"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 6, Number 8, August 2003
“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.
For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;
Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.
I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.
I will show partiality to no one. Nor will I flatter any man.”
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address. Back issues sent on request. Some may also be downloaded at http://www.tegart.com/brian/bible/kjvonly. Articles on the King James Bible controversy and recent issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org
All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only. Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand. Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]
Idle, Unproductive “Spectator” Church Members
“My dear hearers, specially you members of the church, I am always so anxious lest any of you should begin to lie upon your oars, and take things easy in the matters of God’s kingdom. There are some of you--I bless you, and I bless
God at the remembrance of you--who are in season, and out of season, in earnest for winning souls, and you are the truly wise: but I fear there are others whose hands are slack, who are satisfied to let me preach, but do not preach themselves; who take these seats, and occupy these pews, and hope the cause goes well, but that is all they do.”
---Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit
vol. 15, 1869, p. 35
It was always a challenge for me to carry on a conversation with Bill. His working life was spent in the generator room of a power utility in Western Pennsylvania, and his hearing was 90% gone. A decade after retirement, he and his wife moved to Kansas to be near their only child, a daughter, whose husband had settled in Wichita after leaving the Air Force.
Bill’s house was built and occupied a year before mine, right next door. He and his wife were our only neighbors when we bought our house in the new development, and they remained our neighbors for nearly sixteen years. Until June of this year, when Bill died at age 92.
Over the past 16 years, Bill had sharpened my mower blades on a regular basis--always looking over his glasses at me when he saw the terrible condition I had let my blades get into. And I had cleaned out his gutters--no point in risking the loss of a good neighbor due to a fall from a ladder, and besides, the leaves were all from my cottonwoods and redbuds. He cut boards to length for me for some shelving I was building (for books; what else?), and I cut down and hauled off some nearly dead mulberries growing along his back property line. Once I dug out about half a ton of old concrete curbing buried in his front yard.
I regularly shoveled snow from his driveway--except for the times that he got to it first; as recently as this past winter, he came out to clear his drive almost immediately after I got started on it. With difficulty I got him to stop after five minutes and go back in the house. Once, a couple years ago, when I couldn’t get to my drive right away, HE came over and cleared it. Invariably, when I finished with his drive, he’d asked, “How much do I owe you, son?” And I’d either reply “$1,000” or I’d remind him that he hadn’t yet sent me a bill for the last time he’d sharpened my mower blade.
In those 16 years, money changed hands only once--and that was when I spent a full week painting his house. And a harsh word or hard feelings never once passed between us.
Bill always showed interest in our children, wanting to hear how they were doing in school, sports, employment. He liked to joke and tease them. And when I was away in my travels to Eastern Europe, I had a bit more peace of mind knowing that Bill was helping keep an eye on the place during my absence.
Never vigorous but always steady, Bill began to fade a bit the last couple of years. He had slipped on winter ice on the way to the mailbox three winters back and spent several weeks in the hospital recovering. It was no small surprise that he survived that ordeal. And then just last year, as he was pulling into the garage, his foot apparently slipped off the brake onto the gas pedal, resulting in almost $4,000 damage to the house and car. It is not certain that he hadn’t temporarily blacked out.
In the Spring of this year, he was hospitalized with a build up of fluid around his heart and in his lungs. He came home, with daily hospice care, and occasionally sat in the garage or on the porch. In mid-May, we spoke for the last time. He had labored for about 10 minutes to walk with a cane the 50 feet to my front door. We sat on a bench and we talked--I having to increase my volume or repeat myself more than once so he could understand. He asked about our son in the Marines, and was glad to hear that he was doing well. He told me of his health problems. And he spoke about eternity. He told me that he knew--and believed--what the Bible said was necessary to go to heaven, but, he admitted, he just didn’t have assurance. Coming from a Methodist background (and Bill and his wife were every-Sunday Methodists in church attendance), it is likely that he had been told that assurance was not possible; I myself, though from a Baptist background, had been taught the same error, and wrestled incessantly with the issue for 18 troublesome months many years ago. I could do no more than encourage Bill to simply trust fully what God said, because God is inherently trustworthy.
