"Alone with Jesus"

And Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." John 8:9-11

Well did the trembling king of Israel exclaim, when with an air of tender faithfulness the prophet placed before him the choice of those evils which should mark his sin- "Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for very great are his mercies, but let me not fall into the hand of man." Every point of light in which his decision can be viewed, justifies both its wisdom and its holiness. It was wise: he knew that the Lord was his God: as such, he had long been wont to deal with him in transactions the most solemn and confiding, and thus, from knowledge and experience, he felt he could now safely trust in him. It was holy: he saw that God was most righteous in punishing his sin, and that in meekly submitting to that punishment which came more immediately from the Lord, he was sympathizing with the equity of the Divine Government, and was upholding the character of the "Judge of all the earth" as "most upright." Guided by these considerations, he would rather fall into the hands of the Lord, uplifted though they were to scourge.

Who has not made this prayer his own, and breathed it at the footstool of mercy? The "tender mercies of the wicked are cruelty," but the severest corrections of our Father are love. To be smitten by God is infinitely better to the believer than to be blest by man. The creature's affection often brings with it a snare; and the honor which comes from man tends to nourish the corrupt principle of depraved self. But whatever, in the experience of a child of God, that may be which comes more directly from the Lord, it brings with it its concealed but its certain and often unutterable blessing. O how safe are we in the Lord's hands! Though he frown, we yet may love. Though he scourge, we yet may cling. Though he slay, we yet may trust. "I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant." With such an issue, welcome the discipline that leads to it. "Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for very great are his mercies."

The touching narrative which has suggested these reflections and the subject of this chapter, affords another example of the blessedness of being exclusively in the Lord's hands. Here was a poor accused sinner rescued from the violent grasp of men, and thrown in all her helplessness upon the mercy of Jesus. And while the Spirit unfolds the great gospel truths which it so impressively illustrates, may we experience something of the blessedness and sweetness of spending an hour alone with Jesus!

The character of the scene which it portrays is judicial- the grouping natural, the objects interesting, the whole instructive. With regard to the first object which arrests our attention- THE PRISONER AT THE BAR- we can scarcely imagine a case more calculated than this to awaken the tenderest sympathies of Jesus. The accused, now pale and agitated, weak and trembling, was a woman. A wreck of her former self though she was, there still was an air of touching tenderness, if not of faded beauty and grandeur, still lingering amid the ruin. This would not escape the searching and discriminating glance of the Savior. She was a woman, and the acute sensibilities of her sex were hers. These had indeed received a fearful shock. It may be in the power of sin and crime deeply to obscure and greatly to blunt the fine and delicate instincts of our nature, but never totally to extinguish them. They will outlive the storm that may have scattered the verdure and dissipated the blossom of many an opening character. The external loveliness of that character may for a while be shaded, but there is a deathless beauty within- feelings, thoughts, purposes, and resolves, which die only with the dying breath. There is a class of feelings- certain sympathies and affinities- which would seem to be from their very nature imperishable. God has so ordered it.

A mother, for example, can never forget that she is a mother. The hidden fountain of feeling, unsealed in her heart, is ever springing up, pure and sparkling. She may wander from her home as a bird from its resting-place, but she will return and hover around her little ones; or she will clasp to her bosom with a firmness which the wrench of death only can relax, the infant that shares her wanderings and her guilt. And a woman is a woman still. Sin and sorrow may have beclouded the sun-light, and marred the joyousness of her spirit; but there are undercurrents of affection and feeling which the tempest that swept the surface has left untouched. That keen sensibility- that gentleness- that tenderness- that instinctive delicacy and that keen sense of honor- the peculiar traits of her sex- are still there. The delicate stem from which has fallen the beautiful flower, may bend before the blast; but tenderly raise, and kindly nourish it, it will live again, and bud and blossom as before. It may be a truant plant, still a plant of Eden, whose tint and fragrance may yet brighten and make glad the garden of the heart.

We should remember this in our walks and labors of benevolence. Brought, as we sometimes are, into contact with extreme cases of guilt and crime, we should not overlook the material we yet possess with which to repair the fallen structure. No heart should be considered too polluted- no mind too dark- no character too debased- for the power of God, working by human instrumentality, to restore. The surface may present to the eye the iron features of a hardened and a reckless character; nevertheless, there are springs of thought and feeling and memory beneath that repulsive surface, which, if touched by a skillful and a delicate hand, will unlock the door of the heart, and admit you within its most sacred recesses. Thus with gentleness and kindness you may soften the most hardened, disarm the most ferocious, calm the most violent, and attain complete possession of a mind that has long resisted and repelled every other subduing influence.

