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, March 31, 2015

The Only Place of Safety

The position of Providence is the only place of safety. It is not safe for man, in violation of God's arrangements, to move beyond the line which God has marked out for him. It is not safe for him to have the smallest desire to go beyond it, or even to cast a look beyond it. Beyond this high and real barrier, — real though erected by an unseen hand and invisible to the outward sight, — there are temporal and, perhaps, spiritual riches, which are not ours, and which we are not allowed to reach after. The wealth which is beyond that line is destined for the possession of others. The crown of earthly honors which shines beyond that limit is not destined for our heads. Public religious instructions, no matter how rich and how true, which are given by religious teachers beyond that limit, are designed for others, and not for us. Even the private society of religious persons, however devoted they may be, is interdicted when it can be had only in violation of the divine limits. We must thus sacrifice the richest privileges and gifts, both spiritual and temporal, to the arrangements of Providence, in order that we may retain and enjoy, what is infinitely more valuable, the God of Providence.

Keep with God in God's place, and thou shalt not only find inward riches, but inward and outward safety. The lines drawn around us by the providential law, constitute a "holy city," a "new Jerusalem," to those who dwell in it in faith, and who take God as their everlasting light. To such, contented with their allotment, whatever may be its temporal aspects, God will never fail to yield his presence and protection. "Only believe."

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 4.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Our Only True Home

The enclosure of Providence, the place of his habitation which God has chosen for him, is a man's only true home.  There is no other; there can be no other. Let no sigh arise from his bosom; let no tear escape him, because his dwelling place, rough-hewn, perhaps, and built upon the rocks, is less beautiful than his neighbor's. Of one it can be said, "His lines have fallen to him in pleasant places, and he has a goodly heritage." Of another it can be said, with equal truth, "His house is left to him desolate." Nevertheless, if he stands within the demarcations of Providence, he occupies the place which the highest whom could design for him; he stands in his own true home, and he has no other.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 4.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

God Makes the Arrangements

Men, it is true, are often disposed to quarrel with God's providential arrangements. And the reason is, that the doctrine of providence implies that, in all situations, there is a God above and around us. But, however humbling the doctrine of special providence is to human pride and human reason, the simple and sublime fact still remains. God makes us, and God places us. In the language of Scripture, "A man's heart deviseth his way; But the Lord directeth his steps.”  The hand of a higher power has marked out the lines of our habitation. He builds up one, and casts down another. It does not depend upon man's talents, nor upon his education, nor upon his wealth, nor upon his friends, nor upon anything else that is human, what he shall be, or whether, in the worldly sense of the term, he shall be anything; where he shall go, or whether he shall go anywhere; but upon God alone.

God makes the arrangement; but the disposition with which we shall receive that arrangement, he leaves to ourselves. And let this satisfy us. In every arrangement which he makes, his aim is our highest good; but whether it will result in our highest good, depends upon the spirit in which we accept it. He never violates our moral liberty; and if, in the exercise of that liberty, we put our thoughts and our feelings in his keeping, he will give a heart so correspondent to our habitation, that our cottage will be beautiful in our sight as a palace, and the darkness of our dungeon as bright as the open day.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 4.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Never Move a Step Except By Divine Permission

That divine superintendence, which is denominated Providence, extends not only to every individual, but to all that pertains to every individual; including, among other things, all the various circumstances and situations of his life. Without delaying its operation for a single day, it indicates man's locality in the very beginning of his existence. In combination with the natural or physical law, which is its instrument, it places him in the cradle, under the eye of his father and mother. Helpless, but not unprotected, it is the watchful hand of Providence, using more or less of earthly instrumentality, which feeds him, clothes him, teaches him. It is Providence, also, as he exchanges childhood for youth, and thus gradually enlarges the boundaries of his habitation, which scatters both thorns and flowers in his path; the one to cheer him to activity and duty, and the other to warn him of danger, and to deter him from sin. From the early locality of the cradle and the parental hearth, from the lines drawn around him by the domestic circle where he is first placed, he never moves a step, he never goes, and never can go, rightfully and safely, except by divine permission.

