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, December 17, 2020

Faith in People Leads to Deception

 He, who has faith in himself and his fellow-men, exclusive of faith in God, or just in proportion as God is excluded, is known by a disposition to resort to human arts, and to rest strongly in human policy. And as a natural consequence of this, when the looks and the sayings of men are favorable, we find him cheered with increased hopes drawn from that source; but when the current of public sentiment sets in opposition, we see too clearly, that he is filled with despondency and dismay. Still, deceived by his own worldly spirit, he does not cease to place his hope where he placed it before. Even in his sorrows and disappointments, he casts upward no strong look of confidence towards God; or rather does not look towards him at all. But relying upon human strength, he continues to resort to those artifices which conciliate popular favor, while God is forgotten. And thus, deceived himself and deceived by others, he can find no true refreshment and strength of soul, because he applies to that “broken cistern, which can hold no water.”

On the other hand, the man, who has true and full faith in God, has no confidence, no faith in the creature, except as God’s instrument, as being under God’s direction, and as attended by God’s blessing. It is very proper, undoubtedly, and is entirely consistent with what has been said, to have faith in our fellow-men, and to have faith in ourselves, considered as God’s instruments, as reflecting God’s image, and as operating in the line of God’s providences; or in other words, to have faith in God in us. But it is not proper and it is not safe for us, as we have already seen, to have faith either in ourselves or in others, independently of God. The man, who has true faith in God, and who in having such faith is a true Christian, cannot do it.

 

The Life of Faith, Part 2, Chapter 2.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Trust in God Only

 As Christians, have faith in God; and have faith in that, and that only, which has God in it. Whenever and wherever you can see the divine nature in the human nature, “God manifest in the flesh,” by meekness, purity, and love, so far you may trust. So far as God is not there, you can trust only as you would trust that which is without true wisdom and without true strength; which is the same thing as to say, that there is, in reality, no place for trust. So that it is easiest and shortest, because it is wisest and truest, to say, trust in God only. Throw aside every other support. Reject every other refuge. Consider man out of God as what he really is, nothing. And looking to him, who is just the opposite, the All in All, say, in the significant and beautiful language of the Psalmist, “My soul, wait thou ONLY upon God, for my expectation is from him.”

 

The Life of Faith, Part 2, Chapter 2.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Faith in God and Faith in People

In remarking on the relation of faith in God to faith in the creature, it will be kept in mind, that we are speaking of religious faith, in distinction from natural faith. It is undoubtedly true, that as natural men, that is to say, as men without religion, we may properly exercise a degree of confidence or faith in others, considered as natural men. Perhaps we may say, it is unavoidable. Man is so constituted, that he naturally and necessarily has faith in something. He cannot live without it. If a man has not faith in God, it is a matter of course, that he has faith in something which is not God. And just in proportion as that faith, which is due to God, fails to be placed where it is due, it will invariably be found to be given and placed somewhere else. Those, therefore, who have not faith in God, are consistent with themselves, and consistent with their fallen nature, in placing faith in men. They cannot well do otherwise. Man, such as he is, and with such power as he can impart, is their support. In a word, by the very fact of not placing faith in God, who is the “I AM,” the ALL in ALL, and by placing it in man, they make man their God. This is natural; it is the unavoidable result of the natural life.

 The religious man, considered as a religious man, (that is to say, considered as acting for religious objects and on religious principles,) cannot place faith in his fellow-men, except in a certain way and on certain conditions. The degree and the mode of the faith, which is to be exercised by the religious man in his fellow creatures, are to be determined by the relation which exists between God and man. It is well understood, that God and man sustain certain definite relations to each other; God as the Creator, man as the created; God as infinite in knowledge, man as comparatively knowing nothing; God as all powerful in the possession and control of all things, man in himself considered as entirely without strength. The relation in the objects of faith furnishes the rule, which regulates the relation of the faith itself. Accordingly if as Christians, we exercise faith in God, and at the same time exercise faith in man, it can be so only under the restriction and on the condition of keeping faith in man in proper subordination, by making it conform precisely to the relations actually existing.

 And on the principle just laid down, we may undoubtedly, as religious persons, have faith in man, just so far as he is entitled to the exercise of faith. And he is entitled to faith, just so far as he is in union with God; deriving from God, who is the source of all good, that true strength and wisdom, of which he is naturally destitute. If we trust in man under other circumstances, that is to say, independently of God and out of God, we trust in that, which is obviously full of weakness; and may be said, in the most emphatic manner, to “lean upon a broken reed.” The principle, therefore, is, that, as religious men, we cannot place any real confidence in our fellow-men, considered in their natural life, or merely as men; but can have confidence in them only as they themselves have faith in God, and may be regarded as in some degree partakers of the divine nature. If as Christians we have faith in God as God, namely, as a being possessed of all wisdom, all goodness, all strength, and as the true source of wisdom and strength to all other beings, we shall have no inducement, nor can any reason at all be suggested, why we should repose confidence, except in the subordinate manner already mentioned, in any other being. To do it would obviously imply a secret distrust of God, and could not be otherwise than offensive to him. 

