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I. A Future State probable from the Changes which we have undergone.

II. And from the probability of our continuing endued with the same Capacities, unless there be some ground for supposing that Death will destroy us—we have no ground from Analogy or Reason, and we can not have it from any thing else.

III. Yet there are Imaginary Presumptions founded on the notion of Living Beings being Compounded, and therefore divisible. A proof of the Contrary confirmed by a general Observation from Experience, leading to four particular Observations. An Objection to some of these, “that they tend to prove the immortality of Brutes,” answered.

IV. A contrary Analogy proved to be only apparent.

V. Our entrance on another State shown to be natural.


I. PASSING by the difficulties raised by some concerning personal identity,66To the Analogy are usually subjoined two dissertations. both originally inserted in the body of the work. One on Personal Identity, in which are contained some strictures on Mr. Locke, who asserts that consciousness makes or constitutes Personal Identity; whereas, as our author observes, consciousness makes only Personality, or is necessary to the idea of a person, i. e., a thinking, intelligent being; but presupposes, and therefore can not constitute, personal identity; just as knowledge, in any other case, presupposes truth, but does not constitute it. Consciousness of past actions does indeed show us the identity of ourselves, or gives us a certain assurance that we are the same persons or living agents now which we were at the time to which our remembrance call look back: but still we should be the same persons as we were, though this consciousness of what is past were wanting, though all that had been done by us formerly were forgotten—unless it be true that no person has existed a single moment beyond what he can remember. The other dissertation is on the Nature of Virtue, which does not be long to the religious, but to the moral, system of our author.—Bishop Halifax. the probability of a future state appears from the changes we have undergone—from the imperfect state of infancy to mature age. Nor is this a law of our being only, that we should exist at one period of our life with capacities of action, of enjoyment, and suffering greatly different from those at another period of it; we find it in other creatures also; for example, the change of worms into flies—birds and insects bursting the shell, and, by this means, entering into a new world. But, as far as we are concerned, that there should be a future state of existence, as different 27 from the present as the present is from our state in the womb and in infancy, is only what is warranted by the analogy of nature.

II. Secondly, from the probability of our continuing endued with the same capacities of action, happiness, and misery which we feel that we now possess. This is probable, unless there be some ground for supposing that death will destroy them; for, in any thing, existence leads to a probability of continuance, except where we have some reason to think it will be altered. This seems to be our only reason for believing that any one substance now existing will continue to exist a moment longer (the self-existent substance only excepted). There is the same kind of probability, though not the same degree of it, that our living powers will continue after death as there is that our substances will; and there would be no probability against the former, if men were assured that the unknown event, death, was not the destruction of our faculties of perception and action; i. e., there would be no probability against it arising from any thing else, unconnected with death, being able to destroy them. Now, if death be justly presumed to destroy them, and if this be not merely a confused suspicion, we must have some ground for the presumption from the reason of the thing, or from the analogy of nature. First, we have it not from the reason of the thing, for we know not what death is in itself, 28 but only some of its effects, such as the dissolution of flesh, skin, and bones; we know not upon what the exercise (much less the existence) of our living powers depends; for they may exist without being exercised, and when there is no present capacity of exercising them, as in a sleep or swoon. They may depend on something out of the reach of the King of Terrors; so that there is nothing more certain than that the reason of the thing shows us no connection between death and the destruction of living agents.77Destruction of living powers, is a manner of expression unavoidably ambiguous, and may signify either the destruction of a living being, so as that the same living being shall be incapable of ever perceiving or acting again at all, or the destruction of those means and instruments by which it is capable of its present life, of its present state of perception, and of action. It is here used in the former sense. When it is used in the latter, the epithet present is added. The loss of a man’s eye is a destruction of living powers in the latter sense; but we have no reason to think the destruction of living powers, in the former sense, to be possible. We have no more reason to think a being endued with living powers, ever loses them during his whole existence than to believe that a stone ever acquires them.—Butler. Secondly, we have it not from the analogy of nature, for, throughout the whole of it, there is not the slightest presumption that animals ever lose their living powers—much less, if possible, by death. This event destroys the sensible proof which we had before their death, of their being possessed of living powers, but does not appear to afford the least reason to 29 believe that they are then, or by that event, deprived of them. As far as our faculties can trace, they retain them, and this is in itself a probability of their retaining them beyond that period, especially when viewed in connection with our first proof.

III. Objected against the assertion thatthere is no proof from the reason of the thing.”88There is no subject on which doubts and difficulties may not be started by ingenious and disputatious man; and therefore from the number of their objections, and the length of the controversy to which they give occasion, we can not, in any case, conclude that the original evidence is weak, or even that it is not obvious and striking. Were we to presume that every principle is dubious against which specious objections may be contrived, we should be quickly led into universal skepticism. The two ways in which the ingenuity of speculative men has been most commonly employed are dogmatical assertions of doubtful opinions, and subtle cavils against certain truths.—Gerard’s Dissertation, II., 4. “Living beings are compounded, and so divisible.”