The first position, then, in which man is placed by Him who overrules all things in goodness, is that  of dependence and guardianship within the limits of the family circle. Gradually the hand of Providence opens the door, and he goes out; but it is only into another department, or, perhaps we should say, into another line of demarcation, drawn by One who is invisible. As the child advances to youth, and from youth to manhood, and as he acquires the wisdom of maturer age and the increased strength of virtue, he is invited, under the guidance of that unseen Power, who proportions our trials to our strength, to different and perhaps more responsible scenes and duties. The hand, which at first restricted him to his father's home, and prescribed its limited duties, now points him to a wider sphere of endurance and action, as well as of joy and sorrow. Hidden in the vast and impenetrable future, no one can tell beforehand what that sphere will be. He may be called to labor in the field or the workshop, and, with his shepherd's staff or his plough, he may be either the master or the servant. He may be employed as the humble teacher of children in the elements of knowledge, or may be constituted a lawgiver in the halls of a national legislature. He may be the physician of the sick, and eminent in the gifts of healing, or he may himself be the inmate of a hospital, and be administered to by others, through long years of pain and despondency. To-day he is on a throne, — tomorrow in a prison.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 4.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Remain Where God Has Placed You

It is one of the first principles in the doctrines of holiness, that men should remain patiently and quietly where God has placed them, until they receive from himself the intimations of departure. It was thus that Jesus grew up in the humble retirement of a carpenter's family, a brother among brothers and sisters, obeying his parents in love, eating and drinking at their common table, sympathizing in their joys and sorrows, laboring daily with those who were brought up in the same form of labor, and regarding the yoke of his earthly position as entirely light and easy, because it was the yoke of his heavenly Father's providence. He remained there till that unerring Providence, arranging around him other circumstances, and arousing within him desires corresponding to those circumstances, led him forth from the quiet home of Mary and Joseph, to the trials and duties of a new position, — to persecution and death. How different was his conduct from that of the rebellious and unhappy youth of whom he has given an account in one of his affecting parables! The prodigal son, in the pride of self-wisdom and self-will, demanded his share of his father's goods before the time, which was rapidly drawing nigh, when the arrangements of Providence would have freely offered them. As he went forth in violation of the providential law, which required him to wait till a later period, he went forth without the presence and approbation of the God of providence, and found, in the famine and wretchedness of a distant land, that sure retribution which always follows any movement made in our own strength and choice.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 4.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Humanity Demands a Personal God

Humanity demands a [personal] God who can thus be recognized and worshiped. The instinct of reverence and homage, which evidently pervades the human heart, so much so that it has found its place as an attribute of humanity in all lands and all ages, requires, and cannot be satisfied with anything short of a personal God. In the view of the great masses of men, to deny the personality of God, is, to all practical purposes and results, much the same, as we have already intimated as to deny the existence of God. So that we run no hazard in saying, that a personal God is one of the great religious necessities of humanity. Religion is the interior and domestic tie, which makes the united family of the finite and the Infinite. And without a Being, who is not only supreme in his attributes, but who is approachable, and can be addressed and confided in, on the basis furnished by a deific personality, the human race is necessarily left in the condition of a bewildered and sorrowing orphanage.

