Gladstone’s Edition Of Bishop Butler’s Works -- By: Jacob Cooper

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 053:211 (Jul 1896)
Article: Gladstone’s Edition Of Bishop Butler’s Works
Author: Jacob Cooper

Gladstone’s Edition Of Bishop Butler’s Works

Jacob Cooper

THIS new edition of Joseph Butler’s writings will mark an epoch in religious philosophy; for this author is secure in the position at the head of all uninspired writers on the natural evidences of a future life. There has been a disposition, on the part of shallow doubters, to decry his method of analogy, to undervalue his line of argument, and to declare his conclusions unwarranted. Carping critics make merry over his crabbed style, and refute to their own satisfaction a chain of reasoning which they manifestly never understood. Science pronounces his method obsolete, while patronizingly lauding the nobility of his character and the excellence of his motives. But the thoughtful inquirer who listens to conscience as the voice of God, and who sees in the course of human experience the counterpart of that scheme disclosed in Revelation, is drawn to Butler’s reasoning, because it interprets to him, as no other merely human author is able to do, the facts of his present life and his hopes of an immortal existence. Hence, whether the object of sneering contempt which is affected most when conscious of its weakness in argument, or of reverence from those able to appreciate his greatness, Butler calmly unfolds his proof of our continued being as parts of a life infinite in growth and direction.

Though the “Sermons” and “Analogy” have been published more than a century and a half, and have been re-

printed oftener, no doubt, than any other argumentative work on religion, they have never till now found a competent editor. Some portions, it is true, have been well edited by those in sympathy with the author’s purpose, and with the ability to comprehend his arguments. But all such partial attempts failed in that they did not view his writings as a unit. No author ever exhibited a more unified system or more concatenated arrangement of its parts. The “Sermons” consider man in his relations to his neighbor, with whom he is united by common bonds of interest and sympathy, as belonging to a scheme which has a partial display on earth, but will have its full realization under the same Lawgiver in heaven. The “Analogy” proves that the life here is a part of the same scheme which embraces both worlds. This is done by showing that the moral law written in the conscience is realized in the inherent nature of sin to punish itself, and of virtue to produce happiness and thus reward itself. This is the coordinate of that law revealed in the Holy Scriptures. But while the tendency of these opposite principles is to effect these results, the time for such consummation is too short; and therefore to complete the scheme a future life is absolutely necessa...

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