Joseph Butler.

The analogy of religion, natural and revealed, to the constitution and course of nature : to which are added two brief dissertations on personal identity, and on the nature of virtue, and fifteen sermons online

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Online LibraryJoseph ButlerThe analogy of religion, natural and revealed, to the constitution and course of nature : to which are added two brief dissertations on personal identity, and on the nature of virtue, and fifteen sermons → online text (page 1 of 62)
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Bishop Butler's Analogy and Sermons have long been established
text books at all our Universities, and in very many of our Colleges
and Schools. The present edition is designed to supply what is
believed to be a desideratum, namely, a popular exposition of the
meaning of the learned author. With this object, the editor has
prefixed carefully-digested Analytical Introductions both to the
Analogy and Sermons, and has added brief notes at the foot of
the page, wherever it seemed to him that elucidation was required
It should be remefnbered, that nothing greater has been at-
tempted than to produce a really useful popular edition ; such as
may allure to the careful study of one of the best works in our
language, those minds, which, without such help, might shrink
from the task.

The present edition, will, it is hoped, be found useful, not
merely to the College student in preparing for his Degree or for
the Bishop's Examination, but also to that daily-increasing class
of readers, who are desirous of exercising their reasoning facul-
ties with a view to moral improvement.

It only remains to state that the foot-notes marked (D.) are
taken from Mr. Duke's very careful and scholar-like Analysis of
the First Part of the Analogy ; those marked (W.) from that by
Mr. Wilkinson ; those marked (H.) from that by Mr. Hobart, of
Trinity College, Dublin. The letters (Ed.) are affixed to those
notes which have been contributed by the present Editor ; those
which are unmarked, are reprinted from Bp. Halifax's standard





Analytical Introduction by the present Editob ... I

Preface by Bp. Halifax 39

Life of Bp. Butler 63

Introduction by the Author ,72




L Of a Future Life 81

IL Of the Government of God by Rewards and Punishments ;

and particularly of the latter 98

in. Of the Moral Government of God 109 ■

IV. Of a State of Probation, as implying Trial, DiflBculties,

and Danger 131

V. Of a State of Probation, as intended for Moral Discipline

and Improvement 139

VL Of the Opinion of Necessity, considered as influencing

Practice 161

VIL Of the Government of God, considered as a Scheme or

Constitution, imperfectly comprehended . . .177

Conclusion 187


Of the Importance of Christianity 193

Of the supposed Presumption against a Revelation, con-
aidered as miraculous 210




Pa 9*

Of our incapacity of judging what -were to be expected in
a Revelation; and the Credibility, from Analogy, that it
must contain Things appearing liable to Objections . 217

IV. Of Christianity, considered as a Scheme or Constitution,

imperfectly comprehended 232

V. Of the particular System of Christianity; the Appoinjr
ment of a ^Mediator, and the Redemption of the World
by him 239

VI. Of the Want of Universality in Revelation : and of the

supposed Deficiency in the Proof of it . . . . 257

VII. Of the particular Evidence for Christianity . . . 275

VIII. Of the Objections -which may be made against arguing

from the Analogy of I^ature to Religion . . . 308
Conclusion 320

Dissertation I. — Of Personal Identity
DissEKTATioN II. — Of the Nature of Virtue



Analytical Inteoduotion by the Editob

Author's Preface

Sermon I. Upon the Social Nature of Man

II. III. Upon the Natural Supremacy of Consciec

IV. Upon the Government of the Tongue
V. VI. Upon Compassion .

VII. Upon the Character of Balaam
VIII. Upon Resentment .
IX. Upon Forgiveness of Injuries .
X. Upon Self-Deceit
XI. XII. Upon the Love of our Neighbou?
XIII. XIV. Upon Piety, or the Love of God
XV. Upon the Ignorance of Man •

