A Secret Survey into the State of the Soul

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and
know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends
You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life."
Psalm 139:23-24

1760 - 1770

September 14, 1760. Nothing is more incumbent on a Christian than to make his calling and election sure; and when this is cleared up, nothing can be a greater comfort. Every man should try his state and walk accordingly. He should hold what he has attained, and reach forward to apprehend what he has not yet apprehended.

Should I be ashamed to confess to God the great things he has done for me, at which I am astonished? But let the praise be his alone. However I have gone after vanities, yet I can, through grace, say—"None for me but God! Heaven and earth are shadows without him; but he is my portion and my all. I love him for himself, for his holiness, for his love. I set nothing above him, I seek nothing beside him—but count 'God reconciled in Christ', a treasure sufficient to enrich eternity itself. All my fear is lest I offend him, all my desire is to please him, all my ambition is to be like him. I dispute not his will, I repine not at his providence, for when repinings arise, as too oft they do, I represent to myself his love, his wisdom, his promise—whence I infer—that he cannot order wrong for me. True, I daily fail—but I daily bewail myself, and daily dip myself in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness.

My graceless companions are my daily grief, and I bewail over those to God—who never bewail themselves. I shun the company of the wicked, and where necessarily cast into it, I am uneasy all the while. I esteem the saints very highly, even the excellent ones of the earth. Prayer is my daily exercise; and though too often formal and full of detractions, yet it is the joy of my soul. I make the sins of the land my burden, and the sins of the whole world my concern. Jews and Pagans, deluded Turks and Papists, have a part in my supplications, and all the Christian churches in my prayers. When true religion suffers, I burn; when it triumphs, I rejoice. I have not an enemy in the whole world but I desire to forgive, as I expect to be forgiven. The rising generation dwells on my mind, and I plead with God in their behalf.

Above all things in the world, were I qualified, I would gladly serve God in the gospel of his Son. O I esteem it more to win one soul from hell, than to sway the scepter of the universe. I dare not seek to be learned—but to be useful. I dare not cherish vain schemes about future times—but commit my lot to God. I count that day idly spent, wherein I have not some divine meditations. I rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and wait for Christ from heaven. I count the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord and honorable. I have joy in believing on the unseen Christ, whom the highest heavens contain until the restitution of all things.

I have had a turbulent spirit often—when I have been misused. But now I desire to throw down pride and self-conceit, to overlook reproaches, forget affronts, and forgive injuries. When I awake in the morning, I am with you, and my meditation of the most high God affords me sweet thoughts. The light of your countenance makes me exceeding glad, and gives me greater joy than those whose grain and wine increase. Some sins I confess more easily beset me than others—but these I desire to guard against, and I allow not myself in any known sin. Hence I see, that what I am, I am by grace, and not by nature. My daily vain thoughts and errors who can understand, for they are innumerable? Yet my daily complaint is against them, "O who shall deliver me from this body of death?" and my continual struggle is to oppose them.

As to holy frames and feelings, I dare not build on them—but on the solid promises which in Christ are yes and amen. Yet do I desire to walk always with him, and in the light of his countenance to go on rejoicing, and mourn when I go without the sun. My daily fear is, that I am growing worse, and not better; going backward, and not forward; and my cry is, O that it were with me as in months past, as in former times! I desire to rejoice in the gifts and graces of others, as if they were my own, and not to have an evil envious eye, because God is good, and gives others more than me.

Of all changes—death is the most shocking; of all trials—judgment is the most tremendous; of all states—the eternal world is the least known. Yet let my soul bless his name forever, when I have seemed in the arms of death by sickness, I could, with a sound mind and unshaken faith knowing in whom I had believed, say with the psalmist, "into your hands I commit my spirit, O God of truth! who has redeemed me." When I thought I was on the brink of death, with a serenity of mind, which yet refreshes me, I commended my soul into his hand, in view of hastening into the eternal and changeless world.

September 24, 1760. Alas! I have sometimes evil thoughts arising in my mind, which I can scarcely think are mine; but if they are mine, I immediately bewail them, and myself for them, and beg both pardon for them, and preservation from them for the future. And if they are injections of Satan, I strive to suppress them and reject them with all haste—as I would quench a fire without delay. And sometimes I get them smothered in their formation—all praise to sovereign grace. These things make me humble, and a daily suppliant to free grace, and give a continued demonstration of my own abominable vileness. My! what a mass of hell is my corrupt nature on the one hand. But how prevalent is true grace on the other hand! through which I hope I can say, thanks be to God who gives me the victory.

