a book about, has been the contemplation of Catholics from the first age when St. Paul said, "The life that I now live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself for me." As the Psalms have ever been the manual of our prayer, so have the Gospels been the subject-matter of our meditation. In these latter times especially, since St. Ignatius, they have been divided into portions, and arranged in a scientific order, not unlike that which the Psalms have received in the Breviary. To contemplate our Lord in His person and His history is with us the exercise of every retreat, and the devotion of every morning. All this is certainly simple matter of fact; but the writer we are reviewing lives and thinks at so great a distance from us, as not to be cognizant of what is so patent and so notorious a truth. He seems to imagine that the faith of a Catholic is the mere profession of a formula. He {388} deems it important to disclaim, in the outset of his work, all reference to the theology of the Church. He eschews with much precision, as something almost profane, the dogmatism of former ages. He wishes "to trace" our Lord's "biography from point to point, and accept those conclusions—not which Church doctors or even Apostles have sealed with their authority—but which the facts themselves, critically weighed, appear to warrant."—(Preface.) Now, what Catholics, what Church doctors, as well as Apostles, have ever lived on, is not any number of theological canons or decrees, but, we repeat, the Christ Himself, as He is represented in concrete existence in the Gospels [Note 2]. Theological determinations about our Lord are far more of the nature of landmarks or buoys to guide a discursive mind in its reasonings, than to assist a devotional mind in its worship. Common sense, for instance, tells us what is meant by the words, "My Lord and my God;" and a religious man, upon his knees, requires no commentator; but against irreligious speculators, Arius or Nestorius, a denunciation has been passed, in Ecumenical Council, when "science falsely so-called" encroached upon devotion. Has not this been insisted on by all dogmatic Christians over and over again? Is it not a representation as absolutely true as it is trite? We had fancied that Protestants generally allowed the touching beauty of Catholic hymns and meditations; and after all is there not That in all Catholic churches which goes beyond any written devotion, whatever its force or its pathos? Do we not believe in a Presence in the sacred Tabernacle, not as a form of words, or as a notion, but as an Object as real as we are real? And if before that Presence we need neither profession of faith nor even manual of devotion, {389} what appetite can we have for the teaching of a writer who not only exalts his first thoughts about our Lord into professional lectures, but implies that the Catholic Church has never known how to point Him out to her children?


It may be objected, that we are making too much of so accidental a slight as is contained in his allusion to "Church doctors," especially as he mentions Apostles in connexion with them; but it would be affectation not to recognize in other places of his book an undercurrent of antagonism to us, of which the passage already quoted is but a first indication. Of course he has quite as much right as another to take up an anti-Catholic position, if he will; but we understand him to be putting forth an investigation, not a polemical argument: and if, instead of keeping his eyes directed towards his own proper subject, he looks to the right or left, hitting at those who view things differently from himself, he is damaging the ethical force of a composition which claims to be, and mainly is, a serious and manly search after religious truth. Why cannot he let us alone? Of course he cannot avoid seeing that the lines of his own investigation diverge from those drawn by others; but he will have enough to do in defending himself, without making others the object of his attack. He is virtually opposing Voltaire, Strauss, Renan, Calvin, Wesley, Chalmers, Erskine, and a host of other writers, but he does not denounce them; why then does he single out, misrepresent, and anathematize a main principle of Catholic orthodoxy. It is as if he could not keep his hand off us, when we crossed his path. We are alluding to the following magisterial passage:

"If He (our Lord) meant anything by His constant {390} denunciation of hypocrites, there is nothing which He could have visited with sterner censure than that short cut to belief which many persons take, when, overwhelmed with difficulties which beset their minds, and afraid of damnation, they suddenly resolve to strive no longer, but, giving their minds a holiday, to rest content with saying that they believe, and acting as if they did. A melancholy end of Christianity indeed! Can there be such a disfranchised pauper class among the citizens of the New Jerusalem?" (p. 79).

He adds shortly afterwards:

"Assuredly, those who represent Christ as presenting to man an abtruse theology, and saying to them peremptorily, 'Believe or be damned,' have the coarsest conception of the Saviour of the world" (p. 80).

Thus he delivers himself: Believe or be damned is so detestable a doctrine, that if any man denies that it is detestable, I pronounce him to be a hypocrite; to be without any true knowledge of the Saviour of the world; to be the object of His sternest censure; and to have no part or place in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, the eternal Heaven above.—Pretty well for a virtuous hater of dogmatism! We hope we shall show less dictatorial arrogance than his in the answer which we proceed to make to him.

