Periodic Interview with the King of Terrors
by James Meikle, 1730-1799
January 5, 1779. One year
is ended—and another year has begun. So, soon shall my life's short year be
finished—and eternity begin. O that my heart could leap at the thought of
eternity. What proof shall I give that I am born from above, if I have no
desire to arrive to my native country, to my father's house? I must depart
hence, for this present wilderness-world is not my rest. But why is it that
I am so averse from entering on my everlasting rest, and joining the
heavenly throng? An acquaintance who has been long in trouble, is this day a
lifeless corpse, and a near neighbor appears nearly to be so. And I cannot
promise myself another night's lodging in this inn, that has
entertained me for many years. O to meditate much! O to converse often with
the invisible realities of eternity! Thus shall I shake myself free from
encumbrances of time, and long to set out for the eternal and changeless
January 26, 1779. How low
may I be brought at death, like my dear acquaintance, who cannot speak! He
attempts it—but the word dies away before it can be understood. O! then, to
speak much for God while I can be heard. And that my soul may speak to God
in aspirations of faith and love, when I can no more converse with men; for
God can hear me, and be near me to the very last.
February 2, 1779.
My neighbor is now no more, and in a little while my
neighbors shall also say of me—'he is no more!' I cannot positively say
where he makes his eternal home—for the state of the dead is only known to
the living God. But this I can say, that in a little while I, my very self,
shall arrive at my eternal home. O to prepare, O to improve for that fixed,
for that final state!
March 2, 1779. Still some
are dropping into the grave, to keep us always in mind of our latter end.
But some sail with full assurance to glory. We see a saint laid on a bed of
languishing, and confined there for weeks, months, or years; we see him also
suffering great sicknesses, and tossed with sore pain, and are ready to
wonder at the conduct of Providence. But O how one moment of the heavenly
glory balances all! In these 'ages of uninterrupted bliss', all the 'moments
of misery' are forgotten. It does not matter how low I am brought at the
hour of death—since I shall be exalted to super-eminent glory. Verily, the
sufferings of this present time, the anguish of a sick-bed, and the pangs of
death, are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in
us. O for steady views of that triumphant heavenly state, while traveling
through this land of trouble and anguish!
April 6, 1779. Amidst the
uncertainties through which I press, death will not disappoint me. And the
certainty of my approaching death may make me smile in the face of all
intervening trials and tribulations. When wisdom and kindness characterize
the conduct of my friend—it would be unfair to complain of him; how much
more so, then, to arraign the providence of God, when infinite wisdom and
tender loving kindness are conspicuous through the plan—and will finish the
scene in my happy death, and triumphant entry into the world of bliss!
May 4, 1779. Every time I
add a line to this Monthly Memorial, I should do it as the last, for
some line must surely be my last. O! then, to write a hearty farewell to
time, and all the things of time—and a cordial welcome to eternity, and the
timeless unchanging world!
May 30, 1779 (Birthday).
This Memorial, since begun, has seen fourteen birthdays—and who can tell but
I may soon enter on my eternal inheritance and bid farewell to all below?
Now I should work hard, because the day is far spent, and the night is
approaching. And I should walk fast, because my sun is low.
June 1, 1779. There is
but one change of great import—death. There is but one thing
needful—salvation. Now, if salvation is secured, my change will be pleasant.
And all intervening vexations will disappear. I am so near the eternal
world, that I ought to give myself very little concern with this perishing
world—where I am so soon to be no more.
June 26, 1779. A minister
of the gospel, an eloquent preacher, is called to his eternal home. In
prospect of his approaching change, he built nothing on what he had taught
to others, on his high attainments, on his sweet experience; but discarding
them all—he came as a needy sinner to an all-sufficient Savior. He held
firmly to the gospel of free grace—which was his confidence for eternity.
August 4, 1779. A belief
of death, and the subsequent eternal realities—is a noble balance for
everything in the world. Nothing need exalt, nothing need depress—that soul
which in a little while, is to bid farewell to everything below.
September 1, 1779. This
day a near neighbor lies a lifeless corpse. And tomorrow my wife arrives
home. In my house there is festivity in every face, and cheerfulness in
every heart. In my neighbor's house there is sadness in every countenance,
and sorrow in every heart. I well remember his bridal day—and may see his
burial too. Just so, many who see my bride brought home, may see us both
carried to our long home. A scene so mournful, sent so near to me, is a
caveat against excess of joy in a scene so delightful to me.
