Unknown.

Jesus Christ: His person--His authority--His work (Volume 3) online

. (page 13 of 13)
Online LibraryUnknownJesus Christ: His person--His authority--His work (Volume 3) → online text (page 13 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


said ' My grace is sufficient for thee ; ' ^
that he spoke to Pascal on the memorable
and blessed night when he said to him,
' Thou wouldst not have sought me if thou
hadst not already found me ; ' and that he
has spoken to myself."

The true believer has no need of historic
proofs; he has intuitions of heart and
conscience, and those eternal reasons which
lie in the depths of his soul and which the
abstract reason knows not of. He is a
believer, because a group of facts concern-
ing Jesus arouse in him impressions and
feelings of which he is not master: his
appearance in history at a precise moment,
just the right one ; his person, of a compel-
ling greatness ; his return to life, affirmed
by so many witnesses; so many facts,
insufficient for the historian who will be
only a historian, but sufficient for the man
himself, for him who lets himself be moved
in the inward parts, as our fathers used to
express it, who listens only to the utter-

1 2 Cor. xii. 9.
17



258 THE DEATH AND

ance of his own soul: God has spoken,
God has revealed himself; he has visited
the earth; I cannot not believe, I cannot
otherwise, as Luther said.

The believer obeys an irresistible moral
pressure. The object of his faith is not
perhaps scientifically proven, but it suf-
fices him that no scientific proofs can be
opposed to his faith.

Nevertheless, we admit with utmost
frankness, the apologetic proof drawn
from the reality of the resurrection of
Jesus is broken down, as indeed are all
external proofs, that is, those drawn from
miracle.

It is remarkable indeed that everybody
is of this opinion. The most strongly
believing orthodox pastors never, except
on Easter Day, take their stand upon the
proof afforded by the resurrection of Jesus
Christ to demonstrate to their hearers the
truth of the gospel.

They still do it on Easter Day. They
reason in this way: "Christ is risen,
therefore Christianity is true ; our faith is
not vain, and we also shall arise from the
dead." But never during the rest of the
year do the most orthodox preachers (with



RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST 259

possible but certainly very rare exceptions)
draw their arguments from the resurrec-
tion of Jesus Christ. It would seem to
them, not without reason, that to make
the demonstration of the future life rest
upon the resurrection of Jesus, which has
to be proved, would be to undertake to
light up a dark room by opening a window
into the night.

More than this, when a pastor conducts
a funeral service, never in his sermon does
the most orthodox (always with very rare
exceptions) make use of the resurrection
of Jesus Christ to console his hearers and
give them the hope of again meeting their
departed friends. He says to them, "It
is not possible that all is ended; your
hearts and your consciences both protest,
and Jesus Christ promises eternal life in
his teaching; he said, ' Blessed are they
who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they shall be filled. '^ Faith in the
justice of God and in his love require a
future life," etc. He says nothing else.
And in the liturgical prayers of the funeral
service we shall hardly find two or three
passages that make brief allusion to the

1 Matt. V. 6.



260 THE DEATH AND

resurrection of Jesus Christ. ^ The fif-
teenth chapter of the First Epistle to the
Corinthians is read at the cemetery, but
only the close of the chapter where no
mention is made of the resurrection of
Jesus, and the prayer that follows makes
no allusion to the Risen Jesus Christ. It
simply speaks of "the promises full of
consolation which God has caused us to
hear in his blood."

The apologetic value of the resurrection
of Jesus Christ is then recognized to be
nil even by the most conservative. Why
is this ? Because if Christianity is not an
opinion but a life, it is still more true to
say this of the resurrection of Jesus. It
is not an opinion, but a life; it is not
simply belief in a fact of history, it is
above all a life in communion with the
eternal Christ. The resurrection of Jesus
is less a material fact to be historically
proved, than a spiritual reality to be appre-
hended by faith. " Blessed are the}^ which
have not seen and yet have believed! "^

1 See the late liturgies put forth by the Reformed
Cliurch [of France] ; that of Bersier ; that of the offi-
cial Synod.

2 John XX. 29.



RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST 261



CONCLUSION

IV yf Y work is done ; and at the moment
^^^ of laying down the pen, I feel pro-
foundly that which every historian of Jesus
has experienced after having attempted to
describe him, to narrate his life, to read
in his soul, — a profound discouragement.
And if this is the case, if I am discon-
tented with myself and my work, I dare
not flatter myself that I shall satisfy those
who may become acquainted with it.