 

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 2, Chapter 2.

Friday, July 19, 2019

God Worshipped in His Works

"The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard." — Ps. 19. 1, 2, 3.

Men use a different speech in different climes,
But Nature hath one voice and only one.
Her wandering moon, her stars, her golden sun,
Her woods and waters, in all lands and times,
In one deep song proclaim the wondrous story.
They tell it to each other in the sky,
Upon the winds they send it sounding high,
Jehovah's wisdom, goodness, power, and glory.
I hear it come from mountain, cliff, and tree,
Ten thousand voices in one voice united;
On every side the song encircles me,
The whole round world reveres and is delighted.
Ah! why, when heaven and earth lift up their voice,
Ah! why should man alone nor worship nor rejoice?


— from The Religious Offering (1835) XXVI.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Unknown God

We admit the doctrine of limited manifestations. God may manifest himself to a certain extent, and he does so. He manifests the fact of his existence by the works, which he has made. He manifests also, in the same manner, some of the incidents or attributes of his existence, such as his wisdom, his power, and goodness. And it is certainly possible for him, departing from the usual method of his proceedings, to manifest himself, even at the present time, in special or supernatural sights and sounds, in displays and visions of heaven and of earth, which shall be impressive to the outward senses. But what we contend for is, that such manifestations do not constitute, and cannot constitute the real knowledge, or rather the knowledge of the nature of the I AM; but are only a sign, adapted to the nature of our capacities, that the I AM is; that he has certain attributes; and that there is yet something beyond what the eye sees and the ear hears and the intellect knows; a region of existence, vast, unmeasured, infinite, which belongs to faith. Thomas, the doubting disciple, believed, as far as he could see, and only because he could see. Jesus said to him; “Thomas because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they, that have not seen, and yet have believed.

The love of manifestations, of that which is visible and tangible, in distinction from that, which is addressed to faith, is one of the evils of the present age. Men love visions, more than they love holiness. They would have God in their hands, rather than in their hearts. They would set him up as a thing to be looked at, and with decorated cars would transport him, if they could realize what their hearts desire, from place to place, on the precise principles of heathenism; because, being weak in faith, they find it difficult to recognize the existence, and to love and to do the will of an “unknown God.” But this was not the religion of the Apostle Paul. “As I passed by,” he says to the Athenians, “and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom, therefore, ye ignorantly worship, him I declare unto you.” We must be so humble, so sunk in the depths of our own nothingness, as to be willing to receive, worship, and love the God unknown; and who, because he is infinite, and man is finite, always must be unknown in a great degree; except in the MANIFESTATION OF HIS WILL. It is in his will, believing that his will is righteous, that we may meet with him, may know him, may rejoice in him, may become one with him. “BELIEVE in the Lord your God; so shall you be established.”

— edited from the Life of Faith (1852) Part 2, Chapter 1.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

No Manifestantion of God Can Exclude the Principle of Faith.

There may, undoubtedly, in the proper sense of the terms, be what may be called a manifestation of God; that is to say, a manifestation, which has relation to God; a manifestation, which indicates the fact of his existence and some of the attributes of his character. But God himself, including the mode of his existence, as well as the fact of his existence, God, in the fullness and extent of his being, never can be manifested. This, we think, however repugnant it may be to our first thoughts, is self-evident. 

It is entirely obvious, as it seems to us, that the finite never can comprehend the Infinite; and perhaps we may go further and say, that it never can make any real, any assignable approximation to it. Let it be supposed, that God manifests himself to the full extent of the capacity, which the creature possesses to receive the manifestation, it is still a manifestation only so far as the creature is able to receive it. It is only a SIGN of God, a mark, an indication; but not really and truly the thing signified. There are still heights and depths beyond. We admit, that it is a manifestation of that which a finite creature can comprehend; but it is not a manifestation, and never can be, of that, which is above comprehension, of the ALL in ALL.

We say, therefore, that there is, and can be no manifestation, which either does or can exclude the principles and the applications of FAITH. Out of the limits of the Trinity, beyond the pale of that intercommunion which exists in the persons of the Godhead itself, all holy beings, whatever their rank and whatever name they bear, live in the same manner. Faith is as truly necessary to the inward life of an Angel or of a Seraph, as it is to that of a redeemed sinner here on earth. They see further, it is true; and it is probably the case that the manifestation of God corresponds to the increased length and breadth of their vision; but beyond their power of sight and of all present knowledge, enlarged and bright as it is, there is still a region undiscovered, a vast land unknown. A land, where even angelic minds have never traveled, and which can be reached and explored only by faith.

