Between the letters which bear the name of Saint Paul in our collection and his history in the Acts of the Apostles there exist many notes of correspondency. The simple perusal of the writings is sufficient to prove that neither the history was taken from the letters, nor the letters from the history. And the undesignedness of the agreements (which undesignedness is gathered from their latency, their minuteness, their obliquity, the suitableness of the circumstances in which they consist to the places in which those circumstances occur, and the circuitous references by which they are traced out) demonstrates that they have not been produced by meditation, or by any fraudulent contrivance. But coincidences, from which these causes are excluded, and which are too close and numerous to be accounted for by accidental concurrences of fiction, must necessarily have truth for their foundation. This argument appeared to my mind of so much value (especially for its assuming nothing beside the existence of the books), that I have pursued it through Saint Paul’s thirteen epistles, in a work published by me four years ago, under the title of Horae Paulinae. I am sensible how feebly any argument which depends upon an induction of particulars is represented without examples. On which account I wished to have abridged my own volume, in the manner in which I have treated Dr. Lardner’s in the preceding chapter. But, upon making the attempt, I did not find it in my power to render the articles intelligible by fewer words than I have there used. I must be content, therefore, to refer the reader to the work itself. And I would particularly invite his attention to the observations which are made in it upon the first three epistles. I persuade myself that he will find the proofs, both of agreement, and undesignedness, supplied by these epistles, sufficient to support the conclusion which is there maintained, in favour both of the genuineness of the writings and the truth of the narrative.
It remains only, in this place, to point out how the argument bears upon the general question of the Christian history.
First, Saint Paul in these letters affirms, in unequivocal terms, his own performance of miracles, and, what ought particularly to be remembered, “That miracles were the signs of an Apostle.” (Rom. xv. 18, 19. 2 Cor. xii. 12.) If this testimony come from Saint Paul’s own hand, it is invaluable. And that it does so, the argument before us fixes in my mind a firm assurance.
Secondly, it shows that the series of action represented in the epistles of Saint Paul was real; which alone lays a foundation for the proposition which forms the subject of the first part of our present work, viz. that the original witnesses of the Christian history devoted themselves to lives of toil, suffering, and danger, in consequence of their belief of the truth of that history, and for the sake of communicating the knowledge of it to others.