« AnteriorContinuar »
ANALOGY OF RELIGION,
NATURAL AND REVEALED,
CONSTITUTION AND COURSE OF NATURE.
TO WHICH ARE ADDED,
TWO BRIEF DISSERTATIONS:
I. OF PERSONAL IDENTITY.
II. OF THE NATURE OF VIRTUE.
JOSEPH BUTLER, LL.D.
LATE LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM.
“ Ejus (Analogiæ) hæc vis est, ut id quod dubium est, ad aliquid simile
QUINT. INST. ORAT. L. I. c. vt.
THOMAS AFFLECK ; WAUGH AND INNES; AND
THOMAS IRELAND, JUNIOR .
REV. GEORGE SCOTT.
“ All things are double, one against another, and God has made nothing imperfect.” It is upon this principle that the reasoning of the Analogy of Religion, natural and revealed, is conducted by Butler. The principle is founded upon the observed and established fact that there is a correspondence, and resemblance, and adaptation between all the works of God, and therefore, that there is strong presumption that they will throw light upon each other, in regard to their origin, and present mutual relations, and final design. Now, it is evident, that every process of reasoning which proceeds from resemblance of circumstances, or simple, moral, or natural verisimilitude, can lead only to probable conclusions ; the process cannot lead to unerring certainty, or demonstrative proof. But if these analogical resemblances are found to be so numerous, and extended, and almost universal, as to force upon us the moral and nearly certain conviction that they were designed and contrived to form part of one unique system, and neutralized only by some difficulties, which we cannot fully explain, and the reasons of which we cannot yet comprehend, the probability must be very strong, amounting to a moral certainty, that all proceeds from one author, and all bears upon one end. The object therefore aimed at, or to be attained by analogical reasoning, is not demonstrable or mathematical certainty, but that kind of moral conviction which all men must proceed upon in the ordinary business and pursuits of life. That spirit of scepticism which would induce a man to hesitate, or refrain from acting till he saw with perfect certainty the whole relations and the most distinct consequences of the object of his deliberation, or that would withhold him from giving the assent of his understanding, and the consent of his heart to any doctrine, till he saw the exact position which it should hold in a system of universal truth, is altogether unfit for beings of such a moral and intellectual nature as man,
placed in a world of a moral constitution such as ours. It is universally felt and acknowledged that there must be some principles of conduct, which need and can admit of no proof, but are clear and unquestioned as first truths. Now assuming a certain number of these, or proceeding upon them as the universally acknowledged facts and truths by which man feels himself bound to regulate his conduct, it is the object of Butler to extend them upward in their application to the doctrines of natural and revealed religion, with the design of refuting the objections of the sceptic, and satisfying the doubts and difficulties of the weak believer. Analogy, then, is evidently not the demonstrative form of reasoning; and however numerous the instances may be of its extension from the course and.constitution of nature, as exhibited in the actual and observed go vernment of the world to religion, we do not, by any means, say that a counter-evidence of demonstrative certainty would not overthrow it. But clearly, till such evidence can be alleged, it will hold good and valid as far as it goes. For instance, to take a case from natural history, we cannot say that such a thing as spontaneous generation, either in the animal or vegetable kingdom, is altogether impossible and absurd, or that there may not be powers in the immensity of nature's riches capable of producing such effects ; but till those powers are detected, and exhibited, and traced, we can say that all the analogies of nature's processes, to an almost limitless extent fully traceable and manifest, are against the supposition. We observe nature working in a certain way, in innumerable instances, where her processes are visible, and we have reason thence to conclude, that when these are visible only in the result, the same general or universally observable rule has been followed.
These remarks may serve to explain, to a certain extent, the nature of the argument that pervades the whole of the Analogy. It is a reasoning from things known and certain, to things which are supposed to be doubtful, or which require to be proved. Butler nowhere represents it as an argument which, of itself, is satisfactory and perfect to the extent of a demonstration. His strong mind, which seems to take the measure of the human intellect, with all its weaknesses and prejudices, and which surveyed, with a keen discerning eye, and from a lofty flight, the whole extent of the field of known truth, induces him to take his position of defence and offence as a champion in the cause of Christian truth extremely lowlower than he needed to bave done, or perhaps should have done. But this humility as an arguer, this apparent diffidence of himself in assertion, originates from no want of confidence in the ful: ness of proof for the Christian truth, or in the strength of his own peculiar line of original reasoning ; but evidently from a polite deference to the prejudices of those sceptics “ who take it for granted that Christianity is not so much a matter of inquiry ; but is to be set up as a principal subject of ridicule, for having so long interrupted the pleasures of the world". His object is to arouse to consideration, and what he proposes to prove is, “ that any reasonable man, who will thoroughly consider the matter, may be as much assured, as he is of his own being, that it is not so clear a case that there is nothing in Christianity.” The whole of the Analogy, then, is designed to be an appeal to common sense and common prudence, a calm process of expostulation to an understanding which is warped by the wishes and half-formed hopes of a corrupt heart, or by the reflex influence of a vicious conduct acting upon an intellect and conscience easily biassed, and greatly modified in their operations by such sinister bias. In his day, self-styled philosophy and licentious wit had cast the semblance of their reasonings, or the bitterness of their satire, over the formal and rigid exhibition of the Christianity of the days of the Commonwealth. From the revulsion of feeling caused by the circumstances of the times, infidel writers had succeeded to a certain
degree in establishing a species of floating and vague presump- tion, that such an austere creed was not suited for forming the
religion of a gentleman, or the faith of a philosopher. The : Christian advocate then had a delicate task to perform. How
ever strong he felt in the goodness of his own cause, or in the overwhelming power and clearness of his own argument, he had still to assume the character of an apologist, that he might gain a patient hearing. We could verify the truth of the remark by an appeal to the general spirit that pervades the Christian writers of the period, which to a considerable extent influenced even the sarcastic and misanthropic mind of Swift. It seems to have been felt, that this was the most prudent and expedient mode of meeting and repelling the general set which the tide of considerably high intellect was taking against Christian truth; and we are bound to take these considerations along with us, when examining the style in which our author states and conducts his argument. This attitude of an apologist is Thanifest from the whole tenor of the book. In p. i. ch. 8, he says, “ I have argued upon the principles of others, not my own, and have omitted what I think true and of the utmost importance, because by others thought únintelligible or