Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

Who the great man is

He who bears a commission from his king, that is, a noble, an ambassador, or a minister of state—is accounted a great man. Now, if being near the throne, and conversant with the king, makes a man great, clothes him with renown, procures him reverence and respect, loads him with popular applause, and clothes him with splendor and pomp; with how much more divine and durable honor is the saint aggrandized, who, though alone from the world, dwells with God; and though not known among the busy crowd, resides near to God's throne! The high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, gives his royal assent to their petitions, and will not deny them. Yes, "his secret is with those who fear him, and he will show them his covenant." This is greatness indeed, to be in favor with him who is a terror to kings; with him to whom kings and their subjects are less than nothing, and vanity.

How are the humble saints exalted in their privileges above the nobles of the world! The eternal King is not only their Friend—but Father; and the Prince of the kings of the earth is not only their Benefactor—but their Brother, which relation is secured for eternity. Again, God's gifts are according to his divine dignity. None of the kings of the earth can bestow on their dearest friends, and most faithful servants, crowns and kingdoms. They may indeed divide their own among them at their death—but in no country can they secure the donation, when dead, or perpetuate the conveyance. But God's favors, who lives forever to see them bestowed—are crowns and kingdoms—a crown that fades not away, and a kingdom that cannot be moved. Yes, his gifts enrich the soul, and measure with their existence.

Monarchs may cause their favorites' names to be registered in the list of their honorary rolls—but cannot prevent their being buried in oblivion. But the names of all the saints are written in the Lamb's book of life, and shall be confessed before an assembled world. It is greater to know God—than to be acquainted with kings; to be known of God—than to be commended to the ends of the earth.

Now, what do you think, O poor despised saint of God—who dwells in a cottage which the great men would not stoop to step into—to be so high in the favor of Heaven, that a divine guard of heavenly angels is set around your house, that no ill can come near your dwelling? Yes, the sacred retinue, though unseen, attends the saint wherever he goes, who walks unobserved through the world. Did the royal life-guards of the rising heirs of glory, appear in their celestial garments—they would terrify the inhabitants of the earth; but there is a greater wonder, that even the eternal Sovereign should condescend to be the watchman of his people, and keep their going out, and preserve their coming in, so that neither the moon by night, nor the sun by day, shall smite them! And what comfort and security is this—that the eternal God is your refuge, and underneath you are the everlasting arms!

Such, O saint! is your renowned state, your excellent glory, who perhaps are kept at short allowance of food and clothing; with a young and needy family sitting heavy on your mind; but God cares both for you and them. What then, though you have crosses of every kind to meet with, bitter draughts of every composition to drink—since it is well with your better part? Yes, afflictions capacitate you for felicity, and enlarge your soul for bliss. But I dare appeal to your own bosom, O child of God! under all your troubles, falsifying friends, loss of relations, or any other grief—if you would exchange your afflictions for the flourishing condition of the wicked?

Now you are great, (for the saints, since they live near God, are the greatest men in the world,) though perhaps you know it not. Let your greatness kindle your gratitude, not increase your pride. To keep the saints humble, divers afflictions are allotted them in this life; as a royal father, fearing lest his son, the young prince, under his present grandeur, and prospect of the crown, may swell beyond himself—deals so roughly with him, that often he fears the king intends to disinherit him. Yet so many bright displays of paternal affection assure him it shall not be so. And the truth is, it is out of love, that he may not mount the throne with unsubdued passions, or sway the scepter in thoughtless folly. So it fares with the saints, who should know, in the celestial promotion, that it comes neither from the east, nor from the west, not by works of righteousness which we have done—but it is God alone who exalts. My life, then, is a paradox; I am base—but great; miserable—yet happy; poor—but possessing all things; a beggar—and a prince. Eternity shall unriddle it—taking away the one part, and illustrating the other!