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.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Oh, What a Fearful Thing It Is

Oh,  what a fearful thing it is,
That, from the better way,
Attracted by illusive bliss,
We love to go astray.

At first we slightly turn aside,
Nor think to travel long,
But  more and more we wander wide,
And, more and more go wrong.

Oh, poor and erring wanderer, stay!
Nor thus forsake thy God;
With hasty step regain the way
Thine earlier footsteps trod.

Oh, happy he, who loves to weep
With penitential tears,
And thus has strength divine to keep
His path in coming years.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Saturday, December 21, 2013


"Be ye angry and sin not." The life of our Savior, as well as the precepts of the apostles, clearly teaches us, that there may be occasions, on which we may have feelings of displeasure, and even of anger, without sin. Sin does not necessarily attach to anger, considered in its nature, but in its degree. Nevertheless, anger seldom exists in fact, without becoming in its measurement inordinate and excessive. Hence it is important to watch against it, lest we be led into transgression. Make it a rule therefore, never to give any outward expressions to angry feelings, (a course which will operate as a powerful check upon their excessive action,) until you have made them the subject of reflection and prayer. And thus you may hope to be kept.

— from Religious Maxims (1846), VII.

Friday, December 20, 2013

As Coming From a Father's Hand

Do not think it strange, when troubles and persecutions come upon you. Rather receive them quietly and thankfully, as coming from a Father's hand. Yea, happy are ye, if, in the exercise of faith, you can look above the earthly instrumentality, above the selfishness and malice of men, to him who has permitted them for your good. Thus persecuted they the Savior and the prophets.

— from Religious Maxims (1846) VI.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiness is Required of All

Holiness, as the term has now been explained, in other words, pure and perfect love, is required of all persons. We do not esteem it necessary to delay and repeat all the passages, in which the requisition is made. It is written very plainly upon all parts of the Bible, from the beginning to the end of it. “But as he, which hath called you, is holy,” says the apostle Peter, “so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, be ye holy, for I am holy.” All, therefore, which we have to say further at the present time is this: Those, who aim at the possession of the Hidden Life, who wish to walk with God and to hold communion with him in the interior man, as a friend converses with a friend, will find these glorious results impossible to them, except on the condition of HOLINESS OF HEART. So long as they indulge voluntarily in any known sin, they erect a wall of separation between themselves and their heavenly Father; and he cannot and will not take them into his bosom, and reveal to them the hidden secrets of his love. They must stand far off; we do not say that they are utterly rejected; but they occupy the position of their own selection; obscure and perplexed in their own experience, and darkness and perplexity to all around them.

— from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844), Chapter 2.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Nature of Christian Perfection

What, then, ... is the nature of Christian perfection, or of that holiness, which, as fallen and as physically and intellectually imperfect creatures, we are imperatively required and expected to exercise; and to exercise not merely in the “article of death,” but at the present moment and during every succeeding moment of our lives? It is on a question of this nature, if on any one which can possibly be proposed to the human understanding, that we must go to the Bible; and must humbly receive, irrespective of human suggestions and human opinions, the answer which the word of God gives. Happily for us, and happily for the world, this question is answered by the Savior himself; and in such a way as to leave the subject clear and satisfactory to humble and candid minds. When the Savior was asked, Which is the great commandment in the Law, he answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:37–39. And it is in accordance with the truth, involved in this remarkable passage, that the apostle asserts, Romans 13:10, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.”

He, therefore, who loves God with his whole heart and his neighbor as himself, although his state may in some incidental respects be different from that of Adam, and especially from that of the angels in heaven, and although he may be the subject of involuntary imperfections and infirmities, which, in consequence of his relation to Adam, require confession and atonement, is, nevertheless, in the gospel sense of the terms, a holy or sanctified person. He has that love, which is the “fulfilling of the law.” He bears the image of Christ. It is true, he may not have that physical or intellectual perfection which the Savior had; but he bears his moral image. And of such an one can it be said in the delightful words of the Saviour, John 14:23: “If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."

— from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844), Chapter 2.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Human Infirmity Requires an Atonement

All mere physical infirmities, which originate in our fallen condition, but which necessarily prevent our doing for God what we should otherwise do; and also all unavoidable errors and imperfections of judgment, which in their ultimate causes result from sin, (we have reference here to Adam’s sin) require an atonement. It seems to be clear, that God constituted the human race on the principle of an unity, or perhaps more precisely, of a close connection, of obligations and interests; linking together man with man, as with bands of iron, in the various civil, social, and domestic relations. And in consequence of the existence of the great connective laws of nature, (laws which our own judgments and consciences alike approve,) it seems to be the case, that we may sometimes justly suffer, in our own persons, results which are of a punitive kind, although in their source flowing from the evil conduct of others rather than our own. And hence it is that the head of a family ordinarily does not sin, without affecting the happiness of its members. Nor does any member of the family ordinarily sin without involving others in the consequences of the transgression. Nor does the head of a community, or of a State, or of any other associated body, commit errors and crimes without a diffusion of the attendant misery through the subordinate parts of the association. In other words, an union or association of relations and interests, whether it be established by ourselves or by that higher Being with whose wisdom we ought ever to be satisfied, necessarily induces a common liability to error, suffering, and punishment.

