Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

We should sleep no longer than to refresh the body

Long sleep in any man is blame-worthy—but in a candidate for glory it is a sinful. I may indeed rise in time to manage my temporal affairs, as I am seldom behind with the world; but what improvement do I make for eternal realities? "He who loves sleep," though in worldly things he may sustain no loss, yet in spiritual things "shall be a poor man." When I have a long journey to go, I can get up early in the morning. Now, I am on a more momentous, and immensely longer journey, even to eternity, which cannot be delayed a day; therefore, I have need to use my time wisely—before the shadows of darkness overspreads me, wherein no man can walk; or the night of death overtakes me, wherein no man can work.

Alas! allowing that I shall live some sixty years, how far am I already advanced towards my limit! The past time is lost, the future uncertain; but eternity is certain and approaching! When I look back, how many healthy hours lost in sleep, superfluous sleep, stare in my face! And now that I am convinced of the preciousness of time, shall I squander it away in sleep? Too long in bed, is a sin of a deeper dye than the sleeper will allow. What will I think, if sickness renders me unfit for anything, if infirm old age confines me to my lazy bed? How will I look back with sorrow on vigorous youthful hours lost in sleep! hours which might have been improved for eternity, and spent in communion with God.

Did a friend, whom I dearly love, come early in the morning to visit me, would I not rise to entertain him, not knowing how soon he might go away? Shall I then give the beloved of my soul worse entertainment than my friend?

Sleep is a kind of death; therefore, when asleep, how can I have communion with God, for God is not the God of the dead—but of the living? He, out of sovereignty, may speak to man in a dream, in a vision of the night; and sometimes the dreams of his people have been divine, so that, when they awoke, their sleep has been sweet. But the duty of saints is, to seek him with all the activity of their soul, in the full exercise of all her powers; with the psalmist, to awake themselves early, that they may praise him; to arise before the dawn, that they may pray to him. How am I to blame, who indulge in long sleep! See the laborer go early to the field, the hireling to his work; and shall I lie in bed, like one that has less to do than they? Did my dearest Lord continue on a mount alone, all night in prayer to God for me, and the like of me—and shall I not arise and praise him early? The royal Psalmist could shake himself from his midnight-slumbers, to join in the work of heaven; and shall not I rise in the morning?

Thus, indeed, I think I am punished, that the more I indulge myself in sleep, the more I would sleep. The multitudes above rest not day nor night. I should rest only to refresh my body, not to ruin my soul. Alas! I have not only long sleep to lament—but that I slumber my time away when awake!—without lifting my eye to God. Pity, in all respects, O fountain of mercy! one who in all respects deplores himself.