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, August 31, 2016

Quietude and Inordinate Desires

The state of internal quietude implies a cessation or rest from unrestrained and inordinate desires and affections.

Such a cessation becomes comparatively easy, when God has become the ruling idea in the thoughts; and when other ideas, which are vain, wandering, and in other ways inconsistent with it, are excluded. This rest or stillness of the affections, when it exists in the highest degree, is secured by perfect faith in God, necessarily resulting in perfect love. We have already had occasion to say that perfect faith implies, in its results, perfect love. How can we possibly have perfect faith in God, perfect confidence that he will do all things right and well, when at the same time we are wanting in love to him? From perfect faith, therefore, perfect love necessarily flows out, baptizing, as it were, and purifying all the subordinate powers of the soul. In other words, under the influence of this predominating principle, the perfect love of God resting upon perfect faith in God, the harmony of the soul becomes restored; the various appetites, propensities, and affections act each in their place and all concurrently; there are no disturbing and jarring influences, and the beautiful result is that quietness of spirit, which is declared to be "in the sight of God of great price."

Those, who are privileged by divine assistance, to enjoy this interior rest and beautiful stillness of the passions, are truly lovely to the beholder. The wicked are like the troubled sea, that cannot rest, tossed about by conflicting passions, and are not more unhappy in themselves, than they are unlovely in the sight of holy beings. There is a want of interior symmetry and union; that guiding principle of divine love, which consolidates and perfects the characters of holy beings, is absent; the lower parts of their nature have gained the ascendency, and there is internal jarring and discord and general moral deformity. In such a heart God does not and cannot dwell. How different is the condition of that heart, which is pervaded by the power of a sanctifying stillness, and which, in the cessation of its own jarring noise, is prepared to listen to the "still small voice!" It is here that God not only takes up his abode, but continually instructs, guides, and consoles.

On this part of the subject, in order to prevent any misapprehension, we make two brief remarks. The first is, that the doctrine of stillness or quietude of the desires and passions, does not necessarily exclude an occasional agitation arising from the instinctive part of our nature. The INSTINCTS are so constituted, that they act, not by cool reason and reflection, but by an inexpressibly quick and agitated movement. Such is their nature. Such agitation is entirely consistent with holiness. And it is not unreasonable to suppose, that even the amazement and fears, which are ascribed to our blessed Savior at certain periods of his life, are to be attributed to the operation of this part of his nature, which is perfectly consistent with entire resignation and with perfect confidence in God. The other remark is, that the doctrine of internal quietude, pervading and characterizing the action of the sensibilities, is not inconsistent with feelings of displeasure, and even of anger. Our Savior was at times grieved, displeased, angry; as he had abundant reason to be, in view of the hardness of heart and the sins, which were exposed to his notice. Anger, (so far as it is not purely  instinctive, which at its first rise and for a mere moment of time it may be,) is, in its nature, entirely consistent with reason and reflection; is consistent with the spirit of supplication, and consistent also, even in its strong exercises, with entire agreement and relative quietude in all parts of the soul. In other words, although there is deep feeling in one part of the soul, the other parts, such as the reason, the conscience, and the will, are so entirely consentient, that the great fact of holy, internal quietude, which depends upon a perfect adjustment of the parts to each other, is secured. A strong faith in God, existing in the interior recesses of the soul, and inspiring a disposition to look with a constant eye to his will alone; keeps every thing in its right position. Hence there still remains the great and important fact of holy internal rest, even at such trying times.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 10.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Quietude and Wandering Thoughts

True quietness of soul involves a cessation from unnecessary wandering and discursive thoughts and imaginations.

If we indulge an unnatural and inordinate curiosity; if we crowd the intellect not only with useful knowledge, but with all the vague and unprofitable rumors and news of the day, it is hardly possible, on the principles of mental philosophy, that the mind should be at rest. The doctrine of religious quietude conveys the notion of a state of intellect so free from all unnecessary worldly intruders, that God can take up his abode there as the one great idea, which shall either exclusively occupy the mind, or shall so far occupy it as to bring all other thoughts and reflections into entire harmony with itself.

This is, philosophically, one of the first conditions of union with God. It seems to be naturally impossible, that we should realize an entire harmony or oneness with the divine mind, while the soul is so occupied with worldly thoughts flowing into it, as almost to shut out the very idea of God. A state of religious or spiritual quietude is, in other words, a state of rest in God. The idea of God, therefore, that magnificent and glorious idea, must so occupy the intellect, must be so interwoven with all its operations and modes of thinking, that the thoughts of other things, which so often agitate and afflict the religious mind, may be easily shut out.

And in order to do this, they, who would be perfect in Christ Jesus, must not mingle too much in the concerns of the world. Little have they to do with the unprofitable frivolities and pleasures of secular society; with idle village gossiping; with the trades and adventures and speculations of those who hasten to be rich; with the heats and recriminations of party politics, and many other things, which it would be easy to mention. No reading, also, should be indulged in, which shall tend to separate between the soul and God. Knowledge is profitable, it is true, but not all kinds of knowledge. It is better, certainly, if we cannot consistently with religious principles have a knowledge of both, to be familiar with the psalms of David, than with the poems of Homer; not only because the former are in a higher strain, but especially because heavenly inspiration should ever take precedence of that which is earthly. When, however, we read in the world's books from the sense of duty, when we may be said to read and study for God and with God, then, indeed, the great idea of the Divinity remains present and operative in the soul. And such inquiries and studies are always consistent with Christian quietude, because the mind, venturing forth at the requisition of the great Master within, returns instinctively at the appointed time, to the inward center of rest.

Hence we should lay it down as an important rule, to chasten the principle of curiosity, and to know nothing which cannot be made, either directly or indirectly, religiously profitable. Such knowledge, and such only, will harmonize with the presence of the great idea of God. All other knowledge tends to exclude it. And hence it is, that it can be so often said of those, who possess all worldly knowledge, to whom all arts and languages and sciences are familiar, that God is not in all their thoughts. The intellect is not in sufficient repose from the outward and purely worldly pressure constantly made upon it to receive Him. He comes to the door, but finds no entrance, and leaves them alone in their folly.

Perhaps in order to prevent mistakes, it should be added, that, when the mind is thus in a state of quietness and repose from worldly and errant imaginations, it does not by any means follow, as some may suppose, that it is, therefore, in a state of sluggish and insentient idleness. Not at all. No sooner has it reached the state of true stillness, by ceasing from its own imaginative vanities, and thus giving entrance to the purifying and absorbing conception of the great Divinity, than it becomes silently, but actively meditative on the great idea. Not, indeed, in a discursive and examinative way; not in a way of curious inquiry and of minute analysis; but still active and meditative. Much in the manner perhaps, that an affectionate child silently and delightedly meditates on the idea of an absent parent, not analytically and curiously, but with that high and beautiful meditation, which exists in connection with the purest love. Or much as any persons, who sustain to each other the relation of dear and intimate friendship, when in the providence of God they are separated at a distance, often repose in mental stillness from all other thoughts inconsistent with the one loved idea; and thus reciprocally the mind, active in respect to the object before it, though still and quiet in respect to every thing else, centers and dwell with each other's image.

—edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 10.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Inward Queitude

We proceed... to lay down and explain a principle, which is more or less distinctly recognized by writers on Christian experience; and which, by the common consent of those who have examined it, is very intimately connected with the progress and perfection of the interior Christian life. The principle is that of inward QUIETUDE OR STILLNESS, in other words, a true and practical ceasing from self.

This principle involves, in the first place, a cessation from all inordinate and selfish outward activity.  It  does not, it will be remembered, exclude an outward activity of the right kind. To entertain any idea of this kind, would be a great error. But it disapproves and condemns that spirit of worldly movement and progress, that calculating and self-interested activity, that running to and fro without seriously looking to God and without a quiet confidence in Him, which has been in all ages of the world the dishonor and the bane of true Christianity. How much of what may be called secular scheming and planning there is in the church at the present time! How much of action, prosecuted on principles, which certainly cannot be acceptable to a truly holy heart! While it exhibits much of true piety and much of the right kind of action, is it not evident, that the church exhibits a great deal also, both in its plans of personal and of public activity, of that restless, unsanctified, and grasping eagerness, which characterizes, and may be expected to characterize those who live and act, as if there were no God in the world! The principle of quietude or stillness decidedly condemns this injurious and evil course.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 10.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Sabbath

It is the time of rest, the Sabbath day,
That summons from the heart the gentle strain;
Nor well may those withhold the votive lay,
Who know the joys, that follow in its  train.
The Sabbath! What associations cling,
Holy and high, to that beloved name!
It is not mine upon poetic wing
To soar aloft, and bear it forth to fame;
But e' en from one like me a tribute it  may claim,

How pleasantly above the eastern hill
Its  dawning comes! Its golden light doth rest,
All undisturbed, on tree, and bank,  and rill,
And laughing creeps into the wild bird's  nest.
The little bird, borne high on dewy wings,
Renews his song; there is no other sound;
Save where the bubbling brook in concert sings,
And lowing ox sends loud his joys  around,
No longer to the yoke in patient labor bound,

And why should hapless man forever moil,
Nor rest to body or to soul impart?
Six days in seven are long enough for toil,
The other shines for worship and the heart.
When God, the Maker, framed the rising earth,
From night and dull chaotic forms released,
And singing stars proclaimed its wondrous birth,
Upon the seventh morn his labor ceased;
He sanctified the Day to wearied man and beast.

And when that last, that greater labor came,
Which saved man's race through Him, who bled and died,
He gave the Sabbath's honor and its name
To that blest Day, which saw the Crucified,
Who three days in the silent earth had lain,
(No longer in his stony walls repress'd,)
Arise forever Victor. Thus again
In honor of the Son, the loved, the blessed,
He sanctioned it anew, the Day of peace and rest.

He gave it to the rich alike and poor;
He blessed and hallowed it, till time shall end;
And bade its light the languid limb restore,
And come to prisoner and to slave a friend.
When o'er the hills its signal is displayed,
Silence shall reign, the city's murmur cease,
The fervent haste of rural toil be stayed;
E'en the tired steer, that knows but little peace,
Shall claim its sacred hours, and gain a short release.

This is the honor of its sacred ray;
The blessings these, that fly upon its wing;
Where'er it comes, tired labor hies away,
And he, who toiled, will sit him down and sing.
See how the scythe hangs idly on the tree!
No sound is heard from yonder noisy mill,
The busy maiden's wheel stands silently;
The smiting spade hath ceased the earth to till,
The plough is in the glebe; the ringing anvil still.

It is a day of rest for passion too;
Pale DISCONTENT no longer clouds his brow;
ANGER,  that looked with stern, distorted view,
Calms his loud voice, and smooths his aspect now.
E'en AVARICE, with firm relentless hold,
Unclenches his hard grasp and patient sits,
Nor scrambles here and there for muckle gold,
As if beset for life nr out of wits;
And JEALOUSY no more shakes in his green-eyed fits.

But there are other visitants — for, lo,
DEVOTION comes with sweeping length of stole;
In  her raised eye the sacred fervors glow,
Disclosing clear her purity of soul.
Two little children gather at her side,
The one, called PENTITENCE, doth hardly dare
To  raise her mourning eye; and with her hair
She wipes away the tears, she would not hide;
No longer shall her feet in sinful paths abide.

The other child, that held the parent hand,
With eye undimmed by shadows or by tears,
(Her gentle name is  LOVE,)  doth smiling stand,
With glowing heart, that hath no place for fears;
But peace upon her open brow doth shine,
And joy is penciled on her aspect bright.
Whoever to her presence may incline,
Will find their sorrows vanish at the sight;
She doth but speak a word, and fills them with delight.

Peace breathes in all around. The smoke ascends
From yonder cottage through the silent air;
Quick with the scene Imagination blends,
And sees beside the hearth the Grandsire there.
He  reads aloud the venerated Book,
His form bent low, his tresses silver gray;
And, quickened by his words and serious look,
The children, mindful of the Sabbath day,
Bestow the patient ear, and learn the better way.

The Sabbath to the cottager is dear,
Because it welcomes to the hearth's bright blaze,
The sons and daughters, who in toil severe
Fulfill, remote from home, the other days.
Their home, sweet home, is pleasant in their eyes;
But  they are poor, and work gives honest bread.
The Sabbath light, that gilds the ruddy skies,
And sees them gathered in their humble shed,
Calls from the parent heart fresh blessings on their  head.

The greetings of that morn, how warm, how true!
"'Tis but a week, and yet it seems so long;"
'Tis thus the fond complaint their lips renew,
As round the elder maids the younger throng,
Or  kiss the tears, that fill a brother's eye.
And all because the Sabbath day is his;
The sunlight of the poor man's stormy sky;
Oh, take all other days, but leave him this;
Nor crush his small remains of hope and happiness.

Nor man alone is blest. The lowing herd,
That crowd around his door, express their joy;
The wild beast of the wood, the mounting bird,
That high at heaven's gate finds sweet employ,
Imbibe the chartered mercies of the day.
No longer by the faithless hook betrayed,
The spotted trout darts in his wonted play.
The hare, that nestled in the thickest shade,
Now leaps across the path, and o'er the sunny glade.

