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 4, 2015

Human Restoration

The great object of Christ’s coming is the restoration of man. And pursuing the subject of the union of man with God in this new aspect, namely, in the work of redemption, the question arises here, how can man be said to be united with God, in the work of his own restoration?

Man corresponds in his position, and may be said to be united with God in the work of his personal recovery, when he willingly and firmly yields his disfigured spirit to the restoring power of the hands of the great workman. In other words, he unites with God in his own restoration, when he lets the great Master of the mind work upon him.

There is an illustration of the subject to be found in the prophet Malachi: "Who may abide the day of his coming” says the prophet, "and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiners fire and like fuller’s soap. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness."

The great trouble with men is, even when they have some sense of religion, and begin to estimate its value, that they are unwilling to let the Spirit of God perform his appropriate work upon them. Sin has attached itself to the spirit's surface, like dross to the pure gold. Not more insinuating than it is adhesive, it intertwines itself with man's powers and mental exercises with indescribable strength; so much so that it is difficult to separate the good from the evil, to detach the pure from the impure. And it never can be done effectually and truly without the operations of that omniscient Spirit, which are "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit."  [Heb. 4: 12.]

We cooperate, therefore, with God, in the work of personal redemption, when we submit to this divine operation without reluctance; — willing to be placed in the crucible, and to be subjected to the fiercest flames till everything evil is consumed and taken away. This is what some ancient experimental writers call death, that is to say, death to nature, or rather to the corruptions of nature. Occasionally varying the expressions they employ, they sometimes call it crucifixion or inward crucifixion. As Christ died in the body, say these writers, so we must die in the spirit; —  as Christ was crucified and laid in the tomb, so we, in the spiritual sense, must be crucified and be laid in the tomb with him. The expressions, though they may sound singularly to some, convey a great truth, which has a permanent foundation in the principles of morals and religion. We cannot be allied with God without freedom from sin. To be free from sin is obviously to die to sin. And it would not be easy to die to sin, without going through that process of inward crucifixion, which is the antecedent of death. 

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 3.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Restoration of the Earth

Of the restoration of the earth, Isaiah says:

"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon." [Isa. 35:1, 2.] 

Of the animal creation, he says:

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them." [Isa. 11: 6.] 

It may undoubtedly be said of these, and other similar passages, that they are figurative. But it will be found, in the end, that the truth which they anticipate and predict will exceed the beauty of the picture, as it existed in the imagination of the prophetic poet. When the head of creation resumes his nature of holy love, the untamed and violent passions of the inferior members will become extinct. And the earth herself, as if conscious of the mighty change, will withdraw her thorns and crown herself with roses.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 3.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Joys of Pentitence

FAREWELL! Thine earthly strife is o'er;
Thine earthly sorrows past;
Jesus, thy friend, hath gone before;
And thou art free at last.

No more the solitude and pain;
No more the bitter tear;
A better land thy soul shall gain,
Than that, which held thee here.

Earth's children did not understand
The sorrows of thy heart;
But spirits of the heavenly land
Shall judge thee as thou art.

A soul that erred, a soul restored,
A soul that sinned, a soul forgiven;
Dear to the Christ, the loving Lord,
And safe, at last, in heaven.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXXV.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Heavenly Sculptor

SHRINK NOT FROM SUFFERING. Each dear blow,
From which thy smitten spirit bleeds,
Is but a messenger to show
The renovation which it needs.

The earthly sculptor smites the rock;
Loud the relentless hammer rings;
And from the rude, unshapen block,
At length, imprisoned beauty brings.

Thou art that rude, unshapen stone;
And waitest, till the arm of strife
Shall make its crucifixions known,
And smite and carve thee into life.

The Heavenly Sculptor works on THEE;
BE PATIENT. Soon  his  arm of might,
Shall from thy prison's darkness free,
And change thee to a form of light.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXXIV.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Good For Evil

THEY DO NOT KNOW US. If they did,
They would not blame and smite us so.
To selfish hearts the light is hid,
And being blind, they cannot know.

Then let us not with anger burn,
Resembling thus our cruel foes;
But, when the cheek is smitten, turn
The other meekly to their blows.

With such forgiving words and deeds,
We claim the aid of that great Power,
Who knows His trusting people's needs,
And guards them in their trying hour.

