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Table of Contents

Practices of Individual Catholics
Brief history of.... Samuel Johnson
On the The Life of Samuel Johnson LLD by James Boswell
Some Famous Quotes from Sam Johnson about Life, Religion, and Politics

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Practices of Individual Catholics

Individual Catholics over the last two millennia have developed and used a wide array of religious practices. While all of the following are encouraged by the Church, individual preference holds sway:

The practices fall into two broad categories: simple and more elaborate or complex. What follows moves from the simple to the more complex or involved.

- making the sign of the cross (which involves saying “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen” while placing one’s right hand on the forehead, then the lower chest, and followed by the left shoulder and then the right shoulder.)

- saying morning and evening prayers and/or grace before and after meals.

- Visiting a Chapel where a consecrated host is exposed for viewing and where the faithful are invited to pray and adore Christ for few minutes or perhaps an hour. This practice is called Eucharistic Adoration.

- studying a portion of the bible, particularly popular are St. Paul’s letters which contain practical advice for living a Christian life, the Gospel of John which contains lots of direct quotes from Jesus, and the Psalms or Proverbs.

- reading spiritual or inspiring books, perennially popular are the lives of the Saints and the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a’ Kempis.

- saying a Rosary, usually done privately but many prefer group recitations of the Rosary at a local parish.

- saying a short prayer, called an ejaculation, several times a day (examples might include “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner” or “All for the greater honor and glory of God,” )

- Praying the fourteen stations of the Cross which every Catholic Church has on its walls. The stations record Christ’s difficult walk from Pilot’s judgement to His death and burial. Praying the stations involve standing before each station’s image saying a prayer or two and then thinking for a minute or two about the emotions of the people pictured there and then a little about your reaction to their likely feelings and the situation. Generally praying the stations takes about 20 to 30 minutes, perhaps 2 or 3 minutes per station.

- Fasting and abstaining have a long tradition that goes back to the forty days Jesus spend in the desert and to his cousin John who lived much of his life in the desert. Over the centuries, the monks, friars and other organized Church groups have practiced fasting and abstaining. Until Vatican II all lay Catholics abstained from meat on all Fridays and fasted during the 40 days of Lent, eating one full meal per day with the other two meals together being less than that full meal. Today Catholics are only required to fast and abstain on Ash Wednesdays and all the Fridays in Lent.

- Meditating involves sitting or kneeling in one place for perhaps twenty minutes thinking about one’s life and one’s relationship with God and others. Alered Graham O.S.B. suggests Buddhist meditating techniques be adapted to aid with meditation. Buddha suggested focusing the eye on a spot four feet ahead. Here thoughts of the past and future are set aside; the focus is on today; here the meditating person’s personal concerns are set aside, and he tries to look at other people and other situations in a fresh way, inspired by Christian love and guided by Catholic teaching. Ignatius Loyola S.J. thought the meditating person might imagine himself flying overhead looking down to gain a different perspective on other people and situations. Many Catholics combine meditation with a visitation to a Church or Chapel where Eucharist Adoration is offered. (see section on Eucharistic Adoration above)

- Catholic contemplation is also popular. Here the Catholic sits in a quiet place and calls up an setting from the life of Christ. While holding this setting in his mind the Catholic then considers what conversation might have occurred, what emotions might have been present . The goal is to expand one’s feeling for and understanding of these scenes. Consider these three scenes from the Bible and think about the range of emotions running through those present: 1) Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth while they are both expecting. The child leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. She greets Mary saying “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear”. What where Mary thoughts? More interesting might be to imagine overhearing their conversation? What was the God-Man Jesus thinking as he listened to this loving conversation? 2) Consider the thoughts and emotions present in the Samaritan woman at the well when Jesus approaches her an surprises her by recounting her personal history. What emotions coursed though her during this encounter? What was her reaction to this calm stranger? Did she want to flee? Did she want to see Him again? 3) Consider Pilot’s judgement of Jesus. Did the crowd feel any remorse for following their leaders’ desire to condemn Jesus rather than condemn the murderer, Barabbas? What emotions where present in Pilot when he washed his hands? Why did Pilot do it anyway when even his wife opposed the condemnation of Jesus?