September 2, 1779. This
day the bell tolls for the interment of my neighbor—now his state is fixed
for eternity! O to remember this in the midst of all my mirth and rejoicing!
When our life draws near its end, one day spent in vanity will gall us
greatly; nor will it excuse me to neglect closet or family duties, that it
was my wedding-day. I must not forget God, or myself—because my house will
be crowded with cheerful guests.
September 7, 1779. I am
entered into another relationship—but I am not out of the reach of death.
Death will tear asunder every tie, and separate the nearest and dearest
friends. But if united to Christ, it will not separate from him!
December 7, 1779. This
day an acquaintance is to be interred, whose last illness lasted only a few
hours. O how sudden was the call to appear at the great tribunal! He cannot
wait to send for wife and children, brother or sister. But the first news of
his sickness is—that he has died! O! then, as I am walking on the brink
of eternity, may my meditation soar toward eternal things, and may my
latter end never be out of my mind. Again, if my friends go abroad from me,
or I go abroad from them—if death arrests us along the way, let us not be
greatly surprised. But if we meet together again in safety, let us be
thankful to the kind Preserver of our life.
December 16, 1779. Some
days past I have been tossed with pain, and then how long did the nights and
days seem! But I reprove myself for not being filled with gratitude, while I
enjoy health of body, and serenity of mind. It is folly to wait for the
short winter-day to begin my journey in. Just so, to defer being serious
about eternal realities, until my body is broken with disease, and my mind
is distracted with melancholy—is folly and sin.
January 1, 1780. I have
ended one year, and begun another. But O to loose my grips on temporal
vanities—and fasten them on eternity! It cannot be very long before I join
the heavenly multitude!
I confess that my cares grow. But I may cast, not only a
few—but all my cares, upon him who cares for me.
May 2, 1780. Approaching
death has some thing solemn in it. But it surely need not much worry me to
leave my clay cottage—and go to dwell in a splendid palace; to drop an house
of mortality—and go to dwell in a house not made with hands.
May 30, 1780 (Birthday).
The day of death to the saint shall be the birthday of his soul into the
glorious eternal world! O! then, how happy am I, if this event, which is so
melancholy among the ungodly, shall be my better birthday, and join me to
the general assembly and church of the first-born. Four days ago a man is
abroad on business, and the next day is a corpse. A sudden call! On the
first day, he does his earthly business—and next day appears before the
Judge of all the earth! O! then, to be waiting for death, like one who
watches for the morning-light, that I may commence my heavenly journey to my
July 4, 1780. Amidst the
kindness of my Heavenly Father, who has been pleased to send a living child
into my family, I desire to remember that the mother who bore it, that
myself and the child—are mortal, and that I may expect death to come the
oftener into my house. O! then, to prepare for death, not only in myself—but
in my nearest and dearest friends.
August 1, 1780. My
gracious God has been pleased to send trouble, first on the child, and then
on the mother—to keep us mindful that they are mortal. I am now a broader
mark for the arrows of death; while she who is my other self, or she who is
part of myself, or my own self—may be shot at and fall. But if none of us
are hurt by the second death, it will not matter much who dies first. Yet he
who can preserve one alive, can with equal ease preserve any number.
October 3, 1780. I praise
you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and I shall be wonderfully
raised up anew in the resurrection. My substance shall not be hidden from
you, when I am laid up in secret in the silent grave; you will still have a
concern for me, though concealed in the lowest parts of the earth. My
members shall be written in your book, though being dissolved into dust;
yet, by your divine power, they shall be fashioned anew, and put on
perfection and glory. How precious are these thoughts of your kindness unto
me. O God! How great is the sum of them!
February 6, 1781. This
day I would desire to take farewell of everything below—for the day is fast
approaching that I must part with all below. I have friends that are near
and dear, and pleasant; and to lose them, or leave them, I confess, must
give me pain. But there is a nobler and higher relation, in which I would
wish to lose all inferior ties, and with fortitude meet final death. For if
I and mine belong to the household of God—I can suffer no loss, though death
should tear my family to pieces, and not leave one alive.
April 3, 1781. Some time
ago death had carried off all my near relatives. And now, when kind
Providence had given me new relatives, death is thinning them very fast. My
wife's father's cousin is to be interred today, and her own cousin tomorrow;
her affectionate mother is lying on her death-bed, and my wife herself
labors under a dangerous disease. In the midst of all, I desire to have my
eye towards the Lord of life.