It  is the day of Worship. Where the rill,
Bright with the sunbeams, gives its soothing sound,
The Church adorns the gently rising hill,
And flowers spring up, and trees are planted round.
The villagers, within its sacred wall,
Are wont upon the Sabbath's hours to meet,
Upon the great Creator's name to call,
And pour their homage at the Savior's feet,
In supplication's voice, and anthem simply sweet.

And  now it is the customary time,
When to their rural temple they repair.
Filled with the thoughts of duty, pure, sublime,
The Holy Bible in their hands they bear.
Matrons their little flock prepare to lead;
And village maids, in youth's rejoicing bloom,
And  feeble, aged men, the staff that need,
And childhood gay, with Sabbath frock and plume,
Churchward their solemn way at wonted hour resume.

And from the holy place behold him rise,
God's messenger; his locks are thin and white;
He  upward lifts his mildly glancing eyes,
And supplicates the God of life and light,
Not with mere lips, but with the spirit's breath;
For in his mind  it  is no vulgar prize,
To pluck the soul from sin, and woe, and death,
And plant it, starlike, in the spotless skies,
To  shine with quenchless blaze, when man and nature dies.

He  was indeed the shepherd of his fold,
And sought in body and in soul their good.
Unbribed to labor by the charms of gold,
He  patient toiled, and strong in virtue stood.
The sordid ties, that human hearts control,
The bonds of earth, swayed not his steadfast mind,
That pointed, like the needle to the pole,
To Him, who died to rescue human kind;
In  nothing else did he abiding pleasure find.

Sometimes his cherished people mourned their dead;
Perhaps a darling child his head doth bow;
And bitter are the tears the parents shed,
As they bend o'er the loved one's pallid brow.
At that sad hour the constant pastor near
His sympathy and consolation lends.
Skillful, he wipes away the mourner's tear,
And shows that God, in what of ill he sends,  
Though now his ways are dark, some secret good intends.
His days were  days of watchfulness and prayer,
And, while he trod himself the narrow road,
He  taught the lost to turn their footsteps there,
And cast away transgression's heavy load.
And for their help he plead the Holy Page,
The promise fair, in words of light displayed,
That  those, who tread the heavenly pilgrimage
And humbly seek, shall have the needed aid,
To the Redeemer dear, though oft by sins betrayed.

Nor was he all unheeded; but his voice,
As if an angel's joyous lips were nigh,
Availed to make the trembling heart rejoice;
Nor seldom penitence bedewed the eye
Of those, who long the Savior set at nought.
Then was his spirit glad; peace filled his soul,
If he availed, by heavenly wisdom taught,
To  lead from sin, and its attendant dole,
E'en one to better paths and virtue's blest control.

Yes, there's a rest, he said, a Sabbath near,
More pure and holy than we now behold.
There may we all, in long communion dear,
Together meet, the shepherd and the fold.
Peace to his silent dust! And may he find,
As o' er that Sabbath clime his feet shall tread,
The wanderer and the lost, the halt and blind,
By precept taught and by example led,
Up to the realms of light, to Christ their blessed head.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Blessedness of Holy Contemplation

What blessed results would follow, if all men, arrived at the state of holy contemplation, had that faith which deprives God of form, and displaces him from a particular locality, in order that, being without form, he may attach himself to all forms, and that, being without place, he may be found present in all places. Such a faith, if it would not at once carry us up to the New Jerusalem, would do that which amounts to much the same thing, — it would bring the New Jerusalem down to earth, and would expand its golden walls and gates to the limits of the world and of the universe.

"And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God  is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 10.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Holiness and the Contemplative State

The contemplative state, like that of meditation, is, for the time being, a fixed state. That is to say, the mind unites itself firmly and fixedly with its appropriate object for a length of time. In the highest degrees of sanctification, it becomes almost a permanent state. It may be broken temporarily by the pressure of care and worldly business. But it is the natural tendency of the truly holy mind, when left to itself, to fall into this state. That is to say, in every object the contemplative man, who cannot be truly contemplative without being truly holy, catches a new glimpse of the Divinity; and has no heart to leave it, until the vicissitudes of Providence call him to other objects where he has new revelations of the divine nature, and new exercises and intimacies of love.

To him who has this deeper insight and this higher unity, God breathes in the vernal zephyr, and shines brightly in the summer's sun; he sees him molding and painting the fruits of autumn, and sending the hoar-frosts and piling up the snows of winter; all inanimate nature is full of him. He sees God, also, in what is ordinarily called the work of men's hands. It is God that spreads his pillow; — it is God that builds his house; — it is God that ploughs his fields; — it is God that sells for him and buys for him; — God gives him pain, and sends him joy, — smites him when he is sick, and heals him when he gets well.

And what God does for himself, he does also for others, and for communities. He sees God in all the changes which take place around him. It is God that builds up and puts down,— that makes kings and makes subjects, — that builds up one nation and destroys another, — that binds the chains of the captive and gives liberty to the free, — that makes war and makes peace. All men, and princes, and nations, are in his hands like clay in the hands of the potter. His eternal will, which, in being established on the basis of eternal wisdom and justice, never has changed and never can change, dashes them to pieces, or fashions them to ever­lasting life. All things are his, sin only excepted, and sin is sin, because it is not of God.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 10.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

God Universal

The meditative man dwells upon God as a God limited or particular; — that is to say, as circumscribed by the limitations of form and locality. The contemplative man, on the contrary, dwells upon him as a God universal. But this remark requires some explanation.

The common idea of God not only ascribes to him the attribute of personality, — an attribute which is essential to all correct views of him under all circumstances, but also assigns to him a form, and places him as having form in some definite and distant locality; as dwelling, for instance, within the walls of the New Jerusalem, as shut up within golden gates, or as seated on a lofty white throne of celestial beauty. This conception of the Divinity, which appears to be the common one at first, is probably well suited to the earlier stages of religious experience, when the mind is just beginning to recover itself from the weakness and blindness of sin. And we may say, further, there is great truth in it as far as it goes, — but it is not the whole truth. It is true, that God occupies place; and that place may be here, or there, or anywhere; but it is equally true, that he is not limited to place. It is true that God may assume form; and that, on special occasions and for special reasons, he has assumed it; but it is equally true, that form is not essential to him. So that, when our conception, relieved from the embarrassments of sin, expands, so as to correspond, in some degree, to the magnitude of the object, we find him not under one form only, but under all forms; not in one place merely, but in all places. Everywhere the Divin­ity which was before veiled by unbelief, enlarges into light. But he is still a personal God, though infinite in the varieties of form, infinite in the multiplications of place; though seen and recognized by faith in every tree, and plant, and rock, and flower; in every star,  in the wandering moon, in the bright sun, in the floating cloud, in the wide and deep sea, in insects and birds, and the wild beasts of the mountains, in men, in angels, in all things, beings and places. It is God thus revealed in his universality that we call God universal, in distinction from God local.

