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The Fair Haven
by Samuel Butler
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The above extracts (written when he was about twenty-three years old) may serve to show how utter was the subversion of his faith. His mind was indeed in darkness! Who could have hoped that so brilliant a day should have succeeded to the gloom of such mistrust? Yet as upon a winter's morning in November when the sun rises red through the smoke, and presently the fog spreads its curtain of thick darkness over the city, and then there comes a single breath of wind from some more generous quarter, whereupon the blessed sun shines again, and the gloom is gone; or, again, as when the warm south-west wind comes up breathing kindness from the sea, unheralded, suspected, when the earth is in her saddest frost, and on the instant all the lands are thawed and opened to the genial influences of a sweet springful whisper—so thawed his heart, and the seed which had lain dormant in its fertile soil sprang up, grew, ripened, and brought forth an abundant harvest.

Indeed now that the result has been made plain we can perhaps feel that his scepticism was precisely of that nature which should have given the greatest ground for hope. He was a genuine lover of truth in so far as he could see it.

His lights were dim, but such as they were he walked according to them, and hence they burnt ever more and more clearly, till in later life they served to show him what is vouchsafed to such men and to such only—the enormity of his own mistakes. Better that a man should feel the divergence between Christian theory and Christian practice, that he should be shocked at it—even to the breaking away utterly from the theory until he has arrived at a wider comprehension of its scope—than that he should be indifferent to the divergence and make no effort to bring his principles and practice into harmony with one another. A true lover of consistency, it was intolerable to him to say one thing with his lips and another with his actions. As long as this is true concerning any man, his friends may feel sure that the hand of the Lord is with him, though the signs thereof be hidden from mortal eyesight.



CHAPTER IV



During the dark and unhappy time when he had, as it seems to me, bullied himself, or been bullied into infidelity, he had been utterly unable to realise the importance even of such a self-evident fact as that our Lord addressing an Eastern people would speak in such a way as Eastern people would best understand; it took him years to appreciate this. He could not see that modes of thought are as much part of a language as the grammar and words which compose it, and that before a passage can be said to be translated from one language into another it is often not the words only which must be rendered, but the thought itself which must be transformed; to a people habituated to exaggeration a saying which was not exaggerated would have been pointless—so weak as to arrest the attention of no one; in order to translate it into such words as should carry precisely the same meaning to colder and more temperate minds, the words would often have to be left out of sight altogether, and a new sentence or perhaps even simile or metaphor substituted; this is plainly out of the question, and therefore the best course is that which has been taken, i.e., to render the words as accurately as possible, and leave the reader to modify the meaning. But it was years before my brother could be got to feel this, nor did he ever do so fully, simple and obvious though it must appear to most people, until he had learned to recognise the value of a certain amount of inaccuracy and inconsistency in everything which is not comprehended in mechanics or the exact sciences. "It is this," he used to say, "which gives artistic or spiritual value as contrasted with mechanical precision."

In inaccuracy and inconsistency, therefore (within certain limits), my brother saw the means whereby our minds are kept from regarding things as rigidly and immutably fixed which are not yet fully understood, and perhaps may never be so while we are in our present state of probation. Life is not one of the exact sciences, living is essentially an art and not a science. Every thing addressed to human minds at all must be more or less of a compromise; thus, to take a very old illustration, even the definitions of a point and a line— the fundamental things in the most exact of the sciences—are mere compromises. A point is supposed to have neither length, breadth, nor thickness—this in theory, but in practice unless a point have a little of all these things there is nothing there. So with a line; a line is supposed to have length, but no breadth, yet in practice we never saw a line which had not breadth. What inconsistency is there here, in requiring us to conceive something which we cannot conceive, and which can have no existence, before we go on to the investigation of the laws whereby the earth can alone be measured and the orbits of the planets determined. I do not think that this illustration was presented to my brother's mind while he was young, but I am sure that if it had been it would have made him miserable. He would have had no confidence in mathematics, and would very likely have made a furious attack upon Newton and Galileo, and been firmly convinced that he was discomfiting them. Indeed I cannot forget a certain look of bewilderment which came over his face when the idea was put before him, I imagine, for the first time. Fortunately he had so grown that the right inference was now in no danger of being missed. He did not conclude that because the evidences for mathematics were founded upon compromises and definitions which are inaccurate—therefore that mathematics were false, or that there were no mathematics, but he learnt to feel that there might be other things which were no less indisputable than mathematics, and which might also be founded on facts for which the evidences were not wholly free from inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

To some he might appear to be approaching too nearly to the "Sed tu vera puta" argument of Juvenal. I greatly fear that an attempt may be made to misrepresent him as taking this line; that is to say, as accepting Christianity on the ground of the excellence of its moral teaching, and looking upon it as, indeed, a superstition, but salutary for women and young people. Hardly anything would have shocked him more profoundly. This doctrine with its plausible show of morality appeared to him to be, perhaps, the most gross of all immoralities, inasmuch as it cuts the ground from under the feet of truth, luring the world farther and farther from the only true salvation—the careful study of facts and of the safest inferences that may be drawn from them. Every fact was to him a part of nature, a thing sacred, pregnant with Divine teaching of some sort, as being the expression of Divine will. It was through facts that he saw God; to tamper with facts was, in his view, to deface the countenance of the Almighty. To say that such and such was so and so, when the speaker did not believe it, was to lead people to worship a false God instead of a true one; an e?d????; setting them, to quote the words of the Psalmist, "a-whoring after their own imaginations." He saw the Divine presence in everything—the evil as well as the good; the evil being the expression of the Divine will that such and such courses should not go unpunished, but bring pain and misery which should deter others from following them, and the good being his sign of approbation. There was nothing good for man to know which could not be deduced from facts. This was the only sound basis of knowledge, and to found things upon fiction which could be made to stand upon facts was to try and build upon a quicksand.

