Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

Frames of soul, variable

It is the greatest display of spiritual folly to put any confidence in a holy frame of mind. A frame is a certain heavenly disposition of the soul. Now, to rest on anything in ourselves is, to destroy ourselves; for the noblest attainment is to go wholly outside of ourselves and rest only on Christ. If I do otherwise, I provoke him to remove, by placing the effect of his presence in the place of himself, and then my mountain, which I thought stood so firm, is immediately removed; God hides his face, and I am troubled.

Heavenly frames, and glorious manifestations, I should seek, not to rest upon—but to be refreshed with. Christ may come into a frame—but I ought to beware lest I keep the frame, and let Christ go, who is to be sought for himself, found in himself, in the promise, in his unchangeable love—and not in a frame.

To have a cold, insensible heart, is a comfortless condition. But to have Christ, who always brings melting of heart, and a revival of graces with him—is good, and is a prelude of the happiness to come. When I prefer the attendants to their prince, and beg these when I should honor him—this is the way to make him withdraw his visits, and refuse to come again until I confess my folly. Hence am I chastened with so many changes in my soul; sometimes standing on Mount Pisgah—then groveling in the valley of Achor; sometimes walking in the light of his countenance—then going mourning without the sun; sometimes admitted with boldness to his throne of grace, where he fills my mouth with arguments—then finding a cloud spread on his throne, that my prayer cannot pass through, nor I order my speech by reason of darkness. All this to chasten my folly, and make me adore his sovereignty, who comes and goes at his own pleasure. Of such a place, and such a time, one may say, It was Bethel—the house of God, and a time of love. But neither the Bethel of God, nor the time of love—is to be the confidence of the soul, whatever comfort it may afford. The God of Bethel, the God of unchangeable love, is to be the strong tower to which every believer must always resort. To live by faith, is more noble and more safe than to live by sense.

Now, in these things, God teaches me to esteem him more than anything from him; to esteem the enriching hand which gives, more than the gift that enriches; yes, to depend more on his permanent promise, than on his passing presence. For, though the one should be pleasant, like the voice from the excellent glory on the mount of transfiguration, yet the other is the more sure word of prophecy, of inspiration, to which at all times we should betake ourselves.

And this we should remember, that the continuation of that ravishing frame of soul (a gale of which sometimes the favorites of heaven feel blow through their mind,) is reserved for the happier state above: But it should occasion the extreme sorrow, if we send away our Beloved, who is willing to abide with us "until the day breaks, and the shadows flee away." This I may learn—that it is good to hold him in the promise, whatever be the condition of my soul. O deplorable imperfection! When he is absent, despair begins to appear; when present, spiritual pride is ready to spring up. But while he in wisdom comes and goes, it keeps my soul in exercise, going forward and backward, to the right hand and to the left, in quest of him, restless until I find him.

Thus the soul is prevented from sitting down on a sinful security, or falling asleep in the arms of downy delusion, perhaps to awake no more. Yes, this exercising of my soul keeps every grace active; his coming hinders me from falling in the low dungeon of despair, whence I might come up no more; and his going away prevents my climbing the slippery precipice of spiritual pride, whence I might fall and break all my bones.

I desire, both in temporals and spirituals, to make the dear prophet's triumph of faith mine! "Though the fig tree should not blossom; though my graces should seem languid and low; though darkness should sit down on my soul; though he should keep back his lovely face; though my soul should forget her prosperity; though, when I pray and cry, he should shut out my prayers; though Satan should roar at me, temptations rendezvous against me, corruption rage within me, and hell gape for me; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation."

Yet I plead that your presence may cheer me in the wilderness; for if your presence goes not with me, I shall never be able to go hence. But may your Spirit dwell within me, and seal me to the day of redemption. Then my joy in believing shall be turned into an ecstasy of beholding the God-man, in all his amiable perfections; then frames of soul shall be sinless, holy, and pitched to the most elevated height of rapture and delight; then I shall praise without interruption, and adore without distraction!