The life of those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High may be called a Hidden Life, because the animating principle, the vital or operative element, is not so much in itself as in another. It is a life grafted into another life. It is the life of the soul, incorporated into the life of Christ; and in such a way, that, while it has a distinct vitality, it has so very much in the sense, in which the branch of a tree may be said to have a distinct vitality from the root.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Holiness and the Contemplative State

The contemplative state, like that of meditation, is, for the time being, a fixed state. That is to say, the mind unites itself firmly and fixedly with its appropriate object for a length of time. In the highest degrees of sanctification, it becomes almost a permanent state. It may be broken temporarily by the pressure of care and worldly business. But it is the natural tendency of the truly holy mind, when left to itself, to fall into this state. That is to say, in every object the contemplative man, who cannot be truly contemplative without being truly holy, catches a new glimpse of the Divinity; and has no heart to leave it, until the vicissitudes of Providence call him to other objects where he has new revelations of the divine nature, and new exercises and intimacies of love.

To him who has this deeper insight and this higher unity, God breathes in the vernal zephyr, and shines brightly in the summer's sun; he sees him molding and painting the fruits of autumn, and sending the hoar-frosts and piling up the snows of winter; all inanimate nature is full of him. He sees God, also, in what is ordinarily called the work of men's hands. It is God that spreads his pillow; — it is God that builds his house; — it is God that ploughs his fields; — it is God that sells for him and buys for him; — God gives him pain, and sends him joy, — smites him when he is sick, and heals him when he gets well.

And what God does for himself, he does also for others, and for communities. He sees God in all the changes which take place around him. It is God that builds up and puts down,— that makes kings and makes subjects, — that builds up one nation and destroys another, — that binds the chains of the captive and gives liberty to the free, — that makes war and makes peace. All men, and princes, and nations, are in his hands like clay in the hands of the potter. His eternal will, which, in being established on the basis of eternal wisdom and justice, never has changed and never can change, dashes them to pieces, or fashions them to ever­lasting life. All things are his, sin only excepted, and sin is sin, because it is not of God.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 10.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

God Universal

The meditative man dwells upon God as a God limited or particular; — that is to say, as circumscribed by the limitations of form and locality. The contemplative man, on the contrary, dwells upon him as a God universal. But this remark requires some explanation.

The common idea of God not only ascribes to him the attribute of personality, — an attribute which is essential to all correct views of him under all circumstances, but also assigns to him a form, and places him as having form in some definite and distant locality; as dwelling, for instance, within the walls of the New Jerusalem, as shut up within golden gates, or as seated on a lofty white throne of celestial beauty. This conception of the Divinity, which appears to be the common one at first, is probably well suited to the earlier stages of religious experience, when the mind is just beginning to recover itself from the weakness and blindness of sin. And we may say, further, there is great truth in it as far as it goes, — but it is not the whole truth. It is true, that God occupies place; and that place may be here, or there, or anywhere; but it is equally true, that he is not limited to place. It is true that God may assume form; and that, on special occasions and for special reasons, he has assumed it; but it is equally true, that form is not essential to him. So that, when our conception, relieved from the embarrassments of sin, expands, so as to correspond, in some degree, to the magnitude of the object, we find him not under one form only, but under all forms; not in one place merely, but in all places. Everywhere the Divin­ity which was before veiled by unbelief, enlarges into light. But he is still a personal God, though infinite in the varieties of form, infinite in the multiplications of place; though seen and recognized by faith in every tree, and plant, and rock, and flower; in every star,  in the wandering moon, in the bright sun, in the floating cloud, in the wide and deep sea, in insects and birds, and the wild beasts of the mountains, in men, in angels, in all things, beings and places. It is God thus revealed in his universality that we call God universal, in distinction from God local.

