Night Scenes in the Bible


From "Night Scenes in the Bible" by Rev. Daniel March, D.D., Copyright 1880

This book is -- as its title so clearly communicates -- a series of night scenes from the Bible. But what I thought March did best was to describe his own experience in the night and his own thoughts about the night. Sometimes I think we trivialize God or "tame" Him. I think March succeeds in communicating something of the awesome, even frightening, nature of God. Is God good? Oh yes! a thousand times yes! Is He tame? No. Never, ever, ever...

Night in the Mountains

I have myself spent the hours of night alone upon high mountains, when I thought that the darkness, the silence and the solitude made the presence of God to be the more deeply felt. The sense of loneliness and desolation, the awful impression of the nearness of eternity and the spiritual world, were like the feeling which weighs upon the mind when watching alone at night with the dead. The mingled murmur of a thousand torrents rose faintly from the dark cliffs and the deep gorges below. At intervals the prolonged and swelling roar of the avalanche filled the awful solitudes as with the rushing of invisible hosts, trampling the clouds and sweeping the pathless fields of air. Above rose the shadowy forms of still loftier mountains, bearing the name of angels and giants and storms and darkness. And the cold, snow-shining peaks, piercing the silent sky, seemed like the colossal monuments of a perished world standing alone in the midst of a wilderness of death. Everything conspired to fill the mind with an oppressive sense of loneliness and desolation.

And the utter absence of all sounds and forms of life, and all the activities of the bright and busy day in that lofty solitude at night, made me feel more deeply the presence of Him whose mighty hand had piled the mountains above the clouds and "throned eternity in icy halls of cold sublimity." Under the awful impression of the hour it seemed as if all lesser things had lost their hold upon my mind. "Entranced in prayer I worshiped the Invisible alone." To my excited imagination the loftiest of the snowy heights took the form of a great white throne set up for the Ancient of Days. The gentle wind that came up from the silvery streams and the sea of pines murmured as if it had been swept by the harp-strings of angels. I should have been scarcely more moved had I actually seen

"the bright seraphim in burning row,
Their loud uplifted angel trumpets blow."

And I thought I had learned from the experience of the hour a new reason why Jesus took his disciples apart into a solitary and exceeding high mountain by night when he would show them his glory. I thought we might all more frequently hear the voice of our Father and see the face of Jesus in his glory if we would learn to shut out the world more completely from our minds, and receive the solemn lesson which the night teaches in silence and darkness.

The Lessons of Night

Night teaches us the solemn and fearful lesson of the individuality of our being. Far more than the day it shows us what it is to be alone with ourselves and God. It drives all the faculties and sensibilities of the soul inward upon itself. You spend a wakeful hour in darkness and in silence upon your bed at night. There is no sight to be seen, no sound to be heard. The voices of the day are hushed. The diversions and activities of busy life are all removed. You have nothing to do but lie awake in the night-watches and think. Without light, without sound, without fear, without pain, a solitary thinking mind, with the curtain of complete darkness shutting you in on every side, you still must feel that there is another Being whose dread omniscience is haunting the secret depths of your soul. With no thought of what your fellow-men may do or be or say, you can only think of what you yourself are and ought to be when alone with God. Every fibre and feeling of your whole being tells you that the eye of the Infinite One is upon you, and that there is no escaping his presence. You seem to yourself to be alone in the universe with God, and you feel for the time that it were better for you never to have had any being than not to be at peace with him, who is around you and within you and everywhere, and who seems to you in the darkness and solitude to be the only being in existence outside of yourself.