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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Ernest Renan
By James Darmesteter (1849–1894)
From ‘Selected Essays’

THE MISTAKEN judgments passed upon M. Renan are due to the fact that in his work he did not place the emphasis upon the Good, but upon the True. Men concluded that for him, therefore, science was the whole of life. The environment in which he was formed was forgotten,—an environment in which the moral sense was exquisite and perfect, while the scientific sense was nil. He did not need to discover the moral sense,—it was the very atmosphere in which he lived. When the scientific sense awoke in him, and he beheld the world and history transfigured by it, he was dazzled, and the influence lasted throughout his life. He dreamed of making France understand this new revelation; he was the apostle of this gospel of truth and science, but in heart and mind he never attacked what is permanent and divine in the other gospel. Thus he was a complete man, and deserved the disdain of dilettantes morally dead, and of mystics scientifically atonic.  1
  What heritage has M. Renan left to posterity? As a scholar he created religious criticism in France, and prepared for universal science that incomparable instrument, the Corpus. As an author he bequeathed to universal art, pages which will endure, and to him may be applied what he said of George Sand:—“He had the divine faculty of giving wings to his subject, of producing under the form of fine art the idea which in other hands remained crude and formless.” As a philosopher he left behind a mass of ideas which he did not care to collect in doctrinal shape, but which nevertheless constitute a coherent whole. One thing only in this world is certain,—duty. One truth is plain in the course of the world as science reveals it: the world is advancing to a higher, more perfect form of being. The supreme happiness of man is to draw nearer to this God to come, contemplating him in science, and preparing, by action, the advent of a humanity nobler, better endowed, and more akin to the ideal Being.  2

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