The meditative man attaches himself to the God local; the contemplative man attaches himself to the God universal. But to do the first, namely, to seek God in a particular place, to the exclusion of other places, requires effort, and is in some degree painful; because we must seek him "as a God afar off.” The latter, namely, to commune with him in all places and in all objects, — supposing ourselves to have arrived at the appropriate state, and the adequate power to be given us, — is natural and easy; because, finding God even without seeking him at all, we contemplate him as a God present. Being in the midst of place and objects, none of which are, or can be, separate from a divine presence, all the soul has to do is to look and love. Calmly and sweetly it casts its eye upon every object which is presented to its notice, and it finds itself dwelling upon God in all.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 10.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Rest of Contemplation

Contemplation, like the meditative state, has an object towards which it is especially directed, and that object is God. But the remark to be made here is this. While it is like the meditative state in the sameness of its object, it is unlike it in another particular; namely, it is not propelled towards its object, if we may so speak, by a forced effort of the will; but is rather gently and sweetly attracted towards it by the perception of its innate loveliness. The contemplative man, therefore, in consequence of being in perfect union with God, dwells upon him, in his acts of contemplation, with a sweet quietude or rest of spirit, of which the merely meditative man is, in a greater or less degree, destitute.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 10.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Contemplative State

One of the characteristics of a soul which is brought into union with God, is that it is contemplative.  This is so much the case, that it seems to be proper here to give some explanations of a state which is eminently delightful and profitable; and especially because it is in this state of mind that we find one of the elements and sources of that divine peace which we have been endeavoring to explain.

We shall the better understand the contemplative state, if we keep in mind that it is naturally preceded by the meditative state. Every religious man knows what it is to direct his thoughts to God; in other words, to meditate upon him and upon those objects which are closely connected with him. In the meditative state, the religious man not only holds God in view by means of the meditative act, namely, by acts of perception and reflection upon the divine character; but he always does it with more or less of mental effort; — that is to say, by a definite and formal act of the will. So that the meditative state, though necessary and important in its place, is in some degree painful. And hence it is, that meditation, in order to render the mental operation more easy and effective, is generally understood to imply and to require a particular time to be set apart, and also a particular place remote from interruption. Meditation, therefore, though very necessary, is not in all respects a natural state; and, consequently, implying as it does a degree of effort and of resistance against other tendencies, does not appear to be entirely consistent with the highest rest and peace of the soul.

But it is not so with the contemplative state. Contemplation, in the religious sense of the term, is meditation perfected. Considered as a religious state, contemplation, without formally aiming at the discovery of new truths in relation to God, is a calm dwelling upon him in thought, as he is already known to the mind, attended with faith, with such new views also as are naturally and easily presented, and with affectionate exercises of the heart.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 10.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Fire of Love

If thou would'st slay thy wrong desire,
Thy hate and ills of every kind.
Plunge them in LOVE'S consuming fire;
Love is the furnace of the mind.

Whate'er their kind, degree, or name,
The evils, which thy heart enthrall,
It matters not, LOVE'S mighty flame
Shall burn or purify them all.

'Tis true, it costs thee much of pain,
And thou dost seem to suffer loss;
But wisdom bids thee not restrain
The fire, that only burns the dross.

The golden ore, which thou hast cast
In LOVE'S consuming fire and strife,
Fears not the fiercest furnace blast.
But brightens in its flames of life.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LXI.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sent of God

It was a dark, untravell'd road,
In which my steps were call'd to go;
The path of many a heavy load.
And where it led, I did not know.

A weary road with rivers high;
Wild beasts were standing on the rocks;
And clouds came drifting through the sky,
Fill'd deep with fires and thunder shocks.

But through the clouds, and through the flame,
And foaming floods, as on I went,
A voice of hope and cheering came,
"Fear not to go, where God hath sent."

That voice is ringing in my ears;
Let mountains rise, let oceans flow;
It matters not. Away with fears.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LX.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Guidance of Love

If thou wouldst be of heavenly mind,
Thy soul's great light no longer blind,
Then from thyself thy soul set free,
And soar in Love's great liberty.
As thou art now, thou dost not know,
Where it is best to stay or go;
But, once from selfish guidance freed,
Shalt learn, where truth and duty lead.
No longer dangers shalt thou fear;
But filled with hope and inward cheer,
Shalt see and shun with open eye
The pitfalls, that before thee lie.
From early youth to weary age, 
In all his earthly pilgrimage,
Shall truth. and guidance never part
From him, who hath the loving heart.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LIX.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Leave Everything in the Hands of God

It is a great and blessed privilege to leave every thing in the hands of God; to go forth like the patriarch Abraham, not knowing whither we go, but only knowing that God leads us. "BE CAREFUL FOR NOTHING; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Philippians 4:6.

This is what is sometimes denominated walking in a "general and indistinct faith;" or walking in the "obscurity of faith," or in the "night of faith." Faith, in its relation to the subject of it, is truly a light in the soul; but it is a light which shines only upon duties, and not upon results or events. It tells us what is now to be done, but it does not tell us what is to follow. And accordingly it guides us but a single step at a time. And when we take that step, under the guidance of faith, we advance directly into a land of surrounding shadows and darkness. Like the patriarch Abraham, we go, not knowing whither we go, but only that God is with us.

Blessed and glorious way of living! Indeed, it is the only life worth possessing; the only true life. "Let the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing;" let nations rise and fall; let the disturbed and tottering earth stand or perish; let God reveal to us the secret designs of his providence or not, it is all well. "Cast all your cares upon God, for he careth for you." Our heavenly Father is at the helm. The winds blow, the waves swell, the clouds gather around, but we sail in a strong vessel. There is no port at hand, and there is no sun or star to guide us. Faith, therefore, in the defect of all things else, must constitute our port and our anchor, our sun and our favoring breeze; but we have all that we can ask, in having perfect confidence in our great Commander. It is the blessed privilege of faith, even in our darkest and most disastrous moments, to assure us that we are safe, forever safe, in the mighty keeping of God's holy will.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 9.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Dangers of Seeking a Visible Answer

The system, which requires a present and visible or ascertained answer, in distinction from the system of faith, which believes that it has an answer, but does not require God to make it known, till he sees best to make it known, is full of danger. It tends to self-confidence, because it implies that we can command God, and make him unlock the secrets of his hidden counsels whenever we please. It tends to self-delusion, because we are always liable to mistake the workings of our own imaginations or our own feelings, or the intimations of Satan, for the true voice of God. It tends to cause jealousies and divisions in the church of Christ, because he, who supposes that he has a specific or known answer, which is the same, so far as it goes, as a specific revelation, is naturally bound and led by such supposition, and thus is oftentimes led to strike out a course for himself, which is at variance with the feelings and judgments of his brethren. Incalculable are the evils, which, in every age of the Christian history, have resulted from this source.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 9.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Seeking Specific Answers to Prayer Undermines the Principle of Faith

