Periodic Interview with the King of Terrors
by James Meikle, 1730-1799
1771. Last night a person was removed by death, who, though
feeble and infirm, had fond expectations of recovery, and strong desires to
live. O what is it in this world, that is so bewitching; and what in the
eternal world that is so forbidding—that we recoil from that, and
cleave to this? If life is sweet, and if a man will give all he has
for his life, should not living in the presence of God be a thousand times
more welcome? It is a moving spectacle to see malefactors, being banished to
foreign climates, taking the last look of their native land, with weeping
eyes, wringing hands, and broken hearts. But it is a joyful parting, when
some illustrious and agreeable stranger is taking his last farewell here of
all his friends, being recalled to his native country and his prince's
court. With heartfelt joy, he loses sight of the shore, to reach the nobler
climate. Let me never look, then, on the approach of death, like a rebel
banished to some inhospitable isle—but like a son going to his native
country, and his Father's house.
March 5, 1771.
This day is a mournful remembrancer to me of the death of my dear
sister. A melancholy twelve months has not blotted out my loss, though I see
that the dead go to the land of forgetfulness. But, amidst my sorrow, I sink
into the same situation. Sorrow for our departed relations is the most
irresistible, and yet the most unreasonable of all sorrow. It cannot profit
the dead—but may hurt the living. It characterizes the heathen, who sorrow
as those who have no hope. But is foreign to the Christian, who has a future
world always in view, and eternity at hand. With my better informed part, I
triumph over grief—but my human feelings still deplore my loss. When
sense looks beyond the grave, it sees nothing but inscrutable mysteries,
and appalling prospects—and it succumbs. But when faith looks
beyond the grave, it sees all things amiable, inviting, safe, and tranquil,
in his unchangeable love—and it triumphs. O, then, for a steady faith for
that important, that approaching hour!
May 1, 1771.
It is common to complain of the troubles of life, yet they are kindly
designed to loosen our affections from the world. If our life were all clear
sunshine, without care or confusion, jar or contention, disappointment or
pain, how would we be glued to the world, and cemented to the things of
time, since amidst all the disasters which occur, we are still so attached
to the transitory things! "God disciplines us for our good, that we may
share in his holiness." Hebrews 12:10 (NIV)
May 7, 1771.
On this day, when many miles from home, I had a warning of my own
death in the dying aspect of an acquaintance, a correspondent. He is done
with this world, and so weak that he cannot speak of the other. When my
situation shall be the same, let this Monthly Memorial witness for me that I
have expected it. And that I have now and then thought on a future state,
and the world to come.
May 30, 1771 (birthday).
Why do I mention my birthday but to remember the day of my death? And
it is remarkable, that the wisest of men, and an inspired writer, makes no
account of the whole human life—but of these two grand events—to be
born, and to die—as all the rest are either so short, or so
trifling, that they deserve no notice. By the first, I am served heir of
future worlds, and the universe combined against me cannot defraud me of
this inheritance. And by the last, I am put in actual possession of eternity
itself—where the contest of monarchs for kingdoms, appears as the struggles
of school-boys for toys and trifles; and where the kingly scepters and
crowns of gold are utterly despised by all the immortal multitude, in either
state—for there is a state of endless felicity, and of eternal
torment! O to secure my interest! ascertain my state!
June 6, 1771. Many
things we should place over against one another; as death—in opposition to
life; judgment—to all our actions; the dark grave—in opposition to our
grandest mansions; our soul—in opposition to all our acquisitions;
eternity—in opposition to time; heaven—in opposition to earth; and God—in
opposition to all finite existence. And then we will be at no loss to know
June 15, 1771. This day
an uncommon and melancholy providence sends a promising boy and an
affectionate father to the grave together! The strippling, though heir to an
estate, fevers and dies. The fond parents are overwhelmed with sorrow, yet
the sorrowful father writes the burial-letters. But who should think that he
should accompany him in the coffin to the house of silence! His life
seems to have been bound up in the life of the lad; for, after putting the
lifeless, yet beloved clay into the coffin, he faints, perhaps from some
insupportable pang of grief, and excess of sorrow—which cut his heart
strings in two!
I sympathize, I feel for the survivors. The tender mother
laments the loss of her son—and no husband to comfort her! The inconsolable
widow laments her dead husband—and her son is not alive to allay her sorrow!
The tender-hearted children are lavish of their tears for their brother—but
have no kind father to sympathize with them. They are swallowed up of sorrow
for their departed parent—but their brother is dead, and cannot sympathize
with their mourning!
What should any man, what should I, expect in the
world—but disappointment, lamentation, mourning and woe? How sudden, how
irresistible—is the call of death! Here one must not wait to bury his oldest
son, dispose of his other children, or comfort the wife of his bosom!
October 23, 1771. No man
knows whether love or hatred will be in store for him. But to the saint,
everything comes in love. How am I kept still alive, when, lo! a laborer in
God's harvest is carried hence in the very bloom of life! A desolate
congregation, a disconsolate widow, and helpless orphans, make the scene
very mournful! But his disembodied soul has no connection with terrestrial
things—it is full of glory, full of God! Ah! what worldly enchantment holds
me, that I am not more conversant with the invisible world?
November 5, 1771. When I
hear of the death of a saint of God—or when I think of my own death—why do I
grow pale? To go home to his native country, and his Father's house, to meet
with all his dearest friends, to enter into a palace, to receive a kingdom
and a crown, to put on immortality, and be clothed with glory—must give us
an idea of grandeur and felicity! Now, all this ensues on the death of the
righteous, and may make us rather bless his situation, than bemoan his
February 20, 1772.