- Charismatic Renewal grows out of 1 Corinthians Chapters 12, 13, and 14 where St Paul reports on the Fruits and Gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, Paul points out that the most important of these is love. So Charismatic Renewal within Catholicism encompasses all human manifestation of God’s love. These manifestations are instilled in the faithful through the working of the Holy Spirit; the term used to describe each of these manifestation is a charism. The range of charisms is very wide; for instance, speaking in tongues, tutoring inner city youth, healing others, stating a prophecy, being an usher at Sunday Mass can all be charisma if undertaken in Christian love instilled by the Spirit. Beyond simply having and cultivating a special charism, charismatic Catholics seek out each other at Charismatic renewal worship services where they can pray together and offer each other mutual support. Oftentimes these services include a Mass, a healing service, a chance to speak in tongue , to prophecy, to interpret tounges, etc. There is always an opportunity for socializing, friendship, and the offering of mutual encouragement.

- Pilgrimages and visitations of various kinds are popular with many Catholics. Some go to distant sites such as Rome or Jerusalem; while others go to local shrines or other parish churches in their locality. For instance, many Americans in the Mississippi valley like the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois. In England, the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham attracts both Catholics and Anglicans as well.

Some Catholics are quick to visit sites even before the Church has finished its due diligence and given full approval. The shrine of Our Lady of Medjugorge in Croatia is currently very popular even though it’s authenticity is still under review.

A few Catholics design their own visitations, one St. Louis man in his middle age decided to visit as many churches as possible to photograph the Fourth Station of the Cross. By his seventieth birthday he had enough great pictures to create a beautiful book with over a hundred photos showing various artist renderings of Christ Meeting His Mother as He carried his Cross to Calvary.

Some Catholics chose strenuous walking pilgrimages. For instance, there is an annual walking pilgrimages from the mid point of the French/Spanish border, at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (in France) and Roncesvalle (in Spain), across northern Spain 500 miles to the Shrine of St. James in Santiago de Compostela on the Atlantic coast north of Portugal.

- Retreats are another popular Catholic practice. To “go on a retreat” a Catholic will set aside two or three days so they can travel to a retreat center for a time. All retreats offer the retreatants a chance to go to confession (i.e. receive the sacrament of reconciliation) and to chat with a priest about personal problems. There are generally to types of retreats: silent preached retreats and participatory retreats.

The silent retreat involves a retreatant being silent for two or three days while only hearing the words preached by the retreat master at perhaps five group gatherings per day. The idea is to think about the words of the retreat master while reading the scripture passages that retreat master suggests. Silence for modern man is a most profound experience: no phones, no television, no radio. After a few hours anxiety drains away, sleeping becomes deeper and naps bring real sleep not restless thinking. The retreat master’s comments might be the same as the homily from back at the retreatant’s home parish, but those same thoughts suddenly penetrate and change attitudes.

A participatory retreat involves the retreatants in group discussions and even group projects. The discussion are often focused on how a Catholic might apply Church teaching to daily life with the family, to his behavior toward others at work. At the group discussions people can ask the others about hurdles they have encountered and about how to apply Catholic principles to concrete situations in their lives. Although in general the subject matters under discussion at particular sessions are determined by the retreat organizers, the group discussions are wide ranging. In these discussions, group members are sometimes encouraged to reduce their thoughts to group essays or stick figure drawings on poster paper or other craft project (e.g. take a long piece of rope and create a giant rosary by tying notes). The conversion of a conversation into an essay or poster helps to focus and refine the group’s collective attention regarding a particular subject.

- For those who can’t find enough time for a multi-day retreat, a parish mission, or day of recollection, offers an alternative. The commitment here is only several hours. Formats vary but typically there are two lectures, a chance to go to confession (i.e. receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation), and a closing Benediction service. A mission (or day or reconciliation) is typically held on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon for perhaps four hours.

