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New Testament before her."-JOHNSON. “Madam, she could not understand the New Testament, the most difficult book in the world, for which the study of a life is required.”—Mrs. K. 66 It is clear as to essentials."-J. " But not as to controversial points. The heathens were easily converted, because they had nothing to give up; but we ought not, without very strong conviction indeed, to desert the religion in which we have been educated. That is the religion given you, the religion in which it may be said Providence has placed you. If you live conscientiously in that religion, you may be safe; but error is dangerous indeed, if you err when you choose a religion for yourself.”—Mrs. K. “Must we then go by implicit faith?”–J.“ Why, Madam, the greatest part of our knowledge is implicit faith ; and as to religion, have we heard all that a disciple of Confucius, all that a Mahometan can say for himself?” He then rose again into passion, and attacked the young proselyte in the severest terms of reproach. Mr. Boswell observed, that the essential part of religion was piety, a devout intercourse with the Divinity; and that many a man was a Quaker without knowing it.
A Quaker having objected to the “ observance of days, and months, and years,” Johnson answered, “ The Church does not superstitiously observe days, merely as days, but as memorials of
important facts. Christmas might be kept as well upon one day of the year as another; but there should be a stated day for commemorating the birth of our Saviour, because there is danger that what may be done on any day will be neglected."
In a party one day, consisting only of Mr. Seward, Mr. Boswell, and the Doctor, Horace having been mentioned, Mr. Boswell said, “There is a great deal of thinking in his works. One finds there almost every thing but religion." -Seward. “ He speaks of his returning to it in his Ode Parcus Deorum cultor et infrequens." JOHNSON Sir, he was not in earnest; this was merely poetical."-BOSWELL. “ There are, I am afraid, many people who have no religion at all.”—S.“ And sensible people too.”—J.“ Why, Sir, not sensible in that respect. There must be either a natural or moral stupidity, if one lives in a total neglect of so very important a concern."
-S. “ I wonder that there should be people without religion."-J. “ Sir, you need not wonder at this, when you consider how large a proportion of almost every man's life is passed without thinking of it. I myself was for some years totally regardless of religion; it had dropped out of my mind. It was at an early part of
my Sickness brought it back, and I hope I have never lost it since."-B. “My dear Sir, what a man
must you have been without religion! Why you must have gone on drinking, and swearing, and
J. (with a smile) “ I drank enough, and swore enough, to be sure."-S.“ One should think that sickness, and the view of death, would make more men religious.”—J. “ Sir, they do not know how to go about it; they have not the first notion. A man who has never had religion before, no more grows religious when he is sick, than a man who has never learnt figures can count when he has need of calculation."
A gentleman was mentioned as being too ready to introduce religious discourse upon all occasions. Johnson observed, “Why yes, Sir, he will introduce religious discourse without seeing whether it will end in instruction and improvement, or produce some prophane jest. He would introduce it in the company of ****** and twenty more such.”
Mr. Boswell mentioned the Doctor's excellent distinction between liberty of conscience and liberty of teaching *. Johnson said, “ Consider, Sir; if you have children whom you wish to educate in the principles of the church of England, and there comes a Quaker who tries to pervert them to his principles, you would drive away the Quaker. You would not trust to the
* Ante, vol. i. p. 207.
predomination of right, which you believe is in your opinions; you would keep wrong out of their heads. Now the vulgar are the children of the State. If any one attempts to teach them doctrines contrary to what the State approves, the magistrate may and ought to restrain him.”. -S. “ Would you restrain private conversation, Sir?”-J. “ Why, Sir, it is difficult to say where private conversation begins, and where it ends. If we three should discuss even the great question concerning the existence of a Supreme Being by ourselves, we should not be restrained; for that would be to put an end to all improvement: but if we should discuss it in the presence of ten boarding-school girls, and as many boys, I think the magistrate would do well to put us in the stocks, to finish the debate there."
A gentleman once expressed a wish to go and live three years at Otaheite or New Zealand, in order to obtain a full acquaintance with people so totally different from all that we have ever known, and be satisfied what pure nature can do for man.-Johnson. “What could you learn, Sir? What can savages tell, but what they themselves have seen? Of the past, or the invi. sible, they can tell nothing. The inhabitants of Otaheite and New Zealand are not in a state of pure nature; for it is plain they broke off from some other people. Had they grown out of the
ground, you might have judged of a state of pure nature. Fanciful people may talk of a mythology being amongst them, but it must be invention. They have once had religion, which has been gradually debased; and what account of their religion can you suppose to be learnt from savages? Only consider, Sir, our own state: our religion is in a book; we have an order of men whose duty it is to teach it; we have one day in the week set apart for it, and this is in general pretty well observed; yet ask the first ten gross men you meet, and hear what they can tell of their religion."
Mr. Murray one day praised the ancient philosophers for the candour and good humour with which those of different sects disputed with each other. “ Sir (said Johnson) they disputed with good humour, because they were not in earnest as to religion. Had the ancients been serious in their belief, we should not have had their Gods exhibited in the manner we find them represented in the Poets. The people would not have suffered it. They disputed with good humour upon their fanciful theories, because they were not interested in the truth of them;' when a man has nothing to lose, he may be in good humour with his opponent. Accordingly, you see in Lucian that the Epicurean, who argues only negatively, keeps his temper; the Stoick, who