And in accordance with this view, we may very properly, sincerely, and deeply mourn over those various infirmities and imperfections, which flow out of our connection with an erring and fallen parent, although they are very different in their nature from deliberate and voluntary transgressions; and may with deep humility make application to the blood of Christ, as alone possessing that atoning efficacy, which can wash their stains away. In other words, God is to be regarded as righteous in exacting from us whatever we could or might have rendered him if Adam had not fallen, and if the race had remained holy. Nevertheless he has mercifully seen fit to remit or forgive all these involuntary sins, more commonly and perhaps more justly called imperfections or trespasses, if we will but cordially accept of the atonement in the blood of Christ. But without the shedding of blood and confession, there is no more remission in this case than in any other. It is probably in reference to such imperfections or trespasses, rather than to sins of a deliberate and voluntary nature, that some good people speak of the moral certainty or necessity we are under of sinning all the time. If such is all their meaning, it is not very necessary to dispute with them.

— from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844), Chapter 2.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Present Holiness Is Not the Holiness of Heaven

The holiness which, in accordance with the principles of the gospel, is required to be exercised in the present life, differs in some respects from the holiness or sanctification of a future life. It is important to add, however, that it does not differ in its nature; but only in some of its accessories or incidents. In its nature holiness ever will be, and ever must be the same; but it may differ in some of the attendant circumstances or incidents, under which it exists. One of the particulars of an accessory or incidental character, in which the holiness of the future life may be regarded as differing from that of the present, is, that it is not liable, by any possibility whatever, to any interruption or suspension. No physical infirmity, no weariness or perplexity, of body or of mind, nothing will ever, even for a moment, either vitiate or weaken the purity of its exercises. The spiritual body, which constitutes the residence of the soul in its heavenly state, accelerates and perfects its operations, instead of retarding and perplexing them; so that its purity is always unstained, its joy always full, the song of its worship always new.

Another ground of difference between the sanctification or holiness of the present and that of the future life is to be found in the circumstance, that in the present life we are subject to perpetual and heavy temptations. No one, however advanced in religious experience, is wholly exempt from them. On the contrary, persons, who are the most holy, often endure temptations of the severest kind. But it is not so in the heavenly world. In that happier place the contest ceases forever. There is not only no sin, and no possibility of sinning; but no temptation to sin. While, therefore, we hold to the possibility of a freedom from actual voluntary transgression in this life, it ought to be understood that we do not hold to a freedom from temptation. So that we may speak of the continuance of the spiritual warfare in the present life, as a matter of necessity, but not of the continuance of sin as a matter of necessity.

— Edited from The Interior of Hidden Life (1844), Chapter 2.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiness Does Not Imply Perfect Knowledge

Evangelical or gospel holiness does not necessarily imply a perfection of the intellect, either in its perceptive or in its comparing and judging powers. The perfection of the intellectual action depends in part on the perfection of physical action; on the perfection, for instance, of the organs of sense, the organs of the sight, hearing, and touch. But in our present fallen condition, it is well known that these and other physical instrumentalities, which have a greater or less connection with the mental action, are greatly disordered. And the natural and necessary consequence of this state of things will be a degree of perplexity and obscurity in such mental action. And such is the connection of the powers of the mind, one with another, that an erroneous action in one part of the mind will be likely to lay the foundation for a degree of erroneous action in some other part. Hence in the present life a perfect knowledge of things, either in themselves or in their relations, may be regarded in the light of a physical impossibility. And such perfect knowledge, in which there is not the least possible mistake or error, does not appear to be required of us in the gospel, as a necessary condition of holiness and of acceptance with God.

— from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844), Chapter 2.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Holiness Does Not Imply Physical Perfection

The holiness, which Christ requires in his people, and which, in order to distinguish it from Adamic perfection, is sometimes designated as evangelical or gospel holiness, does not necessarily imply a perfection of the physical system. Adam, before his fall, was a perfect man physically as well as mentally. His senses were sound; his limbs symmetrical; his muscular powers uninjured; and in all merely corporeal or physical respects, we may reasonably suppose, that he possessed all that could be desired. But this is not our present condition. Far from it. In consequence of the fall of Adam, we inherit bodies that are subject to various weaknesses and infirmities. 