He, therefore, loathed the reasoning of Juvenal with all the intensity of his nature. It was because he believed that the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord were just as much matters of actual history as the assassination of Julius Caesar, and that they happened precisely in the same way as every daily event happens at present—that he accepted the Christian scheme in its essentials. Then came the details. Were these also objectively true? He answered, "Certainly not in every case." He would not for the world have had any one believe that he so considered them; but having made it perfectly clear that he was not going to deceive himself, he set himself to derive whatever spiritual comfort he could from them, just as he would from any noble fiction or work of art, which, while not professing to be historical, was instinct with the soul of genius. That there were unhistorical passages in the New Testament was to him a fact; therefore it was to be studied as an expression of the Divine will. What could be the meaning of it? That we should consider them as true? Assuredly not this. Then what else? This—that we should accept as subjectively true whatever we found spiritually precious, and be at liberty to leave all the rest alone—the unhistoric element having been introduced purposely for the sake of giving greater scope and latitude to the value of the ideal.

Of course one who was so firmly persuaded of the objective truth of the Resurrection and Ascension could be in no sort of danger of relapsing into infidelity as long as his reason remained. During the years of his illness his mind was clearly impaired, and no longer under his own control; but while his senses were his own it was absolutely impossible that he could be shaken by discrepancies and inconsistencies in the gospels. What small and trifling things are such discrepancies by the side of the great central miracle of the Resurrection! Nevertheless their existence was indisputable, and was no less indisputably a cause of stumbling to many, as it had been to himself. His experience of his own sufferings as an unbeliever gave him a keener sympathy with those who were in that distressing condition than could be felt by any one who had not so suffered, and fitted him, perhaps, more than any one who has yet lived to be the interpreter of Christianity to the Rationalist, and of Rationalism to the Christian. This, accordingly, was the task to which he set himself, having been singularly adapted for it by Nature, and as singularly disciplined by events.

It seemed to him that the first thing was to make the two parties understand one another—a thing which had never yet been done, but which was not at all impossible. For Protestantism is raised essentially upon a Rationalistic base. When we come to a definition of Rationalism nothing can be plainer than that it demands no scepticism from any one which an English Protestant would not approve of. It is another matter with the Church of Rome. That Church openly declares it as an axiom that religion and reason have nothing to do with one another, and that religion, though in flat contradiction to reason, should yet be accepted from the hands of a certain order as an act of unquestioning faith. The line of separation therefore between the Romanist and the Rationalist is clear, and definitely bars any possibility of arrangement between the two. Not so with the Protestant, who as heartily as the Rationalist admits that nothing is required to be believed by man except such things as can be reasonably proved—i.e., proved to the satisfaction of the reason. No Protestant would say that the Christian scheme ought to be accepted in spite of its being contrary to reason; we say that Christianity is to be believed because it can be shewn to follow as the necessary consequence of using our reason rightly. We should be shocked at being supposed to maintain otherwise. Yet this is pure Rationalism. The Rationalist would require nothing more; he demurs to Christianity because he maintains that if we bring our reason to bear upon the evidences which are brought forward in support of it, we are compelled to reject it; but he would accept it without hesitation if he believed that it could be sustained by arguments which ought to carry conviction to the reason. Thus both are agreed in principle that if the evidences of Christianity satisfy human reason, then Christianity should be received, but that on any other supposition it should be rejected.

Here then, he said, we have a common starting-point and the main principle of Rationalism turns out to be nothing but what we all readily admit, and with which we and our fathers have been as familiar for centuries as with the air we breathe. Every Protestant is a Rationalist, or else he ought to be ashamed of himself. Does he want to be called an "Irrationalist"? Hardly—yet if he is not a Rationalist what else can he be? No: the difference between us is one of detail, not of principle. This is a great step gained.

The next thing therefore was to make each party understand the view which the other took concerning the position which they had agreed to hold in common. There was no work, so far as he knew, which would be accepted both by Christians and unbelievers as containing a fair statement of the arguments of the two contending parties: every book which he had yet seen upon either side seemed written with the view of maintaining that its own side could hold no wrong, and the other no right: neither party seemed to think that they had anything to learn from the other, and neither that any considerable addition to their knowledge of the truth was either possible or desirable. Each was in possession of truth already, and all who did not see and feel this must be either wilfully blinded, or intensely stupid, or hypocrites.