When our conversation ended after twenty minutes, I helped him slowly back to his house. That was the last I saw of him. His son-in-law walked over one Sunday afternoon soon thereafter and told us that Bill had died that day. The burial was in Pennsylvania in mid-week. The family has been packing up things for several weeks now. Bill’s widow has already moved in with the daughter and son-in-law. Soon, the house will be sold, and there will be new neighbors. Life will go on, but it won’t be quite the same.
“In the Fullness of Time”:
God’s Providence in the Timing of Jesus’ First Coming
James Hope Moulton (1863-1917) was the son of Wesleyan Methodist scholar William F. Moulton (1835-98) who was himself a noted Greek scholar (co-author with A. S. Geden of a concordance of the Greek NT, and author of The History of the English Bible [5th ed., 1911], the best single volume on the subject; W.F. Moulton was appointed to the ERV NT translation committee, 1870-1881, and was by far its youngest member). The younger Moulton, like his father thoroughly conservative in doctrine, is most famous for his published works on the language of the NT. He wrote at the time of a revolution in the thinking of scholars regarding the language of the NT. Greek papyrii manuscripts of a broad spectrum of everyday writings dating to the centuries before and after Christ had been discovered and published shortly before the beginning of the 20th century, and it almost immediately became apparent that the Greek of the NT was not a special dialect of “Jewish Greek” or “Holy Spirit Greek” (common earlier opinions) but the common (“koine”) Greek of the first century, employed for the purpose of teaching theological subjects. J. H. Moulton’s labors in England paralleled in time those of A. T. Robertson in America, as both sought to understand the NT in the new light of the Greek papyrii.
J. H. Moulton’s contribution included volume I of A Grammar of New Testament Greek (volumes II and III were completed by others after his death). He co-authored with George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament Illustrated from the Papyrii. He also published From Egyptian Rubbish Heaps (1917), a delightful little book that discusses in a popular way how the Greek papyrii cast important light on the meaning of the NT. Moulton died from exposure while returning home from India when his ship was torpedoed by a German u-boat in the Mediterranean.
In his grammar, Moulton noted the providential convergence of forces at play in the coming of Christ--
“The historian marks the fact that the Gospel began its career of conquest at the one period in the world’s annals when civilisation was concentrated under a single ruler. The grammarian adds this was the only period when a single language was understood throughout the countries which counted for the history of that Empire. The historian and the grammarian must of course refrain from talking about “Providence.” They would be suspected of ‘an apologetic bias’ or ‘an edifying tone,’ and that is necessarily fatal to any reputation for scientific attainment. We will only remark that some old-fashioned people [among whom Moulton no doubt counted himself--ed.] are disposed to see in these facts a semeion [Greek for “sign,” or “miracle”] in its way as instructive as the Gift of Tongues.”
James Hope Moulton
A Grammar of New Testament Greek
(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1908. 3rd edition)
vol. I, Prolegomena, p. 6
Marsden, George M., Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1987. 319 pp.
No American theological seminary of whatever doctrinal stripe has exceeded Fuller Theological Seminary in the amount of notoriety it garnered in the last half of the 20th century. From its inception in 1947 to the present, Fuller has been regularly "in the news." This in part is to be explained by the fact that Christianity Today has had close ties with Fuller (Billy Graham, a long-time trustee of Fuller, was founder of CT. Two founding Fuller faculty, Carl F. H. Henry, and Harold Lindsell, have been editors of CT). But it is also due to the unexampled rapidity with which the seminary departed radically from its original doctrinal position, abandoning the faith it was founded to defend in less than 15 years.
Fuller, the brainchild of radio evangelist Charles Fuller, with the encouragement and co-operation of Boston-area pastor Harold J. Ockenga, was begun in 1947 in Pasadena, California. It was designed to be a stalwart defender of the great fundamental doctrines of the faith, after the manner of the old Princeton Seminary (before it yielded to the forces of apostasy). It was intended to be the rallying point of a strong intellectual apologetic for the Gospel, first on the West Coast of America were no first class seminary existed, then on a larger scale for the whole country, and ultimately the world. Apostate American Protestantism was to be rewon to the faith by being confronted with the reasonableness of Biblical teaching. The professors would write great books that would earn the intellectual respect of the apostate denominations, and ultimately bring them back into the orthodox fold.
