I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in my anger…
Every one of us probably takes the same impression from those words. What is the figure they summon up before us all? Probably that of a man left to solitary toil, deserted but not faithless, having a heavy burden to bear, and bearing it uncheered by social sympathy, — a hard and bitter work to do, yet nobly doing it alone. From this image our minds pass unconsciously over to the solitude of our spiritual strifes and reward sufferings. We instantly and universally recognize in Him who "trod the winepress alone a representative of all our internal work. For a religious purpose, and as a part of God's spiritual discipline with us, our deepest experiences must be passed through in solitude. We must suffer alone, we must get wisdom alone, we must be renewed in the inmost spirit of our minds alone, we must resist temptation alone, we must meditate alone and pray alone, and we must pass through the valley of the shadow of death alone. It was a distorted perception of that truth that gave what value they had to the old systems of monasticism, or religious retirement. These ancient practices our modern times have, for the most part, reversed. If a man is much alone now, it must be rather by a direct effort to that end than by popular habits. Some such effort will be salutary to his virtue. Social habits may soften asperities, but it needs solitude to settle our principles. Social habits may make us good-natured, but to get certainty for our ideas, or assurance for our faith, we must be alone. The friction of society may smooth down individual peculiarities, but there are such things as a smoothness that is insipid, and a compliance that is so accommodating as to be cowardly. If constant intercourse with others neutralizes our prejudices, it may also undermine our simplicity, coax our kindly sentiments into vicious compromises, and tempt our integrity out of its self-possession into disgraceful bargains. If we learn amiability in the mixed company, so we do learn what staunch and steadfast convictions are by standing alone. If we form delightful connections in the one, so do we gain the nobler faculty of thinking, acting, believing for ourselves, in the other. At a period when the activities of associate enterprise threaten Christian individuality with so many perils, among customs where majorities take the place of single-headed tyrants, and the bribe of promotion bewilders the clear-sightedness of faith — let us look to our integrity. I do not forget the obvious arguments for association, nor the often quoted benefits of a union of minds. Let them stand for their undoubted worth. It is clear that Christian faith wins some of its noblest victories only in social revivals. But let it be also remembered that a concentration of the individual will upon its own chosen purpose, such as a man never gets except by isolating himself, is a matter of as much moment to the success of every good interest in the world as the contact of numbers. Who would not prize more highly the solemn determination of a single independent mind,-taken and weighed and perfected in solitude, unswayed by public dictation, and incorrupt from the hot breath of crowds, than the longest subscription-list to a set of written or concocted measures, or the enthusiastic "resolutions" of the loudest caucus? Let it be further remembered, that if combinations of masses are promotive of good causes, they are also mighty facilities for bad ones. This truth may enter more readily if we remember that the higher intellectual qualities — those that are more intimately related to the moral, and thus have the largest agency in forming character — depend on solitude for their most successful cultivation. Judgment, imagination, clearness and consistency of thought, breadth of vision, whatever constitutes the originality and natural force of the mind — these are all nurtured in lonely studies. So, emphatically, of those best persons, who by the combined weight of intellectual and moral attributes have been the signal reformers or builders of institutions. Affecting society far and wide, they did not gather their best power in social resorts, but alone with heaven. Paul, three years in Arabia; Luther, in his cell; Alfred, in the Island of Nobles. Mohammed, Columbus, Washington — their youth was apart from men; their career was baptized and initiated in the air of retirement. And of the great Lord of all, the Divine ministry to the world must begin with forty days in the wilderness. If being alone is tributary to intellectual greatness, it is still more so to the proper symmetry and health of the moral principles. Still more strictly does this rule hold of the deeper emotions. The loftiest of all our possible emotions is religious reverence, expressing itself in worship, or prayer. Nature has herself given a broad hint of this truth, in making it absolutely impossible for us to express to any mortal the deepest feeling. Impatience of solitude is a bad religious sign. Whoever dreads to be alone has reason to dread the hereafter. If he is afraid of being left to himself, how shall he dare to meet the searching of his Judge? Something must have gone terribly wrong with us, if we are afraid to be shut up with none but God. This is demanded from us in mere fidelity to Truth herself; for when we begin to esteem her for the multitudes she fascinates, when we begin to count up her adherents and ask whether she draws large audiences, we have already broken from the true loyalty. Next to the sordidness of wedding Truth to her dowry, which Stillingfleet satirizes, is that of choosing her because all the world admires her. A Christian loneliness, the solitude that has Christ in it, renews man's strength. Human suffering, in all its forms, is solitary.
(F. D. Huntington, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.
WEB: "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the peoples there was no man with me: yes, I trod them in my anger, and trampled them in my wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on my garments, and I have stained all my clothing.