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.

Friday, February 24, 2017

God Works by Grace and by Position

Reflections on
the Life of
Madame Jeanne de la Mothe Guyon.

But there she was, and she felt and knew that her earthly hopes were blasted. But she did not then perceive what she afterwards knew, that God placed her there in his providence, as he made Joseph a slave in Egypt, "for her good." God had formed her for himself. He loved her too much to permit her to remain long in harmony with a world, which, in its vanity and its corruption, He could not love. He knew what was requisite in order to accomplish his own work; He knew under what providences the natural life would retain its ascendency, and the soul would be lost; and under what providences grace would be rendered effectual, and the soul would be saved.

I have sometimes thought that God, who always respects man's moral freedom, carries on and completes the great work of his salvation, not only by grace, but by position. I use the word position here as nearly synonymous with external providences; and in laying down this proposition, I mean to say, it seems to me, although I would not speak with much confidence, to be a law of the divine action. Such are the relations between mind and place, that no man ever is what he is, independently of his situation. The mind has no power of acting in entire separation from the relations it sustains; it knows nothing where there are no objects to be known; loves nothing where there are no objects to be loved; does nothing where there is nothing to be done. Its powers of perception, its capabilities of affectionate or malevolent feeling, its resources of "volitional" or voluntary determination, develop their strength and their moral character in connection with the occasions which call them forth. Let any man read the Life of St. Augustine, particularly in connection with what he has himself said in his Confessions, or the Life of Francis Xavier, of Archbishop Leighton, of George Fox, of Baxter, of Wesley, of Brainerd, of Henry Martyn, — and then say, if different circumstances, (a situation, for instance, comparatively exempt from temptation and toil,) would have developed the same men, the same strength of purpose, the same faith in God, the same purity of life. This illustrates what we mean when we say that in the religious life we are the creatures, not only of grace, but of position, or more strictly and truly, of grace acting by position. If this doctrine be true, it throws light and beauty over the broad field of God's providences, and shows us why many have passed to glory through great tribulation. Tribulation was necessary to bring them, if not to the true life of God in the first instance, to that fulness and brightness of the inward life which they have experienced. So that those, who grow in grace by suffering, may do well to remember, that probably nothing but the seasons of trial which they have been called to pass through, would have fitted them for the reception and effectual action of that grace which is their consolation and their hope.

This was the view which Madame Guyon herself subsequently took of the subject.

— from The Life of Madame Guyon Volume 1, Chapter 5.

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