At the same time, the seminary would expressly reject the militancy and separatism of American Fundamentalism. While the doctrines would be the same, the method and manner would be radically different: no denunciation of apostates or withdrawal from apostate churches or denominations. Rather, there would be a striving for intellectual respectability, "dialoging" (of the more than one million words in the English language, I believe I hate this word the most!) and seeking common ground and mutual understanding.
An impressive early faculty was assembled, and more highly-educated men were added. But it was on this very point that the seeds of destruction were planted. Early on, Hungarian Protestant scholar, Bela Vassady was invited to join the faculty because his presence would enhance the seminary's standing in the eyes of mainline Protestantism. Though Fuller was committed to Biblical inerrancy, Vassady did not subscribe to this doctrine. He did not complete 2 years at the school before pressure on this point led him to leave, to the embarrassment of the institution, and the belief by some among the growing faculty and among the trustees that insistence on inerrancy was a hindrance to the school's well-being(!).
The doctrinal drift of Fuller can be traced in three stages, the presidencies of Ockenga (1947-1958), Edward J. Carnell (1958-1964), and David Hubbard (1964 onward). Under Ockenga (president in absentia), the school began fundamental in doctrine, though faculty were added who could not have honestly signed the required doctrinal statement. Under Carnell, the drift became more pronounced, and under Hubbard, it became complete. The original faculty were all or nearly all Presbyterian or Baptist, pre-millennial, inclined toward dispensationalism, and firmly committed to inerrancy.
Additional faculty were added as the school grew, and the original faculty's staunch conservatism gave way to men educated in part at now largely-apostate Princeton and in Europe in neo-orthodoxy. Among these was Charles Fuller's son Daniel. He attended, with his parents' blessing, Princeton Seminary which had abandoned the Westminster Confession standards, and then studied three years with Karl Barth. He returned an apostate from the inerrantist and pre-millennial views of his father, and which were required of all faculty. Yet, he became dean of the seminary. Under Hubbard, the departure from the original doctrinal foundation became firmly entrenched, with denial of inerrancy, feminist and pro-homosexuality views, and erosion of biblical standards of conduct and morality (especially concerning use of alcohol) becoming widespread (though not universal) among faculty and students.
When it became apparent that the foundation of inerrancy was gone, virtually all the original faculty left Fuller for other institutions in 1963-1964. The situation had become intolerable, and so they practiced the ecclesiastical separation Fuller had repudiated at its founding. Ironic, indeed.
By the late 1970s and into the 1980s, another doctrinal aberration appeared: a significant percentage of Fuller students and faculty held strongly charismatic views (a "signs and wonders" class was offered, in which these were not only studied, but practiced!). Rather unlike the old Princeton theology once visualized.
Fuller has grown to immense size (over 1,200) students and has added schools of missions and psychology. A Fuller degree has become, at least in some circles, a very prestigious thing, and its influence certainly exceeds any other seminary in the Western U. S. But it is not and has not been for more than three decades the staunch defender of Biblical orthodoxy that it was originally intended to be. What was the road that led to doctrinal decay?
Fuller was founded with a commitment to Bible doctrine, but with a repudiation of Bible practice, namely, Fuller rejected the Bible mandate to separate from apostasy, and to confront and expose it. Rather, Fuller sought to impress apostates with "the wisdom of this world," with intellectualism. Academic respectability became the all-important consideration, and as a result, prestigious faculty were sought, even when they were not in conformity with the seminary's doctrine. Further, faculty were sought who had prestigious degrees from the "right" schools, and who had studied abroad with "leading theologians." Strange that Fuller was founded in part because of apostasy at Princeton, and yet faculty with Princeton degrees were sought, or that neo-orthodoxy was one of the targets of Fuller's scholarly refutations, yet Barth was deemed a suitable mentor for prospective faculty. "Oh judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason."
Doctrine soon become "open for discussion," and then was rejected as "intellectually indefensible." Doctrine was surrendered in the name of "intellectual honesty," as though the natural man can receive the things of the Spirit of God. Refusal to follow Bible practice eventually led to abandonment of Bible doctrine.
Marsden is a first-rate writer. A professor first at Calvin College, then at Trinity, and now at Duke, he is thorough in his research and clear in his presentation. His books are eminently "readable," though densely written (containing much information in a small compass). An admitted sympathizer with Fuller's original intention of abandoning Fundamentalist practice, Marsden is nevertheless largely objective in his account.
