Thursday, June 28, 2012


The Spirit of Controversy

Samuel Johnson, Sermons XXIII (on James 3.16)
Whenever, therefore, we find the teacher jealous of the honour of his sect, and apparently more solicitous to see his opinions established than approved, we may conclude that he has added envy to his zeal; and that he feels more pain from the want of victory, than pleasure from the enjoyment of truth....All violence, beyond the necessity of self-defence, is incited by the desire of humbling the opponent, and, whenever it is applied to the decision of religious questions, aims at conquest, rather than conversion.
Samuel Johnson, Rambler No. 56 (Saturday, September 29, 1750):
Even though no regard be had to the external consequences of contrariety and dispute, it must be painful to a worthy mind to put others in pain, and there will be danger lest the kindest nature may be vitiated by too long a custom of debate and contest.
Samuel Johnson, Life of Sir Thomas Browne:
Men may differ from each other in many religious opinions, and yet all may retain the essentials of Christianity; men may sometimes eagerly dispute, and yet not differ much from one another: the rigorous persecutors of errour should, therefore, enlighten their zeal with knowledge, and temper their orthodoxy with charity; that charity without which orthodoxy is vain; charity that "thinketh no evil," but "hopeth all things," and "endureth all things."
James Fordyce, Addresses to the Deity (London: T. Cadell, 1785), pp 209-232 = Address VI: On the Death of Dr. Samuel Johnson (at 215):
Then it was, that I heard him condemn, with holy self-abasement, the pride of understanding by which he had often trespassed against the laws of courteous demeanour, and forgotten the fallible condition of his nature. Then it was, that I heard him with ingenuous freedom, commend the virtues of forbearance and moderation in matters of belief, as more conformable to reason, and to the Gospel of thy Son, than he had long conceived.

Carl Spitzweg, Disputierende Mönche

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