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, February 28, 2015

Good Intentions Which Violate the Law of Providence

 If the providence of God has brought together a rich and a poor man, under such circumstances that it becomes the duty of the rich man to aid the poor, and he refuses to do it, it is impossible for him, in any way, except by sincere repentance, to escape the penalty of his wrong-doing. He will ask, perhaps, why he was bound to support or aid the poor man more than another? The answer is, it was not necessary that all should confer their benevolence at the same time; and the law of Providence, operating in connection with the existing facts in the case, made its selection, and the lot fell upon him. The fact that Providence had given him a particular location, involved also the assignment of a particular duty. In refusing to perform that duty, he has exposed himself to a penalty. When or where it will come, he cannot foresee; but its terrible advent is inevitable in its appointed time.

A man has a family, or is in some way connected with one. He is a father, brother, husband, or son. Perhaps he sustains all these important relations at once. He  has a moral nature; and Providence which makes all these arrangements, has assigned and settled his position. Out of his moral nature and the position which is thus assigned him, is developed the obligation or law of specific duty. We properly denominate it, in this case, as in others, the providential law. As a father, brother, husband, or son, he has duties to perform, which would not be binding upon him if he were not placed in that particular situation. If he fails in those duties, whatever their nature, and whether the failure be more or less, he incurs a penalty, which may not be particularly noticed or felt at the time, but from which there is and can be no escape.

There is no apparent administration. There is nothing exterior, nothing seen. No judge is seated on the bench of justice. No audible sentence is pronounced.  No  prison doors are shut or opened. No sword is uplifted. And yet the blow falls, — reaching always the precise centre of its object, — the sharper for being invisible; as inflexibly certain in its  movement  and its results as the decrees of infinite wisdom.

We proceed now to a remark of no small importance The strictness of the providential law is such, that the penalty attending a violation of it will be experienced, whether the object which we had in view in our conduct be good or evil. In other words, God, as the administrator of Providence, will punish us for actions, originating in a good motive, if that motive has been exercised without a careful regard to the facts in the case.

If a father, for instance, from the impulse of benevolent parental feeling, gives a large amount of property to a son, who obviously has no capacity and no heart to manage it aright, he violates a providential law, by attempting to unite things which are incompatible, and the most painful results will sooner or later ensue. If a benevolent man has a poor but very vicious neighbor, and, without any suitable reflections upon the matter, bestows upon him liberal donations, he obviously does a wrong thing, although he may have meant it right. He thus sets himself, perhaps without any specific intentions of that nature, in opposition to the providential design; and is found in the ruinous situation of one who is fighting against God. God knows what is best. He sees that, to the vicious man, who expends his wealth upon his lusts, poverty, yea, extreme poverty, is the best riches.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 3.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Retributions of the Providential Law

There seems to be good reason for saying, that common opinion, founded upon the general experience, assents to the strictness and inflexibility of the action of physical laws. If a man, for instance, thrusts his hand into the fire, we have no doubt that he will be burned. If he plunges himself into the depths of the ocean, we are confident that he will be drowned. If he throws himself down a rocky eminence, we naturally expect that he will be dashed to pieces. The result, secured by known and inflexible physical laws is considered certain.

It may be added, that common opinion attaches the same idea of strictness and inflexibility to the action of laws instituted by civil governments. If a man, contrary to the laws of the land, takes another's property, it is generally regarded as a matter of certainty that punishment will overtake him. If a man strikes another, the law, without-regard to his position in society, or even his penitence, strikes him in return. Fines, stripes, stocks, prisons, show how inflexible is the arm of civil and criminal justice.

But it does not appear to be the common opinion that the retributions of the providential law are equally strict, equally inflexible. The tendency is, partly because its modes of operation are less obvious to the senses, to look upon Providence as a lenient master, who generally defers punishment, who punishes slightly at most, and sometimes not at all. But this is a mistake. The providential law is as strict in its operation as the others, and even more so. It is possible, certainly, that natural laws may be suspended in their operation, and may fail. The penalty of the civil and criminal laws may sometimes be evaded. But the retributions of the providential law, (a law modified in its application by the incident of existing facts and events, but always founded on the principles of eternal right and wrong,) can never be annulled, can never be escaped.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 3.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Study God's Will in God's Providences

It is an important part of Christian duty to study God's will in his providences. We neither know how to act, nor how to feel, without a regard to them. This remark is sufficiently obvious in relation to action. It is hardly less obvious in relation to feeling.  For instance, a near friend dies, perhaps a  child, or brother. This is an event in Providence. The feeling appropriate to it is SORROW; but, when we consider that, being an event in Providence, it is an event ordered in divine wisdom, the appropriate feeling is not only sorrow, but sorrow mingled with acquiescence and patience. The law of Providence requires this modification of the feeling as strictly and as truly as the written law; so that we may lay it down as a principle, that the law of Providence must regulate, to a considerable extent, not only our outward acts, but our affections. It is Providence which places before us the objects we must love; and, what is more, it indicates the degree of our love, and the ways of its manifestation. And, on the other hand, the same Providence indicates to us the objects which should excite our disapprobation, and also the degree and manner of our disapprobation.