April 5, 1781. My
mother-in-law has gone to her rest, and O how sweet the heavenly rest is, to
one who has had a toilsome time below! No more solicitude or care about
family affairs—no more tempestuous passion, or mental tumult—no more anxious
concern about the things of time! O happy change! O triumphant state! But,
alas! that saints, eminent saints, should be so silent on the borders of
eternity, and so full of fears and doubts—as if religion were just a 'golden
uncertainty', a delusive dream. Indeed, she had the sweet assurance of
May 1, 1781. Some days
ago, a son, who promised to be a comfort to his parents, is carried off by
death! How sad the stroke, for, besides him, they had neither son nor
daughter! O divine sovereignty! God often passes by many a large flourishing
family, and takes a poor family's all—and still does no wrong! God
can do what he pleases with his own—and none may find fault with him.
In another home a child falls into a well—and perishes!
And next day, in another quarter, a child falls into a kennel—and also
perishes! O the severe reflections! O the tender feelings of these poor
parents! But in everything sovereignty must be adored.
My wife still labors under her illness—a long lesson of
August 7, 1781. I have a
remembrance of my own mortality still in the continued distress of my dear
wife. O how averse to think of parting with my dearest friend! But part we
must, one time or other, though I hope we shall meet when time is no more,
to part no more forever.
September 4, 1781. In the
present harvest work, I see a lesson that the world shall have an end. That
the angels, those heavenly reapers, shall reap the whole field. The
righteous, like the good grain, shall be laid up in the heavenly granary;
and the wicked, like the worthless tares, cast into everlasting flames.
September 21, 1781. My
wife, who has been long in distress, has delivered a dead child. And though
the infant's eyes have never seen the light, yet its soul has a full view of
the eternal world. And though the little boy is buried with very little
ceremony, yet the immortal part has made its solemn appearance at the bar of
God, and entered as fully into eternity, as the oldest person who ever died.
O how short while in being—before his state is fixed forever!
October 2, 1781. A
monument of death in my own house—one of my own children—should be a lasting
remembrance. Let this be fixed in my mind—that it cannot now be long until
I arrive at my fixed state.
October 8, 1781. My dear
wife, who has long been in bodily trouble, seems now on the borders of
eternity. For a husband to lose his dear wife, is the sharpest affliction
that can befall him. But it is a sweet reflection, that such a near relation
is going to such a triumphant state. As my grief may have an excess in it—as
my loss is very great—I will bring an excellent antidote against it—even
what she shall be and enjoy in that heavenly state.
1. Then, though she has been long detained from public
ordinances, yet there she shall be so perfect, that she shall need neither
sermons nor sacraments—because God and the Lamb are the temple there.
2. Though a sickly body was her burden here—yet there she
shall see the face of God, and serve him with heavenly alacrity and immortal
3. Though her prayers sometimes astonish me, (as it was
her custom to pray nightly with me) yet there her views shall be seven times
brighter, and her praises seven times sweeter than they were below!
4. Her society shall be those who, like herself, have
come out of great tribulation, washed their garments, and made them white in
the blood of the Lamb, and are forever before the throne of God. Neither
sinner nor imperfect saint shall be there.
5. She shall be so full of God and of glory, that to
lament her loss would be as unfitting—as it would be wicked to envy her
felicity. To see our friends advanced to such heavenly honor and unfading
joys—is worth the tears, the prayers, the fasts, the wrestlings, and
supplications of our whole life. Now, when my nearest friend is going to the
actual enjoyment of it—is it not a contradiction to be dejected or sad? How
soon is she to be, like the angels of God—above sin, and above sorrow! And
could I see the glorified soul of my dear wife, I would take it for the
spirit of some being more than human. And O the heavenly employment she
enters into, on the back of all her dying pangs—and is ravished with forever
in the divine presence!
October 10, 1781. For
some days my dear wife has not spoken a sentence, nor lifted her eye—so that
she has now no more to do with earthly things. O! then, to improve—time
while it is mine—health while it is mine—speech while I can move my
tongue—sight while I can lift my eye.
October 14, 1781.
Yesterday, in the hopes of a glorious resurrection, I buried the dust of a
dear and beloved wife—but have not words to express my sorrow.
October 22, 1781. On a
looking back, I find that my wedding and a neighbors's burial were on the
same day. The reflections I then made are now, alas! realized. And it is
some satisfaction, that amidst the scenes of mirth, and seasons of joy—we
did not forget our latter end.
