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Conclusion 113

vice. A moral scheme of government, then, is visibly
established, and in some degree carried into execution ;
and this, together with the essential tendencies of virtue
and vice duly considered, naturally raise in us an appre-
hension that it will be carried on further towards perfec-
tion in a future state, and that every one shall there
receive according to his deserts. And if this be so, then
our future and general interest, under the moral govern-
ment of God, is appointed to depend upon our be-
haviour, notwithstanding the difficulty which this may
occasion of securing it, and the danger of losing it ; just
in the same manner as our temporal interest, under his
natural government, is appointed to depend upon our
behaviour, notwithstanding the like difficulty and danger.
For, from our original constitution, and that of the
world which we inhabit, we are naturally trusted with
ourselves, with our own conduct and our own interest.
And from the same constitution of nature, especially
joined with that course of things which is owing to men,
we have temptations to be unfaithful in this trust; to
forfeit this interest, to neglect it, and run ourselves into
misery and ruin. From these temptations arise the
difficulties of behaving so as to secure our temporal
interest, and the hazard of behaving so as to miscarry in
it. There is therefore nothing incredible in supposing
there may be the like difficulty and hazard with regard
to that chief and final good which Religion lays before
us. Indeed the whole account, how it came to pass that
we were placed in such a condition as this, must be be-
yond our comprehension ; but it is in part accounted for
by what Religion teaches us, that the character of virtue
and piety must be a necessary qualification for a future
state of security and happiness under the moral govern-
ment of God ; in like manner, as some certain qualifica-
tions or other are necessary for every particular condition
of life, under his natural government; and that the present
state was intended to be a school of discipline for im-
proving in ourselves that character. Now this intention
of nature is rendered highly credible by observing
that we are plainly made for improvement of all kinds ;



H4 The Analogy of Religion

that it is a general appointment of Providence that we
cultivate practical principles, and form within ourselves
habits of action in order to become fit for what we were
wholly unfit for before; that, in particular, childhood
and youth is naturally appointed to be a state of disci-
pline for mature age; and that the present world is
peculiarly fitted for a state of moral discipline; and,
whereas objections are urged against the whole notion
of moral government and a probationary state from the
opinion of Necessity, it has been shown that God has
given us the evidence, as it were, of experience, that all
objections against Religion on this head are vain and
delusive. He has also, in his natural government,
suggested an answer to all our short-sighted objections
against the equity and goodness of his moral govern-
ment, and in general he has exemplified to us the latter
by the former.

These things, which, it is to be remembered, are matters
of fact, ought in all common sense to awaken mankind,
to induce them to consider in earnest their condition,
and what they have to do. It is absurd, absurd to the
degree of being ridiculous, if the subject were not of so
serious a kind, for men to think themselves secure in
a vicious life, or even in that immoral thoughtlessness,
which far the greatest part of them are fallen into.
And the credibility of Religion, arising from experience
and facts here considered, is fully sufficient in reason to
engage them to live in the general practice of all virtue
and piety, under the serious apprehension, though it
should be mixed with some doubt, 1 of a righteous
administration established in nature, and a future judg-
ment in consequence of it ; especially when we consider
how very questionable it is whether anything at all can
be gained by vice, 2 how unquestionably little as well as
precarious the pleasures and profits of it are at the best,
and how soon they must be parted with at the longest.
For in the deliberations of reason concerning what we
are to pursue and what to avoid, as temptations to any-
thing from mere passion are supposed out of the case,

