One other class of persons I shall briefly notice, in conclusion, who take a different view, but I cannot think a right one, of the study of [C]hristian evidences. They acknowledge its use and necessity; but they dislike and deplore that necessity. They view the matter somewhat as any person of humane disposition does, the arming and training of soldiers; acknowledging, yet lamenting, the necessity of thus guarding against insurrections at home, or attacks from foreign nations; and though, when forced into a war, he rejoices in meeting with victory rather than defeat, he would much prefer peaceful tranquillity. Even so, these persons admit that evidences are necessary in order to repel unbelief; but all attention to the subject is connected in their minds with the idea of doubt; which they feel to be painful, and dread as something sinful.
Far different however are men’s feelings in reference to any person or thing that they really do greatly value and admire, when they have a full and firm conviction. No one in ordinary life considers it disagreeable to mark and dwell on the constantly recurring proofs of the excellent and admirable qualities of some highly valued friend – to observe how his character stands in strong contrast to that of ordinary men; and that while experience is constantly stripping off the fair outside from vain pretenders, and detecting the wrong motives which adulterate the seeming virtue of others, his sterling excellence is made more and more striking and conspicuous every day: on the contrary, we feel that this is a delightful exercise of the mind, and the more delightful the more we are disposed to love and honour him. Yet all these are proofs, – or what might be used as proofs, if needed, – of his really being of such a character. But is the contemplation of such proofs connected in our own mind with the idea of harassing doubt, and anxious contest? Should it not then be also delightful to a sincere Christian to mark, in like manner, the proofs which if he look for them, he will continually find recurring, that the religion he professes came not from man, but from God, – that the Great Master whom he adores was indeed the “way, the truth, and the life,” – that “never man spake like this man;” – and that the Sacred Writers who record his teaching were not mad enthusiasts, or crafty deceivers, but men who spoke in sincerity the words of truth and soberness which they learned from Him? Should he not feel the liveliest pleasure in comparing his religion with those false creeds which have sprung from human fraud and folly, and observing how striking is the difference?
– Richard Whately (1859), “Dr. Paley’s Works: A Lecture,” John W. Parker & Son, pp. 42–44.