Several of my acquaintances have commenced members of the invisible world,
and their last possessions below are a few feet of putrefying earth. One of
them dies on a visit, and in two hours. Another sleeps out of life, yes, so
to speak, sleeps himself awake through the night of time, into the broad day
of eternity. While others, by acute diseases, are stripped of their mortal
state. It seems essential to death to come upon all man-kind unawares with
respect to their friends, if not with respect to themselves. Let the friends
of a dying person wait on him, and expect his death every day, yet when his
death comes, it will be at an hour that they looked not for, at a moment
that they were not aware.
March 3, 1772.
The truth of the above appears in a young hopeful person, who gets
only a broken shin. But that brings on a fever. And the fever ends in an
What am I to expect in the world but lamentation? The
more comforts I enjoy—the more crosses I may expect. The more friends I
have—the more funerals I attend. Why should I dwell on my sorrow? Why
repeat, that on this very day two years ago, I lost a dear friend! Silence.
And rejoice, O my soul! that your Redeemer lives.
April 7, 1772.
How are my departed acquaintances this night employed? Just as they
were employed below. The soul that delighted himself in God, maintained
communion with God, panted after likeness to him, and longed for the full
enjoyment of God—is this night ravished and delighted in his beatific
presence, maintains the most intimate and nearest communion with him,
expands in his similitude, and, in his enjoyment of God, presses on and
aspires eternally after more and more of God. But the ungodly, in none of
whose thoughts God was, who slighted his love, and trampled on his law, and
in everything fled from God—is this night filled with tormenting anguish,
horror, and remorse, is made to drink of the wrath of the Almighty, and is
eternally separated from God, and from the glory of his power.
Heaven and hell are begun in time. If, then, on earth I
have not my heart in heaven more or less, I may be assured that I shall
never be personally there. And he that ripens not for glory, must be fitted
for destruction. And to such, death is death indeed.
May 30, 1772,
(birthday). On the day that I was born, there was joy in my
father's house. But on the day that I must die, there shall be sorrow in
mine. But whatever sorrow there may be in my family, and among my
friends—may there be joy in my soul, even joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Many feast their bodies on their birthday; may I feast my soul, in the faith
of being admitted to the marriage-supper of the Lamb! I am entered on
another, and, for anything that I can tell, perhaps the last year of my
life. O! then, to live every way like one upon the confines of eternity! On
this very day I attend the funeral of a person but a little older than
myself. And before I myself am much older—others must attend mine.
June 2, 1772. What
satisfaction can I find in a round of vexation and vanity? and what else can
I expect in the world? Though I should never rest until death, yet death
shall bring me to my everlasting rest. And by a strong faith thereof I enter
into this very rest. Sin, the greatest of all evils, does the saint many
good offices, among which this is not the least—to reconcile him to death.
For when he finds his enemies often assault him, and he himself often
hurried into acts of rebellion—must he not long to pass over Jordan, that he
may never more offend his rightful Lord and best Friend?
July 6, 1772.
O that spirituality were my element! then it would be no pain to
think on death, as the door to eternal glory. The fish cannot live on land,
the land-animal cannot live in the water; what supports life in the one, is
death to the other. An angel could not live on earth, a devil could not
dwell in heaven, nor (O strange! O true!) a worldly man! Everything seeks
its element, and tends to its center. O that sacred love were my element,
and God my center! then shall I breathe in the one, and soar towards the
October 6, 1772.
From this world, which has much occupied me this morning, I retire a
few minutes, to think on death, and glance at the world to come. For what do
I bereave myself of rest? Could I add kingdom to kingdom, unite empire to
empire, and bundle all the scepters of princes, kings, and emperors
together, and possess myself of them—what would this do for me in the hour
of death, or in those solemn moments when I must stand at heaven's tribunal?
Nothing, or worse than nothing—even an addition to my guilt, an aggravation
of my sin!
October 12, 1772.
This is a melancholy day to an affectionate father, and fond mother,
who send to the house of silence, their little family. The two boys, though
different in their ages, in one day are laid in one grave. Many a year the
married pair longed for the blessing of the womb; it was obtained—but now
all their joy perishes in the untimely tomb. They never had more children,
and probably never will have more; therefore they must be sorrowful to their
very soul. O then, to take God for our all, that we may be comforted against
grief on every side, and enriched against every loss below!
November 3, 1772.
I am pained at my very heart to hear of the death of a dear acquaintance!
Indeed, he is gone from the service of the lower sanctuary, to join the
triumphant song of the higher house. But why am I surprised that a journey
comes to an end—that a traveler arrives at home? What, then, is life but a
journey—and the living but travelers? O to believe this, and to have my eye
on my latter end!
December 2, 1772.
How must our dead friends who are gone to God, to glory—pity our
ignorance in lamenting them as cut off forever, from every desirable
enjoyment—when indeed they are only carried to be possessed of their utmost
wish, and to be blessed above their widest hope! This is the case with my
dear acquaintance; he is above all sorrow, and satisfied with the abundance
of every good, even with the exuberance of God himself.