The law of love is the law of God's moral government of his people. By this, and by this alone, he rules them. All that is disciplinary in his conduct is resolvable into love. It is by kindness, "loving-kindness," yes, "marvellous loving-kindness!" that he wins back their truant hearts, and binds them closer to himself. "I am the Lord who exercise loving-kindness." "With loving-kindness have I drawn you." O to imitate him in this particular!- to be like God in his kindness to the children of men. Then would there be less sitting in the judgment seat- less readiness to cast the first stone- less harshness and censoriousness in our conduct and spirit towards others; and more of that self-judging, self-condemning, and self-abasement, before the holy, heart-searching, all-seeing Lord God, without which we may be awfully self-deceived.

But what an object was here, befitting the Savior's sympathy and power! Do you think, reader, that from it his pure and gentle spirit shrunk? Would he feel terrified or polluted by so close a proximity to an object of guilt and wretchedness? Ah, no! Come, you vaunting philanthropists of poetry and romance, who dissolve into tears over a fiction, and petrify at a reality- come, you who have your tears for imaginary woe, and recoil from contact with true misery- who deem it pollution to take kindly the hand of a poor wanderer, exclaiming, "Get away, for I am holier than you!" Come and learn what true philanthropy and sensitiveness mean.

Our Lord's was no gushy, sentimental humanity, standing aloof from the fallen and the despised, and attracting to itself only the virtuous and the worthy. It was a humanity that identified itself with our fall, and with all its consequent miseries. Itself pure, it yet took our sins; itself happy, it yet took our sicknesses and our sorrows. He came as the Savior, and sinners were the objects of his love and compassion. He was a man, and to nothing that was human, but its essential taint of sin, was he a stranger. He even carried our sins, as a crushing weight, upon that sinless frame; and that heart, to which sorrow was unknown, became "acquainted with grief."

O it is wondrous to see how closely the Son of God linked himself with fallen, suffering man! Touch what chord you may of the human heart, and there comes up from the depths of his an instantaneous and harmonious response. With what effect would some of these hidden springs of feeling in the human soul of Jesus now be touched! He would remember, as his eye fell upon this trembling object of his sympathy, that he himself was born of a woman, amid her perils and her pangs. He would remember, too, that there still was one who bore to him the endearing appellation of mother, and that yet others stood to him in the fond relation of sisters, and all that was tender in his heart would be moved. Looking at her humiliation, and thinking of his own, pity would melt his heart; and while listening to the voice of her clamorous accusers, with the garden of Gethsemane and Calvary full in view, her sin would stir to its center the deep fountain of his mercy. Then, O then, if ever, did he appear the "brother born for adversity." Then was fulfilled the Messianic prediction in the Psalms, "He shall deliver the needy when he cries; the poor also, and him that has no helper; for he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those who condemn his soul."

But dismissing for a moment the narrative itself, let us turn our attention to the gospel instruction which it unfolds. The truths which it illustrates are of the deepest moment. It brings vividly before the mind the case of a soul under the conviction and condemnation of the law, standing in the presence of Jesus, awaiting his solemn decision. We are now approaching that period of a man's life, upon which depend the complexion of his future history here, and the character of his destiny hereafter. Conversion, without which the present life is a perfect blank, and the future is "written in mourning, lamentation, and woe," is that event in individual history which creates all things new. The step which we are now describing, is the first in the great matter of conversion.

The Holy Spirit asserts this when, by the apostle, he describes the law as our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ. And in the school of the law, the first and the grand lesson which the sinner learns is his sin, his curse, and his condemnation. There he is convinced of his vileness, convicted of his guilt, and learns his poverty, helplessness, and hell-deserving. All the fond conceit of his own worthiness, strength, and fitness, vanishes as a vapor, and he sees himself in the power, under the curse, and exposed to the tremendous condemnation of God's righteous, broken, avenging law. Thus convicted in the very act of his rebellion against God, he is brought, like a felon, into the presence of Jesus. There he stands, pale and trembling, his witnesses many and loud, while his own awakened conscience pleads guilty to the charge.

