by James Meikle, 1730-1799
There is a lesson which concerns the whole world, which
few of the world lay to heart; and that is—that all men are mortal.
The lives of most people, deny the inevitability of death—they live as
though they will never die.
I myself confess I must meet with death—but conclude
myself immortal for the present, and so don't concern myself with death for
the time being—though multitudes drop down around me. Ah! when do I
think on death, or suppose its approach near? Many foolish pleasing scenes
of life, do I think upon, in my imagination—but how seldom do I think upon
the final scene of my death! When do I represent myself to myself,
laid on a sick-bed, on a death-bed, with broken groans, cold sweats,
trembling joints, languid looks, a failing pulse, and all the signs of
death, while friends bewail around me? Or, when do I run through the more
solemn and important part of the scene—how, when I leave the world, matters
may stand between my soul and God? How I shall appear before the majesty of
heaven, and stand in the tremendous judgment? Strange! Is this the
practice of one who knows, and sincerely believes—that he must die?
Some wise kings have had their sepulchers hewn out long
before their death, that every time they saw them, they might, in the midst
of all their pomp and glory, see where they must shortly lie. In this even
heathens shame me, of whom some have, by their own orders, had admonishments
of their own mortality made to them daily; while others have set the skulls
of the deceased at their dinner tables, to moderate their mirth, and remind
them of mortality.
When I look abroad in the world—scenes of sorrow are
everywhere to be seen. Sometimes both parents taken away from a young family
of helpless orphans. At other times, the rising children, the apparent
support of their aged and infirm parents, are snatched away from the
gray-headed mourners! Who shall quarrel with Omnipotence, whether he cut
down the young plants from around the table—or breaks the aged
tree from amidst the dependent sprigs?
Indeed, it is hard to persuade 'fond affection' into
silence, or to attain to resignation under the loss of a beloved friend. For
when my renewed part is prostrate at the throne of the all-wise Disposer,
then my corruption is apt to rise in rebellion against the doings of the
Most High. But where have I most interest—in my nearest beloved relations,
or in God? Is one creature more connected with another creature, by any tie,
than the Creator of both? What do I pray for—but that the will of God be
done? And yet, if death comes near my family, I take back my word, and would
have my will preferred to God's will!
All I am, and have—are God's to dispose of—how and when
he pleases! He will never infringe his justice, or forget his compassion and
love, even in my afflictions!
Would not I glorify God in my life, and in my death? and
why not also in the death of my friends? He glorified himself in their life,
therefore they existed; he glorifies himself in their death, therefore they
die. Will I pull with God—or against him? Will I tell him that he cannot
have my friends yet, for though they have served their generation, yet they
have not served my fond affection? An excess of grief here bewrays my lack
of love to God, to my relations, and to myself. For if I love God, I will be
glad that his will be done with me and those I love—even to death. If I love
my friends, I will be happy in their happiness; and if I love my own soul, I
will bless God for taking away friends, when they are likely to come too
much between myself and my Beloved; and are likely to take too much of my
affection away from him who is altogether lovely, and the chief among ten
Death and life, earth and heaven, time and eternity, the
footstool and the throne—are yours, O Sovereign God. Can I then bewail my
godly friends, of whose felicity I have the sound hope—that they are brought
from death to life, translated from earth to heaven, from time to eternity,
and from the footstool to the throne? They are above the reach of sorrow;
and, on that account, shall I be below the reach of comfort? Though carnal
ties are dissolved in death, yet the spiritual relation never ceases. So it
matters not where the spiritual family dwells; for even in heaven they are
exalted members of our exalted Head, and I an earthly member of the same
exalted Head. Thus, though far scattered, some in this world, some in the
other world, yet all shall be convened together in "the general assembly and
church of the first born"—free from sin, and free from sorrow!
Almost my anguish would convert to joy, did not streams
of briny grief pollute the crystal current, and recall my ponderous loss.
But what call I loss? Absence—not loss! They are found with
God—dwell in and with God—so in what respects are they lost? Only as I
cannot see them. What is my grief—to those who are so happy? And why should
I grieve, when I know them to be so happy? If my friend far from home, in a
foreign country, informed me that he was in all ways prosperous—I would be
happy for him.
But when my godly friends die, I am sure, not only of
their felicity—but of its perpetuity! Whatever my loss be, let me look to
God for a supply of all. And since I have do not have them to fondly talk
with, let my soliloquy be to God. And as my love cannot penetrate into the
decaying sepulcher, to hug their putrefying clay; nor enter eternity to
embrace their disembodied soul—let it return and empty itself on God alone.
Now I see the vanity of the world! Death when sent,
pities not the life of the poor, nor spares not the rich—but is faithful to
his charge, and cannot be put off. My godly friends are happy in leaving me,
and going to God; I am happy in losing them, and returning to God. God has
broken, as Hezekiah did the brazen serpent—the idol to whom I offered
incense, only due to God, and called it a piece of clay. But now may the
sweet hopes of a blessed immortality banish the sorrows of present
dissolution, and mitigate my grief; the more so as I need not sorrow, like
those who have no hope. A little while—and I myself will be no more! Soon my
dust shall mingle with theirs, and wait that joyful trumpet—which shall
summon every godly slumberer to immortality and bliss!