A disposition to seek a specific, or rather a visible answer to our prayers, in distinction from an answer addressed to our faith, tends to weaken the principle of faith. The visible system, if we may be permitted so to call it, implies that we will trust God only so far as we can see him. It requires, as one may say, ready payment, cash in hand, a mortgage of real estate, something seen or tangible. It cannot live upon what it calls mere air; it is not disposed to trust any thing to a mere word, a mere promise, though it be the word or promise of the Almighty. Such, on a close examination, will be found to be the spirit of the specific or visible system; a system. which will answer, to some extent, in our intercourse with men, but not in our intercourse with God. It is easy to see, in addition to other evils resulting from it, that it is adverse to the growth of faith; which, in accordance with a well known law of our mental and religious nature, flourishes by exercise, and withers by repression. If the system, which is not satisfied without seeing or knowing, should prevail generally, faith would necessarily be banished from the world, and God would be banished with it.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 9.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Leaving Our Prayers in God's Keeping

The desire of definite and specific answers [to prayer] naturally reacts upon the inward nature and tends to keep alive the selfish or egotistical principle. On the contrary, the disposition to know only what God would have us know, and to leave the dearest object of our hearts in the sublime keeping of the general and unspecific belief that God is now answering our prayers in his own time and way, and in the best manner, involves a present process of inward crucifixion, which is obviously unfavorable to the growth and even the existence of the life of self.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nsd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 9.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Illustrations of Receiving by Faith

We will suppose, for instance, that, in a particular emergency, we need and are sincerely desirous of wisdom to guide us, and that we truly and humbly ask for it. While we thus pray, it is of course implied, that we, at the same time, employ all those rational powers which God has given us, and which are appropriate to the subject under consideration. To do otherwise would be like the husbandman's asking the rains and the blessing of heaven upon lands, which he had neglected to cultivate. While we thus pray and thus act, it becomes our privilege and our duty, in accordance with the doctrines of the life of faith, to believe fully and firmly, that God does in fact answer, and that, in the sanctified exercise of the powers which are given us, we truly have that degree of wisdom which is best for us in the present case. Whether we are conscious of any new light on the subject or not, it is our privilege, and what is very important, it is our duty, as those who would be wholly the Lord's, to believe that we have just that degree of knowledge which is best for us. Even if we are left in almost entire ignorance on the topic of our inquiry, and are obliged to grope our way onward in the best manner we can, we still have the high satisfaction of knowing, that we are placed in this position because God sees that a less degree of light is better in our case than a greater, and it is certain that his perception of it involves the fact that it is so. And accordingly, if it be true that God does not give to us that precise form and degree of wisdom which in our ignorance we sought for, we nevertheless have received all that wisdom, which, in the view of faith, is either necessary or desirable. Such is God's answer. And such also is the true  answer, viz., the answer which precisely corresponds to the spirit of the petition, if the petition has been offered up in the true spirit. But it is obvious it is an answer, which could never be realized as the true answer, and as God's answer, except in the exercise of faith. It is, therefore, an answer resting upon the revealed declaration or word of God, viz., that he will give wisdom to those that sincerely ask it, and made available to us in being received by faith.  It  answers our purpose just as much and as well, and in some important points of view far better, than if it were an answer addressed direct­ly to our sight.

We will suppose, as another illustration of the subject, that we have a sincere and earnest desire for the salvation of one of our friends. Under the pressure of this desire we lay the case before our heavenly Father in supplication. What is the nature of the answer which we can reasonably expect, and which we ought to expect under such circumstances? Is it a specific answer of such a nature as to make known to us, by a direct communication, whether the thing shall be done or not, and whether it shall be done at a particular time or no? Or is it an answer, resting upon the revealed declaration of the word of God, as that answer is received and made available to us by faith? In the former case we shall pray till we know, or rather till we think we know; not merely know, that God answers us, and answers us in the best manner; but what is a very different thing, shall pray till we know or think we know what the answer is. Under the influence of a very subtle and secret distrust of God, we shall not be disposed to desist until we obtain some sign, some voice, some specific manifestation, some feeling which shall make us certain;  and certain, not merely that God hears us, and will do all he consistently can for us; but shall insist on a certain knowledge, by means of such signs and manifestations, of the precise thing which he will do. In other words, we cannot trust the answer in God's keeping; but must gratify our inordinate and sinful curiosity by having a revelation of it. — In the latter case, viz. where we expect an answer, resting upon God's word and received by faith, it is very different. While we humbly, earnestly, and perseveringly lay our request before God, we shall leave the result in his hands with entire resignation; believing, in accordance with the declarations of his holy word, that he does truly hear us; entirely confident that he will do what is right; and recognizing his blessed will, although that will may as yet be unknown to us, as the true and only desirable fulfillment of our supplication. We shall feel, although salvation is desirable both for ourselves and others, that the fulfillment of the holy will of God is still more, yea infinitely more desirable. "THY WILL BE DONE." And here is a real answer, such an answer as would completely satisfy an angel's mind; and yet it is an answer received by simple faith. "The just shall live by faith." The whole doctrine is beautifully summed up in a short passage in the first Epistle of John. "And this is the confidence [or strong faith] that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his Will, he heareth us. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, We know that we have  the petitions that we desire of him."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition 1844) Part 3, Chapter 9.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Receiving by Faith

How are we to receive the answer to our prayers? By sight or by FAITH? It seems to us that it must be by faith. The life of the just is represented as a life of faith; and we should naturally conclude the life of faith would include the answer to prayer, as well as prayer itself.

It is very evident that the just live, as subjects of the divine Sovereign, not only by praying but by being answered. And in either case, according to the Scripture representation, the principal or inspiring element of the inward life, whether a person prays or is answered in prayer, is faith. Any other view will probably be found, on close examination, to be inconsistent with the doctrine of living by faith.

Accordingly, on the true doctrine of holy living, viz. by faith, we go to God in the exercise of faith, believing that he will hear; and we return from him in the exercise of the same faith, believing that he has heard; and that the answer exists and is registered in the divine mind, although we do not know what it is, and perhaps shall never be permitted to know. And in accordance with these views, if, in a given case, we know from the word of God that the petition is agreeable to the divine will, and that it is also agreeable to the divine will that it should be granted now, then the doctrine of faith will require us to believe, that the divine decision is made up and is given, and that we do now have the things which we sought for, although they may come in a different way, and with a different appearance from what we anticipated.

