Page images





Dear Sir,


I am well aware, whilst approaching the Analogy of Religion by Bishop Butler, that I am about to enter the “ ædes sacraof orthodoxy; I tread, therefore, with trembling steps ; but apprehensive that some pagan rite is celebrated within, I venture to proceed. The name of the author is one of those whom I have long repeated with feelings of respect and admiration. To me, however, he appears to have forced an analogy between states which are not analogous. Had he written without the light of revelation, his book had been a prophecy; but, writing in the effulgence of that light, is it not surprising that he looked upon life rather as a moralist than as a christian divine?

I shall attempt to show, both from the facts of nature, and the doctrine of the gospel, that Bishop Butler has rested his argument upon a false assumption.

The first point which this pious and learned author wishes to establish, is, that we have living powers, independent of the body; and then he reasons to a future state of existence for those powers. For an argument in answer to such an assumption, I must refer you to a future letter. If I be correct in my view of the subject, and can prove that we have no knowledge of the separate existence of the human soul, nor of the Deity, save from revelation, the theory of the moral government of God, in Bishop Butler's sense, must be abandoned. But I apprehend that his theory is open to a more apparent and equally fatal objection ; - that the learned prelate has not taken a correct view of natural rewards and punishments; that virtue and vice, in a moral sense, have not a reference to the will of God, and are not rewarded or punished in this life as such, -nor, as such, made the subjects of judgment in the life to come, and that there cannot be an analogy between them.

Treating on natural religion, Bishop Butler observes, “ Yet there is no doubt but that our eyes were intended for us to see with. So neither is there any doubt but that the foreseen pleasures and pains belonging to the passions, were intended in general to induce mankind to act in such and such a manner." ports his argument from the natural punishment which follows intemperance. By prudence and care,” he argues, “ we may, for the most part, pass our days in tolerable ease and quiet ; or, on the contrary, we may, by rashness, ungoverned passion, wilfulness, or even by negli

And he sup

gence, make ourselves as miserable as ever we please.” Again he writes, “ It is certain matter of universal experience, that the general method of divine administration is forewarning us, or giving us capacities to foresee with more or less clearness, that if we act so and so, we shall have such enjoyments; and if so and so, such sufferings; and giving us those enjoyments, and making us feel those sufferings in consequence of our actions."

He also defines moral government to be, “ in rewarding the righteous, and punishing the wicked; in rendering to men according to their actions, considered as good and evil.” Again he says, “ In the natural course of things, virtue, as such, is actually rewarded ; and vice, as such, is punished.” Hence he contends, that the natural government of the world is “righteous or moral.” What, therefore, we may ask, is the rule or measure of this morality, (for the word righteous is misused )? It is either the will of God, declared in some known manner; or it is in the reward or punishment of mental and bodily pleasure or pain, which such and such actions produce. If in the former, the analogy ceases, and becomes a parallel ; if in the latter, (which is obviously the meaning of the author,) the doctrine of moral rewards and punishments, said to be the natural accompaniments of virtue and vice, is contrary to the fact of nature; and so far from being a motive to virtue, would be an


« PreviousContinue »