Study Guide

The Vanity of Human Wishes Religion

By Samuel Johnson

Religion

[...] petitions yet remain,
Which Heav'n may hear, nor deem religion vain. (349-350)

The speaker is saying that the only hope we have is to look to Heaven. Only God and our religious faith have the power to grant us what we wish.

Still raise for good the supplicating voice,
But leave to heav'n the measure and the choice (351-352)

We only have the power to ask for what we want, but only God can decide how and when we'll get it.

Safe in his pow'r, whose eyes discern afar
The secret ambush of a specious pray'r,
Implore his aid, in his decisions rest,
Secure whate'er he gives, he gives the best. (353-356)

Let's not try to fool God, okay? He's just too smart. He can tell when our prayers are "specious," or wrong-headed, and when they're good. We also have to trust in God: whatever he gives us is for the best.

These goods for man the laws of heav'n ordain,
These goods he grants, who grants the pow'r to gain (365-366)

Love, patience, and faith are among the few goods we can find in the world. And it's only God who can give them to us.

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