And we may add that the opposite doctrine that which denies God’s personality, seems to us to be full of danger in other respects. It is not only the abnegation of religion, but of practical morality. The doctrine of impersonality, admitting that it sometimes comes before us with learned and imposing pretensions, will be found, if allowed to go unquestioned, to be attended not only with the rupture of God and man, but of man and his fellow-man. It is a doctrine which not only strikes boldly at the religious intuitions of the great heart of humanity, but is an inlet, through its want of practical power, to hostility, fraud, cruelty, and all varieties of crime. No theory of practical morals has ever been constructed on the basis of the impersonality of God, which is available against the mighty evils that continually imperil man’s social condition. The audacity of wrong and crime is not frightened by an abstraction. Nor is it much afraid of a positive principle of life, which has no self-regulated thought and volition. If it were possible for impersonality to leave us a God at all, which it is not, it would be a God with no eyes to see, and no ears to hear, and no hands to handle, and no head to think, and no heart to feel, and no will to execute; — a God, if any one should object to the material form of the expressions, with nothing which our spiritual eyes could see, or our spiritual ears could hear, or our hearts’ necessities could appeal to; — a God, in any light in which it is possible to consider him, without a voice to cheer us in our efforts to do right, and without a hand to help us against the dangers which would certainly assail and overwhelm us.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 2.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

God is a Personal Being

God is a personal being. The doctrine that God is an impersonal being, probably owes its origin in part to a mistake in the philosophical elements involved in the doctrine of personality, and in part to the fact, that God is without limits. As we have been in the habit of ascribing personality to beings who, in having form, are subject to the limitations of form, we easily fall into the habit of associating personality with such limitations, and at last are apt to adopt the conclusion, that where there are no limits, no well-defined boundaries of existence constituting a form, there can be no personality. Now it must be admitted, that in the extent or expansion of his being, God is without limits; but it does not at all follow that God, because he transcends the limitations of the human senses, and is not the subject of material measurement or any other measurement, is therefore not a personal God.

The question of personality does not turn upon mere extent or expansion of being, whether physically or even psychically considered, but rather upon the traits or characteristics of being. In considering the subject of God’s personality, it is a proper inquiry, whether he possesses intelligence which is cognizant of the fact of his own existence and power; whether he has the capability of knowing and affirming the fixed relation of himself, both in perception and action, to that interior law of rectitude which is also a part of his being; whether he possesses a volitional power correspondent to the powers of perception and the claims of moral obligation? It is in the answer to such questions as these, that we find the basis of personality considered as a fact or realization. And if the answer is in the affirmative, then God most evidently possesses all the requisites of personality, and stands forth before the universe, not merely as a blind and unintelligent principle of movement, but as a personal God, capable of intelligent design and action, endowed with responsibility both to himself and to all beings that are dependent on him, and entitled, in the case of those who are dependent, to obedience and homage.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 2.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The God of the Bible is a Personal God

Those who are acquainted with the speculations and suggestions on this subject, associated, more or less distinctly with the names of Helvetius, Diderot, Condorcet, D’Alembert, Hume, Gibbon, Fichte, Hegel, Compte, Herbert Spencer, Mills, Strauss, Feuerbach and others, know well how confidently God has been announced as a principle of activity and causation, but without the recognized attribute of a person; in other words as a great spiritual or psychical energy, pervading all things that exist, and holding a fixed and necessary relation to results, but without a distinct and available responsibility, and without even knowing or having any interest in knowing what the results of its own activity shall be. It is painful to know how widely such speculations have affected the thoughts and feelings of men. But this doctrine of God, which analyzed to its results is practically the annihilation of God, is a very different thing from the simple, sublime, and truly philosophic idea of God, which is justly understood as holding a place in the doctrines of Christ.

The God of the Bible, from the earliest to the latest portion of its announcements is a personal God. All that is said of God in that great treasury of thought, including the personal teachings of Christ, with all its affirmations of his eternity and universality, recognizes and emphasizes the great and essential fact of his personality.

And we cannot hesitate in saying, that a true philosophy, when applied to the doctrines of religion... is on the side of the biblical teachings.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 2.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Personality of God

Within a few years no small number of writers of acknowledged learning and ability have greatly disturbed the traditional belief as well as the religious hopes and consolations of a large portion of the Christian world, by affirming and attempting to prove the impersonality of the Divine Being.