Are you that soul, dear reader? Has the law arrested and brought you within Christ's court? O you never were in such a position before- so new, so strange, so blessed! It may be, you never felt yourself so near hell as now, under the sentence of God's law; but you never were so near heaven as now, in the presence of Jesus. You are now in that court where justice to the fullest is honored, and where mercy to its utmost is extended. You are in Christ's court, at Christ's bar- awaiting the sentence of him who was made under that law, fulfilled its precepts, and endured its penalty to the uttermost. You are in the presence of him who came to deliver sinners from its curse and woe, and to raise them far above the reach of all condemnation. Never were you so sensible of your guilt and ruin as now, yet never were you so near the fountain that cleanses from all sin, nor so close to him who was pierced to shelter the vilest of the vile. Your Judge is your Savior. He who sits upon that throne is he who hung upon the cross. You are arraigned in the presence, and are thrown upon the mercy of him, the delight of whose heart, and the glory of whose character, it is to save sinners; whose love for them induced him to screen his glory, and to appear in humiliation- to suffer, bleed, and die. You are in the presence of him who, though he has ascended on high, and is now glorified with the glory "he had with the Father before the world was," is yet engaged in securing the precious fruits of his soul's travail.
"His glory now, no tongue of man,
Nor seraph bright can tell
Yet still the chief of all his joys,
That souls are saved from hell."
"For this he came and dwelt on earth;
For this his life was given;
For this he fought and vanquished death;
For this he pleads in heaven."
Look up, poor soul! for "your redemption draws near." Never yet did he allow a sin-accused, self-condemned sinner to go out of this court unblessed, unsaved.

We return again to the narrative; and the second thing which arrests our attention, is THE CONDUCT OF JESUS TOWARDS THIS POOR WOMAN. Thus does the narrator describe their relative position, as each silenced and conscience-stricken accuser retires from the scene. "And Jesus was left alone, and the woman, standing in the midst." Enviable position! The prisoner and the Judge alone! The sinner and the Savior alone! Her accusers were silenced; her, enemies had retired; and, surrounded by the stillness and the solemnity of the place, stood the woman alone with Jesus. Upon this interesting and instructive topic, let us pour out the fulness of our soul.

Can we imagine a position on this side heaven more replete with the bliss of heaven than this? What a privilege is nearness to Christ! Yet dear and precious as it is, how sadly is it overlooked! We may trace this in some degree to the believer's oversight of his oneness with Christ. Yet to forget this truth, is to forget that he lives. As the branch has one life with the vine, the graft one life with the tree, so he that is united to Christ, and grafted into Christ, has one life with Christ. Go where he may, he is one with Christ. Be his circumstances what they may, he is one with Christ. And as he is in Christ, so Christ is in him. And if Christ is in him, dwelling in him, living in him, walking in him, so also is Christ in every event, and incident, and circumstance of his history. He cannot look upon the darkest cloud that overhangs his path, but he may exclaim, "Christ is in my cloud; Christ is in my sorrow; Christ is in my conflict; Christ is in my need; Christ is all to me, and Christ is in all with me." We will specify a few occasions in which this blessed state is more especially realized by the believer.

In seasons of accusation, how precious the privilege and the feeling of being alone with Jesus! Satan, we know, is the great accuser of the saints. And yet how insensible are we of the great power which he still exerts over the people rescued forever from his grasp! It was Satan who stood up to persuade David to number Israel. It was Satan who would have prompted God to slay Job; and it was Satan who stood at the right hand of Joshua, to condemn his soul. Thus is he ever ready to assert his charge against the people of God.

Not less malignant is the world. Infidel in its principles, God-hating in its spirit, and Christ-rejecting in its whole conduct, it is no marvel that it should be the antagonist and the accuser of the saints. Sitting in judgment upon actions, the nature of which it cannot understand- interpreting motives, the character of which it cannot decide- ingeniously contriving, and zealously propagating, reports of evil- and ever ready to defame and to detract all who live godly in Christ Jesus must expect no mercy at its hand. Yes, the world is the accuser of the saints. Nor Satan and the world only.