If we are in full harmony with Providence, we walk in all things humbly and softly, neither too slow nor too fast. The light which is imparted to us, is given moment by moment. And it is the true light, if our souls are so far renovated into the nature of Christ as to be in a disposition to receive it. It teaches us, not only to work FOR God, but, what is hardly less important, to work WITH God; — that is to say, in harmony with his own wise and benevolent plans.

Again, in acting in accordance with Providence, we do good without doing evil. No matter how desirable a thing may appear to be to us, if the law of Providence stands in our way, it cannot be done. There is, in such a case, what is called a moral, in distinction from a physical, impossibility, because the thing cannot be done without violating other obligations. Therefore, we are to do the good which we are called to do; in other words, we are to do the good which Providence allows and requires us to do; and then, and then only, we do good without doing evil. It is desirable that those who aim at the highest results in religion, should keep this in mind.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 2.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Moral Harmony With God's Providence

Things animate and things inanimate, things in space and things in time, things said and things done, all being and all action, in themselves and in their relations, in their rights and in their influences, form a part of the great system of the facts and arrangements of divine Providence. Man, and all the acts and all the sufferings of which he is the source and the subject, is placed in the midst of this great ocean; this great and moving flux and reflux of other men, and other acts, and other sufferings, and is required to be in moral harmony with it. It is this requisition, this rule, existing under these circumstances, which constitutes the providential law, —  a law operating from the external upon the internal; a law founded in infinite wisdom, just and inflexible in its requirements, just and inflexible in its retributions.

The law of Providence coincides with the law of the Scriptures. God, who speaks in Providence as well as in the Scriptures, cannot utter voices which, in their principles and claims, are discordant with each other. We may sometimes fail in our interpretations of the Scriptures; we may sometimes attach a meaning to them different from God's meaning; but when the declaration of God in the Scriptures is rightly understood, it will always be found to harmonize with his providential voice. If, for instance, he requires us, in his written law, to love our neighbor as ourselves, he has also arranged in such a manner the things and relations which constitute his providential law as to make the same requisition. And it will be found true, under the operation of the divine Providence, that man will and must suffer just in proportion as he comes short of that divine law of love. It will be the same in other similar instances.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 2.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Law of Providence

We cannot well understand and appreciate the doctrine of the law of Providence without some proper view of the mutual relationship and connection of things. It was a maxim of the Schoolmen, and is not less a maxim of nature, NIHIL EX NIHILO FIT. Everything, therefore, which exists, if it do not have an existence which is eternal and independent, must come from a common source. Consequently, there must be some common relationships, some common alliances.

And this is just as true of events which exist in time as of things which exist in place. It is true of everything of which it can be said, it is. If God calls into existence, or, in any way, gives rise to certain things and events and establishes them in their order, which, as a "God of order," he cannot fail to do, he necessarily gives to them their position, their relations, their rights, their influences. All these are theirs by the nature of the case. They do not make them of themselves, but have them, as it were, by inheritance. It is not easy to see how it can be otherwise. It is a matter of necessity, although we may properly make a distinction between things and events in some respects, that they should have their place and relations, their appropriate rights, their appropriate effects.

We will endeavor to illustrate what we mean, in the first place, from things which have merely an animate, and not a moral, existence. Among the multitude of created things that fill the air and earth, behold the feeble worm that makes its home in the clod. God has created it. Here is a fact, unimportant as it may seem to be, which makes a part, nevertheless, of his providential arrangements. The fact of the creation of this worm involves the fact of a sphere of life; that is to say, an appropriate place of residence, and adequate means of protection and support. This little animal has not only its assigned place and its means of protection, but it has its rights and claims also in relation to other beings; rights which reach from the dust in which it crawls to the infinite throne, and are as unchangeable as immutable justice. Infinite holiness holds its aegis over this weak creature. Continually the burning eye of Jehovah watches in order to see who invades its sphere, and does it an injury. The protection which is assured to it is not measured by the fact of its strength, but by the fact of its existence. God cannot create a being without, at the same time, pledging his friendship to it. The providence of God, therefore, cannot place a worm by our side without establishing a code of laws between us. The traveller, who sees it crawling in the dust, is obliged to turn aside his foot. The obligation binds the tread of a king as clearly and strongly as the tread of a peasant. He who crushes it without a justifiable cause violates the moral order of things, and tramples on the eternal will of the Creator.