The meditative man attaches himself to the God local; the contemplative man attaches himself to the God universal. But to do the first, namely, to seek God in a particular place, to the exclusion of other places, requires effort, and is in some degree painful; because we must seek him "as a God afar off.” The latter, namely, to commune with him in all places and in all objects, — supposing ourselves to have arrived at the appropriate state, and the adequate power to be given us, — is natural and easy; because, finding God even without seeking him at all, we contemplate him as a God present. Being in the midst of place and objects, none of which are, or can be, separate from a divine presence, all the soul has to do is to look and love. Calmly and sweetly it casts its eye upon every object which is presented to its notice, and it finds itself dwelling upon God in all.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 10.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Rest of Contemplation

Contemplation, like the meditative state, has an object towards which it is especially directed, and that object is God. But the remark to be made here is this. While it is like the meditative state in the sameness of its object, it is unlike it in another particular; namely, it is not propelled towards its object, if we may so speak, by a forced effort of the will; but is rather gently and sweetly attracted towards it by the perception of its innate loveliness. The contemplative man, therefore, in consequence of being in perfect union with God, dwells upon him, in his acts of contemplation, with a sweet quietude or rest of spirit, of which the merely meditative man is, in a greater or less degree, destitute.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 10.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Contemplative State

One of the characteristics of a soul which is brought into union with God, is that it is contemplative.  This is so much the case, that it seems to be proper here to give some explanations of a state which is eminently delightful and profitable; and especially because it is in this state of mind that we find one of the elements and sources of that divine peace which we have been endeavoring to explain.

We shall the better understand the contemplative state, if we keep in mind that it is naturally preceded by the meditative state. Every religious man knows what it is to direct his thoughts to God; in other words, to meditate upon him and upon those objects which are closely connected with him. In the meditative state, the religious man not only holds God in view by means of the meditative act, namely, by acts of perception and reflection upon the divine character; but he always does it with more or less of mental effort; — that is to say, by a definite and formal act of the will. So that the meditative state, though necessary and important in its place, is in some degree painful. And hence it is, that meditation, in order to render the mental operation more easy and effective, is generally understood to imply and to require a particular time to be set apart, and also a particular place remote from interruption. Meditation, therefore, though very necessary, is not in all respects a natural state; and, consequently, implying as it does a degree of effort and of resistance against other tendencies, does not appear to be entirely consistent with the highest rest and peace of the soul.

But it is not so with the contemplative state. Contemplation, in the religious sense of the term, is meditation perfected. Considered as a religious state, contemplation, without formally aiming at the discovery of new truths in relation to God, is a calm dwelling upon him in thought, as he is already known to the mind, attended with faith, with such new views also as are naturally and easily presented, and with affectionate exercises of the heart.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 10.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Fire of Love

If thou would'st slay thy wrong desire,
Thy hate and ills of every kind.
Plunge them in LOVE'S consuming fire;
Love is the furnace of the mind.

Whate'er their kind, degree, or name,
The evils, which thy heart enthrall,
It matters not, LOVE'S mighty flame
Shall burn or purify them all.

'Tis true, it costs thee much of pain,
And thou dost seem to suffer loss;
But wisdom bids thee not restrain
The fire, that only burns the dross.

The golden ore, which thou hast cast
In LOVE'S consuming fire and strife,
Fears not the fiercest furnace blast.
But brightens in its flames of life.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LXI.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sent of God

It was a dark, untravell'd road,
In which my steps were call'd to go;
The path of many a heavy load.
And where it led, I did not know.

A weary road with rivers high;
Wild beasts were standing on the rocks;
And clouds came drifting through the sky,
Fill'd deep with fires and thunder shocks.

But through the clouds, and through the flame,
And foaming floods, as on I went,
A voice of hope and cheering came,
"Fear not to go, where God hath sent."