. 346
. 369
. 385

398, 408
. 415

425, 435
. 443
. 452
. 462
. 473

484, 498

512, 521





The object of the " Analogy " is not to prove tlie truth of Re-
vealed Religion, but to confirm it, by showing that there is no
greater difficulty in the way of believing the Religion of Revela-
tion, than in believing the Religion of Nature ; and, consequently,
that no one who does not reject Natural Religion can consistently
reject Revelation on the score of insufficient proof Its argument
is, " If, in spite of all difficulties, you believe the one, you must,
in common fairness, and to be consistent, believe the other. If
they come from the same God, there is an a priori probability that
they will each have the same or similar difficulties ; and if, in
spite of all its acknowledged difficulties, you are firmly persuaded
of the truth of Natural Religion, you are bound to accept Revealed
Religion, in spite of an equal amount of possible or actual ob-
jections that may be summoned up against it."

The principle asserted in the Analogy is not new : Origen him-
self has observed, that " He who believes Scripture to have pro-
ceeded from the Author of Nature may well expect to find the
same sort of difficulties in the former as in the constitution 0/
Nature." Bp. Butler carries out this principle by arguing that
" He who denies the Scripture to be from God on account of these
difficulties, may with equal justice deny that the world is the
work of God ; and that if, on the other hand, there is an Analogy
between Natural and Revealed Religion, there is a strong pre-
sumption that they have the same author."

Now it will at once be clear that in such reasonings as those
contained in this work, we are not to expect demonstrative evi-
dence. In this, as in the matters of every-day life, we must be
content with prohaUe evidence ; which differs from the former
in that it admits of degrees *. It is by its very nature imperfect,

• The essential distinction between Demonstrative and Probable evidence
L oco of matter ; that of the former being certdin, and that of the latteJ


and therefore suited to the imperfect mind of man ; and wo

acknowledge probability as a rule of conduct so far that "we think
a man mad if he does not act on a reasonable amount of pro-
bability, even when the chances are against him, but looks for
mathematical certainty. In fact, with us, Frohahility is the very
guide of life.

Bp. Butler next rejects the idea of forming our notions of the
moral world and its constitution, solely on our own preconceived
notions as to what might or ought to have been ; and urges that
human ignorance is the best answer to all such useless specula-
tions. He also rejects the habit of forming our notions of right
and fitness on principles that in themselves are certain, but are
applied to cases where we are not warranted in applying them.

He then assumes as granted " that there is an Author of Nature
and Governor of the World,^^ and states it to be his intention " to
join abstract reasoning with the observation of facts," and to
argue from such facts as are known and admitted, to others which
are like them ; from the visible to the invisible part of God's
Providential Government. And he carries out his principle by
showing that the parts chiefly objected to in the whole dispensa-
tion of Revealed Religion are analogous to what is experienced
in the constitution and course of nature. The " Introduction "
concludes with a brief sketch of the connection between the
chapters of both Parts of the Analogy.



Our present experience suggests to us the belief that we shall
continue to live on in a future state ; for

I. The changes which confessedly we have undergone in our
birth and in our growth from infancy, are as great as any which
death can bring upon us. The same, too, is the case with ani-
mal and vegetable life. (See the argument of St. Paul in 1 Cor.
Ohap, XV.)

II. There is an d priori probability that our present powers ol
thought and action will be continued to us after death, unless we

being variable and contingent. It is a consequence of this fact, that the
latter admits of degrees, which range from the very lowest presumption in a
graduated scale up to the highest point of probability, namely, moral
certainty. The force of probability as an argument is based upon partial
identity, and finds its expression in the word *' verisimile." In other woids,
m probable matter we may, and do generally, conclude that a particular
consequence will flow from some quality in one object, because it flows from
the same quality in another. In all probable armiraent the mind proceeds
Bpoxi tiie priiiciple that like cause* i^roduce like eifocta.


have some positive reason given us for thinking that death will
be the destruction of these living powers. But so far from thia
being the case, our present possession of them is the very
strongest reason for believing that we shall possess them hereafter.
For if there is an idea that death will be the destruction of
living powers, that idea must arise either from the reason of tht
thing, or from the Analogy of Nature.

