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tured to say,
Talking one day of Dr. Johnson's unwillingness to believe extraordinary things, Mr. B. ven“Sir, you come near Hume's
argument against miracles, “That it is more probable witnesses should lie, or be mistaken, than that they should happen.'”—JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, Hume, taking the proposition simply, is right. But the Christian revelation is not proved by the miracles alone, but as connected with prophesies, and with the doctrines in confirmation of which the miracles were wrought.”
He repeated his observation, that the differences among Christians are really of no consequence. “ For instance (said he), if a Protestant objects to a Papist, “ You worship images;' the Papist can answer, 'I do not insist on your doing it; you may be a very good Papist without it: I do it only as a help to my devotion.” It was observed, that the great article of Christianity was the revelation of immortality. Johnson admitted it.
Mr. Boswell had hired a Bohemian as his servant while he remained in London, and being much pleased with him, asked Dr. Johnson whether his being a Roman Catholic ought to prevent his taking him to Scotland.--" Why no, Sir (said Johnson). If he has no objection, you can have none."—Boswell. “ So, Sir, you are no great enemy to the Roman Catholic reli
gion."-JOHNSON. “ No, more, Sir, than to the Presbyterian religion.”-B. “You are joking." -J. “ No, Sir, I really think so. Nay, Sir, of the two I prefer the Popish.”-B. “ How so, Sir?”–J. “Why, Sir, the Presbyterians have no church, no apostolical ordination.”-B. “ And do you think that absolutely essential, Sir?”—J “Why, Sir, as it was an apostolical institution, I think it is dangerous to be without it. And, Sir, the Presbyterians have no public worship: they have no form of prayer in which they know they are to join.—They go to hear a man pray, and are to judge whether they will join with him.”—B.“ But, Sir, their doctrine is the same with that of the Church of England. Their confession of faith, and the thirty-nine articles, contain the same points, even the doctrine of predestination.”—J. “Why, yes, Sir; predestination was a part of the clamour of the times, so it is mentioned in our articles, but with as little positiveness as could be.”-B. “Is it necessary, Sir, to believe all the thirty-nine articles?”—J. “ Why, Sir, that is a question which has been much agitated. Some have thought it necessary that they should all be believed; others have considered them to be only articles of peace, that is to say, you are not to preach against them.”--B. “ It appears to me, Sir, that predestination, or what is equivalent to
it, cannot be avoided, if we hold an universal prescience in the Deity.”—J.“ Why, Sir, does not God every day see things going on without preventing them?”—B. “ True, Sir; but if a thing be certainly foreseen, it must be fixed, and cannot happen otherwise; and if we apply this consideration to the human mind, there is no free will, nor do I see how prayer can be of any avail.” Dr. Johnson mentioned Dr. Clarke, and Bishop Bramhall on Liberty and Necessity, and bid Mr. B. read South's Sermons on Prayer, but avoided the question which has excruciated philosophers and divines, beyond any other. “I did not (says Mr. B.) press it further, when I perceived that he was displeased, and shrunk from any abridgement of an attribute usually ascribed to the Divinity, however irreconcilable in its full extent with the grand system of moral government. His supposed orthodoxy here cramped the vigorous powers of his understanding. He was confined by a chain which early imagination and long habit made him think massy and strong, but which, had he ventured to try, he could at once have snapt asunder.” Mr. B. proceeded: “What do you think, Sir, of Purgatory, as believed by the Roman Catholics?” -J. “ Why, Sir, it is a very harmless doctrine. They are of opinion that the generality of mankind are neither so obstinately wicked as to de
serve everlasting punishment, nor so good as to merit being admitted into the society of blessed spirits; and therefore that God is graciously pleased to allow of a middle state, where they may be purified by certain degrees of suffering. You see, Sir, there is nothing unreasonable in this.”--B. “ But then, Sir, their masses for the dead!”-J.“ Why, Sir, if it be once established that there are souls in purgatory, it is as proper to pray for them, as for our brethren of mankind who are yet in this life.”-B. “ The idolatry of the Mass?”—J. “ Sir, there is no idolatry in the Mass. They believe God to be there, and they adore him.”-B.“ The worship of Saints?”-_J. " Sir, they do not worship Saints; they invoke them; they only ask their prayers. I am talking all this time of the doctrines of the Church of Rome. I grant you that in practice, Purgatory is made a lucrative imposition, and that the people do become idolatrous as they recommend themselves to the tutelary protection of particular saints. I think their giving the sacrament only in one kind is criminal, because it is contrary to the express institution of Christ, and I wonder how the Council of Trent admitted it.”-B. “ Confession?"J. “ Why, I don't know but that is a good thing. The Scripture says, * Confess your faults one to another;' and the priests confess as well as the laity. Then it must
be considered, that their absolution is only upon repentance, and often upon penance also. You think your sins may be forgiven without penance, upon repentance alone.” I thus ventured to mention all the common objections against the Roman Catholic Church, that I might hear so great a man upon them. What he said is here accurately recorded.
But it is not improbable that if one had taken the other side, he might have reasoned differently."
It must however be mentioned, that he had a respect for “ the old religion, as the mild Melancthon called that of the Roman Catholic Church, even while he was exerting himself for its reformation in some particulars. Sir William Scott tells, that he heard Johnson say, who is converted from Protestantism to Popery, may be sincere: he parts with nothing: he is only superadding to what he already had. But a convert from Popery to Protestantism, gives up so much of what he has held as sacred as any thing that he retains; there is so much laceration of mind in such a conversion, that it can hardly be sincere and lasting,” The truth of this reflection may be confirmed by many and eminent instances, some of which will occur to most readers.
Again, talking of the Roman Catholic religion, and how little difference there was in essential matters between ours and it, Johnson said,
66 A man