페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

quickly, and consequently it will be slight.” GOLD. 1773. SMITH. “ The nidification of birds is what is least

Ætat. 64. known in natural history, though one of the most curious things in it.”

I introduced the subject of toleration. JOHNSON.

Every society has a right to preserve publick peace and order, and therefore has a good right to prohibit the propagation of opinions which have a dangerous tendency. To say the magistrate has this right, is using an inadequate word : it is the society for which the magistrate is agent. He may be morally or theologically wrong in restraining the propagation of opinions which he thinks dangerous, but he is politically right.” Mayo. “I am of opinion, Sir, that every man is entitled to liberty of conscience in religion; and that the magistrate cannot restrain that right.” Johnson. “Sir, I agree with you. Every man has a right to liberty of conscience, and with that the magistrate cannot interfere. People confound liberty of thinking with liberty of talking ; nay, with liberty of preaching. Every man has a physical right to think as he pleases; for it cannot be discovered how he thinks. He has not a moral right, for he ought to inform himself, and think justly. But, Sir, no member of a society has a right to teach any doctrine contrary to what the society holds to be true. The magistrate, I say, may be wrong in what he thinks: but while he thinks himself right, he may and ought to enforce what he thinks." Mayo. “ Then, Sir, we are to remain always in errour, and truth never can prevail; and the magistrate was right in persecuting the first Christians.” JOHNSON. “Sir, the only method by which religious truth can be established is by mar

[blocks in formation]

1773. tyrdom. The magistrate has a right to enforce what

he thinks; and he who is conscious of the truth has Ætat. 64.

a right to suffer. I am afraid there is no other way
of ascertaining the truth, but by persecution on the
one hand and enduring it on the other.” GOLD-
SMITH. “But how is a man to act, Sir? Though
firmly convinced of the truth of his doctrine, may
he not think it wrong to expose himself to persecu-
tion? Has he a right to do so? Is it not, as it
were, committing voluntary suicide?” Johnson.
“Sir, as to voluntary suicide, as you call it, there
are twenty thousand men in an army who will go
without scruple to be shot at, and mount a breach
for five-pence a day.” GOLDSMITH. “But have
they a moral right to do this?" Johnson. “ Nay,
Sir, if you will not take the universal opinion of
mankind, I have nothing to say. If mankind can-
not defend their own way of thinking, I cannot de-
fend it. Sir, if a man is in doubt whether i would
be better for him to expose himself to martyrdom or
not, he should not do it. He must be convinced
that he has a delegation from heaven." GOLDSMITH.
" I would consider whether there is the greater
chance of good or evil upon the whole. If I see a
man who has fallen into a well, I would wish to help
him out; but if there is a greater probability that he
shall pull me in, than that I shall pull him out, I
would not attempt it. So were I to go to Turkey, I
might wish to convert the Grand Signor to the Chris-
tian faith ; but when I considered that I should pro-
bably be put to death without effectuating my pur-
pose in any degree, I should keep myself quiet.”
Johnson. “Sir, you must consider that we have per-
fect and imperfect obligations. Perfect obligations,

which are generally not to do something, are clear 1773. and positive; as,

thou shalt not kill.' But charity, Ætat. 67. for instance, is not definable by limits. It is a duty to give to the poor; but no man can say how much another should give to the poor, or when a man has given too little to save his soul. In the same manner it is a duty to instruct the ignorant, and of consequence to convert infidels to Christianity; but no man in the common course of things is obliged to carry tủis to such a degree as to incur the danger of martyrdom, as no man is obliged to strip himself to the shirt in order to give charity. I have said, that a man must be persuaded that he has a particular delegation from heaven.” GOLDSMITH. “How is this to be known ? Our first reformers, who were burnt for not believing bread and wine to be Christ”Johnson. (interrupting him,) “Sir, they were not burnt for not believing bread and wine to be CHRIST, but for insulting those who did believe it. And, Sir, when the first reformers began, they did not intend to be martyred: as many of them ran away as could.” Boswell. “ But, Sir, there was your countryman, Elwal, who you told me challenged King George with his black-guards, and his red-guards.” JOHN

