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Chapter 1

INTRODUCTION


It is to be feared that there is no work upon the evidences of our faith, which is as satisfactory in its completeness and convincing power as we have a right to expect when we consider the paramount importance of the subject and the activity of our enemies. Otherwise why should there be no sign of yielding on the part of so many sincere and eminent men who have heard all that has been said upon the Christian side and are yet not convinced by it? We cannot think that the many philosophers who make no secret of their opposition to the Christian religion are unacquainted with the works of Butler and Paley--of Mansel and Liddon. This cannot be: they must be acquainted with them, and find them fail.

Now, granting readily that in some minds there is a certain wilful and prejudiced self-blindness which no reasoning can overcome, and granting also that men very much preoccupied with any one pursuit (more especially a scientific one) will be apt to give but scant and divided attention to arguments upon other subjects such as religion or politics, nevertheless we have so many opponents who profess to have made a serious study of Christian evidences, and against whose opinion no exception can be fairly taken, that it seems as though we were bound either to admit that our demonstrations require rearrangement and reconsideration, or to take the Roman position, and maintain that revelation is no fit subject for evidence but is to be accepted upon authority. This last position will be rejected at once by nine-tenths of Englishmen. But upon rejecting it we look in vain for a work which shall appear to have any such success in arresting infidelity as attended the works of Butler and Paley in the last century. In their own day these two great men stemmed the current of infidelity: but no modern writers have succeeded in doing so, and it will scarcely be said that either Butler or Paley set at rest the many serious and inevitable questions in connection with Christianity which have arisen during the last fifty years. We could hardly expect one of the more intelligent students at Oxford or Cambridge to find his mind set once and for ever free from all rising doubt either by the Analogy or the Evidences. Suppose, for example, that he has been misled by the German writers of the Tubingen school, how will either of the above-named writers help him? On the contrary, they will do him harm, for they will not meet the requirements of the case, and the inference is too readily drawn that nothing else can do so. It need hardly be insisted upon that this inference is a most unfair one, but surely the blame of its being drawn rests in some measure at the door of those whose want of thoroughness has left people under the impression that no more can be said than what has been said already.

It is the object, therefore, of this book to contribute towards establishing Christian evidences upon a more secure and self-evident base than any upon which they are made to rest at present, so far, that is to say, as a work which deliberately excludes whole fields of Christian evidence can tend towards so great a consummation. In spite of the narrow limits within which I have resolved to keep my treatment of the subject, I trust that I may be able to produce such an effect upon the minds of those who are in doubt concerning the evidences for the hope that is in them, that henceforward they shall never doubt again. I am not sanguine enough to suppose that I shall be able to induce certain eminent naturalists and philosophers to reopen a question which they have probably long laid aside as settled; unfortunately it is not in any but the very noblest Christian natures to do this, nevertheless, could they be persuaded to read these pages I believe that they would find so much which would be new to them, that their prejudices would be greatly shaken. To the younger band of scientific investigators I appeal more hopefully.

It may be asked why not have undertaken the whole subject and devoted a life-time to writing an exhaustive work? The answer suggests itself that the believer is in no want of such a book, while the unbeliever would be repelled by its size. Assuredly there can be no doubt as to the value of a great work which should meet objections derived from certain recent scientific theories, and confute opponents who have arisen since the death of our two great apologists, but as a preliminary to this a smaller and more elementary book seems called for, which shall give the main outlines of our position with such boldness and effectiveness as to arrest the attention of any unbeliever into whose hands it may fall, and induce him to look further into what else may be urged upon the Christian side. We are bound to adapt our means to our ends, and shall have a better chance of gaining the ear of our adversaries if we can offer them a short and pregnant book than if we come to them with a long one from which whole chapters might be pruned. We have to bring the Christian religion to men who will look at no book which cannot be read in a railway train or in an arm-chair; it is most deplorable that this should be the case, nevertheless it is indisputably a fact, and as such must be attended to by all who hope to be of use in bringing about a better state of things. And let me add that never yet was there a time when it so much behoved all who are impressed with the vital power of religion to bestir themselves; for the symptoms of a general indifference, not to say hostility, must be admitted to be widely diffused, in spite of an imposing array of facts which can be brought forward to the contrary; and not only this, but the stream of infidelity seems making more havoc yearly, as it might naturally be expected to do, when met by no new works of any real strength or permanence.