1 Part ii. ch. ri. * P. 35.



Conclusion 115

so inducements to vice from cool expectations of plea-
sure and interest so small and uncertain and short are
really so insignificant, as in the view of reason to be
almost nothing in themselves, and in comparison with
the importance of Religion they quite disappear and are
lost. Mere passion indeed may be alleged, though not
as a reason, yet as an excuse for a vicious course of
life. And how sorry an excuse it is will be manifest by
observing that we are placed in a condition in which we
are unavoidably inured to govern our passions by being
necessitated to govern them ; and to lay ourselves under
the same kind of restraints, and as great ones too from
temporal regards, as virtue and piety in the ordinary
course of things require. The plea of ungovernable
passion, then, on the side of vice is the poorest of all
things ; for it is no reason, and but a poor excuse. But
the proper motives to religion are the proper proofs of
it from our moral nature, from the presages of con-
science, and our natural apprehension of God under the
character of a righteous Governor and Judge ; a nature
and conscience and apprehension given us by him, and
from the confirmation of the dictates of reason, by lift
and immortality brought to light by the Gospel ; and the
wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodli-
ness and unrighteousness of men.



END OF THE FIRST PART



THE ANALOGY
OF RELIGION



PART TWO



OF REVEALED RELIGION



CHAPTER I
OF THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTIANITY

SOME persons, upon pretence of the sufficiency of the
light of nature, avowedly reject all revelation, as in its
very notion incredible, and what must be fictitious. And
indeed it is certain no revelation would have been given,
had the light of nature been sufficient in such a sense as
to render one not wanting and useless. But no man, in
seriousness and simplicity of mind, can possibly think it
so, who considers the state of Religion in the heathen
world before revelation, and its present state in those
places which have borrowed no light from it ; particu-
larly the doubtfulness of some of the greatest men con-
cerning things of the utmost importance, as well as the
natural inattention and ignorance of mankind in general.
It is impossible to say who would have been able to have
reasoned out that whole system, which we call natural
religion, in its genuine simplicity, clear of supersti-
tion ; but there is certainly no ground to affirm that
the generality could. If they could, there is no sort
of probability that they would. Admitting there were,
they would highly want a standing admonition to remind
them of it, and inculcate it upon them.

And further still, were they as much disposed to attend
to religion as the better sort of men are, yet even upon
this supposition there would be various occasions for
supernatural instruction and assistance, and the greatest
advantages might be afforded by them. So that to say
revelation is a thing superfluous, what there was no need
of, and what can be of no service, is, I think, to talk
quite wildly and at random. Nor would it be more
extravagant to affirm, that mankind is so entirely at ease
in the present state, and life so completely happy, that
it is a contradiction to suppose our condition capable of
being in any respect better.

119



I2O The Analogy of Religion

There are other persons, not to be ranked with these,
who seem to be getting into a way of neglecting and, as
it were, overlooking revelation as of small importance,
provided natural Religion be kept to. With little regard
either to the evidence of the former, or to the objections
against it, and even upon supposition of its truth ; " the
only design of it," say they, "must be, to establish a
belief of the moral system of nature, and to enforce the
practice of natural piety and virtue. The belief and
practice of these things were, perhaps, much promoted
by the first publication of Christianity ; but whether they
are believed and practised, upon the evidence and
motives of nature or of revelation, is no great matter." 1
This way of considering revelation, though it is not the
same with the former, yet borders nearly upon it, and
very much, at length, runs up into it, and requires to be
particularly considered with regard to the persons who
seem to be getting into this way. The consideration of
it will likewise further show the extravagance of the for-
mer opinion, and the truth of the observations in answer
to it just mentioned. And an inquiry into the import-
ince of Christianity cannot be an improper introduction
to a treatise concerning the credibility of it.

Now if God has given a revelation to mankind, and
commanded those things which are commanded in Chris-
tianity, it is evident, at first sight, that it cannot in any
wise be an indifferent matter, whether we obey or dis-
obey those commands; unless we are certainly assured
that we know all the reasons for them, and that all those
reasons are now ceased with regard to mankind in
general, or to ourselves in particular. And it is abso-
lutely impossible we can be assured of this. For our
ignorance of these reasons proves nothing in the case;
since the whole analogy of nature shows, what is indeed



1 Invenis multos propterea nolle fieri Christianos, quia quasi sutEciunt

sibi de bona vita sua. Bene vivere opus est, ait. Quid mibi praecepturus
est Cbristus? Ut bene vivam? Jam bene vivo. Quid mihi necessarius est
Christus? Nullum bomicidium, nullum furtum, nullam rapinam facio, res
alienas non concupisco, nullo adulterio contaminor? Nam inveniatur in vita
mea aliquid quod reprehendatur, et qui reprehenderit facial Chrisiianum.
Auf. in Psal. xxxi.



