Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

A journey along the sea-shore

1. At the commencement of my journey, I must take a passage-boat; and how noble the contrivance, thus to be wafted from shore to shore! Let me see divine wisdom shining in the devices of men.

Here I find old and young, male and female, men of different stations and various employments; and in the safety of the vessel we are all equally interested. This is a picture of human society.

The sea is a stormy element; the winds roar, the waves rage, and some of the passengers are both fearful and very sick, though others are cheerful and courageous. Thus is our voyage through human life; tempests attack us, various afflictions rage around us, and inward grief and vexation make us sick at the very heart. But some have a more pleasant passage through life, and others, by a steady faith in God, remain tranquil and serene. We meet other passage-boats and with the same wind we pass them, and reach opposite shores; so saints and sinners; whether prosperity or adversity fill their sails, steer for opposite shores.

2. I find, in some parts on the shore a scarcity of good fresh water; and yet an ocean of water swells them. So, some men, in the midst of all abundance, never taste of true joy, or solid consolation. And the whole creation, to an immortal soul, will prove but like salt water to a thirsty man, never able to allay his thirst, or ease his grief.

But the inhabitants having other conveniences, put up with this; and, alas! shall not we often put up with greater losses for trifles? How many sit still under erroneous preachers, rather than forego the least convenience to hear an evangelical minister?

3. Traveling along the coast, I come among some very sinking sands, which makes my journey both painful and tedious. But, when I reach the sands that are often washed with the sea, I walk with ease and delight. So it is safer and sweeter to walk in an afflicted lot, that is often washed with the briny wave of adversity, than in the wealth and ease of the worldling.

4. I find cloth soaked in the sea, to prepare for whitening, and left to be covered by the waves, and so secured, that when the sea retires, the owners find all safe. Even so, afflictions and trials shall prepare the saints for glory; and though, in their own eyes, and in the eyes of others, they may seem drowned in distress, and cry out, "All your waves and your billows are gone over me," yet well does the heavenly Owner know how to preserve, in the midst of great waters, his own people, and at last to deliver out of all trouble, and present them faultless before his presence with exceeding joy!

5. It is now tide of ebb, and, though the waves roll with fury, and threaten to recover what they have lost, still they retire, until all the shore is left dry. So, O saint! so, O soul! shall it be with your corruptions; they may rage and threaten to return—but still they shall lose ground, until they shall never more be seen. Though corruptions should seem as strong as ever, yet the time of their continuance is daily growing shorter. This may be comfort to many a poor soul, that, though sin should rage ever so fiercely, still it is but the last efforts—the desperate struggles of a wounded, dying enemy.

But the tide of flood calls to mind the melancholy case of sinners; for, though the waves seem often to recoil and relinquish what they had gained, still every following billow advances further than the former, until the briny surge possesses all the shore; so, whatever checks of conscience, and partial reformations may take place, still the wicked proceed from evil to worse, until the soul is drowned in sin, and lost in perdition!

6. What abundant variety of all things does the sea produce! The ground that lies along the coast is enriched with sea-weeds, and is very fertile. Our tables are supplied from the deeps; and sometimes, when the crop has failed, the ocean has poured in its plenty and supplied the poor. Such is the divine goodness. His bounty is an ocean that supplies all our needs, and still overflows. From him come all our comforts, from him our blessings flow; and still they overflow! He gives grace, and he will give glory. He gives himself—and that is all in all.

7. Fields enriched with every grain, and verdant pastures stored with flocks and herds, are not far off. But my ordained path is to walk along a rocky, barren shore. Many a traveler has gone this way, and a new road is not to be made for my fancy and pleasure. So must every person, and so must I, walk in that very path Providence has appointed me, however rugged, however afflicting it may prove! It is the way, and no other, that will lead to our better country—to our Father's house. To be running every now and then in quest of a more pleasant way, will only add to my toil, and lengthen my journey. Just so, to fret under affliction, and to be discontented with our condition, may make us more miserable, and add a sharp edge to our anguish—but can do us no good. It is comfort, though the road is rugged—that leads me to the house of my friend. Just so—if I arrive at last at my heavenly Father's house, who is a friend who sticks closer than a brother—I ought to put up with every trouble and inconvenience along the way.

8. I have walked a good way all alone—but I have had company for some miles. But such such company, that I welcome my solitude again. Let this be a caution to be slow in choosing companions; and how happy they who have agreeable, godly companions, along the crooked road of life, whose pious dialogues will brighten the day, shorten the way, and cheer each other to their journey's end.

9. Sands that were lately covered with the tide, are now, by a strong wind—blown in my face; a sudden change indeed! And how soon do people, who had once been in deep affliction—turn vain and frothy! Our natural vanity and levity is so great, that none but the Searcher of hearts can know it.

10. I find a man sitting in something like a centry-box, and take him for a criminal. But how surprised, on inquiry, to find that he is a kind of judge, and determines disputes on shore. More surprised shall thousands be at the great day, to see the saints, who have been held as criminals, and as such have been banished, beheaded, and burnt—sit as judges of the world, and of angels.

11. I find doves dwelling securely in the rocks; the ocean foams before them, the tempests roar around them—but they are safe at home; and, on their nimble wings, fly where they will. Just so, safe are the saints who dwell in the Rock Christ, in the rock of ages! And on the wing of faith they fly from all surrounding ills, to the heavenly rest, the land of promise, and paradise of bliss!

12. A light shower falls from heaven, and falls on the salt sea with the same abundance that it does on the fruitful field, or pasture-ground. Just so—to how many has the gospel been preached that have never believed the heavenly report? Among thorns, by the wayside, and on stony ground, has the good seed been sown, which came to nothing. But Heaven will be sovereign in his kindness to all, and sinners inexcusable who perish in their unbelief.

13. Innumerable creatures sport in the sea, and a variety of fowl fly along the shore. There is an element for every creature, and every creature loves and lives in its element. Then, am I an expectant of heaven, and a candidate for glory—and yet will I wallow in earthly things? If born from above, I should find delight in spiritual things, and desire to be above.

14. When come in sight of, and not far distant from the house to which I am going, a little rivulet presents itself, through which I must go to reach my destiny. I learn there is a bridge for foot-passengers, (but neither for horses nor carriages,) built by some friendly hand over the stream. But many a traveler knows nothing of this bridge, and so must take the stream, whatever may ensue. This reminds me of death, which stands between me and my Father's house, and presents itself at the end of my journey. However terrible it may appear, the hope of communion with God may make me leap through all dangers! Christ, indeed, has built a bridge for his chosen to pass over. But over this bridge we can carry neither honors, nor riches, nor relations—but, stripped of all, must walk alone, under the conduct of our heavenly Guide. But, alas! how few know of this bridge, how few find it—and how many perish in the stream!

15. At last I reach the dear house for which I undertook my journey, and find a hearty reception from all my kind and much esteemed friends. So at last shall all the saints arrive at the house of the living God, and be blessed with the society of saints and angels, and ravished with communion with God and the Lamb. When arrived at this state of everlasting rest, I shall forget the dangers of my journey, and the troubles of my earthly lot. I shall be filled with unspeakable joy in his presence, and feasted with the glorious pleasures of his house forever!

However happy here on earth, a short time must finish my visit, and I must leave this world. But the bliss above is everlasting. I shall never leave the society of saints and angels. I shall never go out of his temple. I shall never rise from his banquet! I shall never depart from his throne! I shall never cease to behold his glory, nor be silent in his praise! My whole soul, in every ravished power, shall be full of God, and be wholly satisfied with God forever!