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, July 12, 2016

Conditions for Entering Into a State of Inward Recollection

We proceed now to specify some of those antecedent conditions or tendencies of mind, which may properly be regarded as preparatory, and even indispensable, to the state of Inward Recollection.

(I.) —  In  the first place, there must be a sincere and earnest desire to possess it. This eminent grace, without which the kingdom of God in the soul will be liable to constant irruptions and overthrows, will never be possessed by a heart, that is indifferent to its possession.  It  can belong to those and those only, who, with a sincere disposition to seek God in all things, can be truly said to "hunger and thirst after righteousness."

(II.) — In  the second place, in order to possess recollection of spirit, it will be necessary not to be involved, to an undue extent, in the perplexities of worldly business. There is such a thing as admitting so much of the world and its cares into the mind, as to crowd out the great idea of God. Indeed, this is often done. And thus men, and some of them too, who occasionally observe the formalities of religion, become practical atheists. I notice, in reading the religious writings of Antonia Bourignon, that she expresses her opinion to one of her correspondents, that God had sent a certain affliction upon him, in order to bring him to the state of mind, which we are now considering. "The multitude of your comings and goings," she remarks among other things, "and other agitations of body do, without doubt, disturb the INWARD RECOLLECTION.  It  is impossible to converse purely with God, [that is to say, when we permit them to have their natural effect upon us,] in the midst of external agitations." And again she says, in writing to another person, "if you could but proceed in this affair, keeping your spirit  recollected  in God, I  doubt not but it would succeed to his glory and our great good. I speak always of this RECOLLECTION;  because I myself can do  nothing out of it. God's spirit is a well regulated, orderly spirit, which proceeds with temperance, and weight, and measure, and. discretion, without any manner of precipitation." [Bourignon's Light in Darkness, pp. 12, 132.]

(III.) —  In the third place, in order to possess inward recollection, we are to have nothing to do, as a general rule, in thought or in feeling, or in any other way, with any thing but the present moment, and its natural and necessary relations. Discursive thoughts of a flighty and purely imaginative character, either going back to the past, for the mere purpose of drawing pleasure from it, or prospective and anticipative of the future in the manner of an idle man's reverie, are great hindrances to a recollected state. We are, in that way, rather pleasing ourselves than God; and the divine presence cannot well be secured at such times. In other words, as a general rule, there must be before us some present object. And that object must be regarded by us particularly in its moral aspect and relations. The present moment is necessarily, to a certain extent, a declaration of the divine will; and furnishes the basis of present duty. And it is the duty of the present moment, considered in its moral extension, to which, and to which only, God will consent to be a party.

(IV.) — It may be added further, that the state of mind, which we are considering, will not be likely to be possessed without great fixedness of purpose; a holy inflexibility of will, which keeps the mind steady to its object. We must not only wish to be the Lord's in this matter; but resolve to be so. It is well understood, that even worldly objects, restricted as they are in compass and importance, cannot, in general, be satisfactorily accomplished by an unfixed and vacillating mind. And still less can the vast objects of religion. I know, if the great object of interior recollection is proposed to be secured by the mere labor of the will alone, without the cooperation of the affections, it will be hard work, and useless work too. And on the other hand a favorable posture of the affections will be of but little avail, unless the desires and inclinations are aided by the superadded energy of a fixed determination. But when the decisive and uncompromising act of the will combines its influence with that of the aspirations of the heart, the most favorable results may, with the grace of God, be reasonably expected. It is true, without the grace of God, nothing can be done, whatever may be the applications and discipline of the mind. But when the conditions, which have been mentioned, are fulfilled, the divine assistance, if we may rely upon the promises, can never be wanting.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd Edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 7.

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