Ever since I wrote, in a contracted form, The Life of Jesus Christ
, the desire has slumbered in my mind to describe on a much more extended scale the closing passages of the Saviour's earthly history; and, although renewed study has deepened my sense of the impossibility of doing these scenes full justice, yet the subject has never ceased to attract me, as being beyond all others impressive and remunerative.
The limits of our Lord's Passion are somewhat indeterminate. Krummacher begins with the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Tauler with the Feet-washing before the Last Supper, and Rambach with Gethsemane; most end with the Death and Burial; but Grimm, a Roman Catholic, the latest writer on the subject, means to extend his Leidensgeschichte to the end of the Forty Days. Taking the word |passion| in the strict sense, I have commenced at the point where, by falling into the hands of His enemies, our Lord was deprived of voluntary activity; and I have finished with the Burial. No doubt the same unique greatness belongs to the scenes of the previous evening; and I should like to write of Christ among His Friends as I have here written of Him among His Foes; but for this purpose a volume at least as large as the present one would be requisite; and the portion here described has an obvious unity of its own.
The bibliography of the Passion is given with considerable fulness in Zoeckler's Das Kreuz Christi; but a good many of the books there enumerated may be said to have been superseded by the monumental work of Nebe, Die Leidensgeschichte unsers Herrn Hesu Christi (2 vols., 1881), which, though not a work of genius, is written on so comprehensive a plan and with such abundance of learning that nothing could better serve the purpose of anyone who wishes to draw the skeleton before painting the picture. Of the numerous Lives of Christ those by Keim and Edersheim are worthy of special notice in this part of the history, because of the fulness of information from classical sources in the one and from Talmudical in the other. Steinmeyer (Leidensgeschichte) is valuable on apologetic questions. On the Seven Words from the Cross there is an extensive special literature. Schleiermacher and Tholuck are remarkably good; and there are volumes by Baring-Gould, Scott Holland and others.
In the sub-title I have called this book a Devotional History, because the subject is one which has to be studied with the heart as well as the head. But I have not on this account written in the declamatory and interrogatory style common in devotional works. I have to confess that some even of the most famous books on the Passion are to me intolerably tedious, because they are written, so to speak, in oh's and ah's. Surely this is not essential to devotion. The scenes of the Passion ought, indeed, to stir the depths of the heart; but this purpose is best attained, not by the narrator displaying his own emotions, but, as is shown in the incomparable model of the Gospels, by the faithful exhibition of the facts themselves.