Written by Octavius Winslow (1808 – 1878)
He said unto them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” John 4:32
In instituting a resemblance between the solitariness of our Lord’s life and that of His people, we plead not for a religion of asceticism. The religion of Christ partakes nothing of this element. It is contemplative, but not monastic; sympathetic, but not sentimental; veiled, but not invisible; studious, but not inactive. And yet the solitariness of Christ’s cross, the hidden manna which sustained His brief but laborious life, finds a counterpart, in some faint degree, in the life of His disciples.
The true Church of God is not a visible but an invisible body. What is termed the “outward and visible church,” describes not the people of whom the apostle says, “The world knows us not.”
Take for example the nature of the Divine life in the believer- the life of God in the soul of man! The expression is emphatic- “Your life is hidden.” Not only is it invisible to the world- except in its outward actions, and these are often misunderstood and misinterpreted- but very much so to the saints also. It is often but dimly perceived, and we are slow to recognize it. It is of all things the most deeply veiled- its existence and aspirations, its depressions, defeats, and victories, are known only to Him in whom that life emphatically lives and moves and has its being. And, then, touching its advance- it is in the solitude of the Cross that it derives its strongest impulse, and exhibits its mightiest development.
It is a divine plant which only grows beneath this sacred shadow.
If we would advance in grace we must recede frequently from the sun’s heat of this world, and dwell amid the solemn shadows of Gethsemane and the deeper solitude of Calvary. Viewless as the wind, silent as the dew, is that influence which the most vitalizes and promotes our real sanctification. Oh, how blessed to sit there, with myriads like ourselves, silently growing in heavenliness near that marvellous Center- frail and feeble tendrils entwining around the stem of that glorious Tree of Life. Let us often heed the invitation of our Lord, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” -gently led by His outstretched hand to the solitude of His Cross.
Some of the most potent, vitalizing agencies of nature are the most gentle and unseen.
The moral analogy is perfect, the greatest growth of the believing soul is from a spiritual influence the most deeply hidden. Retirement for heart-communion, for the scrutiny of actions and words incapable of a faithful investigation amid the excitement which called them into being, for the calm study of God’s word, and for confidential transactions with God Himself, seems essential to our heavenly-growth.
“Far from the world, O Lord, I flee,
From strife and tumult far;
From scenes where Satan wages still
His most successful war.
“The calm retreat, the silent shade,
With prayer and praise agree,
And scenes of Your sweet bounty made
For those who follow Thee.
“There, if Your Spirit touch the soul,
And grace her calm abode,
Oh, with what peace, and joy, and love,
She communes with her God!”
Most soothing is this view of Christ’s life to those who, by the providence of God, are much isolated from others. Is it God’s will concerning you, that in the midst of friends you should feel friendless; that amid the activities of life your spiritual life should be solitary; and that, like David, you should often feel as a sparrow alone upon the house-top? This is just the discipline your Heavenly Father sees the most needful. You are now treading the path your Master trod; you have closer communion with the isolation of your blessed Lord.
And are you really alone in this solitude? Impossible!
Isolated you may be from man, you are all the nearer to Christ. The less we have of the creature, the more we have of God. We do not undervalue, in speaking thus, the sweetness and the solace- for which our intellectual and social being often craves- of human companionship and sympathy. Jesus Himself asked it, and the disciple must not be above his Lord. It were pure pretense to regard ourselves as totally independent of its influence. This were to ignore one of the sweetest, holiest privileges of our Christianity, “the communion of saints.” But, if our Father ordains for our feet a path of much solitude, we may depend upon a deeper teaching of the Spirit, and a more personal experience of the blessings which flow from a closer contact with the Cross.
Taken from “The Foot of the Cross”.
This concludes this Series
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Octavius Winslow (1 August 1808 – 5 March 1878), also known as “The Pilgrim’s Companion”, stood out as one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century in England and America. A Baptist minister for most of his life and contemporary of Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle, he seceded to the Anglican church in his last decade. His Christ centered works show devotion, practicality, and an experimental calvinism of the highest order. His writings are richly devotional and warm the soul and inflames the heart with sincere love, reverence, and praise to Christ.