- Many serve by becoming a Deacon, Eucharistic minister, usher, lector, etc. These assist the priests carrying out the functions related to the Mass. Deacons require special training and ordination because they are empowered to give sermons, perform the sacrament of baptism and officiate at marriages.. The Eucharistic ministers help the priest and deacons distribute communion both in Church and to the sick in their homes. Ushers handle the collection of people’s contributions at Sunday Mass and help people find seats when a Mass is crowded. A lector helps the priest by reading the Epistle during Mass.

- engaging in volunteer activities such as: tutoring students, coaching a team, leading a scout troop, singing in the Church choir, joining a religious discussion group, and/or joining the parish Altar Sodality (that keeps things around the Church clean and orderly), are all popular options.

- Some Catholics make themselves experts on a particular religious subject and offer to give lectures to other groups on that subject. For instance, there are a small group of men in St Louis who have made themselves experts on the Shroud of Turin. Members of this group take turns addressing any group, civic or religious, that wants to learn about the piece of linen that was wrapped around Christ as he was laid in the tomb. (Note: This cloth is currently preserved at the Cathedral in Turin, Italy. By studying it with modern scientific methods experts have learned a lot about the wounds Christ endured and the exact cause of His death.)

- Saying a novena to request a special intercession with God is very popular. Novenas involve saying a particular prayer, or set of prayers, or performing some religious activity nine times. They can be said or done once an hour over nine hours, or once a day for nine days, or once a week for nine weeks, or once a month for nine months. One of the most popular noveas to St. Mary is to attend Mass on the first Friday of each month for nine months. Other popular Novenas are to St. Jude (the patron saint of hopeless cases) and to Christ pictured as the Infant of Prague. Again it is important to remember prayers to Saints are always requests that they intervene with Christ for help with the intention. However, since the Infant of Prague is an image of Christ at age 3 or 4 it is appropriate to address a novena to Him asking for His direct help.

Some Catholics devise their own novena. One man had noted discord in a group of his cousins growing out of the mild response that a sexually abused sibling had received from her other siblings after she announced her experience. This man responded by devising a novena to St Marie Gerrete, who had herself be the object of sexual abuse which had resulted her being attacked by her abuser and ultimately to her death the following day. This novena involve each of the siblings saying the novena monthly for nine months.

The foregoing list, while long, is certainly not complete. .... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 1/12/19)

Brief history of.... Samuel Johnson

Sam Johnson (1709-84) was born into a bookseller’s family in Litchfield England. He was blind in one eye and suffered from intermittent spasms of the face and torso. In childhood he developed eruptions on the skin of his neck and face. These were treated surgically and left him with scars for the rest of his life. He was interested in all things and by age three was acknowledged to have a strong memory and the ability to read. He performed well in school entering high school at age nine and Pembroke College, Oxford at age 16. Johnson love books particularly great books. Since he had mastered Latin and Greek as well as English , he could read most of them in the original. Of course, his memory allowed him to retain much of what he read.

His family ran short of cash after his first year and a half at Oxford so Johnson had to go to work. He helped his father in the store, did some teaching, and attempted to open a secondary school but his lack of a degree made it difficult to attract students. His school only enrolled three students. However, one was David Garrick who later became both a famous actor in London and a fast friend. Johnson wanted an opportunity to write for pay. This came in 1732, when Harry Porter and Edmund Hector older friends he had made while teaching, started a newspaper in nearby Birmingham and asked Johnson to write for it.

One of these friends Harry Porter, became very ill and died in Sept 1734. Johnson visited him a lot during his extended, final illness and came to know the family pretty well. Surprisingly Porter’s wife (Elizabeth “Tetty” Porter) came to admire Johnson and after her husband died she began to encourage Johnson to continue his visits. Over time her feeling became more amorous and she induced Johnson who was inexperience in matters of the heart to marry her in the spring on 1734. He was 25, she 45. They were very close.

