Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799


True science is a study much commended. Where the works of nature are narrowly surveyed, they fill the mind with wonder and delight, and prove that their Creator must be God.

O! says one, how the study of astronomy exalts the soul! And then he expatiates on the starry heavens, or skies filled with suns, with their dependent planets; or worlds unseen—and carries on his fruitful theme, until his lectures have filled the extension of space with spacious habitations for intelligent, though unintelligible beings.

But, to leave the scientist to his own theories, true or false; there is study which as far excels it, as it excels the ignorance of the illiterate rustic; and rises infinitely higher in the objects of its wonder, and subjects of its inquiry. And this is, the sacred study of true religion, which is the wisdom that as far excels, not only folly—but science, as light excels darkness. The scientist's themes are high in comparison to him who is only amused with base, low, sordid, and selfish things, (and if not our highest themes, they are allowable). But how base and groveling are these—in comparison of divine perfections, which entrance the Christian. The scientist, not content with the earth to circumscribe his studies, grasps at the extended heavens; but the Christian, content with neither, seeks after him whose throne is higher than the heavens. "Whom or what have I on earth but you? whom or what have I in heaven but you alone, O Lord?"

Science describes created light; but religion leads us to the Father of more excellent lights, and super-eminent glories. Astronomy struggles with the laws of the stars, disclosing to us the wonders of the sky; but divinity brings us beyond them, to him who counts their number, calls them by their names, and holds them in his hand. This explains the labor of his hand—who explores the love of his heart. The one leads us to see the palace, the other to behold him who dwells in the heaven of heavens, in eternity unknown. Let the scientist dwell all his days upon the solar beam, its vivifying and fructifying influences, its quick transition to our earth, its curious intermixture of colors, while nothing is discernible but light; I say, though he should spend all his time on these studies, yet it shall never alter his countenance, or give a visible external luster thereto.

But Moses, when only forty days in the mount with God, receives such a stamp of divinity on his soul, and such a tinge of the celestial beauty on his countenance, that his face did shine! Nor was this Moses' privilege alone—but is the privilege of every saint in every age. "We all, with open face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the spirit of the Lord." A holy life, or communion with God, not only changes their appearances—but the place of their abode; for though the earthly scientist remains still below, yet the pious man translates his seat above, dwells on high, has his conversation in heaven; yes dwells in love, and therefore dwells in God, for God is love.

Thus the pious soul, who dwells alone, and is not reckoned among the sensible or polite part of the people, may improve to a miracle in divine knowledge, while the most penetrating scientist must leave his studies in the midst; and after having amused the more knowing part of mankind, and at his end shall he a fool.

While others increase in the knowledge of this world, may I increase in love. And while they arrange the stars, may I be taken up with the bright, the morning Star. Let them describe the heavens, and all their signs; I will, with the boldness of faith, draw near to him, who spreads them as a curtain, and stretches them out as a tent to dwell in. While they see a thousand beauties in the sky, I will fix the eye of my soul on a more glorious object—the face of Jesus, and there see brighter displays of much diviner glory. Let the sun be the subject of their theme, as well as the center of their system; but I will adore the Sun of Righteousness, whose beams outshine created lights, and illuminate benighted souls. Choose the worlds unknown for your studies; I will choose the world to come for my meditation!

O how is sacred love to be aspired after! As it is the fulfilling of the whole law, so it is the attainment of all truth; for he who loves God most is the wisest man. O! then, you learned ones—while you increase in worldly knowledge, may I increase in love to God! Let every spark kindle into a flame, and the flame at last burn divinely bright through everlasting day.

Your fancy theories of mysterious things, rack and torment you. But my studies of God improve, compose, and satisfy my soul. Finally, when the end shall come, all your flourishing themes shall flash flames in your affrighted faces, or tumble down, while you stand trembling amidst the mighty ruins. But from the subjects of true religion, the dread catastrophe shall only remove the darkening veils, sweep off the dimming clouds, and let eternal things shine forth in all their native beauty, and essential glory! Then, though here I have seen through a glass darkly, I shall see face to face; and though I have been but learning the first principles of the oracles of God, yet then shall I be admitted to the university of angels, the college of perfected and accomplished worthies, where lessons of divinity, worthy of the highest seraph, shall be our eternal study, and delightful exercise above.

Now, how excellent is practical religion, for its sublime subjects, divine virtue, and, eternal duration? The subjects that this spiritual philosophy treats of, are God in his attributes, perfections, and glories; his works and providences; redemption, in its planning, finishing, and application, by the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit; the soul, in its worth and immortality; and the eternal world, in its certainty and perpetuity.

Again, true religion is excellent, because it ennobles the human soul, clothes it with a true greatness, decks it with the beauty of eternal day, prepares it for glory and for God, portrays the images of heavenly things on the inward part, assimilates to the Son of God, and makes partaker of the divine nature. And, lastly, its duration is eternal. Tongues must cease, and thrones be cast down—but the subjects of true piety shall remain, and be enlarged upon forever!