Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

The unconcerned spectators

Sorrow is the continual attendant on human life. Every day, to some poor sufferer, is darkened with distress, and yet the spectators are frequently no more concerned, than if the patient were only to set out from the city to his country home. Were a king coming to sit in judgment on a beloved friend of ours, and to examine strictly his actions—with life and death hanging in the balance—could we shake ourselves free from a thousand agitating thoughts? dislodge our bosoms of anxious fears, and many a fervent wish? Now, when a person is pining on a sick-bed, or expiring on a death-bed, the King of kings seems to mount his judgment-throne, and order the spectators into his solemn presence, where the examination will be strict, and the trial issue in eternal life, or eternal death.

And yet how trifling often is the discourse of the attendants! how jocular and sportive their talk! But, O if the invisible world of spirits would flash fully in their face; if but all the disembodied souls of their acquaintance would start up around them, how would they stare and be distracted! though they can now dance about the grave, and laugh amidst the glooms of death. To this invisible world their friend seems fast going, and they, in spite of all their stupidity, are fast following. When I look into the bed, and see my poor fellow-creature in that dying state, it excites my sorrow; and when I look around at the company in their apparent disbelief of a future state—it so moves my compassion, that I am at a loss whether most to pity the dying or deplore the living.

But my soul, be not an idle spectator also. Know the sentence, that all must die—reaches you as well as others. Perhaps death has the summons in his hand already, or is filling his quiver with arrows for the decisive battle; nay, he may be placing an arrow on the bended bow, to sink the sickening shaft into your heart!

"Man that is born of a woman is of few days;" this all the nations know; "and full of trouble;" this I daily find. "He comes forth as a flower," frail and fading; "flees also as a shadow," quickly gone, and quite forgotten. I carry death in my mortal body, which, like a fiery spark concealed within, will sooner or later lay the house to ashes.

It is but a small thing to grapple with death, to enter the lists with the king of terrors, or be enclosed in the gloom of the grave. But it is another thing to enter into a world of spirits—to launch into an unknown and endless eternity—and see God face to face. Roman fortitude may defy the grave and brave death; but nothing but a well-grounded faith can carry one calmly, cheerfully, and comfortably, into a fixed and eternal state.

The trifles of life are of small account at death. What can riches do—but encumber with too much splendid care, and troublesome attendance? What can a character do—but publish his decease? What can opulence do—but give a pompous funeral, and a costly tomb? What can friends do—but weep about the bed, and bewail their dying relative? But your love, dear Lord, can enlighten my passage through death—and lead me safely to my Father's house!