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.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Crucifying Reliance on Religious Feelings

We must separate ourselves altogether from any reliance upon religious feelings of any kind, considered as a ground of hope and salvation. We know well, that there can be no religion without religious feelings. No man is, or, can be, a Christian without them. They are indispensable. But what we think it necessary to object to and to condemn, is a disposition, which sometimes exists, to trust in our feelings, and to make a sort of idol of them, instead of trusting in Christ. A man, for instance, has experienced at a particular time great sorrow for sin, or high emotions of gratitude, or is sunk in depths of humility. If, at some time after, his mind reverts to those feelings and dwells much upon them; and in such a manner that he begins to place a degree of trust and confidence in them, instead of placing his trust in the Savior, it must necessarily be to his great injury. It is not our feelings, but  CHRIST, that  saves us. If we look to our feelings for salvation, instead of looking to Christ, we necessarily miss our object. And in accordance with this view, we sometimes find persons, who are continually examining and reexamining and poring over their past experience; but who are generally in much darkness of mind. Probably, without being fully aware of it, they are secretly looking for something in the history of their past feelings which they can place their trust in, instead of turning away from themselves, which would be much better, and looking directly upward to a sufficient and present Redeemer.

This distinction is a real one, viz. between trusting in our feelings and trusting in the Savior, though not very obvious at first, and is highly important in its connection with the religious life. It seems to me, that religious feelings are valuable, and can be valuable, only as they tend, in their ultimate result, to unite us more and more closely to the Divine Mind. If, therefore, we are so unwise as to stop and to rest in our feelings as the ground of our hope, and especially if we take a degree of complacency in them, in themselves considered, or because they may properly be regarded as our own feelings, we not only stop short of God, to whom they should lead us; but pervert them, valuable as they are in their proper exercise and relations, to our own exceeding detriment.

We come to the conclusion, therefore, and repeat again, that we should not place any reliance upon our feelings, in themselves considered, as a ground of acceptance with God; and also that we should not, in any point of view, take any unduly interested and selfish complacency in them. We must banish and crucify this form of idolatry also, which is none the less dangerous for being so interior and secret. If, in the exercise of naked faith, we will turn our eyes to God and to his glory rather than to ourselves, we shall soon experience a divine reaction in the soul itself. And shall find, that God, who is faithful to his promise, will abundantly take care of us both without and within. We shall then have both the right degree and the right kind of feelings. We shall have no idols, but we shall have God; and we shall have no feelings that are appropriate to idols, but shall have the feelings which are appropriate to God. And in accordance with this view, and in point of fact, it will be found that of two Christians, the one, who is the most penitent, the most humble, the most grateful, the most devoted in his love, will think the least of those particular exercises. His mind will be, as it were out of himself. You will see him living religion, and not merely talking or thinking about religion. Such a person will hardly be conscious of his feelings, considered as objects of distinct contemplation and thought: and will know them chiefly in the blessed result of increased oneness with his heavenly Father. He is not destitute of feeling; but his feeling is, if we may so express it, not so much to dwell upon feeling and to trouble himself about feeling, as to lose himself in the will of God. Another mind, viz. "the mind of Christ," may be said to have taken inward possession; and so close is the union, which has now been formed between himself and God, that he finds himself perplexed and at a loss to discover the nature and operations of what he was formerly wont to call his own mind. His state corresponds in a great degree, and perhaps precisely, to what is implied, in the expressions of the Apostle, when he says, Gal. 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; YET NOT I, BUT CHRIST LIVETH IN ME.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 10.

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