It cannot well be doubted, that the personality of God is one of the doctrines contained in the teachings of Christ. It is difficult to see how he could address God as his Father, and in terms implying the greatest veneration and love, without believing in the Personality of God.

When, in the trials and sorrows of the Cross, he prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do;” and when in the final agony of his spirit he said, “my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” it cannot well be supposed that he believed he was praying to an abstraction, or to a spiritual generalization, or a great undefined principle of life, instead of a percipient Being, who in the mental or spiritual sense had ears to hear, and a heart to feel. We cannot doubt, that the careful readers of the New Testament, in view of what is there said having a bearing upon the subject now before us, fully and earnestly accept the idea, as the only one which can be reasonably entertained, that Jesus believed in the divine personality. This wonderful Being [Christ]...  had a heart that worshiped. His intellectual powers, which are sometimes overshadowed and concealed by the manifestations of his great goodness, revealed and identified the object of his worship; and his loving heart, which added emotion to perception, accepted the revelation and yielded its homage. But affirm that God is not a personal being, only an underlying principle or causative force which permeates all existences and develops itself in all the forms of existence, without the intelligence and responsibility which are implied in personality and only by means of fixed and inexorable law, and from that moment it is intuitionally evident, that there is no revelation of an object of worship because no such object exists. And worship itself, which is so obviously one of the leading characteristics of the inward life of Christ, necessarily ceases, because there is no object to which it can attach itself.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 2.

Friday, March 20, 2015

God Exists

God exists. It is true there are said to be Atheists. Perhaps there may be individuals, not very many in number, to whom that name of error and sadness may apply. As long as great perversions of the human mind are possible, varying from the numerous forms of temporary disturbance to partial or total insanity, it is not unphilosophical to suppose that atheism, in the case of a few individuals is a possibility. But I know not that there are atheistic communities or peoples. Humanity, into which we are to search for the development of principles, is represented by masses. The masses of mankind, as they are found associated in large societies and communities, have never rejected the idea of a God. No historian, from the days of Herodotus and Thucydides, has furnished us the records of an atheistic nation. We are justified therefore in taking the position, that the idea of a God belongs to humanity. As a product of intellectualism, it finds its origin in part in processes of reasoning founded on the perceptions, but has a still closer alliance with the intuitions; and the Being whom it reveals commands by a law of our nature, the reverential and loving homage of the heart. So clearly is the doctrine of God’s existence inscribed upon the works of outward nature, as they are interpreted by the human intellect, so strongly is this doctrine affirmed by the interior convictions and intuitions, and so necessary is it in response to the yearnings of the human heart, that I cannot feel the necessity of entering into argument in relation to it. I take it for granted.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 2.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Inward and Outward Christ

The CHRIST WITHIN by works is known,
In deeds of truth and goodness shown;
The Inward life, He outward lives,
And all He hath, to others gives.

Above all thoughts of coward fear,
He goes where pestilence is near;
When griefs assail, when lov'd ones die,
He cheers the heart, He wipes the eye.

His hand doth ope the prison door;
He feeds the hungry, starving poor;
He loves to heal their wounds, and bind
The broken, penitential mind.

He knows no clime, no sect, no name;
All tribes and sect; to Him the same;
The Greek, the Jew, the bond, the free,
Alike receive His sympathy.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXVI.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Don't Indulge the Appetities

