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stages of the distemper. They are eager for gratifications to sooth their minds, and divert their attention from the misery which they suffer; but when they grow very ill, pleasure is too weak for them, and they seek for pain. Employment, Sir, and hardships prevent melancholy. I suppose in all our army in America there was not one man who went mad."
It was a frequent observation with Johnson, that there was more to be endured than enjoyed, in the general condition of human life; and he often quoted these lines of Dryden:
« Strange cozenage! none would live past years again,
For his part, he said, he never passed that week in his life which he would wish to repeat, were an angel to make the proposal to him.
MR. BOSWELL tells us, that he once, in a conversation with Johnson, and other company, expressed a horror at the thoughts of death. Mrs. Knowles, the Quaker, who was of the party, „said, “ Nay, thou should'st not have a horror for
what is the gate of life.”—Johnson (standing upon the hearth rolling about with a serious, solemn, and somewhat gloomy air) observed, that no rational man could die without uneasy apprehension.-Mrs. KNOWLES. “ The Scriptures tell
“The righteous shall have hope in his death."" --JOHNSON. “Yes, Madam; that is, he shall not have despair. But consider, his hope of salvation must be founded on the terms on which it is promised that the mediation of our SAVIOUR shall be applied to us, namely, obedience; and where obedience has failed, then, as suppletory to it, repentance. But what man can say.
that his obedience has been such as he would approve of in another, or even in himself upon close amination, or that bis repentance has not been such as to require being repented of? No man can be sure that his obedience and repentance will obtain salvation.”_MRS. K. " But divine intimation of acceptance may be made to the soul."-J. “Madam, it may; but I should not think the better of a man who should tell me on his death-bed he was sure of salvation. A man cannot be sure himself that he has divine intimation of acceptance; much less can he make others sure that he has it.”-B. “ Then, Sir, we must be contented to acknowledge that death is a terrible thing."-1. “ Yes, Sir. I have made no. approaches to a state which can look on it as not
terrible.”—Mrs. K. (seeming to enjoy a pleasing serenity in the persuasion of benignant divine light) “ Does not St. Paul say, 'I have fought the good fight of faith, I have finished my course: henceforth is laid up for me a crown of life?' J. “ Yes, Madam; but here was a man inspired, a man who had been converted by supernatural interposition.”—B. “In prospect death is dreadful; but in fact we find that people die easy."-J.
Why, Sir, most people have not thought much of the matter, so cannot say much, and it is supposed they die easy. Few believe it certain they are then to die; and those who do, set themselves to behave with resolution, as a man does who is going to be hanged. He is not the less unwilling to be hanged.”—Miss SEWARD. “ There is one mode of the fear of death which is certainly ahsurd; and that is the dread of annihilation, which is only a pleasing sleep without a dream."-J. “ It is neither pleasing, nor sleep; it is nothing. Now mere existence is so much better than nothing, that one would rather exist even in pain, than not exist."-B.“ If annihilation be nothing, then existing in pain is not a comparative state, but is a positive evil, which I cannot think we should choose. I must be allowed to differ here; and it would lessen the hope of a future state founded on the argument that the Supreme Being, who is good as he is great, will hereafter
compensate for our present sufferings in this life. For if existence, such as we have it here, be comparatively a good, we have no reason to complain, though no more of it should be given to
But if our only state of existence were in this world, then we might with some reason complain that we are so dissatisfied with our enjoyments compared with our desires." --J. “ The lady confounds annihilation, which is nothing, with the apprehension of it, which is dreadful. It is in the apprehension of it that the horror of annihilation consists."
“ When we were alone (says Mr. B.) I again introduced the subject of death, and endeavoured to maintain, that the fear of it might be got
I told him, that David Hume had said to me, that he was no more uneasy to think he should not be after this life, than that he had not been before he began to exist.--" Sir (said Johnson), if he really thinks so, his perceptions are disturbed:. he is mad: if he does not think so, he lies. He may tell you, he holds his finger in the flame of a candle, without feeling pain; would you believe him? When he dies, he at least gives up all he has."-B. “ Foote, Sir, told me, that when he was very ill, he was not afraid to die.”—J. “ It is not true, Sir. Hold a pistol to Foote's breast, or to Hume's breast, and threaten to kill them, and you'll see how they behave."
B. “ But may we not fortify our minds for the approach of death* ?” To this question he answered, in a passion, “ No, Sir, let it alone. It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time.” He added (with an earnest look), "A man knows it must be so, and submits. It will do him no good to whine.”
This subject being resumed on another occasion, Johnson said, “ Some people are not afraid of death, because they look upon salvation as the effect of an absolute decree, and think they feel in themselves the marks of sanctification. Others, and those the most rational in my opinion, look upon salvation as conditional; and as they never can be sure that they have complied with the conditions, they are afraid."
A gentleman was mentioned to him as hav, ing been formerly gloomy from low spirits, and
*“ Here (says Mr. B.) I am sensible I was in the wrong to bring before his view what he ever looked upon with horror; for although when in a celestial frame, in his “Vanity of Human Wishes,' he has supposed death to be kind Nature's signal for retreat,' from this state of being to 'a happier seat,' his thoughts upon this awful change were in general full of dismal apprehensions. His mind resembled the vast amphitheatre at Rome. In the center stood his judgment, which, like a mighty gladiator, combated those apprehensions that, like the wild beasts of the Arena, were all around in cells, ready to be let out upon him. After a conflict, he drives them back into their dins; but not killing them, they were still assailing him."