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The manner in which solitude influences the mind will greatly vary. What a beautiful picture we have of serious, thoughtful reflection, in the case of Isaac, when he “ went out to meditate in the field at eventide." The thought of the simple-minded, reflective man, would fix itself upon the wondrous-working ways of God; the marvellous, supernatural, divine call of Abram from the land of idolatry, to be the chosen friend and witness of ovah among men; the future destiny of that people who were raised up in fulfilment of divine promises, and for the accomplish. ment of divine purposes ; thoughts and sentiments were thus awakened, such as probably would never have occurred to him, if he had tarried amid the busy hum of social life. Some of our best and happiest thoughts are among those which arise in solitude, and do not wait on us, that they may have expression given to them for other men to become acquainted with them too. The calm and soothing influence of solitude has often been acknowledged. The reader himself has known what it is to retire from some exciting scene, and after a season of quiet thought, has wondered that he should have been so greatly furried and disturbed by the things which had happened unto him. Sometimes, dear reader, there has been a pensive, saddened cast of feeling experienced by you in your solitude. It seemed as if you had gone alone that you might weep. The remembrance of endearments once possessed, but now lost, constrained you to do so. The solitude where none could hear, and none could see, excepting only the great Invisible, seemed a befitting scene for sighs and, tears like yours :
“ Our sorrows and our tears we pour
And helps us bear the heavy load." At another time a sense of awe bas been awakened ; a strange mysterious kind of feeling ; deep, solemn, and overwhelming; a feeling near akin to that of a child, who, being found in tears, in a lonely place, where no form was seen, and no sound was heard, was asked why he wept ? “I am afraid of the silence," he replied. There must have been
a soul in that child, of deepest sympathies, thus to commune, weeping as · he did so, with the solemn mysteries of a world hushed into stillness enough to awe the human mind. And sometimes solitude has exerted a fortifying, strengthening influence on man. He has been withdrawn for a season from the society of fellow-men that be might be fitted for a mission in the name of God. So did the leader of Israel return from the solitude of Midian, and the Baptist from the Judæan desert. So many have come forth, nerved with new power ; mightier, stronger men; men of nobler purposes and braver hearts than they had ever been if the stern rigours of those solitary scenes had not been looked upon, and braved by them. A man who has had high destinies to fulfil will commonly be found to have fetched some measure of his qualifications from the secret, silent communings of his own spirit in the calm solitude that has been witness to his thoughts, his aspirations, and his resolves.
Solitude was often resorted to by our Lord. Seclusion was in his case entirely voluntary ; his own act; not a necessity to which he submitted ; but the dictate of a spirit rising to the full dignity of the mission which he had to fulfil.
The purposes which his retirement bad to effect were sometimes prospective, and sometimes retrospective ; in some cases preparatory, in others restorative; now to prepare for the future, and now to recover from the exhaustion of the past. He did not need, as we do, the chasten. ing influence of retirement to preserve or to deliver from evil; but in
the anticipation or review of any unwonted event he did frequently retire to the solitary place, there to mingle reflection and prayer; the meditations of his own mind with invocations of aid from his Father. See him about to send forth his twelve Apostles. “He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” A fearfully solemn duty is about to be fulfilled, and he prepares for it in a manner correspondent with it. What a sublimity rests upon that mount! The shades of night have gathered around and have settled on it; everything below is husbed to silence; no voice is heard among the habitations of men except that of those who proclaim, “What of the night?” but the solitude of that mountain height, and of that midnight hour, is witness to the wakeful thought and the fervent zeal of God's incarnate Son. The morning comes ; the light of heaven breaks again on the dwellings of men; and Jesus comes forth prepared to give their great commission to the Apostles, as ambassadors of God to man. Thus, when he would give to his chosen disciples more than ordinary insight into the doctrines of the Gospel dispensation, he would take them aside from the ever-busy scenes of earthly pursuits, and then unfold to them the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. When he would hold more than ordinary communion with his Father he retires from the society of men. Seasons of special devotion are to him seasons of withdrawment from the uncongenial scenes of earth. When earthly honour is about to be thrust upon him, and men would fain take him by force to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain by himself alone. When about to receive the imposing witness to his mission which his transfiguration supplied, he withdrew from the abodes of men, and, attended by Peter, James, and John, went into a high mountain apart. When bereavement came, the loss of one like John the Baptist, the herald of Himself, a man of whom he had said, that “among those who are born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist,” he said to his disciples, just returned from their journey of evangelic ministration, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile." And, last of all, see how he prepared for suffering. Looking forward to his fearful struggle he had said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it shall be accomplished !” Days roll on, and the time for its accomplishment has come. And where did that holy sufferer pass the hours immediately preceding the time of woe? Where could that night of sorrow have been better spent than in the mournful stillness of Gethsemane? And how, than in prayer to his almighty Father ? Earth had never seen a sufferer like him. Heaven had never listened to such a suppliant before. “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Not my will, but thine be done.” Meet place and time for prayer like that! The stillness of the night; the sadness of Gethsemane ; eo Jesus strengthens for the dread conflict on Calvary.