We are naturally led to urge upon all persons, who wish to live a life of true holiness, the great importance of living in such a manner, in the exercise and indulgence of the appetites, as to fulfill, and nothing more than fulfill the intentions of nature; or rather the intentions of the wise and benevolent Author of nature. The life of God in the soul has a much closer connection with modes of living, than is generally supposed. If Christians, instead of indulging and pampering the appetite for meats and drinks, would be satisfied with simple nourishment, and with that small quantity, which is adequate to all the purposes of nature, what abundant blessings would infallibly result both to body and mind! Many dark hours, which are now the subject of sad complaints on the part of professed Christians, would be exchanged for bright ones. God would then reveal his face of affectionate love, which it is impossible for him to do to those, who enslave themselves in this manner. — And in relation to any other principles, which properly come under the head of the appetites, beneficial and important as they undoubtedly are in their place, if they could be restrained to the purposes and the limits which their author has assigned, it would certainly make a vast difference in the relative amount of sin and holiness, of suffering and happiness in the world. Christian, think of these things! Ye, who seek the experience, the indispensable and blessed experience, of holiness of heart, earnestly make them the subject of reflection and prayer. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." "Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 3.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sexual Desire

One of the principles, coming under the denomination of the Appetites, is that, which results from the relation of the sexes. A serious mind, certainly, one that is disposed to recognize the benevolent hand of God in all his works, will not be inclined to speak in terms of disparagement of this appetite, which, in an important sense, is the foundation of the family state. But sin, which has spread its poison every where, has converted that, which was designed for good, and nothing but good, into a source of evil. Every desire, founded upon the relation of the sexes, which is not in accordance with the providence and the will of God, leaves a stain upon the mind's purity, and is at war with holiness. But it is necessary merely to allude to the dangers from this source. The holy mind, which appreciates the importance of watchfulness in every direction, will not be inattentive to the perplexities and hazards which exist here. A single emotion, at variance with entire purity of heart, is inconsistent, so long as it exists, with communion with God, and with his favor.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 3.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Indulgence in Food and Drink

A person may become impure, as in point of fact many do become impure, by the inordinate indulgence of the appetite for food and drink. The Savior ate and drank without prejudice to his holiness, because he did so in fulfillment of the laws of nature. The truly devoted followers of the Savior will endeavor to imitate his example in this respect. "I felt no disposition," says the pious Brainerd, "to eat and drink for the sake of the pleasure of it; but only to support my nature, and to fit me for divine service." It may perhaps be properly added, that even heathenism, which thus utters a voice to teach and reprove an imperfect Christianity, can furnish us a lesson on this subject. It is said of Hannibal, the celebrated Carthaginian commander, that in the use of food and drink he consulted merely the real wants of the physical system, without any regard to the suggestions of sensual pleasure. In the language of the Roman historian, "CIBI POTIONISQUE DESIDERIO NATURALI, NON VOLUPTATE, MODUS FINITUS." This fact, among other striking traits of character, is obviously mentioned as a ground of commendation by the historian, who, heathen as he was, as well as the celebrated subject of his remarks, seems to have had a clear perception of the intentions of nature.

Happy would it be, if such views and practices more generally prevailed. But it is a painful truth that multitudes of persons, and some even of those who claim to be the Savior's followers, pollute themselves by taking food, not for the sake of the food and in the fulfillment of the intentions of nature, but for the sake of the pleasure which it gives; making the pleasure the ultimate and oftentimes the sole object. In other words, they eat and drink for their lust's sake. They do not eat and drink, because it is necessary to support nature; an important object, which, when properly kept in view, has a tendency to limit the quality and quantity of the articles taken, but in order that they may gratify their selfish propensities. Such are the persons, that are properly denominated impure;  and they feel themselves to be so. The superabundance of the flesh, nourished by meats and drinks stimulating in their nature, and inordinate in quantity, seems to spread a coat of its dark and unseemly accretion over the mind itself. The amount of impurity, which results from this source, is immense; and will abundantly account for the lamentations of many persons over their spiritual leanness.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 3.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Sense of Inward Degradation

The appetites are good in their appropriate place; but when they are not properly regulated, by being restricted to their appropriate occasions and objects, they are the source of great evil. I believe it is generally admitted, that the undue indulgence of the appetites, the "lower passions," as they are sometimes denominated, is the true source of inward impurity; a state of mind, which it is to be feared most persons know by melancholy experience, better than it can be illustrated by any description. Men speak of the appetites in terms, which obviously indicate their convictions on this subject; they speak of them, whenever they operate out of their appropriate sphere and degree, as low, degrading, and polluting, and compare those, who thus indulge in them, to the swine that wallow in the mire.