He continued to pursue his idea of having a school until 1737 when he moved to London. There he took up writing as full time work he wrote all manner of material. He wrote for a magazine called The Gentleman’s Quarterly , he wrote or re-wrote poems and articles anonymously so others could claim authorship, he wrote for his own periodic publication called The Rambler , he wrote forwards for various books many of a technical nature which allowed Johnson to gain familiarity with new industrial terms (many of these books later sold extra copies simply because they contained a forward by Johnson). He wrote a biography of Richard Savage, a play called Irene and in 1746 he was given a commission to write a complete dictionary of the English Language.

This commission was to be completed in three years; however, it took Johnson nine years to complete the project. This dictionary was the first successful attempt to standardize the spelling of all English words and standardize their meanings. It had more impact forming the language than any other book. To write this dictionary Johnson used his memory to recall where he had seen a certain word used. He would then seek out that book, many of which were in his personal library, to double check his recollection. In that way he captured the spelling and definitions used in the greatest books.

Note: The next all encompassing effort toward a complete English dictionary was the Oxford English Dictionary first published in 1884. (This same task was undertaken for the French language in the late 1700's. Twenty scholars worked for 20 years to perform the same task for the French language. )

Johnson’s dictionary made him famous. He was invited to the most prestigious meetings of literary people. His circle of friends widened. However, his wife Telley became ill and after an extended illness passed away in 1752. Johnson had loved her deeply and he never remarried.

Although Johnson had fame, his fiances were strained. He had accepted 1500 guineas when he signed the commission for the dictionary and didn’t participate in it’s financial success after it came out. He again had to begin writing a wide variety of things. He wrote a column for The Universal Chronicle which he called The Idler, He wrote a story about a mythical world where everything was perfect called Rasselles 1759. His story became very popular, it was translated into other languages and was even mentioned by other authors in their works (e.g. Jane Eyre and The House of the Seven Gables ).

In 1755 Johnson met Henry and Hester Thrale. Henry was a member of Parliament and a wealthy brewer. The couple liked Johnson and offered him room and board living with them. Johnson accepted and for 17 years his day to day needs were taken care of by the Thrales. For much of this time he lived in an apartment at their brewery.

He also received a commission to do a complete revision of Shakespeare with explanations of difficult passages and proper spelling of words. This project begun in 1758 was not completed until 1765.

In 1763 Johnson meet James Boswell at a bookstore and they became fast friends. Boswell began keeping notes on Johnson with an eye to writing a biography of Johnson later on. Boswell diligently pursued this avocation until Johnson death in 1784. After that he contacted anyone he thought might have letters written by Johnson. Boswell’s notes, plus Johnson’s records, published works, and letters he had written to others allowed Boswell to write a 520,000 word biography of Johnson’s life. Of course, Boswell couldn’t spend everyday with Johnson after all he had a family and law practice in Scotland, however he was able to spend significant time with Johnson in almost every year from 1763 to 1784. Boswell was away from Scotland so much Johnson sensed Mrs. Boswell was developing a dislike of him. He mentions this dislike often in his letters to her husband saying things like ... “my best to your wife who I know dislikes me I pray she will come to love me as I love her and your children”.

One of Johnson’s most famous works grows out of his relationship with Boswell. This book Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland by Johnson recounts a trip Boswell and Johnson took to the Hyberdizes Islands off the NW coast of Scotland. It gives one of best insights into the people and geography of those remote places.

Johnson did one other major work before his death this was his Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets.

A few highlights of Johnson’s life included: Shortly after his Shakespeare book came out, Johnson had a meeting with King George III. He was given a life annuity of 300 guineas per year for life paid by the English government. In 1755 he received an honorary master degree from Oxford. In 1765 he received an honorary doctor’s degree from Trinity in Dublin.