But it does not arise from the reason of the thing ; — for we do
not know what death is ; we only know some of its phenomena
and effects, as the dissolution of skin, bones, <fec., and all these in
nowise imply the destruction of any living powers. Again, we
do not know on what the existence of our living powers depends ;
for we see them suspended — in sleep, for example, or in a swoon,
- and still not extinguished.

Neither does it arise from the Analogy of Nature; for death
removes all sensibU proof, and precludes us, consequently, from
tracing out any analogy which would warrant us in inferring
their destruction. But while it destroys t'he sensible proof of the
existence of these living powers, which we had before their death,
it surely cannot give us reason to believe that by death they are

Still our prejudices on this head are so early and inveterate,
that it may be proper to consider the question at greater length.

I. Now all presumption of death being the destruction * of
living powers, must go on the idea of their discerptibility. But as
consciousness is single and indivisible, so is that in which con-
sciousness resides, and therefore it is indiscerptible. But as for
our bodies, they are mere matter ; they are accidental adjuncts,
and no part of ourselves ; and it is as easy to conceive that w^
may exist apart from our bodies as in them.

il. Experiment and observation show that

1. Bodies are but material organs, and that consciousness exists
quite independent of them.

2. There was a time when we were ourselves of very small bulk,
and when we might have lost a considerable part of that small
body without being destroyed.

3. All bodies are in a perpetual flux, yet the living power
remains the same.

Hence we can deduce that

a. We canrrot determine the exact bulk of the living principle ;
and yet, unless it is larger than one of the elementary particles of
matter, there is no reason to believe it discerptible.

b. We have ourselves passed through many great revolutions of

* By destruction we mean not annihilation but dissolution. We have
sren less reason to think that a being once endued with living powers ever
OSes them, thaa that a stone, for example, ever acquires them.

B 2


matter ; there is no reason, then, to think that death will be M
very fatal.

c. We ought to regard our bodies as composed of so many in-
struments ; our eyes and legs, for instance, bearing an analogy to
glasses and staves. Now the living powers confessedly can live
on when these are destroyed ; even in sleep they exist without
their aid ; why, then, should death destroy them ?

An objection has been raised against Bp. Butler, to the effect
that his arguments, when fairly carried out, tend to prove a pre-
existent eternity as well as a future one. We will grant this;
and yet this fact does not invalidate the point on which he lays
the greatest stress — our future eternity of existence ; and again,
all experience and observation go to make a future eternity more
certain than a past one, and yet they do not disprove even the
latter. For it is a certain fact, that all living creatures are in a
state of progress towards some higher existence, immediately
from their birth and even before it.

Here the objection may possibly arise, "But these arguments are
equally applicable to brutes ; are they then immortal, or are they
moral agents ?"

We answer, that 1st, it is not really implied that brutes, if
they are immortal, are consequently moral agents. But suppose
it were implied ; there is still no difficulty. Prior to experience,
there was once as great a presumption against human creatures,
as there is against brutes, arriving at those faculties which we
possess when we reach maturity. Infancy and childhood do not
possess these faculties. And 2ndly, we answer that the immor-
tality of brutes does not at all imply their possession of rational
and moral faculties ; and the economy of the universe, for all we
know, might require that there should be living creatures without
faculties of this kind.

Ill, Human creatures exist in two states. 1st, in a state of
sensation, when the senses or appetites are affected ; and 2ndly,
in a state of reflection, when the same are not affected, but we
still perceive, reason, and act. Now death destroys existence as
far as regards the former state ; but there is no presumption that
it has the same effect on our state of reflection. On the contrary
we find the powers of reflection sometimes growing more bright
and keen in mortal diseases and immediately before death. And
as these last even till the very moment of death, it is probable
that death is not even a suspension of them, but, like our birth,
merely a passage which introduces them into a higher state of

On the whole, then, there is no presumption that death is the
destruction of the living agent. There is indeed an apparent
analogy drawn from the case of flowers and vegetable life ; but
in reality the analogy is false ; for vegetable life has not the same

OF god's government bt rewards and punishments. 5

powers of perception and action with ourselves. Indeed, if any
argument as to a future state is to be drawn from the vegetable
world, it is an argument in its favour, as St. Paul shows in
1 Cor. XV.