There is also something in one's consciousness, which supports this view. When the appetites are entirely subdued and kept in their place, the subject of them, at least so far as the appetites are concerned, feels that he is pure in heart. But when it is otherwise, there is a sense not only of guilt, but of degradation; there is an inward consciousness of what may be termed metaphorically a stain or blot upon the mind. The soul feels itself, in the experience of its own state, to be very different from what it is at other times. The holy soul may be likened to a mirror, into which God may look, and behold the features of his own character reflected. But when it yields itself to the undue influence of the appetites, the mirror becomes stained and darkened, and God is no longer seen in it.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 3.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Great Resting Place

The brooks rush downward to the sea,
Arising far in cliffs and mountains;
But mingling soon in unity,
They make great streams from little fountains.

And then the streams, without delay,
Still to the sea's great bosom tending,
Roll proudly on their Winding way,
At last with ocean's billows blending.

And so, oh God, our souls to Thee,
Onward and onward, ever going,
(We are the fountains, Thou the sea,)
To Thy great sea, of life are flowing.

Yes!  One with God, as Christ is one,
No longer tost by' earth's commotion,
Our little streams, their journey done,
Shall rest, at last, in God's great ocean.

Christ in the Soul XXV. (1872).

Thursday, March 12, 2015

He Can Never Suffer Loss

He, whose life is hid with Christ in God, may suffer injustice from the conduct or words of another, but he can never suffer loss. He sees the hand of God in every thing.  He  knows that every thing which takes place has either a direct or indirect relation to his present state, and is designed for his benefit. "All things work together for his good."

Religious Maxims (1846) CXI.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Outward Eye

It is one of the surest signs that the natural life still exists and flourishes in us, if we have what may be called an outward eye; and, instead of looking inwardly upon our own failings, are prone closely to watch and to judge others. "Judge not that ye be not judged." One of the first inquiries arising in the mind of a  truly humbled and sanctified person, when he sees another in transgression, is, "Who maketh me to differ?" And one of the first supplications which he offers is, "Lord, have compassion upon my offending brother!"

Religious Maxims (1846) CX.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Silence in Temptation

Let the time of temptation be the time of silence. Words react upon feelings; and if Satan, in the time of our trials, can induce us to utter a hasty or unadvised word, he will add, by so doing, to the power of his previous assaults, and increase the probability of his getting the victory.

Religious Maxims (1846) CIX.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Liberty of the Gospel

Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John viii. 34, 36

If thou, oh God, wilt make my spirit free,
Then will that darkened soul be free indeed;
I cannot break my bonds, apart from thee,
Without thy help I bow and serve and bleed.
Arise, oh Lord, and in thy matchless strength,
Asunder rend the links my heart that bind,
And liberate and raise and save, at length,
My long enthralled and subjugated mind.
And then with strength and beauty in her wings,
My quickened soul shall take an upward flight,
And in thy blissful presence, King of kings,
Rejoice in liberty and life and light,
In renovated power and conscious truth,
In faith and cheerful hope, in love and endless youth!

American Cottage Life (1850).

Saturday, March 7, 2015

In Prison, When the Early Saints

In prison, when the early saints
Wore despotism's chains,
'Twas Faith that silenced their complaints,
In  solacing their pains.

Not that they had no power to feel,
No sense of wrong, no tears,
But  God was near, their griefs to heal,
And dissipate their fears,

'Tis unbelief, that gives its smart,
Its anguish to the rod;
Grief has no terror for the heart,
That puts its trust in  God,

"Only  believe!"* and thou shalt know,
To  every ill resign'd,
Whatever strength may wield the blow,
It leaves no wound behind.

