And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when evening was come, he was there alone.
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Every man must do things alone; he must do his own believing, and his own dying.
WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): Sure if we are Christians, and concerned for the welfare of our souls, we shall often retire and find that we have much to do alone. I pity the man whose life is full of action, and void of thought. I pity the professor who lives only in public, who is always hearing sermons, who pays very little attention to the duties of family, and none to those of the closet.
R. L. DABNEY (1820-1898): Too much of even a religious bustle is unwholesome for the soul.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): You can be so busy…that you are not nurturing your own soul. You are so neglecting your own spiritual life that you find at the end that you have been living on yourself and your own activities. And when you stop, or are stopped by illness or circumstances, you find that life is empty and that you have no resources…That is why it is a good thing for all of us from time to time to stop and take a rest, and to examine ourselves, and ask, “What am I living on?” What if the meetings you attend so frequently and so regularly were suddenly prohibited to you, and how would you find yourself? What if your health broke down and you could not read, or enjoy the company of other people, and your were just left alone? What would you do? We must take time to ask ourselves these questions, for one of the greatest dangers to the soul is just to be living on our own activities and on our own efforts. To be over-busy is one the high-roads to self-deceptions.
R. L. DABNEY: Our hurry and externality has impoverished our graces.
MARTIN LUTHER: I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.
WILLIAM JAY: Good people formerly, spent much more time alone, than the peculiarities of the day in which we live will allow us. It does not follow that they had more piety than Christians now: their religion was more compressed, and flowed in a deeper channel; but that of modern Christians, though shallower, is more diffusive and rapid.
J. C. PHILPOT (1802-1869): Men who have lived much alone get so used to, and so prize their solitude; it is so favourable for reading, prayer, and meditation, and the companionship of their own thoughts is so dear to them, that it becomes at last almost a necessity of life
WILLIAM JAY: They can not only bear, but enjoy solitude.
J. C. PHILPOT: And to a minister, it indispensable for his own profit and that of his people. I speak feelingly on this point, for, though a married and a family man, yet I have so lived so much alone that my daily solitude is almost as great a necessity with me as my daily food.
JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): I never spend less than three hours―frequently ten or twelve―in the day, alone.
WILLIAM JAY: You are not to be there always.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Balance is all-important…It seems to be the besetting sin of mankind and one of the most terrible results of the Fall, that there is nothing so difficult as to maintain a balance. In correcting one thing we go to such an extreme as to find ourselves in an equally dangerous position.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): He can never be a profitable seer who is either always or never alone.
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): A man always in society, is one always on the spend: on the other hand, a mere solitary is, at his best, but a candle in an empty room.
WILLIAM JAY: Retirement, however, should be frequent. Yet, if you ask how frequent, I do not pretend absolutely to determine―besides, no rule can be laid down that will apply equally to all. There is a great difference in our conditions, and our callings. At different periods too, the Providence of God may vary our duties.
RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691): Choose also the most seasonable time. All things are beautiful and excellent in their season…The same hour may be seasonable to one, and unseasonable to another. Servants and labourers must take that season which their business best afford; either while at work, or travelling, or when they lie awake in the night. Such as can choose what time of the day they will, should observe when they find their spirits most active and fit for contemplation, and fix upon that as the stated time. I have always found that the fittest time for myself is the evening, from sun setting to the twilight. I the rather mention this, because it was the experience of a better and wiser man; for it is expressly said, Isaac went out to meditate in the field at eventide, Genesis 24:63.
WILLIAM JAY: Every duty has its season, in which alone it is beautiful and acceptable.
JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): We are aware that the majority of mankind are so much involved in the cares of the world, as to leave no time or leisure for meditating upon the doctrine of God… And even were we not so ensnared by the world, we know how readily we lose sight of the law of God, in the daily temptations which suddenly overtake us. It is not therefore without reason that the prophet exhorts us to constant exercise, and enjoins us to direct all our energies to the subject of meditation on God’s precepts: “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways,” Psalm 119:15.
RICHARD BAXTER: The Lord’s day is exceeding seasonable for this exercise.
C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): None can teach like God; and all who will learn of Him must be alone with Him.
R. L. DABNEY: Solitude is essential to the health of the soul.
WILLIAM WILBERFORCE (1759-1833): Surely the experience of all good men confirms the proposition that without a due measure of private devotions the soul will grow lean.