The immortality of the soul, and its existence in a future life
as a stated and fixed law of God's providence, must then bo
admitted on the evidence of reason.

But we must observe, that no proof of a future life, not even
if amounting to demonstration, would be in itself a proof of the
truth of Religion ; for the notion that we are to live on hereafter
is as compatible with Atheism as the fact that we are now alive.
But as the Christian Religion implies a future state, any argument
adduced against a future state is in fact an argument against
Religion. These observations, therefore, by removing such pre-
sumptions, prove to a high degree of probability one fundamental
doctrine of Religion.

OF god's government by rewards and punishments.

The importance to us of a future life arises from our capadtj*
of happiness or misery therein, and from the supposition that our
state hereafter may depend upon our actions here. Now, if the
subject of a future life is such that, even apart from this consider-
ation, mere curiosity would be sufficient to bring this questior
before our minds, much more will it be the case, if we believe that
there is a close connection between our actions in this life and our
condition in the next.

It is consonant with, and analogous to, our present state, to
believe that we shall hereafter be punished or rewarded for our
actions here. The present government of God is conducted, as to
some extent we can see, upon a law of rewards and punishments ;
and if so, there is an a 'priori probability that the same will be
the case with the future one. We infer that the system under
which we now live is one of rewards and punishments, because we
see that vice and intemperance usually lead to misery — virtue and
sobriety to happiness. And it is a plain matter of fact, rather
than a deduction of reason, that we are as much under God's
government here, as we are under the civil magistrate. For
example, the pain which we feel at touching fire is as evident a
sign of God's actual government as if a voice from Heaven
addressed us. The true notion of the Author of Nature is that ot
a governor who rules by rewards and punishments, and leaves us,
his intelligent creatures, to foresee the consequences of our own
actions upon ourselves.

But the objection may possibly arise, "Still, this is to li e ascribed
to the general course of nature." And most certainly it is to b«

6 OF god's goverxment by rewards and punishment.

ascribed to nature, if by nature we understand the Author of
Nature. Men cannot surely mean to deny the existence of such a
Being, because his laws of government are stated, fixed, and uni-
form. Such regularity does not exclude the idea of an agent, and
Burely it is more rational to ascribe such regularity to a person
than to a system. Or again it may be objected, " Is then the pleasure
naturally attendant on every passion intended to make us gratify
It on every possible occasion?" To this objection we answer
" No ; our eyes were not given to us in order to look upon hurtful
objects; yet they were intended to see with. We can, if we please,
turn them to wrong objects; and it is just the same with our
appetites. God, then, has enabled us to see that by acting in one
way we can ensure happiness here, and that by acting in another
way we shall involve ourselves in misery ; and hence we see tha^
we are now living under a system of rewards and punishment^
and if so, it is nothing incredible that the same system shall be
continued hereafter."

But since men chiefly object, not to Divine reivards, but to
Divine punishments, let us state the following analogies, drawn
from our present condition, which lead us to believe this doctrine
to be true.

1. Natural punishments very frequently follow on actions which
pve pleasure at the time ; e. g., sickness follows intemperance.

2. These punishments very frequently outweigh the accompany-
ing pleasure.

3. The delay of punishment does not imply final impunity, even
in this life.

4. After such delay, the punishment often comes suddenly and

5. We have a very strong probability, though no direct and certain
proof, of punishment following on evil conduct in this world. As
a matter of fact, a very large proportion of evil-doers are punished

6. The general course of nature shows that, after a certain time
spent in sin and negligence, there is no place for recovery or
repentance ; e. g., youth is wasted, occasions of improvement are
lost, and the.<e cannot be recalled.