January 6, 1773. It is
often fatal to grow remiss in important points. So has an army been many a
night under arms, and kept the strictest watch—but growing at last secure,
has been surprised and overthrown. Some die so openly profane, that hell, in
the eyes of the world, opens her flaming mouth to receive them. Others
descend by a back passage to the pit. In like manner, some, as it were,
steal incognito to glory, while others rise in the broad day, amidst a cloud
of witnesses, to bliss. Oh! to carry as much of heaven in my life, as to let
the world see that I am traveling heavenwards. And as much of death in my
meditation, as will remind me that I am traveling to the tomb!
February 2, 1773. If I
am traveling to the land of promise, to the Canaan above—it will afford me
comfort, that I have gone so many days journey through the desert, and am
now almost within sight of the better country.
April 1, 1773. The whole
employment of a well spent life should be to prepare for death, and improve
for eternity. If, then, I have a mortal life, why am I thus glued to the
things of time? And if I have an immortal soul, why am I not more enamored
with the realities of eternity, with the joys of heaven?
May 4, 1773. As this is
the month in which I was born, it may not be improper to ask myself a few
1. How many years have I lived in the world?
2. Can I say that I find myself either more willing or
more ready to leave it, than I was many years ago?
3. Do I relish earthly things less, and heavenly things
more than formerly?
4. In a word, do I believe myself really nearer death now
If the spirits of just men made perfect, and holy angels,
be my friends; if heaven be my home, and God be my Father; why do not I long
to see my friends, to arrive at home, and to be admitted into my Father's
house, and into my Father's presence?
May 30, 1773 (Birthday).
While I would sanctify this day, being the Lord's, it may be proper
to put myself in mind, that as children are born in every day of the week,
so we may expect to die on any day. But O to be the happy person, who,
whenever death comes, may expect to enter on an eternal Sabbath of rest!
Death may deprive me of the ordinances below—but then it shall bring me to
the temple above, and to the more spiritual worship of the inner house. If
my life be hid with Christ in God, then the very prospect of death, which
shall usher me into his heavenly presence, shall be like life to my soul.
June 12, 1773. There are
two seasons in time in which the whole world are put on a level, the hour of
birth, and the hour of death. Thus one of some rank among men, pants in his
last pangs like one of the common people, and gives up the spirit like any
other son of Adam.
Though death is of great consequence to every person,
yet, with few exceptions—what a trifle is it to the rest of mankind! What a
faint impression will it make, and how soon will the event be forgotten! for
how should those remember that monitor of mortality—the death of their
acquaintance—forget that they themselves shall die? And it is nothing to the
other parts of creation though all the human race should fall into the
grave! I look through the window, and see that the lilies in the garden hang
not their head, though their master is no more, nor the tulips lose their
sparkling variety of colors, though their proprietor is pale in death. And
yet, surprising to tell, precious in God's sight is the death of his
servants, his saints.
How should I dwell now in the day of health at the throne
of grace, since I may be so fast held by death for days before my death—that
I may not be able to pour out a prayer!
July 9, 1773. Why do not
I rejoice at the thoughts of death? Shall it not be the day on which I am
discharged from all my burdens, freed from all my foes, crowned with my
highest expectations, and carried to the very throne of God?
November 2, 1773.
However terrible death may be in itself; yet what a change does redeeming
love make therein to the saints; for at this solemn hour, they are only said
to fall asleep! When the sick or fretful child, which has long kept its
mother in motion and pain, falls asleep—she encourages its tranquility, and
rejoices in its repose. Why should we then disquiet ourselves so much when
our friends fall asleep in Jesus?
December 7, 1773. God
keeps the time of our decease hidden from us, that we may be prepared to
meet it every day. But because we know not the precise time of our
departure, we put out of mind that we shall ever die, and become oblivious
to death. Thus, we counteract the kind design of Providence
How shall all heaven dilate my soul, in the very moment I
shall enter into the invisible world! A change—sudden, sweet,
transporting—shall pass upon me—and earthly cares, and worldly concerns, and
carnal delights, and temporal pains, and corroding sorrows, shall never more
be known. Such views may balance the fears of death. And make me meditate on
the decisive moment with composure and peace.
May 30, 1774 (Birthday).
How short is the span, and how brittle is the thread of life, the
experience of numbers can tell. Two days ago, a person sits down without any
complaint of sickness or pain, and expires without a groan. And who can tell
but my death may be as sudden and unexpected? Should not such events be
caveats against reveling and feasting on our birthday? May the day of my
death in all respects be better to me than the day of my birth! In a word, I
must either bless God for being born again—or curse the day that ever I was
July 1, 1774. One thing
that renders the disembodied state solemn, is appearing in the immediate
presence of the great God. Now, were my soul sweetly and intimately
acquainted with God, and admitted into heavenly communion with him, I would
have no pain nor perturbation at entering on the nearest presence of my
dearest Friend—death would change my place, not my company.
August 2, 1774. As a
person may have the form of godliness without the power; so may I have the
form of remembering my latter end, without a right practical remembrance of
death. To say something of mortality by rote—and to believe myself a dying
man—are quite different. O to have such a belief of death, as to make me
walk circumspectly whatever I do, every day moderately careful for the
present world, and earnestly careful for the world to come!
September 6, 1774. A
prospect of my latter end may make me less careful about all intervening
concerns, of whatever importance. The king needs not to be much in love with
a crown, nor the slave much loathe his chain—if both are to be removed
October 4, 1774. Cares
without, and corruption within, make my situation here but melancholy. Yet,
like the worst of all slaves, I am in love with my chains, and solace myself
in my bondage.
