Book review: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg
This is certainly a most intriguing book.
I’ve know about it for some time, but never dared to read it, because I had the impression that it would be a really dark book, and indeed it is. This book describes what happens if you take one part of doctrine to its extreme, in this case the idea of predestination, and what happens if someone is sure of God’s salvation. The devil comes and talks this person into doing more and more horrible things. Some of the devil’s advises remind me a bit of the screwtape letters of C.S. Lewis. But the devil in this book is much more successful, more subtle, and it is really not funny.
Because it is written from the perspective of the deceived person himself, you can really feel how confusing it is for him to grow more and more insane. This is what makes it so dark and scary to read. On the other hand, the book does make clear that there would have been a way out, if only he had listened better to his common sense, and had been more open to talk about what his ‘friend’ (the devil) advised him. What’s interesting, for example, is that every time before the culprit actually kills someone, the devil does give him some time alone, in which he almost comes to his senses. I think this shows how much we really do have a choice to stand up to temptations.
I do think the book has a function of drawing out how dangerous it is to take one point of doctrine into the extreme and never listen to common sense. This combination is rather self reinforcing, the more you go down that road.
So I found the first two thirds of the book really difficult to read, very sinister and gloomy, but then things take quite a turn, and the end is clearer. So, on the whole I would recommend this book, but only read it if you have someone to talk with.
Originally published on goodreads.