And, on the other hand, if the word of God has not revealed to us the divine will, the doctrine of faith still requires us to believe that the true answer exists in the will of God; that the decision of God is made up as in the other case, whatever that decision may be, and whenever and wherever it may be visibly accomplished. In both cases we have need of faith; we believe that God is either now doing, or that he will do. So that the true answer to prayer, as it seems to us, is an answer resting upon the revealed declaration or word of God for its basis, and made available to us in any given case by an act of faith. God promises that he will answer. Faith, accepting the declaration, recognizes the answer, whether it be known or unknown, as actually given in every case, where it can justly be expected to be given.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition 1844) Part 3, Chapter 9.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

We Pray by Faith, We Recieve by Faith

It is well understood that we must pray in faith. No petition to God, which is not attended with confidence in his character and his word, can be acceptable to him. But I suppose that it is not so generally understood and recognized that, in most cases, we must receive by faith, as well as pray by faith; that faith is as necessary in the reception of the thing petitioned for, as in the petition itself.

Every Christian, who humbly and sincerely addresses his Maker, may reasonably expect an answer. It does not well appear how a perfectly just and holy Being could impose on his creatures the duty of prayer, without recognizing the obligation of returning an answer of some kind. In making this remark, we imply, of course, that the prayer is a  sincere  one. An insincere prayer, just so far as insincerity exists, is not entitled to be regarded as prayer, in any proper sense of the term. Our first position, therefore, is, that every person, who utters a sincere prayer, may reasonably expect an answer, and that in fact an answer always is given, although it is not always understood and received. And this appears to be entirely in accordance with the Scriptures. "Ask, and it  SHALL  be given unto you; seek and ye SHALL find; knock and it  SHALL be  opened unto you. For every one that asketh RECEIVETH; and he that seeketh FINDETH; and to him, that knocketh, it shall be OPENED."

But it becomes now an important inquiry, What is the true and just answer of God to the petitions of his people? It seems to us that it is, and it cannot be any thing else, than the decision of his own infinitely just and omniscient mind, that he will give to the supplicant or withhold, just as he sees best. In other words the true answer to prayer is God's deliberate purpose or will, existing in connection with the petition and all the circumstances of the petition.

But some will say, perhaps, that on this system we sometimes get our answer, without getting what we ask for; and that God's decision may not correspond with our own desire. But this objection is met by a moment's consideration of the nature of prayer. There never was true prayer, there never can be true prayer, which does not recognize, either expressly or by implication, an entire submission to the divine will. The very idea of prayer implies a right on the part of the person to whom the prayer is addressed, either to give or to withhold the petition. And the existence of such a right on the part of God implies a correlative obligation on the other party to submit cheerfully to his decisions. To ask absolutely, without submission to God's will, is not to pray, but to demand. A demand is as different from true prayer, as a humble request is from an imperative order. A request God always regards; he always treats it with kindness and justice; but a demand cannot be properly addressed to Him, nor can it properly be received by Him.

The true model of the spirit of supplication, even in our greatest necessities, is to be found in the Savior's prayer at the time of his agony in the garden. "And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;  nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." True prayer, therefore, that prayer, which can be suitably addressed to the Supreme Being, and that which it is suitable for an imperfect and limited mind to offer, always involves the condition, whether it be expressed or not, that the petition is agreeable to the divine will. This condition is absolutely essential to the nature of the prayer. There is no acceptable prayer, there is no true prayer without it. Such being the nature of the prayer, the answer to the prayer will correspond to it, viz., it will always be the decision of the divine mind, whatever that decision may be, made up in view of the petition, and of all the attendant circumstances.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 9.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Power of Faith

"Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped  the  edge of  the  sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens."  Heb. xi. 33, 34.

I sat me down in earth's benighted vale,
And had no courage and no strength to rise;
Sad to the passing breeze I told my tale,
And bowed my head, and drained my weeping eyes.
But Faith came by, and took me by the hand;
And now the valleys rise, the mountains fall.
Welcome the stormy sea, the dangerous land!
With Faith to aid me, I can conquer all.
Faith lays her hand upon the lion's mane;
Faith fearless walks within the serpent's den,
Faith smiles amid her children round her slain;
When worlds are burning, cries unmoved, AMEN.
Yes, I am up, far upward on the wing;
The withered arm is strong, the broken heart doth sing.

American Cottage Life (1850) XXXIX.

Monday, August 8, 2016

God's Life Existing as a Nature

[There is] something which we have noticed in the writings of Madame Guyon. All nature conveyed to her a lesson of religion; — the woods, the waters, the flowers, every living and moving thing. Hence her beautiful lines to the swallow:­

"I am fond of the swallow; — I learn from her flight,
Had I skill to improve it, a lesson of love.
How seldom on earth do we see her alight!
She dwells in the skies, she is ever above."

She saw a great deal of God in the birds, and in the sheep, and in the oxen, and in all the various lower animals that live and move around us. And she repeat­edly says of herself, that she seemed to be like them;­ meaning that there was something, in the operations of her own inward life, which led her to sympathize with them. The explanation of what she says is this: The life of the lower animals is not a device, a calculation, but a  nature.  They move, as they are moved by that instinctive power within them, which obviously has its origin in something out of themselves. The life of animals, although it is not elevated to the rank of moral life, is yet a life from God. And it was her clear perception of this, which led her to study their habits, and to sympathize with them so much. She saw in them God's life existing as a nature. The life of God in her own soul, though greatly superior in kind, was like that of animals, in one respect, — it had become a nature to her. And it seemed to her to operate much in the same way and with the same certainty that the instincts operate in the lower animals. It was not more natural and easy for the swallow to lift its wing, and to ascend in a clear summer sky, than for her own soul to ascend and unite itself with God.

And how wonderful her inward peace was, all know who are acquainted with her history. She gives us expressly to understand that she did not undertake to regulate herself by the common human methods; conscious as she was that God, by a new law of life, had become her inward regulator. And she was thus freed from a thousand anxieties and dangers.

And it is obvious how greatly this state of things must contribute to the true peace and rest of the soul in all cases. Happy, thrice happy, is such a man! His countenance is cheerful, because he has joy in his heart. If he seems to do nothing, it is because God works in him. If his burden is light, it is because God bears it. Satan, envious of their happiness, sometimes says to such, "Ye are deceived. Why do ye not fast, as did John's disciples?” But Jesus replies now, as he replied in former times: — "Can the children of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?”

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 9.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

God Now Conforms the Soul to Action

It is important to understand the view which has now been presented. The want of a full understanding of it has sometimes perplexed those persons who have been led by the Holy Ghost into the higher stages of experience. They doubt their love, because they find it so easy and natural to love. The suggestion arises in their minds, because the perception of their own working is lost in the fact of God's working, that perhaps nothing is done at all. Certain it is that their present state is very different from their former state, when they were but beginners in the religious life.