November 1, 1774.
Coming home from a long journey—let me remember, that I have a much
longer journey before me. My present journey has been to no purpose, and
might have been avoided. But that journey cannot be avoided, and, I hope,
shall be to the noblest purpose, in winging me home to my native country,
and my Father's house. Why does my heart not beat with joy, at the thought
of my eternal home?
December 1, 1774. O king
of terrors! what havoc have you made, what numbers led to prison, since I
appeared in life! If thirty years measure the life of man, I have seen the
world wholly swept, and well near half spent again, of all its inhabitants!
For though numbers, as I have done, arrive at forty-four, greater numbers
die at fourteen. And should hundreds see sixty years, thousands never see
six moons. Or, should one now and then see ninety or a hundred years, yet
greater numbers never see the sun at all. But, O death! however you may
appear to the wicked, know that you shall only perform the drudgery of a
conquered, a captive king, to all the saints of God; even draw them in their
clay chariot to the gate of glory, and open the chariot-door, that they may
step into the immediate presence of God.
December 6, 1774. This
day death has brought to the house appointed for all living, a youth, who
two days hence, was to have presented his sister to her bridegroom on her
wedding day! How is sorrow, and mourning, and woe—inlaid and wrapped through
all the affairs of human life, that we may never forget to be serious, even
when permitted to be most cheerful! The friends, if they have any feelings
of humanity, must make but a mournful appearance on the wedding day, since
so near a friend is no more.
January 2, 1775.
Not a year ends, or begins—but with lamentation, mourning, and woe,
to many. And this should moderate the mirth of all, since the lot of one may
be the lot of all. The case of the young man who was interred two days ago,
rouses up all the tender feelings in my soul. In his last illness, he has
the use and exercise of his reason, and is extremely solicitous about his
eternal state; begs his friends to hold up his case to a throne of grace;
cries out, that he is willing to be an eternal debtor to free grace. But
withal deplores that he has not the least assurance of the dreadful step!
What diligence, what care, can be too much, to make our calling and election
sure, and make us go triumphing off the field of battle!
February 5, 1775.
When I see a person wasting under an inveterate consumption, I am
ready to say to myself, how soon must that soul mingle in the eternal and
unchanging world! But is not every man—am not I—as surely under the sentence
of death as he? A few weeks, and a few years, make no difference to
candidates for eternity. Therefore may I say, how soon must every man, how
soon must I—mingle in the eternal and unchanging world! And what proofs of
this just now surround me! There an infant, that can scarcely be said to
have seen the sun—dies, unseen, in the silent night. And there a sister,
that a few weeks ago performed kind offices about her dying brother, is laid
in the house of silence. And there one acquaintance, who had betrothed one
of his children, cannot remain to see the nuptials solemnized. And there,
another acquaintance is hurried off by a few hours illness, and leaves a
young family and a bedridden widow. These are lessons from every quarter,
from every situation of life—they are loud, and are all directed to me. O to
hear them for my good!
March 7, 1775.
This is the melancholy day that robbed me of the last of my near
relations. But were I assured that all my dear friends were sometime very
soon to make me a visit, and have nothing terrifying in it—but converse with
me a few hours on the most pleasant and improving subjects, how would I
forget my mourning in expectation of the longed-for meeting! Well, then,
though they shall never return to me—I am certain that I shall go to them;
and as certain that, when we meet in the heavenly presence, we shall be
better company to each other, than we ever could be below—and the
perfections and love of God shall be our inexhaustible theme through endless
March 24, 1775.
A few days ago, my horse being frightened, jumped from under me, so
that I fell to the ground, and fell on my forehead; had it been on a stone,
or with greater force, it might have been a mortal blow! Wherever I go, or
whatever I do, there is but an hair-breath between me and death! But happy
I, if I be still nearer to your love than to death itself.
April 2, 1775. There is
a time in which we account ourselves young; and there is a time in which we
ought to think ourselves growing old. What is in youth—that we are so fond
about it? What is in old age—that we are so averse from it? It is life we
seek in the one—and death we shun in the other. But in every period of life
we may die, though in old age we must die. From this time,
then, I will look upon myself as in the afternoon of life, and as uncertain
when my sun may set to rise no more. But, O! that then a better day and a
brighter sun may arise on me—never to be obscured, never to set again!
May 2, 1775. As I would
wish to enjoy the society of saints and angels after death, so would I
eagerly wish for the company of saints in life. Death can never hurt nor
separate the happy members that are united to the glorious Head. Twenty
years ago, I was full of plans and schemes about my future life. But should
not my care, concern, and anxiety be diminished now according to that great
deduction of years? for while I know not if there remains a year or two to
plan for, I am sure there are twenty years gone that I shall never have more
May 30, 1775 (Birthday).
This day, one in high life is to be laid in the silent grave; while another
lies silent in death. Now distinctions cease forever, and the disembodied
soul of a king carries no nobility with it into the eternal and unchanging
world. O! then, to put on the righteousness of the Savior, by which I shall
shine when the sun and moon are extinguished. Many a birthday have I seen;
it would be folly to expect to see many more. But may I see a better
day—when days, and months, and years are no more.
It is a work sufficient for our whole life—for every
moment of our time—to prepare aright for death. And yet any other trifle
easily gets the ascendency. If in the course of the week, one were to secure
to himself as much money as would comfortably sustain him as long as he
should live—with what constant care, unabating eagerness, and vigorous
anxiety, would he attend to the acquisition! But when eternal happiness is
to be secured in a few years, months, or days of an uncertain life—what
madness is it to neglect the golden opportunity until all is lost!
