15 March 2016

A journey through Lent 2016
with Samuel Johnson (35)

Jeremy Taylor … regarded by Samuel Johnson as the best of “all the divines that have succeeded the fathers”

Patrick Comerford

During Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on words from Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield lexicographer and writer who compiled the first authoritative English-language dictionary.

In The Life of Samuel Johnson, Sir John Hawkins notes that Johnson constantly read his Greek New Testament, and was well read in Patristics or the writings of the Early Fathers of the Church, and was conversant with the works of the great Anglican writers, including Richard Hooker and the Caroline Divines, as well as The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.

At times when Johnson “was most distressed,” Hawkins recommended him to read Rules and Exercises of Holy Living and Dying by Jeremy Taylor, Bishop of Connor, Down and Dromore, and his Ductor Dubitantium.

Johnson regarded Jeremy Taylor as the best of “all the divines that have succeeded the fathers.” Johnson was a personal friend of one of Taylor’s successors, Bishop Thomas Percy of Dromore, and in his will left him some of his books. Some years ago [12 August 2009], I was invited to speak about Jeremy Taylor in the chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

Johnson once adapted these words by Taylor on preparation for receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion:

It is no great matter to live lovingly and good-natured, with humble and meek persons; but he that can do so with the froward, with the wilful, and the ignorant, with the peevish and perverse, he only hath true charity. Always remembering, that our true solid peace, the peace of God, consists rather in compliance with others, than in being complied with; in suffering and forbearing, rather than in contention and victory.

Continued tomorrow.

Yesterday’s reflection.

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