So long as people carried on a discussion thus, what agreement was possible between them? Yet where, upon the Christian side, was the attempt to grapple with the real difficulties now felt by unbelievers? Simply nowhere. All that had been done hitherto was antiquated. Modern Christianity seemed to shrink from grappling with modern Rationalism, and displayed a timidity which could not be accounted for except by the supposition of secret misgiving that certain things were being defended which could not be defended fairly. This was quite intolerable; a misgiving was a warning voice from God, which should be attended to as a man valued his soul. On the other hand, the conviction reasonably entertained by unbelievers that they were right on many not inconsiderable details of the dispute, and that so-called orthodox Christians in their hearts knew it but would not own it—or that if they did not know it, they were only in ignorance because it suited their purpose to be so—this conviction gave an overweening self-confidence to infidels, as though they must be right in the whole because they were so in part; they therefore blinded themselves to all the more fundamental arguments in support of Christianity, because certain shallow ones had been put forward in the front rank, and been far too obstinately defended. They thus regarded the question too superficially, and had erred even more through pride of intellect and conceit than their opponents through timidity.

What then was to be done? Surely this; to explain the two contending parties to one another; to show to Rationalists that Christians are right upon Rationalistic principles in all the more important of their allegations; that is to say, to establish the Resurrection and Ascension of the Redeemer upon a basis which should satisfy the most imperious demands of modern criticism. This would form the first and most important part of the task. Then should follow a no less convincing proof that Rationalists are right in demurring to the historical accuracy of much which has been too obstinately defended by so-called orthodox writers. This would be the second part. Was there not reason to hope that when this was done the two parties might understand one another, and meet in a common Christianity? He believed that there was, and that the ground had been already cleared for such mutual compromise as might be accepted by both sides, not from policy but conviction. Therefore he began writing the book which it has devolved upon myself to edit, and which must now speak for itself. For him it was to suffer and to labour; almost on the very instant of his having done enough to express his meaning he was removed from all further power of usefulness.

The happy change from unbelief to faith had already taken place some three or four years before my return from America. With it had also come that sudden development of intellectual and spiritual power which so greatly astonished even those who had known him best. The whole man seemed changed—to have become possessed of an unusually capacious mind, instead of one which was acute, but acute only. On looking over the earlier letters which I received from him when I was in America, I can hardly believe that they should have been written by the same person as the one to whom, in spite of not a few great mental defects, I afterwards owed more spiritual enrichment than I have owed to any other person. Yet so it was. It came upon me imperceptibly that I had been very stupid in not discovering that my brother was a genius; but hardly had I made the discovery, and hardly had the fragment which follows this memoir received its present shape, when his overworked brain gave way and he fell into a state little better than idiocy. His originally cheerful spirits left him, and were succeeded by a religious melancholy which nothing could disturb. He became incapable either of mental or physical exertion, and was pronounced by the best physicians to be suffering from some obscure disease of the brain brought on by excitement and undue mental tension: in this state he continued for about four years, and died peacefully, but still as one in the profoundest melancholy, on the 15th of March, 1872, aged 40.

Always hopeful that his health would one day be restored, I never ventured to propose that I should edit his book during his own life- time. On his death I found his papers in the most deplorable confusion. The following chapters had alone received anything like a presentable shape—and these providentially are the most essential.

A dream is a dream only, yet sometimes there follows a fulfilment which bears a strange resemblance to the thing dreamt of. No one now believes that the Book of Revelation is to be taken as foretelling events which will happen in the same way as the massacre, for instance, of St. Bartholomew, indeed it is doubtful how far the whole is not to be interpreted as an allegory, descriptive of spiritual revolutions; yet surely my mother's dream as to the future of one, at least, of her sons has been strangely verified, and it is believed that the reader when he lays down this volume will feel that there have been few more potent witnesses to the truth of Christ than John Pickard Owen.



THE FAIR HAVEN



CHAPTER I—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.



CHAPTER II—STRAUSS AND THE HALLUCINATION THEORY



It has been well established by Paley, and indeed has seldom been denied, that within a very few years of Christ's crucifixion a large number of people believed that he had risen from the dead. They believed that after having suffered actual death he rose to actual life, as a man who could eat and drink and talk, who could be seen and handled. Some who held this were near relations of Christ, some had known him intimately for a considerable time before his crucifixion, many must have known him well by sight, but all were unanimous in their assertion that they had seen him alive after he had been dead, and in consequence of this belief they adopted a new mode of life, abandoning in many cases every other earthly consideration save that of bearing witness to what they had known and seen. I have not thought it worth while to waste time and space by introducing actual proof of the above. This will be found in Paley's opening chapters, to which the reader is referred.

How then did this intensity of conviction come about? Differ as they might and did upon many of the questions arising out of the main fact which they taught, as to the fact itself they differed not in the least degree. In their own life-time and in that of those who could confute them their story gained the adherence of a very large and ever increasing number. If it could be shewn that the belief in Christ's reappearance did not arise until after the death of those who were said to have seen him, when actions and teachings might have been imputed to them which were not theirs, the case would then be different; but this cannot be done; there is nothing in history better established than that the men who said that they had seen Christ alive after he had been dead, were themselves the first to lay aside all else in order to maintain their assertion. If it could be maintained that they taught what they did in order to sanction laxity of morals, the case would again be changed. But this too is impossible. They taught what they did because of the intensity of their own conviction and from no other motive whatsoever.

What then can that thing have been which made these men so beyond all measure and one-mindedly certain? Were they thus before the Crucifixion? Far otherwise. Yet the men who fled in the hour of their master's peril betrayed no signs of flinching when their own was no less imminent. How came it that the cowardice and fretfulness of the Gospels should be transformed into the lion-hearted steadfastness of the Acts?

