Although there are many books on Johnson's moral and religious thought, none has provided a detailed analysis of his relationship with the ethics and theology of the eighteenth century. This study fills the gap, examining the background to Johnson's views on a wide range of issues debated by the philosophers and divines of his age. Avoiding deceptive generalizations concerning the overall character of the century, Nicholas Hudson emphasizes the ambivalence and
contradiction inherent in the orthodoxy which Johnson espoused. Yet this book also challenges the assumption that Johnson's religious beliefs were unstable and filled with anxiety. Whatever the weakness
of his positions, he gleaned strength and confidence from the belief that he upheld an eminent tradition in Christian philosophy.
`In seeking to confine Johnson's general and universal themes to the preoccupations of a particular time and place, Hudson has embarked on an ambitious venture , and the surprise is that he succeeds in it admirably.'
Times Higher Education Supplement
'this work is a welcome success'
David Womersley, Jesus College, Oxford, Review of English Studies
'constitutes a unique contribution to our understanding of Johnson and of eighteenth-century thought'
Gregory Scholtz, Wartburg College, Philological Quarterly
Part 1 Preserving the faith: the "sturdy prejudice" of eighteeneth-century orthodoxy; faith as a "rational assent"; free-thinking and "scoffers" at religion. Part 2 The decline of natural religion: "true" deism - the ambiguity of apologies; the being of and attributes of God; charity as a virtue exclusive to Christanity. Part 3 New trends in ethics: Johnson's "Christian Epicureanism"; free will. Part 4 Suffering and the universal: the correspondence between vice and suffering; "universal optimism" and divine government; stoicism and Christian patience. Part 5 Pride and the pursuit of applause: virtue as a deceitful contrivance of pride; the regulation of the love of fame and applause; social custom and immutable truth; Johnson's new standard of human greatness. Part 6 Christian charity in theory and practice: the Christian theory of charity; the importance of charity to salvation; eighteenth-century arguments against charity; Johnson and legal reform - debtors and capital punishment. Part 7 Doctrinal controversy: the idea of Christian perfection; the doctrines of original sin, grace, and repentance; the Christian ordinances - the form and the power of godliness. Part 8 The case against religious liberty: the utility of an established church; public order and the spirit of enquiry; "Hoadly's Paradox" and sincerity of private judgement; the conservative idea of political change.