Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of their own personal sinfulness flash upon his conscience. The and spiritual inability. If they do awfulness of his condition will not not discredit altogether the doctrine be in itself more alarming a million of future rewards and punishments, of years hence than it is at the mothey are at least ignorant or unbe- ment of dissolution ; and the only lieving respecting their own indivi- reason why it will affect the mind dual demerits; and consequently ex. in a more powerful and impressive pect, what the Almighty has no manner is, that he will then be perwhere promised to grant, that their mitted no longer to fortify his heart, contaminated and imperfect righte- either by misconception or sceptical ousness shall be found worthy of indifference.' Satiety and disapprocuring their admission into hea- pointment, equability of nerve and ven. But if they really felt, with philosophical pride, with all those the true members of the Church, other causes which have been menthat there is no health in them," tioned in a preceding extract, would nothing short of a scriptural know- have no power to make a sinner ledge of the great Physician of souls really calm in death, were they not could possibly calm their apprehen- combined with some secret ignorance sions. If they seriously believed or doubt respecting the certainty of that eternal punishment is their that eternal punishment which his desert by nature, they could venture sins have incurred. to cherish no hope of heaven but The case of our great English by the free grace of Christ. The Moralist is a most decisive illustraexpectation of the end, without any tion of the impossibility of discoverreference to the only means, is evi- ing any mode of solacing a scripdently a serious error; or if, in order turally enlightened conscience, ex. to supply this defect, the means are cept that which the Gospel has supposed to consist in human merit revealed. Had Dr. Johnson been and human works, that very igno- ignorant of his sinfulness in the sight rance is incidentally betrayed, the of God, he might have expired, as existence of which it was the object thousands every day expire, in a of the present argument to prove. blind and fatal repose; or had he To know revelation justly, includes been inclined to infidelity,' he in its very elements the knowledge might have jested, like Hume and of our being by nature in a situation others of a similar school, on the so guilty and alarming that, “ with- subject of his approaching dissoluout the shedding of blood, there is tion. Neither, however, of these no remission.”

effects would have constituted that It is true, that hardness of heart, true peace which his spiritually and the other causes which have directed mind so eagerly sought, been already enumerated, may con- and which, before his death, he most duce to a false peace; but the certainly obtained. means by which they operate are

A few practical remarks upon undoubtedly connected with the the subject of the last hours of this encouragement of latent ignorance, illustrious man will not only be a or infidelity; for, were the whole sub- forcible comment upon the foreject fully understood and credited, going propositions, but will tend who would be able to harden his to shew, that what Dr. Johnson's heart, or proudly to cherish an un- biographers have been almost founded confidence? To discern ashamed to confess, and have inaccurately, and believe fully, would dustriously exerted themselves to create in the dying sinner much the palliate, constituted, in truth, the same mental feelings as those which most auspicious circumstance of his he must necessarily experience at life, and was the best proof of his the Last Day, when knowledge and increase in religious knowledge and conviction shall both irresistibly holiness of mind.

Whoever considers with a Chris- ridicule and the conjectures of every tian eye the death of Dr. Johnson, spectator. As far as filial affection will readily perceive, that, according and true amiableness of mind are to the usual order of Providence, it concerned, the actor in such a could not have been free from agi- scene deserves and ensures univertation and anxiety. Johnson was a sal veneration and esteem. Even man of tender conscience, and one while we smile at the somewhat who from his very infancy had been ludicrous nature of the action, we instructed in Christian principles. instinctively feel a sympathy and But he was also, in the strict judg- respect which perhaps a wiser but ment of revealed religion, an incon- less remarkable mode of exhibiting sistent man. Neither his habits nor his feelings might not have procured. his companions had been such as But Johnson seems to have per. his own conscience approved ; and formed this humiliation from higher even a short time before his end we considerations than mere sorrow for find one of his biographers lament. the past ; for he emphatically adds, ing that '“ the visits of idle and “ In contrition I stood, and I hope some worthless persons were never the

penance was expiatory.unwelcome to him," on the express If these words really mean any ground that “these things drove on thing--and when did Dr. Johnson time.” His ideas of morality being utter words without meaning ?-he of the highest order, many things, must have intended by them to which are considered by men at express his hope that the previous large as but venial offences, appeared fault was really atoned for, in a reto him as positive crimes. Even his ligious sense, by the subsequent act constitutional indolence and irrita- of self-denial ; or, in other words, bility of mind were sufficient of that God accepts human penance themselves to keep him constantly as an expiation for human sins-a

and self-abased ; and doctrine to which revealed religion though among his gay or literary gives no sanction whatever. Johncompanions he usually appears son's system appears at this time upon the comparatively high ground to have been, as it were, a sort of of a Christian moralist, and the barter between himself and Heaven; strenuous defender of revealed re- and, consequently, his chief fear was ligion, yet, compared with the Divine lest the equivalent which he prestandard and test of truth, he felt sented should not be sufficient to himself both defective and dis- entitle him, in the Divine mercy, to obedient.