Though given access to virtually all records at Fuller, including notes of faculty meetings, correspondence, et al., Marsden was not lured into writing a "puff piece" for Fuller. He does not gloss the seriousness of the changes at Fuller, or conceal the hypocrisy and inconsistency of faculty in professing one doctrine but believing another. The troubles and turmoil at the school at various stages in its "pilgrimage" are frankly presented and analyzed.
Erosion of a dike begins with a single particle of soil. Doctrinal erosion begins with a single article of the faith, and is aggravated by either the lack of attentiveness or of concern to be vigilant in guarding the truth from insidious attack. Fuller’s fate has instruction for fundamentalists today.
KRAKATOA, THE DAY THE WORLD EXPLODED: August 27, 1883, by Simon Winchester. New York: Harper Collins, 2003. 416pp., hardback. $25.95
The most famous volcanic eruption in recorded history is that detailed in this book, the August 27-28,1883 explosion of Krakatoa, an ever-active volcano in the narrow Sunda Strait separating the western end of the Island of Java from the southeastern end of the island of Sumatra in the archipelago between southeast Asia and Australia. This eruption is always spoken of with superlatives--the loudest and most distant sound ever reported on earth (it was heard nearly 3,000 miles away on an island in the Indian Ocean), the most people killed by a volcanic eruption (more 36,000, including a woman more than 2,000 miles away who was drowned by a tidal surge caused by the volcano), the most destructive (chiefly due to the massive tsunamis--so-called “tidal waves”--generated, some of which were well more than 100 feet high and traveled inland at 100 miles per hour), and more. Beyond these, a detectable barometric shock wave of atmospheric pressure reverberated around the globe and back seven times at more than 600 miles per hour, and ocean tides were affected as far away as the entrance to the English Channel, more than 11, 000 miles away. Some six cubic miles of material were ejected from the volcano--some of it reaching 24 miles or more into the atmosphere in a series of four explosions, the last of which annihilated the island of Krakatoa (a new island has grown and is growing in its place--Anak Krakatoa, “Son of Krakatoa,” a very active volcano in its own right). Dust in the atmosphere circled the globe and persisted for several years, affecting weather and creating spectacular sunsets.
The book is far more than a chronicle of the famous eruption and its aftermath. Rather, the author goes into the political history of the region, describing how the Europeans came into contact with the region in the 15th and 16th centuries, established trade in exotic items such as black pepper, various spices, tropical woods and other products, and set up colonial rule that last into the 20th century. This is important in as much as the reports of Krakatoa’s explosion in 1883 were almost immediately transmitted to the world by European-born observers (often involved with the administration of colonial rule) via the recently laid underwater telegraph cables--which the author describes as the first “internet” (he describes at some length the process by which this international telegraphic web was set up). Likely, it was the immediacy of the first-hand, eye-witness reports of Krakatoa’s eruption that made the story so compelling and has accounted for its lasting fame.
The reader gets a short course in the macro-processes of moving tectonic plates, subduction zones, and the like (first proposed in the 1960s and now almost universally accepted) which are the geologic explanation for why Krakatoa existed where it did/ does and why it erupted with such vehemence.
And after detailing the events of 1883 and their immediate aftermath, he describes the gratuitous use by Islamic clerics of these geological events to incite murderous uprisings against the “infidel” Europeans (sure, Islam is a religion of peace, and always has been!).
The post-eruption gradual repopulating of this volcanic waste is detailed: the arrival of insects, plants--grasses, trees, even orchids--, birds, reptiles and eventually some mammals is noted, an interesting study in rapid transformation of a sterile waste into a thriving and increasing complex ecosystem.
The author (whose book on the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, titled The Professor and the Madman, was favorably reviewed in AISI 3:7) had his under-graduate training in geology, a fortuitous occurrence. Not surprisingly, the volume makes all the usual evolutionary assumptions--an old earth, some 4-plus billion years old; the early earth hot, dry and volcanic; life evolving first in the oceans; etc. The author includes in his volume some account of the life of Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), the English naturalist who preceded Darwin by a few months in his proposal of “survival of the fittest” as the mechanism for the presumed process of biological evolution. Wallace spent many years in the region studying plants and animals (in a telling comment--the impact of which the author fails to see--is that Wallace first arrived at his theory during the hallucinations caused by a bout of jungle fever! p. 59).
