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.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rest From the Constraints of Conscience

There is a rest, in holy persons, not only from the reproofs or condemnations of conscience, (a view which naturally arrests our attention in the first instance,) but also, with proper explanations of the remark, from the compulsory or constraining power of conscience.

The constraints of conscience, (which is only another expression for those coercive feelings of obligation which require us to pursue a right course,) precede action; while the reproofs of conscience, on the other hand, follow action. The holy soul, the soul which has passed from a mixed state to a state where holy love becomes the exclusive principle of action, does not appear to experience, and certainly not to be conscious of, those compulsory influences to which we have referred. It does not feel the reproofs of conscience, because it does not do wrong. It does not feel the compulsions or constraints of conscience, because, being moved by perfect love, it fulfills the will of God, and does right without constraint.

And is there, in fact, any occasion for such constraint? Where love is perfect, the motive involved in the constraining power of conscience is not felt, because it is not needed. The subject of such love is re-constituted with a new element of holy affection, with a love-being or love-existence, such as it never had before. It has freely given itself to God to be moved by him; — and he moves it by making it a "partaker of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:3-4) So that from this time such an one may be said to act by nature, and not by constraint; by a self-moved life at the center, and not by a compulsive instigation, which has no higher office than to guard and compel the center. In having a life of love, flowing first from God, and then from the center of our spirits, we have that and the whole of that which the constraining instigation of conscience requires; and, this being done, its office in this respect practically ceases. It would be a work of supererogation to drive a soul which goes without driving. Accordingly it is at once appeased in its anger, and quiet in its anxiety. It lays aside its admonitions as well as its scourge; and, as pleased with the good as it is displeased with the wicked, it strews our path with flowers.

Thus the soul has rest. From that happy hour, being re-constituted with a love-nature and made love-beings, we become also happy or joyous beings. And this is so much the case, that happiness, as well as love flowing out of the depths of the soul, may be said to be a part of our nature. What can injure us? Conscience itself becomes the companion and playmate of love, and hides itself in its bosom. Shielded by innocence, we come to God without fear. The soul expands itself as confidingly and lovingly to God's presence and favor, as the flowers open to the sun. God, who before appeared to us in his frowns and as a consuming fire, now "lays his terrors by."

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 4.

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