Christian reader, copy after Christ, the christian's model. The pres. sure of worldly business renders retirement needful to the maintenance of the christian life. It is favourable to self-knowledge and self-discipline. And it is often blessed by the communication of divine grace. The Almighty can make his voice to be heard, and his band to be felt, even in the busiest and most tumultuous scenes; but our warrant to expect the manifestation of his love is to be found in the precept and the promise, "Enter into thy closet; and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thce openly.”
MARY AT THE SEPULCHRE.
BY DR. P. A. G. TROLUCK.*
John xx. 11–17. This is that Mary Magdalene who had been possessed by seven devils, and who was delivered from the powers of darkness by the Saviour's word. This is that sinner, it is generally supposed, who washed the Saviour's feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Unquestionably her heart must have been knit to him with stronger ties than other hearts; for when Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and the other women from Galilee, who went out with her to the sepulchre, hastened from the empty grave back to the disciples, she remained standing there alone, weeping out all her sorrows. How strong the faith of those whom the Saviour drew to himself, and this even before the outpouring of the Spirit. It puts us all to the blush! A Nicodemus, who dared not venture to go to Jesus, except by night, when the great teacher was alone, takes courage now that a death of ignominy might seem to annihilate the hopes by which he was attached to the great Prophet “sent from God;" it was at this very time that he had the boldness to ask from Pilate the body of Jesus, that he might lay it in the tomb, and declared thus to all the world that he was a follower of the despised Nazarene. Mary, too, what a conflict of faith must have raged in thy heart as thou stoodest at the door of that sepulchre! Thou canst not venture to believe as yet, that He whom thy soul lovest has burst the gates of the tomb, and come forth a victor ; but far less canst thou believe that he has passed away from the earth helpless and for ever, leaving not a trace behind! But in such like ebbs and flowings of the heart, her love continues strong and constant; yea, though her every hope should fail, her love would never. I conceive, however, that she had not lost hope. It would be with her as with the disciples who journeyed to Emmaus. “We hoped,” said they, "that this was he who should deliver Israel, and yet this is the third day since these things came to pass." This is the language of men who hope still. The wick still flickers, although wellnigh extinguished. “Some. thing may occur even yet,-perhaps it will,- although I know not how nor what.” They could not believe that he, who at the open grave had cried, “Lazarus, come forth !” should be himself engulfed for ever in it. "Oh, thou heart of mine, heart of little faith. Many believed, although the stone closed up the mouth of the grave, believed at the open empty grave, and shall it be difficult for me to put faith in exercise, standing as I do before the open heavens, upon whose throne the conqueror of death has for ever sat down ? They are pitiably mistaken who can bring themselves to believe, that while life and death, heaven and hell, are struggling with each other in our hearts and in our streets, there is no heavenly eye standing near us, keeping its silent watch. Yes; there is not only one eye which gazes thus with a deep concern upon our struggles here below; there are many, many such. We see this in the prompt and willing service with which the heavenly spirits, the while their Lord and Master. tabernacled on earth, hastened to serve him and his. The children of our day imagine that it is unbefitting a great and unshackled mind to know anything of an intercourse of love between our poor earth and the realms of the blest. But this is a little, narrow, contracted spirit; while wide and free is the spiritual faith which belieres that there is a bridge between this earth and yonder regions of light. To them this
earth's story seems too insignificant for glorious spirits to feast their eyes and ears upon; but we know that there is one story at least which the angels desire to look into, and on which the princes of heaven look down, wonder, and adore. Thus greatly ennobled is my soul when, in unison with these heavenly beings, I think upon the history of the kingdom of God upon earth; and how ashamed and confounded shall I be when I think that a story which moves the very angels in heaven can often exert so little influence upon me.
He is still her Lord, and as she is no longer permitted to cling to his living heart, she will not allow his body at least to be stolen away. Deeply impressed with this, she stands looking into the open grave, distracted with grief, gazing down into the deep night, while behind her back the sun has already risen in all its glorious splendour. And how often is this repeated in our life's experience! How frequently do I stand distracted with grief, my looks directed away into the cold, hopeless night! In such a time, good Lord, do thou recall to my mind Mary's tears, and that comfortless gaze into the grave! If prone to despondency, how often does my heart look tremblingly into the darkness, as if afraid the sun would never more arise, and all the while he has risen behind me in all his glory.
