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seen, and which he now described with a master-hand. Nor was there wanting an appearance of critical investigation, which, while it flattered the readers of the book that they, too, were becoming critical investigators, might readily be followed without any very great stretch of attention, and its results accepted without shocking any tenets but those of the very strictest orthodoxy. Nay, the writer of these lines once heard it observed by a reader of Renan's book, that had he not been a Christian already, that book would have made him one. Such an effect might, no doubt, have been produced, in one sense, by the spirit of tenderness and love which penetrates the work; but it must also have been a different sort of Christianity from that of those, the main-stay of which is an implicit belief in miracles as recorded in the New Testament, an unhesitating acceptance of the theory of inspiration, and, above all, of the doctrine, in its dogmatic form, of the Incarnation.
Such, then, in its main features thus briefly described, was the book of Renan. Very different is the case with that of Strauss. Of him and of his works but little, comparatively speaking, is known in England. It remains to be seen whether the English translation of his latest work will procure for him greater fame or notoriety. With regard to the writer it is probably known only to a very small minority that he published in Germany, in the year 1831, a work in two thick volumes (about 600 pages each) on the same subject and on the same fundamental principle as his latest one, which though it occupies in the translation two octavo volumes, is, nevertheless, in the original comprised in one, itself counting only 600 pages. The larger work was also soon after its appearance, translated into English by a lady who has since taken rank among the foremost writers of fiction of the time. It is understood
that the whole, or nearly the whole, of the edition has been sold. So that the book, though little heard of at the time of publication* or since, must have gained a footing somewhere, though without those main supports and grand advertising powers for so-called heterodox publications, the calm and dignified condemnation of Bishops on the one hand, and the noisy and clamorous assaults of Convocation on the other. With regard to the general reader, there can be no doubt that, as in Renan's book there was much to allure and attract, so in this, the first work of Strauss, there was much to repel. The style, no doubt, was singularly clear and transparent, the meaning never obscure, and the matter free from all mysticism, or what is sometimes designated in England, transcendentalism. This, especially in a German work, was certainly no slight merit. But, on the other hand, the fundamental principle, that of the “myth,” as applied to the details of the New Testament, though adopted by Baur in the beginning of the nineteenth century as to the miraculous narratives of the Old, was new to the great majority of readers. In Germany, the volumes were welcomed by one party as containing the great theological discovery of the age; by another the work was attacked as striking at the root of all religion and religious belief. A whole body of theological literature was produced, which might have been placed in a category entitled “the Straussian Controversy,” carried on as it was by the assailants of Strauss on the one hand, and Strauss himself on the other. Of these, some, as Schleiermacher, argued in a spirit which showed that they could appreciate the efforts of a powerful genius even when
* Answers, however, were attempted by C. J. Hare, late Archdeacon of Lewes, &c., and others.
exerted on behalf of that which was unacceptable to themselves; others as Tholuck and Olshausen would not have brought discredit upon an English Convocation. After a succession, however, of pamphlets and brochures, which were met by Strauss in part by independent pamphlets and brochures of about equal extent, in part in the prefaces to the successive editions of his great work, amounting in a few years to no less than four, the controversy came to an end. It left, as is generally the case, both parties, unconvinced. In the meantime, the assailants had had the satisfaction of seeing their great opponent degraded by the high hand of authority from the appointment which he held as Professor of Theology at Stuttgard-a degradation, if so it is to be called, which he accepted in a spirit of uncomplaining acquiescence, which showed that however he might disregard or reject the external accessories of Christianity, he understood and acted up to the character of its internal essence far more than some of those who, in the interests of what they called Christianity, had controversially opposed or academically deprived him of his office.*
The general characteristic of this first work of Strauss was strict and severe logic, combined occasionally with bursts of eloquence, which showed that if the author wrote in a style which a critic might have called dry, he did so of choice and not of necessity. This characteristic, as has been before observed, was certainly one to repel rather than attract. It was this, however, which in the eyes of thinking and educated men gave the book its preeminent value, and placed it high above the theological treatises of the age.
Nor did it fail to secure for it a * See a small pamphlet entitled “The Opinions of Dr. Strauss' (Williams and Norgate, 1865.)
hearing in the English translation from “fit audience though few."
With regard to the “New Life of Jesus," to the discussion of which, as compared with that of Renan, the following treatise is more especially devoted, it has been supposed and not unnaturally, that it was composed and published as a sort of rival to the French work. This, however, was not the case. Strauss, in his preface, says that his own work was close upon completion when that of Renan appeared. The expressions which he uses in speaking of Renan are rather those of one who welcomes a coadjutor than opposes a rival.
There can, however, be little doubt that the causes which led to the production of both works were the same. During the last thirty years, and even longer, there can be no question that not only in Germany and France, but even in England, to which may now, in some sense, be added Scotland, a great change has taken place in the minds of men as to the mode in which these subjects may be viewed. With the exception, professedly at least, of the Bishops, and some of the most bigoted and intolerant of men, to say nothing of women both young and old, a feeling has arisen that these subjects may be discussed in the interests of true religion and piety—that not all who side against superstition and dogmatic belief, are reprobate and abandoned men, who simply desire to get rid of certain trammels in order that they may give free indulgence to the impulses of a vicious nature. In this respect even the famous “Essays and Reviews," to say nothing of various other publications by men of unimpeachable character, must have done much towards enlightening and undeceiving the minds of men, possibly even those of women. Many have become aware that it is not an indispensable condition towards becoming in
heart and mind a Christian, to believe in proved contradictions of the most glaring kind, and have realised the fact that however "jealous” the God of the theocratic and hierarchical system of the Jews may be, "jealousy' cannot be an attribute of a Being who, by his very nature, must be full of gentleness, justice, righteousness, indulgence, and love—that such a Being cannot, as He is described in the Old Testament to have done, have committed or permitted acts which in capriciousness, cruelty, and even lust, exceed what an oriental despot could have conceived. A large number have become aware of the folly and contradiction involved in connecting, as with its basis and necessary support, by way of forced interpretation of many expressions called “ prophecies” (now acknowledged to be nothing of the kind),* a world-wide religion with the fragmentary traditions of one of the most ignorant, exclusive, narrow-minded and superstitious nations that the world has ever seen, and have been compelled to admit that every attempt to reconcile the discoveries of progressive science with a cosmogony, even more puerile than that of Hindoos or Greeks, does but add one more failure to the many signal ones that have gone before.
So also with regard to the much-vexed question of inspiration. Preachers may, no doubt, be found at the present day who maintain what may be called “thorough
even upon this point, and who in the face of the mental, if not physical smiles of many, if not the majority among their audiences, will still insist on the plenary inspiration of every chapter, every verse, every
* See Dean Stanley's “Three Sermons” and Lectures xix., xx. “On the Jewish Church,” to the effect that “ Prophecy” does not mean “Prediction."