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ADMIRATION of the celebrated treatise of Bishop Butler,-" The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature", and a desire to obtain a full comprehension of the character and force of the particular evidence exemplified in that work, have been the primary inducements to the following attempt to elucidate the principle on which that evidence proceeds, and the importance of its application to such a religion as Christianity.
A discussion of this kind appeared the more necessary, as the evidence of the natural world has been greatly underrated in the general estimate, as a constituent of the great Christian Argument. It is usual to speak of it, indiscriminately, under the general head of the internal evidence,
and, accordingly, to contrast it with the external evidence derived from facts belonging to the history of Christianity.-Now, though it may rightly be classed under the head of the internal evidence, inasmuch as it respects the internal system and character of the religion itself contained in any revelation; yet is it also an evidence from external facts, inasmuch as it is conversant about the phenomena of nature. ought not, therefore, to be contrasted with the evidence usually termed external, as if it offered a proof of a different kind; but to be distinguished from it simply in respect of, the subject-matter of its facts, and the points of the revelation to which it applies those facts. The facts which the evidence, properly external, employs, are the events which have accompanied the promulgation and establishment of the religion in question. The facts which that kind of internal evidence here examined employs, are those which are collected from observation of the established course of Divine Providence in
the world.—The former applies the test of facts to a given religion, considered as an historical event. The latter applies the test of facts to a given religion, considered, in its structure as a system of truths, and in the nature of its evidences and circumstances in general, the nature of its evidences and circumstances clearly presenting a point of comparison distinct from their application as actual events. It applies, for instance, to Christianity, either as containing the doctrine of the atonement; or as miraculous in its essential evidence,— as deficient in its proof,—not universal in its diffusion, &c.
From not distinctly considering then, that there is an internal evidence conversant about facts (and not mere opinions) no less than the external,-the argument of "The Analogy " has been involved in that suspicion, which justly attaches to all speculations à priori on the subject of religion, or attempts to ascertain the intrinsic merits of a given revelation, by its
accordance with preconceived notions unsupported by adequate data: instead of its being regarded in its true light, as a deduction, in the first place, of principles of theological truth from actual observations; and then, an application of the principles so deduced to the doctrinal and circumstantial nature of the religion,-and consequently an argument à posteriori in its principle, though in the mode of its application it assumes the form of à priori reasoning.
Nor can it be reasonably objected, that this form of the argument renders this Evidence obnoxious to the charge of a vain speculation: since, not even our application of the external evidence is exempt from the like imperfection. For, whilst in arguing the historical truth of Christianity we commence with the fact of its present existence, and those other facts which the testimonies of historians have transmitted to us, relative to its existence antecedently to our own times,—yet, that we may apply these facts as proofs of the divinity of its origin,