1 Thessalonians 3:1-2
Why when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;…
I. THERE ARE TWO CLASSES OF SOLITUDE. The first consisting of insulation in space, the other of isolation of the spirit.
1. The first is simply separation by distance. When we are seen, touched, and heard by none, we are said to be alone. And all hearts respond to the truth of that saying. This is not solitude, for sympathy can people our solitude with a crowd. The fisherman on the ocean alone at night is not alone when he remembers the earnest longings which are arising up to heaven for his safety. The traveller is not alone when the faces which will greet him on his arrival seem to beam upon him as he trudges on. The solitary student is not alone when he feels that human hearts will respond to the truths which he is preparing to address to them.
2. The other is loneliness of soul. There are times when hands touch ours, but only send an icy chill of indifference to the heart; when eyes gaze into ours, but with a glazed look that cannot read into the bottom of our souls; when words pass from our lips but only come back as an echo reverberated without reply through a dreary solitude; when the multitudes throng and press us, and we cannot say as Christ did, "Somebody hath touched Me"; for the contact has been not between soul and soul, but between form and form.
II. THERE ARE TWO CLASSES OF MEN WHO FEEL THIS LAST SOLITUDE IN DIFFERENT WAYS.
1. The first are the men of self-reliance — self-dependent; who ask no counsel and crave no sympathy, who act and resolve alone, who can go sternly through duty, and scarcely shrink let what will be crushed in them. Such men command respect: for whoever respects himself constrains the reverence of others. They are invaluable in all those professions of life in which sensitive feeling would be a superfluity: they make iron commanders, surgeons who do not shrink, and statesmen who do not flinch from their purpose for dread of unpopularity. But mere self-dependence is weakness; and the conflict is terrible when a human sense of weakness is felt by such men. Jacob was alone when he slept in his way to Padan Aram, the first night that he was away from his father's roof, with the world before him, and all old associations broke up; and Elijah was alone in the wilderness when the court had deserted him, and he said, "I only am left." But the loneliness of the tender Jacob was very different from that of the stern Elijah. To Jacob the sympathy he yearned for was realized in the form of a simple dream. A ladder raised from earth to heaven figured the possibility of communion between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God. In Elijah's case the storm and the earthquake and the fire did their convulsing work in the soul before a still, small voice told him that he was not alone. In such a spirit the sense of weakness comes with a burst of agony, and the dreadful conviction of being alone manifests itself with a rending of the heart of rock. It is only so that such souls can be touched that the Father is with them and that they are not alone.
2. There is another class of men who live in sympathy. These are affectionate minds which tremble at the thought of being alone; not from want of courage or weakness of intellect comes their dependence upon others, but from the intensity of their affections. It is the trembling spirit of humanity in them. They want not aid, nor even countenance, but only sympathy.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;