Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799


Ignorant mortals are always rash in their conclusions on the conduct of Providence, being blinded in their views, and impatient under woes. But, to compose my combating thoughts, and make me wait the outcome of all things with patience, let me look into some remarkable scripture-narratives, and see the fair sunshine of kindness, after the storms of trouble and clouds of indignation are gone.

First, then, let me look into that which befell Abraham, the friend of God. Think what joy filled the patriarch's bosom when promised a son in his old age, and how this joy was increased when the promised seed was born, and grew up to be a pretty boy—the joy of both his parents. But, look again, and see the amazing trial, the tremendous scene that ensues! The promised seed must be sacrificed, and that by the hand of a most affectionate father! Yet, see his aged joints tremble all the way to Mount Moriah, to offer up his beloved Isaac, as it were resigning the promise again to God, trusting God to make it out some other way, though it were by raising him from the dead.

Now, let us view the beginning of the trial of his faith; how dark and gloomy, how opposite to reason, affection, and piety too; but, let us connect the beginning with the latter end—and all at once is beautiful and bright. There his faith is tried—here it triumphs. There God commands—here he commends his obedience. There he requires—here he restores Isaac. The voice of God at first seems to strike at his former promise—here it confirms all with new promises, enlarged blessings, and this glorious name superadded, "The father of the faithful." Abraham comes home full of gladness and gratitude; and we have the divine account, to teach us to await the end—before we draw our conclusions of God's providential way.

The second is the account of Joseph. In the first part of the scene, see his young heart ready to burst and break with bitter anguish! Hear many—but fruitless supplications to his cruel brethren! How melting are his cries, while his hard-hearted brethren draw him out of the pit, to sell him for a slave!! Nothing can save him; compassionate Reuben is not within the reach of his cry. The price is agreed upon, the money is paid, and away he must go; and neither his parting importunities, his piercing cries, nor piteous back-looks, can move them to relent. Later, after a little advancement in Egypt, he is thrown from the liberty of a servant—into the confinement of a prison. This at first sight is a melancholy scene; but if we look to the sufferings of a tender-hearted father, it is heightened to the highest pitch. All his sons and daughters gather around the grey-headed mourner, to comfort him—but in vain; for still he thinks he sees the wild beast tearing his beloved Joseph to pieces, who screams out for help—but none to help is near; and then he is ready to faint through the excess of sorrow.

Now, this is the first part of the providence, which indeed has a very dejecting aspect, and if we had never heard more of the matter, we would have concluded them both very miserable; but let us see how the dear connection stands. Jacob, who had mourned many years, is at last overflowed with tides of joy. Joseph, the lost, the long-lamented Joseph, is still alive! The youth who was sold into Egypt as a servant—has all Egypt at his service! He who had his feet hurt with fetters—may now bind princes at his pleasure, and teach senators wisdom! He who lately drudged about in a dungeon, to attend prisoners—becomes a father to a king! His brothers, who envied him for his dreams—now bow before him, as the accomplishment of those very dreams which bred their envy! He whose life they so little valued—saves the lives of thousands. At his word, whose supplications his brethren would not hear—all the land of Egypt is governed! The long separated relations meet, and melt in kindness on one another's neck!

We have, (not to name others,) a similar instance in the great apostle Paul, and by his own observation too, in his epistle to the Philippians. This great man, after his singular conversion, preaches Christ unweariedly in many trials and sufferings; until, at length he returns to Jerusalem. There by the enraged and unbelieving Jews he is set upon, and would have been slain, had not the Roman captain rescued him. But he is so persecuted with their cruel rage, malice, and underhand dealings, that he is compelled to appeal to an heathen emperor. Now the great apostle of the Gentiles, to the great grief of the church, is a poor prisoner; hence says he, "the prisoner of Jesus Christ." He is a long time confined in Judah, then sent to Rome, where, though shipwrecked in his passage, he arrives, and is kept two years a prisoner at large. But, says he to the Philippians, "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advancement of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is for Christ. Most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the message fearlessly."

How noble the connection! Paul intends to visit Rome at his own expenses, to preach the gospel there; but Providence, on the Emperor's expenses, brings him to make converts, not only in the royal city—but in the very palace. The Jews think they have succeeded to their very wish, when they have thus got rid of a pestilent fellow, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes; but they could not have fallen upon a better method to spread his doctrine, and support his cause. To appearance his success must end, when his imprisonment begins—but it is quite the reverse; not only Paul persists in preaching the gospel without prohibition—but the brethren are emboldened to speak the gospel message fearlessly.

What reason, then, have I to complain on the first part of providence, while the outer wheel is only seen? Should I not wait, until the inner wheel turns around—and I can read plainly the last connection? And what though that should be reserved for eternity? There every providence shall be completed to my everlasting comfort, and all things concerning me connected in the most beautiful harmony. There shall not be the least gap in my lot or life, when time is no more; but all things shall be made up to me in Christ Jesus, to the entire satisfaction of my soul.