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.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

God Makes the Arrangements

Men, it is true, are often disposed to quarrel with God's providential arrangements. And the reason is, that the doctrine of providence implies that, in all situations, there is a God above and around us. But, however humbling the doctrine of special providence is to human pride and human reason, the simple and sublime fact still remains. God makes us, and God places us. In the language of Scripture, "A man's heart deviseth his way; But the Lord directeth his steps.”  The hand of a higher power has marked out the lines of our habitation. He builds up one, and casts down another. It does not depend upon man's talents, nor upon his education, nor upon his wealth, nor upon his friends, nor upon anything else that is human, what he shall be, or whether, in the worldly sense of the term, he shall be anything; where he shall go, or whether he shall go anywhere; but upon God alone.

God makes the arrangement; but the disposition with which we shall receive that arrangement, he leaves to ourselves. And let this satisfy us. In every arrangement which he makes, his aim is our highest good; but whether it will result in our highest good, depends upon the spirit in which we accept it. He never violates our moral liberty; and if, in the exercise of that liberty, we put our thoughts and our feelings in his keeping, he will give a heart so correspondent to our habitation, that our cottage will be beautiful in our sight as a palace, and the darkness of our dungeon as bright as the open day.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 4.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Never Move a Step Except By Divine Permission

That divine superintendence, which is denominated Providence, extends not only to every individual, but to all that pertains to every individual; including, among other things, all the various circumstances and situations of his life. Without delaying its operation for a single day, it indicates man's locality in the very beginning of his existence. In combination with the natural or physical law, which is its instrument, it places him in the cradle, under the eye of his father and mother. Helpless, but not unprotected, it is the watchful hand of Providence, using more or less of earthly instrumentality, which feeds him, clothes him, teaches him. It is Providence, also, as he exchanges childhood for youth, and thus gradually enlarges the boundaries of his habitation, which scatters both thorns and flowers in his path; the one to cheer him to activity and duty, and the other to warn him of danger, and to deter him from sin. From the early locality of the cradle and the parental hearth, from the lines drawn around him by the domestic circle where he is first placed, he never moves a step, he never goes, and never can go, rightfully and safely, except by divine permission.

The first position, then, in which man is placed by Him who overrules all things in goodness, is that  of dependence and guardianship within the limits of the family circle. Gradually the hand of Providence opens the door, and he goes out; but it is only into another department, or, perhaps we should say, into another line of demarcation, drawn by One who is invisible. As the child advances to youth, and from youth to manhood, and as he acquires the wisdom of maturer age and the increased strength of virtue, he is invited, under the guidance of that unseen Power, who proportions our trials to our strength, to different and perhaps more responsible scenes and duties. The hand, which at first restricted him to his father's home, and prescribed its limited duties, now points him to a wider sphere of endurance and action, as well as of joy and sorrow. Hidden in the vast and impenetrable future, no one can tell beforehand what that sphere will be. He may be called to labor in the field or the workshop, and, with his shepherd's staff or his plough, he may be either the master or the servant. He may be employed as the humble teacher of children in the elements of knowledge, or may be constituted a lawgiver in the halls of a national legislature. He may be the physician of the sick, and eminent in the gifts of healing, or he may himself be the inmate of a hospital, and be administered to by others, through long years of pain and despondency. To-day he is on a throne, — tomorrow in a prison.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 4.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Remain Where God Has Placed You

It is one of the first principles in the doctrines of holiness, that men should remain patiently and quietly where God has placed them, until they receive from himself the intimations of departure. It was thus that Jesus grew up in the humble retirement of a carpenter's family, a brother among brothers and sisters, obeying his parents in love, eating and drinking at their common table, sympathizing in their joys and sorrows, laboring daily with those who were brought up in the same form of labor, and regarding the yoke of his earthly position as entirely light and easy, because it was the yoke of his heavenly Father's providence. He remained there till that unerring Providence, arranging around him other circumstances, and arousing within him desires corresponding to those circumstances, led him forth from the quiet home of Mary and Joseph, to the trials and duties of a new position, — to persecution and death. How different was his conduct from that of the rebellious and unhappy youth of whom he has given an account in one of his affecting parables! The prodigal son, in the pride of self-wisdom and self-will, demanded his share of his father's goods before the time, which was rapidly drawing nigh, when the arrangements of Providence would have freely offered them. As he went forth in violation of the providential law, which required him to wait till a later period, he went forth without the presence and approbation of the God of providence, and found, in the famine and wretchedness of a distant land, that sure retribution which always follows any movement made in our own strength and choice.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 4.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Humanity Demands a Personal God

Humanity demands a [personal] God who can thus be recognized and worshiped. The instinct of reverence and homage, which evidently pervades the human heart, so much so that it has found its place as an attribute of humanity in all lands and all ages, requires, and cannot be satisfied with anything short of a personal God. In the view of the great masses of men, to deny the personality of God, is, to all practical purposes and results, much the same, as we have already intimated as to deny the existence of God. So that we run no hazard in saying, that a personal God is one of the great religious necessities of humanity. Religion is the interior and domestic tie, which makes the united family of the finite and the Infinite. And without a Being, who is not only supreme in his attributes, but who is approachable, and can be addressed and confided in, on the basis furnished by a deific personality, the human race is necessarily left in the condition of a bewildered and sorrowing orphanage.