Was it excess of grief which held her vision so that she could no longer recognise the Saviour, Him by whose mouth she had been healed, in whose eyes she had gazed a thousand times, sometimes with an enquiring, sometimes with a grateful, look ? It might be so. At least it is often the case in spiritual experience, that although the Saviour stands before us in all the brightness of his glory, the tears of despondency which we are weeping are like a rain-cloud that prevents us from recognising him. But as soon as we wipe our tears away we immediately recognise him. We see, however, from some other passages, that a change possibly may have taken place in the external aspect of our Lord; there must have been something supernatural in his expression,-something of the mien of a king, who having served for many years as a servant is now about to reoccupy his throne. The disciples, who used formerly to talk to him with child-like confidingness, are now restrained by a reverend reserve. Perhaps in her grief, the dim-eyed Mary had not looked so much into his face as upon his external appearance. Those who were crucified had a piece of cloth wound round them, like that which was worn by fieldlabourers, and possibly it might be this which suggested the supposition of his being the gardener. At all events, we know for certain the reason why we are not able to recognise the Saviour. It is this, we do not look into his countenance, we do not hear his voice.
He says nothing extraordinary to her. He merely repeats her name; anybody might have done that. But what cannot the Saviour breathe into a name, when He names it? Mary! thus had He called, reprovingly, when base lust yet held her in its chains. Mary! thus had He called, authoritatively, when he commanded the evil spirits and they departed out of her. Mary! thus in blessing, his voice called, when he proclaimed, “ Thy sins are forgiven thee!” All this suddenly presents itself before her inner eye, together with the thought, He is thine once more! Thou hast him back'a victor! and exclaiming, "My Lord," she sinks upon her knees. As often as I read this passage, my soul seeks to paint to itself the rapture which awaits us too, when for the first time we shall see and hear Him before us, whose voice, now in threatening, anon in blessing, we now hear within us. Yes, the rapture of that resurrection morning is laid up in store for all of us.
It is somewhat obscure why the Lord should say unto her, “ Touch me
not;" but I think it will be less so when we picture to ourselves the might with which that call of the Lord, “ Mary,” must have fallen upon the heart of this tender disciple. The other women who met Jesus in the way fell down before him, and we cannot conceive that Mary, a disciple so full of feeling, could have heard the call without sinking on ber knees. Thomas, convinced, had exclaimed, “My Lord, and my God!" Mary, convinced already, kneels before him as before her Lord and her God. This the Lord does not himself signify, but he immediately pro. ceeds to point out to her, that still greater things are about to take place, than all that she has yet beheld. According as he had said before, “If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go to my Father, for my Father is greater than I;" and so he now announces, “I go to my Father," and implied in this, “I go away to sit down at the right hand of his glory, and to receive that royal name of which it is written, He has given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Thus, then, the Saviour explains that his resurrection was verily a glory, although not yet the full glory. And how beautiful, how comfort. ing the affection, that at the very time when he proclaims to them his exaltation and glory, he adds, “But go to my brethren, and say to them, I go to my Father and your FATHER; to my God and your God.” Just as if he would say, “This is not yet the highest point in my exaltation, but even when my glory shall be complete, I shall not be ashamed to call you my brethren, for where I am there shall my servants also be.”
These words, from the month of the risen One, are inexpressibly dear to my heart. When he became in all respects like us, when he wore our poor humanity, he was not ashamed to call us brethren. But now, after death has been swallowed up in victory, after he has sat down on the right hand of glory, upon the throne of the world, to reign for ever and ever. more, can we ever dare approach him except in the attitude of suppliants? But even upon the throne of the worlds he is not ashamed of his brother. hood; in him the weakness of humanity has come to honour; and wbat he has gained, that will he confer on us. A brother's heart upon the throne of the world, the sovereignty of all things in the hands of one who calls us his brethren in the very midst of his glory; here lies a com. fort and an exaltation so immeasurable, that its boundlessness ever and again evokes unbelief! But immeasurable as is the thought, so is the blessedness of the heart which believes it !
" LIVE AS YOU LIKE."
BY THE REV. C. ELVEN. Conversing the other day with one who was opposed to the doctrines usually called the Doctrines of Grace, my opponent waxing warm, somewhat abruptly closed the argument by saying, “Oh, then, I see how it is; you may live as you like, you are sure of going to heaven.”
Left to my reflections, the words, “Live as you like," stuck fast in my mind, and I thought, “Well, here is the motto for an article in “The Church,' many of whose readers not only love the doctrines of grace, but also the grace of the doctrines." · It is not the first time the enemies of truth have undesignedly given us words, which, though otherwise employed by them, have, like arms taken from the foe, been turned effectually on their originators, and done good service in the holy war: as when Pilate wrote what was intended