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, October 18, 2014

Perfect Love Perserveres

Perfect love will exhibit a trait of permanency and perseverance under the most trying circumstances. Our fears and hopes vary; our joys and sorrows vary; but we may reasonably expect that the love, which is pure in its nature and perfect in its degree, will continue the same. There is no reason why it should change, since the object at which it aims is the same with the immutable will of God. The will of God is its true life. Accordingly, when in the providence of God we are afflicted, our joys will be less, but there will be no diminution of love. Joy flourishes in the sunshine, but love grows and flourishes in the storm also. God may hide his face from us, but hearts of love still look in that direction where his face is. The Savior, on a certain occasion, was greatly afflicted. His language was, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." His joy was taken from him, but his love remained. He could still say, while he prayed that the cup might, if possible, pass from him, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt."

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Love for the Bible

A person who has perfect love, will love his Bible above all other books. It will be dear to his heart, an inexpressible treasure. And the reason is obvious. It is because in the Bible he learns the will of God, which he delights in, more than in any thing else. And hence it is one of the artifices of Satan, who is no friend of the Bible, to endeavor to detach devout minds from the study of the Di­vine Word under the plausible pretense that the inward teachings of the Spirit are of more value, than the outward letter. An artifice, which he, who desires a close walk with God, will carefully guard against; remembering that God cannot consistently, and will not, neglect and dishonor his own divine communications; that the Holy Spirit operates in a peculiar manner, in connection with the written Word; and that he, who deserts the Word of God, may reasonably expect to be deserted by the Spirit.

—  from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Forgetfulness of Self

Perfect love excludes, in a great degree, and perhaps entirely, any reflections upon self, (or "reflex acts," as they are sometimes termed,) which are of a self-interested or selfish character, In other words, perfect love, when in actual exercise, implies a forgetfulness of self. Whenever our thoughts return upon ourselves; whenever in the exercise of "reflex acts" we begin to inquire into the specific nature of our feelings, for the purpose of estimating the amount of their enjoyment; whenever we experience a jealousy, that God does not give to us all those returns and caresses of love which we should be pleased with; we may be assured, that although we may possibly love much, we might love much more. In other words, our love, whatever other terms may be applied to it, cannot be regarded as perfect. It is the nature of perfect love, in its forgetfulness of self, to array the object, towards which it is directed, in every possible excellence. To that object, so far as it is truly worthy of its attachment, it gives the strength of its affections, without reservation and without limits. It is perfectly self-sacrificing; and it would account itself dishonored and degraded, if it turned back on itself for a moment, to estimate its own reward. It has its reward, it is true. Perfect love is necessarily its own rewarder. But the reward comes without seeking. And is enjoyed so entirely without notice, that it does not turn the mind away a moment from the object of its affections.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Perfection of Love is Willing God's Will

We may, perhaps, illustrate [our view of perfect love], by what we sometimes notice in the various forms and degrees of filial love. We will take, in the first place, the case of a child, who is sincerely attached to his father, but who, as we sometimes express it, exhibits a "will of his own." This child, undoubtedly, loves his father very much; but at the same. time he does not always do, with entire pleasure and readiness, what his father wishes him to do. He sometimes hesitates, exhibits a clouded brow, or utters an impatient expression when certain things are required of him. He has certain little objects of his own, which he is very much attached to; and if his father's plans happen to cross and oppose them, he exhibits, in a greater or less degree, a disposition to set up for himself and to rebel. And when he outwardly obeys, it is found that he does it reluctantly, and not with a will harmonizing and blending with the paternal will. Now we may say very truly, that this child loves his father — perhaps he loves him very much — and yet it is clear he does not love him perfectly. But when we see a child who is happy only when he sees his father happy; whose delight it is to anticipate the father's wishes; whose will, by a sort of instinctive tendency, is invariably and powerfully united and blended with the paternal will, so that the least opposition between the two wills is a source of the greatest grief to him, we at once feel, and cannot help feeling, that the love of such a child may properly be called perfect. And in accordance with this view, it is said to have been one of the sayings of the devout Francis Xavier, that "the perfection of the creature consists in willing nothing but the will of the Creator."

