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.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Idolatry

It is important to understand the distinction between love, and that excess of love, under whatever circumstances it may exist, which may properly be denominated idolatry. It is one of the directions of the apostle John to Christians, whom he addresses as little children, that they should "keep themselves from IDOLS."

The term  IDOL, in its original sense, is the name for those false gods, to which human blindness and unbelief have given an outward form, and have set up and worshiped instead of the true God. In its secondary or figurative sense, it is the appropriate name of any object or person, which attracts and concentrates upon itself any affection, or any degree of affection, which belongs to God.

It is worthy of notice, that the ennobling principle of love is the basis of idolatry, as well as the basis of true holiness. But holy love, or love in the true sense of the terms, is always right. Idolatrous love is always wrong love; — wrong either in its place or its degree. And if right love is the highest and best exercise of the heart, it is difficult, on the other hand, to estimate the evil results of a love that is wrongly placed.

Objects, which may easily become idols, by being the subjects of an affection which is wrongly placed, surround us on every side. They are sometimes said to be innumerable. And if that be too strong an expression, it is certain that they are limited in number only by the capacity of inordinate love. This beautiful world, beautiful even in its ruins. which was originally designed to be the temple of God and of his worship, has become one great idol temple. A man's idol may be his property, his reputation, his influence, his friends, his children, those who are bound to him by the ties of natural affection, and even those who are united by religious attachments, and all other persons or things which are capable of being objects of affection, and which can attract that affection in an inordinate degree.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 9.

Monday, August 18, 2014

When the Will is Truly Free

All deliberate deviation from the will of God necessarily implies a degree of moral imperfection. If we would be perfect, therefore, our wills must, in the direction of their movement, be completely blended with the will of God. But this does not imply the annihilation of the human will, nor even an obstruction of its appropriate action. It is a correct saying of Francis de Sales, that our "will is never so much enslaved as when we serve our lusts; and never so free, as when it is devoted to the will of God."

Religious Maxims (1872) LXXXIII.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

This is the Divine Moment

The past is gone; the future has no existence. The PRESENT, which a certain writer calls the "divine moment," or moment of God, is the only period of time which is really committed to us. As there is no other point of time in which we can really serve God but this, which is present to us, the language of the heart should ever be, What wilt thou have me to do NOW?

Religious Maxims (1872) LXXXII.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Gift or the Giver?

A parent, who loves an obedient and affectionate child, will sometimes give him a picture book, a musical instrument, or some other thing, as  a token of his confidence and love. But if the parent should find the child so much taken up with the picture book as to forget the parental commands, and to be getting into ways of disobedience, he will take it away. And thus God sometimes imparts especial spiritual consolations to his children; but if he finds them, as he sometimes does, more taken up with the joys he gives than they are with himself and his commands, he will remove them. And he does it in great mercy. It is certainly better to lose the gift than to be deprived of the Giver; to lose our consolations, than to lose our God.

Religious Maxims (1846) LXXXI.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wisdom from Socrates

There are some heathen philosophers, such as Socrates, Cicero, and Seneca, that occasionally announce moral and religious truths of great value. Truths which are susceptible of an interpretation that will bring them into close harmony with the practical doctrines of Christianity. "The fewer things a man wants," said Socrates on a certain occasion, "the nearer he is to God."

Religious Maxims (1846) LXXX.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Inward Victory

Smite on! It doth not hurt me now;
The spear hath lost its edge of pain;
And piercing thorns, that bound my brow,
No longer leave their bleeding stain.

What once was woe is changed to bliss;
What once was loss is now my gain;
My sorrow is my happiness;
My life doth live by being slain.

The birth-pangs of those dreadful years
Are like the midnight changed to morn;
And daylight shines upon my tears,
Because the soul's great life is born.

The piercing thorns have changed to flowers;
The spears have grown to sceptres bright;
And sorrow's dark and sunless hours
Become eternal days of light.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXIV.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Acceptance of Trials

'Tis all the same to me;
Sorrow, and strife, and pining want, and pain!
Whate'er it is, it cometh all from Thee,
And 'tis not mine to doubt Thee or complain.

Thou knowest what is best;
And who, oh God, but Thee hath power to know?
'Tis Thine alike with good to make us blest,
And Thine to send affliction's hour of woe.

No questions will I ask.
Do what Thou wilt, my Father and my God!
Be mine the dear and consecrated task,
To bless the loving hand that lifts the rod.

