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Dr. Samuel Johnson: An Extraordinary Eulogy

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.



In This Vale of Tears

There were, doubtless, at all times, as there are now, many who lived with very little thought concerning their end; many whose time was wholly filled up by public, or domestic business, by the pursuits of ambition, or the desire of riches; many who dissolved themselves in luxurious enjoyments, and, when they could lull their minds by any present pleasure, had no regard to distant events, but withheld their imagination from sallying out into futurity, or catching any terror that might interrupt their quiet; and there were many who rose so little above animal life, that they were completely engrossed by the objects about them, and had their views extended no farther than to the next hour.



What Lies Beyond the Grave

All cannot live in the perpetual dissipation of successive diversions, nor will enslave their understandings to their senses, and seek felicity in the gross gratifications of appetite.

The approach of age, and the certainty of death; the approach of that time, in which strength must fail, and pleasure fly away, and the certainty of that dissolution which shall put an end to all prospects of this world.

Death has no man escaped, and therefore no man can hope to escape it.

This leads man to the consideration of his end; and accordingly we find, that the fear of death has always been considered as the great enemy of human quiet.



Beyond the Great Divide

This unwelcome conviction, which has been continually pressed upon the mind, every art has been employed to oppose.

The general remedy, in all ages, has been to chase it away from the present moment, and to gain a suspense of the pain that could not be cured.

To bring life and immortality to light, to give such proofs of our future existence, as may influence the most narrow mind, and fill the most capacious intellect, to open prospects beyond the grave, in which the thought may expatiate without obstruction, and to supply a refuge and support to the mind, amidst all the miseries of decaying nature, is the peculiar excellence of the gospel of Christ.



Thoughts After Attending a Funeral

It would not indeed be reasonable to expect, did we not know the inattention and perverseness of humankind, that anyone who had followed a funeral, could return home without new resolutions of a holy life; for, who can see the final period of all human schemes and undertakings, without conviction of the vanity of all that terminates in the present state?

For who can see the wise, the brave, the powerful, or the beauteous, carried to the grave, without reflection on the emptiness of all those distinctions which set us here in opposition to each other?

And who, when he sees the vanity of all terrestrial advantages, can forbear to wish for a more permanent and certain happiness?

Such wishes, perhaps, often arise, and such resolutions are often formed: but, before the resolution can be exerted, before the wish can regulate the conduct, new prospects open before us, new impressions are received; the temptations of this world solicit, the passions of the heart are put into commotion; we plunge again into the tumult, engage again in the contest, and forget, that what we gain cannot be kept, and that the life, for which we are thus busy to provide, must be quickly at an end.



The Altar Call

But, let us not be thus shamefully deluded!

Let us not thus idly perish in our folly, by neglecting the loudest call of Providence; nor, when we have followed our friends, and our enemies, to the tomb, suffer ourselves to be surprised by the dreadful summons, and die, at last, amazed and unprepared!

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Let everyone whose eye glances on this bier, examine what would have been his condition, if the same hour had called him to judgment, and remember, that though he is now spared, he may, be tomorrow among the separated spirits.

The present moment is in our power: let us, therefore, from the present moment, begin our repentance! Let us not, any longer, harden our hearts, but hear, this day, the voice of our Saviour and our God, and begin to do, with all our powers, whatever we shall wish to have done, when the grave shall open before us.



Life is Short

Let all remember, that the day of life is short, and that the day of grace may be much shorter; that this may be the last warning which God shall grant us, and that, perhaps, he who looks on the grave unalarmed, may sink unreformed into his own!

Let it, therefore, be our care, when we retire from this solemnity, that we immediately turn from our wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right; that, whenever disease or violence, shall dissolve our bodies, our souls may be saved alive, and received into the everlasting habitations by God.



Dr Samuel Johnson

When the beloved wife of Dr. Samuel Johnson, Tetty, died in March of 1752, he wrote a eulogy for her. I have published selective quotes from it above. It is meant to make us think of what lies Beyond the Great Divide. After writing it, he couldn't bring himself to speak it. It was never used.

Dr. Samuel Johnson was the greatest intellectual, as well as the eminent literary critic, in the history of England. He created many aphorisms that are widely quoted today, e.g., "'Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open one's mouth and remove all doubt." But he is best known for his preternaturally sublime achievement—indeed unsurpassed in the history of world scholarship—the Dictionary of the English Language, which he published in 1755.

Lesser known is that Johnson also wrote dozens of sermons. He was not a preacher. But it was not uncommon in those days for a high-profile minister to have a professional writer author sermons for him.