A few words about Johnson’s view of politics and religion. Politically Johnson was a conservative Tory, a strong supporter of the Crown, he believed in a hieratical society and supported the English aristocracy. He supported law and order but he believed there was a place for leniency. He opposed giving the Americans representation in the English Parliament, later he opposed the American’s effort to free themselves from England. Religiously Johnson was a devote Anglican. He rarely missed Sunday services. He liked to walk around London at night and would befriend people he might encounter. Even when he was short of money he always had a little for the poorest. One night he encounter a street walker who he interviewed and decided she was ready to leave “the life” so he brought her home and helped her start the transition to a more virtuous life. He went to considerable effort to get a convict’s sentence commuted from death to permanent exile to Australia. He liked to read religious and political books and wrote many columns on both politics and religion.

Johnson had a particular love of certain places and certain people. He regularly returned to Litchfield the place of his childhood. This happened even after the majority of those he knew had passed away or moved elsewhere. Because he had been active for years publishing his work he had come to know many people in that industry. His records show his on going concern for the blue collar workers (e.g. typesetters and printers) he had known.

Johnson thought London was the best place in the world to live. Interesting people were available to talk to and interesting books were available to read. He was a long time member of the Literary Club that brought several of the best authors together regularly for conversation. He loved going out to dinner with friends before he started on his nightly walk. However, the air in London was polluted and, in time, it caused Johnson to develop severe asthma which forced him to leave London during most of the last year of his life.

Dr. Samuel Johnson died on Dec.13, 1784. He is buried with other great Englishmen in Westminster Abbey. ...... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 2/21/2019)

On the The Life of Samuel Johnson LLD by James Boswell

The Life of Samuel Johnson LLD by Boswell is considered one of the best biographies written in English The reasons for the high regard given to this book follow:

1) Johnson’s influence and high regard has continued, some would say grown, for many generations,

2) the author, Boswell, knew Johnson personally and was able to ask him questions and spend time with him at the Literary Club where he could judge Johnson’s ability to converse with other literary lights of the day,

3) the author spent whole weeks with his subject so he got a sense of how Johnson worked, how Johnson spent his evenings, how Johnson related to others including his domestic staff, and how Johnson operated on his late night walks around London, and

4) Boswell was well educated, intelligent, and was himself a good writer. All these factors coalesced to make his biography great. ........ .(prepared by Hugh Murray on 2/22/2019)

Some Famous Quotes from Sam Johnson about Life, Religion, and Politics

Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last. ......

I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am ...

Men know that women are an overmatch for them, and therefore they choose the weakest or the most ignorant. If they did not think so, they never could be afraid of women knowing as much as themselves.

.... He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man ....

A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it .....

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure. .....

Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in all that life has to offer ....

My congratulations to you, sir. Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good. .....

Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind......

I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read .......

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel .......

There can be no friendship without confidence, and no confidence without integrity ...

Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o'clock is a scoundrel. ....

Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance. .....

I would rather be attacked than unnoticed. For the worst thing you can do to an author is to be silent as to his works. ...

The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. .....

Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. ......

It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust. .....

Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble. ......

Hell is paved with good intentions. ......

The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write: a man will turn over half a library to make one book. ......

You raise your voice when you should reinforce your argument. ........

It is necessary to hope - for hope itself is happiness. .....

What we hope ever to do with ease, we must first learn to do with diligence .......

Allow children to be happy in their own way, for what better way will they find? .......

Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it. .......

To keep your secret is wisdom, but to expect others to keep it is folly. ......

Nothing [...] will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome. .......

Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out. .......

Distance has the same effect on the mind as on the eye.

While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till it be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it. ......

A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.

Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks. .....

This is one of the disadvantages of wine, it makes a man mistake words for thoughts ........

Sir, I did not count your glasses of wine, why should you number up my cups of tea....

Justice is my being allowed to do whatever I like. Injustice is whatever prevents my doing so. ......

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.

You can never be wise unless you love reading. ....

The next best thing to knowing something is knowing where to find it. ........

If you are idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary be not idle. ......

He who waits to do a great deal of good at once will never do anything. .......

It is better to live rich than to die rich. ......

Getting money is not all a man's business: to cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life......

A man who uses a great many words to express his meaning is like a bad marksman who, instead of aiming a single stone at an object, takes up a handful and throws at it in hopes he may hit. .......

A man may be so much of everything that he is nothing of anything. .........