God is thy battle's mighty arm;
God is thy great, victorious sword.
To him there comes nor fear nor harm,
Whose confidence is in the Lord.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXXIII.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Social Redemption

In addition to the redemption of the individual, which of course is involved in the redemption of the mind of the individual, there is also social redemption; that is to say, man is redeemed and elevated in all his relations, not only as a man, but as the member of a family, as a neighbor, as a citizen. In all these respects, just so soon as he has become the subject of a new life, received from the great Author and Master of life, he is not merely guided by the ordinary sympathies of our nature, and the ordinary sentiments of duty, but by those sympathies  and sentiments  as  they are purified and heightened by the perfected influence of religion. As society in its various modifications is made up of individuals associated with other individuals, the redemption and elevation of the whole mass will correspond to the redemption and elevation of the individual. And man cannot become godlike by unity with God, — he cannot say with the apostle, "Christ," — which is an expression for the true image and power of God, —“liveth in me” without diffusing the image of the inward Divinity over every relation he sustains, over every association of which he is a member. And thus the families and societies of earth, under the purifying influence and power of religion, will reflect the brightness of the families and societies of heaven.

— edited from A Treatise On Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 2.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

God Dwells in the Redeemed Person

In the day of his true restoration, therefore, God once more really dwells in man. We do not say, however, that he actually enters and takes full possession at once. Just as soon as man gives his exiled Father permission to enter as a whole God and a God forever, he enters effectually; but ordinarily he enters by degrees, and in accordance with the usual laws and operations of the human mind. He does not break the vessel of man's spirit, nor mar its proportions, nor deface anything which is truly essential to it; but gradually enters into all parts of it, readjusts it, removes the stains which sin had made upon it, and fills it with divine light. Man's business in this great work is a very simple one. It is to cease all resistance, and to invite the Divine Master of the mind to enter it in his own time and way. And even this last is hardly necessary. God does not wait even to be invited to come, except so far as an invitation is  implied in the removal of the obstacles which had previously kept him out. Man's ceasing from all resistance, and his willingness to receive God as the all in all, and for all coming time, may be regarded as essentially the completion of the work in respect to himself; but the work of God, who is continually developing from the soul new powers and new beauties, can be completed only with the completion of eternity.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 2.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Redemption

The great result, therefore, of the plan of redemption, when fully carried out in relation to man, is to restore him to such a position of harmony with God, that he may be said ever afterwards to live in and from God. Nothing short of this is redemption; — nothing short of this is worthy to be thought of and to be regarded as redemption.

And this great result, — a result on which depends union or separation, life or death, happiness or woe, — is made to turn upon his own free choice. It is not left to him, however, to choose a mixed or middle course. And the reason is that there is no such course. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." There can be but one true life, and that is life from God. Our heavenly Father, dwelling in man as the Divine Teacher or Comforter, must be the whole, the true life and the whole life in us or he can be nothing. And this is a matter, which, as a moral agent, man is called upon to decide for himself; — namely, whether God, without dividing his influence with any other master or teacher, shall be his inward life, and thus be, in all coming time, the inspiration and source of all good. This choice is given him in Christ. If he accepts God, he lives. If he rejects him, he dies.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 2.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Redemption of the Fallen Human Spirit

Redemption is felt, and is designed to be felt, more than anywhere else, in man's fallen spirit. There is a mental, as well as a physical, redemption; and the mental or personal is as much more important than the physical, as mind holds a higher rank and is more important than matter.

The restoration of man is primarily a restoration of the affections. When man fell, his affections changed their center; and that love, which at first centered in God, afterwards centered in himself. Being disunited from the true center, he never afterwards could be truly united with anything, except those things which adhered to himself as their center. In this state of separation from God, and of sin against God, he is redeemed from the penalty of sin by accepting that forgiveness which is offered through Jesus Christ.

But it is important to remember that there are two offers involved in that great work, which Christ came to accomplish; — the one is, forgiveness for the past, and the other is, a new life in God for the future. A new life in God, which implies entire reconciliation with God as its basis, could not be offered to man, until the penalty of the old transgression was remitted. And, on the other hand, the remission of the penalty of the past would be wholly unavailing, without the permanent restoration of a divine and living principle in man's spiritual part.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 2.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Fall, Redemption, and the Physical Creation

When man, as the head of creation, fell into sin, it may be said, with a great degree of truth, that the physical creation fell with him. There are connections and sympathies between man and the outward or physical world, which are not well understood, and are not likely to be well understood, in the present state of things. Certain it is, however, that in a world destined to be the home of holy and happy beings, the outward will correspond to the inward, the objective to the subjective, the home to the inhabitant. It is not in the nature of God, who delights in the beautiful as well as in the good, to surround a holy being with barrenness and deformity, and to compel him to take up his abode among thorns and thistles. The world was and must have been beautiful as the happy souls that dwell in it. Originally the earth was everywhere clothed with its green and pure carpet;  fruits suitable to the support of its holy inhabitants, hung from the branches of richly laden trees, and flowers sprang up at their feet. "Out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight,  and that is good for food."