June 6, 1775. A deceased
person has left immense riches to a near friend. Some envy, others wonder,
and all talk of it. But what can the bequeathed wealth do for the survivor?
Alas! the shining heap cannot—procure health, banish sickness, give peace of
mind, secure against anguish and disquiet, defend against the wrinkles of
old age, or bribe devouring death!
What advantage then, shall the obtaining of this vast
wealth do to the possessor--who also in a little while must be stripped of
all by death? How happy, then, to have my treasure laid up in heaven! For
death, instead of tearing me from my possession like the men of the
world--shall bring me to the full enjoyment of my everlasting all.
July 4, 1775. Such, by
nature, is my attachment to life, such my aversion from death, though I
cannot always live—but must at some period die—that it is highly needful
periodically to fix my meditations on death. He is in a melancholy
case—whom the prospect of death makes melancholy. But thrice happy he who
rejoices in view of death. What are riches, honors, titles, family, and
friends, pleasures and delights—in the hour of death, in the day of
eternity? Again, what are poverty, disgrace, disappointment, solitude, pain,
and anguish—in the hour of death, in the day of eternity! Then, whenever the
vanities or vexations of time, swell and appear big in my eyes, I will look
to the hour of death, to the day of eternity, and see them decrease and
August 1, 1775.
How am I like an old tree, that, while near the time of being felled,
strikes its roots deeper, and spreads them wider, and thus takes a faster
hold in the ground—which it must leave so soon! O to have the carnal mind
removed, the affections set on things above, and this world kept under my
feet! Just now, since I began to write, a letter has arrived, informing me
of the death of a friend. And this is giving me a recent instance of the
truth which I would gladly imprint on my mind—that I am but a sojourner
below. O to be much conversant about that world where all live unto God,
for in this present world we die to one another very fast. Those who today
mourn over a dead friend—in a little while die themselves, and transfer
their lamentations to the disconsolate survivors. Hence, mourning shall
never be out of the world, until suppressed by deeper astonishment at the
resurrection of the dead, and the coming of the Judge.
How mournful the condition of my friend! The husband has
lost the wife of his youth—the wife of his bosom. And his children have lost
the knees that dandled them, and the breasts which nourished them. So must
all the tender relations be torn asunder by the iron hand of death. O! then,
to have a relation that will bid defiance to death itself!
September 5, 1775. A
right belief concerning death will moderate every passion, and every
expectation. Why should we excessively love—what we must loose so soon? Why
should we greatly fear foes or afflictions—which so soon shall be no more?
Why expect any felicity on this side the grave where death renders every joy
uncertain? But the unchangeable God—we should reverence with filial fear,
love with glowing ardor, and in his plenitude expect all satisfaction.
November 12, 1775. How
miserable would our life be, if often visited with sickness, or attacked
with such acute pain as I felt last night! a pain so intense, that I cannot
have a full idea of it now that it is gone. What language, then, can
describe—or what thought comprehend—the wretched state of those who feel
pains infinitely more excruciating, and tortures more infinitely agonizing
than anything in time—while the soul, in every power and faculty, feels
anguish and distress, torment and despair in a superior degree to the body?
And alas! how many are rushing to this dreadful state!
O for gratitude to my kind deliverer! And O to improve
the rosy hours of ease and health in preparing for the world to come!
January 2, 1776.
The year is ended—and another begun! So must my life end—and I enter
on another state! O to begin the heavenly state in time! O to bring eternity
near by faith and meditation—since it is drawing nearer every day! The
patience of God is not exercised, and the kindness of Providence is not
poured down—to make me forget that I must shortly go hence, and be no more
seen—but to bring me nearer to himself, with whom I would hope to dwell
forever—even when I am traveling on the way.
April 2, 1776. Last
night, four hours sleep departed from me by a slight pain in my head. What
then, thought I, must their situation be, who are tormented through the
endless night of wrath! who cannot wait for the morning-light, because the
day is fled from them forever! O it is sad to take up Saul's complaint at
our latter end! "Health has departed from me; time has departed from me;
opportunities are past; friends and I must soon part forever; the
Philistines are upon me; sickness is upon me; anguish has come upon me. And,
which sums up all—God does not favor me—but is about to depart from me
May 7, 1776.
Amidst a world of uncertainties which daily beset me, of this I may
be sure—that death will certainly come upon me! And since I cannot shake
myself free of vanities and vexations—death will come and set me at safety
from them all. Death is a change that is daily realized by many in the
world—and yet is a stranger to the meditation of the greater part of the
May 30, 1776 (Birthday).
It is the custom of people in high life to feast on their birthday. May
I also feast my soul in view of that state of eternal glory, towards which I
hope I am going! This is the day which brought me into the world, and that
day is fast approaching that shall bring me into the eternal and unchanging
world. The day of my death is solemn—and cannot be avoided. Here I accuse
myself of the most consummate folly, that I am so concerned about a few
earthy trifles—when my future state is so near, and a whole eternity is
before me. To grow in grace, and ripen for glory—should be the main
employment of a life that is daily drawing nearer to its end. I adore the
providences of this last year. I accept of the chastisements, and mourn over
all my sins and shortcomings.
