The Divinity of Christ – An Argument: Chapter VII

cover of the ebook 'The Divinity of Christ: An Argument', by Bishop Louis-Victor-Emile BougaudA wonderful counter-proof – Jesus Christ prophesied that He would be persecuted with an unquenchable hatred – He was thus persecuted, and He is still thus persecuted

However striking, nevertheless, this proof may be, we do not realize its full force except in connecting with the second prophecy of Jesus Christ, a prophecy not less wonderful than the first, and not less wonderfully realized. Christ did not only ask for love and obtain it: He prophesied that He should be hated, and He has been hated, and He is hated still. Here is the counter-proof, and I own that it is a thing which baffles me still more. To me it is quite incomprehensible that a lowly, gentle, meek mechanic should publicly say: “To the end of the world I shall be hated:” – that He should gather round Him twelve other mechanics, meek and gentle like Himself: – that He should say to them, “You also shall be hated unto death” – that He should preach a lofty, pure, and noble doctrine, and that He should say to them, “Till the end of the world this doctrine will provoke furious outcries:” – that dying at last in such suffering as ought to have touched all hearts, He should declare that His cross would be also an object of hatred: – that there should be men who could not look at it without outbursts of anger: this I repeat is incomprehensible. For if it is difficult to make oneself beloved, is it then so easy to make oneself hated? In one of his admirable discourses on Jesus Christ, Père Lacordaire said, “Who amongst great men has been loved? Who in war? Who in wisdom? Tell me one who has left love upon his tomb.” I would borrow his words and say, Who has been hated? What king? What philosopher? Tell me of one man, a great man, a philosopher, a founder of religion, who after death has excited hatred. If the memory of some for a time has been pursued by public indignation, time passed on, forgetfulness succeeded, and hatred disappeared. Only Jesus Christ has been honored with an inextinguishable hatred.

If, then, it appears to me strange that Christ should have prophesied for Himself this hatred, I find it yet more strange that this prophecy should have been realized. For what is there to hate in Jesus Christ? Is it His character? But clearly, there never was one more beautiful on this earth. Is it His doctrine, His Gospel? But you confess that no book can be compared with it. What then is it that you hate in Jesus Christ?

You will say – It is very simple. What I hate is falsehood, and falsehood deserves to be hated in proportion as it meets with greater success. For eighteen centuries this imposture has dazzled the world, and this is what I hate.

If you are certain that Christ is an impostor, then I understand your feeling; but we may defy any sane man to entertain such a conviction, and this for a thousand reasons, and for one in particular: – which is, that there are found too many educated and sincere men who have believed in His Divinity. Bossuet, Pascal, Leibnitz, Grotius, Newton, great men for eighteen centuries have studied, and, nevertheless, have bowed down before Jesus Christ: they have believed in His Divinity, and have made considerable sacrifices during their life for this belief. For there is this difference between those who do not believe in Jesus Christ and those who do believe: the latter make sacrifices for their convictions, the former do not.

But be it so: let us suppose that Jesus Christ is an impostor. In that case the love which we feel for Him is false, the hatred you have vowed against Him is true. That consequently which ought to be fruitful, that which ought to renovate the world, that which ought to transform man and society, is the hatred of Jesus Christ: for if love which is deceived in attaching itself to this Chimera, to this idol, does such great things, what will not the hatred which upsets it accomplish? Well! What has this hatred of Jesus Christ done for man? Where are its works? What nations has it rescued from vice and barbarism? What souls has it consoled? Where are its Sisters of Charity? its Brothers of Christian Doctrine? Where are its little Sisters of the Poor? There are men in want of bread: you who hate Jesus Christ – do you beg for them? There are men who die in pain. Do you nurse them? Oh you who hate Jesus Christ! I look for you beside the sufferer and the mourner, and I do not find you.

You have done nothing for man: what have you done for God? You have torn the love of Jesus from a heart: have you filled it with greater love of God? There are still, even now, whole nations prostrate at the feet of idols. You who hate Jesus Christ – where are your apostles? I do not ask where are your virgins? and still less do I ask, where are your martyrs?

Once more: What is it that has engendered this hatred of Jesus Christ? Mahomet was not hated, nor Numa, nor Zoroaster. No other founder of religion has met with hatred. Nero, Tiberius, Domitian – monsters such as these were hated only for a time. Hatred could take no root; it withered on their tomb. Jesus Christ alone has been honored with an inextinguishable hatred. Whence does this proceed?