I had had a vision; the vision subsists
behind the imperfect representation of it
which I have sketched. I knew from the
first that the disappointment which I am
feeling was inevitable; I expected it; it
has continually reappeared in the course
of history for every one who has tried to
fix the picture of Jesus. But the disap-
pointment is useful, it is necessary ; I may
even say it is blessed and beneficent, for
by it we comprehend and measure the in-
comparable grandeur of the Son of man.



262 THE DEATH AND

I have, however, almost always confined
myself to setting forth facts, ascertained
facts. I have not songht to explain
Jesus, and I shall not attempt to do so
in this concluding chapter. Explanations,
more or less ideal, are inevitably vague
and abstract. On the other hand, I have
tried to sketch a figure which is ver}^
human, very much alive. I have desired
to show, with as much accuracy as pos-
sible, the human reality of the life of
Jesus.

It had seemed to me, and it still seems
to me, that the Christ of history is much
more edifying to know than the Christ of
the Church. It is certain that the Christ
who will save the modern world will not
be the Christ of metaphysical formulas
and more or less satisfactory dogmatics;
it will be he the beating of whose heart
we feel, whose hand finds ours in days of
anguish and mourning ; he who has passed
through our struggles, our emotions, and
our tears, and come out conqueror over
doubt by faith and prayer!

I have tried to take the humanity of
Jesus "seriously," as people say, having
observed that everybody says that this



RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST 263

ought to be done, and no one does it. The
three volumes which I bring to a close
to-day are an attempt at a protest against
the incorrigible docetism of our Christian-
ity and our theology.

I thank those believers who have
written to me as my first two volumes
have appeared, to say, "You have edified
us ; you have shown us the Saviour as he
must have been; you have brought him
near to us, and we hope, by the same act
have brought us nearer to him." I am
told that other believers have been scan-
dalized by reading what I have written.
I am surpHsed and grieved to learn it; I
ask myself how these persons picture Jesus
Christ to themselves. Was he, or was he
not, "tempted like us in all things yet
without sin"?i Did he, or did he not,
" learn obedience by the things which he
suffered " ? ^ Did he, or did he not, " empty
himself" and "take the form of a man"?^

If I have succeeded in showing the error
of those who oppose the divinity of Jesus
to his humanity, and artlessly imagine
that whatever one concedes to the latter

1 Heb. iv. 15. 2 Heb. v. 8.

3 Phil ii. 7.



264 THE DEATH AND

one takes away from the former, I shall
be amply repaid for my trouble.

It is the humanity of Christ that we
need to exalt, for on it is based his true
greatness. I have tried to speak of this
greatness of Jesus ; I have tried to bring
it out into the light, and this is why I
have attempted to paint his humanity in
its true lineaments.

In this Conclusion I shall not return to
the three questions which I first posited,
and which form the general title of my three
volumes. I imagine that they have grad-
ually answered themselves in the course of
my threefold story. '^

Of the work of Jesus, I ha,ve nothing
more to say than I have said. If a Jewish
sect became the Christian Church of all
civilized peoples, this work was done after
the time of Jesus. As to his own work,
that which was the germ and starting-
point of this sublime evolution, I have
described it.

As for his cmtliorifAj^ I have also ex-
plained myself, and in detail, in the chapter
entitled The Requirements of Jesus. ^

Still, some persons have not entirely

1 " Jesus Christ during his Ministry," p. 238 £f.



RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST 265

understood me. I have said, "Jesus
Christ does not ask us to believe like him ;
he asks us to believe in him." I have been
reproached for this expression. I think it
is because I have not succeeded in making
my thought sufficiently clear. It seems
necessary to return to it here and develop
it; for it seems to me that whoever per-
fectly understands me cannot fail to agree
with me.

