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which I have a very great terror.” * His fears of death, or rather of the consequences which might result from it, appear to have been morbidly great; “he never," he told Mr. Boswell, a moment in which death was not terrible to him.” † To be confident of acceptance hereafter, would certainly be presumption; but such a horror of futurity as Johnson entertained, was, let us hope, never, in a state of perfect sanity, known to haunt the mind but of enormous guilt; and was, assuredly, in our great moralist, not the consequence of moral turpitude, but of organic infirmity.
The idea of preserving a mysterious communication with, and exerting some influence over the destiny of the departed, was cherished by Johnson with a species of awful delight. Hence his inclination to the doctrine of purgatory, and his belief in the utility of prayers for the dead.
It was highly consolatory to him, to suppose that a kind of spiritual intercourse might be permitted between the beings of this world and its former inhabitants; and it is evident, from his devotions, and occasional conversation, that he conceived a mutual influence to exist between himself and the spirit of his departed wife. Shortly after the
* Boswell's Life, vol. 4, p. 304. + Boswell's Life, vol. 3, p. 167.
lasting punishment, nor so good as to merit being admitted into the society of blessed spirits; and therefore that God is graciously pleased to allow of a middle state, where they may be purified by certain degrees of suffering. You see, Sir, there is nothing unreasonable in this." BoswELL. “ But then, Sir, their masses for the dead.” Johnson. “ Why, Sir, if it be once established, that there are souls in purgatory, it is as proper to pray for them, as for our brethren of mankind who are yet in this life.” *
The same turn of mind which led him to the adoption of a belief in purgatory, induced him to give too much credence, perhaps, to the probability of the re-appearance of the departed. It was his earnest wish to see, and to commune with, some being who had passed the limits of terrestrial life, who was granted to l'e-visit the light of day, and to dissipate some portion of that bitherto impenetrable gloom, which shrouds the secrets of the world to come. In his Rasselas, he first explicitly gave his opinion on this mysterious subject: “ that the dead are seen no more,” he remarks, “ I will not undertake to maintain, against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages, and of all nations. There is no people, rude or unlearned, among whom
* Vol. 2, p. 98.
obsolete superstition of Witchcraft. In addition to the
passage on Johnson's belief of the existence of witches, quoted from Mr. Boswell in page 291. of this volume, we have to relate, that at a party in Edinburgh, where witchcraft was again introduced, “ Mr. Crosbie said, he thought it the greatest blasphemy to suppose evil spirits counteracting the Deity, and raising storms, for instance, to destroy his creatures.- Johnson. “Why, sir, if moral evil be consistent with the government of the Deity, why may not physical evil be also consistent with it? It is not more strange that there should be evil spirits, than evil men: evil unembodied spirits, than evil embodied spirits. And as to storms, we know there are such things; and it is no worse that evil spirits raise them, than that they rise.”—Crosbie. " But it is not credible, that witches should have effected what they are said in stories to have done.” – Johnson. * Sir, I am not defending their credibility. I am only saying, that your arguments are not good, and will not overturn the belief of witchcraft.----(Dr. Ferguson said to me, (Mr. Boswell) aside, “He is right.') And then, sir, you have all mankind, rude and civilized, agreeing in the belief of the agency of preterna
You must take evidence: you must consider, that wise and great men have