It proceeds from this – that we only hate what is a restraint and an obstacle to us: anything that oppresses and crushes us. When Nero was weighing down the world with all the weight of his infamy, I can understand that he was hated, and I am not surprised that Tacitus should have had but one regret, – that of not having a pen severe enough to brand him with eternal infamy. But now that Nero has long passed away, and his vices sleep despised and impotent with his bones, who hates Nero? who hates Tiberius? who hates Domitian? Hatred indeed would be too much honor for such as they; they only deserve contempt.

And I do not wonder that a Saint John, a Saint Polycarp, a Saint Ignatius should manifest towards all the great sophists of the first ages – Ebion and Cerinthus, Arius and Nestorius- indignation and anger. They were powerful in their day: they divided Christ: they injured the Church: they stopped the way of Christianity. But now that they have been overcome in this great conflict; now that only their lifeless dust remains, and their errors are incapable of seducing even a child, are you astonished that hatred has ceased?

Are not our sentiments modified even as regards Voltaire himself? In my youth I knew a venerable old man who had lived before the Revolution, and had seen Voltaire in all his triumph reigning, dominant, crushing Jesus Christ with his sardonic laugh: he could not speak of Voltaire without something of that anger which rings through the works of the Comte de Maistre. We have seen all that Voltaire would have laid waste, bloom again; we have seen that revive in greater splendor which he thought to destroy: we now look upon Voltaire as vanquished. We know that his works which were so much read by our fathers will not be read by our children; and in proportion as his influence wanes, our indignation and anger subside. Such is the human heart! We hate all that is an obstacle to us: we hate everything that tramples on us. But when the foot that trampled on us is turned into dust, how can we hate it any longer? Hatred ceases, and gives place to contempt.

Jesus Christ is the only man towards whom hatred has never relented; the only man whom contempt has never reached. What is the meaning of this, except that He never lays down His arms, that His influence never wanes, that He is always a restraint to the passions, that He is always king, and always conqueror?

But this is not all. There is in hatred something much deeper. It sometimes separates souls which God had destined to live together in an intimate union, and then it assumes fearful proportions. Hatred between two brothers, born of the same mother, nourished with the same milk, whose branches should have intertwined during their whole life, and mutually sheltered each other, is something dreadful, and is seldom, if ever, extinguished. Even worse is the hatred between man and wife. And when there is this hatred, just where there should be most love, note this peculiarity. I can understand that a soul, having surrendered itself entirely to true affection, and having met with betrayal and desertion, should hate its betrayer. Well might that soul say with the poet –

I loved you so much that I did not hate you.

But it is not so. It is not the victim who hates, but he who has been faithless, he who has violated all his promises. And the purer and more beautiful is the victim, the more intense is the hatred. Were she less faultless, she would be less hated, because her superiority would be less felt. And if to beauty and blamelessness she had added benefits; if her hands were full of blessings, which she had showered on her thankless foe; if she still continued to shower down on him these blessings – then, immeasurably superior to him in her purity and in her love, she would call forth in that treacherous soul a passion which nothing could satisfy!

That which we see on earth happens sometimes between man and God. When man has been loaded with favors, and his soul has not been great enough to respond by gratitude for what God has done for him, it happens that love, becoming bitter, turns into hatred, and that God becomes the object of an undying hatred.

Such was the passion kindled in the Emperor who left a name so mournfully renowned – Julian the Apostate. From the temple where he had been brought up, from the blessings of God which had been showered down on him, from the loving protection of the Church which had preserved his crown; not having a heart large enough to respond, he turned against the Church, and hatred was enkindled in his soul. He was not content with destroying the Church, he wished to bury her in infamy. All the power of the Roman Empire was employed for this purpose, and his hatred, increasing as he advanced in years, knew no intermission till the day when, on the fields of Persia, he died exclaiming, “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!”

Our immortal poet, Racine, in his chef-d’oeuvre, “Athalie,” has represented the same passion. What is that treacherous character who appears from time to time, and serves to throw into relief the greatness and the nobleness of the other characters? Whence does He come? Who has excited this hatred in his heart? The high-priest tells us at the commencement in a celebrated verse:

(This temple is unwelcome, and its impiety
Would like to annihilate the God he has left.)

Such is hatred of God! Such is hatred of Jesus Christ! For they are never separated. He who loves God, loves Jesus Christ. He who hates Jesus Christ, hates God. To human eyes they make but one in love and hatred. To have acquired such a solidarity, must not Jesus Christ be God?

– taken from The Divinity of Christ, by Bishop Emile Bougaud