The Crucifixion had intervened. Yes, but surely something more than the Crucifixion. Can we believe that if their experience of Christ had ended with the Cross, the Apostles would have been in that state of mind which should compel them to leave all else for the sake of preaching what he had taught them? It is a hard thing for a man to change the scheme of his life; yet this is not a case of one man but of many, who became changed as if struck with an enchanter's wand, and who, though many, were as one in the vehemence with which they protested that their master had reappeared to them alive. Their converse with Christ did not probably last above a year or two, and was interrupted by frequent absence. If Christ had died once and for all upon the Cross, Christianity must have died with him; but it did not die; nay, it did not begin to live with full energy until after its founder had been crucified. We must ask again, what could that thing have been which turned these querulous and faint-hearted followers into the most earnest and successful body of propagandists which the world has ever seen, if it was not that which they said it was—namely, that Christ had reappeared to them alive after they had themselves known him to be dead? This would account for the change in them, but is there anything else that will?

They had such ample opportunities of knowing the truth that the supposition of mistake is fraught with the greatest difficulties; they gave such guarantees of sincerity as that none have given greater; their unanimity is perfect; there is not the faintest trace of any difference of opinion amongst them as to the main fact of the Resurrection. These are things which never have been and never can be denied, but if they do not form strong prima facie ground for believing in the truth and actuality of Christ's Resurrection, what is there which will amount to a prima facie case for anything whatever?

Nevertheless the matter does not rest here. While there exists the faintest possibility of mistake we may be sure that we shall deal most wisely by examining its character and value. Let us inquire therefore whether there are any circumstances which seem to indicate that the early Christians might have been mistaken, and been firmly persuaded that they had seen Christ alive, although in point of fact they had not really seen him? Men have been very positive and very sincere about things wherein we should have conceived mistake impossible, and yet they have been utterly mistaken. A strong predisposition, a rare coincidence, an unwonted natural phenomenon, a hundred other causes, may turn sound judgments awry, and we dare not assume forthwith that the first disciples of Christ were superior to influences which have misled many who have had better chances of withstanding them. Visions and hallucinations are not uncommon even now. How easily belief in a supernatural occurrence obtains among the peasantry of Italy, Ireland, Belgium, France, and Spain; and how much more easily would it do so among Jews in the days of Christ, when belief in supernatural interferences with this world's economy was, so to speak, omnipresent. Means of communication, that is to say of verification, were few, and the tone of men's minds as regards accuracy of all kinds was utterly different from that of our own; science existed not even in name as the thing we now mean by it; few could read and fewer write, so that a story could seldom be confined to its original limits; error, therefore, had much chance and truth little as compared with our own times. What more is needed to make us feel how possible it was for the purest and most honest of men to become parents of all fallacy?

Strauss believes this to have been the case. He supposes that the earliest Christians were under hallucination when they thought that they had seen Christ alive after his Crucifixion; in other words, that they never saw him at all, but only thought that they had done so. He does not imagine that they conceived this idea at once, but that it grew up gradually in the course of a few years, and that those who came under its influence antedated it unconsciously afterwards. He appears to believe that within a few months of the Crucifixion, and in consequence of some unexplained combination of internal and external causes, some one of the Apostles came to be impressed with the notion that he had seen Christ alive; the impression, however made, was exceedingly strong, and was communicated as soon as might be to some other or others of the Apostles: the idea was welcome—as giving life to a hope which had been fondly cherished; each inflamed the imagination of the other, until the original basis of the conception slipped unconsciously from recollection, while the intensity of the conviction itself became stronger and stronger the more often the story was repeated. Strauss supposes that on seeing the firm conviction of two or three who had hitherto been leaders among them, the other Apostles took heart, and that thus the body grew together again perhaps within a twelve-month of the Crucifixion. According to him, the idea of the Resurrection having been once started, and having once taken root, the soil was so congenial that it grew apace; the rest of the Apostles, perhaps assembled together in a high state of mental enthusiasm and excitement, conceived that they saw Christ enter the room in which they were sitting and afford some manifest proof of life and identity; or some one else may have enlarged a less extraordinary story to these dimensions, so that in a short time it passed current everywhere (there have been instances of delusions quite as extraordinary gaining a foothold among men whose sincerity is not to be disputed), and finally they conceived that these appearances of their master had commenced a few months—and what is a few months?— earlier than they actually had, so that the first appearance was soon looked upon as having been vouchsafed within three days of the Crucifixion.

The above is not in Strauss's words, but it is a careful resume of what I gather to be his conception of the origin of the belief in the Resurrection of Christ. The belief, and the intensity of the belief, need explanation; the supernatural explanation, as we should ourselves readily admit, cannot be accepted unless all others are found wanting; he therefore, if I understand him rightly, puts forward the above as being a reasonable and natural solution of the difficulty—the only solution which does not fail upon examination, and therefore the one which should be accepted. It is founded upon the affection which the Apostles had borne towards their master, and their unwillingness to give up their hope that they had been chosen, as the favoured lieutenants of the promised Messiah.