Bearing in mind, therefore, the necessity for prompt action, it seemed best to take the most overwhelming of all miracles--the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and show that it can be so substantiated that no reasonable man should doubt it. This I have therefore attempted, and I humbly trust that the reader will feel that I have not only attempted it, but done it, once and for all so clearly and satisfactorily and with such an unflinching examination of the most advanced arguments of unbelievers, that the question can never be raised hereafter by any candid mind, or at any rate not until science has been made to rest on different grounds from those on which she rests at present.

But the truth of our Lord's resurrection having been once established, what need to encumber this book with further evidences of the miraculous element in his ministry? The other miracles can be no insuperable difficulty to one who accepts the Resurrection. It is true that as Christians we cannot dwell too minutely upon every act and incident in the life of the Redeemer, but unhappily we have to deal with those who are not Christians, and must consider rather what we can get them to take than what we should like to give them: "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves," saith the Saviour. A single miracle is as good as twenty, provided that it be well established, and can be shewn to be so: it is here that even the ablest of our apologists have too often failed; they have professed to substantiate the historical accuracy of all the recorded miracles and sayings of our Lord, with a result which is in some instances feeble and conventional, and occasionally even unfair (oh! what suicidal folly is there in even the remotest semblance of unfairness), instead of devoting themselves to throwing a flood of brilliancy upon the most important features and leaving the others to shine out in the light reflected from these. Even granting that some of the miracles recorded of our Lord are apocryphal, what of that? We do not rest upon them: we have enough and more than enough without them, and can afford to take the line of saying to the unbeliever, "Disbelieve this miracle or that if you find that you cannot accept it, but believe in the Resurrection, of which we will put forward such ample proofs that no healthy reason can withstand them, and, having accepted the Resurrection, admit it as the manifestation of supernatural power, the existence of which can thus no longer be denied."

Does not the reader feel that there is a ring of truth and candour about this which must carry more weight with an opponent than any strained defence of such a doubtful miracle as the healing of the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda? We weight ourselves as against our opponents by trying to defend too much; no matter how sound and able the defence of one part of the Christian scheme may have been, its effect is often marred by contiguity with argument which the writer himself must have suspected, or even known, to be ingenious rather than sound: the moment that this is felt in any book its value with an opponent is at an end, for he must be continually in doubt whether the spirit which he has detected here or there may not be existing and at work in a hundred other places where he has not detected it. What carries weight with an antagonist is the feeling that his position has been mastered and his difficulties grasped with thoroughness and candour.

On this point I am qualified to speak from long and bitter experience. I say that want of candour and the failure to grasp the position occupied, however untenably, by unbelievers is the chief cause of the continuance of unbelief. When this cause has been removed unbelief will die a natural death. For years I was myself a believer in nothing beyond the personality and providence of God: yet I feel (not without a certain sense of bitterness, which I know that I should not feel but cannot utterly subdue) that if my first doubts had been met with patient endeavour to understand their nature and if I had felt that the one in whom I confided had been ready to go to the root of the matter, and even to yield up the convictions of a life-time could it be shewn that they were unsafely founded, my doubts would have been resolved in an hour or two's quiet conversation, and would at once have had the effect, which they have only had after long suffering and unrest, of confirming me in my allegiance to Christ. But I was met with anger and impatience. There was an instinct which told me that my opponent had never heard a syllable against his own convictions, and was determined not to hear one: on this I assumed rashly that he must have good reason for his resolution; and doubt ripened into unbelief. Oh! what years of heart-burning and utter drifting followed. Yet when I was at last brought within the influence of one who not only believed all that my first opponent did, but who also knew that the more light was thrown upon it the more clearly would its truth be made apparent--a man who talked with me as though he was anxious that I should convince him if he were in error, not as though bent on making me believe whatever habit and circumstances had imposed as a formula upon himself--my heart softened at once, and the dry places of my soul were watered.

