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out to church. I cannot enter into the blessing that is promised to the two or three that are gathered together. I must devote myself to a solitary worship, and these lines may help to prepare me for it. What a contrast are the scenes that they picture to the scene that shuts me in! A cold rain patters against the window-panes, and a sharp blast of wind hurries over the hills. How different the cold New England landscape from that spot
"Where stately Jordan flows by many a palm,
Delights the flowers to lave
That o'er her western slope breathe airs of balm "!
I look out upon broad, brown hills, out of which the summer green has died away, and the cold mist-clouds shut up all warmth from the sky.
"The blossoms red and bright" in these lines allude to the rhododendrons, which, they say, cover the water's edge of the Lake of Gennesaret. And the word rhododendron brings back to me our own summer season, the gay flowers that adorn its quiet nooks, and with them those that light up the wayside. I forget a moment my winter-imprisoning room, and feel again the breath of summer air, and see again the summer rhododendrons, the rare flowers that came from their hidden homes. Not only has this picture carried
me to the side of the river Jordan, to the Holy Land, but back again to my own home in the summer-time.
And if my thoughts have power to paint around me new scenery, they may have force to bring into my silent room the memory and help of friends to commune with me in my solitary hour. I must collect around me the writings of spiritual men and women, who from their written words can preach to me and lead me to prayer. With their help I may summon to my presence the presence of Him who is ever with us, and yet whom we seldom know how to approach fitly. He to whom this day is consecrated will draw near to me in my solitude, and help me to make it sacred to Him.
To-day I have no active duties to perform. I am shut out from visiting the poor or the friendless. George has left for church, and will be gone all day. I am alone in the house, and am not even called upon for the gift of a kind word. I am not even obliged to appear kind and gentle. If I have any evil thoughts, there is no one here for me to express them to. I have even no household duties to perform. The only duty that remains to me is to take care of myself, to watch over my own thoughts. I have come to one of the quiet places in the activity of life. A busy week lies before me, and now I am allowed
a few hours of concentration to prepare myself for it. The outer warfare of life has ceased for a while; there is a short truce; I may look back upon the battle-field, and bury my dead. I may summon up my army, and fit the survivors for the renewed contest. Yes, there are dead resolutions to weep over, new hopes to encourage.
What, indeed, are the duties of such an hour? and what are its dangers?
There is danger that on such a day I may concentrate into a few hours all that "conviction of sin" that should serve to restrain me through the duties of the week. Standing alone in the presence of my own conscience, I may bow myself so heavily with compunction, that I shall find a reaction in the busy days that are to follow. What matter is it, that I do weep over the misdeeds of the last week, reproach the idle thoughts, and bring my soul down on its knees to-day in these quiet hours, - how will all this help me, if with to-morrow's distractions there returns again the old indolence, if the idle thoughts come back again, and the heartlessness, and the sharp words ready to wound others? Now, in the presence of myself alone and God, I am willing to confess all these evil tendencies of my soul; but will not the old vanity return to-morrow? When I am in the presence of others, I shall forget my own littleness, and wish to appear greater than my
stature. To-day, when I am alone, I can think with kindness of others, can even pityingly and shrinkingly draw a veil over their faults; I can forget how it is that these faults clash with mine, and find for them the excuses that I am so ready to spread over my own. But to-morrow the old selfishness will return; I shall give back an angry word for a supposed insinuation, wound a sensitive heart with a thoughtless act, neglect to bring the cup of cold water to the suffering, fall down quietly into the current of my own daily duties, not looking to either shore, to give or gather help! These words I write are a confession of that weakness that will again paralyze me to-morrow. I wish that I might preserve some of this humility when I come out from this silent chapel of to-day.
This must be the sin of those who live in convents, who pour out their souls in repentance in their quiet cloisters, and then have no opportunity to prove its healthiness by the good works that follow. This is the reason that the worship in the church should be more availing than the lonely worship at home. There we kneel side by side with others, and however in our solemn thoughts we strive to shut out all that is distracting, still we are conscious that others are kneeling by our side in spirit, or perhaps, like us, waiting for the entrance of the spirit of de
votion into the soul. New duties are suggested to us by the sight of others. In praying for our own needs, we think of the needs of those around us. The congregation is preaching to us; some speak from their want, some from their excess. Our solitary longing we see reflected in others; we are led to resolve, not merely to work out our own salvation, but, in the working week that is to come, to help to bear the burdens of others.
Then the words of the preacher waken us to the sight of some forgotten sin. We are not, as at home, reading some selected sermon, that may preach to us some favorite duty, but in the church a man rises who may suddenly rouse us to a new and unthought of field of action, that before never had the power to charm us, but which we now see truly demands us.
But in that church I am not. Neither audience nor minister preaches to me. No sermon against vanity comes from nodding plume or shining velvet,-no quickening to charity from the sight of the poor, worn garment. I hear no freshly spoken word of preacher to start me from my indolence. With the temptation to distraction and the desire to criticise others, I lose, too, the influence that comes from the uniting of many in one great worship, I lose the wakening inspiration from the sound of another's voice. I can read printed sermons, the choicest