How often, as the history of holy Job testifies, have the saints been found the accusers of the saints, (and with the deepest humiliation be it written,) with an uncharitableness and censoriousness, which might have kindled the world's cheek with the blush of shame. Thus does the church herself testify, "My mothers children were angry with me." "The watchmen that went about the city found me; they smote me, they wounded me: the keepers of the wall took away my veil from me." And from whom did our blessed Lord receive his deepest wounds? Were they not from those who ranked among his friends and followers?

But what so keen and so bitter as self-reproach? Accusations proceeding from others are often most unfounded and unjust. We have felt at the time the secret and pleasing consciousness that we "suffer wrongfully." The shaft flies, but the Parthian arrow falls not more pointless and powerless than it. But far different is the accusation which the true believer brings against himself. Seeing sin where others see it not- conscious of its existence and its perpetual working, where the saints applaud, and even the world admires, he lays his hand upon his heart, his mouth in the dust, and exclaims, "I am vile! I abhor myself!" Ah! no reproaches like those which an honest, sincere child of God charges upon himself. No accusation so true, no reproof so keen, no reproach so bitter. Happy are they who deal much in self-condemnation! If we judged ourselves more, we should judge others less. And if we condemned ourselves more, we should be less condemned.

But what a privilege in all times of accusation, come from what quarter it may, to be alone with Jesus! With him, when we know the charge to be untrue, to appeal to him as an all-seeing, heart-searching, and righteous Judge, and say, "Lord, you know my principles, my spirit, my motives, my aim, and that with honesty, purity, and singleness, I have sought to walk before you." Oh, it is a solace, the preciousness of which the throbbing heart may feel, but the most eloquent pen cannot describe! And when the accusation is just, and the believer feels, "Vile as I am in the eyes of others, yet more vile am I in my own eyes;" yet even then to be left alone with Jesus, self-reproved, self-condemned, is to be thrown upon the compassion of him, "very great are whose mercies."

Alone with him, not a reproving glance darts from his eye, nor an upbraiding word falls from his lips. All is mercy, all is tenderness, all is love. There before him the self-condemned may stand and confess; at his feet the penitent may fall and weep, and find, alone with Jesus, his arm a shield, and his bosom an asylum, within which his bleeding, panting heart may find safety and repose.

In seasons of mental depression and sorrow of heart, how welcome and precious is this privilege! The shadow and the spring, amid the burning desert, are not more welcome and refreshing to the way-worn pilgrim. Sorrow is more or less the cup of all. But few there are whose lips have not pressed its bitter brim! Ah! judge not of the heart's hidden emotions, by the calm sunlight that plays upon the surface. Beneath that expression of joyousness, the canker-worm may be feeding. At the very core of that lovely flower, the insect may be rioting. The countenance all radiant with smiles, and the spirit all dark with sadness; the tongue discoursing sweet music, and the heartstrings breaking with grief. But O the consolation- who can describe it?- of unveiling the bosom when alone with Jesus! There the artificial vanishes, and the reality appears. There sorrow may indulge, and tears may flow, and sighs may heave, and complaints may breathe, and the heart may whisper its most sacred feelings, because the sorrowing believer is alone with Jesus.

To whom did the desolate disciples of the martyred John repair for sympathy and comfort, in the hour of their sudden and overwhelming bereavement? We are told, that "they took up the body of John, and buried it, and went and told Jesus." They poured their grief into his ear, and they laid their sorrow on his heart. And when the bereaved believer, whose fond earthly treasure the grave entombs, withdraws from the crowd of human comforters, and seeks to indulge his lonely grief, where does he love to retire? Not to the grave; this were to worship the dead; but to weep out his sorrow alone upon the bosom of Jesus. Ah! you whom death has bereaved! tell me, is there anything like this so soothing?

But perhaps it is in the light of prayer that this privilege most beautifully and sweetly appears. Thus far we may not have been accompanied by the sympathies of every reader; but touching the subject of unfettered, unreserved communion with God in prayer, all true believers are one. Disengaged from the world, and withdrawn from the saints- the one as needful for the cultivation of a close walk as the other; for there is much danger of substituting the communion of saints for communion with the King of saints- the believer retires to be alone with Jesus. The occasion is the most solemn and holy of the Christian life. The closet is entered- the door is shut- Christ and the believer are alone! Tread softly as you pass that spot, and put off your shoes from your feet as you pause, for the Triune God is there! Who can tell the solemn, sacred transaction, now transpiring! What confession of sin! what breathing forth of sorrow! what moaning out of grief! what opening of heart to heart, and what blending of spirit with spirit! what expressions of mutual confidence, affection, and delight- the believer making known the secret of his sorrow, and Christ unfolding the secret of his love!

