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 21, 2017

On Religious Emotions

Religious emotions, whenever they make their appearance, should be so kept under control, as never to disturb the calmness of the perceptive and rational action of the mind. And the reason of the remark is this. True religion always has relation to the will of God. It implies conformity to the will of God; and conformity implies a knowledge of such will. But it is very obvious, that, considered as rational and accountable beings, we cannot be supposed to know, and that we cannot by any possibility know the divine will by means of mere instinct, by means of mere impulse, or of some strong and unregulated feeling. By such means merely it would be impossible for us to learn even the letters and the simple narratives of a child’s spelling book; much less the moral and religious facts and relations, upon which hang the results of an eternal existence. The will of God can be known by the human soul only in connection with the exercise of the judgment; in other words, by means of those perceptive and rational powers, which are a part of our nature. Powers, which cannot act clearly, efficiently, and satisfactorily, in connection with a violent and agitated state of the emotions. Hence, when God dwells in the soul by the proper possession and regulation of its powers, it will be peaceful.

The emotional part of religion, in distinction from that part of it, which consists in entire consecration and unwavering faith, often occasions a degree of perplexity even to very devout minds. Brainerd, the celebrated missionary among the North American Indians, was out of health at a certain time; so much so as to be very weak, and “unable to do his work.” Remarking in his Diary upon his feelings at this time, he says, “As I was able to do little or nothing, so I enjoyed not much spirituality, or lively religious affection.”

What shall we say of such an instance as this. It seems to me we should say, and we cannot very safely say either more or less, that he was afflicted, but not cast off; in sorrow, but not forgotten. In other words, that being wearied and sick in body, and overwhelmed in mind with the responsibilities of his situation, he had less of joyful emotions than at other times, emotions which vary very much with our physical and mental trials, but not that he really had less spirituality, less religion, or that he was less the subject of God’s love.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 11.

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