Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799


People generally have a mistaken notion of torment. I shudder to hear of protracted agonies on the dying malefactor—to hear of the rack, (invented by boundless rage, and improved by infernal cruelty,) decreed by the powerful offended party, to torture to death my fellow-creature. Yes, the groans of dying mortals pierce my ears, and make me sharer of their pains. But what are all human inventions—when we look beyond them, to eternal punishment? what is the glittering sword, or sharpened axe? What the musket, with its deadly explosion? What the gibbet, with ten thousand spectators? What the bastinado clubs, the stamping elephant, the quartering horses? What the piked barrels, the breaking wheel, the boots and thumbkins, the suffocating dungeon, or the calcinating flame? How do they all disappear before these words—DIVINE VENGEANCE—ETERNAL WRATH!

But how do the tormentors fall short of their designs, when the guilty wretch is condemned to be put to the torture so long every day by the rack, death is parceled out in the most cruel manner which can be invented, until justice is satisfied, cruelty glutted, or until the sufferer, sinking under his pains, expires, and is no more! Now, suppose this miserable wretch, (whom we conclude happy, because the scene no more affects our eyes,) to die impenitent; and suppose him also to have his choice, whether to stay in the anguish of the invisible world, or to return to the torments he lately left. How soon would we see him fondly so to speak, embrace the flames, present his gaping wounds to the boiling oil and scalding lead, and his naked body to the scourging steel—and weary his tormentors! Such is the difference between the rage of man and the wrath of the Almighty. That reaches to the body—but God's wrath, in all its terrors, transfixes the soul. The one, finite in its nature, terminates in death; the other, infinite in its degrees, preys on every faculty, and swallows up the whole soul, and its duration is eternity.

How amazing the love of the Father that gave his Son for sinners! How amazing the love of the Son that gave his life a ransom for many! that sustained the burning load of his Almighty Father's wrath, that our torments might sit light, and that our last pangs might translate us into the joy of our Lord!