November 6, 1781. Two
weeks ago, I took off a poor patient's leg, with a view to preserve his life
and recover his health. The operation was painful and much dreaded—but now
seeming to do well, is approved of. Infinite wisdom, then in the death of my
dear wife, has noble ends in view—to wean me from the world—to loosen my
affections from the creature—to preserve the graces in my soul alive—to
prepare me for death—to ripen me for glory.
We make a bouquet of flowers, and enjoy them for their
beauty and fragrance. But they soon wither, lose their beauty, and begin to
decay. O! then, that our faith may smell as these flowers of paradise—the
perfections of God—the love and grace of the Savior, the stability of the
covenant, etc. these are flowers we may carry with us down to the chambers
of death, and prevent ourselves from suffering in the putrefaction of the
November 22, 1781. There
is one error that universally prevails, and that is—to hide from mortals
their mortality, and that even within a few days of their death! The cause
of this conduct is the natural desire all men have for life—and the natural
horror against death. The patient is deceived on all hands, and, what is
odd—he does not wish to be undeceived. The physician misleads him with false
hopes of recovery; the friends conceal their fears and their tears from him;
every good symptom is magnified, and every symptom of danger is concealed or
diminished. And thus he is buoyed up with hopes of recovery, and hindered
from thinking seriously on death—until the disease seizes on the brain, and
deprives him of reason! Now he can neither speak nor think of death—that
solemn change which is to rush him into eternity!
Thus I have dealt too much with my dying friends, and
thus my friends may deal with me when dying. But, O! to be so habitually
prepared for death, that I may not be surprised when it comes. And though
nature may shudder and shrink in prospect of death, yet let faith in him who
died for me, and now lives for evermore, triumph over this king of terrors!
November 28, 1781. If the
saints in glory know one another, as no doubt they do—there I shall see my
dear wife—whose death I now lament—looking vastly lovely with heavenly
beauty. Not the beauty which can be ravaged by sickness, or lost in
death—but the beauty of holiness. And as I shall then be more susceptible of
the charms of heavenly beauty, I shall love her in another manner than I did
before; and not only her—but all my other glorified friends, and all the
December 4, 1781. I
desire this day again to recall my thoughts to serious and solemn things—for
this purpose I am afflicted—to this end God sends death into my family. And
will I yet say, in the hand of him who slays my dearest comforts—that I
am immortal? I shall soon go to my deceased friends—they shall
never return to me. And I know not but, like some of them—I shall be
deprived of speech at my death. O! then, to recommend true religion by my
daily walk and conversation.
December 22, 1781. For
some days past, I have had a violent pain in my back—a disorder new to me. I
could not stoop. I dared not laugh nor incline to either side. Yes, it would
even awaken me out of my sleep, when I attempted to move.
But, alas! instead of expecting death, which every
disease is a reminder of—how did I hold fast my life, and anxiously wish to
recover! Had I such a share in my prince's favor, that he had promised to
send for me soon to dwell with him in his palace; would I not look like a
madman if I was afraid that every letter that I received from him contained
an order to come to his palace—and wished it might rather be about anything
else? The application is easy. O! when shall I long to change my dwelling,
and to come home to my Lord and Savior! My pain is greatly removed. And O!
that my stupidity may not remain.
January 1, 1782. Though I
have ended the last year with grief and mourning, I would wish to begin the
new year with God, and plead for the comfort of his Holy Spirit while below.
I reprove myself for one thought—that death deals with saints as an angry
sovereign—when it only brings them to their Father's house. Of old the
prophets used similitudes, and our Savior himself taught by parables; then,
let me use a simile familiar to all—
A man receives a farm from a great king, which lies on
the confines of the country, and therefore exposed to the frequent
incursions of enemies. It is situated on the cold mountains, so it is
continually harassed with storms and tempests. Also, the soil being barren,
the crops are small. The water is brackish. The comforts of life there are
few. Also, from the unwholesome marshes around it—sickness is prevalent in
But the king, being gracious to him—has promised him
another farm, pleasantly situated in the heart of the country, where an
enemy was never heard of. There tempests never blew. There a river of the
most wholesome water nourishes his fields, and trees of every fruit adorn
the banks. There health and long life characterize the climate, and the
increase of everything exceeds his expectation. So that he has not only all
the conveniences—but all the comforts, and all the luxuries of life. Besides
all this, the mansion of the king stands in the neighborhood, where he is
invited as often as he desires.
