« EdellinenJatka »
through the blood of Jesus Christ, yet he could not be satisfied with the ordinary consolations of an uninformed or pharisaic mind.
The sun did not, however, set in this long continued cloud; for Johnson at length obtained comfort, where alone true comfort could be obtained, in the sacrifice and mediation of Jesus Christ,-a circumstance to which Sir John Hawkins transiently alludes, but the particulars of which must be supplied from the narrative of Boswell, whose words are as follows:
“Dr. Brocklesby, who will not be suspected of fanaticism, obliged me with the following account; For some time before his death, all his fears were calmed and absorbed by the prevalence of his faith, and his trust in the merits and propitiation of Jesus Christ. He talked often to me about the necessity of faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, as necessary, beyond all good works whatever, for the salvation of mankind.'”
Even allowing for the brevity of this statement, and for the somewhat chilling circumstance of its coming from the pen of a man who “will not be suspected of fanaticism," what a triumph was here for the plain unsophisticated doctrines of the Gospel, especially that of free justification by faith in Jesus Christ! After every other means had been tried, and tried in vain, the simple penitential reliance upon the sacrifice of the Redeemer, produced in the heart of this devout man a peace and satisfaction which no reflections upon human merit could bestow. He seems to have acquired a completely new idea of Christian theology, and could doubtless henceforth practically adopt the animating language of his own church, in her Eleventh Article; “That we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.”
There are various ways in which the distressing apprehensions of Dr. Johnson during his latter years, may be considered; of which one is, that of their having been permitted, as a merciful and fatherly chastisement, for the inconsistencies of his life. Both Johnson himself, and his most partial biographer, intimate that his character was not perfectly free even from gross sins; but omitting these painful recollections, we are at least certain that his general habits and companions, during a considerable part of his life, were not such as a consistent Christian would have chosen, because they were not such as could in any way conduce to his spiritual comfort or improvement. Dr. Johnson was indeed called, in the usual course of Divine Providence, to “live in the world ;' but it was his duty so to have lived in it “as not of it;" and with the high sense which he uniformly entertained of religion, and the vast influence which he had justly acquired in society, his conduct and example might have been of the greatest service in persuading men to a holy, as well as a virtuous life, to a cordial and complete selfdedication to God, as well as to a general decorum, and parity of conduct.
It is certain that, in reflecting upon his past life, he did not view it as having been truly Christian. He even prays in his dying hours, that God would " pardon his late conversion;" thus evidencing not merely the usual humility and contrition of every genuine Christian, but, in addition to this, a secret consciousness that his heart had never before been entirely “right with God.”
Had Johnson survived this period of his decisive “conversion," we might have expected to have seen throughout his conduct that he had indeed become “a new creature in Christ Jesus.” His respect for religion, and his outward excellence of character, could not perhaps have admitted of much visible change for the better ; but in heavenly mindedness, in love and zeal for the souls of men, in deadness to the world and to fame, in the choice of books and companions, and in the exhibition of those spiritual graces which belong peculiarly to the Christian character, we might, and must, have beheld a marked improvement. Instead of being merely the Seneca of the English nation, he might possibly have become its St. Paul; and he would doubtless in future have embodied his moral injunctions, not in the cold form of ethical philosophy, or even in the generalities of the Christian religion, but in an ardent love to God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; in a union to the Redeemer, and a dependance upon that Holy Spirit who is the Enlightener and Sanctifier. That such a supposition is not visionary, may be proved even from the meagre accounts afforded by a spectator, who would of course be inclined rather to soften down than to give prominence to anything which might be construed into “fanaticism.” For we learn from this witness, that in point of fact, there was already a marked alteration in Dr. Johnson's language upon religion; as, instead of spending his time upon barren generalities, “he talked often about the necessity of faith in Jesus.” That of which Dr. Johnson spoke thus earnestly and often, must doubtless have appeared to him as of the utmost importance; and we have to lament -if indeed any dispensation of Providence may be lawfully lamented —that Johnson had not lived to check the Pelagianism and Pharisaism of his age, by proclaiming “ often,” and with all the weight of his authority, that “ faith in the sacrifice of Jesus is necessary, beyond all good works whatever, for the salvation of mankind.” The expression is not quite theologically correct, and may have suffered through the ignorance of the reporter. What Dr. Johnson doubtless meant, was, not to institute a comparison between the supposed opposite claims of works and faith; but to exclude "all good works whatever," as the meritorious cause of human redemption or salvation. .