No man would be willing to give up such hope easily; all men would readily welcome its renewal; it was easy in the then intellectual condition of Palestine for hallucination to originate, and still easier for it to spread; the story touched the hearts of men too nearly to render its propagation difficult. Men and women like believing in the marvellous, for it brings the chance of good fortune nearer to their own doors; but how much more so when they are themselves closely connected with the central figure of the marvel, and when it appears to give a clue to the solution of that mystery which all would pry into if they could—our future after death? There can be no great cause for wonder that an hallucination which arose under such conditions as these should have gained ground and conquered all opposition, even though its origin may be traced to the brain of but a single person.

He would be a bold man who should say that this was impossible; nevertheless it cannot be accepted. For, in the first place, we collect most certainly from the Gospel records that the Apostles were NOT a compact and devoted body of adherents at the time of the Crucifixion; yet it is hard to see how Strauss's hallucination theory can be accepted, unless this was the case. If Strauss believed the earliest followers of Christ to have been already immovably fixed in their belief that he was the Son of God—the promised Messiah, of whom they were themselves the especially chosen ministers—if he considered that they believed in their master as the worker of innumerable miracles which they had themselves witnessed; as one whom they had seen raise others from death to life, and whom, therefore, death could not be expected to control—if he held the followers of Christ to have been in this frame of mind at the time of the Crucifixion, it might be intelligible that he should suppose the strength of their faith to have engendered an imaginary reappearance in order to save them from the conclusion that their hopes had been without foundation; that, in point of fact, they should have accepted a new delusion in order to prop up an old one; but we know very well that Strauss does not accept this position. He denies that the Apostles had seen any miracles; independently therefore of the many and unmistakable traces of their having been but partial and wavering adherents, which have made it a matter of common belief among those who have studied the New Testament that the faith of the Apostles was unsteadfast before the Crucifixion, he must have other and stronger reasons for thinking that this was so, inasmuch as he does not look upon them as men who had seen our Lord raise any one from the dead, nor restore the eyes of the blind.

According to him, they may have seen Christ exercise unusual power over the insane, and temporary alleviations of sickness, due perhaps to mental excitement, may have taken place in their presence and passed for miracles; he would doubt how far they had even seen this much, for he would insist on many passages in the Gospels which would point in the direction of our Lord's never having professed to work a single miracle; but even though he granted that they had seen certain extraordinary cases of healing, there is no amount of testimony which would for a moment satisfy him of their having seen more. WE see the Apostles as men who before the Crucifixion had seen Lazarus raised from death to life after the corruption of the grave had begun its work, and who had seen sight given to one that had been born sightless; as men who had seen miracle after miracle, with every loophole for escape from a belief in the miraculous carefully excluded; who had seen their master walking upon the sea, and bidding the winds be still; our difficulty therefore is to understand the incredulity of the Apostles as displayed abundantly in the Gospels; but Strauss can have none such; for he must see them as men over whom the influence of their master had been purely personal, and due to nothing more than to a strength and beauty of character which his followers very imperfectly understood. HE does not believe that Lazarus was raised at all, or that the man who had been born blind ever existed; he considers the fourth gospel, which alone records these events, to be the work of a later age, and not to be depended on for facts, save here and there; certainly not where the facts recorded are miraculous. He must therefore be even more ready than we are to admit that the faith of the Apostles was weak before the Crucifixion; but whether he is or not, we have it on the highest authority that their faith was not strong enough to maintain them at the very first approach of danger, nor to have given them any hope whatever that our Lord should rise again; whereas for Strauss's theory to hold good, it must already have been in a white heat of enthusiasm.

But even granting that this was so—in the face of all the evidence we can reach—men so honest and sincere as the Apostles proved themselves to be, would have taken other ground than the assertion that their master had reappeared to them alive, unless some very extraordinary occurrences had led them to believe that they had indeed seen him. If their faith was glowing and intense at the time of the Crucifixion—so intense that they believed in Christ as much, or nearly as much, after the Crucifixion as before it (and unless this were so the hallucinations could never have arisen at all, or at any rate could never have been so unanimously accepted)—it would have been so intense as to stand in no need of a reappearance. In this case, if they had found that their master did not return to them, the Apostles would probably have accepted the position that he had, contrary to their expectation, been put to a violent death; they would, perhaps, have come sooner or later to the conclusion that he was immediately on death received into Heaven, and was sitting on the right hand of God; while some extraordinary dream might have been construed into a revelation of the fact with the manner of its occurrence, and been soon generally believed; but the idea of our Lord's return to earth in a gross material body whereon the wounds were still unhealed, was perhaps the last thing that would have suggested itself to them by way of hallucination. If their faith had been great enough, and their spirits high enough to have allowed hallucination to originate at all, their imagination would have presented them at once with a glorious throne, and the splendours of the highest Heaven as appearing through the opened firmament; it would not surely have rested satisfied with a man whose hands and side were wounded, and who could eat of a piece of broiled fish and of an honeycomb. A fabric so utterly baseless as the reappearances of our Lord (on the supposition of their being unhistoric) would have been built of gaudier materials. To repeat, it seems impossible that the Apostles should have attempted to connect their hallucinations circumstantially and historically with the events which had immediately preceded them. Hallucination would have been conscious of a hiatus and not have tried to bridge it over. It would not have developed the idea of our Lord's return to this grovelling and unworthy earth prior to his assumption into glory, unless those who were under its influence had either seen other resurrections from the dead—in which case there is no difficulty attaching to the Resurrection of our Lord himself—or been forced into believing it by the evidence of their own senses; this, on the supposition that the devotion of the first disciples was intense before the Crucifixion; but if, on the other hand, they were at that time anything but steadfast, as both a priori and a posteriori evidence would seem to indicate, if they were few and wavering, and if what little faith they had was shaken to its foundations and apparently at an end for ever with the death of Christ, it becomes indeed difficult to see how the idea of his return to earth alive could have ever struck even a single one of them, much less that hallucinations which could have had no origin but in the disordered brain of some one member of the Apostolic body, should in a short time have been accepted by all as by one man without a shadow of dissension, and been strong enough to convert them, as was said above, into the most earnest and successful body of propagandists that the world has ever seen.

