Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

Our meditations cramped, unless stretched beyond death

Would any man envy that person's situation as superlatively happy, who were confined to a garden, beautified indeed with all the varieties of nature, and decorated with all the ornaments of art, if its walls were high to heaven, so that he could not cast a look beyond them—but must remain a stranger to the whole world, except his own family, not being indulged with a single glance of the spacious plains that border on him, the shady forests, and the murmuring streams, the mighty oceans, and magnificent kingdoms, scattered on the face of the globe; and so could neither exult in the felicity, nor sympathize with the affliction, of any tribe of men? Yet this man would be far more happy, (as here he might remember his latter end,) than he who dares not look beyond death, who will not think on a world to come.

How is he cooped up—who can only reflect on the few scenes that are past, or revolve in his mind those which are expected to take place during a present—but transitory life! How is he straitened in his acquaintance, though a king—who only knows and is known among the perishing sons of clay—but never lets his thoughts penetrate into the world of spirits, or rise to the glorious Father! Such a man, whatever he is in this world, is to be deplored, not imitated; pitied, not envied.

If the things of time set a bound to my meditations, I am of all meditators most miserable; but if I can pierce the shadows of death through a well-grounded faith in Christ, and rise into the broad daylight of eternity, to breathe there as in a native air—then every thought triumphs, and my whole soul is joyful and serene; for thus I may smile in the face of impending ruin, knowing that my treasure is reserved in heaven. Thus may I, undisturbed, stand the overthrow of thrones, being assured that the throne of God my Savior is established of old, and stands forever sure. Thus may I get foretastes of eternal bliss, and of the banquet above.

Now, my state must be either thus happy; or else of such terrible extreme, that when I look towards death, I am troubled; towards judgment, I am terrified; towards God, I tremble; and towards eternity, I am lost in anguish and woe. But happy condition! if I can look on this world as my pilgrimage and prison; and on death as the door through which I shall enter into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. And if even now, by meditating on the exercise that employs the church of the first-born, the divine communion they are admitted to, the beatitudes they enjoy, and the glories they behold—I familiarize the unseen world to my soul, and contract acquaintance in eternity itself!