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BY ALBERT BARNES.
[NOTE. The following Essay was originally prepared as a Review of Butler's Analogy, for the Quarterly Christian Spectator, and appeared in that work in the Numbers for December, 1830, and March, 1831. With some slight alterations and additions, it is now reprinted as an Introductory Essay to this Edition of the Analogy.]
Philadelphia, Sept. 6, 1832.
IN directing the attention of our readers to the great work whose title we have placed at the head of this article, we suppose we are rendering an acceptable service chiefly to one class. The ministers of religion, we presume, need not our humble recommendation of a treatise so well known as Butler's Analogy. It will not be improper, however, to suggest that even our clerical readers may be less familiar than they should be, with a work which saps all the foundations of unbelief; and may, perhaps, have less faithfully carried out the principles of the Analogy, and interwoven them less into their theological system, than might reasonably have been expected. Butler already begins to put on the venerable air of antiquity. He belongs, in the character of his writings at least, to the men of another age. He is abstruse, profound, dry, and, to minds indisposed to thought, is often wearisome and disgusting. Even in clerical estimation, then, his work may sometimes be numbered among those repulsive monuments of ancient wisdom, which men of this age pass by indiscriminately, as belonging to times of barbarous strength and unpolished warfare.
But our design in bringing Butler more distinctly before the public eye, has respect primarily to another class of our readers In an age pre-eminently distinguished for the short-lived productions of the imagination; when reviewers feel themselves bound to serve up to the public taste, rather the deserts and confectionaries of the literary world, than the sound and wholesome fare of other times; when, in many places, it is even deemed stupid ani old-fashioned to notice an ancient book, or to speak of the wisdom of our fathers; we desire to do what may lie in our power to stay the headlong propensities of the times, and recal the public mind to the records of past wisdom. We have, indeed, no olind predilection for the principles of other days. We bow down before no opinion because it is ancient. We even feel and believe, that in all the momentous questions pertaining to morals, politics, science, and religion, we are greatly in advance of past ages. And our hearts expand with joy at the prospect of still greater simplicity and clearness, in the statement and defence of the cardinal doctrines of the reformation. Most of the monu
ments of past wisdom, we believe capable of improvement in these respects. Thus we regard the works of Luther, Calvin Beza, and Owen. We look on them as vast repositories of learning, piety and genius. In the great doctrines which these works were intended to support, we do firmly believe. Still, though we love to linger in the society of such men ; and though our humble intellect bows before them, as in the presence of transcendent genius, yet we feel that in some things their views were darkened by the habits of thinking of a less cultivated age than this; that their philosophy was often wrong, while the doctrines which they attempted to defend by it were still correct; and that even they would have hailed, on many topics, the increased illumination of later times. Had modern ways of thinking been applied to their works; had the results of a deeper investigation into the laws of the mind, and the principles of biblical criticism, been in their possession, their works would have been the most perfect records of human wisdom which the world contains.
Some of those great monuments of the power of human thought, however, stand complete. By a mighty effort of genius, their authors seized on truth; they fixed it in permanent forms; they chained down scattered reasonings, and left them to be surveyed by men of less mental stature and far feebler powers. It is a proof of no mean talent now to be able to follow where they lead, to grasp in thought, what they had the power to originate. They framed a complete system at the first touch; and all that remains for coming ages, corresponds to what Johnson has said of poets in respect to Homer, to transpose their arguments, new name their reasonings, and paraphrase their sentiments.* The works of such men are a collection of principles to be carried into every region of morals and theology, as a standard of all other views of truth. Such a distinction we are disposed to give to Butler's Analogy; and it is because we deem it worthy of such a distinction, that we now single it out from the great works of the past, and commend it to the attention of our readers.
There are two great departments of investigation, respecting the "analogy of religion to the constitution and course of nature." The one contemplates that analogy as existing between the declarations of the Bible, and ascertained facts in the structure of the globe, the organization of the animal system,—the me morials of ancient history, the laws of light, heat, and gravita ion, the dimensions of the earth, and the form and motion of the heavenly bodies. From all these sources, objections have been derived against revelation. The most furious attacks have been made, at one time by the geologist, and at another by the astronomer; on one pretence by the antiquarian, and on another by the chymist, against some part of the system of revealed truth. Yet never have any assaults been less successful. Every effort of this kind has resulted in the establishment of this great truth,
Johnson. Preface to Shakspeare.
that no man has yet commenced an investigation of the works of nature, for the purpose of assailing revelation, who did not altimately exhibit important facts in its confirmation, just in proportion to his eminence and success in his own department of inquiry. We are never alarmed, therefore, when we see an infidel philosopher of real talents, commence an investigation into the works of nature. We hail his labours as destined ultimately to be auxiliary to the cause of truth. We have learned that here Christianity has nothing to fear; and men of science, we believe, are beginning to understand that here infidelity has nothing to hope. As a specimen of the support which Christianity receives from the researches of science, we refer our readers to Ray's Wisdom of God, to Paley's Natural Theology, and to Dick's Christian Philosopher.
