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to support His claim to be the Messiah of Israel. Others made Him out to be an unbalanced humanitarian, precursor of Rousseau and of divine democracy; an excellent man for his time but who to-day would be put under the care of an alienist. Others to get rid of the subject once for all took up the idea of the myth again, and by dint of puzzlings and comparisons concluded that Jesus never was born anywhere in any spot on the globe.
But who could have taken the place of the man they were trying to dispose of? The grave they dug was deeper every day, and still they could not bury Him from sight.
Then began the manufacture of religions for the irreligious. During the whole of the nineteenth century they were turned out in couples and half dozens at a time: the religion of Truth, of the Spirit, of the Proletariat, of the Hero, of Humanity, of Nationalism, of Imperialism, of Reason, of Beauty, of Peace, of Sorrow, of Pity, of the Ego, of the Future and so on. Some were only new arrangements of Christianity, uncrowned, spineless Christianity, Christianity without God; most of them were political, or philosophic, trying to make themselves out mystics. But faithful followers of these religions were few and their ardor faint. Such frozen abstractions, although sometimes helped along by social interest or literary passions, did not fill the hearts which had renounced Jesus.
Then attempts were made to throw together facsimiles of religion which would make a better job of offering what men looked for in religion. Free-Masons, Spiritualists, Theosophists, Occultists, Scientists, professed to have found the infallible substitute for Christianity. But such mixtures of moldy superstition and worm-eaten necromancy, such a hash of musty rationalism and science gone bad, of simian symbolism and humanitarianism turned sour, such unskillful rearrangements of Buddhism, manufactured-for-export, and of betrayed Christianity, contented some thousands of leisure-class women, of condensers of the void . . . and went no further.
In the meantime, partly in a German parsonage and partly in a professor's chair in Switzerland, the last Anti-Christ was making ready. "Jesus," he said, coming down from the Alps
in the sunshine, “Jesus mortified mankind; sin is beautiful, violence is beautiful. Everything that says 'yes' to Life is beautiful.” And Zarathushtra, after having thrown into the Mediterranean the Greek texts of Leipzig and the works of Machiavelli, began to gambol at the feet of the statue of Dionysius with the grace that might be expected of a German, born of a Lutheran minister, who had just stepped down from a chair in a Swiss University. But, although his songs were sweet to the ear, he never succeeded in explaining exactly what he meant when he spoke of this adorable "Life" to which men should sacrifice such a living part of themselves as their need to repress their own animal instincts: nor could he ever say in what way Christ, the true Christ of the Gospels, opposed Himself to life, He who wanted to make life higher and happy. And the poor syphilitic Anti-Christ, when insanity was close upon him, signed his last letter, "The Crucified One."
And still Christ is not yet expelled from the earth either by the ravages of time or by the efforts of men. His memory is everywhere: on the walls of the churches and the schools, on the tops of bell-towers and of mountains, in street-shrines, at the heads of beds and over tombs, thousands of crosses bring to mind the death of the Crucified One. Take away the frescoes from the churches, carry off the pictures from the altars and from the houses, and the life of Christ fills museums and picture-galleries. Throw away breviaries and missals, and you find His name and His words in all the books of literature. Even oaths are an involuntary remembrance of His presence.
When all is said and done, Christ is an end and a beginning, an abyss of divine mystery between two divisions of human history. Paganism and Christianity can never be welded together. Before Christ and After Christ! Our era, our civilization, our life, begins with the birth of Christ. We can seek out what comes before Christ, we can acquire information about it, but it is no longer ours, it is signed with other signs, limited by other systems, no longer moves our passions; it may be beautiful, but it is dead. Cæsar was more talked about in his time than Jesus, and Plato taught more science than Christ. People still discuss the Roman ruler and the Greek philosopher, but who nowadays is hotly for Cæsar or against him; and where now are the Platonists and the anti-Platonists?
Christ, on the contrary, is still living among us. There are still people who love Him and who hate Him. There is a passion for the love of Christ and a passion for His destruction. The fury of so many against Him is a proof that He is not dead. The very people who devote themselves to denying His ideas and His existence pass their lives in bringing His name to memory
We live in the Christian era, and it is not yet finished. If we are to understand the world, our life, ourselves, we must refer to Christ. Every age must re-write its own Gospel.. More than any other, our own age has so re-written its own Gospel, and therefore the author ought perhaps to justify himself for having written this book. But the justification, if there is need of such, will be plain to those who read it.
