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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How Selfishness Corrupts Even the Gifts of God

It is difficult to express and even to conceive of the subtleties and insinuations of selfishness.  It enters every path. It lurks in every secret place. And wherever it finds its way, it pollutes, poisons, and destroys. It sometimes attaches itself, by a process almost imperceptible, to God's most valuable gifts and graces; those which are spiritual, as well as those which are natural. An individual, for instance, is possessed of great natural ability. This ability is a gift of God. But how often it is, that the possessor, thinking but little of the great Author of the gift, regards it as something peculiarly his own, and instead of seeing God in it, sees only himself. Almost unconsciously to himself, and greatly to his spiritual injury, he is experiencing a secret elevation of spirit, and is taking a hidden complacency in an intellectual possession, which, when properly considered, should have increasingly detached him from self, and led him nearer to his Maker.

But what is surprising and almost inexplicable, there is danger of the same insinuating and infectious influence, attaching itself even to the spiritual gifts of God. It is an important fact, on whatever principles it may be explained, that the possession of holiness does not exclude the liability to an opposite state. Satan, when expelled from the heart, will endeavor to find the means of returning; and nothing can prevent it but the closest and most constant circumspection, aided by the grace of God. "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."

A man, for instance, is endowed, through the operations of the Holy Spirit, with the invaluable grace of  HUMILITY. He  ascribes nothing to himself. He  takes a low place; and he feels that he ought to take a low place before God. But before he is aware of it, unless he is constantly on his watch, self-love is secretly winding itself about this ennobling Christian affection, and endeavoring to extract some personal merit out of it. There is a secret and almost imperceptible feeling, (for in this matter Satan is careful not to show himself too prominently,) not only that his humility is some evidence in his favor, but that his humility itself is worth something.

Again, how often it is that the man, who possesses true Christian benevolence, is assailed in the same insidious way! There is no question that he is truly benevolent, and benevolent too on the highest christian principles; but after a time he begins, almost unconsciously to himself, to poison this eminent Christian grace by an infusion of self-congratulation. Even the missionary of the Cross, as he toils beneath the frozen skies of Greenland or amid the burning sands of Africa, finds the secret but deceptive suggestion springing up, he hardly knows whence or how, that his life of toil and suffering has some little merit, which he can call his own.

The soul, charmed by some soothing and insidious whispers, begins to lull itself to rest and to repose upon the couch of its own virtues, its humility, its gratitude, its inviolable veracity, its benevolence, or some other moral and christian grace, instead of resting exclusively upon the merits of Christ, and ascribing its gifts and graces to the mere mercy of God.

These views will apply essentially, among other things, to joyous states of mind. The Scriptures abundantly assure us, that there is such a state of mind as holy joy. But true joy, "the joy of the Holy Ghost," flows up and refreshes the inward heart as a pure fountain, only so long as the soul is fixed upon God, as the center of its thought and of its undivided affection. As soon as we begin to think how happy we are, and to dwell upon and to please ourselves with the thought, the joy itself becomes an offense, and diffuses a secret, but destructive influence through the inward life. To be happy in our own happiness, instead of being happy in God, is to drink from a cistern of our own construction, "a broken cistern which can hold no water."

And it is in connection with such views and facts, that Fenelon has very correctly said, that "the most eminent graces are the most deadly poisons, if we rest in them and regard them with complacency." "It is the sin" he adds "of the fallen angels; they only turned to themselves, and regarded with complacency their state; at that instant they fell from heaven and became the enemies of God."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (Second Edition 1844) Part 2, Chapter 11.

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