Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

A wicked thing to depart from God in the least

The Lord is with us while we are with him—but when we forsake him, he hides his face, and departs from us, that we may not depart from him any more. It is dangerous to let the soul out of the heavenly frame; for the inclination being carnal, the affections corrupt, the will stubborn, and the heart deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked—it is with much labor, that the rebel is brought back again to obedience. Moreover, the soul above all things, receives a tinge and resemblance of that with which it is most conversant; hence the carnal mind stops not with its carnality—but even turns into enmity against God. While the soul which beholds the glory of the Lord, is changed into the same image, from glory to glory.

Again, the nearer the soul is allowed to approach to God, the easier it is kept with God; but the further it removes from God, the faster it flies from him, like a stone tumbling down a mountain, the velocity of which increases according to the distance it has fallen; and which at last, with amazing rapidity, rolls to the lowest bottom of the valley. So the spiritual defection is made by degrees. First our love to God cools; then our delight in God and in pious duties languishes; then our watch against sins and shortcomings is slackened; then we count the service of God a weariness; then our mortification of lusts is suspended; then the performance of pious exercises proves a burden; then our affections grow carnal, and our meditations vain; then sins appear, and we view them, first, with no great degree of abhorrence, secondly, with a friendly eye; then we dally with them, and then turn openly and avowedly profane. This has been the case with some, who were once shining professors.

But when the saints have departed from God, though mercy will not let them fall finally and totally away—yet what rueful thoughts, what despairing groans, what melting complaints, what terrors of conscience for a time, what penitential sorrow and breaking of heart, what dreary looks on their backslidings, what anguish, remorse, and pain, what inward vexation, and trouble of mind, to think how they have sinned against God, thought little of his love, forgot his goodness, and buried his mercies in oblivion—have chastised their mournful departure from God! until their heart is swept, by the Spirit of grace and consolation, of all these terrible storms and filled with joy and peace. in renewed acts of believing.

But, again, as the backsliding soul leaves God—so God may leave the soul in justice. He may punish sin with sin. He may punish our going away from him, with his going away from us, and permitting us to go further away from him. He may justly deprive us of the mercy which we do not prize as we ought. When we will not hear him, though he stands at the door and knocks—he may not hear when we pray before the throne. We think little of that unspeakable privilege of being allowed to walk with God—but it is a mournful thing to walk without him, if once we know what it is to walk with him. We should watch our ways, guard against the beginning of our wanderings, the first straying of our thoughts from God. For by sad experience I may say, that the heart which is not fixed on God, is tossed to and fro, up and down—seeking rest in many things, and finding it in none.

But, Oh! that when I have flown out of the ark upon the flood of vanities, I may not, with the raven, before I return to the sacred resting-place, sit down on dead and despicable objects, as corrupt in their kind as the carrion floating on the face of the waters—but, with the nobler dove, return to him whose arm of mercy can pull me into the ark again, and encircle my soul with his favor, and make her rest with vast delight in his unchangeable love.

In your sovereignty and love, depart not from me. And in your mercy, let not me depart from you. Hold me by your right hand, and my soul shall follow hard after you, until you allow yourself, (O condescendence!) to be overtaken in vision and fruition, where I shall never fall away from you again!