Still more easily is the subject illustrated from other instances, where the rights of human beings are involved. Not far distant from a certain rich man's residence is a very poor family. One of its children has been infirm and helpless from birth; and nothing but the aid of others, more favored in their circumstances, can save it from the greatest suffering. The position of the child, with its wants and sufferings, is a PROVIDENCE. The duty, which devolves upon the rich man to take an interest in its welfare, and to render it aid, is the law of Providence. The law is developed from existing things; but, as the things existing are from God, the law which they disclose and establish is from him also. And he, who will not see a worm trampled upon without displeasure, will never see an injury done to an immortal being with impunity.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 2.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The True Rest

'Tis not in vain the mind,
By many a tempest driven,
Shall seek a resting-place to find,
A calm like that of heaven.

The weak one and dismayed,
Scarce knowing where to flee,
How happy, when he finds the aid,
That comes alone from Thee.

In Thee, O God, is REST;
Rest from the world's desires,
From pride that agitates the breast,
From passion's angry fires.

In Thee is rest from fear,
That brings its strange alarm,
And sorrow, with its rising tear,
Thou hast the power to calm.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Madam Guyon: A Little Bird I Am

Translated from a poem of Madam Guyon, written when she was in prison.

A little bird I  am,
Shut from the fields of air;
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him, who placed me there;
Well pleas'd a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleases Thee.

Nought have I else to do;
I sing the whole day long,
And He, whom most I love to please,
Doth listen to my song;
He caught and bound my wandering wing,
But  still he bends to hear me sing.

Thou hast an ear to hear;
A heart to love and bless;
And, though my notes were e'er so rude,
Thou wouldst not hear the less.
Because Thou knowest, as they fall,
That love, sweet love, inspires them all.
Thou wouldst not hear the less.

My cage confines me round;
Abroad I cannot fly;
But, though my wing is closely bound,
My heart's at liberty.
My prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.

Oh, it is good to soar,
These bolts and bars above,
To  Him, whose purpose I adore;
Whose providence I love;
And in Thy mighty will to find
The joy, the freedom of the mind.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Friday, February 20, 2015

One Great Consideration

Amid all the trials of life, amid the rebukes, calumnies, and persecutions of evil men, in seasons when Satan seems to triumph, there is one great consideration which ought to tranquilize and elevate the Christian mind; and that is, that God, who sees the end from the beginning, will glorify himself, and will make even the wrath of his enemies to praise him.

Religious Maxims (1846) CVIII.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

All of God and Nothing of the Creature

There is a remarkable expression of the Savior, and worthy of serious consideration, vis: "I can of mine own self do  nothing." John v. 30. Hence the voice from heaven recognizing the paternal care over him, and saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Hence the interesting statement, that Jesus, who had his weeping infancy and his helpless childhood, "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Hence the Savior's disposition to go apart into gardens and forests and mountains, that he might hold communion with God in prayer. Hence, in the mount of transfiguration, the appearance of Moses and Elias, who "spake of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem." Hence the appearance and the ministration of angels who appeared to him and administered to him after the temptation in the wilderness and in the agony of the garden. But if the Savior, in his human nature, was thus dependent on the Father, deriving all things from him and able to do nothing of himself, who among his followers can hesitate for a moment to acknowledge his own littleness and dependence? Who can doubt, that, whatever religious light and strength he has, comes from God? Who will not rejoice in the "All of God and nothing of the creature?"

Religious Maxims (1846) CVII.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Holiness is Power

If, as the wise men of the world assure us, "knowledge is power," the Christian can assert with still greater truth, that  holiness is power. But holiness wins its victories, not by the accessory aids of cunning devices and of artificial eloquence; but by its own intrinsic excellence. It is gentle in its language, and mild in its gesticulation; but the energy of the great God is heard with transcendent efficacy in its still small voice.

Religious Maxims (1846) CVI.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

To Freedom From the Earliest Days

To freedom from the earliest days,
The soul of poetry has given
The tribute of its mighty lays,
A note, that had its breath from heaven.

Nations have started at its call;
And not a heart and not a hand
Was absent from the living wall
That rose around the bleeding land.

And yet, which gives the greatest pain?
The links the outward man that bind?
Or  that unseen but galling chain,
Which subjugates the sinful mind?

Oh Sinner! If there's truth and power
In all that calls us to be free,
Awake! 'Tis now the day, the hour!
Arise, assert thy liberty!

American Cottage Life (1850).

Monday, February 16, 2015

Quietness of Spirit Reflected in the Life

When from the heart its ills are driven,
And God restor'd, resumes control,
The outward life becomes a heaven,
As bright as that within the soul.

Where once was pride and stern disdain,
And acts expressing fierce desire;
The eye, that closest looks, in vain
Shall seek the trace of nature's fire.

No flame of earth, no passion now,
Has left its scorching mark behind;
But lip, and cheek, and radiant brow,
Reflect the brightness of the mind.