June 4, 1776. Death, in
some respect, comes on all men unawares—but the saint never shall be greatly
surprised. He is like a man about to go on a sea voyage—who, while waiting
for a fair wind, entertains himself agreeably, contracts acquaintances, and
mixes with company. But when the wind is favorable—he is suddenly sent
for—he springs to his feet, bids all his friends adieu, and with alacrity
hurries aboard. Thus I know I must die—but when, I cannot say. I expect it
some time—but may meet death at a time I did not expect it. O to be watching
for the heavenly morning, as the sentinel watches for the morning light!
July 2, 1776.
What a poor thing is funeral pomp! The silent grave devours up all!
But what a sweet thing is sound hope in death, and consolation in my last
moments! As my last moments are daily approaching—O that they may be my best
moments, and bring me to my endless rest.
July 16, 1776. When any
of our friends die—at what pains are we to hope they are in heaven! How fond
are we to believe that their heart was good, and their grace was real—that
though we saw their failings! We collect everything good about them, to
render it probable that they are in heaven. From all which, what I would
infer is this—why should not every man, why should not I, give all diligence
to make our own calling and election sure, while alive? It is sweet to have
the evidences, scriptural evidences for heaven, in our own bosom, shining
through our life, and dropping from our tongue in our last moments. We wish
to hope our friends in heaven when they are dead; why not to secure heaven
for ourselves while we live? If it is comfort to us to think that our
friends are in heaven—should it not be our consolation to see ourselves
going to heaven?
August 24, 1776. I see
some men, though arrived at the verge of life, and emaciated with
disease—still fond to protract life—which, if much longer protracted, must
become a very burden. This folly I condemn in others. And when I arrive at
the same period, which is fast approaching, I wish I may not be guilty of it
myself. Had I bright views, through a strong faith of the heavenly glory—I
would rather long to die, that I might be forever with Christ—than to dwell
enthroned on this earthly ash-heap, where crowns totter, scepters break, and
war and confusion overwhelm the nations, and where sin and corruption make
continual inroads into my soul.
October 1, 1776. As our
harvest-work is over—and our cares subside. And when all the fruits of the
field are gathered in—our whole concern is turned into another channel—to
prepare the ground for another crop. Just so, since much of my time is
over—why is not my concern about the things of time greatly lessened? Since
eternity is the approaching period—why do not I make provision for a world
to come? Again, to weary reapers, what can be more agreeable, than a soft
bed and a sound sleep at night? Such is the death of the happy soul who dies
in Jesus—his toils are finished, and his weary dust shall rest until raised
November 5, 1776. How
soon must life—and all the scenes of life—come to an end! But, happy is the
heir of heaven—since all the fullness of God, since all the glories of
eternity—are his when time is no more! I wish to enjoy God in his gifts, in
his creatures, in his ordinances, in his graces, and in his Christ here. But
in his glories, in his Son, and in himself hereafter, in the highest degree
December 3, 1776. When I
come to a bed of languishing, may my comforts flow rather from the prospect
of a better life, than from my hopes of recovery. But this I see, that he
who is not serious in the hours of health, may be sad and sorrowful—but will
not be serious in the day of trouble—at the hour of death. To live
careless about our soul, is the way to die under stupidity of soul.
Conscience may sometimes be awakened, yet the man die unconverted. O to be
kept from a false hope—or faithless fears! Then shall I rejoice in the
prospect of death.
This day the man who once was my bitter enemy, is in
trouble: but I behave as he were my brother. And, before him who searches
the heart, I desire to send my prayers to the throne of grace for him. He
who rejoices at the calamity of his enemy—has a disease in his own soul that
may cause him to mourn.
December 19, 1776. It is
a melancholy day for this sad family. O that it may be a day of reflection
with all! For to trifle on the brink of eternity is dreadful! And where—but
on the brink of eternity, does every living man stand? The widow and her
daughters weep in the house, and the boys weeping attend the coffin—as their
husband and father is lost in death. Nothing but a lump of insensible clay
is before us. But O happy orphans, whose father is God! and happy widow,
whose Judge is the Lord!
December 22, 1776. Shall
I be more astonished at the stupidity of the dying sinner—or of his
surviving friends? Here an intimate acquaintance of mine expires, and his
relations say he has gone straight to heaven! And yet, O strange! though
convinced that his death was at hand, he drops not a single word in
commendation of Jesus! He has nothing to say in praise of free grace. He
asks not one prayer to be addressed to the throne of grace for him. He has
no complaint of indwelling sin, or the errors of his life. He has not a word
of godly advice to give to any around him. This man has no fears--nor any
exercise of grace, or actings of faith. He is never observed to be in
prayer--and yet fears nothing!
December 31, 1776. Last
night pain admonished me—that my life, like this year, must have its last
day. But what must the anguish of a soul in pain be, when it may not
complain, or has none to complain to! Death lays the saint as well as the
sinner very low. But there is a noble balance here, for when my mortal frame
is almost dissolved—my heavenly state is well near begun. When my friends,
sad and disconsolate, cover my dust in the grave—my soul, glad and
triumphant, is crowned with unfading glory. You, my friends, may weep on my
account—but it should be for joy at my felicity, and not for sorrow at my
departure. If the dying saint was never in such a deplorable state, as at
the time of his death—he was never in such a happy state, as at the time of
his heavenly exaltation. Then, though there may be a mourning and
lamentation in my house on the day of my death, there shall be joy and
acclamation in my Father's house! In the hour of my entering into heaven,
and in the general hallelujah—I shall forget all my sorrow, and be filled
with unspeakable joy! The sorrow of relations must diminish, (the sooner the
better,) but my joy shall be on the increase through eternal ages.
