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We honour the toils of a man who tells of the uses, beauties and medicinal properties of the plant, far more than of him who merely declares its rank, its order, its class in the Linnæan sys< tem. So in theology, we admire the greatness of mind which can bring out an original truth, illustrate it, and show its proper bearing on the spiritual interests of our race, far more than we do the plodding chiseller who shapes it to its place in his system. It makes no small demand on our patience, when we see the system-maker remove angle after angle, and apply stroke after stroke, to some great mass of truth which a mighty genius has struck out, but which keen-eyed and jealous orthodoxy will not admit to its proper bearing on the souls of men, until it is located in a creed, and cramped into some frame-work of faith, that has been reared around the Bible. Our sympathy with such men as Butler, and Chalmers, and Foster, and Hall, is far greater than with Turretine or Ridgely. With still less patience do we listen to those whose only business it is to shape and reduce to pre scribed form; who never look at a passage in the Bible or a fact in nature, without first robbing it of its freshness, by an attempt to give it a sectarian location :—who never stumble on an original and unclassified idea, without asking whether the systemmaker had left any niche for the late-born intruder; and who applies to it all tests, as to a non-descript substance in chymistry, in order to fasten on it the charge of an affinity with some rejected confession, or some creed of a suspected name. This is to abuse reason and revelation, for the sake of putting honour on creeds. It is to suppose that the older creed-makers had before them all shades of thought, all material and mental facts, all knowledge of what mind has been and can be, and all other knowledge of the adaptedness of the Bible, to every enlarged and fluctuating process of thought. It is to doom the theologian to an eternal dwelling in Greenland frost and snows, instead of serding him forth to breathe the mild air of freedom, and to make him a large-minded and fearless interpreter of the oracles of God.
It is not our intention to follow the profound author of the Analogy through his laboured demonstrations, or to attempt to offer an abridged statement of his reasoning. Butler, as we have already remarked, is incapable of abridgement. His thoughts. are already condensed into as narrow a compass, as the nature of language will admit. All that we purpose to do, is to give a specimen of the argument from analogy in support of the Chris tian religion, without very closely following the book before us.
The main points at issue between Christianity and its opposers are, whether there is a future state; whether our conduct here will affect our condition there; whether God so controls things as to reward and punish; whether it is reasonable to act with reference to our condition hereafter; whether the favour of God is to be obtained with, or without the mediation of another, whether crime and suffering are indissolubly united ir, the moral government of God; and whether Christianity is a scheme in accordance with the acknowledged laws of the universe and is
supported by evidence so clear as to make it proper to act on the Delief of its truth.
Infidelity, in its proper form, approaches man with the decla ation that there cannot be a future state. It affirms, often with much apparent concern, that there can be no satisfactory evidence of what pertains to a dark, invisible, and distant world; that the mind is incompetent to set up landmarks along its future course, and that we can have no certain proof that in that dark abyss, we shall live, act, or think at all. It affirms that the whole analogy of things is against such a supposition. We have no evidence, it declares, that one of all the milions who have died, has lived beyond the grave. In sickness, and old age, it is said the body and soul seem alike to grow feeble and decay, and both seem to expire together. That they ever exist separate, it is said, has not been proved. That such a dissolution and separate existence should take place, is affirmed to be contrary to the analogy of all other things. That the soul and body should be united again, and constitute a single being, is said to be without a parallel fact in other things, to divest it of its inherent improbability.