We never do anything consciously for the last time without sadness of heart. ......

Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.

If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant repair. .....

Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed. ........

Prejudice, not being founded on reason, cannot be removed by argument .......

The only end of writing is to enable readers better to enjoy life or better to endure it .......

As I know more of mankind I expect less of them, and am ready now to call a man a good man upon easier terms than I was formerly. .......

That we must all die, we always knew; I wish I had remembered it sooner. .......

Tea's proper use is to amuse the idle, and relax the studious, and dilute the full meals of those who cannot use exercise, and will not use abstinence." (Essay on Tea, 1757.) ........

In order that all men may be taught to speak truth, it is necessary that all likewise should learn to hear it.

....... Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it. .......

Life is not long, and too much of it must not pass in idle deliberation how it shall be spent.


Longer passages on Religion reported by Boswell

"For my part, Sir, I think all Christians, whether Papists or Protestants, agree in the essential articles, and that their differences are trivial, and rather political than religious."

"If convents [or monasteries] should be allowed at all, they should only be retreats for persons unable to serve the publick, or who have served it. It is our first duty to serve society; and after we have done that, we may attend wholly to the salvation of our own souls. A youthful passion for abstracted devotion should not be encouraged."

"There is a prodigious difference between the external form of one of your Presbyterian churches in Scotland, and a church in Italy; yet the doctrine taught is essentially the same."

"Sir, if a man is in doubt whether it would be better for him to expose himself to martyrdom or not, he should not do it. He must be convinced he has a delegation from heaven."

I asked Johnson whether I might go to a consultation with another lawyer upon Sunday, as that appeared to me to be doing work as much in my own way, as if an artisan should work on the day appropriated for religious rest. Johnson: "Why, Sir, when you are of consequence enough to oppose the practice of consulting on Sunday, you should do it: but you may go now. It is not criminal, though it is not what one should do, who is anxious for the preservation and increase of piety, to which a peculiar observance of Sunday is a great help. The distinction is clear between what is of moral and what is of ritual obligation."

"The Church does not superstitiously observe days, merely as days, but as memorials of important facts. Christmas might be kept as well upon one day of the year as another; but there should be a stated day for commemorating the birth of our Saviour, because there is danger that what may be done on any day, will be neglected."

Boswell: "There are, I am afraid, many people who have no religion at all." Seward: "And sensible people, too." Johnson: "Why, Sir, not sensible in that respect. There must be either a natural or moral stupidity, if one lives in a total neglect of so very important a concern." Seward: "I wonder that there should be people without religion." Johnson: "Sir, you need not wonder at this, when you consider how large a proportion of almost every man's life is passed without thinking of it."

Seward: "One should think that sickness, and the view of death, would make more men religious." Johnson: "Sir, they do not know how to go about it: they have not the first notion. A man who has never had religion before, no more grows religious when he is sick, than a man who has never learnt figures can count when he has need of calculation."

On the Roman Catholick religion he said, "If you join the Papists externally, they will not interrogate you strictly as to your belief in their tenets. No reasoning Papist believes every article of their faith. There is one side on which a good man might be persuaded to embrace it. A good man, of a timorous disposition, in great doubt of his acceptance with God, and pretty credulous, might be glad to be of a church where there are so many helps to get to Heaven. I would be a Papist if I could. I have fear enough; but an obstinate rationality prevents me. I shall never be a Papist, unless on the near approach of death, of which I have a great terrour. I wonder that women are not all Papists." Boswell: "They are not more afraid of death than men are." Johnson: "Because they are less wicked." Dr. Adams: "They are more pious." Johnson: "No, hang 'em, they are not more pious. A wicked fellow is the most pious when he takes to it. He'll beat you all at piety."

Dr. Johnson enforced the strict observance of Sunday. "It should be different," he observed, "from another day. People may walk, but not throw stones at birds. There may be relaxation, but there should be no levity."