January 1, 1777. I have
begun another year. Yet I cannot be certain of another day! I have a whole
eternity before me--and to prepare for that, may well employ all my time!
Death in itself is a melancholy time to all. But the
death of some has something in it very afflicting to friends. Thus my
acquaintance, alone in his room, and come to warm himself at the fire is
seized with a fainting fit, and falls into the fire, where he is roasted to
death before any person enters the room! And who but the poor mother who had
suckled him comes first in—and finds him in this deplorable situation! What
she feels, I own I dare not attempt to put in words.
Alas! who can tell in what manner I must die? O to die in
Jesus, and I shall be safe, whether drowned in a stream, or devoured by the
January 13, 1777.
What sad aggravations have the sorrows of some! My school-fellow and
friend, who has been many years far abroad, and by his fond mother long
expected home—ah! poor mother, how often has your imagination, with
heart-felt joy, anticipated the happy meeting, arranged the kind embraces,
and the mutual endearments, with all the subsequent scenes of happiness on
the reception of your son! But while the happy day is expected, the mother
receives no letter from her dear son. So she writes, chiding the ungrateful
silence, and at the same time breathing motherly affection. Well, what is
her answer? None! Instead, news comes from that country informing the mother
that her son has died! O how many arrows must pierce the tender heart! She,
like the mourner of Nain, is a widow, and has lost her only son.
Then, may the compassionate Savior, though he raise not her son now, yet
comfort and support her soul, and say, Woman, weep not.
April 1, 1777.
Whatever disappointments Christians may meet with in time; death will
not disappoint us at the end. And we may think less of all lesser
disappointments—in view of this great and eternal change. I have lessons of
mortality every day, and admonitions to remember the world to come—and yet
how little do I think on these things? This is a lamentation, and shall be
for a lamentation.
May 1, 1777. The more
pleasures we possess—the more pains we may expect. He that has the dearest
relations to heighten his bliss—may fear the severest anguish in losing
them. Just so, this day my near neighbor and dear friend—who has one son
that shines in the world, and trades to foreign lands—gets the melancholy
news that he has died! The affectionate mother, who longed to embrace her
son, whom she had not seen for many years, and whom she had expected very
soon to see—is crushed in the most tender manner, and is drowned in mourning
and woe, while the father feels all the severity of a manly grief. But the
invisible world calls off my attention from lesser things, to ask the state
of his soul. O! then, to die in Jesus—and all shall be well.
May 24, 1777.
Some men are threatened with death through some severe disease—and a
compassionate God sometimes pities them as his creatures, not as his
children, and girds them anew with strength, as he did Cyrus of old—though
they have despised him. But it is melancholy to see the unrepentant sinner
go to the very gates of hell, hang over the pit, and very near plunging into
it; and yet, when pulled back by the hand of God, run on to perdition and
May 30, 1777 (Birthday).
This day, coming from a long journey—I have arrived at my 'home'—or rather
'inn'—where I only lodge a few nights on my journey to my 'long home'—the
silent grave. Now as a traveler is thankful—though not over solicitous for a
good night's lodging—so I desire to thank God for the conveniences of life
which I enjoy—while I would wish to fix in my mind, that I must soon remove
from everything below. But O what a noble habitation is the heaven of glory,
the temple of God.
July 1, 1777. I have now
finished a part of my house that has long stood unfinished. But I desire to
remember, that death can as easily find his way into my house now as
before—and that, though snatched away from it, I shall neither be surprised
nor disappointed. Not surprised, for I dare not boast of tomorrow. Not
disappointed, for I shall lose an earthly cottage—and find a heavenly
palace! In the mean time, I bless God for my habitation here; and much more
for the hopes of a better habitation hereafter.
August 5, 1777. I desire
to believe that I am daily approaching the eternal and changeless world. And
that I may, at any time—be summoned to the solemn tribunal of Heaven, to
give an account of every word I speak, as well as every work I do. Alas!
what inattention to the truths of God stares me in the face! And O, to live
as a dying man—and for eternity!
September 2, 1777. The
daily disappointments I meet with in the world should loose me from the
world, and prepare me to leave the world. O to believe that everything below
is vain—and to long for the better, eternal country! To him who is to bless
me at the end of my journey—well may I commit the guidance of my journey.
And though some parts of the road are rough, I will walk cheerfully on it,
not because I do not feel pain—but because my heavenly Guide is pleased to
lead me along it.
October 1, 1777. A young
man, while marrying a wife—has lost a parent. How is his joy over his bride,
mixed with sorrow for her who bore him! One day the son is married; the next
day the mother dies; and on the next day the old woman is interred in the
churchyard. This is a scene exquisitely mixed, and extremely moving.
October 7, 1777.
Vexation and woe are inscribed on human life. Here the children lie on
sick-beds—but their moans and complaints do not disturb their poor father,
for he has just fallen fast asleep in death! The poor wife is just
recovering from a fever—to do the last kind offices to her husband and her
sick children—of whom some are so concerned about their own decease, that
they have scarcely time to mourn for their departed parent. Amidst the sick
groans of his little family—he yields up his spirit and is no more.