Of the Importance of Christianity 121

in itself evident, that there may be infinite reasons for
things with which we are not acquainted.

But the importance of Christianity will more distinctly
appear by considering it more distinctly : First, as a re-
publication and external institution of natural or essential
Religion, adapted to the present circumstances of man-
kind, and intended to promote natural piety and virtue ;
and Secondly, as containing an account of a dispensation
of things not discoverable by reason, in consequence of
which several distinct precepts are enjoined us. For
though natural Religion is the foundation and principal
part of Christianity, it is not in any sense the whole of it.

I. Christianity is a republication of natural religion.
It instructs mankind in the moral system of the world :
that it is the work of an infinitely perfect Being, and
under his government, that virtue is his law, and that he
will finally judge mankind in righteousness, and render
to all according to their works in a future state; and,
which is very material, it teaches natural Religion in its
genuine simplicity, free from those superstitions with
which it was totally corrupted, and under which it was in
a manner lost.

Revelation is further an authoritative publication of
natural Religion, and so affords the evidence of testi-
mony for the truth of it. Indeed the miracles and pro-
phecies recorded in Scripture were intended to prove a
particular dispensation of Providence, the redemption of
the world by the Messiah ; but this does not hinder but
that they may also prove God's general providence over
the world as our moral Governor and Judge. And they
evidently do prove it, because this character of the
Author of Nature is necessarily connected with and im-
plied in that particular revealed dispensation of things ;
it is likewise continually taught expressly and insisted
upon by those persons who wrought the miracles and
delivered the prophecies. So that indeed natural Reli-
gion seems as much proved by the Scripture revelation
as it would have been had the design of revelation been
nothing else than to prove it.

But it may possibly be disputed how far miracles can



122 The Analogy of Religion

prove natural Religion, and notable objections may be
urged against this proof of it, considered as a matter of
speculation; but considered as a practical thing there
can be none. For suppose a person to teach natural
Religion to a nation who had lived in total ignorance or
forgetfulness of it, and to declare he was commissioned
by God so to do : suppose him, in proof of his commis-
sion, to foretell things future which no human foresight
could have guessed at ; to divide the sea with a word ;
feed great multitudes with bread from heaven ; cure all
manner of diseases ; and raise the dead, even himself, to
life : would not this give additional credibility to his
teaching, a credibility beyond what that of a common
man would have, and be an authoritative publication of
the law of nature, i.e., a new proof of it? It would be
a practical one of the strongest kind, perhaps, which
human creatures are capable of having given them. The
Law of Moses then, and the Gospel of Christ, are author-
itative publications of the religion of nature; they
afford a proof of God's general providence as Governor
of the world, as well as of his particular dispensations of
providence towards sinful creatures revealed in the Law
and the Gospel. As they are the only evidence of the
latter, so they are an additional evidence of the former.
To show this further, let us suppose a man of the
greatest and most improved capacity, who had never
heard of revelation, convinced upon the whole, notwith-
standing the disorders of the world, that it was under
the direction and moral government of an infinitely-
perfect Being ; but ready to question whether he were
not got beyond the reach of his faculties : suppose him,
brought by this suspicion, into great danger of being
carried away by the universal bad example of almost
every one around him, who appeared to have no sense,
no practical sense at least, of these things; and this,
perhaps, would be as advantageous a situation with
regard to Religion, as nature alone ever placed any man
in. What a confirmation now must it be to such a per-
son all at once to find that this moral system of things
was revealed to mankind in the name of that infinite



Of the Importance of Christianity 123

Being whom he had from principles of reason believed
in; and that the publishers of the revelation proved
their commission from him by making it appear that he
had entrusted them with a power of suspending and
changing the general laws of nature.