Now, in the mean time, the king intimates to him, that
his wife and some children must come to the new property; and when the king
thinks it proper—he will send also for him; which he assures him will not be
long. Well, the wife and children are taken to the new property. But what
would his neighbors think—should they find him in tears at the event?
especially those poor tenants, who, having displeased their king, were in a
short time to be sent to the most inhospitable climate, where eternal
tempests dash, and enemies of the most savage disposition dwell—and without
any hopes of ever changing their situation!
February 5, 1782. I
confess I am still much in the dark about the state of disembodied souls.
But I know that the communion between God and the departed saints shall be
most intimate and uninterrupted. Though I have visual demonstrations of
death daily; yet the eternal and unchanging world is an unknown world to
me—were it not for Scriptural revelation, and faith in that revelation—where
what is told is not so much to satisfy curiosity, and remove all doubts—as
to support the soul, and exercise faith. And may not my soul be supported in
view of death, when told—that death shall not separate from God's love; that
in his presence there is fullness of joy, and at his right hand pleasures
for evermore; that the saints shall be set down with the Lamb on his throne,
that his servants shall see his face, and his name be on their foreheads,
and thus, in the enjoyment of all possible happiness, shall be forever with
April 2, 1782. When one
who is going home to his father's house, sees that his journey is nearly
finished, he may address himself thus: "As I am now not far from home, I
need not have much concern about anything that can befall me. A bumpy road,
or a boisterous day, shall not discourage me—for I have but a little way to
go. It gives me no anguish that my pocket-money is almost spent—for I am so
near my father's treasures. Nor shall the unkind usage I may meet with in my
journey, from friends or foes, embitter my spirit—for I shall soon enjoy the
endearments of the best of fathers. And though some of my dear companions in
travel, whose company sweetened the way, have been called away from me, I
will comfort myself against sorrow, because I shall have the sweet society
of my father's whole family shortly."
Just so, I apply all this to myself, and am silent—for
fellowship with the heavenly multitude, and communion with God and the
Lamb—will counterbalance all afflictions in this world!
May 30, 1782 (Birthday).
While I confess myself mortal, I also desire to acknowledge the many
undeserved mercies I enjoy. How is it that the eternal God should care for a
clod of dust? Yet, since he has given me his Son—what will he withhold? I
lament my attachment to the things of time, and yet I would not wish that
the shadow should go so many degrees back on the sun-dial of my life.
June 4, 1782. My birthday
from my mother's womb, brought me only into an infantile state. But I have
another birthday before me, the day of death—which shall usher me into the
world of perfect men. As the mother's sorrow is forgotten for joy that a
is born into the world; so the sorrows of death, and the pangs of death,
shall be lost in the joy of a soul entered on the triumphant heavenly
state—the state of glory!
June 14, 1782. My child
is this day distressed with the measles. And, as a parent, it is natural
that I should have my fears that she may die. But, as a Christian parent,
how should the salvation of her immortal soul lie near my heart? Death now
may deprive me of a pleasant pretty child—and fill me with sorrow. But the
second death is misery in the extreme—and calls forth sorrow beyond
description. O that her soul may live before you! In the mean time this
is my comfort, that my God is the supreme disposer of all things, and will
either give me himself along with my comforts, or himself in place of all my
June 21, 1782. It has
pleased the Father of mercies to recover my child—but I would wish not to
forget that she is mortal. And above all things, still to plead for her
immortal soul. It is good to give all things into God's hand, who will deal
well with his people, and make them sing of his mercy.
August 7, 1782. Why am I
so averse to die? Why not leap for joy at an invitation to go to my Father's
kingdom, and my Father's throne?
The troubles which attend me and the sins which attack
me—make me weary of this life. And the joys that await me--make me long for
my heavenly home. O! it is a sad proof that I know not—the emptiness of the
creature, nor the sinfulness of sin, nor the nature of the heavenly bliss,
nor the excellency of communion with God--that I do not loathe this life
more, nor long for my heavenly home more.
November 6, 1782. The
children of Israel seemed to have a mighty bar at last to their entering
into the promised land, even Jordan overflowing all its banks? but when the
priest's feet, who bore the ark of the covenant, touched the waters, they
divided and left their channels dry, so that they had as sweet and safe a
passage here as any part of their whole journey. Just so, though death is
terrible to me, terrible to nature; yet Jesus, my great High Priest, who
carries the ark of the everlasting covenant—can make death as safe a passage
to me as any in all the course of my life.