Jesus did not present himself as a doctor,
a scribe, teaching facts and ideas that
neither the reason nor the conscience can
grasp, or coming to communicate super-
natural truths to the world. He came
"to seek and to save those who are lost; " ^
that is, to modify our personal relations
with God. Jesus did a work; he acted;
and he asks of his disciples to act, to
follow him, to renounce themselves; to
believe, of course, but to believe with a
faith which is also an act, an act of will,
a union with him, and not with a faith
which is nothing but an intellectual belief
in words, in formulas, in doctrines. Jesus
Christ saves; that is, he enfranchises
souls, he feeds and strengthens them by

1 Luke xix. 10.



266 THE DEATH AND

sanctifying them. The " weary and heavy
laden " ^ experience the power of the gospel
and the authority of Jesus Christ.

In the mind of certain Christians reve-
lation is the communication of facts and
ideas which man could not discover by his
own intelligence. Such Christians are in
evident error. Revelation is a communi-
cation of the Spirit of God, which acts
upon the conscience to sanctify and en-
lighten it. Therefore I can never succeed
in understanding those pious and believing
persons who refuse to accept the formula:
man is saved by faith independently of
beliefs.

A belief is an intellectual opinion, and
an intellectual opinion cannot save. There
are the two words, the word faith and the
word hclief ; and since there are two words,
it is apparent that there is some shade of
difference in their signification. Was it
not the pious Neander who said, "There
is a faith which saves; there is not a dog-
matic which saves." Well, \Ye Jideists^^ as

1 Matt. xi. 28.

2 Fid€iste is a word introduced into the French lan-
guage by the school of thinkers headed by Auguste
Sabatier, Menegoz, and Stapfer, of the theological fac-
ulty of the University of Paris, to denote those who hold



RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST 267

we are called, say nothing else, and this
truth is so limpid that it ought to be called
a truth of La Palisse.^

Now Jesus never required of any one a
dogmatic system, a creed of any sort. He
was wiser than the Synods, with their poor
little two-lined confessions of faith, — very
short, as if they were afraid of confessions
of faith, and feeling that they are commit-
ting an error would commit the smallest
one possible.

To believe like Jesus Christ — who
indeed could do it in our day ? Jesus be-
lieved in demons, and we no longer believe
in them. Formerly it used to be said,
we must not reason with the Scriptures.
That time is far past, and no one now says

the doctrine above formulated, — that a man is saved
by faith without regard to doctrine. — Trans.

1 A self evident proposition. La Palisse was a
doughty captain under Lovus XII. Many songs cele-
brated his exploits ; the author of the most popular of
these, La Monnoye, quite inadvertently made the last
two lines of each stanza consist of such propositions :
" Fifteen minutes before his death he was still alive,"
" He never gave way to wrath except when he was
angry," etc. Tlie popular fancy, tickled Avith this con-
ceit, kept on adding to this amusing ballad, Avhich now
contains an indefinite number of stanzas, all of this
character. — Traxs.



268 THE DEATH AND

even we must not reason with Jesus
Christ; for every one reasons with him.
Thus, no one takes literally sayings which
he certainly took literally; for example,
these : " Sell all that thou hast and give to
the poor."^ "If a man forsake not all
that he hath he cannot be my disciple."^
"Sell that ye have and give alms." ^
"Give to him that asketh of thee,"* etc.
We say, these words are to be taken figu-
ratively, or " Jesus took them literally and
not figuratively;" in other words, we
reason with him.

But thanks be to God, times change, and
customs with them. What Jesus could
say and did say in his time, and what
would be practical in his time, will not do
for ours, and he would not say it to-day.
This was the error of Francis of Assisi
and the mendicant orders, to have thought
that certain words of Jesus were applicable
to all times and all conditions.

As for us, we are entirety at ease with
these words, because Jesus Christ did not
say that we were to think like him. He
does not cast out those whose intelligence

1 Matt. xix. 21. 2 Luke xiv. 33.

3 Luke xii. 33, xi. 41. * Matt. v. 42 ; Luke vi. 30.



RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST 269

doubts, those who do not hold his opin-
ions and are not Jews, as he inevitably was,
— those, for example, who do not hold his
apocalyjDtic beliefs ; but he does repel those
who do not follow him, or rather those
who themselves repel him, setting them-
selves apart from him. He who does not
come to him and follow him places himself
apart from him, according to his words,
"Him that cometh unto me I will in no
wise cast out." ^

Since Jesus Christ shared certain errone-
ous opinions of his time, — and no one can
dispute that he did, — it necessarily fol-
lows that we make a choice in his sayings ;
there is no way to avoid it. Hence we
accept, we declare authoritative, only what
we consent to accept as such.