And we may add that the opposite doctrine that which denies God’s personality, seems to us to be full of danger in other respects. It is not only the abnegation of religion, but of practical morality. The doctrine of impersonality, admitting that it sometimes comes before us with learned and imposing pretensions, will be found, if allowed to go unquestioned, to be attended not only with the rupture of God and man, but of man and his fellow-man. It is a doctrine which not only strikes boldly at the religious intuitions of the great heart of humanity, but is an inlet, through its want of practical power, to hostility, fraud, cruelty, and all varieties of crime. No theory of practical morals has ever been constructed on the basis of the impersonality of God, which is available against the mighty evils that continually imperil man’s social condition. The audacity of wrong and crime is not frightened by an abstraction. Nor is it much afraid of a positive principle of life, which has no self-regulated thought and volition. If it were possible for impersonality to leave us a God at all, which it is not, it would be a God with no eyes to see, and no ears to hear, and no hands to handle, and no head to think, and no heart to feel, and no will to execute; — a God, if any one should object to the material form of the expressions, with nothing which our spiritual eyes could see, or our spiritual ears could hear, or our hearts’ necessities could appeal to; — a God, in any light in which it is possible to consider him, without a voice to cheer us in our efforts to do right, and without a hand to help us against the dangers which would certainly assail and overwhelm us.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 2.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

God is a Personal Being

God is a personal being. The doctrine that God is an impersonal being, probably owes its origin in part to a mistake in the philosophical elements involved in the doctrine of personality, and in part to the fact, that God is without limits. As we have been in the habit of ascribing personality to beings who, in having form, are subject to the limitations of form, we easily fall into the habit of associating personality with such limitations, and at last are apt to adopt the conclusion, that where there are no limits, no well-defined boundaries of existence constituting a form, there can be no personality. Now it must be admitted, that in the extent or expansion of his being, God is without limits; but it does not at all follow that God, because he transcends the limitations of the human senses, and is not the subject of material measurement or any other measurement, is therefore not a personal God.

The question of personality does not turn upon mere extent or expansion of being, whether physically or even psychically considered, but rather upon the traits or characteristics of being. In considering the subject of God’s personality, it is a proper inquiry, whether he possesses intelligence which is cognizant of the fact of his own existence and power; whether he has the capability of knowing and affirming the fixed relation of himself, both in perception and action, to that interior law of rectitude which is also a part of his being; whether he possesses a volitional power correspondent to the powers of perception and the claims of moral obligation? It is in the answer to such questions as these, that we find the basis of personality considered as a fact or realization. And if the answer is in the affirmative, then God most evidently possesses all the requisites of personality, and stands forth before the universe, not merely as a blind and unintelligent principle of movement, but as a personal God, capable of intelligent design and action, endowed with responsibility both to himself and to all beings that are dependent on him, and entitled, in the case of those who are dependent, to obedience and homage.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 2.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The God of the Bible is a Personal God

Those who are acquainted with the speculations and suggestions on this subject, associated, more or less distinctly with the names of Helvetius, Diderot, Condorcet, D’Alembert, Hume, Gibbon, Fichte, Hegel, Compte, Herbert Spencer, Mills, Strauss, Feuerbach and others, know well how confidently God has been announced as a principle of activity and causation, but without the recognized attribute of a person; in other words as a great spiritual or psychical energy, pervading all things that exist, and holding a fixed and necessary relation to results, but without a distinct and available responsibility, and without even knowing or having any interest in knowing what the results of its own activity shall be. It is painful to know how widely such speculations have affected the thoughts and feelings of men. But this doctrine of God, which analyzed to its results is practically the annihilation of God, is a very different thing from the simple, sublime, and truly philosophic idea of God, which is justly understood as holding a place in the doctrines of Christ.

The God of the Bible, from the earliest to the latest portion of its announcements is a personal God. All that is said of God in that great treasury of thought, including the personal teachings of Christ, with all its affirmations of his eternity and universality, recognizes and emphasizes the great and essential fact of his personality.

