Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799


Few, I believe, read the history of Israel's deliverance from Egypt, passage through the Red Sea, and daily miraculous provision in the wilderness; on the one hand—with their doubts, quarrels, complaints, murmuring, and rebellion; yet on the other hand—but are ready to cry out, O hard-hearted Jews! O unbelieving Israelites, to doubt in the midst of such a glorious display of divine goodness! Well, then l truly believe that no Christian ever lived any while below but one time or other had providences exercised towards him in such a manner as forbade him any more to doubt. Therefore, we may convert our cry against the Jews into a complaint against ourselves, and condemn our own unbelieving hearts, which can, in the midst of so many exceeding great and precious promises, under the sunshine of so much tender mercy and loving kindness—cry out, 'I perish, I perish!'

How horrid, how hateful, and how hurtful a sin is unbelief! It spits in the face of the promise, and accounts the faithfulness of God a lie. Unbelief forgets all the great things which God has done before—and despairs of ever seeing again the like displays of divine power. Unbelief heightens the calamity, doubles the distress, and concludes deliverance impossible. As the prayer of faith opens heaven—so the despondence of unbelief shuts it. Unbelief starves the soul, and disturbs sweet tranquility of mind. Unbelief musters fears, multiplies enemies, and says, like Solomon's sluggard, "There is a lion in the way, I shall be slain." As strong faith glorifies God most, so great unbelief dishonors him to the highest degree. It binds up the very arm of God, who cannot, who will not do many mighty works where unbelief prevails.

Unbelief draws death out of the book of life, by gathering up the threatenings, and passing over the promises. As the most perfect degree of faith, which is assurance, is heaven begun below—so the highest degree of unbelief, which is despair, is hell begun in time. How daringly does it contend with God, and dispute the matter with the Most High! Says God, "Put me in remembrance of my promise," but says unbelief, "You have forgotten to be gracious, and in your wrath have shut up your tender mercies." Says God, "Remember what enemies consulted against you, and what enemies answered, that you may know the righteousness of the Lord;" but says unbelief, "This evil is from the Lord, why should I wait for him any longer?" Says God, "I have blotted out your sins as a cloud, and your iniquities as a thick cloud;" "No!" says unbelief, "they are marked before you in a book, for time to come, forever and ever!"

Now, shall I harbor such a monster in my bosom—which would turn my whole soul into confusion? Shall I circumscribe that power that has often displayed its glory in my deliverance? Shall I deny the merits of the sufferings of the Son of God, or the virtue of his blood? Shall I be afraid that his grace be not sufficient to strengthen me for the performance of every duty to which he may call me? It is not only ungenerous—but sinful, to entertain thoughts so detracting from the glory of God, and so destructive to my own soul's comfort. Henceforth, let me be strong in the faith, giving glory to God. Let me lift my eyes from growing difficulties of every kind, on every hand, and look to God—so shall the mountain become a plain, and over the 'stream of affliction' I shall go dry shod.

But why condemn Israel, and not myself? The God who did those wonders, is the same with whom I have to do. As I believe them to be true, I am as much bound to believe as they were who saw them—seeing he changes not, nor faints, nor is weary, and since his care over his church and saints is the same in all ages. And though I am not to expect miracles, by which he confirmed the church to himself in those times, yet I am with as great confidence to depend on that God, to whom miracles are as easy as the common course of nature—as if I were governed by the interposition of miracles. Let me not, then myself commit, what I condemn in others—but learn spiritual wisdom from spiritual folly! Yes, how flagrantly guilty shall I be if I retain a transgression in my right hand, for which I have seen, in the sacred records, men so awfully punished, and with which God has shown himself so highly displeased!

And no wonder, for unbelief strikes against God; whatever the language of other sins be—this still speaks against God, even in every murmuring whisper! Unbelief speaks against his faithfulness, as if his promise might not be depended on, nor his record received! Unbelief speaks against his power—as if he could not perform and bring to pass! Unbelief speaks against his wisdom—as if he could not foresee! Unbelief speaks against his providence—as if he could not protect, defend, provide! Unbelief speaks against his Counsel—as if he could not direct! Unbelief speaks against his mercy—as if he had no compassion! Unbelief speaks against his conduct—as if he could err! In a word, unbelief speaks against all his glorious perfections—as if he were not God!

If my unbelief respects my sin, I look more to the demerit of my transgressions—than to the dignity of the divine Redeemer, who takes away the sin of the world. Now, as the Creator is infinitely greater; so the Savior, who is Immanuel, God with us—is infinitely above the sinner, and from eternal wrath can save to the uttermost, all who come to God through him. It is but cruel unbelief at the bottom, however I may pretend to put honor on the holiness of God—when I say that my sins are too atrocious to be satisfied for, by the death and sufferings of our incarnate God—and too black to be washed away by the blood of the Lamb of God.

Again, if my unbelief respects the affairs of this life—I measure omnipotence by my weakness, infinite wisdom by my folly, and God by myself. So, when I am bewildered—unbelief thinks that God is also perplexed—else why should I be disquieted in any condition, were not my thoughts of this detestable stamp; seeing he can rescue his people out of all distress? Then let me look, in all cases and afflicting circumstances—beyond the appearance—above the probability—yes, above apparent impossibilities—to God alone, and I shall never repent my confidence, nor be ashamed of my hope!