I know what people are saying; they
say: "Then you do not believe in the
authority of Jesus Christ; you yourself
are your own authority. If you think
yourself permitted to say, I accept this
and not that, you are the authority; there
is no alternative."

Nevertheless, this is a mistake; for it
was not I who made Jesus Christ, I

1 John vi. 37.



270 THE DEATH AND

did not create liim, invent him; he is
there, he comes to me from without, I
find him in liistory. My experience does
not create the authority of Jesus Christ;
but Jesus Christ enters into contact with
me, and produces in me a moral crisis,
that of conversion and faith. I take my
place on his side ; I believe in him, I obey
him, J love him; his divine word becomes
authoritative with me. It is not I who
create the truth, but I make it mine by
my experience of it.

If I am asked why I am a Christian, I
reply that it is because of the impression
Jesus Christ has made upon me. I do not
believe in him because he performed mira-
cles, nor even because he arose from the
dead, but because he dominates me in the
totality of his teaching, his person, his
work, his entire manifestation.

But there is an inevitable intellectual
element in religious experience, otherwise
religion would become confused with a
vague sentiment and an indecisive religi-
osity. As I have said, Jesus Christ modi-
fies our relations with God. And this
God is not the Becoming of Hegel nor
the determinism of modern philosophers;



RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST 271

it is not the fatum of the ancients ; it is
the Father — Spirit, Will, and Love. To
live in communion with the heavenly
Father is to pray, and Jesus teaches us
how to enter into relations with him by
prayer. The Father hears the prayer of
his child and answers it. Jesus teaches
us also that we are sinners ; he speaks of a
new birth as necessary, of a conversion,
and he shows us how we can be born again
Dy repentance and faith in him who has
conquered evil and saved us. In him I
discover the normal relations of man with
God, and thus his testimony as to the
relations which we ought to maintain with
God becomes my law, because he was in
perfect relations with God. This is what
I understand by the authority of Jesus
Christ. It is surely his authority; it is
not mine.

As to the very person of the Christ, I
am more and more persuaded of the inanity
of definitions and formulas. We have
seen Jesus of Nazareth proclaiming him-
self as the Messiah foretold by the prophets,
as him who was to prepare for the speedy
establishment of the kingdom of God in
Jerusalem and over the whole earth, say-



272 THE DEATH AND

ing that men are to prepare for its coming
by repentance, humility, and faith in the
Son of the Father who is in heaven.

The Jews crucified him who desired thus
to be their Saviour, and he, being entirely
submissive to the will of the Father,
understood that by a violent death he
accomplished that work of salvation which
he had hoped would be different, and
which he would gladly have accomplished
in some other way.

Even upon the cross (save for one short
moment) he was sustained by confidence
that the Father was Avith him, that he, the
Son, was accomplishing the work that the
Father had given him to do, and that he
would return in the clouds, to found the
Kingdom and judge the living and the dead.

And then what happened ? Already in
the time of the apostles a very curious
union had been formed of Jewish Messi-
anic beliefs and Platonic speculations, and
Jesus, that Jesus of Nazareth who had
lived and had been crucified twenty-five
or thirty years earlier, became the person-
asfe whom St. Paul describes in some of
his Epistles ^ the first-born of creation,

1 Especially in the Epistle to the Colossians.



RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST 273

a divine agent who had produced every-
thing, such a one as Justin Martyr later
called a second God. Thus was the doc-
trine of the incarnation formed. Then
came still other developments of the doc-
trine, — those of Fathers and Councils ;
they resolved the difficulties which are in-
soluble because they are contradictory, by
setting them over against one another
and making of them "mysteries" which
must be believed.^

These were facts which only need to
be stated and accepted, demonstrable evi-
dence, historic evidence ; and history is not
to be argued. The Reformers accepted
these doctrines and mysteries of the Roman
Catholic Church, and there is, strictly
speaking, no Protestant Christology. Prot-
estantism has never had any other Chris-
tianity than that of the great councils;
that is, Roman Catholic Christology. This
is indeed the case with most of the dogmas
of Catholicism anterior to the sixteenth
century. Thus Protestants read the Apos-
tles' Creed in their churches. It is a
notorious inconsistency on the part of
Christians who propose, as they say, to