When we take the view of the subject, which has now been given, no language can express the value, which we should attach to this wonderful principle; it being impossible, in the nature of things, for God so to manifest himself as to exclude its necessity and importance. And we may add, if all beings, angels as well as men, must live in this way, must live by faith alone, must live so now and live so forever, then it is hazardous to desire any other method of living. Satan understood the nature and tendency of such desires, when, in support of his fatal proposition to Eve, he said, “your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Be content, then, to acknowledge, that there are some things in God, which the human mind never can fully know. And this being the case, be willing to live by believing; and neither think nor desire to live in any other way. Be willing to see every outward light extinguished, to see the eclipse of every star in the blue heavens, leaving nothing but darkness and perils around, if God will only leave in the soul the inner radiance, the pure bright lamp which faith has kindled.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 2, Chapter 1.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Unbelief Seeks the Manifestation of God

Unbelief attaches itself to that, which is seen. Faith attaches itself to that, which is not seen. Accordingly those, who do not live by faith, must live by sight; that is to say, must live, not merely by what God is, but by what he manifests himself to be; not merely by the reality of God, which is one thing, but by the manifestation of God, so far as he can be comprehended by our limited faculties, which is another and a very different thing. And hence it is, that just in proportion as our faith is strong, we rest upon the reality of God, though clouds and darkness may be upon it. And just in proportion as our faith is weak, we desire a manifestation; something which we can see, something which we can touch. 

And as unbelief is the great characteristic of men in their original state, it may always be said with great truth, that it is natural to the human mind in that state to seek for manifestations. And this tendency, if we have formed a right estimate of it, always remains there, and continues to exert an influence, just in proportion as the mind itself remains unsanctified, either in whole or in part. It is true that man, even in his unrenewed state, often professes to regret his alienation from God, and to desire the restoration of union with him; but he first wishes to know what God is. And we are willing to acknowledge, that this is right, and is what it should be. But the difficulty is, that he seems in his unbelief, (and the same is true of the Christian just so far as unbelief remains,) to have but little reliance on any knowledge of God, which is not visible and tangible. In other words, as we have already intimated, he must have a manifestation.

It is this tendency, which explains, in part at least, some of the facts of Heathenism. In all heathen nations we find the ideas, which they entertain of their divinities, embodied in various images; which, encircled and sanctified as they are by the traditions of many generations, become to them a divine or “deific” manifestation. Behold, “these be the gods, Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” Their gods are before them, their Baals and Ashtaroths, their Brahmas and Vishnoos; not conceptively or as an object of the imagination, but visibly; not revealed to faith, but to sight; and they fall down and worship.

In souls, not truly and wholly consecrated to God, in other words, in souls in which faith has not become the controlling and absorbing principle, there are very likely to be some remains of this natural and unspiritual tendency. The facts of ecclesiastical history, both ancient and modern, abundantly show this to be the case. It is not enough, that God wrought miracles and sent prophets in times past, that he appeared in the clouds of Sinai, and in the burning bush of the wilderness. These things, to minds in which faith has not had its perfect work, are mere reminiscences of the past; they have become historical; they are revealed to faith, and not to sight. And hence they are looking in various directions, seeking a sign, some burning bush, some chariot of fire, some shaking of the stones of the temple and some rending of its mysterious veil, some opening in the heavens where God shall be seen visibly in a human form on a great white throne; each one, influenced by his own associations, and delineating in his own imagination the mode of his manifestation, and the time and manner of his coming. 

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 2, Chapter 1.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Inward Christ

The outward word is good and true,
But inward power alone makes new;
Not even Christ can cleanse from sin,
Until He comes and works within.

It was for this He could not stay,
But hasten'd up the starry way;
And keeps from outward sight apart,
That men may seek him in the heart.

CHRIST IN THE HEART! If absent there,
Thou canst not find Him anywhere;
CHRIST IN THE HEART! Oh friends, begin,
And build the throne of Christ within.

And know from this, that He is thine,
And that thy life is made divine,
When Holy Love shall have control,
And rule supremely in the soul.

Christ in the Soul (1872).

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

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. In man’s darkness, we nevertheless walk and live in God’s light. A way of living, which may well be styled blessed and glorious, however mysterious it may be to human vision. 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.” “BELIEVE in the Lord, your God, so shall ye be established. BELIEVE his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” 

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Dangers of Requiring Specific Answers to Prayer

In connection with the doctrine which has been laid down, viz., that answers to prayers are to be received by faith, we proceed to make a few remarks which are naturally related to it.

And one is, that this doctrine is favorable to self-renunciation. The desire of definite and specific answers 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 objects 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 existence of the life of self.

We remark again, that 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, nourishes 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.

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 Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 17.