[ocr errors]

thofe evils which happen to be moft strongly prefented to their minds. But there is a clear diftinction between a diforder which affects only the imagination and spirits, while the judgment is found, and a diforder by which the judgment itfelf is impaired. Whatever be the arguments in favour of free-will, of volition unrestrained by the force and prevalence of motives, it must be allowed that the effects of reafon on the human mind are not at all times, and on all fubjects, equally powerful, The mind, like the body, has its weak organs; in other words, the impreffions on fome fubjects are so deeply fixed, that the judgment is no longer able to guide the operations of the mind, in reasoning on, or in judging of them. The imagination seizes the rein, and till the force of the idea is leffened from habit, the ufual powers are fufpended. But this is not madness; for ftrong impreffions of

various kinds, will, in different minds, pro、 duce fimilar effects. From this difmal malady, which he "did not then know how to manage," he never afterwards was perfectly relieved; and all his labours, and all his employments, were but temporary interruptions of its baleful influence.


In the history of his mind, his religious progrefs is an important article. He had been early instructed in the doctrines of the church of England, by his mother, who continued her pious care with affiduity, but in his opinion, not with judgment. "Sunday" faid he was a heavy day to me when I was a boy. My mother confined me on Sundays, and made me read "The Whole Duty of Man," from a great part of which I could derive no inftruction. When, for instance, I read the chapter on theft, which, from infancy, I had been taught was wrong, I was no more convinced that theft was wrong than before; fo there was no accef

fion of knowledge. A boy fhould be introduced to fuch books by having his attention directed to the arrangement, to the ftyle, and other excellencies of compofition, that the mind being thus engaged by an amusing variety of objects, may not grow weary."

He communicated to Mr. Bofwell the following account of" the firft occafion of his thinking in earnest of religion." I fell into an inattention to religion, or an indifference about it, in my ninth year. The church at Litchfield, in which we had a feat, wanted reparation: fo I was to go and find a feat in other churches; and having bad eyes, and being awkward about this, I used to go and read in the fields on Sunday. This habit continued till my fourteenth year, and still I find a great reluctance to go to church. I then became a fort of lax talker against religion, for I did not much think about it; and

this lafted till I went to Oxford, where it would not be fuffered. When at Oxford, I took up Law's "Serious Call to the Unconverted," expecting to find it a dull book (as fuch books generally are), and perhaps to laugh at it. But I found Law quite an over-match for me; and this was the first occafion of my thinking in earneft of religion, after I became capable of rational inquiry."

Serious impreffions of religion, from particular incidents, it is certain, have been experienced by many pious perfons; though it must be acknowledged, that weak minds, from an erroneous fuppofition, that no man is in a state of grace, who has not felt a particular converfion, have, in fome cafes, brought a degree of ridicule upon them; a ridicule of which it is inconfiderate or unfair to make a general application. How seriously Johnfon was impreffed with a fenfe of religion, from this time

forward, appears from the whole tenor of his life and writings. Religion was the predominant object of his thoughts; though he seems not to have attained all the tranquillity and affurance in his practice of its duties that are so earnestly to be defired. His fentiments, upon points of abstract virtue and rectitude, were in the highest degree elevated and generous, but he was unfortunate enough to have the fublimity of his mind degraded by the hypochondriacal propenfities of his animal conftitution. The ferenity, the independence, and the exultation of religion, were fentiments to which he was a ftranger. He faw the Almighty in a different light from what he is represented in the purer page of the gofpel; and he trembled in the presence of Infinite Goodness. Those tenets of the church of England, which are most nearly allied to Calvinifm, were congenial to his general feelings, and they

« ElőzőTovább »