Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Sent to Hell, Sir, and punished everlastingly."

An exchange between Samuel Johnson and a Dr. Adams about whether the goodness of God precludes punishment. Johnson:
"That [God] is infinitely good, as far as the perfection of his nature will allow, I certainly believe; but it is necessary for good upon the whole, that individuals should be punished. As to an individual, therefore, he is not infinitely good; and as I cannot be sure I have fulfilled the conditions on which salvation is granted, I am afraid I may be one of those who shall be damned" (looking dismally).

Dr. Adams. "What do you mean by damned?"

Johnson.... "Sent to Hell, Sir, and punished everlastingly."

Dr. Adams. "I don't believe that doctrine."

Johnson. "Hold, Sir; do you believe that some will be punished at all?"

Dr. Adams. "Being excluded from Heaven will be a punishment.. ."

Johnson. "Well, Sir; but, if you admit any degree of punishment, there is an end of your argument for infinite goodness simply considered... A man may have such a degree of hope as to keep him quiet. You see I am not quiet, from the vehemence with which I talk; but I do not despair ... I do not forget the merits of my Redeemer; but my Redeemer has said that he will set some on his right hand and some on his left." [Boswell, 12 June 1784]

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