The above may seem too purely personal to warrant its introduction here, yet the experience is one which should not be without its value to others. Its effect upon myself has been to give me an unutterable longing to save others from sufferings like my own; I know so well where it is that, to use a homely metaphor, the shoe pinches. And it is chiefly here--in the fact that the unbeliever does not feel as though we really wanted to understand him. This feeling is in many cases lamentably well founded. No one likes hearing doubt thrown upon anything which he regards as settled beyond dispute, and this, happily, is what most men feel concerning Christianity. Again, indolence or impotence of mind indisposes many to intellectual effort; others are pained by coming into contact with anything which derogates from the glory due to the great sacrifice of Christ, or to his Divine nature, and lastly not a few are withheld by moral cowardice from daring to bestow the pains upon the unbeliever which his condition requires. But from whichever of these sources the disinclination to understand him comes, its effect is equally disastrous to the unbeliever. People do not mind a difference of opinion, if they feel that the one who differs from them has got a firm grasp of their position; or again, if they feel that he is trying to understand them but fails from some defect either of intellect or education, even in this case they are not pained by opposition. What injures their moral nature and hardens their hearts is the conviction that another could understand them if he chose, but does not choose, and yet none the less condemns them. On this they become imbued with that bitterness against Christianity which is noticeable in so many free-thinkers.

Can we greatly wonder? For, sad though the admission be, it is only justice to admit that we Christians have been too often contented to accept our faith without knowing its grounds, in which case it is more by luck than by cunning that we are Christians at all, and our faith will be in continual danger. The greater number even of those who have undertaken to defend the Christian faith have been sadly inclined to avoid a difficulty rather than to face it, unless it is so easy as to be no real difficulty at all. I do not say that this is unnatural, for the Christian writer must be deeply impressed with the sinfulness of unbelief, and will therefore be anxious to avoid raising doubts which will probably never yet have occurred to his reader, and might possibly never do so; nor does there at first sight appear to be much advantage in raising difficulties for the sole purpose of removing them; nevertheless I cannot think that if either Butler or Paley could have foreseen the continuance of unbelief, and the ruin of so many souls whom Christ died to save, they would have been contented to act so almost entirely upon the defensive.

Yet it is impossible not to feel that we in their place should have done as they did. Infidelity was still in its infancy: the nature of the disease was hardly yet understood; and there seemed reason to fear lest it might be aggravated by the very means taken to cure it; it seemed safer therefore in the first instance to confine attention to the matter actually in debate, and leave it to time to suggest a more active treatment should the course first tried prove unsatisfactory. Who can be surprised that the earlier apologists should have felt thus in the presence of an enemy whose novelty made him appear more portentous than he can ever seem to ourselves? They were bound to venture nothing rashly; what they did they did, for their own age, thoroughly; we owe it to their cautious pioneering that we so know the weakness of our opponents and our own strength as to be able to do fearlessly what may well have seemed perilous to our forefathers: nevertheless it is easy to be wise after the event, and to regret that a bolder course was not taken at the outset. If Butler and Paley had fought as men eager for the fray, as men who smelt the battle from afar, it is impossible to believe that infidelity could have lasted as long as it has. What can be done now could have been done just as effectively then, and though we cannot be surprised at the caution shewn at first, we are bound to deplore it as short-sighted.