What other idea of perfection of love can we have than this? The heart of such a person is made one with another heart, and what could we ask for more? This, then, more than any thing else, is the decisive mark of perfection in Christian love, viz. an entire coincidence of our own wills with the divine will; in other words, the rejection of the natural principle of life, which may be described as love terminating in self and constituting self-will; and the adoption of the heavenly principle of life, which is love terminating and fulfilled in the will of God. And this view, which is practically, as well as theologically, a very important one, seems to be confirmed by what the Savior says of himself in a number of passages. John 6. 38, "For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." John 4. 34, "Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." Heb. 10. 9, "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." The same idea, viz. that perfection of Christian love exists, and exists only in connection with a will united to and perfectly coincident with the will of God, is conveyed in that interesting passage, Mark 3. 34, 35, "And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother." Matt. 7. 21, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Marks of Perfect Love

The first mark of perfect love to God is an entire approbation of and delight in his character in all respects. In other words, approving and complacent emotions, without the least intermixture of doubt and dissatisfaction, arise in view of his power and justice, as well as of his goodness and mercy, so that we delight truly and continually in his whole character, and in all the exhibitions of his character, as they are actually made known to us in the Holy Scriptures or in any other way. The least want of trust and complacency in the divine character will necessarily be a vicious ingredient or element in the affection of love, which cannot fail to diffuse weakness and imperfection throughout.— This is one point, then, on which it is important to examine ourselves. If we find, that the character of God, as it presents itself to notice in all its varieties, appears to us exceedingly pure and lovely; if we contemplate it with a perfect conviction, that all its manifestations will be in accordance with truth, mercy, and righteousness, and with no other emotions in any respect, than those of entire complacency, then we have reason to think, that we have one of the marks or characteristics of perfection of love. Not, in all probability, the leading and decisive, but still an indispensable one.

A second mark of perfect love to God is the existence of a desire to promote his glory, which is the other higher and more decisive characteristic of this complex mental state, in such a degree, that we are not conscious of having any de­sire or will at variance with the will of God.

In other words, it is our sincere and constant desire to do and suffer in all things the will of God. When such is the case, when there is an entire and cordial acquiescence of our own in the will of God both to do and to suffer, we have the second mark, and we may add also, the most important and satisfactory one, that our love is perfect. The nature of the human mind is such, that we never can have an entire and cordial acquiescence in the will of God in all things, without an antecedent approval of and complacency in his character and administration.— Accordingly the second mark, viz, a will entirely accordant with and lost in the will of God, is of itself sufficient, inasmuch as it necessarily includes and embraces the first. And by this mark alone, as I suppose, we might know, whether our love is or is not perfect.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What is Perfect Love?

If the doctrine, which is variously termed sanctification, evangelical holiness, and evangelical or christian perfection, be true, or if the related and equivalent doctrine, which is denominated assurance of faith, be true, then it will follow, that it is our duty and privilege, even in the present life, to realize in our own souls the fulfillment of that great command, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," In other words, it is our duty and privilege to possess what may properly be called "perfect love." Accordingly it becomes a very important and interesting inquiry, When can our love properly be said to be perfect?

Perfection of love implies the removal or extinction of all selfishness. In other words, perfect love is always PURE love. We may probably conceive of love, which is pure in its nature; but is deficient, and therefore not perfect in its degree or intensity. But we cannot conceive of love which is acceptable to God, and is perfect in degree, which has any intermixture of selfishness.