The author takes a wholly unfair swipe at creationists, when he declares, “Aside from the barest murmurs of dissent from groups of present-day fundamentalists, creation scientists and flat-earthers, the entire scientific world now happily acknowledges that Wegener, whom all once thought a crank was in essence right.” The Wegener in question was Alfred Wegener (1880-1930), a German meteorologist and explorer who first proposed the idea of continental drift (a concept inseparably tied to plate tectonics), and a primordial super-continent, now labeled “Pangea.” Winchester’s comment is unfair--even malicious--because 1. to my knowledge, no leading Fundamentalist or creationist denies the probability of plate tectonics or the notion of a super-continent (there would of course be disagreement about proposed dating schemes and time frames); there is certainly nothing in the general theory that is in conflict with Biblical or scientific evidence; 2. there is not a single creationist or Fundamentalist who is a “flat-earther.” This is pure caricature. The reason we are not “flat-earthers” is because of demonstrable scientific evidence--repeatable observations and measurements which prove irrefutably the spherical shape of the earth. And it is for this very reason that we are compelled to reject the hypothesis of biological evolution--there are no observable occurrences of transformation from one species into another, nor any observable or even persuasive hypothetical mechanism for its occurrence. In short--there is a massive absence of evidence, and we therefore are compelled by the facts in hand (and many lines of evidence standing in contradiction to it) to deny the validity of biological macro-evolution.
In spite of its shortcomings (besides the above, there are a few absolute “howlers” of mis-statement), the book has some real merits. First, it demonstrates indirectly the tragic consequences of the failure of so-called “Christian” countries such as Holland and England to encourage or even allow the propagation of the Gospel in colonial possessions (remember how William Carey was prohibited by English officials from spreading the Gospel in India; the same kind of prohibition prevailed among Dutch colonies as well). Islam had been introduced into Java only as recently as the 13th century; had the true Gospel been taken there along with the early traders, Indonesia might not be the world’s largest Moslem nation, with some 180 million adherents. Of course, virtually the only “Christians” these Moslems encountered were those in name only, but whose real “gods” were money, power and pleasure.
Second, the eruption of Krakatoa, its violence and consequences are in truth a mere small scale example of the kind of massive vulcanism that must have accompanied the great Flood (Genesis 6-8) when “the fountains of the deep were broken up” (Genesis 7:11) at the beginning of the Flood. This would have spawned widespread vulcanism which would have been massive and continuous (gradually declining over time up to the present day), creating massive erosion with heavy sedimentation of both landmass and ejecta, causing tsumanis of remarkable proportion, creating substantial subsidence of the land masses into the rising ocean, releasing massive amounts of “new” water to the earth’s surface, spewing so-called greenhouse gases in massive quantities into the atmosphere and more. If “little” Krakatoa would create the destruction it did, what would be the global effects of dozens of super-Krakatoas? Such was the world at the time of the Flood.
Likewise, the re-population of the remnants of Krakatoa (and the new island Anak Krakatoa) after their obliteration is a paradigm in miniature of the re-population of the globe after the Flood. Winchester seems to say (p. 366) that the re-populating of these islands is a “demonstration” of the “endless trail of evolutionary progress.” Of course it is nothing of the kind. All the organisms were “imports” or “migrants” from other nearby islands--some coming by air, some by water. The so-called “lowest” forms of life did not arise spontaneously, nor did these transform into any higher forms. All these organisms existed before the re-population, and none is a product of changes in any others. In short, there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that evolution had any part whatsoever in the re-populating of these islands--except the gratuitous assumption of evolution, even where it clearly does not and could not exist. There has indeed been an ecological “evolution” in the sense that the mix and varieties of plants and animals has changed over time as new species have arrived and become established (the same kind of diachronic transformation that takes place on an abandoned farm--cultivated crops being supplanted by annual weeds which give way to perennial grasses which in turn give way to trees, with an accompanying change n the mix of insect, reptile, bird and mammal species as habitats develop and disappear). But there is no biological evolution involved.