For where should be the signs of sin,
When sin itself has left the breast;
When God alone is Lord within,
And perfect faith gives perfect rest.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Irregular Desires Bring Misery

We should guard against irregular desires not only because they imply guilt, but because they tend to render one miserable. The laws of the mind are such, that irregular and inordinate desires can never be fully and permanently gratified. If they meet with a present gratification, they always lay the foundation for their own re-existence in the shape of subsequent and still stronger desires, which will fail of being gratified. A mind, which is under the dominion of such urgent but ungratified desires, can never be at rest, can never be happy. It is inwardly goaded onward, without the possibility of consolation and peace.

And it is in this manner, that Satan, impelled by desires which aim at supreme dominion without the possibility of ever being satisfied, is consumed inwardly and forever by a flame, that can never be extinguished. This, it is true, is not the only source of his misery: but it is a principal one. Desires, therefore, conform in this respect to the universal law, viz. that guilt always brings misery. Have we not, then, sufficient reason for saying, that all irregular and inordinate desires should be especially guarded against?

All irregular and unsanctified desires stand directly in the way of the operations of the Spirit of God upon the soul; the obstacle they present being in proportion to the strength of the desire. God in the person of the Holy Ghost would immediately set up his dominion in all hearts, were it not for the obstacle presented by desires. God loves his creatures. And he wants nothing of us, but that we should remove the obstacles which shut him out of our hearts. It is self evident that desires and purposes of our own, in distinction from God's desires and purposes, inasmuch as they are not in the position of obedience and are not in the line of God's inward movements, are incompatible with his dominion in the soul. If, therefore, we would be without guilt and misery, if we would enjoy renovation and liberty of spirit, and would have God enthroned in our hearts as our king and sovereign, we must cease from desires. That is to say, we must cease from natural or unsanctified desires. We must desire nothing, on the one hand, out of the will of God; and must refuse nothing on the other, that happens to us in conformity to his will. And it is thus and thus only, that God can become to us an indwelling and paramount principle of life and action. Our All in All.

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Danger of Unrestrained Desires

If it  is our purpose to devote ourselves to the Lord without reserve, it is important that we should look seriously and closely into the nature and degree of our Desires. It is true, desires are an essential part of our nature. As natural principles, such as the desire of life, the desire of food, the desire of knowledge, the desire of society, they have their place, their laws, their uses. But the difficulty is, that in the natural man, and also in the partially sanctified man, they are not adequately superintended and controlled by the principle of divine love. They multiply themselves beyond due limits; they are often self-interested, inordinate, and evil. So much so as sometimes to bring the whole man into subjection. Desires thus inordinate and selfish, which are characterized, among other things, by the fatal trait of inward agitation and restlessness, cannot be too much guarded against.

Unrestrained desires always imply guilt.— The man, whose desires are unrestrained, is a man, that chooses to have his own way, lives his own life, operates upon his own stock; and, in a word, claims to be a God in his own right. It is obvious, that under a divine government there can be no virtue without subordination. The moment, therefore, that the desire, which is inherent in any creature, gets the ascendency and violates the law of obedience to the Supreme Ruler, that moment he is no longer the same being; but has undergone a change, as fatal as it is sudden, from truth to falsehood and from honor to guilt. How important is it, then, that the natural desires should be checked and subdued; and that they should be subdued to that point, where they shall be practically lost in the one preeminent and gracious desire, of knowing and doing the will of God.

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Justification and Sanctification Distinguished (Part 3)

We propose to delay a few moments for the purpose of considering the relation between Sanctification and Justification. 

The distinction is evidently made in the Scriptures. The passages of Scripture where it is clearly recognized are so numerous, and so familiar to attentive readers of the Bible, that it seems to be hardly necessary to quote them at any great length. — "And the very God of peace," says the apostle, I Thess. v.  23, "sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." And again, 8 Cor. vii. 1, "Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."  It  is very evident from the general tenor of the apostle's communications to them, that these exhortations were addressed to those whom he regarded, and had reason to regard, as justified persons. He felt, nevertheless, although they were justified, although their past sins were blotted out, that there was much remaining to be done in the matter of their present and prospective sanctification. Hence his exhortations to preserve their bodies blameless, to cleanse themselves, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God; which would have been unnecessary, if he had considered the work of sanctification as absolutely and necessarily involved in that of justification. There are, also, a number of passages, different in their import from those which have been particularly referred to, which seem to involve the distinction in question. Those, in which persons are spoken of as disciples or believers, but without having received the gift of the Holy Ghost, such as John 7. 39, Acts, 8. 15-17 Acts 19. 1, 2.

The distinction, which is made in the Scriptures between the two, is regarded so obvious and incontrovertible by most writers, that it has naturally passed, as an established truth, into treatises on theology. It is also recognized almost constantly in sermons, and in religious exhortations and conversation. There is, perhaps, as much unanimity among religious men on this subject as on almost any subject of theological inquiry. And the attempt to confound justification and sanctification together, which has been made from time to time, would necessarily tend, if it were successful, to perplex and confuse the established forms of speech among men, as well as the authorized and scriptural modes of religious thought.