Truly this is not too much to say of them; and yet we are asked to believe that this faith, so intensely energetic, grew out of one which can hardly be called a faith at all, in consequence of day- dreams whose existence presupposes a faith hardly if any less intense than that which it is supposed to have engendered. Are we not warranted in asserting that a movement which is confined to a few wavering followers, and which receives any very decisive check, which scatters and demoralises the few who have already joined it, will be absolutely sure to die a speedy natural death unless something utterly strange and new occurs to give it a fresh impetus? Such a resuscitating influence would have been given to the Christian religion by the reappearance of Christ alive. This would meet the requirements of the case, for we can all feel that if we had already half believed in some gifted friend as a messenger from God, and if we had seen that friend put to death before our eyes, and yet found that the grave had no power over him, but that he could burst its bonds and show himself to us again unmistakably alive, we should from that moment yield ourselves absolutely his; but our faith would die with him unless it had been utter before his death.

The devotion of the Apostles is explained by their belief in the Resurrection, but their belief in the Resurrection is not explained by a supposed hallucination; for their minds were not in that state in which alone such a delusion could establish itself firmly, and unless it were established firmly by the most apparently irrefragable evidence of many persons, it would have had no living energy. How an hallucination could occur in the requisite strength to the requisite number of people is neither explained nor explicable, except upon the supposition that the Apostles were in a very different frame of mind at the time of Christ's Crucifixion from that which all the evidence we can get would seem to indicate. If Strauss had first made this point clear we could follow him. But he has not done so.

Strauss says, the conception that Christ's body had been reawakened and changed, "a double miracle, exceeding far what had occurred in the case of Enoch and Elijah, could only be credible to one who saw in him a prophet far superior to them"—i.e., to one who notwithstanding his death was persuaded that he was the Messiah: "this conviction" (that a double miracle had been performed) "was the first to which the Apostles had to attain in the days of their humiliation after the Crucifixion." Yes—but how were they to attain to it, being now utterly broken down and disillusioned? Strauss admits that before they could have come to hold what he supposes them to have held, they must have seen in Christ even after his Crucifixion a prophet far greater than either Moses or Elias; whereas in point of fact it is very doubtful whether they ever believed this much of their master even before the Crucifixion, and hardly questionable that after it they disbelieved in him almost entirely, until he shewed himself to them alive. Is it possible that from the dead embers of so weak a faith, so vast a conflagration should have been kindled?

I submit, therefore, that independently of any direct evidence as to the when and where of Christ's reappearances, the fact that the Apostles before the Crucifixion were irresolute, and after it unspeakably resolute, affords strong ground for believing that they must have seen something, or come to know something, which to their minds was utterly overwhelming in its convincing power: when we find the earliest and most trustworthy records unanimously asserting that that something was the reappearance of Christ alive, we feel that such a reappearance was an adequate cause for the result actually produced; and when we think over the condition of mind which both probability and evidence assign to the Apostles, we also feel that no other circumstance would have been adequate, nor even this unless the proof had been such as none could reasonably escape from.

Again, Strauss's supposition that the Apostles antedated their hallucinations suggests no less difficulty. Suppose that, after all, Strauss is right, and that there was no actual reappearance; whatever it was that led the Apostles to believe in such reappearance must have been, judging by its effect, intense and memorable: it must have been as a shock obliterating everything save the memory of itself and the things connected with it: the time and manner of such a shock could never have been forgotten, nor misplaced without deliberate intention to deceive, and no one will impute any such intention to the Apostles.

It may be said that if they were capable of believing in the reality of their visions they would be also capable of antedating them; this is true; but the double supposition of self-delusion, first in seeing the visions at all, and then in unconsciously antedating them, reduces the Apostles to such an exceedingly low level of intelligence and trustworthiness, that no good and permanent work could come from such persons; the men who could be weak enough, and crazed enough, if the reader will pardon the expression, to do as Strauss suggests, could never have carried their work through in the way they did. Such men would have wrecked their undertaking a hundred times over in the perils which awaited it upon every side; they would have become victims of their own fancies and desires, with little or no other grounds than these for any opinions they might hold or teach: from such a condition of mind they must have gone on to one still worse; and their tenets would have perished with them, if not sooner.

