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Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 378 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
good and true and fruitful in His life would have perished, and have been lost in Judaea.  And the belief in the Resurrection M. Renan thinks due to an hour of over-excited fancy in a woman agonized by sorrow and affection.  When we are presented with an hypothesis on the basis of intrinsic probability, we cannot but remember that the power of delusion and self-deception, though undoubtedly shown in very remarkable instances, must yet be in a certain proportion to what it originates and produces, and that it is controlled by the numerous antagonistic influences of the world.  Crazy women have founded superstitions; but we cannot help thinking that it would be more difficult than M. Renan supposes for crazy women to found a world-wide religion for ages, branching forth into infinite forms, and tested by its application to all varieties of civilisation, and to national and personal character.  M. Renan points to La Salette.  But the assumption would be a bold one that the La Salette people could have invented a religion for Christendom which would stand the wear of eighteen centuries, and satisfy such different minds.  Pious frauds, as he says, may have built cathedrals.  But you must take Christianity for what it has proved itself to be in its hard and unexampled trial.  To start an order, a sect, an institution, even a local tradition or local set of miracles, on foundations already laid, is one thing; it is not the same to be the spring of the most serious and the deepest of moral movements for the improvement of the world, the most unpretending and the most careless of all outward form and show, the most severely searching and universal and lasting in its effects on mankind.  To trace that back to the Teacher without the intervention of the belief in the Resurrection is manifestly impossible.  We know what He is said to have taught; we know what has come of that teaching in the world at large; but if the link which connects the two be not a real one, it is vain to explain it by the dreams of affection.  It was not a matter of a moment or an hour, but of days and weeks continually; not the assertion of one imaginative mourner or two, but of a numerous and variously constituted body of people.  The story, if it was not true, was not delusion, but imposture.  We certainly cannot be said to know much of what happens in the genesis of religions.  But that between such a teacher and such teaching there should intervene such a gigantic falsehood, whether imposture or delusion, is unquestionably one of the hardest violations of probability conceivable, as well as one of the most desperate conclusions as regards the capacity of mankind for truth.  Few thoughts can be less endurable than that the wisest and best of our race, men of the soberest and most serious tempers, and most candid and judicial minds, should have been the victims and dupes of the mad affection of a crazy Magdalen, of “ces touchantes demoniaques, ces pecheresses converties, ces vraies fondatrices du Christianisme.”  M. Renan shrinks from solving such a question by the hypothesis of conscious fraud.  To solve it by sentiment is hardly more respectful either to the world or to truth.

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