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Paul had still three years to live, and those three years were not the least busy of his laborious existence. We shall even see that his apostolic career had in all probability an extension. But these new journeys he made in the west, not in the countries which he had already visited. These journeys, if they 297really took place, were, besides, without appreciable results for the propagation of Christianity. At this point we can therefore estimate the work of Paul. Thanks to him, a part of Asia Minor had received the seed of Christianity. In Europe, Macedonia has been very deeply penetrated, Greece breaks upon its borders. If we add to that Italy, from Puteoli to Rome, already furrowed by Christians, we shall have the picture of the conquests effected by Christianity in the sixteen years that this book embraces. Syria, we have seen, had previously received the word of Jesus, and possessed organised Churches. The progress of the new faith had been really marvellous, and although the world at large occupied itself very little with it, the followers of Jesus were already important to those without. We shall see them, towards the middle of the year 64, occupy the attention of the world, and play a very important part in its history.

In all this history, nevertheless, it is important to avoid a mistake which the reading of the Epistles of Paul, and the Acts of the Apostles, almost necessarily produces. One would be tempted from such a reading to imagine conversions en masse of numerous Churches of entire countries adopting the new religion. Paul, who often speaks to us of rebellious Jews, never speaks of the immense majority of Pagans who had no knowledge of the faith. In reading the journeys of Benjamin of Tudela, one would also believe that the world of his time was peopled only with Jews. Sects are subject to these optical illusions; for them, nothing exists besides themselves; the events which happen amongst them appear to them to be the only events interesting to the universe. Persons who have had relations with ancient St Simonians are struck with the facility with which they consider themselves the centre of humanity. The first Christians lived so shut up in their own (little) circle, that they knew 298scarcely anything of the profane world. A country was accounted evangelised when the name of Jesus had been pronounced there, and when a tenth of the people were converted. A Church often did not number more than twelve or fifteen persons. Perhaps all the converts of St Paul in Asia Minor, in Macedonia, and Greece, did not much exceed a thousand. That small number, that spirit of secret companionship, of a little spiritual family, was truly what constituted the indestructible strength of those Churches, and made of them so many fertile germs for the future.

One man contributed more than any other to the rapid extension of Christianity. That man has torn up the swaddling clothes so narrow and so prodigiously dangerous by which he was surrounded from his birth; he has proclaimed that Christianity was not a simple reform of Judaism, but that it was a complete religion, existing by itself. To say that he deserves to be placed in a very elevated rank in history, is to say what is self-evident; but it is not necessary to call him a founder. Paul well said that he was the least of the Apostles. He had not seen Jesus, he had not heard His voice. The divine logic, the parables, he scarcely knew. The Christ who personally revealed himself to him is his own ghost; he listens to himself, thinking that he hears Jesus.

Even to speak only of his exterior character, Paul must have been in his lifetime less important than we think him. His Churches were either not very solid, or else they denied him altogether. The Churches of Macedonia and of Galatia, which are truly his own work, were not very important in the second and third century. The Churches of Corinth and of Ephesus, which were not so exclusively his, went over to his enemies, or are not founded canonically enough if they have been founded only by him. 299 After his disappearance from the scene of his Apostolic contests, we shall see him almost forgotten. His death was probably held by his enemies as the death of a firebrand. The second century hardly speaks of him, and seems systematically to seek to efface his memory. His epistles are read little, and are only considered authoritative by a much reduced group of Churches. His partisans themselves greatly weaken his pretensions. He left no celebrated disciples; Titus, Timothy, and those others who made for him a kind of court, disappear without any noise. To tell the truth, Paul had too energetic a personality to form an original school. He always crushed his disciples; they only played around him the part of secretaries, of servants, of couriers. Their respect for their master was such that they never dared to teach freely. When Paul was with his flock, he existed alone; all others were crushed or seen only through him.

In the third, fourth, and fifth centuries Paul will grow singularly: He will become the doctor in an eminent degree, the founder of Christian theology The true president of those great Greek Councils, which made of Jesus the keystone of metaphysics, was the Apostle Paul.

But in the Middle Ages, everywhere in the west, his fortune will undergo a strange eclipse. Paul will scarcely say anything to the heart of the barbarians; out of Rome, he will not be remembered. Latin Christianity will scarcely pronounce his name, except as coupled with that of his rival. St Paul, in the Middle Ages, is in some sort lost in the glory of St Peter. Whilst St Peter moved the world and made it tremble and obey, the obscure St Pou plays a secondary part in the grand Christian poesy which fills cathedrals and inspires popular chants. Scarcely anybody before the sixteenth century utters his name; he scarcely appears in monumental inscriptions; he 300has no devotees, they build hardly any churches to him, they burn no wax-tapers to him. His associates Titus, Timothy, Pheebe, Lydia, have little place in public worship, especially in that of the Latins. They have no legend which is worth anything. To have a legend, it is necessary to have spoken to the heart of the people—to have struck their imagination. Now, what does salvation by faith say, or justification by the blood of Christ? Paul was too little sympathetic with the popular conscience, and also perhaps too well known in history for a halo of fables to form around his head. Talk to me of Peter, who bends the necks of kings, breaks empires, walks upon the asp and the basilisk, treads under foot the lion and the dragon, holds the keys of heaven!

