Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

On the last day of a year

(December 31, 1758)

Time is measured, and is alike at both ends; it began with a day, and will end with a day. Hence the evening and the morning were said to be the first day, as the universal judgment is called the last day. Eternity is the fountain from which it sprang, and the flood into which it shall fall. The most lasting duration of time is but short, and its greatest prolongations come to an end. A given moment is scarcely known, until it is past. A few moments—of which make a minute, which we but begin to enjoy when it is also gone; thus an hour flies away, a day hastens to its end, and a year, (as this year has done,) comes to its last day. As, therefore, at the end of the year trading people cast up their accounts, and regulate their books, let me ask myself—What have my talents gained these twelve months? For, whatever I may think, time itself is none of the least of talents, and another year is added to my account.

Thousands who came into the world after me, are called into eternity before me; and is not this a loud call to me to improve every moment of my time? Time is only little thought of—by those who think still less of eternity. But if I look into a future world, I will see of the great importance of every moment of my time, who with my allotted time—must prepare for this everlasting fixed state. O precious misspent, time, which I never can recall! Now this year is gone, and never shall return; what, then, have I done for the glory of God in this past year? Ah! it is passed away from me as a void, though on this side it sparkles thick with mercies, like the starry skies. Ah! did I say a void? nay, worse; for while his love and goodness shone around me like the noonday sun—my sins rose numerous, like the atoms of the sun!

This is the last day of this year; and how would I value every moment of it—did I think it was the last day of my life? Yet nothing but presumption flatters me—that I should live another day. I should count every day as my last, since some have found their last, on days they as little dreaded as I do this; and at most, some day soon will be my last, when perhaps this same pernicious expectation will not be dispelled my bosom. Then it is wisdom to be prepared for death. Wonder that he stays away so long—and you will not be surprised that he comes so soon. Always expect him—and you will not be terrified at his approach. Thus I should look on every day as my last, that when my last day comes, it may not come unlooked for, nor overtake me unprepared.

But, alas! this year has afforded me more mournful spectacles of sin than all my life beside. I have heard the divine name blasphemed; seen sin in high places; and all manner of wickedness committed. O for what trifles, will men cast away their precious souls! and how can I, unconcerned, look on sin in all its ugly shapes, and the dreadful havoc it makes among immortal souls!

But may the divine providence bring me from these chilling objects, and may I through grace never forget what I have heard and seen! Here also patience, worthy of God, is conspicuous; for, when we think how much wickedness is committed all over the world— in public and private—by great and small—on land and sea; and again, that this rebellion against Heaven was not begun yesterday—but carried on since Adam's fall, for more than five thousand years; it is a wonder that the world has not long ago been devoted to the flames! But that patience which for continuance is amazing, shall at last give place to justice, which in the execution will be dreadful.

But while I am meditating on my fleeting time, the midnight-hour strikes, and I am already in another year. Then adieu forever, 1758! Yet let me remember, that by this adieu I look on my life as drawing to its latter end, and that I am advanced another stage nearer eternity—ignorant if a day, or a month, or a year, or two, or more—shall be bestowed on me.