Page:The optimism of Butler's 'Analogy'.djvu/35
The Optimism of Butler's 'Analogy'
I venture to repeat this, because it is through recognizing this special character of Butler's attitude towards knowledge that we understand why that in him which is apt to excite a peculiar despair is itself the note of his triumph. For every one is staggered to find Butler arguing that Revelation is full of the same perplexities as Natural Religion; and that Christianity is as imperfectly comprehended as Nature. Yet, if we follow up the lines of his constructive thought, we see, at once, that the very greatness of his conception forced upon him these conclusions. The imperfections that man encounters in his rise from the lower level to the higher will increase rather than diminish; for the rise in thought has admitted him into a scheme of yet vaster proportions than he had hitherto experienced. And, if vaster than the world already within his experience, then, also, it must be still more im-
undeviating kingdom which spreads down from the Throne of God to the tiniest atom that falls within the range of Creation. Surely, such a conception ought to carry inspiration with it! Yet he disguises its greatness behind an awkward and melancholy phrase like that of 'a scheme imperfectly comprehended'. He might so easily lighten the effect of this depressing phrase by reminding us that as the scheme would not be known by us to be imperfect unless we were capable of comprehending it, therefore our sense of its imperfection is the measure of our comprehension of its immensity. The stress of the argument, after all, is not on the melancholy fact that we cannot know more, but on the kindling truth that we do know so much. We are inside this scheme that we imperfectly comprehend. That is the great point. We are in actual contact with its reality; and that is why our knowledge of any single object in it cannot be rounded off and completed. If it could, it would prove that we were not knowing the object as it really is: for, in its reality, it cannot be cut off; it cannot be isolated; it cannot be detached from the whole sum of things. The knowledge that isolated it would be knowledge that falsified it.