Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart on your bed, and be still. Selah.
Though entire retreat would lay us aside from the part for which Providence chiefly intended us, it is certain that, without occasional retreat, we must act that part very ill. There will neither be consistency in the conduct, nor dignity in the character, of one who sets apart no share of his time for meditation and reflection. As he who is unacquainted with retreat, cannot sustain any character with propriety, so neither can he enjoy the world with any advantage. If uninterrupted intercourse with the world the man wear out of pleasure, it no less oppresses the man of business and ambition. The strongest spirits must at length sink under it. Let him who wishes for an effectual cure to all the wounds which the world can inflict, retire from intercourse with men to intercourse with God. Religious retirement is also necessary, in order to prepare us for the life to come. He who lives always in public, cannot live to his own soul. Our conversation and intercourse with the world is, in several respects, an education for vice. Breathing habitually a contagious air, how certain is our ruin, unless we sometimes retreat from this pestilential region, and seek for proper correctives of the disorders which are contracted there? The acts of prayer and devotion, the exercises of faith and repentance, all the great and peculiar duties of the religion of Christ, necessarily suppose retirement from the world. Solitude is the hallowed ground which religion hath, in every age, chosen for her own. There her inspiration is felt, and her secret mysteries elevate the soul. The great and worthy, the pious and virtuous, have ever been addicted to serious retirement. It is the characteristic of little and frivolous minds to be wholly occupied with the vulgar objects of life. A more refined and enlarged mind leaves the world behind it, feels a call for higher pleasures, and seeks them in retreat. Consider some of those great objects which in retirement should employ our thoughts.
1. Commune with your own hearts concerning God. Impressions of Deity, besides their being the principle of what is strictly termed religion, are the great support of all moral sentiment and virtuous conduct among men. Impress deeply on your mind this important truth, that there is, undoubtedly, a Supreme Governor, who presides over the universe. To commune with ourselves, to any useful purpose, is not to speculate about what is mysterious in the Divine essence, but to contemplate what is displayed by His perfections; to bring home to the soul the internal, authoritative sense of God, as a Sovereign and a Father. Him you are never to confound with the works of His hands. The pious man walks among the various scenes of nature, as within the precincts of a great temple, in the habitual exercise of devotion.
2. Concerning the world. The world is the great deceiver, whose fallacious arts it highly imports us to detect. But, in the midst of its pleasures and pursuits, the detection is impossible. It is only in retreat that the charm can be broken. Will you commune with your heart concerning what the world now is, consider also what it will one day appear to be? Contemplate the world as subject to the Divine dominion.
3. Concerning yourselves, and your real character. Men are generally unwilling to see their own imperfections; and when they are willing to inquire into them, their self-love imposes on their judgment. It is said that there are three characters which every man sustains, and these differ from one another. One which he possesses in his own opinion; one which he carries in the estimation of the world; and a third which he bears in the judgment of God. It is only the last which ascertains what he really is. Whether the character which the world forms of you be above or below the truth, it imports you not much to know. But it is of eternal consequence that the character which you possess in your own eyes, be formed upon that which you bear in the sight of God.
(Hugh Blair, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.