Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799


God has in all ages been pleased to let matters come to an extremity, before he sent the deliverance; thereby teaching his people patience, and to hope unto the end; thereby also making the deliverance more glorious, and his care of them more conspicuous, than otherwise it would have been. Why then, do I magnify every difficulty into a mountain which cannot be removed, and distrust that divine power which can do all things, and to the greatest extremity?

Now, to dispel these dark and dismal clouds that hang over my mind, to my great uneasiness; let me glance at his divine procedure with his people, from the days of old down through many ages.

See, then, Abraham—the father of the faithful is old and stricken in years, and Sarah is well past the age for bearing children. Yet that extremity is God's opportunity; for he is born, in whose seed the nations should be blessed.

But, again, young Isaac is, by divine authority, to be offered for a sacrifice, and that by none other than his aged, affectionate father! Nor is the order to sacrifice his son revoked, until the altar is reared, the wood laid in order, the boy bound and laid upon the wood, and the hand stretching out the knife to give the fatal wound! Now, what an extremity of extremities was this! but not too late for God to deliver him.

Again, wandering Hagar sees not the well as soon as the bottle of water is all used; but after she had laid down the parched boy, and forced herself a good distance from him, that she might not hear his mournful cries, nor see him struggling with the pangs of death—God opens her eyes, scatters her fears, and removes her sorrows!

Also, just Lot makes his escape out of Sodom only on that very day in which it was destroyed; and it was destroyed early in the day. A narrow escape indeed! Perhaps the heavens were thundering round about the brimstone, and fire falling behind him, while he fled. Yet he was safe enough under his protection—to whom extremity is the noblest opportunity.

Let me also look at Jacob when returning home. He is distressed at his brother's meeting him in such a hostile manner; but when he has arranged his little company for flight, or meeting the armed bands, the kindly embrace removes the doubt, and cheers his very soul.

Joseph is to be exalted—but he is first sold by his brethren, then sold again as a slave, then a prisoner. But, at the last extremity, when he could be brought no lower, he was advanced, until he could as it were, be raised no higher. Even so, his aged father's sorrow, which had all this time mingled his other comforts with bitterness—is heightened by the story of his sons, about the rough dealings of the man who was Lord over Egypt. But from this despair and woe, Jacob is in a moment set into a palace of delight, when he hears that that same governor is his own son, his own beloved, his long-lamented Joseph!

Again, the promise is, that Israel shall be delivered from Egypt, and possess the promised land; but see how subtlety their enemies deal with them, and what murdering designs are formed against them! Yes, when the deliverance begins to dawn, their task is doubled, and their bondage rendered next to intolerable. Such was their extremity before they were brought out with an mighty hand. Nay, after this, their danger seems to be greater than ever, while, pursued by enemies, on many accounts more enraged than ever—they had impassable seas before them, and inaccessible hills on every side. Yet Omnipotence is at no loss to deliver, so that seas divide, and are the defense of his people—but the destruction of their foes.

This divine way of procedure, delivering in the greatest extremity, shines also in the whole history of the Judges; in the narrow escapes of fleeing David; in the case of the widow of Zarephath, whose provisions were almost spent, before the blessing was bestowed that multiplied them—in the case of her son afterwards, and the Shunamite's, who appeared beyond all possibility of help, when restored to life; in the sudden deliverance of Hezekiah and Jerusalem, from the besieging Assyrians, whose mighty men and leaders, a mightier angel slew in one night, to an amazing number of 186,000. Also in the astonishing story of the three Hebrew children, who are apprehended, bound, and thrown into the flaming furnace, now heated seven times hotter for their reception. What can help them now? Yes, in the midst of the furnace they walk at liberty, in the presence of a glorious person, whose form is like the Son of God.

Such was the remarkable deliverance of pious Daniel from the lion's paw, when cast among their bloody jaws, and left a whole night to the mercy of the fierce devourers. And of Jonah from the swelling sea, and the fish's belly, which to him was as the belly of hell. And, in fine, of the Jews from captivity, who went even to Babylon, and there were delivered. And these being brought to an extremity, did not perish in Babylon—but were delivered after a most glorious manner.

This was the way he dealt with his church and people under the Old Testament dispensation, for many hundred years; and it continued under the New Testament dispensation. Hence see how our Lord delays his going to Lazarus, that he might not only relieve him from his disease—but raise him from the dead, which was a more glorious display of his divine power. Such was his way also with Jairus' daughter, and the widow of Nain's son, who seemed to be the captives of death, until the Lord of life commanded their release, and that at a time when, for hinting at it, he was laughed at as proposing a thing impossible to be done.

See how also, in the utmost extremity of danger; he rescues his apostle Peter, by an angel from heaven, who awakes the sleeping prisoner, guides him through the guards, and leads him on, before whom the doors and gates open of their own accord, and let him pass into perfect liberty.

What, then, is difficult for God? What extremity is beyond the reach and strength of his arm? Yes, since he is pleased to delay blessings and deliverances to the last—it is my duty to wait on him until the last, and to wait with hope—and in patience to possess my soul!