The question, however, for ourselves is not what dead men might have done better long ago, but what living men and women can do most wisely now; and in answer to it I would say that there is no policy so unwise as fear in a good cause: the bold course is also the wise one; it consists in being on the lookout for objections, in finding the very best that can be found and stating them in their most intelligible form, in shewing what are the logical consequences of unbelief, and thus carrying the war into the enemy's country; in fighting with the most chivalrous generosity and a determination to take no advantage which is not according to the rules of war most strictly interpreted against ourselves, but within such an interpretation showing no quarter. This is the bold course and the true course: it will beget a confidence which can never be felt in the wariness, however well-intentioned, of the old defenders.

Let me, therefore, beg the reader to follow me patiently while I do my best to put before him the main difficulties felt by unbelievers. When he is once acquainted with these he will run in no danger of confirming doubt through his fear in turning away from it in the first instance. How many die hardened unbelievers through the treatment which they have received from those to whom their Christianity has been a matter of circumstances and habit only? Hell is no fiction. Who, without bitter sorrow, can reflect upon the agonies even of a single soul as being due to the selfishness or cowardice of others? Awful thought! Yet it is one which is daily realised in the case of thousands.

In the commonest justice to brethren, however sinful, each one of us who tries to lead them to the Saviour is bound not only to shew them the whole strength of our own arguments, but to make them see that we understand the whole strength of theirs; for men will not seriously listen to those whom they believe to know one side of a question only. It is this which makes the educated infidel so hard to deal with; he knows very well that an intelligent apprehension of the position held by an opponent is indispensable for profitable discussion; but he very rarely meets with this in the case of those Christians who try to argue with him; he therefore soon acquires a habit of avoiding the subject of religion, and can seldom be induced to enter upon an argument which he is convinced can lead to nothing.

He who would cure a disease must first know what it is, and he who would convert an infidel must know what it is that he is to be converted from, as well as what he is to be led to; nothing can be laid hold of unless its whereabouts is known. It is deplorable that such commonplaces should be wanted; but, alas! it is impossible to do without them. People have taken a panic on the subject of infidelity as though it were so infectious that the very nurses and doctors should run away from those afflicted with it; but such conduct is no less absurd than cruel and disgraceful. INFIDELITY IS ONLY INFECTIOUS WHEN IT IS NOT UNDERSTOOD. The smallest reflection should suffice to remind us that a faith which has satisfied the most brilliant and profound of human intellects for nearly two thousand years must have had very sure foundations, and that any digging about them for the purpose of demonstrating their depth and solidity, will result, not in their disturbance, but in its being made clear to every eye that they are laid upon a rock which nothing can shake-- that they do indeed satisfy every demand of human reason, which suffers violence not from those who accept the scheme of the Christian redemption, but from those who reject it.

This being the case, and that it is so will, I believe, appear with great clearness in the following pages, what need to shrink from the just and charitable course of understanding the nature of what is urged by those who differ from us? How can we hope to bring them to be of one mind in Christ Jesus with ourselves, unless we can resolve their difficulties and explain them? And how can we resolve their difficulties until we know what they are? Infidelity is as a reeking fever den, which none can enter safely without due precautions, but the taking these precautions is within our own power; we can all rely upon the blessed promises of the Saviour that he will not desert us in our hour of need if we will only truly seek him; there is more infidelity in this shrinking and fear of investigation than in almost any open denial of Christ; the one who refuses to examine the doubts felt by another, and is prevented from making any effort to remove them through fear lest he should come to share them, shews either that he has no faith in the power of Christianity to stand examination, or that he has no faith in the promises of God to guide him into all truth. In either case he is hardly less an unbeliever than those whom he condemns.

Let the reader therefore understand that he will here find no attempt to conceal the full strength of the arguments relied on by unbelievers. This manner of substantiating the truth of Christianity has unhappily been tried already; it has been tried and has failed as it was bound to fail. Infidelity lives upon concealment. Shew it in broad daylight, hold it up before the world and make its hideousness manifest to all--then, and not till then, will the hours of unbelief be numbered. WE have been the mainstay of unbelief through our timidity. Far be it from me, therefore, that I should help any unbeliever by concealing his case for him. This were the most cruel kindness. On the contrary, I shall insist upon all his arguments and state them, if I may say so without presumption, more clearly than they have ever been stated within the same limits. No one knows what they are better than I do. No one was at one time more firmly persuaded that they were sound. May it be found that no one has so well known how also to refute them.