And we cannot hesitate in saying, that a true philosophy, when applied to the doctrines of religion... is on the side of the biblical teachings.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 2.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Personality of God

Within a few years no small number of writers of acknowledged learning and ability have greatly disturbed the traditional belief as well as the religious hopes and consolations of a large portion of the Christian world, by affirming and attempting to prove the impersonality of the Divine Being.

It cannot well be doubted, that the personality of God is one of the doctrines contained in the teachings of Christ. It is difficult to see how he could address God as his Father, and in terms implying the greatest veneration and love, without believing in the Personality of God.

When, in the trials and sorrows of the Cross, he prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do;” and when in the final agony of his spirit he said, “my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” it cannot well be supposed that he believed he was praying to an abstraction, or to a spiritual generalization, or a great undefined principle of life, instead of a percipient Being, who in the mental or spiritual sense had ears to hear, and a heart to feel. We cannot doubt, that the careful readers of the New Testament, in view of what is there said having a bearing upon the subject now before us, fully and earnestly accept the idea, as the only one which can be reasonably entertained, that Jesus believed in the divine personality. This wonderful Being [Christ]...  had a heart that worshiped. His intellectual powers, which are sometimes overshadowed and concealed by the manifestations of his great goodness, revealed and identified the object of his worship; and his loving heart, which added emotion to perception, accepted the revelation and yielded its homage. But affirm that God is not a personal being, only an underlying principle or causative force which permeates all existences and develops itself in all the forms of existence, without the intelligence and responsibility which are implied in personality and only by means of fixed and inexorable law, and from that moment it is intuitionally evident, that there is no revelation of an object of worship because no such object exists. And worship itself, which is so obviously one of the leading characteristics of the inward life of Christ, necessarily ceases, because there is no object to which it can attach itself.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 2.

Friday, March 20, 2015

God Exists

God exists. It is true there are said to be Atheists. Perhaps there may be individuals, not very many in number, to whom that name of error and sadness may apply. As long as great perversions of the human mind are possible, varying from the numerous forms of temporary disturbance to partial or total insanity, it is not unphilosophical to suppose that atheism, in the case of a few individuals is a possibility. But I know not that there are atheistic communities or peoples. Humanity, into which we are to search for the development of principles, is represented by masses. The masses of mankind, as they are found associated in large societies and communities, have never rejected the idea of a God. No historian, from the days of Herodotus and Thucydides, has furnished us the records of an atheistic nation. We are justified therefore in taking the position, that the idea of a God belongs to humanity. As a product of intellectualism, it finds its origin in part in processes of reasoning founded on the perceptions, but has a still closer alliance with the intuitions; and the Being whom it reveals commands by a law of our nature, the reverential and loving homage of the heart. So clearly is the doctrine of God’s existence inscribed upon the works of outward nature, as they are interpreted by the human intellect, so strongly is this doctrine affirmed by the interior convictions and intuitions, and so necessary is it in response to the yearnings of the human heart, that I cannot feel the necessity of entering into argument in relation to it. I take it for granted.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 2.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Inward and Outward Christ

The CHRIST WITHIN by works is known,
In deeds of truth and goodness shown;
The Inward life, He outward lives,
And all He hath, to others gives.

Above all thoughts of coward fear,
He goes where pestilence is near;
When griefs assail, when lov'd ones die,
He cheers the heart, He wipes the eye.

His hand doth ope the prison door;
He feeds the hungry, starving poor;
He loves to heal their wounds, and bind
The broken, penitential mind.

He knows no clime, no sect, no name;
All tribes and sect; to Him the same;
The Greek, the Jew, the bond, the free,
Alike receive His sympathy.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXVI.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Don't Indulge the Appetities

We are naturally led to urge upon all persons, who wish to live a life of true holiness, the great importance of living in such a manner, in the exercise and indulgence of the appetites, as to fulfill, and nothing more than fulfill the intentions of nature; or rather the intentions of the wise and benevolent Author of nature. The life of God in the soul has a much closer connection with modes of living, than is generally supposed. If Christians, instead of indulging and pampering the appetite for meats and drinks, would be satisfied with simple nourishment, and with that small quantity, which is adequate to all the purposes of nature, what abundant blessings would infallibly result both to body and mind! Many dark hours, which are now the subject of sad complaints on the part of professed Christians, would be exchanged for bright ones. God would then reveal his face of affectionate love, which it is impossible for him to do to those, who enslave themselves in this manner. — And in relation to any other principles, which properly come under the head of the appetites, beneficial and important as they undoubtedly are in their place, if they could be restrained to the purposes and the limits which their author has assigned, it would certainly make a vast difference in the relative amount of sin and holiness, of suffering and happiness in the world. Christian, think of these things! Ye, who seek the experience, the indispensable and blessed experience, of holiness of heart, earnestly make them the subject of reflection and prayer. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." "Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."

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