Unquestionably, a broad variety of plants and plant seeds would have survived the Genesis Flood in floating masses of vegetation, or mixed in with upper layers of sediment--close enough to the surface to sprout--and these would sprout when the waters receded (cf. Genesis 8:11), in sediment far-less sterile than the ash and lava of Krakatoa. So, too, many water birds and swimming reptiles would have so survived, plus a broad spectrum of insects, to say nothing of fungi, algae and bacteria. In short order--a matter of decades, as at Krakatoa,--the surface of the earth would again sport a mantel of increasingly diverse green plants, and the population of animals would rise dramatically, even if beginning with mere pairs of each species (apparently a pair of rats were unintentionally transported by boat to Krakatoa; their off-spring soon filled the place to over-flowing, which soon brought predatory birds in abundance).
Lastly, the complete uncontrollability by man of such massive forces of nature should humble us. While Anak Krakatoa can be and is continuously monitored (as are most active volcanoes), should a massive eruption threaten, mankind could do nothing more than issue a warning and attempt to flee from the destruction zone. Not a single thing could be done to prevent the eruption of Anak Krakatoa, or Pele, or Mount St. Helens or any other volcano. Man in his smallness and weakness is thereby exposed.
Something Happens When Churches Pray by Warren W. Wiersbe. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1984. 143 pp., paperback.
Originally presented as radio addresses on the “Back to the Bible” broadcast, these 15 brief chapters address the subject of prayer in the books of Acts (to which there are some thirty specific references), and an analysis of the Lord’s Prayer. The treatment is simple and plain, and worthy of attention. The believers in Acts accomplished things unduplicated in subsequent history, and a major reason is the central place prayer had in their daily lives. Food for thought here.
Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson by Hesther Lynch Piozzi. Edited, with an introduction by S. C. Roberts. New York: Arno Press, 1980 reprint. 196 pp., hardback.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), famous 18th century British essayist, lexicographer and conversationalist has been the subject of numerous biographies, some by contemporaries, many more by later scholars. Far and away, the most famous biography of Johnson written by one of his contemporaries is that authored by James Boswell. Indeed, Boswell’s Life of Johnson is often lauded as the first real biography--and still the best--ever written, about anyone’s life at any time. It is truly a great production about a great subject, and remains in print to this very day, existing in dozens of different editions and formats. Indeed, so extraordinary was the reception of Boswell’s account that it soon cast into almost complete obscurity two other meritorious though inferior works by two personal acquaintances of Johnson--two who in fact knew Johnson personally either longer or more fully than Boswell. I speak of Sir John Hawkins (1719-1789) who wrote The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., and the present work under review by Hester Thrale Piozzi. Hawkins had known Johnson more than 35 years, had been associated with him in London literary circles, was an executor of Johnson’s estate, and published Johnson’s works in 10 volumes. Mrs. Piozzi, like Boswell, knew Johnson for the last 21years of Johnson’s life, but for 18 of those years had Johnson as an almost continuous house-guest, thereby seeing much more of the private Johnson than Boswell. Piozzi is much more frank in her critiques of Johnson’s conduct and manner, not boundlessly idolizing him as Boswell did. There was very much rivalry, jealousy, even hatred among Johnson’s contemporary biographers, with Boswell displaying the most unmingled scorn for his competitors.
Though immensely inferior to Boswell’s account and very often covering the same ground, Hawkins’ Johnson nevertheless occasionally reports incidents and sayings of Johnson that Boswell missed, and in some details of Johnson’s earliest years, Hawkins is the more accurate writer. On the other hand Piozzi’s account is almost wholly distinct in content from Boswell, with most of the incidents and conversations given by her alone. Her work is marred by a certain degree of self-justification regarding a falling out with Johnson late in his life.
The true Johnsonian--and I proudly confess to being a devotee--will wish to have and read Piozzi’s compilation, among the other lives of Johnson, contemporaneous and more modern.