The reader must not therefore expect to find fictitious difficulties in the way of accepting Christianity set up with one hand in order to be knocked down again with the other: he will find the most powerful arguments against all that he holds most sacred insisted on with the same clearness as those on his own side; it is only by placing the two contending opinions side by side in their utmost development that the strength of our own can be made apparent. Those who wish to cry peace, peace, when there is no peace, those who would take their faith by fashion as the take their clothes, those who doubt the strength of their own cause and do not in their heart of heart believe that Christianity will stand investigation, those, again, who care not who may go to Hell provided they are comfortably sure of going to Heaven themselves, such persons may complain of the line which I am about to take. They on the other hand whose faith is such that it knows no fear of criticism, and they whose love for Christ leads them to regard the bringing of lost souls into his flock as the highest earthly happiness--such will admit gladly that I have been right in tearing aside the veil from infidelity and displaying it uncloaked by the side of faith itself.

At the same time I am bound to confess that I never should have been able to see the expediency, not to say the absolute necessity for such a course, unless I had been myself for many years an unbeliever. It is this experience, so bitterly painful, that has made me feel so strongly as to the only manner in which others can be brought from darkness into light. The wisdom of the Almighty recognised that if man was to be saved it must be done by the assumption of man's nature on the part of the Deity. God must make himself man, or man could never learn the nature and attributes of God. Let us then follow the sublime example of the incarnation, and make ourselves as unbelievers that we may teach unbelievers to believe. If Paley and Butler had only been REAL INFIDELS for a single year, instead of taking the thoughts and reasonings of their opponents at second-hand, what a difference should we not have seen in the nature of their work. Alas! their clear and powerful intellects had been trained early in the severest exercises; they could not be misled by any of the sophistries of their opponents; but, on the other hand, never having been misled they knew not the thread of the labyrinth as one who has been shut up therein.

I should also warn the reader of another matter. He must not expect to find that I can maintain everything which he could perhaps desire to see maintained. I can prove, to such a high degree of presumption as shall amount virtually to demonstration, that our Lord died upon the cross, rose again from the dead upon the third day, and ascended into Heaven: but I cannot prove that none of the accounts of these events which have come down to us have suffered from the hand of time: on the contrary, I must own that the reasons which led me to conclude that there must be confusion in some of the accounts of the Resurrection continue in full force with me even now. I see no way of escaping from this conclusion: but it seems equally strange that the Christian should have such an indomitable repugnance to accept it, and that the unbeliever should conceive that it inflicts any damage whatever upon the Christian evidences. Perhaps the error of each confirms that of the other, as will appear hereafter.

I have spoken hitherto as though I were writing only for men, but the help of good women can never be so precious as in the salvation of human souls; if there is one work for which women are better fitted than another, it is that of arresting the progress of unbelief. Can there be a nobler one? Their superior tact and quickness give them a great advantage over men; men will listen to them when they would turn away from one of their own sex; and though I am well aware that courtesy is no argument, yet the natural politeness shewn by a man to a woman will compel attention to what falls from her lips, and will thus perhaps be the means of bringing him into contact with Divine truths which would never otherwise have reached him. Yet this is a work from which too many women recoil in horror--they know that they can do nothing unless they are intimately acquainted with the opinions of those from whom they differ, and from such an intimacy they believe that they are right in shrinking.