From this, too, its true source, the saint of God derives his great power in prayer. His amazing and prevailing strength appears at a time of the most apparent weakness, even when single-handed, and alone with Jesus. It was thus the patriarch wrestled and overcame. "And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaks. And he said, I will not let you go, except you bless me." Never was there a conflict of so illustrious a nature, and of so strange a result, between powers so dissimilar and extreme. The incarnate God, as if to demonstrate his own divine power, and at the same time to make the victory of human weakness over Infinite Might more illustrious and palpable, touches the wrestling patriarch, and he is a cripple! And then at the moment of his greatest weakness, when taught the lesson of his own insufficiency, that flesh might not glory in the Divine presence, Omnipotence retires vanquished from the field, and yields the palm of victory to the disabled but prevailing prince. And why all this? To teach us the amazing power of prayer which the feeblest believer may have when alone with Jesus.

No point of Christian duty and privilege set before you in this work, will plead more earnestly and tenderly for your solemn consideration, dear reader, than this. It enters into the very essence of your spiritual being. This is the channel through which flows the oil that feeds the lamp of your Christian profession. Dimly will burn that lamp, and drooping will be your spiritual light, if you are not wont to be much alone with Jesus. Every feeling of the soul, and each department of Christian labor, will be sensibly affected by this woeful neglect. He who is but seldom with Jesus in the closet, will exhibit, in all that he does for Jesus in the world, but the fitful and convulsive movements of a mind urged on by a feverish and unnatural excitement. It is only in much prayer- that prayer secret and confiding- that the heart is kept in its right position, its affections properly governed, and its movements correctly regulated.

And are there not periods when you find it needful to leave the society of the most spiritual, sweet as is the communion of saints, to be alone with Jesus? He himself has set you the example. Accustomed at times to withdraw from his disciples, he has been known to spend whole nights amid the mountain's solitude, alone with his Father. O the sacredness, the solemnity of such a season! Alone with God! alone with Jesus! No eye seeing, no ear hearing, but his; the dearest of earthly beings excluded, and no one present but Jesus only, the best, the dearest of all! Then, in the sweetest and most unreserved confidence the believer unveils his soul, and reveals all to the Lord. Conscience is read- motives are dissected- principles are sifted- actions are examined- the heart is searched- sin is confessed- and iniquity is acknowledged, as could only effectually be done in the presence of Jesus alone. Is there, among all the privileges of a child of God, one in its costliness and its preciousness surpassing this?

Yet another view of our Lord's conduct towards this solitary object of his mercy. Who was now HER JUDGE? He who came into the world "not to condemn the world, but to save it." She was in the presence of him who left the realms of glory and his Father's bosom, to save the chief of sinners. Here was one; and his heart yearned, and his spirit was moved with pity and compassion. Not a reproving glance darted from his eye, nor an upbraiding word breathed from his lips. Listen to the music of his voice- "Woman, where are those your accusers? has no one condemned you? She said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more." How like himself did he now appear! Here was a flower blighted- did He despise it? Here was a stem bruised- did he break it? Here was a plant crushed- did he trample it beneath his feet No! he took that blighted flower, and placed it in his bosom. With skillful and tender hands he bound up that bruised stem. He stooped and raised that prostrate plant, lifted it into sunshine, and bade it droop and fall no more.

O blessed type of Christ's conduct towards a penitent sinner! Behold the soul prostrated at the foot of the cross. He admits the truth of all the accusations alleged against him. He disproves not, nor palliates a single one. "Lord, I have destroyed myself," is his mournful humiliating acknowledgment. But alone the sinner and the Savior stand. The one all sin- the other all mercy. The one all fear- the other all love. The bosom of the one agitated and convulsed with guilt and shame- the bosom of the other thrilling, and yearning with mercy and forgiveness. "Are you," says Jesus, "convicted of this sin? Have you fled to my cross for salvation- to my bosom for shelter? Have you repaired to my blood for pardon, and taken hold of my righteousness for acceptance? Have you appealed to my compassion, and thrown yourself upon my mercy? Then I do not condemn you. You have touched every spring of tenderness in my heart; you have stirred my mercy to its very depth; you have crowned and glorified me, in that which is most dear to my heart- my power and my willingness to save to the uttermost; your sins are forgiven you; I condemn you not."