It will of course be allowed, that the constitutional melancholy of this great man might have had much influence in causing this religious depression ; but, whatever may have been the proximate cause, the affliction itself may still be viewed as performing the office of parental correction, to reclaim his relapses, and to teach him the hatefulness and folly of sin. But, without speculating upon either the final or the efficient cause, the medium through which that cause operated was evidently an indistinctness in his views respecting the nature of the atonement of the Redeemer; an indistinctness common to Dr. Johnson with no small class of moralists and learned men. He believed, it is true, generally in the sacrifice of Christ; but he knew little of its efficiency and its freeness, and he was unable to apply it by humble faith to the circumstances of his own case. He was probably little in the habit of contemplating the Son of God as “a great High Priest, who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and who is ever graciously interceding on behalf of all who truly believe in him and serve him. The character of the Almighty, as a reconciled Father and friend, with whom he was to have daily “communion and fellowship,” was less prominent in his thoughts than those of his attributes which render him “a consuming fire.” He feared and respected religion rather than loved it; and, by building his structure for many years on a self-righteous foundation, rendered the whole fabric liable to be overthrown by the first attack of an accusing conscience.
In reply to any general inference to be derived from these remarks, it may still be urged, that Dr. Johnson's was a peculiar and exempt case; and that his painful feeling of sin, and his consequent dissatisfaction with his own righteousness, were rather the effect of his natural malady than of any peculiarly correct ideas upon religion. But, even admitting this, who can assert that either his understanding or his character has been superior to Dr. Johnson's; and that, therefore, he may be justly sustained in death by a support which this eminent man, from whatever cause, found unavailing. If the greatest moralist of his age and nation was obliged at length to seek repose in the same free mercy of God in Christ which pardoned the thief upon the cross, who that knows his own heart will henceforth venture to glory in himself? The conscience may indeed be seared; we may not feel as Johnson felt; we may be ignorant both of God and of ourselves; and thus, for want of knowing or believing our spiritual danger, we may leave the world with a false tranquillity, and enter the presence of our Creator “with a lie in our right hand.” This, however, is our unhappiness, and ought not to be our boast; for if our minds were as religiously enlightened, and our hearts as correctly impressed, as Dr. Johnson's, we could obtain hope only where he obtained it, -by “ faith in the sacrifice of Jesus.”
The case, however, of Dr. Johnson is not an exempt case; for what has been the feeling of true Christians in every age, but one of a similar, though perhaps not always equally marked and conspicuous, kind?
PROTESTANTISM IN FRANCE.
Letter of Peter Bayssiere.
(Continued from p. 112.) I ought to tell you, my dear children,-I ought to reveal to you the true condition of my soul. In my state of deplorable blindness and ignorance, sometimes I thought that God did not exist, that he was only a visionary being; and some. times confounding him with the work of his hands, I attributed his divinity to all matter. « The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” I could not deny that these words of king David had long been, and perhaps were still, applicable to me.
But recollecting that the natural corruption of my heart, and the bad books that I had read, were, in part, the cause of the sad condition in which I was, I cannot refrain from attributing it still more, to the abuses, the superstitions and errors, which disfigure Christianity in the Romish church, and which, by disgusting me, had led me to think that all religion was only a fabrication.
Such, then, in truth, was my religious state, and you may well think, my children, that I was not very tranquil ; for it is impossible to be so when we do not rely on God, who is the source of the supreme good and true peace. I was diligent in my business; I frequented the society of my friends ; but my heart, ever sighing for something which was wanting, was never content; my wandering and agitated spirit found no object which could fix and satisfy it. Ennui pursued me everywhere, and increased upon me. Oh! how unfortunate, and how much to he pitied are those, who are without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world.
It was at the height of my misery, that it pleased God to have pity upon me, and shed abroad light in my mind. One evening, after my labor was over, instead of returning to the club, I was alone on the promenade, and remained there till the night was far gone. It was a fine, clear moonlight. Never had the expanse of heaven appeared to me so magnificent; never had I felt more disposed to reflection. No, said I, after having long contemplated the splendid spectacle I had in view, no, nature is not God. God is distinct from nature. In everything I behold, order, beauty, and harmony are displayed. If the Maker, who has produced it, and whose power, knowledge, and wisdom are so strongly imprinted on everything, is invisible, I feel, nevertheless, that he exists ; my reason and my heart assure me of it.
This conclusion, which I adopted sincerely, was the result of the reflections to which I gave myself up, on this beautiful evening. Some days after, the examination of a watch, its springs, the different wheels upon which it moves, again led me to the same conclusion, and confirmed me forever in the belief of a God, the Creator of all things. If this watch has not made itself, but necessarily supposes a watchmaker, who has prepared every part of it, and has fitted them all to produce this motion, how much more reasonable is it, said I, to suppose that the universe has a Maker, who is the Ruler of it?
I was no sooner persuaded in my heart of the existence of a God, than I trembled at the thoughts of his attributes, and of my relation to him. The feeling of my unworthiness and my sins deeply affected me. In recalling so many years, passed in forgetfulness of this great God, in indifference, or a culpable infidelity, I thought that certainly I must be in his eyes the most ungrateful and sinful of his creatures.
