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.
In the Spring of 1815, in connection with a remarkable revival, which took place in Dartmouth College, I suppose that I experienced religion. About three years afterwards, I made a profession of religion in the Congregational Church. Accordingly, I have been a public professor of religion ever since that time. During the greater part of that long period, I believe that I have striven earnestly for high religious attainments. For various reasons, however, and particularly the discouraging influence of the prevalent doctrine that personal sanctification cannot fully take place till death, I did not permanently attain the object of my desires. Sometimes, it is true, I advanced much, and then again was thrown back — living what may be called the common Christian life of sinning and repenting, of alternate walking with God and devotedness to the world. This method of living was highly unsatisfactory to me, as it has often been to others. It seemed exceedingly dangerous to risk my soul in eternity in such a state as this. In this state of mind I was led, early in the summer of 1839, by a series of special providences, which it is here unnecessary to detail, to examine the subject of personal holiness as a matter of personal realization. I examined the subject, as I thought, prayerfully, candidly, and faithfully — looking at the various objections as well as the multiplied evidences — and came, ultimately, to the undoubting conclusion that God required me to be holy, that he had made provision for it, and that it was both my duty and my privilege to be so. The establishment of my belief in this great doctrine was followed by a number of pleasing and important results.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
— from Phoebe W. Palmer (editor), Pioneer Experiences or The Gift of Power Received by Faith Illustrated and Confirmed by the Testimony of Eighty Living Ministers of Various Denominations (1872).
Man's perceptive powers are limited. They do not correspond, in extent, with those of God; and consequently we can unite with God, in the matter of knowledge, only in a limited degree. The union with [God], in this respect, may be perfect as far as it goes; but it is restricted in extent. And it will be found to be the same in relation to love. We may harmonize perfectly with the divine love, in all cases where objects of love are presented to us. But the sphere of our knowledge, through which objects are presented to us, being limited, the sphere of our love also is limited. Practically, our love cannot, in its extent, be carried beyond the limit of known objects of love.
But, in the acts of the will, the Godhead, if we may be allowed the expression, so simplifies itself, that the harmony between the created and the uncreated, the human and the divine, may be perfect in extent as well as degree. God's will (we mean here, by the term, the act of his will in any given case) is a unity, combining together, as it were, and representing the whole of his knowledge, the whole of his love, the whole of his nature. As all objects may be, and are, present to it in a single glance, and compressed as it were into the eternal NOW, a single act of the will, embracing and adjusting all previous knowledge and all previous feeling, decides upon all, enacts all, establishes all. It is this act of the will, — an act extending to and consolidating everything else,— with which we are required to be united. Based upon infinite variety, in itself it is but one thing; and we are to unite with it as one. But as it is the unity of the Godhead, embracing the infinite variety of the Godhead, we cannot unite with God in the simplicity and unity of the will, without being virtually united with him in the infinite multiplicity of his knowledge and affection.
If these views are correct, which, in binding us to the will of God, bind us to the whole of God, we not only see how much is involved in an union with the divine will, but how fearfully hazardous it is to indulge in the slightest deviation from that will when it is once ascertained. No direction is more important than that which requires us to labor and pray for harmony with God in this respect. The other unions which have been mentioned, important and indispensable as they are, may be regarded as preparatory to this. The union of the human and divine wills is the consummation of those which have gone before. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Saviour so frequently refers to this form of union. " My meat," he says, "is to do the will of him that sent me." [John 4:34; 6:38.] And again he says, "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." 'He that doeth the will of God," says the apostle John, "abideth forever." [First Epis. of John 2:17.]
— A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 1.
We must not only do the right things, but do them in the right manner. The manner of a holy person is generally characterized, as compared with that of others, by a great degree of meekness and quietude, particularly in the ordinary intercourse of life. And this for three reasons 1. A religious one, viz., that his whole soul rests calmly in the will of God; and therefore, ordinarily, he sees no occasion either for inward or outward perturbation. 2. A philosophical one, viz., an outward perturbation or excitement of manner reacts upon the mind, and sometimes stimulates the inward emotions and passions so much as partially to take them out of our own control, which is injurious. 3. A practical one, viz., a quiet and subdued manner, when flowing from deep religious principle, has an exceedingly impressive and happy effect upon the mass of mankind, especially upon persons of intelligence and cultivation. Still there are some occasions, perhaps not very frequent, when an energy and even violence of manner is not inconsistent with holiness.
If at any time we are injured by others, and find feelings of anger arising in ourselves, we should ever be careful, before attempting to reprove and amend them, to obtain a victory over our own hearts. Otherwise our reproofs, though fully deserved, and although it may be our duty to give them, will be likely to be in vain.
It is undoubtedly a duty to reprove, on suitable occasions, those who are not perfect before God. But it is sometimes the case that the reproof of others, especially when sharply and frequently uttered, is an evidence of our own imperfection. It too sadly shows, that we have not that spirit of entire self-sacrifice and heart felt charity which, in the language of the Apostle, "thinketh no evil, but beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
The love of God, as it exists in the minds of those who are his devoted followers, always inquires after his will. It does not ask after ease, pleasure, reward; nor, on the other hand, does it ask after trial, suffering, and contempt; it merely asks after the Father's will. Its language is that of the Savior, when he says, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." And as in common life we think much of a person that is beloved, and desire his favor and approbation; so in regard to God, if we truly love him, he will be very much in our thoughts, and his approbation and favor will be to us of great price. If he is the highest object of our love, we shall desire no higher happiness than that of constant communion with him, and of being always united to him by oneness of will. Thus we may be said to be in him, and he in us; and that eternal rest of the soul, which constitutes the true heaven, will be commenced here. Then we shall have the true joy, calm, deep, unchangeable. Love goes before; joy comes after. Love is the principle of action; joy is the reward. In the spiritual tree of life, love is the nutritive sap, the permeating and invigorating power, that flows through the body and the soul of man; joy is one of its beautiful fruits and flowers. If, therefore, love is strong, joy will never fail us. But, on the other hand, if love is wanting, there can be no joy, except that joy of the world, which worketh death.
If we are truly sanctified to the Lord, in other words, if we love God with all our hearts, our course as Christians will be a consistent and stable one. Our rule of action will be the will of God; our principle of action will be the love of God. And as the will of God is fixed, and is made known to us in various ways, especially in his holy Word, we shall endeavor to fulfill it at all times humbly and faithfully, without regard to those temporary and changing feelings which too often perplex the religious life.
In the state of mind which has been spoken of, we shall not fail of any consolation which is needful for us. It belongs to the very nature of desire, that, when the desire is gratified, we are more or less happy. Accordingly in exercising love to God, the leading element of which is desire, and in doing and suffering his holy will, in accordance with such desire, we cannot be otherwise than happy in a considerable degree. If we seek joy or happiness as an ultimate object, we cannot fail, on religious principles, to miss of it. If, under the promptings of love, we seek merely to do and suffer the will of God, we shall certainly, except in those cases, where God, by a special act of sovereignty, withdraws consolation in order to try our faith, possess all that consolation, which will be needful. And in the case which has just been mentioned, if our faith, still trusting in the beloved object, sustains the terrible shock of apparent desertion, (as when our Savior exclaimed, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?") we shall soon find abundant consolation returning.
— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 14.