Although these two states of religious experience are distinct from each other, they nevertheless may be regarded as having something in common, which establishes an intimate relationship between them. This fact has already been alluded to. In both cases, in sanctification as well as in justification, we ultimately receive every thing from Christ. And we are obliged, also, in both cases, to receive it in that meek and submissive spirit which recognizes our own unworthiness and nothingness. Every thing is received, also, through the same channel, viz., by faith. We may say, further, that there can be no such thing as sanctification without antecedent justification. The latter may be considered as the commencement or first coming of that hidden life in the soul, which is completed in the former. We are not to suppose, however, because there are some things common to justification and sanctification, and because they are in some respects closely related, that they are, therefore, the same thing. This would be a very unsafe mode of argument. There are some things common to memory and reasoning, and yet memory and reasoning are distinct. There are some things common to reasoning and imagination, and yet there can be no doubt that they are very  dis­tinct departments of the mind. There is a close connection between liberty and power; for instance, where there is no power there can be no liberty; yet they ought not to be confounded together. There are some things common to faith and love, or which connect them together in some way, (such as that they are both the gift of God, and that faith acts by love,) and yet all agree that they cannot be considered as identical; and thus justification and sanctification, although they are closely connected, are nevertheless two things, and the distinction between them is a very important one.

Let us, therefore, who humbly hope that we are justified by the blood of Christ, seek also to be sanctified. Let it not be sufficient for us that our sins have been forgiven; but let us strive to gain the victory over sin, and to exclude it from the heart in all future time. Well may we exclaim, in the gratitude of our hearts, praise be for that grace which sanctifies, as well as for that which justifies; for that which keeps the heart clean in time to come, as well as for that which washes away the stains of the past.  It is holiness which adds its highest value and its transcendent beauty to forgiveness.

"O for a heart to praise my God,
A heart from sin set free!
A heart that alway feels thy blood,
So freely spilt for me.
A heart in every thought renewed,
And full of love divine;
Perfect and right, and pure and good
A copy, Lord, of thine."

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844), Part 2, Chapter 1.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Justification and Sanctification Distinguished (Part 2)

We propose to delay a few moments for the purpose of considering the relation between Sanctification and Justification.

There is... a distinction when the matter is considered in reference to Christ. Christ is our justification, considered as hanging upon the cross, and enduring the penalty of the law for us. In other words, Christ is our justification by standing in our stead, and by receiving in his own person the stripes and chastisement, by which those who have sinned are healed. Christ is our sanctification, (that is, the cause or ground of our sanctification,) considered as operating and living in us by the present and efficacious influences of the Holy Spirit, which he has purchased by his blood. In both cases, Christ is the ground or efficacious cause of the result; and in both cases, also, there is something done inwardly as well as outwardly. But it is nevertheless true, that in justification the work, which is done. is done in a peculiar sense exteriorly, or FOR men; while the work of sanctification is done, in an equally peculiar and emphatic sense, interiorly, or  WITHIN  them.

Another mark of distinction is, that sanctification is regarded, and very properly regarded, as an evidence of justification. They have not only the relation of antecedence and sequence in the order of time, but the additional and incidental relation of fact and evidence.  In other words, the sanctification of a person holds the relation of evidence or proof to the alleged fact of his being justified. That there is good foundation for this view, additional to its innate reasonableness, seems to be evident from the repeated instructions of the Savior, that men are known by their fruits. And certainly, we may most reasonably expect, that he, who has been justified, will aim to bear the fruits of a holy life. Having been instructed by the Holy Spirit in the nature and tendencies of sin, and having found in the Gospel that redemption which he could find no where else, how is it possible that he should again sin against God? Hence it is that he seeks for sanctifying grace, and endeavors to purify himself from every form of iniquity. And it is a matter of common and agreed opinion, that he, who is careless in respect to sanctification, has no satisfactory evidence that he is truly justified.

Justification, when it has taken effect, is a thing which is done or completed; at least in such a sense as to exclude the idea of its being a progressive work. As we have already stated, it looks only to the past; but in its relation to the past it is complete. The result of its application, in any given case, is, that the multiplied sins, which have been committed in former times, are blotted out. If we sin at the  present moment, and justification is immediately applied, it is still true, that the sin, in the order of nature and in reference to the time of justification, however closely the justification may follow the sinful act, is a past sin. Justification must necessarily be subsequent, and consequently the sin, relatively to the time of justification, must necessarily be past, even in those cases in which, in common parlance, we speak of the sin as a present  sin. The work of justification, therefore, when it has once taken place, is a thing complete in itself, and is not in its own nature susceptible of progress, although it  may be necessary to have it repeated in every succeeding moment.