The original eulogy was much longer, including many personal reflections about his wife, but I have edited it for brevity, and for a more general audience. I find this eulogy to be a sharp reminder that there is more than this Vale of Tears. It might behoove us to think about what lies Beyond the Grave.

Dr Samuel Johnson said he based this eulogy on the Gospel of John 11:25-26:

"I am the resurrection and the life: those who believe in me, will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 25, 2011:

Betty Johansen— Ah yes, Dr. Johnson. One of my favorite writers. He is deep yes. And Boswell's biography set the standard for all future biographies.

Thank you for coming by to review this Hub. It is one of my personal favorites. I appreciate the compliments. And you are quite welcome. :-)

Betty Johansen on January 24, 2011:

Oh my goodness! Dr. Samuel Johnson. I still remember that name from college. In one class we had to read Boswell's biography of his life. The biogaphy was full of quotes and I remember how deep he was. My classmates and I often complained about the difficulty of reading and understanding his work.

That's my memory of Dr. Samuel Johnson. Callow youth that I was! Thank you for showing me the other side. A beautiful hub!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 14, 2010:

Coming of Age— Welcome to HubPages! Thank you for letting me know that you love this Hub. It is one of my favorites. I adore the writings of Dr Samuel Johnson. How I wish I could use the English language half as well as he.

Yes, that is what they say. I appreciate the visit and your fine comments.

Coming of Age from Rocky Mountains on November 13, 2010:

Well I got here by way of your 300,000 hits hub, and I don't know why this hub in particular isn't one of your best. I loved it!

I suppose that since the eulogy was written even prior to the Declaration of Independence there may be a "generational" language barrier...Of course it was also written by an Englishman. You know what they say..."Two peoples seperated by a common language".

Seriously, I found it moving.


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on September 12, 2009:

Tamarii2— I will enjoy the journey. Thank you for the well wishes! So far, it has been a great ride. I enjoy HubPages, too.

You are welcome. Thank you for this visit.

Dr Brendell Thomas Francis from NEW YORK on September 12, 2009:

Enjoyed reading your hubs.You have a gift that is unique and filled with passion for the things of God.I see you turning each one into great books,novels...etc.Enjoy your journey of writing.Thank U 4 becoming a fan.peace.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on September 10, 2009:

drpastorcarlotta— Thank you, dear. You are precious to the Lord and to me. Don't you guys go Jonestown on me now. :)

Just kidding!

Pastor Dr Carlotta Boles from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC on September 10, 2009:

DEEP!! BUT TRUE!!!! I feel the same way divinemercylove1, my faith has me looking forward to death. I love the way you presented this Hub!!! GREAT JOB!!!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on September 09, 2009:

divinemercylover1— The last shall be first, brother! I appreciate you coming to visit anywhere anytime. This is one of my personal favorites so I especially thank you for reading it.

divinemercylover1 on September 09, 2009:

I just read this one Jim. Sorry I am last. It is true though. Inevitable I mean. Death used to frighten me but in some kind of spiritual way I think my faith has me looking forward to it....Peace to you always. See ya in the next post.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on September 08, 2009:

Duchess OBlunt— Thank you and you are welcome. Dr Johnson strikes me deep. I couldn't help but share his words.

Duchess OBlunt on September 07, 2009:

Nice! Thank you for a thoughtful and thought provoking article

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 27, 2009:

frogyfish— Thank you and it is a pleasure to see you again. I appreciate the visit and the wise words. Glad you enjoyed it.

frogyfish from Central United States of America on August 27, 2009:

"The approach of age..." yes, it comes so quietly we don't notice, UNTIL we get apparently close to the END...which as you state indirectly...ISN'T!

Enjoyed your varied approach to this subject.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 27, 2009:

Timely— :D

I will confess I am blessed with an awesome library. I have over 1000 non-fiction books and all the heavyweights are here. I think. :)

You are welcome and thank you for visiting.

Timely from United States on August 27, 2009:

Your library must be awesome! Thanks for bringing old text to new light with your insight.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 27, 2009:

skye2day— Thank you so much. I agree with everything you said and I thank you for your gracious words. I appreciate the prayer, too. I will check out your Hub right now.:D

skye2day from Rocky Mountains on August 27, 2009:

Absolutely Beautiful Hub. Your words flow like a brook of fresh living water. He is the way, truth and life. We do have our work cut out for us. Many are lost, Many are coming to Jesus. I am eternally grateful I know where I am going when this life ends. There are more signs pointing to the return of Jesus. It will be awesome. I will see you in the light.