Whether or not there are persons such as he describes, Catholics, or, Protestant converts to Catholicism,—men who profess a faith which they do not believe, under the notion that they shall be eternally damned if they do not profess it without believing,—we really do not know—we never met with such; but since facts do not concern us here so much as principles, let us, for argument's sake, grant that there are such men. Our author believes they are not only "many," but enough {391} to form a "class;" and he considers that they act in this preposterous manner under the sanction, and in accordance with the teaching, of the religious bodies to which they belong. Especially there is a marked allusion in his words to the Athanasian Creed and the Catholic Church. Now we answer him thus:

It is his charge against the teachers of dogma that they impose on men as a duty, instead of believing, to "act as if they did" believe:—now in fact this is the very kind of profession which, if it is all that a candidate has to offer, absolutely shuts him out from admission into Catholic communion. We suppose, that by belief of a thing this writer understands an inward conviction of its truth;—this being supposed, we plainly say that no priest is at liberty to receive a man into the Church who has not a real internal belief, and cannot say from his heart, that the things taught by the Church are true. On the other hand, as we have said above, it is the very characteristic of the profession of faith made by numbers of educated Protestants, and it is the utmost extent to which they are able to go in believing, to hold, not that Christian doctrine is certainly true, but that it has such a semblance of truth, it has such considerable marks of probability upon it, that it is their duty to accept and act upon it as if it were true beyond all question or doubt: and they justify themselves, and with much reason, by the authority of Bishop Butler. Undoubtedly, a religious man will be led to go as far as this, if he cannot go farther; but unless he can go farther, he is no catechumen of the Catholic Church. We wish all men to believe that her creed is true; but till they do so believe, we do not wish, we have no permission, to make them her members. Such a faith as this author speaks of to condemn—(our books call it "practical certitude")—does {392} not rise to the level of the sine qua non, which is the condition prescribed for becoming a Catholic. Unless a convert so believes that he can sincerely say, "After all, in spite of all difficulties, objections, obscurities, mysteries, the creed of the Church undoubtedly comes from God, and is true, because He who gave it is the Truth," such a man, though he be outwardly received into her fold, will receive no grace from the sacraments, no sanctification in baptism, no pardon in penance, no life in communion. We are more consistently dogmatic than this author imagines; we do not enforce a principle by halves; if our doctrine is true, it must be received as such; if a man cannot so receive it, he must wait till he can. It would be better, indeed, if he now believed; but since he does not as yet, to wait is the best he can do under the circumstances. If we said anything else than this, certainly we should be, as the author thinks we are, encouraging hypocrisy. Nor let him turn round on us and say that by thus proceeding we are laying a burden on souls, and blocking up the entrance into that fold which was intended for all men, by imposing hard conditions on candidates for admission; for, as we shall now show, we have already implied a great principle, which is an answer to this objection, and which the Gospels exhibit and sanction, but which he absolutely ignores.


Let us avail ourselves of his own quotation. The Baptist said, "Behold the Lamb of God." Again he says, "This is the Son of God." "Two of his disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus." They believed John to be "a man sent from God" to teach them, and therefore they believed his word to be true. {393} We suppose it was not hypocrisy in them to believe in John's word; rather they would have been guilty of gross inconsistency or hypocrisy, had they professed to believe that he was a divine messenger, and yet had refused to take his word concerning the Stranger whom he pointed out to their veneration. It would have been "saying that they believed," and not "acting as if they did;" which at least is not better than saying and acting. Now was not the announcement which John made to them "a short cut to belief"? and what the harm of it? They believed that our Lord was the promised Prophet, without making direct inquiry about Him, without a new inquiry, on the ground of a previous inquiry into the claims of John himself to be accounted a messenger from God. They had already accepted it as truth that John was a prophet; but again, what a prophet said must be true; else he would not be a prophet; now, John said that our Lord was the Lamb of God; this, then, certainly was a sacred truth.

Now it might happen, that they knew exactly and for certain what the Baptist meant in calling our Lord "a Lamb;" in that case they would believe Him to be that which they knew the figurative word meant, as used by the Baptist. But, as our author reminds us, the word has different senses; and though the Baptist explained his own sense of it on the first occasion of using it, by adding "that taketh away the sin of the world," yet when he spoke to the two disciples he did not thus explain it. Now let us suppose that they went off, taking the word each in his own sense, the one understanding by it a sacrificial lamb, the other a lamb of the fold; and let us suppose that, as they were on their way to our Lord's home, they became aware of this difference between their several impressions, and disputed with each other which {394} was the right interpretation. It is clear that they would agree so far as this, viz., that, in saying that the proposition was true, they meant that it was true in that sense in which the Baptist spoke it, whatever that was; moreover, if it be worth noticing, they did after all even agree, in some vague way, about the meaning of the word, understanding that it denoted some high characteristic, or office, or ministry. Anyhow, it was absolutely true, they would say, that our Lord was a Lamb, whatever it meant; the word conveyed a great and momentous fact, and if they did not know what that fact was, the Baptist did, and they would accept it in its one right sense, as soon as he or our Lord told them what that was.