Soon I felt a desire to become better, and to prescribe to myself a plan of conduct not unworthy of one who felt, that the eyes of God were upon him. Then, after many efforts and attempts to recal the finest maxims of wisdom, and the best rules of virtue which had struck me in my readings, and which I was decided to adopt and put in practice ; then, I say, I took the resolution of examining what moral precepts the New Testament contained, and whether it would afford me the rules which I desired, to direct my conduct.
This was the motive, which induced me to have recourse to my Testament the second time, and undertake a fourth reading.
I wishi, my dear children, that I could here retrace all the impressions which the eternal word of God made upon my heart; for, at this time, I acknowledged it for what it really is, the revelation of sovereign wisdom, the faithful expression of the divine will, the letter of a tender and merciful Father, addressed to his ungrateful and rebellious children, inviting them to return and be happy with him. I wish I could retrace all the impressions which this divine word produced on my heart, and to omit none of the reflections which I made, the lively enotions I experienced, and the sentiments I derived from it, which I hope may endure forever.
I was like a man who, born blind, and having always been in profound darkness, should receive his sight in the midst of a splendid apartment enlightened by a magnificent lustre of chrystal, suspended from the ceiling, and a multitude of other lights around. I felt at least something analogous to what such a man
* This was, for some time, my opinion.
would experience, if such an event could happen. How beautiful and resplendent did the light of the Gospel appear to me!
I sought morality; and there I found the most simple, clear, and perfect sys. tem of morality ever described. I sought rules of conduct; and found them, for every case which could be presented in life! As a son, brother, father, friend, subject, ruler,--as an artisan, a man, and a reasonable creature-all my duties, according to my various relations, were presented to me in a manner which I thought admirable. There was not one moral obligation, for which I did not find a precept; not one precept, which was not accompanied by its motive ; and not one motive, which did not appear to me dictated by reason, or given from an authority against which I felt I could not object. .
I remarked two kinds of precepts, which, although tending to the same object, that is, perfection, had a different effect upon me. The positive precepts gave me an idea of the high degree of sanctity to which a man, who had always followed them without any violation might have attained ; and the negative precepts compelling me more particularly to reflect on myself, filled me more and more with a sense of my corruption, which they displayed to me, and convinced me, that those who had given such precepts must certainly have had a great knowledge of my heart, and of the human heart in general.
Who, then, are the men who wrote this book ? said I. And after considering that they were only poor artisans, like myself, without education, and without learning, I demanded whence then did tax gatherers, fishermen, and tent makers derive so much penetration, science and wisdom? Ah! said I, here is a problem which cannot be resolved but by admitting as true, what they themselves assert, that the Spirit of God was given them, and directed their pen: and that all which they have written is divinely inspired.
Such, my children, was the conclusion to which I was led by the examination of the morality contained in the Gospel. It was thus that I acknowledged the divinity of the New Testament, and was in the way to become a Christian.
In effect, having once felt and acknowledged the inspiration of the Gospel, I was not slow to recognize, by means of reasoning, and soon by my own experience, the truth and divinity of the doctrines which form its basis. If God in. spired the apostles to enable them to give to the world the purest and most per: fect morality which could be conceived, is it to be supposed that he would have abandoned them to themselves in the rest of their writings, and have permitted error or imposture to be mingled and confounded with truth? No, from the same fountain cannot flow sweet water and bitter. The moral precepts of the Gospel being evidently divine, its doctrines must be equally so. This reasoning appear. ed to me irrefragable, and I received with entire confidence everything contain: ed in the New Testament, as dictated by the Spirit of truth.
Then, Jesus Christ, his history, his divine character, the end of his coming into the world, his miracles, sufferings, and death, drew and fixed my attention. At the recital of his passion, which I had read without interest till then, my heart was almost broken, and rivers of tears flowed from my eyes. At length, I felt suh an agreement between the wants of my soul, sinful, and deprived of peace and consolation, and the work which the Saviour had accomplished by dying on the cross, that I no longer doubted that the promises of the Gospel were addressed to me personally. I then believed that Christ was sacrificed for me, and for me individually, to expiate my sins and reconcile me to God. And from that moment, the remembrance of which will forever live in my mind, the truth was confirmed to my heart. From that moment, I have never ceased to enjoy an inward peace, of which I believe faith in Jesus our Saviour is the only source ; peace, which the world can neither give nor take away, and which I felt was alone able to sustain and fortify man, in all the trials and sorrows of life, as I have several times experienced since my conversion to the Gospel.
Behold, sinner and prodigal son as I was, how our heavenly Father cane near to me, and received me in the arms of his mercy. Behold, how he led me to the knowledge of his free and heavenly gift, which I acknowledge I owe only to his pure grace, being entirely unworthy in myself, and having done nothing to merit it. It is this God of goodness, who has done all for me. He commenced, carried on, and I hope will perfect, the work of my salvation to eternity. Without his intervention, that is, without the assistance of his Spirit, acting on the heart, there cannot be a true conversion. Not only do I believe hin the auhor of the change I have experienced, but, with thankfulness, I attribute to him my being