When man became a sinner his beautiful home changed its character, and became adapted to sinners. God said unto Adam, "Because thou hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee! " It is not without reason, therefore, that the poet Milton, in allusion to the consequences of Adam's fall, says:

"Earth felt the wound; and nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe
That all was lost."

And, as if the earth were really as well as figuratively conscious of the great change which it had undergone, the Apostle says, in very remarkable language: — “For we know that the whole creation  groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now.” [Romans 8:22.]

When holiness is restored to man, whose fall was the cause of its being blighted, it is reasonable to suppose that fruitfulness will again return to the earth. Its beauty also, as well as its fruitfulness, will be reestablished. Its defaced outlines will gradually be  restored, and its tints retouched. There will no longer be storms and tempests. The cold of winter and the heat of summer will be tempered to that degree of heat and cold which will be best suited to the renovation of the earth, and also to man's condition and happiness. That golden age, when the air, the earth, and the waters, will all contribute to bring forth the perfect and the beautiful — that primitive age of delights, of which we have the tradition in many nations, — will return again.

"The swain, in barren deserts, with surprise,
Sees lilies spring and sudden verdure rise;
And starts, amid the thirsty wilds, to hear
New falls of water murmuring in his ear.”

Nor will these results be limited to outward nature. Man himself will be restored physically. Now, bowed down with many infirmities, the subject of many severe and wasting diseases, he has lost that dignity and beauty which once attached to him.  As he recovers, through the grace of God, from the controlling influence of inordinate desires, his physical appetites will seek those objects which are best adapted to the wants of the physical nature; and he will use them, whatever they may be, in the proper manner. Holiness, by directing him to those things which can be rightly used, will give purification and erectness to that which sin has polluted and prostrated. And it is one of the favorable signs of the times, that the attention of men, roused at last to observe the connection between moral and physical disorder, is already so widely directed to this subject. Those who are in unity with God in their modes of living, find a restoration of health, of strength, and of physical enjoyment, such as will vindicate the goodness of God, and illustrate the import of the declaration of scripture, that "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." [1st Timothy 4: 8.]

And, as incidentally connected with these views, it may properly be added, that the various forms of the animal creation inferior to man will probably participate in some degree in the renovation and blessedness of that better time.

Nor is this a merely fanciful view. It has its foundation in the nature of things. Every system of things has a unity, or, what is the same thing, a correspondence and harmony of existence. All beings, for instance, which live upon the same earth, breathe the same air, and are sustained by the same heavenly Father, necessarily have ties of relationship, which are sacred and eternal. The earth is wisely and expressly fitted for the support of a great system of life, — a system which may be said, in its outward forms at least, to be elaborated from its own elements, — a system infinitely various in its manifestations, but still bearing everywhere the marks of a divine unity. Of this great system man stands at the head; but he is not on that account separate from the foot. All the inferior parts of creation may be said to embody something which finds its resultant and its completion in man. It is to him they tend; — it is in him they find their unity. They hardly have more of true adaptation of position, without man, than the inferior limbs of his own body can have life and adaptation without the head which controls them.

So long, therefore, as man kept his original position, and was fully united with God, so long he sustained relations of harmony and unity with all inferior beings;— not excepting the worm beneath his feet. These relations were disturbed by his fall. But the Gospel, which once more restores man to his proper place, will restore all which is necessarily connected with him. There is nothing in nature, either in its material or its sentient forms, which will not experience the effects of that great change, which it must be admitted is destined primarily and chiefly to raise and bless man, who is the head and the crown of nature; so that trees, and flowers, and birds, and all living things, will have occasion to rejoice in the consequences involved in Christ's coming. In the language of the prophet Isaiah, "The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing; and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." [Isaiah 55: 12.] And if the trees and mountains shall clap their hands, much more will this figurative but beautiful language be true of the hunted and bleeding beast and bird which inhabit them.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 2.