The other department of investigation to which we referred, is that which relates to the analogy of revealed truth to the actual facts exhibited in the moral government of th world. This is the department which Butler has entered, and which he has so successfully explored. It is obvious that the first is a wider field in regard to the number of facts which bear on the analogy: the latter is more profound and less tangible in relation to the great subjects of theological debate. The first meets more directly the open and plausible objections of the blasphemer; the latter represses the secret infidelity of the human heart, and silences more effectually the ten thousand clamours which are accustomed to be raised against the peculiar doctrines of the Bible. The first is open to successive advances, and will be so, till the whole physical structure of the world is fully investigated and known. The latter, we may almost infer, seems destined to rest where it now is, and to stand before the world as complete as it ever will be, by one prodigious effort of a gigantic mind. Each successive chymist, antiquarian, astronomer, and anatomist, will throw light on some great department of human knowledge, to be moulded to the purposes of religion, by some future Paley, or Dick, or Good; and in every distinguished man of science, whatever may be his religious feelings, we hail an ultimate auxiliary to the cause of truth. Butler, however, seems to stand alone. No adventurous mind has attempted to press his great principles of thought, still further into the regions of moral inquiry. Though the subject of moral government is better understood now than it was in his day; though light has been thrown on the doctrines of theology, and a perceptible advance been made in the knowledge of the laws of the mind, yet whoever now wishes to know "the analogy of religion to the constitution and course of nature," nas nowhere else to go but to Butler, or if he is able to apply the prin ipies of Butler, he has only to incorporate them with his own reasonings, to furnish the solution of those facts and difficulties that "perplex mortals." We do not mean by this, that Butler has exhausted the subject. We mean only that no man has attempted to carry it beyond the point where he left it; and that his work, though not in our view as complete as modern
habits of thought would permit it to be, yet stands like one of those vast piles of architecture commenced in the middle ages, proofs of consummate skill, of vast power, of amazing wealth, yet in some respects incomplete or disproportioned, but which no one since has dared to remodel, and which no one, perhaps, has had either the wealth, power, or genius, to make more complete.
Of Butler, as a man, little is known. This is one of the many cases where we are compelled to lament the want of a full and faithful biography. With the leading facts of his life as a parish priest and a prelate, we are indeed made acquainted. But here our knowledge of him ends. Of Butler as a man of piety, of the secret, practical operations of his mind, we know little. Now it is obvious, that we could be in possession of no legacy more valuable in regard to such a man, than the knowledge of the secret feelings of his heart; of the application of his own modes of thinking to his own soul, to subdue the ever-varying forms of human weakness and guilt; and of his practical way of obviating, for his personal comfort, the suggestions of unbelief in his own bosom. This fact we know, that he was engaged upon his Analogy during a period of twenty years. Yet we know nothing of the effect on his own soul, of the mode in which he blunted and warded off the poisoned shafts of infidelity. Could we see the internal organization of his mind, as we can now see that of Johnson, could we trace the connexion between his habits of thought and his pious emotions, it would be a treasure to the world equalled perhaps only by his Analogy, and one which we may in vain hope now to possess. The true purposes of biography have been hitherto but little understood. The mere external events pertaining to great men are often of little value. They are without the mind, and produce feelings unconnected with any important purposes of human improvement. Who reads now with any emotion except regret that this is all he can read of such a man as Butler, that he was born in 1692, graduated at Oxford in 1721, preached at the Rolls till 1726, was made bishop of Durham in 1750, and died in 1752? We learn, indeed, that he was high in favour at the university, and subsequently at court; that he was retiring, modest and unassuming in his deportment; and that his elevation to the Deanery of St. Paul's, and to the princely See of Durham, was not the effect of ambition, but the voluntary tribute of those in power to transcendent talent and exalted, though retiring, worth. An instance of his modest and unambitious habits, given in the record of his life, is worthy of preservation, and is highly illustrative of his charac ter. For seven years he was occupied in the humble and laborious duties of a parish priest, at Stanhope. His friends regretted his retirement, and sought preferment for him. Mr. Secker, an intimate friend of Butler, being made chaplain to the king, in 1732, one day in conversation with Queen Caroline took occasion to mention his friend's name. The queen said she thought he was dead, and asked Archbishop Blackburn if that was not the case. His reply was, "No, madam, but he is buried.' He was