Perfection of love is necessarily relative to the capacity of the subject of it. In other words, what would be perfection of love in one would not be in another, whose capacity of loving is greater. That precise amount or degree of love in man, which would be characterized as perfect in consequence of being all his capacity could render, would be imperfect in an angel or other being of greater capacity.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Subjection of Every Natural Desire to God

We take the liberty to urge upon all, who wish to live the true inward life, the importance of not resting satisfied with mere intellectual light, however valuable it may be; of not resting satisfied with joyful or any other emotions, which stop and terminate in themselves; and of acting invariably upon the principle, that nothing ought to satisfy themselves, and that nothing can satisfy God, but the subjection of every natural desire, and the substitution of desires, affections, and purposes, which terminate in God and God alone.

Move onward, therefore, with a firmness which no obstacles shall shake, to the entire revolution and renewal of the inward nature; the increased illumination of the conscience, that great light of the mind; the sanctification of the desires, which embrace the whole propensive and "affectional" nature; and the subjection of the will, which is naturally so proud and rebellious, to the will of God.

Fear not that God will desert you. Aided by the intellectual light which he has seen fit to give, and by those favorable emotions he has already excited, form the fixed, unalterable purpose, "the high resolve," in reliance upon divine grace, to be wholly his. No doubt, in many cases, the struggle will be severe. The unsanctified desires especially, including the various appetites, propensities, and affections, which form so important a part of our nature, are selfish and tenacious; and, considered as opposed to any and all human strength, are undoubtedly invincible. But God has said, "My grace is sufficient for thee." His word shall never fail; and least of all, in such a struggle, in which his own heart of infinite love is enlisted. Desire after desire will fall; idol after idol will be demolished; the Christian graces will successively gain the ascendancy; till the Holy Ghost shall take up his permanent residence in his own purified temple, and victory will sit crowned in the center of the heart.

Jehovah, sovereign of my heart!
My joy by night and day!
From Thee, oh may I never part,
From Thee ne'er go astray.
Whene'er allurements round me stand,
And tempt me from my choice;
Oh, let me find thy gracious hand,
Oh, let me hear thy voice!

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 16.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Affections and the Will Must Also be Subject to God

There are mental susceptibilities, which, on account of their being subsequent in the time of their action, may be described as laying back of the emotive part of the mind, as truly as the emotions can be said to lay back of the intellectual part. In making this remark, we have especial reference to the desires in their various modifications, particularly those modifications which are denominated the affections, and to the will.

Any religion, or rather pretense of religion, which is not powerful enough to penetrate into this region of the mind, and to bring the affections and will into subjection to God, is in vain. It is an important fact, and as melancholy as it is true, that a person may be spiritually enlightened and have new views on the subject of religion, and that he may also have very raised and joyful emotions, and yet may be a slave to his natural desires. He has not experienced what every one must experience, who would enter into communion with the Divine Mind, viz. the death of nature. He loves the things of the world more than the things of God.

Many, very many, are the instances, which can verify this remark. As the result of their intellectual illumination, the persons, to whom these statements will apply, are undoubtedly in advance of what they were previously, and are able to talk fluently on the subject of religion. And in consequence of some premature application of the Savior's merits to their own case, they can speak of pleasures and of hopes, which they never before experienced. But only urge upon them the necessity of self-crucifixion; only touch the idols which they cherish in their inner heart; and they discover at once the dominion which the world has over them still. God has not become the life of the soul. At a proposition, so necessary to the life of God and so repugnant to the life of nature, the spirit of untamed and almost unmitigated evil, which reposed so closely and secretly in their bosoms, will start into existence with features of opposition and malignity, altogether at variance with the peace and purity of a holy heart.

We may probably discover in these principles the reason, why it is, that, in times of especial religious attention, so many persons, who appeared to be much engaged in religion for a season, subsequently lose their interest, and become, both in practice and feeling, assimilated to the world. Such persons are undoubtedly the subjects of an inward experience; and this experience, in common parlance, is frequently called a religious experience; but it is obviously defective in the essential particular of not having a root. "But he, that received the word into stony places, the same is he, that heareth the word, and anon with joy, receiveth it. Yet hath he not root in himself."

