THE Vie de Jesus, by M. Renan, having passed through many editions, and been translated into several languages on the continent of Europe, has now appeared in an English form. The Committee of the Religious Tract Society have therefore deemed it incumbent upon them to provide some antidote to the errors of a volume which is being so widely circulated. At the same time they do not think that M. Renan's treatise either needs or deserves a formal reply. It adduces no new facts and urges no new arguments against the Christian faith. It is not remarkable either for depth of research or vigor of logic. It owes its sudden and wonderful popularity, not to its intrinsic merit, but to the beauty of its style and the position of its author. All the reasonings which have been so successfully urged against other skeptical treatises may be adduced with equal force against this; and it lies open to many objections peculiar to itself. The admissions which M. Renan has felt himself compelled to make in favor of Christianity are fatal to his arguments against it. He admits the early origin, the authenticity, and the general veracity of the Gospels; yet he rejects all the miracles which they record, and reduces their narratives to fabulous and mythical legends as often as it suits his purpose. He admits that Jesus was the wisest, holiest, and best of the sons of men; yet he pities him as the victim of delusion, and apologizes for him as the accessory to, or the accomplice in, acts of imposture and fraud. He admits that Christianity has been the great means of the world's progress in the past, and that it holds out the only hope for the world's progress in the future; yet he maintains that it was founded in fanaticism, and that it is strong only by its faith in a delusion. These absurdities, indeed, do not appear on the surface of the book. They are ingeniously vailed by glowing descriptions and paraphrastic statements.
It has been thought sufficient, therefore, to place in the hands of English readers the following essays.
I. A treatise, by the Rev. Professor Schaff, on the Christ of the Gospels, in which the perfection of our Lord's character, as portrayed by the Evangelists, is set forth as an argument for the Divinity of his person and mission. A character so spotless and perfect, yet so simple and natural, could not be the product of imposture, or the dream of fanaticism. In the words of Rousseau, |It is more inconceivable that a number of persons should agree to write such a history, than that one only should furnish the subject of it. The Jewish authors were incapable of the diction, and strangers to the morality contained in the Gospels, the marks of whose truth are so striking and inimitable that the inventor would be even a more astonishing character than the hero.| As this essay was written before the appearance of the Vie de Jesus, it has been thought desirable to add a few notes pointing out its bearing upon the work of M. Renan.
2. Two essays, by M. Napoleon Roussel, one of the ablest of the French Protestant pastors, in which the insidious and latent principles of the Vie de Jesus are stripped of their disguise, and laid bare in their naked deformity. Many who might be deluded and seduced by the rhetorical romance of M. Renan would start back with horror from an unvailed statement of his teachings.
These essays are published with the earnest prayer that they may be made instrumental in leading many not only to reject the evil, but to choose the good. It is not enough to detect the sophisms and repudiate the conclusions of infidelity, unless, at the same time, |being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.|