Thursday, February 10, 2011

To be of no church is dangerous

Browsing this morning—as I watched the news—through one of the books I've had for a long time: A Johnson Sampler, a collection of Samuel Johnson quotations published in 1963. I selected the following as I encountered them. All are on religious subjects but have no other connection apart from the fact that I like them.
To be of no church is dangerous. Religion, of which the rewards are distant, and which is animated only by Faith and Hope, will glide by degrees out of the mind unless it be invigorated and reimpressed by external ordinances, by stated calls to worship, and by the salutary influence of example. (Lives of the Poets, 1779-1781)

To do the best, can seldom be the lot of man: it is sufficient if, when opportunities are presented, he is ready to do good. How little virtue could be practised if beneficence were to wait always for the most proper objects, and the noblest occasions; occasions that may never happen, and objects that may never be found? (Introduction to Proceedings of the Committee...for Clothing French Prisoners of War, 1760)

Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practise; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage, or a journey, without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others those attempts which he neglects himself. (The Rambler 1750-1752, No. 14)

Piety practised in solitude, like the flower that blooms in the desert, may give its fragrance to the winds of Heaven, and delight those unembodied spirits that survey the works of God and the actions of men; but it bestows no assistance upon earthly beings, and however free from taints of impurity, yet wants the sacred splendour of beneficence. (The Adventurer 1752-1754, No. 126)

All theory is against freedom of the will; all experience for it. (Boswell's Life of Johnson, 15 April 1778)
Henry Darcy Curwen, A Johnson Sampler, Harvard UP, 1963