November 4, 1777. Four
weeks ago, the aged parent lost his son, and attended him mourning to the
grave. Now he has lost his wife—but being in a fever, and having lost his
reason—he cannot be persuaded that she is dead. He seems also on the very
verge of the invisible world! O the sad disasters—the heavy crosses and
calamities that waylay us in our journey through life! But happy if they all
end at death—and happy is that soul which is prepared for death, and pants
December 2, 1777.
Thousands are apprehended by death unawares! O to be prepared for death! O
to be ready to move to the eternal and unchanging world! O to go hence with
cheerful alacrity—like one going home to his father's house, and to his
dearest friends! If I would be thus prepared, I must not have two homes—but
I must account myself a stranger here on earth—and heaven must be my home!
January 6, 1778. We may
end the year in overindulgence—and begin it in vanity. But we should end it
as we would wish to end our life—and begin it as we would wish to begin
eternity—that is, with God. In this—how faithful am I? but O to be wise in
all time coming!
March 3, 1778. Time
is one of the talents put into every man's hand, and is more precious
than we are well aware of. To prepare for death, and to improve for
eternity—may well employ our time though ever so long. O! then, how may my
heart weep to think how much precious time I have trifled away! O to be wise
in all time coming! Lawful recreations are allowed by God. But in this, how
soon may we go beyond what is lawful! Too much pleasure in them, too much
time spent about them—spoils all. When our amusements become a part of our
employment, or call us away from something more necessary or noble—it is
high time to drop them altogether.
April 4, 1778.
The eye of clay, as it were, sees better and shines brighter—in the
youthful spring of life. But there is a period, when I must daily see worse
and worse, until my eyes are closed in death. Now, when minute objects are
beheld with difficulty—may faith, the eye of my soul, see heavenly objects
April 7, 1778. Our life
may be happy in the enjoyment of the good things of time. But we can never
be truly happy, until we can hope to be more happy in the days of our death,
than we have been since our birthday. O how near am I to the day of death!
Should not I, then, let go the things of life in view of eternity?
May 5, 1778. Is it
possible that a man may live until he forgets that he must die? Yes! The
greater part of the world has forgotten it! Alas! how often am I likely to
forget it myself—and that amidst all the admonitions of my own mortality—and
in the frequent deaths of acquaintances and friends.
May 30, 1778 (Birthday).
I have seen many birthdays—but am uncertain if I shall ever see another.
There is one day which is awaiting me—a solemn and most important day—which
shall change my company, my state, and my employment. Every event, the
nearer it comes—is the oftener in our meditation. But death, which is the
cardinal, the crowning event—often comes like an enemy—by surprise—and
seizes us while we think it to be at a very great distance away.
July 7, 1778. Confined
to time and sense—I lose the sight of the future, eternal state—though it
should be my whole concern. But O to have my views widening for eternity,
all my powers opening for glory, and my whole soul panting for God! If I
have a monthly interview with death, I should also take a monthly farewell
of everything below. Farewell, then—all that I possess—all that I expect to
possess in time. But welcome all the treasures of eternity—all the fullness
August 2, 1778.
The shorter my time grows—the brighter should be my views of
eternity. I should feel the less for troubles or disappointments, as the
very sphere in which they move (time) is soon to be removed. What sparkling
glories cheer me—while eternity opens before me, with all the unspeakable
joys of paradise! What can one feel in time, that has such a prospect! O to
live in view of that eternal and changeless world where I shall shortly
be—and possess whatever I can wish or desire—and more than I can conceive!
August 27, 1778. Alas!
from the nearest friends rise the sharpest sorrows and griefs. A woman, long
renowned for piety, meets with some worldly losses, (what else should we
expect in this perishing world?) and turns peevish, repining, and
discontented. The poor husband shares in the misfortune—but keeps his
temper, while she sees everything going wrong, loses all peace of mind—and
hangs herself! O how changed the scene! In that house pious acquaintances
used to meet for prayer. But now Satan walks along in triumph. In whatever
form death may come to me or mine—let not Satan be the attendant.
September 18, 1778.
A man may have few comforts—and many sorrows. And he that has many
comforts—must have some sorrows. Thus the parents carry their young child in
perfect health to bed; and in the morning the mother rises and leaves it, as
she thinks—fast asleep. But how surprised, when, after a good interval, she
looks, and finds the infant stiff in death! I sympathize—but cannot conceive
the astonishment, the terror, the grief and anguish—which must overwhelm the
October 6, 1778. Why do
I have loads of cares on my mind—when in a little while I and they must part
forever? Why must I be so concerned about the trifles of this life—if the
land of glory is before me? O to be weaned from this world, and to have my
affections set on eternal realities! Whatever is my lot in this present
world—it quiets and comforts me that I am under the government of the God of
November 3, 1778. He who
has appointed the bounds of my life, has also regulated all the changes
thereof. O what tranquility and comfort may it yield me, that my lot is at
his disposal—into whose hand I shall commit my soul at death! Nothing that
can take place with me, can prevent or postpone my death. But death may
prevent many things that I either expect or fear; therefore, I should never
be too anxious or too fond of anything below.
December 1, 1778. How
various are my cares? How many are my enterprises? How constant my
strugglings? How numerous my fears, about a life that is short and
uncertain! It is only natural to be wise for this present world—but to act
the arrant fool about the eternal and changeless world to come. O to
believe, that as sure as I am now alive—in a little while hence I shall be
dead! O to believe, that as sure as I dwell now among men—I shall go in a
little while, to dwell in the eternal and changeless world!