ANSWER. There is no proof of this; it arises not from reason, but from that delusive faculty—useful, indeed, to apprehension, but the author of all error—Imagination. Since consciousness is indivisible, it should rather seem that the perceptive power, and consequently the subject in which it resides, must be so too.99See Dr. Clarke’s Letter to Dodwell, and the defenses of it. As a particle of matter (as well as its power of motion) is one and indivisible, if its motion be absolutely one and indivisible—for if the 30 particle were divisible, one part might be moved and the other at rest, and thus its motion could not be as is supposed—-in the same way, if the subject of consciousness be divisible, the consciousness of our own existence would be divisible; so that one part would be here and another there, contrary to what is supposed and experienced.1010That it is highly unreasonable and absurd to suppose the soul made up of innumerable consciousnesses, as matter is necessarily made up of innumerable parts; and, on the contrary, that it is highly reasonable to believe the seat of thought to be a simple substance such as can not naturally be divided and crumbled into pieces, as all matter is manifestly subject to be, must, of necessity, be confessed. Consequently the soul will not be liable to be dissolved at the dissolution of the body, and, therefore, it will naturally be immortal. All this seems to follow, at least, with the highest degree of probability, from the single consideration of the soul’s being endued with sense, thought, or consciousness.—Clarke’s Evidence of Natural and Revealed Religion. Hence the absolute oneness of the living agent renders the body unessential to its being, and our organized bodies are no more ourselves, or part of ourselves, than any other matter around us; and yet it is as easy to conceive how such matter may be appropriated to our use in the manner that our present bodies are, as how we receive impressions from, and have power over any matter. It is as easy to conceive that we may exist out of bodies as in them; that we might have animated bodies, of any other organs and senses, wholly different from those now given us, and that we may hereafter animate 31 these same or new bodies, variously modified and organized, as to conceive how we can animate such bodies as our present. Their destruction, then, might be like that of any other matter, without any tendency to destroy our living powers. Even without determining whether our living substances be material or immaterial, all this is confirmed (though from the nature of the case not properly proved) by observations from experience. We remain the same living agents after the loss of our limbs, organs of sense, or even the greatest part of our bodies; we can remember ourselves the same when our bodies were extremely small, and we lose now, and might have lost then, a great part of our bodies, and yet remain the same. And it is certain, that the bodies of all animals are in a constant change from that never-ceasing attrition which there is in every part of them. All this leads us to distinguish the large quantity of matter in which we are nearly interested from the living agent who remains one and the same permanent being.

OBJECTION. What is alienated or lost is no part of our original solid body, but only adventitious matter.

ANSWER. Surely entire limbs which we may lose must contain many solid parts and vessels of the original body; or, if this be not admitted, we have no proof that any of these solid parts are dissolved or alienated by death.


From this it follows:—1st. Even though the living being be not absolutely indivisible, yet it can not be assumed that death will be the dissolution of it until its proper bulk be determined, and till it be determined to be larger than the solid elementary particles of matter, which there is no ground to think any natural power can dissolve. 2dly. Our interest in systems of matter does not imply the destruction of ourselves the living agents, for we have, though not to the same degree, the like interest in all foreign matter, which gives us ideas, and over which we have any power; nor have we any ground to conclude that any other systems of matter, suppose internal systems, are the living agents themselves; for we can have no reason to conclude this, except from the same principle—our interest in such systems. 3d. If we consider the component parts of our body, this will more clearly appear. Our organs of sense and our limbs are only instruments which the living persons ourselves make use of to perceive and move with; and therefore we have no other kind of relation to them than we have to any other foreign matter formed into instruments of perception and motion—suppose into a microscope and a staff. But are not our organs themselves percipient. No; the common optical experiments show that we see with our eyes in the same sense that we see with glasses; and the like may justly be concluded from analogy of all our other senses. 33 Some of these organs may be lost, while the living beings, the former occupiers, remain unimpaired. In dreams we have a latent power, and, what would otherwise be an unknown power, of perceiving sensible objects in as strong and lively a manner without our external organs of sense as with them. But are not our limbs endued with the power of moving and directing themselves. No; a man can move an artificial leg, for example, as he used to move his natural one, only that the natural instrument of motion was more exactly formed, so as to move and produce motion in its several parts; his active power remains unlessened. And thus the finding that the dissolution of matter in which living beings were most nearly interested is not their dissolution, and that the destruction of several of the organs and instruments of perception and of motion is not their destruction, shows, demonstratively, that there is no ground to think that the dissolution of any other matter, or destruction of any other organs and instruments, will be the dissolution or destruction of living agents, from the like kind of relation. And we have no reason to think we stand in any other kind of relation to any thing which we find dissolved by death.

OBJECTION. Brutes, in the same way, might be proved to be immortal, and, by consequence, capable of everlasting happiness.