December 3, 1782. The
words of dying men have some weight with their friends. And if heaven would
please to open my mouth on my death-bed, O how much I have to speak on God's
behalf! but if tongue-tied in pious matters all my lifetime, can I expect a
miracle at death? And indeed, what am I now but a dying man—only not
confined to my room or my bed? and so I should open my mouth on spiritual
January 7, 1783. The heir
of an eternal world should not care much about a world which passes away.
And such oceans of bliss, such rivers of joy and spiritual delight,
such wonders of glory, and overflowings of love—shall be
revealed to, and pour in on the soul, on the back of death, as shall quite
blot out the remembrance of all the trifling distresses of our transitory
January 16, 1783. A few
days ago, I rose in the night, and was seized with such a fit, that I
thought I would immediately expire. In a minute the sweat broke, I returned
to bed, and had no more illness. What an alarm had my death been both to my
friends, and to the family where I was. Shall God speak once, yes twice, nay
often, by the death of others, by the decease of my own dearest friends, and
by such an attack as this—and I not be instructed that I am mortal?
March 4, 1783. This very
day I labor under an illness—and every disease is an entrance to the
grave—so not only the return of the day—but what I feel on the day, is a
remembrance of my death. But with what folly am I chargeable, who, from the
entrance to the grave, instead of looking into the 'house of silence'—am
looking on this side, and that side, to the flowery bank.
Indeed I have a dear child, that is but an infant, and
who, in the event of my death, must become an orphan. But well may I commit
her to my heavenly Father's care, who can do for her what no parent can. I
may teach and instruct—but he only can teach to profit, he can give grace in
the inward part. I may feed and dress the body—but he can array in the
Surety's righteousness, and make her soul to feed by faith on the heavenly
manna. And if thus clothed, and thus fed, it matters not how coarse her
food, and how tattered her array—in other respects is.
April 1, 1783. I have
often condemned in old men their fondness for life, and their
averseness to death. But, as Eliphaz said to Job, "Now it has come upon
me, and I faint; it touches me, and I am troubled." To talk with death at a
distance, and to welcome him when he seems far away—is a kind of farce. But
when laboring under some disease, and laid on a sick-bed, then to welcome
death would display the fortitude of faith.
My heavenly Father has recovered me from my last illness.
O to have this plague of mind removed—A loathing of the heavenly
felicity, and a delighting in the things of time!
May 6, 1783. So vast is
the heavenly bliss that the saints enter into at death, that it is
surprising that any, who have the sweet assurance thereof—should be averse
to leave a vain, a weary and a wicked world, to enter upon the full, the
eternal enjoyment of God. If my faith had bright views of the celestial
glory, and some foretastes of the joys of his right hand, instead of
bewailing my wrinkles and my grey hairs—I would rejoice in seeing myself in
the better country, and my Father's house!
May 30, 1783 (Birthday).
How mistaken is the world in their estimate of things! Many keep their
birthday with great pomp and festivity—while the prospect of their death
spreads a gloom on their whole soul. Would not I take them for madmen—who
would dance for joy at a ship, in which they were to sail, being launched
into a stormy ocean, and exposed to tempests every day, and be dejected and
sad when the ship appeared to make her destined port her desired haven? Just
so, has not my birthday ushered me into a world of woe? Do not various
storms agitate the sea of life? And yet how averse to enter into the port of
Death, where the weary are at rest?
July 1, 1783. All nature
is but a reminder of my latter end. The sun which shines so bright in
a cloudless sky, sets and proclaims, "So, mortal, you must set in death."
The fields which are covered with a luxuriant crop, are announcing
the approach of harvest, when they shall be made naked and bare. And every
night my sleep is the image of death, and my bed of the grave. And
yet, in the midst of all, I am apt to forget my mortality and my approaching
August 5, 1783. He that
is only a wayfaring man, and far on his journey, need not be much concerned
for his accommodation for the few last nights—since he has almost arrived at
home. This is the very case with me—I cannot be far from home. O that heaven
may be my home! and the sooner there the better!
October 7, 1783. The
prospect of approaching death should cut off all my superfluous cares. When
my journey is but a step or two, why should a load of solicitude about it
weigh down my mind? O how soon must I take farewell of all below! Did seven
years of toil and labor, sweat and fatigue, seem but a few days to Jacob for
the love he had to Rachel? And should not my love to my incarnate God, and
the prospect of uninterrupted communion with, and full enjoyment of him—make
a few weeks, days, and hours of sickness, and death, as nothing?