Sanctification, on the other hand, is a thing which is indwelling, permanent, and always progressive.  It is not only progressive, until all the evils of the heart are subdued, but even when it is in some degree complete, so much so as to occupy the whole extent of our being, and to substitute in the heart everywhere good for evil, it is still progressive in DEGREE. So that in those cases where we speak of sanctification as entire, it is still true that its entireness is not such as to exclude progress. There will never be a period, either in time or eternity, when there may not be an increase of holy love.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 1.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Justification and Sanctification Distinguished (Part 1)

We propose to delay a few moments for the purpose of considering the relation between Sanctification and Justification.

Among other grounds of distinction between the two, it may be remarked that justification, while it does not exclude the present, has special reference to the past, and does not appear to have that prospective bearing which sanctification has. Sanctification, on the contrary, starting on the basis of justification, and regarding the past as cancelled and settled in the justificatory application of the Atonement, has practically an exclusive reference to the present and future.  Justification inquires, How shall the sin which is past be forgiven? Sanctification inquires, How shall we be kept from sin in time to come? Considered, therefore, in their relation to time, there is good reason for saying that they ought not to be confounded together.

Another mark of difference is this. Justification, in its result upon individuals, removes the condemnatory power or guilt of sin; while sanctification removes the power of sin itself.  He, who is justified, no longer stands in a state of condemnation, in relation to all those past sins, from which he is justified; but he that is sanctified, just in proportion that he is so, is freed from the influence of that which brings condemnation, viz. sin itself. Or the distinction may be concisely expressed in other terms, amounting essentially to the same thing, as follows. The object of justification, considered in reference to the, law, is to free us from condemnation. The object of sanctification, considered in reference to the law, is to secure conformity to it.

Justification and sanctification are distinct, also, when considered in the order in which they present themselves, as subjects of thought and interest, to the human mind. It is very obvious that, in the first instance, they present themselves consecutively and separately, and not simultaneously and identically. It is not the first cry of the sinner, that he may be sanctified, but  that  he may be forgiven. It is his past sins which stare him in the face. It is his past sins which must be washed away. And until this is done, and at the feet of Jesus he has received the remission of his transgressions, he has no other desire, no other thought. But  when he has experienced a release from the bitter memory of the past, and has felt the rising hope of forgiveness, and not till then, is his mind occupied with the distinct subject of the reality, the obligation, and the blessedness of a holy heart, in all time to come.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844), Part 2, Chapter 1.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Distinction Between Justification and Sanctification

The life of faith and love, when introduced into the heart, is not inoperative. Its introduction there is the signal for an inward war, because it meets with an antagonistical life, the corrupt life of nature. The two have nothing in common; and, therefore, they cannot be in each other's presence without a conflict. But before entering into the particulars of this inward struggle, which, if the soul becomes truly sanctified, must necessarily result in the death of nature.

We propose to delay a few moments for the purpose of considering the relation between Sanctification and Justification.

Justification and sanctification, it is generally conceded, are different from each other; and yet it is well known that they have sometimes been confounded by writers who have bestowed some examination upon them, as if they were one and the same thing. Nor is it altogether surprising that this should be the case, when we consider that there is one leading idea which is common to both; we mean the idea or principle of entire submission. In both cases, impressed with a sense of our own unworthiness and nothingness, we must be sincerely willing, in the spirit of entire submissiveness, to receive all from God; and must receive it also instrumentally in the same way, viz., by faith.  Nevertheless, there are some important points of distinction in the two things, which are inconsistent with their being regarded as truly identical. And we may add, it is very important, for various reasons, both theological and practical, that the distinction should be generally understood and maintained. If the idea should become prevalent that justification and sanctification are the same thing, it would involve the subject of sanctification and perhaps that of justification in much confusion. It would be necessary that new ideas should be established, and that new forms of speech should be introduced; and one unhappy consequence, among others, would be, that some, who are seeking the blessing of holiness, would become perplexed and discouraged.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844), Part 2, Chapter 1.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Triumph in Death

On earth when the journey allotted us closes,
When the hour and the moment of parting are near,
If a gleam on that parting of mercy reposes,
Oh wish not, oh, think not, to fasten us here.

'Tis true, there is strength in the ties which endear us,
And bind us so closely to things here below;
But bright is the land where no sin can come near us,
And bliss is disturbed by no moments of woe.

