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Joseph Butler
1692 - 1752

      Joseph Butler was an English bishop, theologian, apologist, and philosopher. He was born in Wantage, Berkshire, England.

      He is most famous for his "Fifteen Sermons on Human Nature" (1726) and "Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed" (1736). The Analogy is an important work of Christian apologetics in the history of the controversies over Deism. Butler’s apologetic concentrated on discerning analogies to the death and resurrection of Christ in the natural world (such as the caterpillar turning into a butterfly). Butler’s arguments combined a cumulative case for faith using probabilistic reasoning to persuade Deists and others to reconsider orthodox faith. Aspects of his apologetic reasoning are reflected in the writings of twentieth century Christian apologists such as C. S. Lewis and John Warwick Montgomery.

      The "Sermons on Human Nature" is commonly studied as an answer to Hobbes’ philosophy of ethical egoism. These two books are considered by his proponents to be among the most powerful and original contributions to ethics, apologetics and theology which have ever been made. They depend for their effect entirely upon the force of their reasoning, for they have no graces of style.

      Butler died in 1752 in Bath, Somerset. His admirers praise him as an excellent man, and a diligent and conscientious churchman. Though indifferent to general literature, he had some taste in the fine arts, especially architecture.

      In the calendars of the Anglican communion his feast day is June 16.

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SermonSermon 1. Upon the Social Nature of Man
       - Rom. xii. 4, 5. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. The epistles of the New Testament have all of them a particular reference to the condition and usages of the Christian world at the time they were written. Theref ...read
SermonSermon 2. Upon the Natural Supremacy of Conscience
       - Rom. ii. 14. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves. As speculative truth admits of different kinds of proof, so likewise moral obligations may be shown by different methods. If the real nature of any creature leads him, and is adapted ...read
SermonSermon 3. Upon the Natural Supremacy of Conscience
       - Rom. ii. 14. The natural supremacy of reflection or conscience being thus established; we may from it form a distinct notion of what is meant by human nature, when virtue is said to consist in following it, and vice in deviating from it. As the idea of a civil constitution implies in it united strength, various subordinations, under one di ...read
SermonSermon 4. Upon the Government of the Tongue
       - James i. 26. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. The translation of this text would be more determinate by being more literal, thus: "If any man among you seemeth to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man's re ...read
SermonSermon 5. Upon Compassion
       - Rom. xii. 15. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Every man is to be considered in two capacities, the private and public; as designed to pursue his own interest and likewise to contribute to the good of others. Whoever will consider, may see, that in general there is no contrariety between these; but that, fro ...read
SermonSermon 6. Upon Compassion
       - Rom. xii. 15. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. There is a much more exact correspondence between the natural and moral world, than we are apt to take notice of. The inward frame of man does, in a peculiar manner, answer to the external condition and circumstances of life in which he is placed. This is a part ...read
SermonSermon 7. Upon the Character of Balaam
       - Numb. xxiii. 10. Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his. These words, taken alone, and without respect to him who spoke them, lead our thoughts immediately to the different ends of good and bad men. For, though the comparison is not expressed, yet it is manifestly implied; as is also the preference of one of ...read
SermonSermon 8. Upon Resentment
       - Matt. v. 43, 44. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. Since perfect goodness in the Deity is the principle, from whence the uni ...read
SermonSermon 9. Upon Forgiveness of Injuries
       - Matt. v. 43, 44. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. As God Almighty foresaw the irregularities and disorders, both natural an ...read
SermonSermon 10. Upon Self-Deceit
       - 2 Sam. xii. 7. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. These words are the application of Nathan's parable to David, upon occasion of his adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of Uriah her husband. The parable, which is related in the most beautiful simplicity, is this: [37] "There were two men in one city; the one rich, the other po ...read
SermonSermon 11. Upon the Love of Our Neighbor
       - Rom. xiii. 9. And if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. It is commonly observed, that there is a disposition in men to complain of the viciousness and corruption of the age in which they live, as greater than that of former ones; which is usually follo ...read
SermonSermon 12. Upon the Love of Our Neighbor
       - Rom. xiii. 9. And if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Having already removed the prejudices against public spirit, or the love of our neighbor, on the side of private interest and self-lore; I proceed to the particular explanation of the precept befo ...read
SermonSermon 13. Upon the Love of God - 1
       - Matt. xxii. 37. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Every body knows, you therefore need only just be put in mind, that there is such a thing, as having so great horror of one extreme, as to run insensibly and of course into the contrary; and that a doctrine's having been a she ...read
SermonSermon 14. Upon the Love of God - 2
      Consider then our ignorance, the imperfection of our nature, our virtue, and our condition in this world, with respect to an infinitely good and just Being, our Creator and Governor, and you will see what religious affections of mind are most particularly suitable to this mortal state we are passing through. Though we are not affected with any t ...read
SermonSermon 15. Upon the Ignorance of Man
       - Eccles. viii. 16, 17. When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth; then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun; because though a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea, further, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall ...read

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