Oh, my sisters, my sisters, ye who go into the foulest dens of disease and vice, fearless of the pestilence and of man's brutality, ye whose whole lives bear witness to the cross of Christ and the efficacy of the Divine love, did one of you ever fear being corrupted by the vice with which you came in contact? Is there one of you who fears to examine why it is that even the most specious form of vice is vicious? You fear not infection here, for you know that you are on sure ground, and that there is no form of vice of which the viciousness is not clearly provable; but can you doubt that the foundation of your faith is sure also, and can you not see that your cowardice in not daring to examine the foul and soul-destroying den of infidelity is a stumbling-block to those who have not yet known their Saviour? Your fear is as the fear of children who dare not go in the dark; but alas! the unbeliever does not understand it thus. He says that your fear is not of the darkness but of the light, and that you dare not search lest you should find that which would make against you. Hideous blasphemy against the Lord! But is not the sin to be laid partly at the door of those whose cowardice has given occasion for it?

Is there none of you who knows that as to the pure all things are pure, so to the true and loyal heart all things will confirm its faith? You shrink from this last trial of your allegiance, partly from the pain of even seeing the wounds of your Redeemer laid open-- of even hearing the words of those enemies who have traduced him and crucified him afresh--but you lose the last and highest of the prizes, for great as is your faith now, be very sure that from this crowning proof of your devotion you would emerge with greater still.

Has none of you seen a savage dog barking and tearing at the end of his chain as though he were longing to devour you, and yet if you have gone bravely up to him and bade him be still, he is cowed and never barks again? Such is the genius of infidelity; it loves to threaten those who retreat, yet it shrinks daunted back from those who meet it boldly; it is the lack of boldness on the part of the Christian which gives it all its power; when Christians are strong in the strength of their own cause infidels will know their impotence, but as long as there are cowards there will be those who prey upon cowardice, and as long as those who should defend the cross of Christ hide themselves behind battlements, so long will the enemy come up to the very walls of the defence and trouble them that are within. The above words must have sounded harsh and will I fear have given pain to many a tender heart which is conscious of the depth of its own love for the Redeemer, and would be shocked at the thought that anything had been neglected in his service, but has not the voice of such a heart returned answer to itself that what I have written is just?

Again, I have been told by some that they have been aware of the necessity of doing their best towards putting a stop to infidelity, and that they have been unceasing in their prayers for friends or husbands or relations who know not Christ, but that with prayers their efforts have ended. Now, there can be no one in the whole world who has had more signal proofs of the efficacy of prayer than the writer of these pages, but he would lie if he were to say that prayer was ever answered when it was only another name for idleness, a cloak for the avoidance of obvious duty. God is no helper of the indolent and the coward; if this were so, what need to work at all? Why not sit still, and trust in prayer for everything? No; to the women who have prayed, and prayed only, the answer is ready at hand, that work without prayer is bad, but prayer without work worse. Let them do their own utmost in the way of sowing, planting, and watering, and then let them pray to God that he will vouchsafe them the increase; but they can no more expect the increase to be of God's free gift without the toil of sowing than did the blessed Apostle St. Paul. If God did not convert the heathen for Paul and Apollos in answer to their prayers alone, how can we expect that he will convert the infidel for ourselves, unless we have first followed in the footsteps of the Apostles? The sin of infidelity will rest upon us and our children until we have done our best to shake it off; and this not timidly and disingenuously as those who fear for the result, but with the certainty that it is the infidel and not the Christian who need fear investigation, if the investigation only goes deep enough. Herein has lain our error, we have feared to allow the unbeliever to put forth all his strength lest it should prove stronger than we thought it was, when in truth the world would only have known the sooner of its weakness; and this shall now at last be abundantly shewn, for, as I said above, I will help no infidel by concealing his case; it shall appear in full, and as nearly in his own words as the limits at my disposal will allow. Out of his own mouth shall he be condemned, and yet, I trust, not condemned alone; but converted as I myself, and by the same irresistible chain of purest reason; one thing only is wanted on the part of the reader, it is this, the desire to attain truth regardless of past prejudices.