Then joy to the soul, that is ripe for ascending,
And breathe not a sigh that shall tempt it to stay,
When angels in triumph its flight are attending,
And Bethlehem's star is the light of its way.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Friday, February 6, 2015

Evidences of an Overruling Providence

To the eye of a disciplined and comprehensive faith, the footsteps of God, as they are left in the great pathway of nations, are as plain as if they were impressed and written there in letters of light. God is to be found in the dust of Nineveh and the ruins of Thebes. If he raised them to mighty power, he also, in the day of his righteous retribution, clothed them in sackcloth, and made them desolate. It was God who planted the Israelites in Egypt in the condition of slavery, and who afterwards employed them in the punishment of their masters, and then led them to the overthrow of the corrupt nations of Palestine. The Israelites themselves had their day of progress and decline, according as they walked in God's ways, or were disobedient. It was God, making the crime of human ambition the blind but effective instrument in fulfilling his own mighty purposes, who called the Assyrians from the banks of the Euphrates to the overthrow of the Israelites The Assyrians, in their turn, with Babylon, their immense city, fell under the arm of the destroyer. God found an instrument of his mighty purposes where none was supposed to exist. He raised up the Persian Cyrus, and called him by name many years before his birth, and said, "I will go before thee." And again, "I am the Lord, and there is none else; there is no God besides me. I girded thee, though thou hast not known me." — Isa. 45: 8.

The contemplative mind will see, in the history of all nations, not excepting those of modern times, the evidences of an overruling Providence. They stand or fall as  they stand in or out of God. When nations have obeyed him, they have lived. When they have forgotten him, they have been destroyed. To forget God is to sin. And all sin has in itself an element of self-destruction. It is internal disorganization and weakness as well as immorality. And it is not in the power of God, while it continues sin, and is thus placed out of the reach of his protection, to save it either from decay or sorrow. With no divine arm under it, it is prostrated by its own recumbence. But as it lies scattered and decayed in the ashes of successive generations, it shows the burning footprints of the divine displeasure.

Such is the true idea of Divine Providence; extending to all things which exist, to things animate and inanimate, organized and unorganized, to plants, and trees, and animals, to men, to families, to nations; wide as the universe, sleepless as the divine omniscience, effective as the supreme power; always holding in respect, however, the moral freedom of all moral agents, and inviting, without forcibly compelling, them to accept that daily bread of superintendence and love which is the true element of everlasting life.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 1.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Judge and Father of the Nations

God, in the exercise of his providential care, is the Judge and Father also of great commonwealths. The idea that God should be united to man as an individual, and in his relation to families, but forgetful of and alien to those bodies of men which are denominated civil societies, — governing the one, and leaving the other without government,— would be exceedingly absurd. If he cannot abandon a man, nor the hair of a man's head, how can he abandon a nation or any part of a nation's interests? It is an obvious dictate of reason, therefore, that he who is watchful over the less, will be careful of the greater; that he, who watches over the members of the body, will take care of the whole body, if he has the power and qualification to do so; and that he, who is the head of the citizen, a fortiori if his capacity equals the impulses of his benevolence, will be the head of the state.

And it is certain that what is reasonable in this case is also scriptural. The Bible everywhere represents God as the God of nations. How often is it said, in Daniel, in Job, in the Psalms, and everywhere, that "the kingdom is the Lord's;" that "He is Governor among the nations;" that He "removes and sets up kings!" What was the language which David used in his great contest with the Philistine chief, — young as he was, and just come from the flocks and the pastures of Bethlehem? "Thou comest to me," said David, "with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come unto thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the  Lord  deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee. And I will give the carcasses of the hosts of the Philistines unto the fowls of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear, for  the battle is the Lords, and He will give you into our hands.”

What was the declaration of the Spirit of the Lord, by the mouth of his prophet, to Jehoshaphat, king of Judah? "Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Ye shall not need to fight in this battle; set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you. O Judah and Jerusalem fear not, nor be dismayed; to-morrow go out against them, for the Lord will be with you.” And  it is added, after some account of the great victory which the Lord gave: "So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet; for his God gave him rest round about."  [2nd Chron., chapter 20.]

A Treatise on Divine Union Part 6, Chapter 1.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

God's Care for Every Person

It is interesting to see how many passages there are in the Scriptures which speak of God's protection of animals, even of those which are the least considerable. He  takes care of the cattle of the fields; he feeds the young lions; he plants the cedars where the birds build their nests. "Behold the fowls of the air," says the Saviour, "for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them." It is not possible that he should take less care of man. Of all the existences on the earth, man stands the first, and God loves him most.

The Savior adds, for the comfort of those who heard him when speaking of God's care of the birds, "Are ye not much better than they?” As much as if he had said, the God who provides for them cannot fail to provide for you, who are so much more important in his estimation. And, in another passage, he says, "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."

Truly here is a great truth, worthy of our constant contemplation. Around every individual, no matter what may be his situation, is thrown the shield of the divine presence, love, and care. Every individual can say of himself, God is with me.  He is not a God afar off. He knoweth my down-sitting and up-rising, my going out and my coming in. He not only knows, but he orders events concerning me.