November 4, 1783. The
king of terrors approaching to destroy my mortal frame, the Judge standing
at the door to sit in judgment on me, and eternal ages opening before me—are
views which might fill my soul with terror and despair. But if faith can see
'death' only as a servant bringing me home, the 'Judge' as acquitting and
bestowing the crown, and 'eternity' as an endless summer of love and light,
communion with and fruition of God—then may my soul be filled with transport
December 2, 1783. If I am
an expectant of glory, I should, like Elijah, walk in constant expectation
of my change. I am assured that the time of my death is not now far
distant! It does not matter whether a fiery chariot in a few moments, or a
fever in a few days, or a consumption in a few months—wafts me away from the
company of my friends, and from the endearments of my nearest
relations—since it shall join me to those who dwell in the heavenly
presence, always beholding the glory of God, and singing the praises of
January 6, 1784. What
amazing changes take place in the natural world! Storms and tempests
distress the country; deluges of snow threaten the death of man and beast;
and in some places it is impossible to travel from town to town. But the
road to death is still wide open, and the high-way of the king of terrors
can never be blocked up.
March 3, 1784. In
comparison of eternal realities, what are the things which we meet with in
the world—but mock pleasures, or mock pains? Not one of them can pass the
door of death, or attend me to my eternal state. Why then am I such a fool
as to grasp at shadows—or to be cast down at transient afflictions?
April 6, 1784. It is a
melancholy sight to see any person evidently dying—without one
serious thought of death. But this rises from a sight equally melancholy, so
many people living—without one serious thought of God. But the
prospect of a blessed eternity, is the best cordial against the troubles of
life. O sweet period! when sin shall vex no more, when tempests shall yield
to an eternal calm!
April 22, 1784. How
melancholy, when we dare not follow the soul of our dead friend to his final
state! or how stupid to believe him gone to bliss—merely because his
lifeless carcass lies at rest! What trifles are crowns and thrones
below—compared to the salvation of an immortal soul! Yet for what trifles
will we go to the ends of the earth, curtail our life, and cast our soul
April 29, 1784. Might we
suppose the soul of a lost sinner, permitted to spring from the bottomless
pit and attend his own funeral; well might he be surprised to see among his
friends so much care about his perishing dust, where there had been so
little care about his immortal soul. How astonished to see so much gaiety in
the countenances of all his acquaintances, who seemed to have forgotten that
they were attending a funeral! And even to his near relatives might the
agonized soul cry out, "You seem like those who are going to a merry
dance—while I lament day and night in the dirges of the damned! Is the death
of a son, a brother, a friend—so soon forgotten by you? Has a change so
solemn, a state so terrible—no deeper impressions on your minds, O monsters
of cruelty? Have you no fearful forebodings of following me to the same
place of torment—where I must dwell, and roar, and blaspheme, and howl
May 30, 1784 (Birthday).
I acknowledge the heavenly kindness that I am still alive. And all my soul
is filled with joy, that my Lord rose victorious from the dead. And in
virtue of his resurrection, I may cheerfully welcome death and the grave,
because, being united to him, I shall rise to a glorious immortality, and an
eternal Sabbath of rest.
June 1, 1784. It is
pleasant, in such declining times—to hear of a young person dying in Christ.
But it is said that I, an old person, should be averse to die. It is sin
which makes death terrible and frightful, and darkens the heavenly state.
For did my faith see the glories, and believe the bliss of paradise—I would
leap in prospect of going there.
June 29, 1784. Some weeks
ago, the mother of a large family lay so ill of a fever that all hopes of
life were lost. Her son, who was eighty miles away, hastens to see his dying
parent—but expects, before he can arrive, that she shall be no more. But to
his sweet surprise, she is getting better, and her affectionate husband is
overjoyed at her recovery. The youth, with cheerful step, returns to the
place of his employment, until a second sad message calls him to see his
father in his last moments. But before he arrives, his father is no more! He
mingles grief with his disconsolate mother, and piously proposes to come and
carry on his father's business, and rear up the younger part of the family,
and nourish his mother in her old age. After going away to settle his
affairs, he returns to settle in his mother's family. But O! adorable
Providence, whose path is in the mighty waters, and whose footsteps are not
known, the fever, that had afflicted the family, seizes him. And tomorrow he
is to be laid by his father's side! Well, one prop after another may be
removed, one comfort after another may perish—but still God lives, and is
the widow's judge in his holy habitation. In this providence, God says, "Let
the widow trust not in a son—but in me."