Another thing I condemn myself in is a too great delight in the creature, and having excess pleasure in the possession of any worldly thing. But, as in the day of adversity I am to consider; so in the day of prosperity I not only may—but should be joyful. So, that I might not err, I resolve:

1. To accept every blessing with a cheerful countenance and thankful heart from God.

2. To see that my thankfulness, both to God and my fellow-creatures, increases with the increase of worldly good things.

3. To look on all creature enjoyments as common mercies, promiscuously dealt to saints and sinners—of which the last have often the largest share.

4. To fix their fleeting nature in my mind, and neither boast of, nor build upon them; remembering that he who was one of the greatest men one day, was a poor naked Job the next day.

5. Not to have an exceeding joy in anything beside Christ.

6. And, therefore, to hold all things, as it were, at a moment's warning, even friends and relations, which are the dearest of worldly enjoyments—to be delivered back at God's call. "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."

7. That anything which may ever fall to my lot in the world, through grace, shall no way jostle itself into the place of God in my soul, or take off my meditation from that purchased possession, that inheritance of glory which fades not away.

8. To use common things with Christian caution, and as one who must answer for things in the day of judgment, even as to my food, my drink, and my apparel. Thus would I wish to use the world as not abusing it, because the time is short until I am no more. And such a one should be, if he weeps—as though he wept not; if he rejoices—as though he rejoiced not; and if he buys—as though he possessed not.

May 21, 1761. For some time past, though the iniquities of my heart have been many, yet God has done wonders for my soul. Grace lives within, and there is a longing kindled in my bosom, that I hope will never abate until I see my Beloved face to face. My secret sins cause both my shame and sorrow—before him who sees in secret. And his wonderful, triumphant, victorious love, (let every saint commend it, and eternity continue the praise), that will not be provoked to depart from me, increases my grief for sin. O how can I sin against his goodness! How can I forget his love, or offend his holiness, and abuse his fatherly kindness! I desire to keep conscience always awake, that it may roar aloud against my sins, and give me no rest, until, by fresh acts of faith, I apply the blood of him who speaks better things than that of Abel, even peace to those who are afar off, and to those who are near.

In my studies I can toil hours together on an Hebrew Bible, and yet, while only seeking the meaning and roots of words, not behold the beauties in the oracles of truth. This is a misfortune always attending the young student. But, in view of future advantage to the soul or the church, this burden is to be borne, and I therefore appoint so many hours for such studies, and some time for meditation and reading on other subjects or studies. I try to refresh my soul by spiritualizing the subjects in a momentary meditation. But O how happy that golden age of eternity, when God and Christ shall be my whole study, and not one distracting thought!

September 6, 1761. As the traveler Zionward should be always making progress on his journey, so should he still examine his state for the present, and see how matters stand with him. In like manner, I should ask my soul the following queries, and let conscience, as in the sight of God, make the answer.

Have I seen myself lost by nature—an heir of wrath—and a child of hell?

Have I seen God's equity with respect to the covenant of works, and condemning a fallen world in the loins of our first parents?

Have I been convinced of the depravity of my nature—the lethargy of my conscience, the darkness of my understanding, the hardness of my heart, the stubbornness of my will, and the deadness of my whole inner man—and consequently of my utter inability to help myself?

Have I seen the vast demand of the divine law—which will take no less than complete satisfaction of offences, and requires perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience—and which threatens the curse for the least failure?

Have I then looked upward—and seen an angry God? Have I looked to the scripture—and seen a fiery law? Have I looked inward—and seen a deformed, guilty, ugly monster? Have I looked forward to futurity—and seen wrath as the portion of my cup, and hell as the lot of my inheritance—and so in all respects seen myself lost and undone?

But then, have I seen, with exceeding great joy, help laid on ONE mighty to save? And have I run into the arms of this gracious Redeemer to be saved from sin and wrath? Have I taken his complete righteousness, his spotless life, and meritorious death—for my complete righteousness, and sole title to justification and eternal life?

Do I endeavor to walk as under the law of Christ—in all holy living and godliness; and account myself, though freed from it as a covenant and its curse, yet bound by the strongest bonds to walk as he also walked?

Does my admiration of 'created excellencies' daily diminish, and my estimate of heavenly things daily rise and grow?

Do I frequently converse with my own heart, survey my inner man, and examine the state of my soul?

Are my thoughts on things that while I view them vanish—or on a precious Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever?

Do I watch against sins of omission, as well as sins of commission; against the iniquity of my thoughts, as well as the iniquity of my actions?

Am I not only burdened with corruption that rises within me—but with sin that rages around me? Am I zealous for the Redeemer's glory, both in my own bosom and abroad in the world?