Now let us suppose för a moment that, endued with our present powers of thought, we had been united to bodies of far feebler frame and much more slender dimensions, than we now inhabit. Suppose that our spirits had been doomed to inhabit the body of a crawling reptile, scarce an inch in length, prone on the earth, and doomed to draw out our little length to obtain locomotion from day to day, and scarce noticeable by the mighty beings above us. Suppose in that lowly condition, as we contemplated the certainty of our speedy dissolution, we should look upon our kindred reptiles, the partners of our cares, and should see their strength gradually waste, their faculties grow dim, their bodies become chill in death. Suppose now it should be revealed to us, that those bodies should undergo a transformation; that at no great distance of time they should start up into new being; that in their narrow graves there should be seen the evidence of returning life; and that these same deformed, prone, and decay. ing frames, should be clothed with the beauty of gaudy colours, be instinct with life, leave the earth, soar at pleasure in a new element, take their rank in a new order of beings, be divested of all that was offensive and loathsome in their old abode in the eyes of other beings; and be completely dissociated from all the plans, habits, relations and feelings of their former lowly condition. We ask whether against this supposition there would not lie all the objections, which have ever been alleged against the doctrine of a resurrection, and a future state? Yet the world has long been familiar with changes of this character. The changes which animal nature undergoes to produce the gay colours of the butterfly, have as much antecedent improbability as those pertaining to the predicted resurrection, and for aught that we can see, are improbabilities of precisely the same nature. So in a case still more in point. No two states which revelation has
presented, as actually contemplated in the condition of man, are more unlike than those of an unborn infant, and of a hoary man ripe with wisdom and honours. To us it appears that the state of the embryo, and that of Newton, Locke, and Bacon, have at least, as much dissimilarity, as those between man here, and man in a future state. Grant that a revelation could be made to such an embryo, and it would be attended with all the difficulties that are supposed to attend the doctrine of revelation. That this unformed being should leave the element in which it commences its existence; that it should be ushered into another element with powers precisely adjusted to its new state, and useless in its first abode-like the eye, the ear, the hand, the foot; that ia should assume relations to hundreds, and thousands of othet beings at first unknown, and these, too, living in what to the embryo must be esteemed a different world; that it should be capable of traversing seas, of measuring the distances of stars, of guaging the dimensions of suns; that it could calculate with unerring certainty the conjunctions and oppositions, the transits and altitudes of the vast wheeling orbs of immensity, is as improbable as any change, which man, under the guidance of revelation, has yet expected in his most sanguine moments. Yet nothing is more familiar to us. So the analogy might be run through all the changes which animals and vegetables exhibit. Nor has the infidel a right to reject the revelations of Christianity respecting a future state, until he has disposed of facts of precisely the same nature with which our world abounds.
But are we under a moral government? Admitting the probability of a future state, is the plan on which the world is actually administered, one which will be likely to affect our condition there? Is there any reason to believe, from the analogy of things, that the affairs of the universe will ever in some future condition, settle down into permanency and order? That this is the doctrine of Christianity, none can deny. It is a matter of clear revelation-indeed it is the entire basis and structure of the scheme, that the affairs of justice and of law, are under suspense; that "judgment now lingereth and damnation slumbereth;" that, crime is for the present dissociated from wo, for a specific purpose, viz. that mortals may repent and be forgiven; and that there will come a day when the native indissoluble connexion between sin and suffering shall be restored, and that they shall then travel on hand in hand for ever. This is the essence of Christianity. And it is a most interesting inquiry, whether any thing like this can be found in the actual government of the world.
Now it cannot be denied, that on this subject, men are thrown into a most remarkable-a chaotic mass of facts. The world is so full of irregularity-the lives of wicked men are apparently so often peaceful and triumphant-virtue so often pines neglected in the vale of obscurity, or weeps and groans under the iron hand of the oppressor, that it appals men in all their
attempts to reduce the system to order. Rewards and punishments, are so often apparently capricious, that there is presumptive proof, in the mind of the infidel, that it will always continue so to be. And yet what if, amidst all this apparent disorder there should be found the elements of a grand and glorious system, soon to rise on its ruins? What if, amidst all the triumphs of vice, there should still be found evidence to prove that God works by an unseen power, but most effectually, in sending judicial inflictions on men even now? And what if, amidst these ruins, there is still to be found evidence, that God regards virtue even here, and is preparing for it appropriate rewards hereafter; like the parts of a beautiful temple strewed and scattered in the ruins of some ancient city, but still if again placed together, symmetrical, harmonious, and grand?