*Mark v. 36.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Friday, March 6, 2015

Christ Still Claims His Right to be Heard

We have no controversy with much of that which is known in the history of human knowledge under the name of philosophy. The philosophers have had their time of affirmation; and undoubtedly they have said instructive things on a great variety of subjects. They have felt at liberty to speak with boldness on the topic [of religion]; and sometimes with a smile of incredulity and even of opposition on their lips, as if it were a thing impossible, that the peasant of Nazareth, the man who was crucified, could hold up a light in the presence of the world’s philosophic thought and culture. Nevertheless the child of the humble Judean mother made the attempt. We read that when he was only twelve years of age, the inspiration from the heavens was so strong upon him and his heart was so full, that he entered into this great controversy. And even then his understanding and answers were matters of astonishment. But the hand of the mother, who was chosen to bring him within the sphere of humanity, withdrew him from the contest. Her heart had prophetic intimations of the future; but the time had not yet come. He dwelt in Nazareth, and with his heart open to the influx of the truth, he “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” And when in the maturity of manhood he came again into the field, his opponents met him with all the appliances and aids of human learning and wisdom; but ignorant of that divine philosophy which is baptized from the heavens, and therefore greatly disordered and defeated in the argument, they stopped the discussion by nailing Him to the Cross. But there is something in the man of truth which can never die. He passed on. In the language of the Scriptures, he went up on high. And philosophy, not understanding the things which are seen by faith and not by sight, looked here and there but could not find Him.

The teacher of Nazareth, dead but living, no longer a child but clothed with heavenly manhood, and who teaches by means of inspirations and influences wrought in the great school of the human heart, still claims his right to be heard. He is still a teacher of the Absolute Religion.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873), Chapter 1.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

True Reason is God's Highest Thought

Not unfrequently the Christian says, as if conscious of his inability to stand firm in the great battle of thought, and willing to find the first refuge that presents itself, that the religion of Christ, standing on a basis peculiar to itself, may be regarded as above and beyond reason. I confess that I hesitate in the acceptance of such expressions. So far from this being the correct view, there is a sense undoubtedly, in which it may be affirmed without presumption, that there is nothing above reason; neither God nor the creatures of God; neither men nor angels; neither finite nor Infinite. If it be admitted that God exists, it is still true, that he is not available to us as an existence, and is not known to us as an existence, and his existence cannot be logically affirmed and accepted, except through the instrumentality of perception and reasoning. If indeed by reason be meant that sad semblance of reason, which by its own action is separated from, and is not enlightened and aided by contact with the everlasting truth; in other words, that form of reason or semblance of reason, which in being separated from the great Source and Guide of all our faculties is perverted by ignorance, prejudice, and passion, then the matter presents itself in another aspect, and is entitled to another answer. But reason in the true sense, reason in the greatness of its intuitional, as well as its relational and inductive movement, reason such as God is able to incarnate inspirationally in the thought and intellect of man, has nothing above it. True reason is God’s highest thought; it holds a position which it cannot change; it sustains an office which it cannot abnegate; and the whole universe is not only dependent upon it for its revelation as an object of knowledge, but in all its coming progress accepts its aid, and marches in harmony with it.

Absolute Religion (1873), Chapter 1.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Religion of Christ is the Absolute Religion

The religion of Christ, which is only another name for the principles involved in the teachings of Christ, is the Absolute Religion; because having incarnated itself in Christ and thus shown its divine beauty in the human form, it henceforth belongs to man, not perhaps in the temporary and changing incidents of his history, but to man in his essential and universal nature, and therefore is the religion of humanity. The religion of Christ is the Absolute Religion because, though it may be said in its personal applications to grow up and to put forth the buds and flowers of feeling, the rich and beautiful experiences of emotions and affections, it nevertheless has its root in the deepest thought, and is both grounded in, and harmonizes with, unchangeable intuitions. The religion of Christ is the Absolute Religion, though man is its object, and is also, in the exercise of his powers of perception and reasoning, the appointed and necessary instrument of its development, yet being founded in the nature and constitution of things, and thus being beyond measurements of time, it synchronizes with God himself in its origin and continuance, and goes step by step with the divine authority in the assertion of its universal empire.

Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 1.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Strictness of the Law of Providence

We may, perhaps, deduce an illustration of the strictness of the law of Providence from the law of nature. We all know that if our action — that of the husbandman, for instance — does not conform to the law of physical nature, it has no reward, but is the occasion of loss. Accordingly, we never exhibit the folly of scattering our wheat and corn on the frozen clods of autumn and on the snowbanks of winter, because we know that it is entirely useless, and worse than useless, to anticipate, as we should thus do, the preparations of nature. Whatever we may do, we shall always find, if we would do it with any good results, that God must go first, and strike the first blow. Our business is, both in connection with the works of nature, and in morals and religion, to act concurrently, to follow him, and, without running before him, to strive to be co-workers with him. It is with this great practical religious principle in view, that the Saviour says, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." It is this principle, also, which is the foundation of the important remark of the apostle in his epistle to the Romans, " Let not, then, your good be evil spoken of." [Rom. 14: 16.]

We return therefore, to the great truth, which we wish to be left deeply impressed upon the mind; namely, that we can neither do good nor evil, irrespective of the law of Providence, without incurring guilt, and without experiencing a painful retribution. And this retribution, although it may scarcely be noticed at first, and although it may be delayed for a long time, is as certain and irresistible, with the single exception of cases of timely repentance, as the existence of God himself.

Even the man who stands in the divine order, and is a co-worker with God, is not, in the present state of things, exempt from trouble. Perhaps it is for this very thing God has placed him where he is; namely, that sorrow, in its various forms, that rebuke, and evil-speaking, and loss of earthly goods, and other temporal evils, may come upon him, and, in the fire of their consuming contact, destroy the dross that still adheres to his soul. But standing, as he does, with God before him as his guide, and therefore in the way of God's appointment, he will in the end come off victorious. But, for him who stands out of the divine order, and who opposes the weak shield of human strength to God's irreversible arrangements, there is no help. The chariot wheels of the Almighty will pass over him and grind him to powder.

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

Monday, March 2, 2015

Good Intentions Must Still Respect Providence

It  should never be forgotten, that a good motive, however kindly and highly it may be appreciated, does not constitute a right action in the strict sense of the term, unless the action can be spoken of and regarded as right in the circumstances actually existing. It is a very important principle, therefore, especially in its connection with the higher forms of religious experience, that we ought with care to watch over even our good desires, and to bring them under a strict regulation. Our good desires, our good intentions, will not save ourselves or others from evil, if we contemplate and carry into effect objects which are out of the divine order.

A monarch, for instance, in the largeness of his heart, proposes the immediate and entire liberation of his people, notwithstanding they are obviously unprepared for it. But in thus doing an act, which, under other circumstances, would be highly commendable, he only places in the nation's hand a sword to be plunged into its own vitals. His good intentions will not shield him from responsibility. Subjecting his benevolence to the dictates of deliberation and wisdom, he should have first made his gift, not to freedom, but to the preparation for freedom.

And these remarks will apply, not to one merely, but to all the purest and holiest affections of our nature. Such affections are always good and commendable in themselves; but in the manner and degree of their exercise, they are necessarily subjected to the law of time, place, and object. It is certainly commendable and right, at all times and under all circumstances, to entertain feelings of kindness and compassion for those who suffer. But it is not commendable and right, at all times and under all circumstances, to attempt to relieve that suffering. And the reason is, that God, in his wise providence, has seen fit to impose suffering. Suffering, therefore, has its own, its appropriate work to do. And mere human pity cannot interfere with these providential intentions, without committing great error, and without experiencing a retribution on itself.

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