Are pious exercises my continual delight, and more esteemed than my necessary food?

Can I forgive my enemies, even the most cruel, with the greatest alacrity, and sincerely seek the prosperity of my inveterate foes?

Do I resign myself wholly to the divine disposal of providence, and welcome its most unwelcome dispensations, because of him who sends them?

Am I, while under the rod—more desirous to be refined from sin, than brought forth out of the furnace of affliction?

Do I esteem the lowest saint more precious than gold—and make them my companions; while I shun to sit with the carnal and profane?

Is my delight in the house where God's honor, yes, where the God of Glory dwells? And are the public ordinances, where I hear the glad tidings of eternal things, as refreshful to me as cold water is to the thirsty soul?

Do I keep a court within, and often sit judge on myself, that at last I may not be judged and condemned?

Is it my daily endeavor to grow in the knowledge of God my Savior, and draw nearer and nearer to his throne?

How do I react, when I see myself ill used, despised, affronted; or hear that I am ill spoken of, and my character wounded, though without a cause? Am I then humble, meek, patient, peaceable and silent; or turbulent, angry passionate, contentious, and clamorous?

Am I conscientious in the discharge of all Christian duties—public as well as private—in my family as well as in my closet—in my employment, and among my relations?

Is death a strange theme among my meditations? Am I altogether unacquainted with the dark apartments of the grave?

Do the fore-thoughts of that eternal communion which all the elect shall enjoy above, afford me a joy superior to all the anguish which ever presses on me?

Am I not only a daily penitent for all my sins and shortcomings, and daily seek, that all I have, all I do, and all I am—may be accepted ONLY in the Beloved?

November 20, 1763. Through various changes, my natural life is preserved. But O! where is my growth in grace; and the daily renewing of my inner man? My cares multiply, my business fills my hands, and my fond enterprises fill my head. But why is not my heart more consecrated to God? Return to my soul, O my God, that my soul may return to her rest! Surely, in the midst of all my declinings, grace prevails within, for I find no peace but in peace with God; and praise, and prize, and would sincerely pursue after likeness to God.

Sometimes there is a deadness on my soul, and a restraining in prayer—but even here I have hope, for

1. All my needs are known to God.

2. Christ presents the imperfect prayers of his people with his own incense.

3. I am driven out of all my self confidence, and wholly lean on him.

4. I am made to lift my eye to him, in whom the fullness of the new covenant is treasured up.

5. I am taught to trust nothing to my best frames in coming times.

I desire to set death daily before me, by which I may put a proper estimate on the things of time.

September 25, 1764. I desire to find God in all things. If he prospers my undertakings—I magnify his goodness. If he dashes them—I own his justice and adore his sovereignty. If he leads me heavenward in the even way of prosperity and peace—I desire to walk there with gratitude and circumspection. If he leads me in the rugged way of trouble and affliction, I desire to walk there with faith and submission; having the full assurance, that whatever way he leads me, I shall at last arrive safe at my eternal home.

For many years I think I have loved God; and yet, alas! I find not my love going out on him who overcame the world, as it should. The things of time deserve my loathing, not my love; and yet how often are they like to steal the heart, and love, and all from God. O! avenge me on my enemies.

November 24, 1764. I pray for heaven, and expect it at last, and yet I am often surprised that I long not more for it, and wonder if I can be one of those happy Israelites who shall enter into the holy land, the heavenly country, when so content to dwell still in this desert. O to be crucified to the world, and the world to me!

January 4, 1765. Amidst all my changes still I hope grace lives, and though I daily condemn myself, I acknowledge your goodness. Whether you lift me up and cast me down—I desire to honor you by an entire resignation. O to get the stubborn will and rebellious affections bowed to you, and to have every cross in the world driving me nearer to God, and fitting me more and more for heaven! Alas! that my thoughts are so much on the things of time.

January 21, 1765. In all things I desire to see your love; if you cast down in one thing you lift up in another. A little mercy in the world, is a great mercy to one who has a world of mercy to come. I dare not think that, because I love you and fear you, it should go such and such with me; but I think, if you love me, it matters not how matters go with me in the world. Well may he who is going to dwell forever with the king, in his palace—put up with a dirty road and a rainy day.

April 27, 1765. I desire to have this motto in my heart, "Be angry, and sin not." I have sometimes cause to be angry with the men of the world, and yet I would rather choose not to be angry in my heart. Thus by passion under the government of grace, I may prevent the same injury being done to me again and again; thus shall I be wise as the serpent. But I must not repay injuries with injuries, else I would not be harmless as the dove. Yet I think where the peace of God rules in the heart, there will not be much room for wrath or revenge. I would rather envy the meekness of Moses, and the patience of Job, than the power of the one, and the possessions of the other. O to be daily imitating Jesus, who, when his worst enemies were doing their worst, cried, "Father, forgive them." Forgiveness will be no grief of heart to me, when I arrive at the heavenly throne. Forgiveness is the only way to get the better of a treacherous world. It is to be as like God in the world as possible.