September 7, 1784. In the
midst of my various views and lawful schemes, O to remember that I am
mortal! and not now far from the house of silence; and that the heavenly
bliss will not be heightened by all the enjoyments of time, nor impaired by
all the crosses and disappointments below. What traveler can pursue his
journey by walking backwards? So, if my affections be still towards the
world, I will but make poor progress heavenward. O to come up from the
wilderness, like the spouse, leaning on my Beloved, looking towards the land
of promise, and longing for the heavenly rest!
October 5, 1784. While I
am in the world, I must be laying lawful plans and schemes for futurity, and
yet I cannot know what a day will bring forth. I will therefore lay my
account with two things:
1. That all my plans may be frustrated.
2. That death may take me away from all.
And in neither shall I be disappointed—for while I attend
to the affairs of life, which is my duty—I desire not to forget that I am
not far from the eternal world—and that God is the sovereign disposer of all
things in this world.
January 1, 1785. On the
first day of this new year, I would wish to put pen to paper, to impress
myself with a belief, that I shall shortly put pen to paper no more. O how
foolish, that while my years diminish, my earthly cares should multiply.
Hence let me cast all my concerns into the hands of a gracious, wise and
powerful Governor—and possess my soul in patience.
January 4, 1785. How
inconsistent in a disciple of him who died, and rose, and revived, that he
might be the Lord both of the dead and the living—in an expectant of
immortality—to recoil from death, to cling to life, and quarrel with his
physician for not recovering him! This I have seen. O to be able to act the
noble opposite—to part pleasantly with my dearest relations, to leave life
with mental serenity, and my ravished soul feel a holy impatience to fly to
the embraces of my Savior!
February 1, 1785. When a
ship has set sail for some far distant shore, though she sees no signs of
land, yet, by the time she has been at sea—she can know assuredly, that she
cannot be far distant from her desired haven. Just so, though I know not the
hour of my departure, (nor would I wish to know,) yet, when I reflect how
long I have lived, I may be assured, that death cannot be very far away.
May 30, 1785 (Birthday).
I mention my birthday only to keep me in mind of the day of my death. Some
have been dead before they were born—but never one was born alive but had
death to meet with.
At the burial of a friend, too often we behave as if we
had nothing to do with death and eternity; the very occasion of our meeting
is forgotten in our conversation. And were it not that the family were in
mourning, we would seem rather convened for a wedding, rather than a
funeral. Now, since we behave so in health, no wonder that in our last
sickness we have not a word to speak in honor of true religion, or about a
world to come. O my soul! Do not be united to their trivial assembly.
June 7, 1785. Of late,
many people have gone from this country to settle in the American colonies.
But not one of them, without making inquiry about, and obtaining some
knowledge of, that colony to which they were to go. How terrible if I go
into the eternal and changeless world—without the least knowledge of it!
And, alas! How many die who have never had one serious thought about a
future state, or in the least prepared for their change!
August 2, 1785. When I
have thought and thought again on death, I remain much in the dark about
the disembodied state. But I have no complaint, for the darker the
scene, the stronger must be my faith. And the stronger my faith is, the more
God is glorified. No matter how, or when, or where
death take place, since the promise secures the heavenly presence to the
valley of death. No matter how tremendous and unknown the regions of
eternity appear—the promise secures that I shall be forever with the Lord.
And with equal confidence and faith, may I leave my family behind on the
divine providence and protection, having clusters of promises made on my
November 2, 1785. Every
change of lot is bringing me so much nearer my great and final change. When
kind Providence builds up a family, let it not be forgotten, that death will
pull it down—by removing pleasant children, or tearing asunder the nearest
connections. But, if I and my family be taken by adoption into God's family,
every change shall be to the better, and death itself perform the office of
a friend. And the person who first leaves the earthly stage may address the
survivers in the words of the divine Redeemer, "I go to my Father, and your
Father; to my God, and your God."
December 6, 1785. Let me
remember that every change is bringing me so much nearer the great and final
change which awaits me. If the bride forsakes her friends, and her father's
house—to dwell with her bridegroom; and if the bridegroom rejoices over the
bride—how cheerfully should I forsake my dearest friends below, to dwell
with my heavenly Beloved—ravished and astonished that such a glorious
bridegroom will rejoice over me as his bride, his spouse! Here discord
may embitter the husband and wife, and death must separate them at last. But
in the heavenly state, discord is never known, and the mystical marriage is