Nor must it by any means be omitted, for it is a thing
of the utmost importance, that life and immortality are
eminently brought to light by the Gospel. The great
doctrines of a future state, the danger of a course of
wickedness, and the efficacy of repentance, are not only
confirmed in the Gospel, but are taught, especially the
last is, with a degree of light to which that of nature is
but darkness.

Further : As Christianity served these ends and pur-
poses when it was first published by the miraculous
publication itself; so it was intended to serve the same
purposes in future ages by means of the settlement of a
visible church : of a society distinguished from common
ones, and from the rest of the world, by peculiar religious
institutions ; by an instituted method of instruction,
and an instituted form of external Religion. Miraculous
powers were given to the first preachers of Christianity,
in order to their introducing it into the world : a visible
church was established, in order to continue it and carry it
on successively throughout all ages. Had Moses and the
Prophets, Christ and his Apostles, only taught, and by
miracles proved Religion to their contemporaries, the
benefits of their instructions would have reached but to
a small part of mankind. Christianity must have been
in a great degree sunk and forgot in a very few ages. To
prevent this appears to have been one reason why a visi-
ble church was instituted ; to be like a city upon a hill,
a standing memorial to the world of the duty which we
owe our Maker ; to call men continually both by example
and instruction to attend to it, and by the form of Reli-
gion ever before their eyes remind them of the reality ;
to be the repository of the oracles of God ; to hold up
the light of revelation in aid to that of nature, and pro-
pagate it throughout all generations to the end of the
world the light of revelation, considered here in no other



124 The Analogy of Religion

view, than as designed to enforce natural Religion.
And in proportion as Christianity is professed and
taught in the world, Religion, natural or essential
Religion, is thus distinctly and advantageously laid
before mankind, and brought again and again to their
thoughts as a matter of infinite importance. A visible
church has also a further tendency to promote natural
Religion, as being an instituted method of education,
originally intended to be of more peculiar advantage to
those who conform to it. For one end of the institu-
tion was, that by admonition and reproof, as well as
instruction ; by a general regular discipline, and public
exercises of religion, the body of Christ, as the Scrip-
ture speaks, should be edified, i.e., trained up in piety
and virtue for a higher and better state. This settle-
ment, then, appearing thus beneficial, tending in the
nature of the thing to answer, and in some degree
actually answering those ends ; it is to be remembered,
that the very notion of it implies positive institutions,
for the visibility of the church consists in them. Take
away everything of this kind, and you lose the very
notion itself. So that if the things now mentioned are
advantages, the reason and importance of positive
institutions in general is most obvious, since without
them these advantages could not be secured to the
world. And it is mere idle wantonness to insist upon
knowing the reasons why such particular ones were
fixed upon rather than others.

The benefit arising from this supernatural assistance,
which Christianity affords to natural Religion, is what
some persons are very slow in apprehending. And yet
it is a thing distinct in itself, and a very plain obvious
one. For will any in good earnest really say, that the
bulk of mankind in the heathen world were in as advan-
tageous a situation with regard to natural Religion as
they are now amongst us ; that it was laid before them,
and enforced upon them, in a manner as distinct, and
as much tending to influence their practice ?

The objections against all this, from the perversion of
Christianity, and from the supposition of its having had



