His Reasons for the Christian Religion is still, for its evidential purpose, better than most works of its kind.
38) which have no excellence of workmanship, but have a certain evidential value as to the treatment of their original.
These were, in fact, simply the popular theories of sacrifice put on an evidential basis by facts drawn from various stages of culture.
From an evidential point of view the apparition is the most valuable class of death-warning, inasmuch as recognition is more difficult in the case of an auditory hallucination, even where it takes the form of spoken words; moreover, auditory hallucinations coinciding with deaths may be mere knocks, ringing of bells, &c.; tactile hallucinations are still more difficult of recognition; and the hallucinations of smell which are sometimes found as death-warnings rarely have anything to associate them specially with the dead person.
The evidential value of what a writer says is quite distinct from the literary art with which he says it; the real sources of history are not the works of historians, but records and documents written with no desire to further any literary purpose.
On the other hand, the recorded discovery of iron armour, Roman and British pottery and coins, together with the bones and horns of deer and other animals, is of little evidential value without a precise record of the circumstances in which they were found.