Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

The death of the wicked

The wicked and the righteous live a different life, and die a different death. Have not my eyes beheld the melancholy scene?—one hastening into the unseen world, unprepared and thoughtless. But perhaps he may sleep on in carnal security, until, stripped of flesh, he plunges into the raging flames! Have not my eyes seen a dying person, (methinks I see him still,) tossing and tumbling under the gnawing pangs of some acute disease: sleep debarred from his eyes, on whose lids sat the shadow of death, calling often, and in a melting manner, for help from his physician—but in vain? Every power is invaded, every part besieged—as death denies a moment's respite from the war. Yet we hear not one word of his eternal state, of his immortal soul; nor one request for mercy, from God as reconciled in his Son. When he was in health, the world was all his concern. As he desired he lived; and as he lived he died. As the tree grows, so it falls. Then may I live to God—and die in God: grow to grace—and fall to glory!

Friends and spectators are very much concerned to see him writhing under the agonies of death, and sympathize with every groan; but for the most part look no further, nor pity his soul—which is in shortly to fall into the hands of the living God! But the combat is increased, the attack is visibly more stout, and strength to resist is sensibly decayed. His friends, careful but too late, call for prayer now—as if God could be forced into friendship with the man, at his last moments, who has been all his life his foe; or heaven won for him who never sought for it himself. At length, amidst insupportable agonies, he yields up the spirit, and is no more. Attending friends pour out their sorrows in a flood of tears, yet are not a little glad to see his suffering body lie at rest. And then they dress his stiffening limbs and his lifeless clay. They are willingly ignorant of the state of his soul—and gladly hope the best. But will you talk deceitfully for mercy, to the injury of adorable justice? At death, shall heaven be his possession—who would not have a gift of it upon earth? Shall he dwell with God in eternity—who walked contrary to God in time, nor repented at death?

All is hushed, and those concerned are quiet again: the tears dry up, as they refuse to look beyond the grave. But my imagination follows him. They say—Forbear, presumptuous thought, and mind your own concerns! Ah! I must peep into eternity, and, through the telescope of Scripture, see him brought before the judgement, and found to have lived and died without Christ! Oh! his fearful doom! Vengeance awakes against him, the vengeance of eternal fire, and he is thrown into the flaming gulf of hell, where deep he sinks, below my venturous thought.

His friends refresh themselves, and comfort one another, until they recover their usual mirth and jest: but not a drop of water to cool his scorched tongue! The ensuing night shall partly repay the watching and wakeful nights they have had about their friend: but his eyes shall never shut—but keep open with ghastly stare, looking for the wrath, however much he feels—which is still "the wrath to come." Their sorrow gradually abates—but his anguish is ever on the increase. Our remembrance of him rots into oblivion, as his clay crumbles into corruption—but God's wrath never forgets its prey; God's vengeance never forgets to afflict.

Still my sympathy would penetrate the dark abyss, and look with pity on my damned acquaintance. Poor soul! where is all your usual mirth and merry jests? Are they now forever fled, and your uninterrupted exercise—unceasing howlings, and unavailing complaints? Now you are where sympathy avails you not, where pity cannot enter. This is no purgatory—through which you shall one time or other leave; it is your final doom, your fixed eternal state! My troubled thoughts are weary among the shriekings of the damned, nor longer can abide among these shades of horror. Yes, now I am not bound to sympathize with the eternal, irreconcilable enemies of Jehovah and the Lamb. The day of grace is past, the hour of mercy over: sin is finished, and has brought forth eternal death; despair is final, enmity consummate, and the breach is wide as the sea of eternity! Who can heal it?

Let me turn, then, my voice unto the sons of men. A few moments, and your state, like his, is fixed! Will you, then, adventure not only to sport—but to sin away your time, which is so precious, and in which you are to secure a happy eternity? There are no offers of salvation beyond the grave! There is no godly repentance in the pit! Now your misery has the heavenly balm of God's mercy; but there your misery shall not, even in its longest duration and highest degree, excite God's mercy—but rather awake his fiercer wrath; while in your agonies you blaspheme the awful avenger, who in the destruction of 'mercy-despisers 'shall rest satisfied. Then give your eyes no sleep, nor slumber to your eye-lids, until you find a dwelling in your heart for God, and a chamber in his promise, a saving interest in his Son for your soul—that you may be hidden in the day of wrath, and in the desolation that shall surely come.