September 22, 1765. Many a sad struggle I have, among other things, with vain thoughts, which, like the Canaanites of old, will dwell in my heart. I blame myself, for I lodge them all the week as harmless, and then, on the holy Sabbath, they will neither leave nor be at rest. O! how dangerous to let my mind go too much after the world!

November 14, 1765. This day I attempt a fast for sin. But, alas! I know the name, not the nature of sin, and my flinty heart can hardly sorrow for that for which my Lord suffered. O! that I should not only give room in my house—but lodging in my heart—to the crucifiers of the Lord of glory! The blind man sees no faults; so the less I see of sin in and about me, the more blind I may believe myself. The room I sit in just now, is the very picture of my heart—I see not the least floating dust or wandering atom. But were the clouds scattered, how would the solar beam be loaded with dust above computation, beyond, far beyond belief! So, should the Sun of Righteousness shine into my soul, what reeking abominations and secret sins would be revealed in his ray! Such a sight cannot fail to humble me; and the less I see, the more cause I have of humility, because to all my other sins, that of spiritual blindness is added. When I look into my heart and practices—how am I driven out of myself! O I think a great sinner must be a great believer! The man who is wrecked on a sand-bank despises help, and thinks to plod to the shore on his own feet—but perishes in the undertaking. But he who is drowning in deep water takes hold of the rope thrown in for his relief, and never releases it until out of danger.

February 8, 1766. Though I trust not in frames, yet, blessed be his name, my heart has been enlarged for some time past. O hold me by the right hand, then shall my soul follow hard after you, and not otherwise.

I still lament that I cannot drop some spiritual word properly in discourse, when the conversation of all is so vain.

April 12, 1766. O how the day is changed! I pray without the spirit of prayer and supplication. The world has gotten into my heart. The treacherous world is the worst enemy to divine love, because it is lawful to give it some part in my concern. But to give it but its own part and no more—is the hardest lesson in Christianity. To give the world too much love brings the heaviest curse—for if any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

September 14, 1766. Again I sing of his mercy, and O to dwell under the shadow of the Almighty all the days of my life! Alas! I confess I know not whether I grow or not. For if in a thriving condition, why is not every grace stronger, and every corruption weaker than I find them?

December 3, 1766. This day is appointed for a thanksgiving-day, for public mercies being continued in the midst of our manifold sins; and O what double cause of gratitude have I! that I am not made a scandal to religion, a terror to others or myself, that I am not in hell, and have a true hope of heaven! O that my practice, my conversation, my pen—could praise you for all the mercies, the benefits, the pardons—that burden yet support, that load yet relieve, that oppress but comfort my whole soul!

April 7, 1767. Many are the wounds the souls of the saints smart under. The foes, the Canaanites, even wicked and horrible thoughts, (whether thrown in by hell—or spued out by that fountain of uncleanness and corruption in the heart, is hard to say), are numerous. Among which some are like the Anakim—of great stature and terrible appearance; by reason of which the poor Christian is but a grasshopper in his own sight. This was my own case, and a sad one it is. But faith in the God of heaven shall defy not only those giants of hell—but the king of the bottomless pit.

October 22, 1767. It is strange, yes terrible—that an expectant of heaven should with great difficulty, be reconciled to go to heaven. I would take it ill if any should tell me, I shall never go to heaven; and yet would be startled if one should tell me, I shall go to heaven tomorrow! Am not I carnal, sold under sin? for if one would give me a wealthy estate, I would not defer one day to go and inhabit it. Has earth thus the ascendancy over heaven, with me? O for the heavenly mind that will never rest, never be satisfied—until in heaven!

November 13, 1767. In what a dangerous situation am I! While I think all is well, the enemy is at the door; for though I think I can say that I hate sin and love holiness, yet I am not aware of the idols which divide my heart from God. The more apparently harmless these idols seem to be—the more dangerous they are! The error lies not so much in the act of loving, as in the excess of my love. How sad to find my affections centering on the creature—and delighting in perishing things!

February 27, 1768. Now and then, for some months past, I have written a few lines, in a poem called 'Heaven', with a view to wean my affections from the world, and that divine things may triumph in my affections. But what darkening, diminishing, disadvantageous views of heaven have I—whose words are lost in ignorance, and whose thoughts are swallowed up of inconceivable glory? When I arrive at the state of perfection, my most elaborate writings will be but childish prattlings—compared to the language of glory; and my sweetest songs but harsh and insignificant sounds—compared to the eternal hallelujah!