That voice is ringing in my ears;
Let mountains rise, let oceans flow;
It matters not. Away with fears.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LX.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Guidance of Love

If thou wouldst be of heavenly mind,
Thy soul's great light no longer blind,
Then from thyself thy soul set free,
And soar in Love's great liberty.
As thou art now, thou dost not know,
Where it is best to stay or go;
But, once from selfish guidance freed,
Shalt learn, where truth and duty lead.
No longer dangers shalt thou fear;
But filled with hope and inward cheer,
Shalt see and shun with open eye
The pitfalls, that before thee lie.
From early youth to weary age, 
In all his earthly pilgrimage,
Shall truth. and guidance never part
From him, who hath the loving heart.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LIX.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Leave Everything in the Hands of God

It is a great and blessed privilege to leave every thing in the hands of God; to go forth like the patriarch Abraham, not knowing whither we go, but only knowing that God leads us. "BE CAREFUL FOR NOTHING; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Philippians 4:6.

This is what is sometimes denominated walking in a "general and indistinct faith;" or walking in the "obscurity of faith," or in the "night of faith." Faith, in its relation to the subject of it, is truly a light in the soul; but it is a light which shines only upon duties, and not upon results or events. It tells us what is now to be done, but it does not tell us what is to follow. And accordingly it guides us but a single step at a time. And when we take that step, under the guidance of faith, we advance directly into a land of surrounding shadows and darkness. Like the patriarch Abraham, we go, not knowing whither we go, but only that God is with us.

Blessed and glorious way of living! Indeed, it is the only life worth possessing; the only true life. "Let the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing;" let nations rise and fall; let the disturbed and tottering earth stand or perish; let God reveal to us the secret designs of his providence or not, it is all well. "Cast all your cares upon God, for he careth for you." Our heavenly Father is at the helm. The winds blow, the waves swell, the clouds gather around, but we sail in a strong vessel. There is no port at hand, and there is no sun or star to guide us. Faith, therefore, in the defect of all things else, must constitute our port and our anchor, our sun and our favoring breeze; but we have all that we can ask, in having perfect confidence in our great Commander. It is the blessed privilege of faith, even in our darkest and most disastrous moments, to assure us that we are safe, forever safe, in the mighty keeping of God's holy will.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 9.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Dangers of Seeking a Visible Answer

The system, which requires a present and visible or ascertained answer, in distinction from the system of faith, which believes that it has an answer, but does not require God to make it known, till he sees best to make it known, is full of danger. It tends to self-confidence, because it implies that we can command God, and make him unlock the secrets of his hidden counsels whenever we please. It tends to self-delusion, because we are always liable to mistake the workings of our own imaginations or our own feelings, or the intimations of Satan, for the true voice of God. It tends to cause jealousies and divisions in the church of Christ, because he, who supposes that he has a specific or known answer, which is the same, so far as it goes, as a specific revelation, is naturally bound and led by such supposition, and thus is oftentimes led to strike out a course for himself, which is at variance with the feelings and judgments of his brethren. Incalculable are the evils, which, in every age of the Christian history, have resulted from this source.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 9.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Seeking Specific Answers to Prayer Undermines the Principle of Faith

A disposition to seek a specific, or rather a visible answer to our prayers, in distinction from an answer addressed to our faith, tends to weaken the principle of faith. The visible system, if we may be permitted so to call it, implies that we will trust God only so far as we can see him. It requires, as one may say, ready payment, cash in hand, a mortgage of real estate, something seen or tangible. It cannot live upon what it calls mere air; it is not disposed to trust any thing to a mere word, a mere promise, though it be the word or promise of the Almighty. Such, on a close examination, will be found to be the spirit of the specific or visible system; a system. which will answer, to some extent, in our intercourse with men, but not in our intercourse with God. It is easy to see, in addition to other evils resulting from it, that it is adverse to the growth of faith; which, in accordance with a well known law of our mental and religious nature, flourishes by exercise, and withers by repression. If the system, which is not satisfied without seeing or knowing, should prevail generally, faith would necessarily be banished from the world, and God would be banished with it.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 9.