Quotes from Piozzi’s Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson--
“To recollect, however, and to repeat the sayings of Dr. Johnson, is almost all that can be done by the writers of his life; as his life, at least since my acquaintance with him, consisted in little else than talking, when he was not absolutely employed in some serious piece of work; and whatever work he did, seemed so much below his powers of performance, that he appeared the idlest of all human beings; ever musing till he was called out to converse, and conversing till the fatigue of his friends, or the promptitude of his own temper to take offense, consigned him back again to silent meditation.” (p. 18)
“Our Doctor, however, displayed so copious, so compendious a knowledge of authors, books, and every branch of learning in that language [i.e., Greek], that the gentleman appeared astonished.” (p. 38)
“The piety of Dr. Johnson was exemplary and edifying: he was punctiliously exact to perform every public duty enjoined by the church, and his spirit of devotion had an energy that affected all who ever saw him pray in private. The coldest and most languid hearers of the word must have felt themselves animated by his manner of reading the Holy Scriptures. . . .” (p. 61)
“The settled aversion Dr. Johnson felt towards an infidel he expressed to all ranks, and at all times, without the smallest reserve; for though on common occasions he paid great deference to birth or title, yet his regard for truth and virtue never gave way to meaner considerations. We talked of a dead wit one evening, and somebody praised him--‘Let us never praise talents so ill employed, Sir; we foul our mouths by commending such infidels.’ “ (pp. 62-3)
“Of a Jamaican gentleman, then lately dead--‘He will not, whither he is now gone (said Johnson), find much difference, I believe, either in the climate or the company.’ “ (p. 63)
“No one ever had higher notions of the hard task of true Christianity than Johnson, whose daily terror lest he had not done enough, originated in piety, but ended in little less than disease. Reasonable with regard to others, he had formed vain hopes of performing impossibilities himself; and finding his good works ever below his desires and intent, filled his imagination with fears that he should never obtain forgiveness for omissions of duty and criminal waste of time. These ideas kept him in constant anxiety concerning his salvation.” (p. 74)
“There was a Mr. Boyce . . . of whose ingenuity and distress I heard Dr. Johnson tell some curious anecdotes; particularly, that when he was almost perishing with hunger, and some money was produced to purchase him a dinner, he got a bit of roast beef, but could not eat it without ketchup, and laid out the last half-guinea he possessed in truffles and mushrooms, eating them in bed too, for want of clothes, or even a shirt to sit up in.” (p. 79)
“We must either outlive our friends you know, or our friends must outlive us; and I see no man that would hesitate about the choice.” (p. 80)
“Mr. Johnson loved late hours extremely, or more properly hated early ones. Nothing was more terrifying to him that the idea of retiring to bed, which he never would call going to rest, or suffer another to call so. ‘I lie down (said he) than my acquaintance may sleep; but I lie down to endure oppressive misery, and soon rise again to pass the night in anxiety and pain.’ ” (p. 81; and he meant chiefly mental pain--editor)
“Of Dr. Johnson, when my father and he [i.e., the artist William Hogarth] were talking together about him one day: That man (says Hogarth) is not contented with believing the Bible, but fairly resolves, I think, to believe nothing but the Bible.” (p. 90)
“I asked him upon this, if he ever disputed with his wife? (I heard that he loved her passionately). ‘Perpetually (said he); my wife had a particular reverence for cleanliness, and desired the praise of neatness in her dress and furniture, as many ladies do, till they become troublesome to their best friends, slaves to their own besoms [brooms], and only sigh for the hour of sweeping their husbands out of the house as dirt and useless lumber: a clean floor is so comfortable, she would say sometimes, by way of twitting; till at last I told her, that I thought we had had talk enough about the floor, we would now have a touch at the ceiling.’ “ (p. 96)
“He often delighted to say of Edmund Burke, ‘that you could not stand five minutes with that man beneath a shed while it rained but you must be convinced you had been standing with the greatest man you had ever yet seen.’ “ (p. 135)
“. . . a life of seventy years [actually seventy-five] spent in the uniform practice of every moral excellence and every Christian perfection, save humility alone, says a critic. . . . Lowly towards God, and docile towards the church; implicit in his belief the people appointed to preach it; tender to the unhappy, and affectionate to the poor, let no one hastily condemn as proud, a character which may perhaps somewhat justly be censured as arrogant.” (p. 142)
“He liberally confessed that all his own disappointments proceeded from himself.” (p. 161)
“Mr. Johnson indeed always measured other people’s notions of every thing by his own, and nothing could persuade him to believe that the books which he disliked were agreeable to thousands, or that air and exercise which he despised were beneficial to the health of other mortals.” (p. 167)
“Books without the knowledge of life are useless (I heard him say) for what should books teach but the art of living?” (p. 171)