Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

On the author's first using eye-glasses

"So remember your Creator while you are still young, before those dismal days and years come when you will say, 'I don't enjoy life.' That is when the light of the sun, the moon, and the stars will grow dim for you, and the rain clouds will never pass away. Then your arms, that have protected you, will tremble, and your legs, now strong, will grow weak. Your teeth will be too few to chew your food, and your eyes too dim to see clearly. Your ears will be deaf to the noise of the street. You will barely be able to hear the mill as it grinds or music as it plays, but even the song of a bird will wake you from sleep. You will be afraid of high places, and walking will be dangerous. Your hair will turn white; you will hardly be able to drag yourself along, and all desire will be gone. We are going to our final resting place, and then there will be mourning in the streets. The silver chain will snap, and the golden lamp will fall and break; the rope at the well will break, and the water jar will be shattered. Our bodies will return to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life will go back to God, who gave it to us." (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7)

Now that my eyes begin to fail—is a sure presage that they shall shortly be closed in death. It is time now that the things of this world should lose their charms—when I must look at them through glasses; and high time that heavenly things should ravish me, since I am so near a future state.

Even if my sight needed no such assistance; I might soon sleep in death. But by my growing blindness, I may see that I must soon cease to behold man, and the things of the earth. When the ear grows deaf, the taste dull, the limbs weak, the teeth few, and the eyes dim—to be still charmed with sensual things—is a case melancholy beyond description. The young and strong, since they know that they are mortal at every period of life, should never be surprised by death; but, for an old man, whose senses begin to fail, to be taken by surprise by death, is consummate folly!

In proportion as my sight fails, I must hold objects more distant from me, in order to collect the rays, and view them distinctly; which may admonish me, that the longer I live in the world, the things of time should be seen as standing at greater and greater distance from me; that a final separation between us must before long take place; and that therefore my meditations should be directed towards the eternal state. By this time, my eye may be fatigued with scenes of vanity and sin, and has cause to long for nobler prospects.

Instead of being wholly blind by my advance into years, I am only deprived of part of my sight—to teach me to prize and improve what is left, and prepare me for losing the remainder in death. While I bless Heaven for the invention of eye-glasses, which makes old age so comfortable; I bewail the wastes of my youthful period; which I cannot now call back. But, could I speak to the youth of every station, and of every land, I would say—read much; read seriously; read for eternity; while your sight is in its prime!

It is affecting to carry my eyes in my head, and my sight in my pocket, since, if I go abroad without my glasses, I cannot read a word in the book of life until I return; but then, let me have my memory stored with the word of promise, the words of the Holy One.

Such is the vanity of our mind, that we study to conceal our decline in life from our fellow-creatures; who suffer in the same decline, and perhaps are also struggling to conceal it. But, by our use of glasses; we proclaim to all—our walking on the margin of the grave—and that we are grown old.

If accustomed to glasses a while; I may perhaps forget these reflections, and the growing frailty of my body. May I never put the glasses on my nose, without remembering that death will shortly lay his hand on my eyes, and close them up forever! O! then, as the eye of my body grows daily more dim, may the eye of my soul grow daily more bright; and refraining to look on the things which are seen, which are temporal—may I fix my eyes on the things which are not seen, and which are eternal. And when the day comes in which I shall take the last glance of created things, the parting look of all my friends and relations, however near and dear—may my soul, in the broad day of eternity—in the noon-day beams of glory—lift up her unclouded eye, and feast on all the perfections of God, on all the beauties of the Lamb—and be like him forever, because she sees him as he is!

To some old men their sight returns again; but their youth is departed forever. So is it this day with me; my youth is gone, and I am well advanced in life; and, in the view of a better life, would bid farewell to this; and welcome old age and death.

The various periods of life that are marked with decline, are but like the mile-stones on the way that tell me how near I am to my journey's end—to my Father's house. But no matter how frail this body grows—it will be fashioned like Christ's glorious body, and made spiritual, incorruptible! No matter how dim these eyes grow—they will soon see God and gaze with growing wonder, and unabating vigor, on all the glories of heaven! No matter how these limbs totter—they will soon stand eternally before the throne! O how I triumph in the decline of nature; and, amidst the storms of winter—sing of eternal summer under the smile of God!

The horrors of the grave, the pangs of my last sickness, and the groans of death—are all but shadowy, imaginary evils, compared with those substantial glories which wait to be revealed when they are quickly over. No matter, though troubles and trials, though men and devils, though earth and hell, like an army of enraged enemies; attends me to the very gate of glory. Omnipotence defends me while in the enemy's country; and, when admitted into bliss, over the wall of heaven, I shall bid defiance to all the furies of hell, and, entering into the joy of my Lord—I shall join in the endless hallelujahs of the redeemed.

But when the unsaved sinner's sight begins to fail—what can he expect? When his eyes are shut in death—what can he hope for? Only to see all the horrors of the pit; all the sad spectacles of damnation; and all the storms and tempests of God's wrath—pouring upon him through an endless ever more!