Again, as to that other title which the Baptist gave our Lord, "the Son of God," it admitted of half a dozen meanings. Wisdom was "the only begotten;" the Angels were the Sons of God; Adam was a son of God; the descendants of Seth were sons of God; Solomon was a son of God; and so is "the just man." In which of these senses, or in what sense, was our Lord the Son of God? St. Peter, as the after-history shows us, knew, but there were those who did not know; the centurion who attended the crucifixion did not know, and yet he confessed that our Lord was the Son of God. He knew that our Lord had been condemned by the Jews for calling Himself the Son of God, and therefore he cried out, on seeing the miracles which attended his death, "Indeed this was the Son of God." His words evidently imply, "I do not know precisely what He meant by so calling Himself; but this I do know,—what He said He was, that He is; whatever He meant, I believe Him; I believe that His word about Himself is true, though I cannot prove it to be so, though I do not even understand it; I believe His word, for I believe Him." {395}

Now to return to the accusation which has led to these remarks. Our author says that certain persons are hypocrites, because they "take a short cut to belief, suddenly resolving to strive no longer, but to rest content with saying they believe." Does he mean by "a short cut," believing on the word of another? As far as we see, he can mean nothing else; yet how can he really mean this and mean to blame this, with the Gospels before him? He cannot mean it, if he pays any deference to the Gospels, because the very staple of the sacred narrative, from beginning to end, is a call on all men to believe what is not proved, not plain, to them, on the warrant of divine messengers; because the very form of our Lord's teaching is to substitute authority for argument; because the very principle of His grave earnestness, the very key to His regenerative mission, is the intimate connexion of faith with salvation. Faith is not simply trust in His legislation, as the writer says; it is definitely trust in His word, whether that word be about heavenly things or earthly; whether it is spoken by His own mouth, or through His ministers. The Angel who announced the Baptist's birth, said, "Thou shalt be dumb, because thou believest not my words." The Baptist's mother said of Mary, "Blessed is she that believed." The Baptist himself said, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." Our Lord, in turn said to Nicodemus, "We speak that we do know, and ye receive not our witness; he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the Only-begotten Son of God." To the Jews, "He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, shall not come into condemnation." To the Capharnaites, "He that believeth {396} on Me hath everlasting life." To St. Thomas, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." And to the Apostles, "Preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth not shall be damned."

How is it possible to deny that our Lord, both in the text and in the context of these and other passages, made faith in a message, on the warrant of the messenger, to be a condition of salvation, and enforced it by the great grant of power which He emphatically conferred on His representatives? "Whosoever shall not receive you," He says, "nor hear your words, when ye depart, shake off the dust of your feet." "It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father." "He that heareth you, heareth Me; he that despiseth you, despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent me." "I pray for them that shall believe on Me through their word." "Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose sins ye retain, they are retained." "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven." "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." These characteristic and critical announcements have no place in this author's gospel; and let it be understood, that we are not asking why he does not determine the exact doctrines contained in them—for that is a question which he has reserved (if we understand him) for a future Volume—but why he does not recognize the principle they involve—for that is a matter which falls within his present subject.


It is not well to exhibit some sides of Christianity, and not others; this we think is the main fault of the author {397} we have been reviewing. It does not pay to be eclectic in so serious a matter of fact. He does not overlook, he boldly confesses, that a visible organized Church was a main part of our Lord's plan for the regeneration of mankind. "As with Socrates," he says, "argument is everything, and personal authority nothing; so with Christ, personal authority is all in all, and argument altogether unemployed" (p. 94). Our Lord rested His teaching, not on the concurrence and testimony of His hearers, but on His own authority. He imposed upon them the declarations of a Divine Voice. Why does this author stop short in the delineation of principles which he has so admirably begun? Why does he denounce "short cuts," as a mental disfranchisement, when no cut can be shorter that to "believe and be saved"? Why does he denounce religious fear as hypocritical, when it is written, "He that believeth not, shall be damned"? Why does He call it dishonest in a man to sacrifice his own judgment to the word of God, when, unless he did so, he would be avowing that the Creator knew less than the creature? Let him recollect that no two thinkers, philosophers, writers, ever did, ever will agree, in all things with each other. No system of opinions, ever given to the world, approved itself in all its parts to the reason of any one individual by whom it was mastered. No revelation then is conceivable, which does not involve, almost in its very idea as being something new, a collision with the human intellect, and demands accordingly, if it is to be accepted, a sacrifice of private judgment on the part of those to whom it is addressed. If a revelation be necessary, then also in consequence is that sacrifice necessary. One man will have to make a sacrifice in one respect, another in another, all men in some. {398}

We say, then, to men of the day, Take Christianity, or leave it; do not practise upon it; to do so is as unphilosophical as it is dangerous. Do not attempt to halve a spiritual unit. You are apt to call it a dishonesty in us to refuse to follow out our reasonings, when faith stands in the way; is there no intellectual dishonesty in your self-trust? First, your very accusation of us is dishonest; for you keep in the background the circumstance, of which you are well aware, that such a refusal on our part to back Reason against Faith, is the necessary consequence of our accepting an authoritative Revelation; and next you profess to accept that Revelation yourselves, whilst you dishonestly pick and choose, and take as much or as little of it as you please. You either accept Christianity, or you do not: if you do, do not garble and patch it; if you do not, suffer others to submit to it ungarbled.

June, 1866.

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1. [On this whole subject, vide "Difficulties felt by Anglicans," etc., Lecture IX.]
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2. [Vide "Essay on Assent," ch. iv. and v.]
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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