Again, as regards this antedating; unless the visions happened at once, it is inconceivable that they should have happened at all. Strauss believes that the disciples fled in their first terror to their homes: that when there, "outside the range to which the power of the enemies and murderers of their master extended, the spell of terror and consternation which had been laid upon their minds gave way," and that under the circumstances a reaction up to the point at which they might have visions of Christ is capable of explanation. The answer to this is that it is indeed likely that the spell of terror would give way when they found themselves safe at home, but that it is not at all likely that any reaction would take place in favour of one to whom their allegiance had never been thorough, and whom they supposed to have met with a violent and accursed end. It might be easy to imagine such a reaction if we did not also attempt to imagine the circumstances that must have preceded it; the moment we try to do this, we find it to be an impossibility. If once the Apostles had been dispersed, and had returned home to their former avocations without having seen or heard anything of their master's return to earth, all their expectations would have been ended; they would have remained peaceable fishermen for the rest of their lives, and been cured once and for ever of their enthusiasm.

Can we believe that the disciples, returning to Galilee in fear, and bereaved of that master mind which had kept them from falling out with one another, would have remained a united and enthusiastic body? Strauss admits that their enthusiasm was for the time ended. Is it then likely that they would have remained in any sense united, or is it not much more likely that they would have shunned each other and disliked allusions to the past? What but Christ's actual reappearance could rekindle this dead enthusiasm, and fan it to such a burning heat? Suppose that one or two disciples recovered faith and courage, the majority would never do so. If Christ himself with the magic of his presence could not weld them into a devoted and harmonious company, would the rumour arising at a later time that some one had seen him after death, be acceptable enough to make the others believe that they too had actually seen and handled him? Perhaps—if the rumour was believed. But WOULD it have been believed? Or at any rate have been believed so utterly?

We cannot think it. For the belief and assertion are absolutely without trace of dissent within the Christian body, and that body was in the first instance composed entirely of the very persons who had known and followed Christ before the Crucifixion. If some of the original twelve had remained aloof and disputed the reappearances of Christ, is it possible that no trace of such dissension should appear in the Epistles of St. Paul? Paul differed widely enough from those who were Apostles before him, and his language concerning them is occasionally that of ill-concealed contempt and hatred rather than of affection; but is there a word or hint which would seem to indicate that a single one of those who had the best means of knowing doubted the Resurrection? There is nothing of the kind; on the contrary, whatever we find is such as to make us feel perfectly sure that none of them DID doubt it. Is it then possible that this unanimity should have sprung from the original hallucinations of a small minority? True—it is plain from the Epistle to the Corinthians that there were some of Paul's contemporaries who denied the Resurrection. But who were they? We should expect that many among the more educated Gentile converts would throw doubt upon so stupendous a miracle, but is there anything which would point in the direction of these doubts having been held within the original body of those who said that they had seen Christ alive? By the eleven, or by the five hundred who saw him at once? There is not one single syllable. Those who heard the story second-hand would doubtless some of them attempt to explain away its miraculous character, but if it had been founded on hallucination it is not from these alone that the doubts would have come.

Something is imperatively demanded in order to account for the intensity of conviction manifested by the earliest Christians shortly after the Crucifixion; for until that time they were far from being firmly convinced, and the Crucifixion was the very last thing to have convinced them. Given (to speak of our Lord as he must probably appear to Strauss) an unusually gifted teacher of a noble and beautiful character: given also, a small body of adherents who were inclined to adopt him as their master and to regard him as the coming liberator, but who were nevertheless far from settled in their conviction: given such a man and such followers: the teacher is put to a shameful death about two years after they had first known him, and the followers forsake him instantly: surely without his reappearing in some way upon the scene they would have concluded that their doubts had been right and their hopes without foundation: but if he reappeared, their faith would, for the first time, become intense, all-absorbing. Surely also they might be trusted to know whether they had really seen their master return to them or not, and not to sacrifice themselves in every way, and spend their whole lives in bearing testimony to pure hallucination?

There is one other point on which a few words will be necessary, before we proceed to the arguments in favour of the objective character of Christ's Resurrection as derivable from the conversion and testimony of St. Paul. It is this. Strauss and those who agree with him will perhaps maintain that the Apostles were in truth wholly devoted to Christ before the Crucifixion, but that the Evangelists have represented them as being only half-hearted, in order to heighten the effect of their subsequent intense devotion. But this looks like falling into the very error which Rationalists condemn most loudly when it comes from so-called orthodox writers. They complain, and with too much justice, that our apologists have made "anything out of anything." Yet if the Apostles were not unsteadfast, and did not desert their master in his hour of peril, and if all the accounts of Christ's reappearances are the creations of disordered fancy, we may as well at once declare the Evangelists to be worthless as historians, and had better give up all attempt at the construction of history with their assistance. We cannot take whatever we wish, and leave whatever we wish, and alter whatever we wish. If we admit that upon the whole the Gospel writings or at any rate the first three Gospels, contain a considerable amount of historic matter, we should also arrive at some general principles by which we will consistently abide in separating the historic from the unhistoric. We cannot deal with them arbitrarily, accepting whatever fits in with our fancies, and rejecting whatever is at variance with them.