If an unbeliever has made up his mind that we must be wrong, without having heard our side, and if he presumes to neglect the most ordinary precaution against error--that of understanding the position of an opponent--I can do nothing with him or for him. No man can make another see, if the other persists in shutting his eyes and bandaging them: if it is a victory to be able to say that they cannot see the truth under these circumstances, the victory is with our opponents; but for those who can lay their hands upon their heart and say truly before God and man that they care nothing for the maintenance of their own opinions, but only that they may come to know the truth, for such I can do much. I can put the matter before them in so clear a light that they shall never doubt hereafter.

Never was there a time when such an exposition was wanted so much as now. The specious plausibilities of a pseudo-science have led hundreds of thousands into error; the misapplication of geology has ensnared a host of victims, and a still greater misapplication of natural history seems likely to devour those whom the perversion of geology has spared. Not that I have a word to say against TRUE science: true science can never be an enemy of the Bible, which is the text-book of the science of the salvation of human souls as written by the great Creator and Redeemer of the soul itself, but the Enemy of Mankind is never idle, and no sooner does God vouchsafe to us any clearer illumination of his purposes and manner of working, than the Evil One sets himself to consider how he can turn the blessing into a curse; and by the all-wise dispensation of Providence he is allowed so much triumph as that he shall sift the wise from the foolish, the faithful from the traitors. God knoweth his own. Still there is no surer mark that one is among the number of those whom he hath chosen than the desire to bring all to share in the gracious promises which he has vouchsafed to those that will take advantage of them; and there are few more certain signs of reprobation than indifference as to the existence of unbelief, and faint-heartedness in trying to remove it. It is the duty of all those who love Christ to lead their brethren to love him also; but how can they hope to succeed in this until they understand the grounds on which he is rejected?

For there ARE grounds, insufficient ones, untenable ones, grounds which a little loving patience and, if I may be allowed the word, ingenuity, will shew to be utterly rotten; but as long as their rottenness is only to be asserted and not proved, so long will deluded people build upon them in fancied security. As yet the proof has never been made sufficiently clear. If displayed sufficiently for one age it has been necessary to do the work again for the next. As soon as the errors of one set of people have been made apparent, another set has arisen with fresh objections, or the old fallacies have reappeared in another shape. It is not too much to say that it has never yet been so clearly proved that Christ rose again from the dead, that a jury of educated Englishmen should be compelled to assent to it, even though they had never before heard of Christianity. This therefore it is my object to do once and for ever now.

It is not for me to pry into the motives of the Almighty, nor to inquire why it is that for nearly two thousand years the perfection of proof should never have been duly produced, but if I dare hazard an opinion I should say that such proof was never necessary until now, but that it has lain ready to be produced at a moment's notice on the arrival of the fitting time. In the early stages of the Church the viva voce testimony of the Apostles was still so near that its force was in no way spent; from those times until recently the universality of belief was such that proof was hardly needed; it is only for a hundred years or so (which in the sight of God are but as yesterday) that infidelity has made real progress. Then God raised his hand in wrath; revolution taught men to see the nature of unbelief and the world shrank back in horror; the time of fear passed by; unbelief has again raised itself; whereon we can see that other and even more fearful revolutions {1} are daily threatening. What country is safe? In what part of the world do not men feel an uneasy foreboding of the wrath which will surely come if they do not repent and turn unto the Lord their God? Go where we will we are conscious of that heaviness and oppression which is the precursor of the hurricane and the earthquake; none escape it: an all-pervading sense of rottenness and fearful waiting upon judgment is upon the hearts of all men. May it not be that this awe and silence have been ordained in order that the still small voice of the Lord may be the more clearly heard and welcomed as salvation? Is it not possible that the infinite mercy of God is determined to give mankind one last chance, before the day of that coming which no creature may abide? I dare not answer: yet I know well that the fire burneth within me, and that night and day I take no rest but am consumed until the work committed to me is done, that I may be clear from the blood of all men.


Samuel Butler

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