It will perhaps be replied- but he declined to condemn this woman as a civil judge. Grant it. Shall we then suppose that our Lord is less compassionate and merciful as a moral judge? If He refuses the office of a temporal magistrate, does it follow that he vacates that of a spiritual minister? If he does not sit in the seat of Moses, will he abandon his own mercy-seat? No. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to call, not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. And to every repentant sinner brought into his presence, in the face of all his accusers, he says, "I condemn you not."

We turn to the closing scene of this instructive narrative- CHRIST'S DISMISSAL OF THE WOMAN. "Go, and sin no more." See how he manifests his abhorrence of the sin, while he throws his shield of mercy around the sinner. The Lord does not justify the sinner's transgression, though he justifies the sinner's person. In the great matter of salvation, justification and sanctification, pardon and holiness, are essentially and inseparably united. When the Lord Jesus dismisses a sinner with a sense of acquittal in his conscience, it is ever accompanied with that most affecting of all exhortations, "Sin no more." And as he passes out from the presence of Jesus, pardoned, justified, saved, the Savior's tender, soul-subduing words, from that moment seem to vibrate upon his ear, every step of his onward way. "Go, admire, and publish abroad the glory of that grace that has done such great things for you. Go, and spread his fame, and with your latest breath dwell upon his name, who, when sin, and Satan, and conscience accused you, and would have consigned you to eternal woe, appeared your Friend, your Advocate, and your Savior. Go, and when tempted to wound afresh the bosom that sheltered you, remember me from Gethsemane, from Calvary, and from the hallowed spot where I spoke to you, I condemn you not- go, and sin no more."

In closing this chapter, allow me, dear reader, to urge upon you the daily and diligent cultivation of that Christianity which derives its freshness, its vigor, and its gloss, from much hidden communion with Jesus. We plead not for the religion of the recluse. A monkish Christianity is not the Christianity of the Bible. When God, in the exercise of his sovereign grace, converts a man, he converts him, not for himself only, but also for others. He converts him, not for the church alone, but also for the world. He is to be a monument, whose inscription all may read- a city, whose beauty all may admire- a burning and a shining light, in whose radiance all may rejoice. He is to live and labor, and, if needs be, die for others. But we plead for more of that Christianity which is often alone with God; which withdraws at periods from the fatigue of labor and the din of strife- to renew its strength, and to replenish its resources, in a secret waiting upon the Lord. Christians must be more alone with Jesus. In the midst of what a whirlpool of excitement and of turmoil do numbers live! How few withdraw from domestic and public enjoyments, the calls of business, the duties of committees, of secretaryships, and of agencies- to hold communion alone with God! This must not be. The institutions which they serve, the calling at which they toil, the families for whom they labor, would be the gainers, rather than the losers, by their occasional sequesterment from the world, to be alone with God. And were our Lord still upon the earth, and contemplating their incessant action and little devotional retirement, and consequent leanness of spirit, would he not be constrained to address them as he once tenderly did his jaded and exhausted disciples, "Come aside into a desert place, and rest awhile?" He would allure them from others to himself.

It is possible, my dear reader, that this page may be read by you at a period of painful and entire separation from all public engagements, ordinances, and privileges. The way which it has pleased the Lord to take thus to set you aside, may be painful and humbling. The inmate of a sick chamber, or curtained within the house of mourning, or removed far remote from the sanctuary of God and the fellowship of the saints, you are perhaps led to inquire, "Lord, why this?" He replies, "Come aside and rest awhile." O the thoughtfulness, the discrimination, the tenderness of Jesus towards his people! He has set you apart from public for private duties, from communion with others for communion with himself. Ministers, friends, privileges, are withdrawn, and you are- O enviable state! alone with Jesus. And now expect the richest and holiest blessing of your life! Is it sickness? Jesus will make all your bed in your sickness, and your experience shall be, "his left hand is under my head, and his right hand does embrace me." Is it bereavement? Jesus will soothe your sorrow, and sweeten your loneliness, for he loves to visit the house of mourning, and to accompany us to the grave to weep with us there. Is it exile from the house of God, from the ordinances of the church, from a pastor's care, from Christian fellowship? Still it is Jesus who speaks, "There will I be unto you as a little sanctuary."