the pardon of his transgressions, Together with this conscientious His trust on the Redeemer, though feeling he had adopted certain in perfectly sincere, does not appear correct, not to say superstitious, to have been either exclusive or imideas, respecting the method of plicit; for though all his prayers for placating the Deity. He seems, for mercy, and acknowledgments of example, to have believed that blessings, were offered up solely penance, in its confined and popish through the merits and mediation sense, as distinguished from simple of Jesus Christ, he seems, in point penitence, is of great avail in pro- of fact, for many years to have curing the Divine favour and for- viewed the

Atonement rather as a giveness. Thus, when his con- medium through which God is science distressed him on account pleased to accept our imperfect of an act of disobedience to his services, and to make them adequate, parent, we find him many years by the conditions of a remedial law, afterwards remaining a consider- to the purchase of heaven, than as able time bare-headed in the rain, a sacrifice by which alone heaven is exposed in the public streets to the fully secured and freely given to the believing penitent. Dr. Johnson's ing anodynes and opiates, and perline of reading in Divinity was per- suading their afflicted friend that haps unfavourable to a full percep- there existed no cause of danger or tion of Christian truth. The writ- alarm. ings of Mr. Law, in particular, which . But Johnson was not thus dehe had studied with some attention, ceived. The, nostrum which has were by no means well adapted to lulled millions to a fatal: repose, his peculiar case. For a thought- on him, by the mercy of God, had less, a frivolous, or an impenitent no effect. His convictions of sin sinner, the “Serious Call” might were as lasting as they were deep. have been eminently useful, in ex- It was not, therefore, until he had citing a deep consciousness of discarded his natural and longguilt, a salutary remorse for the cherished views of commutation past, and holy resolutions for the and human desert, and had learned future: and as far as these elements to trust humbly and exclusively to of religion extend, the perusal of his Saviour, that his mind became this celebrated book might doubt- at peace. less have had some good effect upon Let us view some of the recorded the mind of Dr. Johnson. But in circumstances of the transaction; the consolatory parts of the Gospel and in so doing we shall, as Chris-in the free and undisguised exhi- tians, have much more occasion to bition of a Redeemer, whose sacri- applaud the scriptural correctness fice is perfect and all-sufficient; in of Johnson's feelings respecting the the inculcation of the gracious pro- value of his soul, the guilt of his mises of a reconciled Father to the nature, and the inadequacy of man's returning prodigal -Law, and other best merits and repentance, than to writers of a similar school, are un- congratulate him upon the accession doubtedly defective; and the same of such “miserable comforters" as defect seems to have characterized those who appear to have surrounded for many years the views of our his dying pillow. illustrious Moralist. He lived in a Finding him in great mental perpetual dilemma, by trusting to distress, “ I told him," remarks works which his well-informed con- one of his biographers (Sir John science told him were not good, Hawkins), “ of the many enjoyand yet on the goodness of which, ments of which I thought him in in conjunction at least with the possession_namely, a permanent merits of Christ, he placed his de- income, tolerable health, a high pendance for eternity.

degree of reputation for his moral | To give, therefore, comfort to the qualities and literary exertions, mind of such a man as Dr. Johnson, &c.—Had Johnson's depression of there were but two modes,meither mind been nothing more than by. blinding his conscience, or by common melancholy or discontent, increasing his faith ; either by ex- these topics of consolation would tenuating his sins, or by pointing have been highly appropriate; they out in all its glories the sufficiency might also have been fitly urged as of the Christian Ransom. The friends arguments for gratitude and thanks. who surrounded this eminent man, giving to the Almighty on account during the greater part of his life, of such exalted mercies. In either were little qualified to perform the of these points of view, the piety latter, and therefore very naturally of Dr. Johnson would doubtless resorted to the former. They found have prompted him to acknowledge their patient, so to speak, in agony; the value of the blessing, and the but, instead of examining the wound duty of contentment and praise. and applying the remedy, they con- But, as arguments for quieting an tented themselves with administer- alarmed conscience, they were quite inadequate ; for what would it have goodness, and was become habiprofited this distinguished man, to tually pious." have gained all his well-merited'ho- This was the rock on which nours, or even, were it possible, the numberless professed Christians world itself, if, after all, he should have been fatally wrecked ; and to become, as he himself afterwards the mercy of the Almighty must it expressed it, “a cast-away?" be ascribed, that the great and good

