437) Samuel Johnson on Growing Old


Samuel Johnson  (1709-1784)


We entangle ourselves in business and immerse ourselves in luxury,… until the darkness of old age begins to invade us, and disease and anxiety obstruct our way.  We then look back upon our lives with horror, with sorrow, with repentance; and too often vainly wish that we had not forsaken the ways of virtue.       —Rambler #65 (1750)
 We shall all by degrees certainly be old, and therefore we ought to inquire what provision can be made against that time of distress; what happiness can be stored up against the winter of life; and how we may pass our latter years with serenity and cheerfulness…  Faith in God is the only proper and adequate relief of decaying man.  He that grows old without religious hopes, as he declines into imbecility, and feels pains and sorrows incessantly crowding upon him, falls into a gulf of bottomless misery, in which every reflection must plunge him deeper, and where he finds only new gradations of anguish and precipices of horror.    —Rambler #69 (November 13, 1750)
 It may be observed in general that the future is purchased by the present.  It is not possible to secure distant or permanent happiness but by the forbearance of some immediate gratification.  This is so evidently true with regard to the whole of our existence that all precepts of theology have no other tendency than to enforce a life of faith; a life regulated not by our senses but by our belief; a life in which pleasures are to be refused for fear of invisible punishments, and calamities sometimes to be sought, and always endured, in hope of rewards that shall be obtained in another state. —Rambler #178 (November 30, 1751)
 To men of hardened hearts, God is not inattentive.  They are often called to the remembrance of their Creator, both by blessings and afflictions; by recoveries from sickness, by deliverances from danger, by loss of friends, and by miscarriage of transactions.   –Sermon III

Ecclesiastes 12:1  —  Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13  —  Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 

Proverbs 3:5-6  —  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 


    O Lord, who hast ordained labor to be the lot of man, and seest the necessities of all thy creatures, bless my endeavors.  Feed me with food convenient for me, and if it shall be thy good pleasure to entrust me with plenty, give me a compassionate heart, that I may be ready to relieve the wants of others.  Let neither poverty nor riches estrange my heart from Thee, but assist me with thy grace so to live as that I may die in thy favor…  Grant that I may use thy gifts to thy glory.  Forgive me the time misspent, relieve my perplexities, strengthen my resolution, and enable me to do my duty with vigor and constancy.  And when the fears and hopes, the pains and pleasure of this life shall have an end, receive me to everlasting happiness.  Amen.