The Reformation opens for St Paul a new era of glory and authority. Catholicism itself returns, by studies more extended than those of the Middle Ages, to juster views upon the Apostle of the Gentiles. From the sixteenth century, the name of Paul is everywhere. But the Reformation, which has rendered so many services to science and reason, has not been known to create a legend. Rome, throwing an obliging veil upon the rudenesses of the Epistle to the Galatians, elevates Paul upon a pedestal nearly equal to that of Peter. Paul nevertheless does not become the saint of the people. What place will criticism give to him? What rank will be assigned to him in the hierarchy of those who serve the ideal.

The ideal is served by doing good, by discovering the true, by realising the beautiful. At the head of the sacred procession of humanity walks the good man, the virtuous man; the second rank belongs to the man of truth, knowledge, philosophy; then comes the man of beauty, the artist, the poet. Jesus appears to us, under his celestial halo, as an ideal of goodness and beauty. Peter loved Jesus, understood him, and 301was, it seems, in spite of some failings, an excellent man. What was Paul? He was not a saint. The dominating feature of his character is not goodness. He was proud, unbending, unsociable; he defends himself; self-assertive (as we say to-day); he uses harsh words; he believes himself right; he holds to his opinions; he quarrels with various people. He was not a scholar; one can even say that he has injured science by his paradoxical contempt of reason, by his eulogy of apparent folly, by his apotheosis of transcendental absurdity. Neither was he a poet. His writings; works of the highest originality, are without charm: the form is harsh and almost devoid of grace. What was he then?

He was eminently a man of action, a strong soul—invading, enthusiastic, conquering—a missionary, a propagator, all the more ardent because he had at first displayed his fanaticism on the opposite side. Now, the man of action, noble as he is when he acts for a noble aim, is less near to God than one who has lived for the pure love of truth, of the good and the beautiful. The Apostle is naturally rather narrow-minded; he wished to succeed, he made sacrifices for that end. Contact with reality always soils one a little. The first places in the kingdom of heaven are reserved to those whom a ray of grace has touched, to those who have only adored the ideal. The man of action is always- a feeble artist, for he has not for his only aim that of reflecting the splendour of the universe. He could not be a scholar, for he regulates his opinions on grounds of political utility; he is not even a very virtuous man, for he is never irreproachable, the folly and wickedness of men forcing him to make a compact with them. Above all things, he is not amiable; the most charming of virtues, reserve, is forbidden to him. The world favours the daring, those who help themselves 302Paul, so great, so honest, is obliged to bestow on himself the title of Apostle. He is strong in action through his faults; he is weak through his virtues. In short, the historical personage who has most analogy with St Paul is Luther. Both alike were violent in language, both displayed the same passion, the same energy, the same noble independence, the same frantic attachment to a proposition once embraced, as infallible truth.

I still persist in maintaining, that in the creation of Christianity the part of Paul ought to be treated as much inferior to that of Jesus. It is necessary even, according to my idea, to put Paul on a lower plane than Francis of Assisi, and the author of the “Imitation,” who both saw Jesus very nearly. The Son of God is unique. To appear for a moment to make a sweet and profound impression, to die very young, that is the life of a god. To wrestle, to dispute, to conquer, that is the life of a man. After having been for three hundred years the Christian doctor in an eminent degree, thanks to orthodox Protestantism, Paul seems in our days near the end of his reign: Jesus, on the contrary, is more living than ever. It is no more the Epistle to the Romans which is the recapitulation of Christianity, it is the Sermon on the Mount. True Christianity which will last eternally comes from the Gospels, not from the Epistles of Paul. The writings of Paul have been a danger and a stumbling-block, the cause of the chief faults of Christian theology. Paul is the father of the subtle Augustine, of the arid Thomas Aquinas, of the sombre Calvinist, of the bitter Jansenist, of the ferocious theology which condemns and predestinates to damnation. Jesus is the father of all those who seek in dreams of the ideal the repose of their souls. That which gives life to Christianity, is the little that we know of the word and of the person of Jesus. The man devoted to the ideal, the 303divine poet, the great artist, defies alone time and revolution. Alone he is seated at the right hand of God the Father for eternity.

Humanity, thou art sometimes just, and certain of thy judgments are good!



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