July 24, 1768. Nothing is so terrible than by sickness to be brought to the brink of eternity, and the soul eagerly recoiling back to time. I am afraid this was too much my case in my late illness—else why did the world retain its bewitching charms with me, even when my vigor was wasting like a moth? O to be enabled to cheerfully leave the world at the hour of death, as easily as Elijah let his mantle fall, when he ascended up to everlasting day!

December 21, 1768. Whatever my state be, I desire to lay hold on the promises—that the righteous shall grow as the cedar in Lebanon, and flourish like the palm-tree. When I seem like the heath in the desert, this shall refresh me.

March 5, 1769. Discord and contention about trifles with the men of the world, alas for some time, has focused my attention to earthly things. O how am I to blame! Though the earth should be removed, and the ocean roar; though the mountains tumble among the dashing billows, and the rocks tremble before the mighty waves—still the soul which makes God his refuge and his strength should not in the least be dismayed. When the creator of the ends of the earth, ceases to rule the earth—then let me feel pain. Like the hedge in the garden, the more I am clipped and kept down in the winter of affliction, even to the apparent spoiling of utility and beauty—yet the more lovely and flourishing shall I be in the summer of glory. Then under my winter-prunings—let me not complain until the sweet summer make amends for all.

April 16, 1769. When I compare past and present times, how am I pained! Once my time was a time of love; my meditation of him was sweet; his candle shined on my head; and by his light I walked through darkness. But, alas! for some time past, how have I been sighing and going backward! A bewitching world, in its cares and concern, in its profit and pleasures, in its sorrows and uncertainties, in its projects and plans—has too much tossed my mind, like a straw before the whirlwind. Return, O Lord! how long? and cause my soul return to her center, her rest. Did a pleasant paradise spring up in the wilderness—I might sit still. But when Satan, like the fiery serpents—the world, like the cruel Amalekites—and corrupt nature, like the barren desert—all conspire to make my situation dismal and deplorable, no wonder that I long to pass over Jordan, and go in to take eternal possession of the land of promise!

January 15, 1770. In all things I should seek communion with God, in his providences, as well as in his ordinances. I admire, I adore, and would sincerely doubt God no more. For he who gives me one mercy today, can give another tomorrow, and will give what seems good in his sight.

January 28, 1770. Though there is always a real communion, though not always sensible; as well as vital union maintained between the renewed soul and God; yet at some times, for a few moments, I am favored with such displays of his love, communications of his grace, glimpses of glory, and foretastes of heaven—that all the powers of my soul are both refreshed and ravished. Nor dare I challenge this as a delusion, for it comes in a scriptural, rational way—and always then, God is most adored, the Redeemer more endeared, grace more admired, death more welcome, sin more abhorred, earth more despised, and heaven more longed for. Yet this attainment is but of short duration; for God will have me, even in spiritual things, to walk by faith, and not by sense.

What, then, must heaven be, where the joys of God shall pour into the soul through everlasting day! Hence I may see that vicissitudes await my life below. If I ascend mount Tabor—it is to come down to the valley of Achor. And if weeping endures for a night—joy comes in the morning. But as on the mountain I should be humble—because the valley lies below; so in the weeping watches I should hope—because the day shall break, and the shadows shall flee away!

April 15, 1770. The righteous Judge of all the earth has been pleased to remove a near and dear relative by death—and O how stupid am I under the stroke! I see affliction reveals us to ourselves; for did I think that the loss of my friend would have made a lack in my soul, when refused even to be filled with God? Why do I dream of immortality in the region of death? This fleeting world is not my rest! Why, then, take it so amiss to be disturbed in the land of trouble?

June 13, 1770. Many a time has a kind providence blessed me with blessings beyond my expectation, and above my faith. And trials, which in appearance seemed insupportable when approaching, have been light and easy when pressing on me.

August 6, 1770. O how good is it to take God for my all! His providence for my treasure—and I have never yet lacked! His promise for my charter—and I shall never be cheated out of my inheritance! His Son for my Savior—and I shall not perish! Himself in all his fullness for my portion—and I am enriched for eternity!

November 20, 1770. What comfort to the poor buffeted believer, that his High Priest intercedes for him; and in the hour of sad temptation, when likely to succumb—sends him such fresh supplies of grace, that he not only stands his ground—but triumphs over his foes! As I have no strength—why should I have any confidence in myself? But why should I despond—seeing in Christ I am complete?