Formerly, their life was a divided one. The inward struggle was almost incessant. Comparatively speaking, there was no rest, no peace. But now, the unity of their affections in God has put an end to all interior trouble, except so far as the soul is tried by temptations originating from without. Formerly, they found the service of God, both in its inward and outward forms, obstructed and hard, requiring the greatest effort. But now they rejoice in God always, as if they had no other business, and no other desire. Formerly, they could hardly eat, or speak, or move, without great anxiety, in consequence of finding sin intermingled with everything. But now they find the grace of God sufficient for the regulation of the appetites and the social principles; and those things which were once occasions of temptation and sorrow, are now occasions of gratitude. Formerly, they conformed their actions to God, who was a God afar off'; — and this was troublesome, because the agency was in a great degree in themselves. But now God, who dwells within, conforms the soul to the action; and thus they are not conscious either of effort or trouble. In a word, "their yoke is easy, and their burden is light."

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 9.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Holiness is One in Nature, But Diverse in Expression

It is one of the characteristics of a holy life, when it is not merely incipient but has become a nature, that, with the single exception of that, which, in being sin, is the opposite of itself, it easily harmonizes and sympathizes with what now is. In other words, while the inward fountain of holy love at the heart is always the same, and always full, the streams which flow from it, repelled by opposition, or attracted by sympathy, take their course variously, in the diversified channels of Providence.

Accordingly, harmonizing with the present objects of his thoughts and affections, the holy man is one in nature, but diversified in manifestation. He "weeps with those who weep, and rejoices with those who rejoice." Under the unerring impulses of the life which is from God, he becomes "all things to all men," but without losing the identity of his character as one united with God, and as being the "temple of the Holy Ghost." Instructed by the teachings of love, which is the best of all teachers, he is a man of smiles or of tears, of action or of rest. He rests when it is the time to rest, because rest in its time is better than toil out of time; but he labors when Providence calls him to labor, and love makes his labor sweet. He has a heart for humanity, and a heart for nature. More than a mere amateur of the outward world, he loves the rocks and the mountains for their own beauty and sublimity, and for the God that dwells in them. His heart warms and melts in the summer sunshine; but the thunder is his also, and the lightning. Nothing is out of place, because place is subordinated to the eternity and ubiquity of the life within. He is a citizen of his country, and serves her well, with­out losing the evidence of his citizenship in heaven; a subject of the powers that are ordained of God, without ceasing to be the subject of Him who has ordained them. He sings praises with the devoted Christian, and his heart yearns and melts over the impenitent sinner. In his simplicity, he is the companion of children; and in his wisdom, the counselor of age. He can sit at meat with the "publican and sinner," or receive the  hospitality of the unhumbled Pharisee; and, in both cases, he unites the proprieties of love with the faithfulness of duty.

And all this, which seems to imply contradiction, and to require effort, is what it is, in all its ease and all its promptness, because it is not the result of worldly calculation, but the infallible working of a divine nature.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 9.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Holy Life is Natural to Those Who are Holy

A holy life, also, when it is once fully and permanently established, is as natural to those who are holy, as a sinful life is to those who are sinful. In the mixed, or partly sanctified life, which is intermediate between the sinful and the holy, there is a conflict of natures; and we cannot well say, for any length of time, what the true or real nature of the man is. But when a person has obtained inward victory, when selfishness has ceased to exist, and when also he is freed from the lingering and perplexing influences of former evil habits, he is then the subject of a truly natural life. Just the opposite of the unregenerated man, — with a life as true and just as that of the other is untrue and unjust,— he does right, not by an effort which has the appearance, as well as the reality, of going against nature, but because, with his present disposition, he cannot do otherwise. He not only loves God, but he does it without reflecting on his love, without any effort, which would imply a conflict with some inward, opposing principle. He does it freely, easily, and perfectly; which would not be the case if he did it with conscious effort, or if his mind were diverted from the object of his love to reflections on the love itself. Holiness has become a nature.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 9.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Peace and Holiness

We proceed further to say, in the consideration of the elements of true spiritual peace, that the degree of peace will correspond to the advancement of the soul in holi­ness. And, one reason of this, among others, is, that the new principle of holiness, when it has become fully engrafted and established in the soul, has all the attributes of a new nature. It certainly is not contrary either to the facts or the reason of the case, to speak of the ruling principle, in a soul which is fully united with God, as operating naturally. And natural action, that is to say, action flowing from nature, in distinction from that which originates from forced efforts of the will made against nature, — is, of course, easy, quiet, peaceful action. But it is necessary to give some explanations of this view.

That which acts naturally has a natural life. A natural life is that life which develops itself in accordance with the principles of its own nature, and which, in doing so, is true and harmonious to itself. The sinner, in his unregenerated state, lives and acts naturally in sinning; because that which he does is not only his own doing, but is done voluntarily and easily, and harmonizes with its own central principle of movement. The central principle in fallen man is self. The great law of selfishness, which requires him to place himself first, and God and humanity under him, regulates all his actions. From this principle, which operates as an internal and life-giving force, his actions flow out as constantly and as naturally as trees grow in a soil which is appropriate to them, and as waters flow from mountains to the ocean.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 9.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

God Is Ready to Speak

It is a great truth, almost as evident on natural as it undoubtedly is evident on Scriptural grounds, that, when we have given ourselves wholly to God, he will give himself to us in all that is necessary and important for us. And this general principle involves the subordinate idea, that he is willing to communicate knowledge, and to become our TEACHER. We ought not to doubt, that God is ready to speak to us with all the kindness of a Father, and to make known all that is necessary for us. And while in the process of teaching and guiding men, he operates outwardly, even at the present day, by means of his written word; he also operates inwardly by means of interior communications. Sometimes by sudden suggestions, in the manner which has already been mentioned; but much more frequently and satisfactorily, by availing himself of the more ordinary laws of the mind's acting; and by uttering his inward voice through the decisions of  a spiritually enlightened judgment. This is a great practical and religious truth, however much it may be unknown in the experience of those who are not holy in heart, that the decision of a truly sanctified judgment is, and of necessity must be, the voice of God speaking in the soul.