Nor is there any limit to the divine presence and operation, except that which is interposed by unbelief. God will do all, operating in entire harmony with the laws of our mental constitution, if we only have faith enough to leave ourselves entirely in his hands, and let him do all. He will not, in the present state of things, so interpose and extend his own action as to prevent the concurrence of ours. But, nevertheless, he will unite the two in such a manner that we shall recognize every good thing as coming from him. In reference to the daily support received from him, we shall be ready to say, with an eminent English writer, who had passed through many vicissitudes and trials, "I have been fed more by miracle than Elijah when the angels were his purveyors." [Daniel Defoe.]

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 1.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Practical Atheism of Our Age

It is the rejection of the doctrine of providence, considered as entering into particulars, which constitutes one of the great evils, the practical atheism, perhaps we may call it, of the age in which we live. It is true, undoubtedly, that men, with but few exceptions, admit the existence of a God; but they do not admit, except in a very mitigated and imperfect sense, his presence and supervision. They allow him a being, but they practically strike off its infinity, by assigning him a distant and strictly bounded locality. They allow him the privilege of casting a look down upon the world's affairs; but cannot bear the thought that the world does not and cannot go on without him. Here, then, is one of the great evils of the day, one of the secrets of our misery; the acknowledgment of God's existence, with the excision of his practical omnipresence; the recognition of God in general, but the rejection of him as God in particular.

One would be almost inclined to think that heathen nations are less faulty in this particular than those which bear the name of Christians. The untutored savage

“Sees God in clouds, and hears him in the wind."

Because an advanced knowledge in the sciences has explained many physical laws, men have fallen into the habit of ascribing to law what belongs to agency. And by thus attributing almost everything to what they denominate the laws of Nature, they forget the God of Nature. The mind of the savage, on the contrary, contemplating the result without understanding the law by which it is brought about, sees God in all the objects around him. It is God, dwelling in the cave of its fountain waters, who pours down the mighty rivers. It is the Great Spirit that sends the storm and the lightning from the mountain tops. It is God that shines in the sun, and walks in the clouds, and dwells even in four-footed beasts and creeping things. Here is a great truth, founded in the nature of God, although it is perverted and darkened in its development by the imperfection of fallen hearts. It is a truth, therefore, which ought to be respected. And the question may be put in all sincerity: — Who would not rather be the superstitious savage than the unbelieving philosopher?

It is certainly necessary that science, bewildered in its own wanderings, should return at last, and baptize itself in the truth of the Scriptures: those Scriptures which constantly associate God with all his works. The beautiful Psalms, unequaled in poetry as they are in devotion, may be said to be built upon this great idea, which is equally philosophical and religious. Speaking of God, the Psalmist says, “He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. He watered the hills from his chambers. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man. He hath planted the cedars of Lebanon, where the birds build their nests. He appointeth the moon for seasons and the sun knoweth his going down, Thou makest darkness, and it is night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.” [Psalm 104: 10, 20.]

This is the spirit which pervades these divine poems They everywhere represent the union of God with his works by an ever-present supervision and love. It is not a system of second causes, it is not nature, but God, who does all. It is God "who covers the heavens with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry." [Psalm 147: 8, 9]

The same spirit, the same devout disposition to recognize God in everything, pervades all parts of the Scriptures.

A Treatise on Divine Union Part 6, Chapter 1.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Doctrine of Divine Providence

THE  word providence is derived from the Latin term PROVIDENTIA, meaning watchfulness, care, oversight.  As the  term is commonly employed, it means the constant oversight or care which God exercises over all his works. Says a judicious writer:

The doctrine of divine providence is of the very first importance, and contributes greatly to the peace and happiness of human life. Were it not that God maintained a constant and watchful care over all his works, all piety would immediately cease. A God who did not concern himself in the affairs of the world, and especially in the actions of men, would be to us as good as none at all. In that case,  should men live in a virtuous and pious manner, they would have no approbation to expect from him. Should they be guilty of crimes, they would have no punishment to fear. Were they persecuted, they would think of God only as the idle witness of their wrongs. Were they in circumstances of suffering and sorrow, they could find no consolation if God were unmindful of them. 
— Lectures on Christian Theology, by George Christian Knapp.

In  considering this important and interesting subject, it is proper to notice the distinction which is frequently made between a particular and general providence. It is certainly doubtful whether such a distinction ought to be made; — especially if the doctrine of a general providence is designed to supersede that of a particular providence. How can we readily conceive of a general providence, extending its watchfulness over things in their general aspects, which does not involve the fact of a particular providence, extending its watchfulness at the same time to those particulars, out of which that which is general is constituted? If there is a God, to whom the attributes usually ascribed to God belong, there is and must be a providence of God. If there is a providence of God extending with any degree of certainty, and with any good results, to things in their general nature, it extends to everything. We do not propose, however, to enter into an argument in support of a view which seems to us to be obvious of itself.

A Treatise on Divine Union Part 5, Chapter 8.