Napoleon’s Blog

Napoleon’s Testimony to Christ at St. Helena

“I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and every other religion the distance of infinity.

“We can say to the authors of every other religion, You are neither gods nor the agents of Deity. You are but missionaries of falsehood, moulded from the same clay with the rest of mortals. You are made with all the passions and vices inseparable from them. Your temples and your priests proclaim your origin. Such will be the judgment, the cry of conscience, of whoever examines the gods and the temples of paganism.

“Paganism was never accepted as truth by the wise men of Greece, neither by Socrates, Pythagoras, Plato, Anaxagoras nor Pericles. But on the other side the loftiest intellects since the advent of Christianity have had faith, a living faith, a practical faith, in the mysteries and the doctrines of the gospel; not only Bossuet and Fénelon who were preachers, but Descartes and Newton, Leibnitz and Pascal, Corneille and Racine, Charlemagne and Louis XIV. [But hear Christ in Matt. xi. 25, 26.]

“Paganism is the work of man. One can here read but our imbecility. What do these gods, so boastful, know more than other mortals? these legislators, Greek or Roman? this Numa, this Lycurgus? these priests of India or of Memphis? this Confucius, this Mahomet? Absolutely nothing. They have made a perfect chaos of morals. There is not one among them all who has said anything new in reference to our future destiny, to the soul, to the essence of God, to the creation. Enter the sanctuaries of paganism — you there find perfect chaos, a thousand contradictions, the immobility of sculpture, the division and the rending of unity, the parcelling out of the divine attributes, mutilated or denied in their essence, the sophisms of ignorance and presumption, polluted fêtes, impurity and abomination adored, all sorts of corruption festering in the thick shades, with the rotten wood, the idol and his priest. Does this honour God, or does it dishonour Him? Are these religions and these gods to be compared with Christianity?

“As for me, I say no. I summon entire Olympus to my tribunal. I judge the gods, but am far from prostrating myself before their vain images. The gods, the legislators of India and of China, of Rome and of Athens, have nothing which can overawe me. Not that I am unjust to them; no, I appreciate them, because I know their value. Undeniably princes whose existence is fixed in the memory as an image of order and beauty, — such princes were no ordinary men. I see in Lycurgus, Numa, and Mahomet, only legislators who having the first rank in the state have sought the best solution of the social problem; but I see nothing there which reveals divinity. They themselves never raised their pretensions so high. As for me, I recognise the gods and these great men as being like myself. They have performed a lofty part in their times, as I have done. Nothing announces them divine. On the contrary there are numerous resemblances between them and myself, foibles and errors which ally them to me and to humanity.

“It is not so with Christ. Every thing in Him astonishes me. His Spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Between Him and everyone else in the world there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideas and His sentiments, the truths which He announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things. His birth, and the history of His life; the profundity of His doctrines which grapples the mightiest difficulties, and which is, of those difficulties, the most admirable solution; His gospel, His apparition, His empire, His march across the ages and the realms, everything is to me a prodigy, a mystery insoluble, which plunges me into a reverie from which I cannot escape, a mystery which is there before my eyes, a mystery which I can neither deny nor explain. Here I see nothing human.

“The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above, everything remains grand — of a grandeur which overpowers. His religion is a revelation from an intelligence which certainly is not that of man. There is there a profound originality, which has created a series of words and of maxims before unknown. Jesus borrowed nothing from our sciences. One can absolutely find nowhere, but in Him alone, the imitation or the example of His life. He is not a philosopher, since He advances by miracles; and from the commencement His disciples worshipped Him. He persuades them far more by an appeal to the heart than by any display of method and of logic. Neither did He impose upon them any preliminary studies or any knowledge of letters. All His religion consists in believing.

“In fact the sciences and philosophy avail nothing for salvation; and Jesus came into the world to reveal the mysteries of heaven and the laws of the Spirit. Also He has nothing to do but with the soul, and to that alone He brings His gospel. The soul is sufficient for Him, as He is sufficient for the soul. Before Him the soul was nothing. Matter and time were the masters of the world. At His voice everything returns to order, science and philosophy become secondary. The soul has reconquered its sovereignty. All the scholastic scaffolding falls, as an edifice ruined, before one single word — faith!

“What a Master, and what a word, which can effect such a revolution! With what authority does He teach men to pray! He imposes His belief, and no one thus far has been able to contradict Him: first, because the gospel contains the purest morality, and also because the doctrine which it contains of obscurity is only the proclamation and the truth of that which exists which no eye can see and no reason penetrate. Who is the insensate who will say ‘No’ to the intrepid voyager who recounts the marvels of the icy peaks which he alone has had the boldness to visit? Christ is that bold voyager. [Rather irreverent methinks.] One can doubtless remain incredulous; but no one can venture to say it is not so.”

________________________________________

Extracts from Napoleon’s journal whilst in exile on the island of St Helena

Speak Your Mind

*