Saturday, January 30, 2021

"The business of life is to work out our salvation..."

Samuel Johnson made his living by writing, and among his writings are sermons that, as with almost everything he produced, he wrote for pay for preachers who apparently were unwilling or unable to compose their own. There is no reason, however, to think he wrote anything he didn't believe. From the Yale Digital Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson: "Sermon 15": 

Man that is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble. JOB xiv.I

.... The business of life is to work out our salvation; and the days are few, in which provision must be made for eternity. We all stand upon the brink of the grave; of that state, in which there is no repentance. He, whose life is extended to its utmost natural boundaries, can live but a little while; and that he shall be one of those, who are comparatively said, to live long, no man can tell. Our days are not only few, but uncertain. The utmost that can be hoped, is little; and of that little, the greater part is denied to the majority of mankind.

Our time is short, and our work is great; it is therefore, with the kindest earnestness, enjoined by the Apostle, that we use all diligence to make our “calling and election sure.” But to an impartial surveyor of the ways of men, will it appear that the Apostle’s summons has been heard or regarded? Let the most candid and charitable observer take cognizance of the general practice of the world; and what can be discovered but gay thoughtlessness, or sordid industry? It seems that to secure their calling and election is the care of few. Of the greater part it may be said, that God is not in their thoughts. One forgets him in his business, another in his amusements; one in eager enjoyment of today, another in solicitous contrivance for tomorrow. Some die amidst the gratifications of luxury, and some in the tumults of contests undecided, and purposes uncompleated. Warnings are multiplied, but without notice. “Wisdom crieth in the streets,” but is rarely heard.

Among those that live thus wholly occupied by present things, there are some, in whom all sense of religion seems extinct or dormant; who acquiesce in their own modes of life, and never look forward into futurity, but gratify themselves within their own accustomed circle of amusements, or limit their thoughts by the attainment of their present pursuit; and, without suffering themselves to be interrupted by the unwelcome thoughts of death and judgement, congratulate themselves on their prudence or felicity, and rest satisfied with what the world can afford them; not that they doubt, but forget, a future state; not that they disbelieve their own immortality, but that they never consider it. ....

If reason forbids us to fix our hearts upon things which we are not certain of retaining, we violate a prohibition still stronger, when we suffer ourselves to place our happiness in that which must certainly be lost; yet such is all that this world affords us. Pleasures and honours must quickly perish, because life itself must soon be at an end.

But if it be folly to delight in advantages of uncertain tenure and short continuance, how great is the folly of preferring them to permanent and perpetual good! The man whose whole attention converges to this world, even if we suppose all his attempts prosperous, and all his wishes granted, gains only empty pleasure, which he cannot keep, at the cost of eternal happiness, which, if now neglected, he can never gain. .... (more)

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