Section 1: By the False Parts, The Gospel Not Affected: Most Parts True
In regard to the Acts, a notion, generally, not to say universally, received, is—that it had Saint Luke for its author: and that, accordingly, it may with propriety be regarded as a continuation of the Gospel of that Evangelist, written by the same hand. Were this conception a correct one, whatsoever shock were given to the credit of the Acts, would unavoidably extend itself to the Gospel history: at any rate, to that part of it which bears the name of Luke.
Before this chapter is at an end,—the reader, if the author is not much mistaken, will not only be convinced that that opinion is untenable, but see no small ground for wondering, how by any person, by whom any survey had been taken of the two objects in that point of view, any such notion should ever have come to be entertained.
Another memento, of which, if made before, even the repetition may in this place, perhaps, be not without its use, is—that, from nothing that is here said, is any such conception meant to be conveyed, as that the history called The Acts, is from beginning to end, like that of Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of Britain, a mere falsity. In a great part, perhaps even by much the greatest, it is here looked upon as true: in great part true, although in no inconsiderable part incorrect, to say no worse: and, in particular, on every point, on which the colour of the marvellous is visible. As to the sort and degree of evidence due to it, one general assumption there is, by which the whole of this inquiry has, from first to last, been guided. This is—that, in relation to one and the same work, whatsoever be the subject of it, credence may, without inconsistency or impropriety, by one and the same person, be given and withholden: given, on this or that occasion; withholden, on this or that other occasion: given, in so far as the truth of the contents seems probable; withholden, as far as it seems improbable.
For the support of this assumption,—all that, on the present occasion, can be offered, is—an appeal to universal experience. As to the general foundations of the law of evidence,—for any excursion into so wide an expanse, neither this chapter nor any other part of this work would, it has been thought, be generally regarded as a proper place. What had been written on that subject has accordingly been discarded.