Saturday, June 16, 2007

Butler on Religious Institutions

A visible church has also a further tendency to promote natural religion, as being an instituted method of education, originally intended to be of more peculiar advantage to those who would conform to it. For one end of the institution was, that by admonition and reproof, as well as instruction ; by a general regular discipline, and public exercises of religion ; the body of Christ, as the scripture speaks, should be edified ; i. e. trained up in piety and virtue for a higher and better state. This settlement then appearing thus beneficial ; tending in the nature of the thing to answer, and in some degree actually answering, those ends ; it is to be remembered, that the very notion of it implies positive institutions ; for the visibility of the church consists in them. Take away every thing of this kind, and you lose the very notion itself. So that if the things now mentioned are advantages, the reason and importance of positive institutions in general is most obvious ; since without them these advantages could not be secured to the world.

From The Analogy of Religion, II.i

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