I ask Jesus that your hub be sent many places for his Glory. It is beautiful, you put your heart into this.

I wrote a new hub 'butterfly' Check it out. Leave comment I will return your friend

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 27, 2009:

jesusmyjoy— Thank you for the visit and comment. You are welcome.

Betty Bolden from Bucyrus Ohio on August 27, 2009:

wow wonderful thank you

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 26, 2009:

DynamicS— YESSS!!! (To quote Marv Albert.) I was waiting to see if anybody remembered that song. It was written by George Jones but made a big hit by the Kingston Trio. My Dad was a huge fan and I loved that song as a little tike.

My caption for the second photo is also a line from a George Jones song.

Thank you for visiting my humble hub and leaving your gracious words. And you are welcome. :D

Sandria Green-Stewart from Toronto, Canada on August 26, 2009:

Cheers to you James for such beautiful(beautious) words. I vaguely remember a song by the title of your hub. I like the way you have illustrated the words; very powerful in its delivery..

Thanks for sharing such beautiful sentences about an inevitable part of life...

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 26, 2009:

ftgfmom— Thank you. I didn't do much. Dr. Johnson did the work. I did have to type it out from my book because it is not on the internet—until now that is. :)

ftgfmom on August 26, 2009:

You have a beautiful way of putting things into perspective. Loved it.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 26, 2009:

Peggy W— Thank you. "No one gets out alive", as Jim Morrison said. But we do have our Comforter and our Comfort.

I appreciate your visit and comments.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 26, 2009:

Today Edward Kennedy died. Very timely subject. Rich or poor we all turn to dust and life is so short. It is very comforting to know that there is life...eternal life...beyond what we experience here in this life. Well done, James.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 26, 2009:

ethel smith— Thank you for coming by and leaving word. It does seem as if time accelerates as we age. And I can see what you about working where you do. No escapism there. It is great to see you here. :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 26, 2009:

Linda's Hub Pages— You are welcome. We are called to testify, that's for sure. Oft times, the world gets mad when we do. Thank you for your words of great encouragement. :D

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on August 26, 2009:

Time starts to go so quick as the years pass by. Working in admin on a medical elderly ward constantly reminds me of our definite future!

Linda's Hub Pages on August 26, 2009:

Thank you so much James for another wonderful eye opening hub.I would guess that the greatest fear that a Christian would have is not telling others about death & life after death,Leaving undone what God has called us to do.May God continue to bless you with wise,well needed hubs.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 26, 2009:

GPAGE— I am so pleased that you liked it. There is peaceful death and frightened death and I have to think how one has lived makes a big difference. A belief in transcendence obviously is a great comfort. I just love reading anything written by Dr. Johnson.

I agree: we need to cherish the moments now. Thank you for visiting and for your encouragement. You have lifted my spirits on more than one occasion.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 26, 2009:

advisor4qb— Thank you!

GPAGE from California on August 26, 2009:

James, I loved this! So glad you brought this to the page. It gave me "chills" all the way up my spine! This is very powerful. Interesting about Life & Death.

I saw two people leave this world while I was there watching as they took their last breaths & the feelings and the way they left leading up to their deaths was VERY different. I do hope they both are in a beautiful place.......I really wish the one that was "unsettled" made peace in some way........I hope people "cherish" the moments "now."

advisor4qb from On New Footing on August 26, 2009:

Interesting hub!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 25, 2009:

Hxprof— It is easy in America today to be distracted. That's for sure. Most people are excited about their sports team but may consider being excited about Jesus unseemly somehow. People will spend hours watching television while their Bible gathers dust because they don't have time. People will spend hours in the internet but no time in the closet alone with the Lord.

Thank you for your timely remarks. And I appreciate the visit, too.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 25, 2009:

muley84— Thank you for these kind words. I appreciate it.

Hxprof on August 25, 2009:

This topic is worthwhile if it pulls a few readers back into reality.

That word "dissapation" describes western culture to a 'T'.

Unfortunately even Christians get sucked up in the love of entertainment, distractions and excitations (as the Beach Boys put it). Christ warned us (Christians) of this, and we allow ourselves to be absorbed in these things at the risk of being unprepared for Christ's return like the foolish virgins.

Michael A Muehleisen from Miami,FL on August 25, 2009:

It is always a pleasure reading you James.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 25, 2009:

DeBorrah K. Ogans— I am with you there (about your greatest desire). That is a beautiful way of putting it: so He will not be a stranger. Won't that be something!?