He mentioned (I think) Tillotson's argument against transubstantiation; "That we are as sure we see bread and wine only, as that we read in the Bible the text on which that false doctrine is founded. We have only the evidence of our senses for both. If," he added, "God had never spoken figuratively, we might hold that he speaks literally, when he says, 'This is my body.'" Boswell: "But what do you say, Sir, to the ancient and continued tradition of the Church upon this point?" Johnson: "Tradition, Sir, has no place, where the Scriptures are plain; and tradition cannot persuade a man into a belief of transubstantation. Able men, indeed, have said they believed it."

I said, "Would not the same objection hold against the Trinity as against transubstantiation?" "Yes," said he, "if you take three and one in the same sense. If you do, to be sure you cannot believe it: but the three persons in the Godhead are Three in one sense, and One in another. We cannot tell how; and that is the mystery!"

"I am no friend to making religion appear too hard. Many good people have done harm, by giving severe notions of it."

"The great task of him who conducts his life by the precepts of religion is to make the future predominate over the present, to impress upon his mind so strong a sense of the importance of obedience to the divine will, of the value of the reward promised to virtue, and the terrors of the punishment denounced against crimes, as may overbear all the temptations which temporal hope or fear can bring in its way, and enable him to bid equal defiance to joy and sorrow, to turn away at one time from the allurements of ambition, and push forward at another against the threats of calamity." ..........it appears, upon a philosophical estimate, that, supposing the mind, at any certain time, in an equipoise between the pleasures of this life and the hopes of futurity, present objects falling more frequently into the scale would in time preponderate, and that our regard for an invisible state would grow every moment weaker, till at last it would lose all its activity, and become absolutely without effect. ......... To prevent this dreadful event, the balance is put into our own hands, and we have power to transfer the weight to either side. The motives to a life of holiness are infinite, not less than the favour or anger of Omnipotence, not less than eternity of happiness or misery. But these can only influence our conduct as they gain our attention, which the business or diversions of the world are always calling off by contrary attractions. ........ The great art of piety, and the end for which all the arts of religion seem to be instituted, is the perpetual renovation of the motives to virtue, by a voluntary employment of our mind in the contemplation of its excellence, its importance, and its necessity, which, in proportion as they are more frequently and more willingly resolved, gain a more forcible and permanent influence, till in time they become the reigning ideas, the standing principles of action, and the test by which every thing proposed to the judgment is rejected or approved. ......... To facilitate this change of our affections it is necessary that we weaken the temptations of the world, by retiring at certain seasons from it; for its influence arising only from its presence is much lessened when it becomes the object of solitary meditation. A constant residence amidst noise and pleasure inevitably obliterates the impressions of piety, and a frequent abstraction of ourselves into a state where this life, like the next, operates only upon the reason, will reinstate religion in its just authority, even without those irradiations from above, the hope of which I have no intention to withdraw from the sincere and the diligent. ......

"Malevolence to the clergy is seldom at a great distance from irreverence of religion."

"However age may discourage us by its appearance from considering it in prospect, we shall all by degrees certainly be old; and therefore we ought to inquire what provision can be made against that time of distress? what happiness can be stored up against the winter of life? and how we may pass our latter years with serenity and cheerfulness? ...........Piety is the only proper and adequate relief of decaying man. He that grows old without religious hopes, as he declines into imbecility, and feels pains and sorrows incessantly crowding upon him, falls into a gulf of bottomless misery, in which every reflection must plunge him deeper, and where he finds only new gradations of anguish and precipices of horror."

"Of the divine Author of our religion it is impossible to peruse the evangelical histories, without observing how little he favoured the vanity of inquisitiveness; how much more rarely he condescended to satisfy curiosity than to relieve distress; and how much he desired that his followers should rather excel in goodness than in knowledge. His precepts tend immediately to the rectification of the moral principles, and the direction of daily conduct, without ostentation, without art, at once irrefragable and plain; such as well meaning simplicity may readily conceive, and of which we cannot mistake the meaning, but when we are afraid to find it."

"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 the salutary influence of example."

"The sentiments and worship proper to a fallen and offending being we have all to learn, as we have all to practice."