The very circumstances, new and peculiar as they are, in which you are placed, God can convert into new and peculiar mercies, yes, into the richest means of grace with which your soul was ever fed. The very void you feel, the very need you deplore, may be God's way of satiating you with his goodness. Ah! does not God see your grace in your very desire for grace? Does he not mark your sanctification in your very thirsting for holiness? And can he not turn that desire and convert that thirst into the very blessing itself? Truly he can, and often does. As one has remarked, God knows how to give the comfort of an ordinance in the lack of an ordinance. And he can now more than supply the absence of others by the presence of himself. Oh, who can compute the blessings which now may flow into your soul from this season of exile and of solitude? Solitude! no, it is not solitude. Never were you less alone than now. You are alone with God, and he is infinitely better than health, wealth, friends, ministers, or sanctuary, for he is the substance and the sweetness of all.

You have perhaps been laboring and watching for the souls of others; the Lord is now showing his tender care for your. And oh, if while thus alone with Jesus you are led more deeply to search out the plague of your own heart, and the love of his- to gather up the trailing garment- to burnish the rusted armor- to trim the glimmering lamp- and to cultivate a closer fellowship with your Father, how much soever you may mourn the necessity and the cause, you yet will not regret that the Lord has set you apart from others that you might rest awhile in his blest embrace- ALONE WITH JESUS.

"Alone with God! the universe shut out,
Earth, sense, and time, excluded and forgot;
All memories vanished of the parted past,
All prospects of the future overborne
And swallowed up in that one mighty sense,
That all-engrossing consciousness of God!"
"Alone with God! all earth-born love absorbed,
All earthly ties dissolved- all thoughts of those
Long held most dear, Elisha-like, who clung
Around the parting soul to Tabor's brink,
For a brief space (brief to eternity)
Lost in that all-pervading thought of God!"
"Alone with God! angelic hosts around
'In burning row,' attending, but unseen,
Angelic harps unheard, though far and high,
The sounding cadence of their anthem rolls;
The sea of crystal, and the streets of gold
The walls of jasper, and the gates of pearl,
Unnoticed all, resplendent though they be,
The throne, and Him who sits thereon, beheld,
Nothing else besides, in solitude sublime!
And do you shrink, my spirit, from the sight
Of untreated majesty, and quail
To meet the Eternal, naked and alone?"
"Alone with God! -I shrink not- He is great
His awful glory, when unveiled, might well
Consume the spirits He has made; but still
I shrink not- He is holy, too, and just,
And very terrible: He dwells in light
That no man can approach- no mortal eye
Can look upon and live; but there is One
Beside Him whom I dare to meet alone
Whom I have met alone at midnight hour,
In dark Gethsemane's sequestered shades,
Alone, though trembling friends and armed foes
Peopling the solitude, were round us there;
Whom I have met alone on Calvary's hill,
Though taunting crowds and dying men were there;
Whom I have met alone on Tabor's mount,
Unmindful of the little band that there
Held heavenly converse, sacredly amazed."
"Alone with Jesus! no, I cannot shrink
From that blest fellowship, unbroken, deep,
And soul-absorbing in the spirit land,
So often intruded on in this dark world,
By mortal joys and sorrows that would rob
My soul of that communion, pure and high."
"Alone with Jesus! on the Savior's breast
Fondly to lean, and think on none but him
How often my spirit feels lost in the crowd
Of fellow-worshipers below, above,
And longs, like his small band on earth, to be
'Led out into a desert place alone,'
To hear his voice, and share his love, as though
That voice and heart of love were only mine."
"Alone with God! in that blest solitude,
Could earth be lacking with its fleeting joys,
Or even its most abiding; and most pure
To fill the measure of a finite soul!
In that august communion could the loss
Of mortal converse shade the holy light,
Or mar the sacred joy which, as a tide,
A swelling tide of ecstacy, rolls in
Upon the spirit conscious but of God?"