^ See "Jesus Christ before his Ministr}^" p. 156 f.
18



274 THE DEATH AND

"restore Christianity to its primitive
purity; " for they are the first to recognize
that the Symbol called the Apostles' Creed
owes its history only to a falsehood in
its title, that it is the product of a pain-
ful elaboration not completed until the
sixth centuiy, and that it was long be-
fore it made good its claim to universal
acceptance.

We must admit it: Protestantism is
here singularly powerless by reason of its
very principle. It is easy to sa}^ let us
go back to the sources, let us leave the
metaphysics of the old theology, let us
place ourselves on the moral and religious
plane of the gospel. Where is this moral
and religious plane? Where is the basis
of a Protestant dogmatic? The word
"gospel" is continually taken here in a
singularly vague sense. There are differ-
ences between the Christological ideas of
the Synoptics, those of the Fourth Gospel,
and the metaphysical notions set forth in
more than one Epistle.

These differences are evident. It is
therefore necessary to choose, and to
choose is to create individual opinions.

For my part, I am not surprised at this ;



RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST 275

nor do I regret it. I am convinced that
individualism of this sort is the wisest
course, and the only one possible at the
present time. Each believer in Protestant-
ism makes his own Christology, because
each believer represents the divinity of
Jesus Christ in his own way, and it is not
the way of his neighbor.

Let us recall to mind the grand saying
of Jesus : " No man knoweth the Son but
the Father. " ^ I say on the authority of this
utterance that it is impossible to define
Jesus. He remains above and outside of
all the subtilties, — I say more, of all
the impossibilities of metaphysics, and
by the word, "No one knoweth the Son
but the Father, "2 he retains an incompre-
hensibility which is one of the most cer-
tain signs of his divinity, and should make
a part of all our adoration of him.

I add that the Christ in whom I believe,
who has revealed his life to me, is the
Redeeming Christ. When Jesus tells me
that his blood was shed for the remission
of sins, I believe him; not only because
he said it, but still more because I have
need of salvation, and because the work

1 Matt. xi. 27. 2 Matt. xi. 27.



276 THE DEATH AND

which he accomplishes responds to and
corresponds with the desire of my soul.

Whatever theological explanation may
be found as to the origin of sin and its
nature, sin is a fact. But Jesus Christ
was without sin, and he was at peace with
his Father. He offers us peace ; he leaves
it with us, he gives it to us.^ But shall
we find it by the simple path of moral in-
fluence? Does contact with him awaken
in our souls a sentiment of divine son-
ship comparable with his, and does it
give us peace with God, perfect, unalter-
able peace, a peace never disturbed? No;
that is impossible, for sin is in us; and
sin is a barrier that separates us from
God. To find repose, we must go to the
foot of the cross of the Redeeming Christ.

There we must "die to sin "and "rise
again," and begin a new life^ beside the
empty tomb of the eternally living
Saviour.

I am convinced that the modern man,
imbued with the scientific spirit of our
time, who will sacrifice nothing that con-
temporary science gives him and which
he with reason holds as a definitive con-

1 John xiv. 27. ^ Rom. vi. 4.



RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST 277

quest, the modern man who looks on
with admiring gratitude at the magnum
opus of science and sees the immense and
magnificent temple of the future arising
from the earth all around him, — I say I
am convinced that such a man could, and
at the same time ought to, understand that
science does not suflSce to satisfy him, and
never will satisfy any one. When he has
arrived at this certainty, and it has left
him disturbed and disquieted with the
confusion of his thoughts and sentiments,
he will find peace in pardon, and will find
it nowhere else than there; and he will
find pardon nowhere but in Redemption,
for nowhere else is the succor proportioned
to the distress of his soul.



THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
REFERENCE DEPARTMENT


This book is
tak


under no circumstances to be
en from the Building


•■-♦
















1






i






]






























































form 410









1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13

Online LibraryUnknownJesus Christ: His person--His authority--His work (Volume 3) → online text (page 13 of 13)