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.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Self Love and the Desire for God's Glory

But whatever love we may be permitted to exercise for ourselves or our fellow-men, the obligation still remains of loving God, as the Scripture expresses it, with "all our soul and heart and mind and strength." It seems to be generally agreed, that nothing short of the power of our whole being will satisfy the obligations and claims of divine love. And here it becomes necessary to consider briefly the relation, which self-love or the desire of our own happiness sustains to the desire of God's glory, and the consistency of the one with the other. This is a topic of no small importance; and perhaps it may be added, that it can hardly be supposed to be easily understood, without the aid of some degree of personal experience.

The doctrine on this subject, which seems to us to be a correct one, is this. The desire of our personal happiness, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may take a religious direction, and may operate beneficially. But it will always be found true, in point of fact, that, as we advance in religious experience, the desire of our own happiness will gradually diminish and will finally become evanescent and practically extinct, under the continually increasing influence of the desire of God' s glory.

To state it more particularly and definitely, the process seems to be this. When we first begin the search after God, we are influenced, in a considerable degree, by the consideration of personal happiness. This is a movement, which is in accordance with the principles of our mental constitution; and though exceedingly inferior in kind to that which subsequently takes place, is not in itself wrong. But as God, in condescension to our poor and imperfect manner of seeking him, gradually unveils his nature, we begin to love him and seek him for himself. And as the divine glory from time to time reveals itself more and more, so in that proportion does the external or objective motive, viz. that of the divine glory, expand itself, and approaching inwardly, begin to occupy the whole mind; while the internal or subjective motive, viz. that of our personal happiness, contracts and recedes. In other words, just in proportion as there is an entrance of God into the soul, there is a retrocession of SELF, using the term self in a subordinate and good sense. There is thus a loss of the one, and a realization of the other; or perhaps we may say, a gradual transition of the human into the divine. The principle under consideration, therefore, is not condemned; but may rather be said to have fallen into desuetude. It is not rejected as criminal; but has become practically extinct, on the ground of having fulfilled its destiny. The higher motive of God's glory has absorbed the less. So that when a person, in the progress of inward growth, arrives at the position of a complete or perfected love, (which is the true position at which every Christian should aim, and is the true place of the soul's permanent rest,) the soul knows its happiness no more but as merged in the divine happiness; it knows its will no more but as encircled and lost in the divine will, and it may even be said, in a mitigated sense of the terms, to know itself no more, but as existent in God. "God is love. And he, that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God; and God in him."

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 5.

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