Monday, February 1, 2021

"But there is mercy..."

Continuing to read from Samuel Johnson's sermons. Only twenty-eight survived. Apparently those who commissioned him to write them typically copied them and then destroyed his. This is from "Sermon 2":
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

That God is a being of infinite mercy; that he desires not the death of a sinner, nor takes any pleasure in the misery of his creatures; may not only be deduced from the consideration of his nature, and his attributes; but, for the sake of those that are incapable of philosophical enquiries, who make far the greatest part of mankind, it is evidently revealed to us in the Scriptures, in which the Supreme Being, the source of life, the author of existence, who spake the word, and the world was made, who commanded, and it was created, is described as looking down from the height of infinite felicity, with tenderness and pity, upon the sons of men; inciting them, by soft impulses, to perseverance in virtue, and recalling them, by instruction and punishment, from errour and from vice. He is represented as not more formidable for his power, than amiable for his mercy; and is introduced as expostulating with mankind upon their obstinacy in wickedness; and warning them, with the highest affection, to avoid those punishments, which the laws of his government make it necessary to inflict upon the inflexible and disobedient. “Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi iii. “Make you a new heart, and a new spirit, for why will ye die, O house of Israel.” Ezekiel xviii. 31. His mercy is ever made the chief motive of obedience to him; and with the highest reason inculcated, as the attribute which may animate us most powerfully to an attention to our duty. “If thou, O Lord, wert extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who shall abide it? But there is mercy with thee, therefore shalt thou be feared.” If God were a power unmerciful and severe, a rigid exactor of unvaried regularity and unfailing virtue; if he were not to be pleased but with perfection, nor to be pacified after transgressions and offences; in vain would the best men endeavour to recommend themselves to his favour; in vain would the most circumspect watch the motions of his own heart, and the most diligent apply himself to the exercise of virtue. They would only destroy their ease by ineffectual solicitude, confine their desires with unnecessary restraints, and weary out their lives in unavailing labours. God would not be to be served, because all service would be rejected; it would be much more reasonable to abstract the mind from the contemplation of him, than to have him only before us, as an object of terrour, as a being too mighty to be resisted, and too cruel to be implored; a being that created men, only to be miserable, and revealed himself to them, only to interrupt even the transient and imperfect enjoyments of this life, to astonish them with terrours, and to overwhelm them with despair.

But there is mercy with him, therefore shall he be feared. It is reasonable, that we should endeavour to please him, because we know that every sincere endeavour will be rewarded by him; that we should use all the means in our power, to enlighten our minds, and regulate our lives, because our errours, if involuntary, will not be imputed to us; and our conduct, though not exactly agreeable to the divine ideas of rectitude, yet if approved, after honest and diligent enquiries, by our own consciences, will not be condemned by that God, who judges of the heart, weighs every circumstance of our lives, and admits every real extenuation of our failings and transgressions. .... (more)
The Yale Digital Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson: Sermon 2

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