Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799


How uncertain are our best-founded expectations from created things! Nothing seemingly more sure; the time when, the place where, and the manner how—designs were to be put in execution, being set by the agreement and concurrence of everyone concerned! And yet, in the event, nothing more unsure! O irresistible Providence! How do you laugh at the folly of man, whose blind eye sees nothing to change the face of things, until by an unexpected resolution, and severe discipline, he is made to know his fallibility and blindness! O foolish heart of man, to be fond of this or that to excess! You see the beginning of a matter, but not the end; you behold the outer wheel of providence, but consider not that there is an inner wheel, even a wheel in the middle of a wheel, which produces scenes unobserved before, scenes which finite wisdom never could invent.

Perhaps the present disappointment, though great and unexpected, is a kind one, could I with patience wait and see the outcome. And, beyond dispute, it is a just one; "for shall not the righteous Judge of all the earth, do what is right?"

But is my disappointment in the most momentous things, or only in matters of inferior concern? Have I got a message from the court of Heaven, that there is no salvation for me there? no mercy at the throne? no peace to be expected from him that sits thereon? No, no! Then what ails me? Eternal felicity secured is a noble panacea, and a sufficient antidote against the heaviest disappointments and misfortunes of this deceitful world! A faithless flatterer, a falsifying friend, a violated promise, a mob of backbiters, sad disappointment, a worldly loss, a thwarted enterprise, a vain expectation, a disappointed hope—what do all these matter—in comparison of the everlasting interests of my immortal soul? But, if these afflictions make me miserable, shall I make myself more miserable still, by handling the coals which burn me, and reading over the register of my misfortunes, which will be forgotten in eternity? How, then, shall I anticipate the felicity of the world to come—but by forgetting my miseries in the triumph of faith?

Moreover, these many turnings, and stupendous meanders of my life, are all squared by the straight line of the decree of God, with whom nothing is crooked. The seeming gaps of my lot are but the fulfilment of heaven's design concerning me, and my repeated disappointments are only the accomplishment of the wise counsel of God.

Besides, who can tell what heaven has in reserve for me? It is good to wait on God, and expect good at his hand. "Ah!" says unbelief, "nothing good at present appears." Hush! you atheistical monster, will you limit Omnipotence, or allege, that infinite wisdom is confounded, and Almighty Power not able to perform what it desires? I shall yet see his kindness as large as my faith, and his mercy measure with my widest expectations. May I never get the desire of my heart, but only as it is consistent with God's blessing; nor the request of my lips but only as it is consistent with his good will.

This is, indeed, consolation to me, that no sinister views stare ghastly in my face, when so many struggling thoughts pass through my suffering heart. If my sin be a sin of ignorance, pardon me, and show me why you contend with me. But, perhaps my heart was too much set on my favorite desire, which, though lawful in itself, might by excess, become unlawful. So Aesop hugged his child to death, out of too much fondness. Then let me keep within the due bounds of esteem, everything below; and take a loose hold of all earthly things, that when they are twisted out of my hand, they may not torment my heart!

But why are you disquieted, my soul? Why uneasy still? Recall your past life, and lay it down before you, and mark, if you can, when you had any reason to complain of Heaven's dealings towards you. Have not things, which, at their first appearance, seemed adverse and painful—turned out at last for good? Say, when you review the whole, say, if you dare—if ever God dealt badly with you! No! Every providence will prove the contrary! Every mercy will affirm it! Yes, every change of life, every crook of your lot will seal it.

But, seeing this is your work, O God! the effect of your ever righteous and wise will, I ought not only to be silent—but rejoice in your sovereign dealings; and be glad in that you have done for me, and wonder that you should so concern yourself with me, so as to disappoint my ignorant designs, schemes, plans, and enterprises! Hence I bless you for all that befalls me. If I have had sinful plans, I plead for pardon through Christ's meritorious name.

Now, I rest, and am composed, and calmly wait on you, resigned to heaven's determination, in everything concerning me in time—until I arrive at that better country, at that perfect state, where there is neither disappointment nor pain!