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Evidence of Christianity eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 396 pages of information about Evidence of Christianity.

I have, nevertheless, placed the prevalency of the religion amongst the auxiliary arguments of its truth; because, whether it had prevailed or not, or whether its prevalency can or cannot be accounted for, the direct argument remains still.  It is still true that a great number of men upon the spot, personally connected with the history and with the Author of the religion, were induced by what they heard and saw, and knew, not only to change their former opinions, but to give up their time, and sacrifice their ease, to traverse seas and kingdoms without rest and without weariness, to commit themselves to extreme dangers, to undertake incessant toils, to undergo grievous sufferings, and all this solely in consequence, and in support, of their belief of facts, which, if true, establish the truth of the religion, which, if false, they must have known to be so.

PART III.

A brief consideration of some popular objections.

CHAPTER I.

The discrepancies between the several gospels.

I know not a more rash or unphilosophical conduct of the understanding, than to reject the substance of a story by reason of some diversity in the circumstances with which it is related.  The usual character of human testimony is substantial truth under circumstantial variety.  This is what the daily experience of courts of justice teaches.  When accounts of a transaction come from the mouths of different witnesses, it is seldom that it is not possible to pick out apparent or real inconsistencies between them.  These inconsistencies are studiously displayed by an adverse pleader, but oftentimes with little impression upon the minds of the judges.  On the contrary, a close and minute agreement induces the suspicion of confederacy and fraud.  When written histories touch upon the same scenes of action; the comparison almost always affords ground for a like reflection.  Numerous, and sometimes important, variations present themselves; not seldom, also, absolute and final contradictions; yet neither one nor the other are deemed sufficient to shake the credibility of the main fact.  The embassy of the Jews to deprecate the execution of Claudian’s order to place his statute, in their temple, Philo places in harvest, Josephus in seed time; both contemporary writers.  No reader is led by this inconsistency to doubt whether such an embassy was sent, or whether such an order was given.  Our own history supplies examples of the same kind.  In the account of the Marquis of Argyle’s death, in the reign of Charles the Second, we have a very remarkable contradiction.  Lord Clarendon relates that he was condemned to be hanged, which was performed the same day; on the contrary, Burnet, Woodrew, Heath, Echard, concur in stating that he was beheaded; and that he was condemned upon the Saturday, and executed

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