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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37



Other arguments are to be found,—

1. From the numerous sects which arose very early in the Christian Church. David, in the 70th Psalm, writes—" Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee." And many an illustration of this truth is to be found in the history of the Christian Church. Justin Martyr tells how he and many others were won to embrace the Faith by noticing the holiness of life of the Christians, and their patient endurance of persecution. Again, men began soon to tamper with God's truth, and to add to it their own fancies. Jesus had said that the enemy would quickly sow tares amongst the wheat. And quickly thus appeared the Gnostic heresy. These Gnostics were many in number, and multiform in tenets. They agreed only in hating the truth. But the truth has gained largely by their error. Except for these heresies we should not have had the clear, distinct, unanswerable testimony of Irenæus in favour of the Gospels. Again, these heresies prove the incorruptness of the Gospels. All, whether Christian or Heretic, appeal to them to establish their own views; and so we are sure that the Gospels could not have been altered in any way. Had any wished to alter a Gospel to suit their peculiar views, the alteration would have been at once detected and refused by the rest.

2. The manuscripts of the Gospels were very rapidly page 21 multiplied. It would very soon have been manifestly impossible for any one to have altered every one of the manuscripts in existence. All the manuscripts are the same, wherever they are found. They still give the same truths without any change. There are variations in the readings of these manuscripts, but these variations are chiefly in unimportant matters. The Faith is never in any way injured by any variation. From any manuscript, let it be one that is most corrupt, could be learnt the way of Salvation.

3. But after all the argument that seems to be the most weighty is from a common-sense view of the matter. The Gospels exist. We have the very same Four Gospels as had the Christian Church of the time of Irenæus. No one has yet dared to dispute that. Even if it be said that they first appeared in the middle of the second century, they have remained unchanged from that time. But why should they have been written at that particular time? It would be an utter absurdity for any one seriously to assert that Jesus Christ did not live during the Governorship of Pontius Pilate. Christian apologists appeal to the accounts of his Governorship kept at Rome. We are as certain of His life and death, at that time, as we are of the life and death, say, of Julius Cæsar at a certain period of Roman history. Had not, then, our Gospels been written at the time when we say that they were written, what possible motive would there have been for any one afterwards to have written such books? Good men, loving the Lord Jesus, would not have penned such falsehoods. Evil men would not have cared to do it. Or even if such a thing had been done from some strange, undiscoverable motive, how could they, bad men as they must have been on this supposition, and writing falsely, have gained for their falsehood, so quickly, so universal an page 22 acceptance? How, if they had been written, say, about A.D. 120, could the writers have persuaded Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Celsus, Tatian, to have believed as they did concerning them? I often judge that this common-sense view of the question is but too much lost sight of. Christian defenders of the Faith have laboriously followed objectors into every detail of their objections, without sufficiently attending to this broad view of the whole question;—a method of reply which has this especial advantage, that it needs nothing but common sense to understand it. The youngest child can at once see how utterly impossible it would have been for a late writer to have persuaded the whole Christian Church that his writings, utterly unknown before to the Church, had yet been written by St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, or St. John. The Christian, the heathen objector to Christianity, would at once have exposed the cheat. Any one can understand that no one would have dreamt of so manifest an impossibility. The instant reply would have been, "If Jesus, as you say in these writings, did such wonders, how is it that no one has heard of these things till now? So great a marvel could not have been so strangely hidden. Such a thing could not have been done in a corner. Such a thing could not have been hidden in a corner until now."