Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799


Events of Providence
 

Unbelief is my worst enemy, and most disturbs my mental quiet; and no wonder it so harasses me, when it attacks the very faithfulness of God, and concludes so harshly of his unerring providence. Now, my gratitude cannot be silent at this your so surprising, surpassing kindness. A few months ago, matters wore a different aspectóbut I deserved worse; yet then hope would not give up its claim to your care, faith would not give up its interest in your promise, in your love; and both are satisfied with your goodness. You have bestowed the very same mercy, though in another way than I sought it. Then I thought that no way was as good as mineóbut now I find that your way is best; for as your thoughts are higher than ours, so is your way better than our way. This favor which I sought from you with submission, let it come with your blessing; not signifying your displeasureóbut sealing your love; not only filling somewhat my cupóbut fulfilling your promise. And as it may moderately feed my condition, so let it feast my spiritual part; and not prove like Israel's flesh, that while they thought to satisfy their lust, suffocated them outright; nor like their granted request, which was attended with leanness sent into their soul.

In the common affairs of life, I cannot look into myself; I cannot look about, to praise princes, or the sons of men; but I must look up, and adore you as only and alone in all. Dare I henceforth sin, who am so many ways hedged about from it? shall not your holiness dissuade me from sinning, your power persuade, your majesty deter, mercy overcome, your love allure, and your kindness bend me to obedience? How shall I praise you, O you hearer of prayers, and answerer of petitions! Let my lips praise you; let my life praise you; my meditations praise you; yes, let all my actions praise you.

But how shall I behave under your kindness? It is harder to be godly in prosperity than in adversity. When God spares, it is that his long-suffering may lead us to repentance; and when he punishes, it is that we may return to him; for it is a heavy charge, when he has cause to complain against those to whom he has been a Father. In an afflicted state humility best befits us, because we are laid on the dust; and where but there should we be humbler? In an exalted state we should still be humble, for Heaven can dash us from the highest eminence to the lowest condition of life. And as an afflicted state is not confirmed on us, that we may have hope; so a prosperous condition is not confirmed that we may fear. "Before honor is humility, and a haughty spirit before a fall;" therefore we should always follow humility, and flee pride. As humility lifts us out of the lowest condition, so it keeps us in the highest. Nor is there any state of life but is attended with so many humbling circumstances, that no discerning soul has reason to be proud, considering that it is more disgrace to fall from a high station into a low, than never to have risen, and consequently never fall. He who loses his prince's favor suffers more, than he who never had it: and those that fall from high preferments, or lose their honorary posts, may expect to have all eyes upon them, and every tongue to dwell on them and their misfortunes.

Such, then, is our condition below, that we are always in dangeróboth from without and from within. Troubles may attack us without; or, if free from these, pride may swell within; and the last is worse than the first. Then, contentment with our present condition; resignation to God with respect to unseen contingencies; hope in his mercy; confidence in his faithfulness; and an eye fixed on the world to comeóis our only wisdom in this world which is passing away.




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