Now can it be maintained that the Evangelists would be so likely to overrate the half-heartedness of the Apostles, that we should look with suspicion upon the many and very plain indications of their having been only half-hearted? Certainly not. If there was any likelihood of a tendency one way or the other it would be in the direction of overrating their faith. Would not the unbelief of the Apostles in the face of all the recorded miracles be a most damaging thing in the eyes of the unconverted? Would not the Apostles themselves, after they were once firmly convinced, be inclined to think that they had from the first believed more firmly than they really had done? This at least would be in accordance with the natural promptings of human instinct: we are all of us apt to be wise after the event, and are far more prone to dwell upon things which seem to give some colour to a pretence of prescience, than upon those which force from us a confession of our own stupidity. It might seem a damaging thing that the Apostles should have doubted as much as long as they clearly did; would then the Evangelists go out of their way to introduce more signs of hesitation? Would any one suggest that the signs of doubt and wavering had been overrated, unless there were some theory or other to be supported, in order to account for which this overrating was necessary? Would the opinion that the want of faith had been exaggerated arise prior to the formation of a theory, or subsequently? This is the fairest test; let the reader apply it for himself.

On the other hand, there are many reasons which should incline us to believe that, before the Resurrection, the Apostles were less convinced than is generally supposed, but it would be dangerous to depart either to the right hand or to the left of that which we find actually recorded, namely, that in the main the Apostles were prepared to accept Christ before the Crucifixion, but that they were by no means resolute and devoted followers. I submit that this is a fair rendering of the spirit of what we find in the Gospels. It is just because Strauss has chosen to depart from it that he has found himself involved in the maze of self-contradiction through which we have been trying to follow him. There is no position so absurd that it cannot be easily made to look plausible, if the strictly scientific method of investigation is once departed from.

But if I had been in Strauss's place, and had wished to make out a case against Christianity without much heed of facts, I should not have done it by a theory of hallucinations. A much prettier, more novel and more sensational opening for such an attempt is afforded by an attack upon the Crucifixion itself. A very neat theory might be made, that there may have been some disturbance at one of the Jewish passovers, during which some persons were crucified as an example by the Romans: that during this time Christ happened to be missing; that he reappeared, and finally departed, whither, no man can say: that the Apostles, after his last disappearance, remembering that he had been absent during the tumult, little by little worked themselves up into the belief that on his reappearance they had seen wounds upon him, and that the details of the Crucifixion were afterwards revealed in a vision to some favoured believer, until in the course of a few years the narrative assumed its present shape: that then the reappearance of Christ was denied among the Jews, while the Crucifixion as attaching disgrace to him was not disputed, and that it thus became so generally accepted as to find its way into Pliny and Josephus. This tissue of absurdity may serve as an example of what the unlicensed indulgence of theory might lead to; but truly it would be found quite as easy of belief as that the early Christian faith in the Resurrection was due to hallucination only.

Considering, then, that Christianity was not crushed but overran the most civilised portions of the world; that St. Paul was undoubtedly early told, in such a manner as for him to be thoroughly convinced of the fact, that on some few but sufficient occasions Christ was seen alive after he had been crucified; that the general belief in the reappearance of our Lord was so strong that those who had the best means of judging gave up all else to preach it, with a unanimity and singleness of purpose which is irreconcilable with hallucination; that all our records most definitely insist upon this belief and that there is no trace of its ever having been disputed among the Jewish Christians, it seems hard to see how we can escape from admitting that Jesus Christ was crucified, dead, and buried, and yet that he was verily and indeed seen alive again by those who expected nothing less, but who, being once convinced, turned the whole world after them.

It is now incumbent upon us to examine the testimony of St. Paul, to which I would propose to devote a separate chapter.



CHAPTER III—THE CHARACTER AND CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL



Setting aside for the present the story of St. Paul's conversion as given in the Acts of the Apostles—for I am bound to admit that there are circumstances in connection with that account which throw doubt upon its historical accuracy—and looking at the broad facts only, we are struck at once with the following obvious reflection, namely, that Paul was an able man, a cultivated man, and a bitter opponent of Christianity; but that in spite of the strength of his original prejudices, he came to see what he thought convincing reasons for going over to the camp of his enemies. He went over, and with the result we are all familiar.

Now even supposing that the miraculous account of Paul's conversion is entirely devoid of foundation, or again, as I believe myself, that the story given in the Acts is not correctly placed, but refers to the vision alluded to by Paul himself (I. Cor. xv.), and to events which happened, not coincidently with his conversion, but some years after it—does not the importance of the conversion itself rather gain than lose in consequence? A charge of unimportant inaccuracy may be thus sustained against one who wrote in a most inaccurate age; but what is this in comparison with the testimony borne to the strength of the Christian evidences by the supposition that OF THEIR OWN WEIGHT ALONE, AND WITHOUT MIRACULOUS ASSISTANCE, THEY SUCCEEDED IN CONVINCING THE MOST BITTER, AND AT THE SAME TIME THE ABLEST, OF THEIR OPPONENTS? This is very pregnant. No man likes to abandon the side which he has once taken. The spectacle of a man committing himself deeply to his original party, changing without rhyme or reason, and then remaining for the rest of his life the most devoted and courageous adherent of all that he had opposed, without a single human inducement to make him do so, is one which has never been witnessed since man was man. When men who have been committed deeply and spontaneously to one cause, leave it for another, they do so either because facts have come to their knowledge which are new to them and which they cannot resist, or because their temporal interests urge them, or from caprice: but if they change from caprice in important matters and after many pledges given, they will change from caprice again: they will not remain for twenty-five or thirty years without changing a jot of their capriciously formed opinions. We are therefore warranted in assuming that St. Paul's conversion to Christianity was not dictated by caprice: it was not dictated by self-interest: it must therefore have sprung from the weight of certain new facts which overbore all the resistance which he could make to them.

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