"The duties of religion, sincerely and regularly performed, will always be sufficient to exalt the meanest and to exercise the highest understanding. That mind will never be vacant which is frequently recalled by stated duties to meditations on eternal interests; nor can any hour be long which is spent in obtaining some new qualification for celestial happiness."

"It may be observed in general that the future is purchased by the present. It is not possible to secure distant or permanent happiness but by the forbearance of some immediate gratification. This is so evidently true with regard to the whole of our existence that all precepts of theology have no other tendency than to enforce a life of faith; a life regulated not by our senses but by our belief; a life in which pleasures are to be refused for fear of invisible punishments, and calamities sometimes to be sought, and always endured, in hope of rewards that shall be obtained in another state."


Johnson on Politics reported by Boswell

"Politicks are now nothing more than means of rising in the world. With this sole view do men engage in politicks, and their whole conduct proceeds upon it."

Dr. Johnson now said, a certain eminent political friend of ours [Burke] was wrong, in his maxim of sticking to a certain set of men on all occasions. "I can see that a man may do right to stick to a party," said he; "that is to say, he is a Whig, or he is a Tory, and he thinks one of those parties upon the whole the best, and that to make it prevail, it must be generally supported, though, in particulars, it may be wrong. He takes its faggot of principles, in which there are fewer rotten sticks than in the other, though some rotten sticks to be sure; and they cannot be well separated. But, to blind one's self to one man, or one set of men (who may be right to-day and wrong to-morrow), without any general preference of system, I must disapprove."

"...But the greater, far the greater number of those who rave and rail [against the government], and inquire and accuse, neither suspect nor fear, nor care for the publick; but hope to force their way to riches, by virulence and invective, and are vehement and clamorous, only that they may be sooner hired to be silent."

"A man sometimes starts up a patriot, only by disseminating discontent, and propagating reports of secret influence, of dangerous counsels, of violated rights, and encroaching usurpation. This practice is no certain note of patriotism. To instigate the populace with rage beyond the provocation, is to suspend publick happiness, if not to destroy it. He is no lover of his country, that unnecessarily disturbs its peace. Few errours and few faults of government, can justify an appeal to the rabble; who ought not to judge of what they cannot understand, and whose opinions are not propagated by reason, but caught by contagion."

"Of all kinds of credulity, the most obstinate and wonderful is that of political zealots; of men, who being numbered, they know not how or why, in any of the parties that divide a state, resign the use of their own eyes and ears, and resolve to believe nothing that does not favor those whom they profess to follow."

"Forms of government are seldom the result of much deliberation; they are framed by chance in popular assemblies, or in conquered countries by despotic authority. Laws are often occasional, often capricious, made always by a few, and sometimes by a single voice. Nations have changes their characters; slavery is now no where more patiently endured, than in countries once inhabited by the zealots of liberty."

"There are minds which easily sink into submission, that look on grandeur with undistinguishing reverence, and discover no defect where there is elevation of rank and affluence of riches."

"The great community of mankind is necessarily broken into smaller independent societies; these form distinct interests, which are too frequently opposed to each other, and which they who have entered into the league of particular governments falsely think it virtue to promote, however destructive to the happiness of the rest of the world."

"He that changes his party by his humour is not more virtuous than he that changes it by his interest; he loves himself rather than truth."

"He that shall peruse the political pamphlets of any past reign will wonder why they were so eagerly read, or so loudly praised. Many of the performances which had power to inflame factions, and fill a kingdom with confusion, have now very little effect upon a frigid critic; and the time is coming when the compositions of later hirelings shall lie equally despised. In proportion as those who write on temporary subjects are exalted above their merit at first, they are afterwards depressed below it; nor can the brightest elegance of diction, or most artful subtilty of reasoning, hope for much esteem from those whose regard is no longer quickened by curiosity or pride." ................ (prepared by Hugh Murray on 2/17/2019) .

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This page hopes to bring a common sense, old fashioned view to today's news. The comments displayed on this page were prepared by Hugh V. Murray, who can be reached at hvm@aol.com