ANSWER. (1st.) In a moral point of view, no such 34 consequence necessarily follows as that they should. be capable of everlasting happiness; and, even admitting it, there is no difficulty; for we know not what latent capacities they may be endued with; and it is a general law of nature, that beings should possess capacities of virtue for some time without exercising them, as in infancy and childhood, and often without exercising them at all in this world. (2dly.) As to a natural immortality, the economy of the universe may require living creatures without any capacities of this kind. Therefore we must know the whole system before such can be an objection to this part of the proof of the immortality of the human soul: it is less applicable to the next part, which is more peculiar to man. (3dly.) Our present powers of reflection not being dependent on our gross bodies in the manner in which our organs of sense are, we may conclude that they are not destroyed by death. We can live in a state of reflection, after ideas are gained, when none of our senses are affected or appetites gratified, and in this state enjoy the greatest pleasure, or feel the greatest pain, without any assistance from our senses, and without any at all, which we know of, from that body which will be destroyed by death. Further, there are some mortal diseases which do not affect, and, therefore, it may be presumed, will not destroy our present intellectual powers. Indeed, the body and intellectual 35 powers mutually affecting each other would no more prove the necessity of their joint dissolution than the connection of the body and the living agent required their joint destruction, as already shown: but instances of their not affecting each other afford a presumption of the contrary. Several things, indeed, greatly affect all our living powers, and at length suspend the exercise of them—as, for instance, drowsiness increasing till it ends in sound sleep; and from hence we might have imagined it would destroy them, till we found, by experience, the weakness of this way of judging. But by these diseases there is not even a shadow of probability that our present reflecting powers will be destroyed. And if death, by diseases of this kind, is not their destruction, it will scarcely be thought that death by any other means is; and as it does not destroy, it is probable it does not interrupt the continuance of the exercise of these powers, since they can be exercised without the aid of the body, and in a most lively manner, during the whole progress of a mortal disease; nay, it may even remove the hinderance to our existing in a higher state of reflection,1111There are three distinct questions relating to a future life here considered: Whether death be the destruction of Living agents? if not, whether it be the destruction of their present powers of reflection, as it certainly is the destruction of their present powers of sensation? and if not, whether it be the suspension or discontinuance of the exercise of these present reflecting powers? Now, if there be no reason to believe the last, there will be, if that were possible, less for the next, and less still for the first.—Butler. namely, those external organs which render us capable of existing in our present state of sensation, so that it may in some respects answer to our 36birth,1212This, according to Strabo, was the opinion of the Brachmans. not a suspension, but a continuation of our former faculties, with great alterations.

IV. Objected against the assertion thatthere is no proof from analogy.” There is an analogy for death being the destruction of living creatures—namely, the decay of vegetables.

ANSWER. This comparison may be just enough for poetic similes, but not for an analogy; for one of the two subjects compared is wholly void of that which is the chief thing in the other, and which is the only thing about the continuance of which we are inquiring—the power of perception and of action.1313St. Paul answers objections against the resurrection, by analogy from the works of nature. Vide 1 Cor., xv., 36. “The seed dies—it is only the germ or bud that springs; the body of the seed first feeds this bud, and then turns to corruption.” It is particularly to be noted, that St. Paul is not speaking of the identity of the raised bodies.—Vide Whitby on the passage.

V. Thus, when we go out of this world, we may pass into new scenes, and a new state of life and action, just as naturally as we came into the present; for it would be a contradiction to say, that 37no state is natural but the present, and yet that the probability of a future one appears from reason. The meaning of the word natural is, stated, fixed, or settled; since what is natural as much requires and presupposes an Intelligent Agent to render it so, i. e., to effect it continually, or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous does to effect it for once. And from hence it must follow, that our notion of what is natural will be enlarged in proportion to our greater knowledge of the works of God, and the dispensations of His Providence. And this state may naturally be a social one, and the advantages of it—advantages of every kind may naturally be bestowed, according to some fixed general laws of wisdom, upon every one in proportion to the degrees of his virtue.

NOTE. The credibility of a future life, which has been here insisted upon, seems to answer all the purposes of religion. Even a demonstrative proof of it would not be a proof of religion; for it is just as reconcilable with the scheme of Atheism as the fact that we are now alive; but as religion implies a future state, presumptions against the latter would be urged against the former, and, therefore, it was necessary to remove them.



1. Describe at full length the scheme of the first part of the Analogy which treats on natural religion.

2. How does Butler correct Locke in his definition of personal identity?

3. How does the analogy of Nature warrant us to assert that a future and different state of existence is probable?

4. Why is it probable that we may continue endued with the same capacities, unless they may be destroyed by death?

5. Show that there is no ground, from reason or from analogy, to presume that death does destroy any faculty of perception or action.

6. What answer can be given in refutation of the objection that “Living beings are compounded, and so divisible,” and consequently liable to complete destruction?

7. By what argument do we arrive at the following conclusion: viz., “That the dissolution of matter in which living beings were most nearly interested, is not their dissolution?” And to the proof of what truth is this conclusion applied?

8. Show that there is no probability that death will cause the destruction of our present powers of reflection.

9. Explain what is meant by the assertion that, “Our entrance on another state will be natural.”

10. Show that the credibility of a future life, insisted on by Butler in this chapter, answers all the purposes of religion that a demonstrative proof would.

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