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flamed up like a dying lamp in the person of John the Baptist. Paganism was any thing and was nothing; a philosophy; a fable; an allegory; a mystery ; stripped of its outward form by Science; robbed of its inward spirit by Sensualism : it had no integrity, no unity in itself, and could impart none to the life of man. “ The time, though fitted to receive, could not by any combination of prevalent opinions, or by any conceivable course of moral improvement, have produced Christianity. The conception of the human character of Jesus, and the simple principles of the new Religion, as they were in direct opposition to the predominant opinions and temper of his own countrymen, so they stood completely alone in the history of our race; and as imaginary, no less than as real, altogether transcend the powers of man's moral conception. Supposing the gospels purely fictitious, or that, like the 'Cyropædia of Xenophon, they embody on a groundwork of fact the highest moral and religious notions to which man had attained, and show the utmost ideal perfection of the divine and human nature, they can be accounted for, according to my judgment, on none of the ordinary principles of human nature. When we behold Christ standing in the midst of the wreck of old religious institutions, and building, or rather at one word commanding to arise, the simple and harmonious structure of the new faith, which seems equally adapted for all ages—a temple to which nations in the highest degree of civilization may bring their offerings of pure hearts, virtuous dispositions, universal charity,—our natural emotion is the recognition of the Divine goodness, in the promulgation of this beneficent code of religion ; and adoration of that Being in whom the Divine goodness is thus embodied and made comprehensible to the faculties of man. In the language of the Apostle, God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto him
Mr. Milman justly considers that a Life of Christ is indispensable to a History of Christianity. To explain the Christian movement, we must penetrate to the interior life of him who originated it. “Had the life of Christ been more generally considered as intimately and inseparably connected with the progress and development of human affairs, with the events and opinions of his time, works would not have been required to prove his existence, scarcely, perhaps, the authenticity of his history. The real historical evidence of Christianity is the absolute necessity of his life to fill up the void in the annals of mankind, to account for the effects of his religion in the subsequent history of man.” And here we must say that this is just the respect in which we are least satisfied with the work of Mr. Milman. His “Life of Christ” would not, we think “ account for the effects of his religion in the subsequent history of man.” He writes like an interpreter, a critic, one who has to point out the external links and connections that bind together events and speeches, one who has to show how Christianity was modified in its outward developments by the powers and philosophies of the world that beat upon it,—but nowhere does he penetrate to the living soul of this great movement,- nowhere does he show us the spiritual energy that gave birth to and that still sustains this mighty religious revolution, this development of the divine nature of man; and in vain in his cold, formal, exegetical Life of Christ should we look for the inspiration of Christianity, the deep and sufficing springs of the spiritual life of the world. We confess we do not see how, in Mr. Milman's relation of Christianity, this could be otherwise. We deprecate the petty and rude criticism which rejoices to bring into contrast the views and the position of a writer; but at the same time it is evident that Mr. Milman has neither the freedom and spontaneity of the liberal school, nor the unction, and if we may so speak, in all questions of philosophy, the unstopped facilities, the unhesitating explanations, of the orthodox school. His orthodoxy hangs loose about him. It does not colour his inmost soul. He explains nothing by it. He does not find in it his philosophy of religion. Neither has he entire sympathy with what we deem the higher view of the connections of Christ with the spirit of God, as a divine manifestation of the union that is possible between the will of man and the parent mind of our Heavenly Father. Mr. Milman holds a position between these two schools, between Rationalism and Orthodoxy; and therefore we deem him better qualified to comment upon the outward History and developments of Christianity than to reveal its sources. Mr. Milman is much more successful in tracing how the stream of Jewish opinion became tinctured by the ideas of the various climes through which its tribes were dispersed; and how the language, at least, of Christianity, if not its conceptions, holds affinities with all the religious philosophies then existing in the world. We especially recommend, with this view, to those not familiar with such knowledge, the repeated study of the second chapter of his first volume.