The feelings of Dr. Johnson on Dr. Johnson did not add one more this subject were more fully evi- to the melancholy catalogue. For denced on a subsequent occasion. what was the doctribe which the * One day, in particular," remarks narrator attempted to inculcate but Sir John Hawkins, “ when I was this ? that his friend, like the Phasuggesting to him these and the risee in the Gospel, ought to place like reflections, he gave thanks to his confidence upon his possessing Almighty God; but added, that not- more merit than other men, und withstanding all the above benefits, instead of attributing the praise to the prospect of death, which was Him who had “made him to differ," now at no great distance from him was to s sacrifice to his own net, was become terrible, and that he and burn incense to his own drag." could not think of it but with great Can we wonder that with such flatpain and trouble of mind." No. tering doctrines constantly soundthing assuredly could be more cor. ing in his ears, Dr. Jolinson was rect than Dr. Johnson's distinction. suffered to undergo much severe He acknowledges the value of the mental discipline, in order to remercies which he enjoyed, and he duce him in his own esteem to that gratefully "gave thanks to Almighty lowly place, which, as a human, and God” for them; but he felt that they consequently a fallen, being, it was could not soften the terrors of a his duty, however 'high his attain death-bed, or make the prospect of ments or his talents, to occupy. meeting his Judge less painful and The mare of spiritual pride, appalling. Hawkins, who could not which Sir John Hawkins thus uni enter into his illustrious friend's consciously spread for his dying more just and enlarged views of friend, was the more seductive buman guilt and frailty, confesses from the circumstance of Dr. Johnhimself to have been a very much son's life having been upon the surprised and shocked at such a de- whole correct and laudable, and claration from such a man," and from his writings having been emiproceeded therefore to urge for nently useful for the promotion his comfort the usual arguments of morality and virtue. The conof extenuation. He reports that victions of a profligate man might he “ told him that he conceived have been supposed too keen and bis life to have been a uniform alarming to be quieted by such course of virtue ; that he had ever common-place soporifics; but where shewn a deep sense of, and zeal for, there was really so much apparent religion; and that, both by his ex- cause for self-complacency and graample and his writings, he had re- tulation, as in the case of Dr. John'a commended the practice of it; that son, it must appear almost wonderhe had not rested, as many do, in ful that the self-righteous delusion the exercise of common honesty, did not succeed. avoiding the grosser enormities, yet It would undoubtedly have given rejecting those advantages that re- this biographer much satisfaction sult from the belief of Divine Re- to have heard from his friend the velation, but that he had, by prayer usual language of an unsubdued and other exercises of devotion, heart': “I thank God, that upon cultivated in his mind the seeds of the whole I have acted my part CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 316.

4 G

well upon the stage of life. We to him, and said he wanted to enter are all frail and fallible, but I have into a serious conversation with me; no great sins to account for. I and upon my expressing my willinghave been honest and charitable: ness to join in it, he, with a look my conduct, I trust, has been, with that cut me to the heart, told me, some few exceptions, one uniform that he had the prospect of death course of virtue:! I therefore die in before him, and that he dreaded to peace, looking forward to that hap- meet his Saviour. I could not but piness which, I trust, my actions be astonished at such a declaration, have' ensured, from a God of in- and advised him, as I had done befinite mercy and compassion." But fore, to reflect on the course of his to the humble and well-informed life, and the services which he had Christian, the penitential sorrows rendered to the cause of religion of Johnson, (springing, as they did, and virtue, as well by his example from a heart ill at ease with itself, as his writings; to which he answernot so much on account of any one ed, that he had written as a philo. flagrant sin as from a general sense sopher, but had not lived like one. of the exalted nature of the Divine In the estimation of his offences he law and the imperfections of the reasoned thus : Every man knows best human obedience,) will appear his own sins, and what grace he has a happier and surer pledge of his resisted. But to those of others, Scriptural renovation of mind than and the circumstances under which the most rapturous expressions they were committed, he is a stranger. which pharisaic confidence could He is therefore to look on himself have produced.

as the greatest sinner that he knows The self-righteous arguments of of.' At the conclusion of this arguHawkins could not, however, touch ment, which he strongly enforced, the case of Johnson. “ These sug- he uttered this passionate [imgestions,” he continues, “made passioned] exclamation : Shall I little impression on him : he la- who have been a teacher of others, mented the indolence in which he be myself a cast-away?'” had spent his life ; talked of secret In this interesting passage-intransgressions; and seemed desirous teresting as detailing the religious of telling me more to that purpose progress of such a mind as Dr. than I was willing to hear.” Happy Johnson's - how many important was it for Dr. Johnson that his facts and reflections crowd upon confessor's arguments produced so the imagination! We see the highest little effect, and that he was at human intellect unable at the aplength instructed by a better guide proach of death to find a single arguthan his well-meaning, but inex, ment for hope or comfort, though perienced, friend. Throughout the stimulated by the mention of all the whole of Hawkins's remarks, the good deeds and auspicious forebodonly topics of genuine Christian ings which an anxious and attenconsolation appear to have had tive friend could suggest. Who that no place. That 6 blood which beholds this eminent man thus cleanseth from all sin ” is scarcely, desirous to open his mind, and to or only incidentally, mentioned; " enter into a serious conversaand we find the narrator continuing tion" upon the most momentous of in the following strain his inefficient all subjects which can interest an consolations :

immortal being, but must regret “ In a visit which I made him in a that he had not found a spiritual few days, in consequence of a very adviser who was capable of fully pressing request to see me, I found entering into his feelings, and adhim labouring under very great de- ministering scriptural consolation to jection of mind. He bademe drawnear his afflicted mind?

« AnteriorContinuar »