My countryman, Elwal, Sir, should have been put in the stocks: a proper pulpit for him; and he'd have had a numerous audience. A man who preaches in the stocks will always have hearers enough.” Bos

“ But Elwal thought himself in the right.” Johnson. “ We are not providing for mad people; there are places for them in the neighbourhood," (meaning Moorfields.) Mayo. “ But, Sir, is it not very hard that I should not be allowed to teach my children what I really believe to be the truth?"

SON.

WELL.

1773. JOHNSON. "

Why, Sir, you might contrive to teach Ætat. 64. your children extrà scandalum ; but, Sir, the magis

trate, if he knows it, has a right to restrain you. Sup-
pose you teach your children to be thieves?” Mayo.
“ This is making a joke of the subject.” JOHNSON.
" Nay, Sir, take it thus :—that you teach them the
community of goods ; for which there are as many
plausible arguments as for most erroneous doctrines.
You teach them that all things at first were in com-
mon, and that no man had a right to any thing but
as he laid his hands upon it; and that this still is, or
ought to be, the rule amongst mankind. Here, Sir,
you sap a great principle in society,--property. And
don't you think the magistrate would have a right to
prevent you? Or, suppose you should teach your
children the notion of the Adamites, and they should
run naked into the streets, would not the magistrate
have a right to flog 'em into their doublets ?” Mayo.
“ I think the magistrate has no right to interfere till
there is some overt act.” BOSWELL. “So, Sir,
though he sees an enemy to the state charging a blun-
derbuss, he is not to interfere till it is fired off!”
Mayo. “ He must be sure of its direction against
the state." JOHNSON. “ The magistrate is to judge
of that.—He has no right to restrain your thinking,
because the evil centers in yourself. If a man were
sitting at this table, and chopping of his fingers, the
magistrate, as guardian of the community, has no au-
thority to restrain him, however he might do it from
kindness as a parent.—Though, indeed, upon more.
consideration, I think he may; as it is probable, that
he who is chopping off his own fingers, may soon
proceed to chop off those of other people. , If I think
it right to steal Mr. Dilly's plate, I am a bad man;

but he can say nothing to me. If I make an open 1773. declaration that I think so, he will keep me out of his

Ætat. 64. house. If I put forth my hand, I shall be sent to Newgate. This is the gradation of thinking, preaching, and acting : if a man thinks erroneously, he may keep his thoughts to himself, and nobody will trouble him : if he preaches erroneous doctrine, society may expel hiin ; if he acts in consequence of it, the law takes place, and he is hanged.” Mayo.“ But, Sir, ought not Christians to have liberty of conscience ; Johnson. “ I have already told you so, Sir. You are coming back to where you were." BOSWELL. “ Dr. Mayo is always taking a return post-chaise, and going the stage over again. He has it at half price.” Johnson. “ Dr. Mayo, like other champions for unlimited toleration, has got a set of words. Sir, it is no matter, politically, whether the magistrate be right or wrong. Suppose a club were to be formed, to drink confusion to King George the Third, and a happy restoration to Charles the Third ; this would be very bad with respect to the State ; but every member of that club must either conforın to its rules, or be turned out of it. Old Baxter, I remember, maintains, that the magistrate should tolerate all things that are tolerable.' This is no good definition of toleration upon any principle; but it shews that he thought some

4 Dr. Mayo's calm temper and steady perseverance, rendered him an admirable subject for the exercise of Dr. Johnson's powerful abilities. He never finched : but, after reiterated blows, remained seemingly unmoved at the first. The scintillations of Johnson's genius flashed every time he was struck, with. out his receiving any injury. Hence be obtained the epithet of THE LITERARY ANVIL.

« 이전계속 »