The expectation of a Messiah, and the nature of the Messianic anticipations, form one of the most important and mysterious questions in the history of Christianity; important as it affected the early language, determined the earliest forms, and obstructed the genuine spirit of Christianity,-mysterious, as having its sources almost undiscoverable. “ Their sacred books, the Law and the Prophets, were not the clear and un
mingled source of the Jewish opinions on this all-absorbing subject. Over this as over the whole system of the Law, tradition had thrown a veil; and it is this traditionary notion of the Messiah which it is necessary to develop : but from whence tradition had derived its apparently extraneous and independent notions, becomes a much more deep and embarrassing question. It is manifest from the Evangelic history, that although there was no settled or established creed upon the subject, yet there was a certain conventional language: particular texts of the Sacred Writings were universally recognised as bearing reference to the Messiah ; and there were some few characteristic credentials of his title and office, which would have commanded universal assent.” We must not trace the manner in which the East and the West, Persia, Egypt, and Greece, contributed to colour and confuse the national dream of a Messiah,-but we may state the result in the words of our Author. " Each region, each rank, each sect; the Babylonian, the Egyptian, the Palestinian, the Samaritan; the Pharisee, the lawyer, the zealot, arrayed the Messiah in those attributes which suited his own temperament. Of that which was more methodically taught in the synagogue or the adjacent school, the populace caught up whatever made the deeper impression. The enthusiasm took an active or contemplative, an ambitious or a religious, an earthly or a heavenly tone, according to the education, habits, or station of the believer; and to different men the Messiah was man or angel, or more than angel; he was king, conqueror, or moral reformer: a more victorious Joshua, a more magnificent Herod, a wider-ruling Cæsar, a wiser Moses, a holier Abraham; an angel, the angel of the Covenant, the Metatron, the Mediator between God and man; Michael, the great tutelar archangel of the nation, who appears by some to have been identified with the mysterious Being who led them forth from Egypt; he was the Word of God; an emanation from the Deity; himself partaking of the divine nature. While this was the religious belief, some there were, no doubt, of the Sadducaic party, or the half-Grecised adherents of the Herodian family, who treated the whole as a popular delusion; or as Josephus to Vespasian, would not scruple to employ it as a politic means for the advancement of their own fortunes. While the robber chieftain looked out from his hill-tower to see the blood-red banner of him whom he literally expected to come * from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah,' and 'treading the wine-press in his wrath,' the Essene in his solitary hermitage, or monastic fraternity of husbandmen, looked to the reign of the Messiah, when the more peaceful image of the
same prophet would be accomplished, and the Prince of Peace establish his quiet and uninterrupted reign.”
Christianity, though it might adopt the language of these systems, was yet in its scope and purposes entirely independent of them. It was a moral revelation; with no purpose but to establish spiritual relations between man and the Creator. It must find therefore its true explanations not in systems but in the moral nature of man; and in consistency with this its moral character, the only deviation from the course of nature, in our Author's view, was the birth of the Saviour from a pure Virgin. How much such an admission implies, we will not ungraciously inquire. Mr. Milman seems to us rather to symbolize the Virgin Mother with the softer and gentler idea of Christianity, than to state it as a theological fact, essential to the views of dogmatic divines. He even brings into friendly parallelism the martial Roman tracing his origin to the nursling of the wolf, and the gentleness and purity of Christ taking its rise in the bosom of the Virgin Mother. His whole view of this subject seems sentimental and mythical, not dogmatical or historical, and merges in the poetry and tenderness of Wordsworth :
“ Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade or thought to sin allied ;
We cannot sufficiently express our admiration of the calm and noble fidelity to Truth in which Mr. Milman deals honestly, righteously, with whatever subject comes before him, without the thought ever crossing his mind, certainly never staining his page, as to what parties or systems of opinion the Truth might serve, or the Truth might injure. We select the following as one out of many instances :
“ Even the expression, the remission of sins,' which to a Christian ear may bear a different sense, to the Jew would convey a much
narrower meaning. All calamity, being a mark of the divine displeasure, was an evidence of sin ; every mark of divine favour therefore an evidence of divine forgiveness, The expression is frequently used in its Jewish sense in the book of Maccabees. 1 Macc. ii. 8; 2 Macc. viii. 5, 27; vii. 38. Le Clerc has made a similar observation, but is opposed by Whitby, who however does not appear to have been very profoundly acquainted with Jewish phraseology.” —(Vol. i. p. 103.)
We have sometimes to regret the want of concentration, the absence of the best and closest attention of his mind, in Mr. Milman's History. This is manifested not only in carelessness and feebleness of style, but in meagre and slurred interpretations, in not taking time to gather and reveal the finer connections of a passage. The beautiful conclusion of the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, where our Saviour defends the consistency and fidelity of John the Baptist, even after he had received from him a message of impatience and offence, is thus slenderly and unsatisfactorily disposed of by Mr. Milman. He would make it appear as if Christ was justifying the people for considering the Baptist as a prophet, instead of justifying the Baptist, notwithstanding his seeming defection:
finds the consistospel of St. cautiful conclusiveal the finer
“ It was no idle object which led them into the wilderness, to see as it were, “a reed shaken by the wind,' nor to behold any rich or luxurious object-for such they would have gone to the courts of their sovereigns. Still he declares the meanest of his own disciples to have attained some moral superiority, some knowledge, probably, of the real nature of the new Religion, and the character and designs of the Messiah, which had never been possessed by John. With his usual rapidity of transition, Jesus passes at once to his moral instruction, and vividly shows, that whether severe or gentle, whether more ascetic or more popular, the teachers of a holier faith had been equally unacceptable. The general multitude of the Jews had rejected both the austerer Baptist, and himself, though of so much more benign and engaging demeanour. The whole discourse ends with the significant words, My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'”
Now this, we must think, is in the coldest and most slovenly style of spiritless and slurred interpretation; and it is this that so often renders Mr. Milman's Life of Christ of no value, except for the mere information it contains, which is always considerable. To make our objection clear, we will endeavour to supply at some length, the fullness of meaning, and the finer connections in this passage, which Mr. Milman has taken no pains to collect.