Of the Importance of Christianity 125

but little good influence, however innocently they may
be proposed, yet cannot be insisted upon as conclusive,
upon any principles but such as lead to downright
Atheism ; because the manifestation of the law of
nature by reason, which, upon all principles of Theism,
must have been from God, has been perverted and
rendered ineffectual in the same manner. It may
indeed, I think, truly be said, that the good effects of
Christianity have not been small ; nor its supposed ill
effects, any effects at all of it, properly speaking. Per-
haps, too, the things themselves done have been aggra-
vated; and if not, Christianity hath been often only a
pretence; and the same evils in the main would have
been done upon some other pretence. However, great
and shocking as the corruptions and abuses of it have
really been, they cannot be insisted upon as arguments
against it, upon principles of Theism. For one cannot
proceed one step in reasoning upon natural Religion,
any more than upon Christianity, without laying it down
as a first principle, that the dispensations of Providence
are not to be judged of by their perversions, but by
their genuine tendencies : not by what they do actually
seem to effect, but by what they would effect if man-
kind did their part that part which is justly put and
left upon them. It is altogether as much the language
of one as of the other : He that is unjust, Ut him be
unjust still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. 1
The light of reason does not, any more than that of
revelation, force men to submit to its authority : both
admonish them of what they ought to do and avoid,
together with the consequences of each, and after this,
leave them at full liberty to act just as they please till
the appointed time of judgment. Every moment's
experience shows that this is God's general rule of
government.

To return, then : Christianity being a promulgation of
the law of nature ; being moreover an authoritative pro-
mulgation of it, with new light and other circumstances
of peculiar advantage adapted to the wants of mankind ;

1 Rev. xzii. n.



126 The Analogy of Religion

these things fully show its importance. And it is to be
observed further, that as the nature of the case requires,
so all Christians are commanded to contribute, by their
profession of Christianity, to preserve it in the world,
and render it such a promulgation and enforcement of
Religion. For it is the very scheme of the Gospel, that
each Christian should, in his degree, contribute towards
continuing and carrying it on : all by uniting in the
public profession and external practice of Christianity,
some by instructing, by having the oversight and taking
care of this religious community, the Church of God.
Now this further shows the importance of Christianity ;
and, which is what I chiefly intend, its importance in a
practical sense, or the high obligations we are under to
take it into our most serious consideration, and the
danger there must necessarily be, not only in treating it
despitefully, which I am not now speaking of, but in dis-
regarding and neglecting it. For this is neglecting to
do what is expressly enjoined us, for continuing those
benefits to the world, and transmitting them down to
future times. And all this holds, even though the only
thing to be considered in Christianity were its sub-
serviency to natural Religion. But,

II. Christianity is to be considered in a further view ;
as containing an account of a dispensation of things,
not at all discoverable by reason, in consequence of
which several distinct precepts are enjoined us. Chris-
tianity is not only an external institution of natural
Religion, and a new promulgation of God's general
providence, as righteous Governor and Judge of the
world; but it contains also a revelation of a particular
dispensation of Providence, carrying on by his Son and
Spirit for the recovery and salvation of mankind, who
are represented in Scripture to be in a state of ruin.
And in consequence of this revelation being made, we
are commanded to be baptized not only in the name of
the Father > but also of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;
and other obligations of duty, unknown before, to the
Son and the Holy Ghost, are revealed. Now the im-
portance of these duties may be judged of, by observing



Of the Importance of Christianity 127

that they arise, not from positive command merely, but
also from the offices, which appear, from Scripture, to
belong to those divine persons in the Gospel dispensa-
tion, or from the relations which we are there informed
they stand in to us. By reason is revealed the relation
which God the Father stands in to us. Hence arises
the obligation of duty which we are under to him. In
Scripture are revealed the relations which the Son and
Holy Spirit stand in to us. Hence arise the obligations
of duty which we are under to them. The truth of the
case, as one may speak, in each of these three respects
being admitted ; that God is the governor of the world
upon the evidence of reason ; that Christ is the media-
tor between God and man, and the Holy Ghost our
guide and sanctifier, upon the evidence of revelation:
the truth of the case, I say, in each of these respects
being admitted, it is no more a question why it should
be commanded that we be baptized in the name of the
Son and of the Holy Ghost, than that we be baptized
in the name of the Father. This matter seems to
require to be more fully stated. 1

Let it be remembered, then, that Religion comes under
the twofold consideration of internal and external; for


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Online LibraryJoseph ButlerThe analogy of religion, natural & revealed → online text (page 13 of 28)