Christianity proceeds on the supposition that such is the fact and amidst all the wreck of human things, we can still discover certain fixed results of human conduct. The consequences of an action do not terminate with the commission of the act itself, nor with the immediate effect of that act on the body. They travel over into future results, and strike on some other, often some distant part of our earthly existence. Frequently the true effect of the act is not seen except beyond some result that may be considered as the accidental one; though for the sake of that immediate effect the act may have been performed. This is strikingly the case in the worst forms of vice. The immediate effect, for example, of intemperance, is a certain pleasurable sensation for the sake of which the man became intoxicated. The true effect, or the effect as part of moral government, travels beyond that temporary delirium, and is seen in the loss of health, character, and peace, perhaps not terminating in its consequences during the whole future progress of the victim. So the direct result of profligacy may be the gratification of passion ;-of avarice, the pleasurable indulgence of a groveling propensity; of ambition, the glow of feeling in splendid achievements, or the grandeur and pomp of the monarch, or the warrior;-of dueling, a pleasurable sensation that revenge has been taken for insult. But do the consequences of these deeds terminate here? If they did, we should doubt the moral government of God. But in regard to their ultimate effects, the universe furnishes but one lesson. The consequences of these deeds travel over in advance of this pleasure, and fix themselves deep beyond human power to eradicate them, in the property health, reputation or peace of the man of guilt;-nay, perhaps the consequences thicken until we take our last view of him, as he gasps in death, and all that we know of him, as he goes from our observation, is that heavier thunderbolts are seen trembling in the hand of God, and pointing their vengeance at the head of the dying man. What infidel can prove that some of the results, at least, of that crime, may not travel on to meet aim in his future being, and beset his goings there?
Further, as a general law the virtuous are prospered, and the
wicked punished. Society is organized for this. Laws are made for this. The entire community throws its arms around the man of virtue; and in like manner, the entire community, by its laws, gather around the transgressor. Let a man attempt to commit a crime, and before the act is committed, he may meet with fifty evidences, that he is doing that which will involve him in ruin. He must struggle with his conscience. He niust contend with what he knows to have been the uniform
judgment of men. He must keep himself from the eye of jusice, and that very attempt is proof to him that there is a mora' government He must overcome all the proofs which have been set up, that men approve of virtue. He must shun the presence of every man, for from that moment, every member of the community, becomes, of course, his enemy. He must assume disguises to secure him from the eye of justice. He must work his way through the community during the rest of his life, with the continued consciousness of crime; eluding by arts the officers of the law, fearful of detection at every step, and never certain that at some unexpected moment, his crime may not be revealed, and the heavy arm of justice fall on his guilty head. Now all this proves that in his view he is under a moral government. How knows he, that the same system of things may not meet him hereafter; and that in some future world the hand of justice may not reach him? The fact is sufficiently universal to be a proper ground of action, that virtue meets with its appropriate reward and vice is appropriately punished. So universal is this fact, that more than nine tenths of all the world, have confidently acted on its belief. The young man expects that industry and sobriety will be recompensed in the healthfulness, peace, and honour of a venerable old age. The votary of ambition expects to climb the steep, "where fame's proud temple shines afar," and to enjoy the rewards of office or fame. And so uniform is the administration of the world in this respect, that the success of one generation, lays the ground for the confident anticipations of another. So it has been from the beginning of time, and so it will be to the end of the world. We ask why should not man, with equal reason, suppose his conduct now may affect his des tiny, at the next moment or the next year beyond his death? Is there any violation of reason in supposing that the soul may be active there, and meet there the results of conduct here? Can it be proved that death suspends, or annihilates existence? Unless it can, the man who acts in his youth with reference to his happiness at eighty years of age, is acting most unwisely if be does not extend his thoughts to the hundredth, or the thousandth year of his being.
What if it should be found, as the infidel cannot deny it may be, that death suspends not existence, so much as one night's sleep At the close of each day, we see the powers of man prostrate. Weakness and lassitude come over all the frame. A torpor elsewhere unknown in the history of animal nature, spreads through all the faculties. The eyes close, the ears become deaf