But  this important doctrine, it must be admitted, requires to be correctly and thoroughly understood. It  should be particularly remembered, that God does not, and cannot speak in this way, unless there is SINCERITY. And by sincerity we mean a sincere desire to do his will in all things, as well as a sincere desire to know and do his will in the particular thing which is laid before him. Such sincerity, which may be regarded as but another name for entire consecration, naturally excludes all the secret biases of self-interest and prejudice, and places the mind in the position most favorable for the admission and discovery of truth. It is in such a mind, and not in a mind which is governed by worldly passions, that the Holy Ghost, whose office it is to guide men into all necessary truth, loves to dwell. We may, therefore, lay down the general principle, that the decision of a spiritually enlightened judgment, made in a state of entire consecration to God's will, and with a sincere desire to know his will, may justly be regarded as a divine answer, or an answer from God, in the particular matter or subject, in relation to which an answer has been sought. The decision of the judgment, which is arrived at in such a state of freedom from self-interest and passion, and under the secret guidance of the Holy Spirit, is oftentimes so clear and so prompt, that it almost seems to be a voice audibly speaking in the soul. It is true, however, in point of fact, that it is only the inward ear, or the ear of faith, and not the outward or bodily ear which is spoken to. In yielding our assent to the decisions of our judgments, we have faith,  under all the circumstances of the case, and especially in view of the promise of God to give light to those that sincerely ask him, that we are adopting the decisions to which our Heavenly Father would lead us. So that we may confidently say, that the answer of the judgment, in connection with the spirit of entire consecration on the one hand, and of entire faith in God's promises on the other, is God's answer; that is to say, is the answer, which God, under the existing circumstances, sees fit to give, whether it be more or less full and explicit. And this is all which the truly humble Christian either expects or wishes to receive, viz. such an answer, be it more or less, as God sees fit to give. Even if he is unable to come to a specific determination on the subject before him, he still feels that he is not without an inward voice. He has God's answer even then, viz. that, under the circumstances of the case, God has no specific communication to make; and that He requires him to exercise the humility and faith, appropriate to a state of ignorance. And this response, humbling as it is to the pride of the natural heart, he truly regards as very important, and as entirely satisfactory. It is in this method, a method which appears to be free from dangers, that God ordinarily answers and converses with his people.

In view of what has been said, we come to the conclusion, that it is very proper for pious people, especially for those whose hearts are truly sanctified, to speak not only of laying their requests before God, but of receiving a divine answer. It is not improper for them to speak, if it is done with a suitable degree of reverence, of holding conversation with Godof talking with God. The expressions correspond with the facts. To talk with God — to go to him familiarly as children to a parent — to speak to him in the secrecy of their spirits, and to receive an inward answer as gracious as it is decisive, is not only a privilege granted them, but a privilege practically realized. When, therefore, we find in the memoirs of very pious persons, as we sometimes do, statements and accounts of their holding internal conversations with God, of the requests they make, and of the answers they receive, we are not necessarily to regard such experiences as fanatical or deceitful. On the contrary., we think it impossible for a person to be truly and wholly the Lord's, without frequently being the subject of this inward and divine intercourse.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd Edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 8.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Voice of God in the Soul

"I laid my request before the Lord, and the Lord, answered me." 

This is a remark, which is frequently made by persons of eminent piety. They cannot doubt that they truly hold communication with God. Addressing him either in silence or the spoken utterance of words, they find that they do not ask without receiving. God speaks to them in return.

It is important to understand the nature of the answers which God gives. In those earlier religious dispensations, of which we have an account in the Old Testament, God answered his people in various ways; by visible signs, by the cloud and the fire, by Urim and Thummim, by miracles, by audible voices. The periods of those dispensations have passed away, and the methods of communication, which were appropriate to them, have passed away also. What are we to understand, then, by the divine utterance, the voice of God, in the soul, of which those persons, who are eminently pious at the present time, have frequent occasion to speak?

We remark in the first place, that one class of those inward utterances, which are frequently regarded as returns or answers from God, appear to be impressions, or rather suggested thoughts or suggestions, which are suddenly but distinctly originated in the mind; and apparently from some cause independent of the mind itself. Sometimes the suggestion consists in suddenly bringing to the mind a particular passage of Scripture, which is received as the divine answer.

Sometimes the suggestion consists in the sudden origination of new ideas or truths in a new form of words; but truths so remarkable, either in their origin or in their application, that we are disposed to regard them as the inward, intimations and the voice of God. Of the frequent existence of such inward and sudden suggestions or impressions, we suppose there can be no reasonable doubt. It is well understood, and. seems to be placed beyond question, that they make a portion of the internal history of many pious persons.

A few remarks may properly be made on this class of inward voices; and one is, that sudden suggestions or impressions may have, and that they do sometimes have a natural origin. The natural man, as well as the religious man, will sometimes tell us, that he has had an unexpected or remarkable suggestion or impression. In the treatises which exist on the subject of disordered mental action, the existence of frequent and sudden impressions, such as have been described, is laid down, and apparently with good reason, because the results have justified it, as one of the marks of an incipient state of insanity. Another remark, which it may be proper to make here, is this.  It is a common, and probably a well founded opinion, that sudden inward suggestions, or impressions may have, and that they do sometimes have, a Satanic origin. If Satan is permitted to operate upon the human mind at all, and lead it astray, of which the Scriptures do not permit us to doubt, it is certainly a reasonable supposition, that he sometimes makes his attacks in this manner. And especially may we take this view, when we consider that he is a spiritual being, and would more naturally act upon the spirit or minds of men, than upon the body. A third remark is, that the sudden suggestions or impressions, which we are considering, are undoubtedly, in some instances, from a truly good or divine source. It is hardly reasonable to suppose, that God would forbid himself a method of operation on the human mind, which he allows to Satan; and which, if it may be employed under a bad direction, to a bad purpose, is also susceptible in other hands of a good one. We may reasonably conclude, therefore, that the Holy Spirit sometimes adopts this method of operation.

It remains to be added here, that, if these remarkable suggestions may arise from sources so various and different, they should be received with caution; otherwise we may be led astray by the voice of nature or the voice of Satan; believing it to be the voice of our Heavenly Father. God deals with us as rational beings. And it is a consequence of God's recognition of our rationality, that he does not require us to act upon sudden suggestions or impressions, even if they come from himself, without our first subjecting them to the scrutiny of reason. And it is here that we find the ground of our safety in respect to a method of operation upon us, which otherwise would be likely to be full of danger. Accordingly, when a sudden suggestion is presented to the mind, we ought to delay upon it, although it may seem at first sight to require an immediate action. We should compare it with the will of God, as revealed in the Bible. We should examine it dispassionately and deliberately with the best lights of reason, and with the assistance of prayer. Indeed, if the suggestion comes from God, it is presented with this very object; not to lead us to action without judgment and without reason; but to arouse the judgment from its stupidity, and to put it upon a train of important inquiry. And when this is done in a calm and dispassionate manner, and with sincere desires for divine direction, we hare good reason to believe, that we may avoid the dangers which have been referred to, by detecting those suggestions which are from an evil source, and may realize important benefits.

But we ought not to feel, that in our inward conversation with God, we are limited to such occasions as have been mentioned; and that we have no inward response, except by means of sudden and remarkable impressions, which are liable to the dangers which have been indicated, and which generally exist only at considerable intervals from each other. On the contrary, we have abundant reason for saying, that it is our privilege always to be conversing with God, and always to receive the divine answer.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd Edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 8.