7. Civil punishments are often final and inflict death.

Now all these points are so entirely analogous to what Scripture
tells us of the Divine punishment of the wicked, that it is hard to
say to which of the two states such passages of Holy Scripture
as that which speaks of " Wisdom " and the " Scorner," in Prov.,
chap, i., are intended to refer.

It is not meant to be asserted here, that natural punishments
necessarily or uniformly follow crimes or vices in this life. But
they follow with sufficient frequency to answer fully all the
objections against the credibility of a future state of rewards and

OF god's moral government. V

pi:nis\iment8, which may be drawn from the frailty of human
nature as doing away with the guilt of human vices ; or from the
doctrine of necessity and fatalism ; or from an idea that the will
of a Supreme Being cannot be contradicted, or that He cannot be

Now, even- on the lowest and most sceptical ground, such
analogies as these are full of awe. In daily life it is a common
observation that a man may so conduct himself that it had been
better for him never to have been born. And is there, then, any
pretence of reason why sceptics should talk as if there could be
nothing analogous to this with regard to a future state, under the
providence and government of the selfsame Being ]



The next point to be proved is, that the Analogy of Nature
shows the government of God to be moral; in other words, that
men will not simply be rewarded and punished hereafter, but ac-
cording to their behaviour here. And this Bp. Butler goes on to
establish by two distinct lines of argument ; first, from admitted
facts and common experience, and afterwards from the nature and
fitness of things.

Now it is allowed, from experience, that the government of this
world is not Moral Government in its perfection. But still we do
contend, that among the imperfection and confusion of this world
the beginnings of a righteous Moral Government may be dis-
cerned — seeds, as it were, which shall hereafter be brought to

I. In general, experience shows us that God allows us to feel less
uneasiness and more satisfaction in a virtuous than in a vicious
course of life ; and here is an instance of Moral Government to
some extent. It may be diflficult to lay down precise limits; but,

.upon the whole, it is certain that Virtue is happier than Vice in
this present world. For it is no tto Virtue, but to Vice, that we
must charge the pain which we feel in reforming from a course of
vice to a course of virtue, from the fact that our passions are only
partially subdued and still crave for their wonted gratifications.

II. It has been proved that God governs us here by a system of
rewards and punishments. Surely, then, there is a presumption
that He will finally award them according to the rule of distri-
butive justice.

III. Vice and imprudence generally bring unhappiness; virtue
and prudence, happiness : and our capacity to foresee these facts
and to reflect on them as plainly discloses to us facts of a right
Moral Government, as the correction cf children according to theii
deserts is a fact of right education.

8 OF god's moral government.

IV. It is necessary to the very being of society that vices de-
structive of its existence shall be punished as such: and this
punishment is equally natural as society itself, and so affords an
instance of Moral Government. The natural fear of these punish-
ments is a declaration against such vices on the part of nature.

Against this it has been objected, that actions which are good
and beneficial to society are often punished, as in the case of perse-
cution, while bad actions are often rewarded. To this objection
we answer, that such is in no way necessary to be the case; and
therefore that it is not natural, at least in the same sense in which
it is both natural and necessary that bad actions shall be punished.
Again, we may reply that good actions are never punished, nor are
bad actions rewarded, simply considered as beneficial or hurtful
to society, but only to gratify the malice of some individual. It
is, therefore, as certain that God has directed us to punish what is
hurtful to society, as it is that He has enjoined us to preserve our
lives by food.

V. In the natural course of things, Virtue, as such, is rewarded,
and Vice, as such, is punished. For, judging from their inward
effects respectively, it is clear that Virtue at once produces more
of tranquillity, and Vice more of mental uneasiness; that while
Virtue has its hopes. Vice has only its fears, of a future state.
And, judging from their outward effects, " Honesty is " proverbi-
ally " the best policy ;" Virtue will almost always be well treated

Online LibraryJoseph ButlerThe analogy of religion, natural and revealed, to the constitution and course of nature : to which are added two brief dissertations on personal identity, and on the nature of virtue, and fifteen sermons → online text (page 1 of 62)