All, all shall please me well;
Since living faith hath made it understood,
That in the shadowy folds of sorrow dwell
The seeds of life and everlasting good.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXIII.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Not Alone

I cannot be alone;
Where'er I go, I find,
Around my steps, the presence thrown
Of the Eternal Mind.

He lives in all my thoughts;
His home is in my heart;
There is no loneliness for me;
I never live apart.

I sometimes go from men,
Far in the silent woods;
But He is with me even then,
In shady solitudes.

The fellow of my walks,
Companion ever nigh,
He fills the solitary place,
With love and sympathy.

I cannot be alone,
Where'er I go, I find,
Around my steps, the presence thrown,
Of the Eternal Mind.


Christ in the Soul (1872) XXII.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

"Love, and Do What You Please"

 It is a saying of St. Augustine — "Love, and do what you please." In acting from the impulse of love, we are conscious of the highest freedom. But pure love, or right love, (that to which St. Augustine refers,) is, by the very terms used, a love which is conformed to law. It is a love which is pure from selfishness, a love which is right;  a love which does not, and cannot, while it remains pure, vary from the law of moral rectitude. He, who acts from such love, while he is conscious of the highest freedom, is safe in doing what he pleases, not only because his pleasure consists in benevolent feeling and action, but because his pleasure is always conformed to what is right. He is under law without feeling its pressure; because the pressure of law, or that which makes it felt as a compulsive and constraining power, never is and never can be felt, while the subject of it entirely harmonizes in feeling as well as in action with its requisitions. The man who, in perfect health, breathes the pure air of heaven, breathes freely; — but he does it in subjection to the laws of respiration, and yet without feeling any constraint, and perhaps without knowing that there are such laws. The man who walks the earth, in the perfect exercise of his muscles, is conscious of freedom, and of acting his own pleasure, while, at the same time, every movement is in subjection to the law of gravitation, and cannot be made without it. Indeed, it is the physical law in these cases, harmonizing with the purpose of the personal volition, which sustains both breathing and movement. And so it is the eternal law of right, indicating the channels in which it should flow, but without using compulsion, when compulsion is not needed, which sustains pure or holy love in a state of purity.

Angels have a conscience. They do always what is right, and never otherwise than what is right. But they do not do it under the compulsions of conscience, but from the excellent and just impulses of a purified and loving nature. Conscience is a law to them, as it is a law to all other holy beings. But law, we are told, "is made for the lawless." (1 Tim. 1: 9.) Those who are not lawless, but whose hearts and actions, of their own accord, harmonize with the law, are under the law without feeling the pressure of the law; rendering obedience to the law, almost without knowing what the law is. If they should attempt or desire to disobey, they would at once have knowledge as distinct as it would be painful. In other words, the operations of the conscience are anticipated and lost, as it were, in the antecedent operations of holy love. And these statements, which apply to angels and other unfallen beings, will apply essentially to men.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 8.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Love vs. Moral Obligation

There are two important principles in the human constitution, which are very different from each other in their nature; but which, operating in different ways, often harmonize in the production of the same results. The one is the great principle of love, which we have been endeavoring to illustrate; the other is the feeling of moral obligation. Cases of human conduct, illustrative of the operation of these two principles, are very frequent.

A man, for instance, visits and relieves one who is sick. The action, which is so interesting and important, may be ascribed either to the principle of love, or the sentiment of duty. The father of a family restrains those under his care from outward labors on the Sabbath day, and visits the house of God with them; and, in doing so, he may be moved by love to God, or merely by the constraint of mental conviction and obligation. A child may render obedience to his parents from either of these motives; either because he loves to obey, — it being a pleasure, a delight to him to obey,— or because, without love, and sometimes against love, he feels it to be his duty to obey. And thus of many other instances.

It is important to ascertain the true position and the comparative relations of these principles. In the order of nature, love is the first in time. The heart naturally operates before the conscience. One evidence of this is, that it is the office of the conscience to intimate the proper regulations, and to establish the law of the heart. It is obvious, however, that there can be no regulation without something which is regulated; and conscience, whose business it is to regulate and direct, would obviously be a faculty without application and without use, if there were not propensities and affections which in the order of nature operated antecedently. Love is the true impulsive principle, the central movement or life of man, as it is of God and of all holy beings. Of conscience, it can only be said that it is its guard, the flaming sword which waves and flashes round it to protect its purity. And he who does not act in the right way naturally, and by the power of his own loving life, must be wounded and goaded into the right by the authority and the penalties of the moral sense.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 8.