You are welcome and I thank you for your gracious words.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 25, 2009:

muley84— Hello old friend! You are right on, man. I couldn't agree with your comments more. Thanks so much for coming to see me and leaving your wise words.

Elder DeBorrah K Ogans on August 25, 2009:

James, this is quite profound and thought provoking. It is my greatest desire to live on this side of heaven to please the Lord. Therefore when I meet Him face to face He will not be a stranger!

Thank You for sharing this.


Michael A Muehleisen from Miami,FL on August 25, 2009:

It was a moving eulogy, but the real light comes from the passage, " I am the resurrection, and the light" Jesus was speaking from the view point of the Holy Spirit. "And who so ever believes in me shall not die even though they die" Shows the immortality of the soul, God's love for it, and reincarnation. We are always growing! Life is to be lived; not spent cowering in fear of a vengeful god. The important thing is to balanced between the spiritual, and the physical.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 25, 2009:

Paradise7— Thank you for that high praise. I don't hold a candle to the good doctor but it would be awesome if I did! :)

You are welcome and thank you for the lovely sentiments you expressed, which I agree with wholeheartedly.

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on August 25, 2009:

James, you and Dr. Johnson are BOTH good writers. Thank you again for taking the time to share. Often I think, we should just love each other more, now, while we're here, because we and our loved ones won't be here forever.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 25, 2009:

R Burow— I do love old Dr. Johnson. Since he has largely dropped from view, I am reintroducing the beauty of his use of the language and profound thinking.

Thank you for your continued support. I do appreciate you.

Paradise7 on August 25, 2009:

James, you and Dr. Johnson are BOTH good writers. Thank you again for taking the time to share. Often I think, we should just ove each other more, now, while we're here, because we and our loved ones won't be here forever.

R Burow from Florida, United States on August 25, 2009:


These words are powerful,"let us not.... suffer ourselves to be surprised by the dreadful summons, and die, at last, amazed and unprepared."

To die unprepared is un-necessary, and the very sad truth is, people do so everyday. Anyone reading your hubs is without excuse. Thanks for pointing the way!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 24, 2009:

Nemingha— Thank you and you are welcome.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 24, 2009:

rosariomontenegro— Every person we pass on the street is doomed to die and unless they are oblivious: they know it, though rarely spoken. "The most unshakable of truths." A great phrase. Thank you for adding that. I know it is a macabre subject to some but I feel there is no use in denying it. Human persons need to face it. Thank you.

Nemingha on August 24, 2009:

Wise words indeed. Thank you James.

rosariomontenegro from NEW YORK on August 24, 2009:

Wonderful discourse. That one should remember death every day is an advice that all should follow, no matter their religion, for the certainty of death is for mankind the most unshakable of truths and the open or obscure certainty of a life afer life gives weight and transcendence to the acts of our lives. Morality that allows for the existence and respect of others, morality that permits the armonious life of human beings' society, flows almost naturally from the remembrance of our own death, always imminent.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 24, 2009:

eovery— You are welcome. Thank you! This is the greatest comfort we can have, yes? I always look forward to your visitations.

eovery from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa on August 24, 2009:


Thanks for saying you testimony.

I am so glad that I know that there is life after this life, and that I will be resurrected and can live with my Father in Heaven and with my family.

Keep on Hubbing

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 24, 2009:

ecoggins— Thank you, Brother. I appreciate you for your remarks.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 24, 2009:

Kebennett1— My subjects are injected into my heart by the Holy Spirit as it moves me (except my Hubs about my music).

The three pieces by Dr. Johnson I have truncated into Hubs all come from a book I highly recommend: "The Supplicating Voice" which is a collection of his sermons and other writings of a spiritual nature. I just love his use of the English Language and how he "keeps it real." :D

Thank you so much for the superlative adjectives! I am so pleased you were moved by this Eulogy.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 24, 2009:

Tina Irene— Thank you very much! You are my first reader. :-)

ecoggins from Corona, California on August 24, 2009:

Very lovely and touching.

Kebennett1 from San Bernardino County, California on August 24, 2009:

Wow! What an alarming, astonishing, awe-inspiring, beautiful, breathtaking, daunting, exalting, fearful, formidable, impressive, magnificent, majestic, moving, overwhelming, spiritual, striking, wonderful, Eulogy! And a fantastic Hub! I was so moved by that Eulogy I DID use a thesaurus to find a word or two :) to express myself! But, they are sincere! James where do you come up with your creative topics? Don't tell your secret, it makes you the great writer you are!

Tina Irene on August 24, 2009:

Well presented.

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