Our lot is cast in an age of abounding unbelief, scepticism and, I fear I must add, infidelity. Never, perhaps, since the days of Celsus, Porphyry and Julian, was the truth of revealed religion so openly and unblushingly assailed, and never was the assault so speciously and plausibly conducted. The words which Bishop Butler wrote in 1736 are curiously applicable to our own days: ‘It is come to be taken for granted by many persons, that Christianity is not even a subject of inquiry, but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious. And accordingly they treat it as if, in the present age, this was an agreed point among all people of discernment, and nothing remained but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule, as it were by way of reprisals for its having so long interrupted the pleasures of the world.’ I often wonder what the good bishop would have now said, if he had lived in 1879.

JC Ryle