Notwithstanding their increased ability and readiness to converse on the subject of religion, and the exhibitions which they make of emotion, sometimes of high emotion, they do not understand what it is to place themselves a living sacrifice upon the divine altar. They do not appreciate, and still less do they realize in their own hearts and lives, the "all of God and nothing of the creature."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 16.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

But, Is an Only Mental and Emotional Expereince Enough?

Consider the case of a person, who is the subject of a divine operation.

Under the influence of this inward operation, he experiences, to a considerable extent, new views of his own situation, of his need of a Savior, and of the restoration of his soul to God in spiritual union. The operation, which has been experienced so far, is purely intellectual. Of the necessity and value of such intellectual influences, there can be no doubt; but I believe it is generally conceded, that, in themselves alone, they do not, and cannot constitute religion. But in addition to this, we will suppose, that an effect, and perhaps a very decided effect, has been experienced in the emotive part, which in its action is subsequent to that of the intellect. The person has very pleasant emotions. The perception of new truth, as we should naturally expect, gives him happiness; and the perception of its relation to his salvation gives him still more happiness. He is very happy. He begins to speak a new language. His mouth is filled with praise. And others praise the Lord on his account.

But has such a person religion, as his friends are very desirous to believe, and are very apt to declare? He has an experience undoubtedly. We are willing to admit, that he has a valuable experience; an experience, which is naturally preparatory to religion, and is closely connected with it; and looks very much like it. But if the experience stops here, in such a manner as to constitute a merely emotional experience, and without reaching and affecting a still more inward and important part of the mind, as seems sometimes to be the case, we cannot with good reasons regard it as a truly religious experience; meaning by the terms an experience which meets the expectations and the demands of God, and which is saving. It is valuable; it is encouraging; it is closely connected with religion; but it is not the thing itself. We may perhaps designate it as a preparative or incident to religion, without being religion; and although we may thank the Lord for what it is, especially in its hopeful relations, it is still true, that the essential and indispensable element of the inward life is not there.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 16.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Holy Spirit's Effects on the Mind and the Emotions

It is the office of the Holy Spirit to operate, on the appropriate occasions of such operation, upon the human intellect; and especially by guiding it in the perception of the truth. The mode of the Spirit's operation upon the intellectual part, as it is upon other parts of the mind, is in many respects mysterious; but the ordinary result of his influences is the communication of truth. That is to say, the soul, when it is thus operated upon, knows spiritually what it did not know before. And it may properly be added, that the knowledge, which is thus communicated, will vary both in kind and degree, in accordance with the nature of the subject or facts to be illustrated, and with the special circumstances, whatever they may be, which render a divine communication necessary.

But it is not ordinarily to be expected, that the operation, of which we are now speaking, will stop with the intellect. By an original law of our mental nature, the perception of truth, which is the result of an intellectual act, is ordinarily followed by an effect upon that portion of the mind, which is usually designated as the emotional or emotive susceptibility; a part of the mind, which, as it is subsequent in the time of its action, is sometimes figuratively described, "as being back of the intellect."

The effect upon the emotive susceptibility, resulting from an operation on the intellect, will be different at different times and under different circumstances; varying in nature and. degree, according to the nature and degree of the truth which is presented, and also, in part, in accordance with its own previous situation at the time of its being affected. The truth, for instance, that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, will be attended with very pleasant emotions in one who feels himself to be a sinner, and to stand in need of a Savior; but will not be likely to be attended with any such effect in one, with whom this is not the case.

We can suppose, therefore, notwithstanding the general law which has just now been specified, an operation of the Holy Spirit upon the intellect, which is attended with no beneficial, with no sanctifying and saving effect upon the heart. Indeed, there are some cases, where the truth, which is impressed by a divine operation upon the intellect, is met and rejected in the sensibilities with feelings of opposition and contempt. But experience of this nature, which meets with no acceptance beyond the intellect, although it may have its origin intellectually in the operation of the Spirit of God, is not regarded as religious experience....

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 16.