There never was a time more cut off from Christ than ours, nor one which needed Him more. But to find Him, the old books are not enough. No life of Christ, even if it were written by an author of greater genius than any who has ever lived, could be more beautiful and perfect than the Gospels. The candid sobriety of the first four stories can never be improved upon by any miracle of style and poetry. And we can add very little to the information they give us.
But who reads the Gospels nowadays? And who could read them, even if he set himself at it. Glosses of philologists, comments of the exegetical experts, varying readings of erudite marginal editors, emendations of letters, such things can provide entertainment for patient brains. But the heart needs something more than this.
Every generation has its preoccupations and its thoughts, and its own insanities. The old Gospels must be re-translated for the help of the lost. If Christ is to remain alive in the life of men, eternally present with us, it is absolutely necessary to resuscitate Him from time to time; not to color Him with the
dyes of the present day, but to represent with new words, with references to things now happening, His eternal truth and His never-changing story.
The world is full of such bookish resuscitations of Christ, learned or literary: but it seems to the author of this one that many are forgotten, and others are not suitable. To write the history of the stories of Christ would take another book and one even longer than this one. But it is easy to divide into two great divisions those which are best known and most read: (1) Those written by orthodox authors for the use of the orthodox; (2) and those written by scientists for the use of non-believers. Neither the first nor the second can satisfy those who are seeking in such lives for Life.
The lives of Jesus written for pious readers exhale, almost all of them, a sort of withered mustiness, the very first page of which repels readers used to more delicate and substantial fare. There is an odor of burnt-out lamp-wick, a smell of stale incense and of rancid oil that sticks in the throat. You cannot draw a long, free breath. The reader acquainted with the biographies of great men written with greatness, and possessing some notions of his own about the art of writing and of poetry, who incautiously picks up one of these pious books, feels his heart fail him as he advances into this flabby prose, torpid, tangled, patched up with commonplaces that were alive a thousand years ago, but which are now dead and petrified. It is even worse when these worn-out old hacks try to break into the lyric gallop or the trot of eloquence. Their faded graces, their ornamentations of countrified purisms, of “fine writing” fit for provincial academies, their artificial warmth cooled down to tepidity by unctuous dignity, discourage the endurance of the boldest reader. And when they are not engulfed in the thorny mysteries of scholasticism, they fall into the roaring eloquence of the Sunday sermon. In short, these are books written for readers who believe in Jesus, that is, for those who could, in a way, get along without them. But ordinary people, indifferent people, irreverent people, artists, those accustomed to the greatness of Antiquity and to the novelty of Modernity, never look at even the best of such volumes; or if they pick them up, let them fall at once. And yet these are the very people whom such a book should win because they are those whom Christ has lost, they are those who today form public opinion and count in the world.
Another sort of books, those written by the learned men for the neutrals, succeed even less in turning towards Christ the souls that have not learned the way to Christianity. In the first place they almost never have any intention of doing this, and in the second place they themselves, almost all of them, are among those who ought to be brought back to the true and living Christ. Furthermore, their method which is, as they say, historical, scientific, critical, leads them to pause over texts and external facts, to establish them or to eliminate them, rather than to consider the meaning and the value and the light which, if they would, they could find in those texts and those facts. Most of them try to find the man in the God, the actual external facts of the miracles, the legend in the tradition and, above all, they are on the look-out for interpolations, for falsifications and apocrypha in the first part of Christian literature. Those who do not go so far as to deny that Jesus ever lived, take away from the testimony about Him everything they can, and by dint of "ifs" and "buts” and doubts and hypotheses, so far from writing any definite story themselves, succeed in spoiling the story contained in the Gospels. In short, such historians with all their confusion of fret-work and bunglings, with all the resources of textual criticism, of mythology, of paleography, of archeology, of Greek and Hebrew philology, only triturate and liquefy the simple life of Christ. The most logical conclusion to draw from their ram. bling incoherent talk is that Jesus never did appear on the earth, or if by chance He really did appear, that we know nothing certain about His life. Christianity still exists, of course, in spite of such conclusions, and Christianity is a fact not easily disregarded. To offset this fact the best these enemies of Christ can do is to search through the Orient and Oc