Many are called, in the Providence of God, to endure a great degree of suffering through the whole course of their days. These weaknesses and infirmities, which are often the source of great perplexity and suffering, are natural to us. To a considerable extent at least, we cannot prevent their coming; nor, when they have come, can we, by any mere voluntary acts, send them away. We admit, therefore, if gospel holiness necessarily implies physical perfection, that none can be holy. But this is not the case.

— from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844).

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Hidden Life

There is a modification or form of religious experience which may conveniently, and probably with a considerable degree of propriety, be denominated the Interior or Hidden Life. When a person first becomes distinctly conscious of his sinfulness, and in connection with this experience, exercises faith in Christ as a Savior from sin, there is no doubt, however feeble these early exercises may be, that he has truly entered upon a new life. But this new life, although it is in its element different from that of the world, is only in its beginning. It embraces, undoubtedly, the true principle of a restored and renovated existence, which in due time will expand itself into heights and depths of knowledge and of feeling; but it is now only in a state of incipiency, maintaining, and often times but feebly maintaining a war with the anterior or natural life, and being nothing more at present than the early rays and dawnings of the brighter day that is coming.

It is not so with what may be conveniently denominated the Hidden Life; a form of expression which we employ to indicate a degree of Christian experience, greatly in advance of that, which so often lingers darkly and doubtfully at the threshold of the Christian’s career. As the Hidden Life, as we now employ the expressions, indicates a greatly advanced state of religious feeling, resulting in a sacred and intimate union with the Infinite Mind, we may perhaps regard the Psalmist, who had a large share of this interior experience, as making an indistinct allusion to it when he says “Thou art my HIDING place, and my shield.” And again “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Perhaps the Apostle Paul makes some allusion to this more advanced and matured condition of the religious life, when in the Epistle to the Galatians, he says “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, BUT CHRIST LIVETH IN ME.” And again, addressing the Colossians, “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth; for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” And does not the Savior himself sometimes recognize the existence of an Interior or Hidden Life, unknown to the world, and unknown, to a considerable extent, even to many that are denominated Christians, but who are yet in the beginning of their Christian career? “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the HIDDEN MANNA, and I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, save he that RECEIVETH it.”

The phrase Hidden Life, which is appropriately and peculiarly the life of all those, who, advancing beyond the first elements of Christianity, may properly be said to be sanctified in Christ Jesus, indicates a vitality or living principle, which differs in various particulars from every other form of life.

In the first place, 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. It buds, blossoms, and bears fruit in the strong basis of an eternal stock. “I am the vine,” says the Savior, “ye are the branches. He, that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.” This is a great mystery, but it is also a great truth. The Christian, whose “life is hid with Christ in God,” can never doubt, that his spiritual existence and growth originate in and are sustained in that divine source alone.

In the second place, the life, which we are considering, may properly be called a Hidden Life, because its moving principles, its interior and powerful springs of action, are not known to the world. This is what might naturally be expected from what has already been said in respect to the relation existing between a truly devoted Christian and his Savior; inasmuch as he is taken from himself and is grafted into another, and has now become a “new man in Christ Jesus.” The natural man can appreciate the natural man. The man of the world can appreciate the man of the world. And it must be admitted, that he can appreciate, to a considerable extent, numbers of persons, who profess to be Christians, and who are probably to be regarded as such in the ordinary sense of the term, because the natural life still remains in them in part. There is such a mixture of worldly and religious motives in the ordinary forms of the religious state, such an impregnation of what is gracious with what is natural, that the men of the world can undoubtedly form an approximated, if not a positive estimate of the principles, which regulate the conduct of its possessors. But of the springs of movement in the purified or Hidden Life, except by dark and uncertain conjecture, they know comparatively nothing. Little can the men, who under the teachings of nature have been trained up to the reception and love of the doctrine, which inculcates “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” appreciate the evangelical precept, which requires us, when we are assaulted, “to turn the other cheek.” Still feebler and more imperfect is the idea, which they form of that ennobling Christian philosophy, which inculcates the love of holiness for holiness’ sake. They are entirely at a loss, and on any principles with which they are at present acquainted, they ever must be at a loss, in their estimate of that intimacy and sacredness of friendship, which exists between God and the sanctified mind. Rightly is it said in the Scriptures, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Again, the Hidden life has a claim to the descriptive epithet, which we have proposed to apply to it, because, in its results upon individual minds, it is directly the reverse of the life of the world. The natural life seeks notoriety. Desirous of human applause, it aims to clothe itself in purple and fine linen. It covets a position in the market place and at the corners of the streets. It loves to be called Rabbi. But the life of God in the soul, occupied with a divine companionship, avoids all unnecessary familiarities with men. It pursues a lowly and retired course. It obeys the precept of the Saviour, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and pray to thy Father, who seeth in secret”. It neither desires to see nor to be seen openly, except when and where duty calls it. It is willing to be little, to be unhonored, and to be cast out from among men. It has no eye for worldly pomp; no ear for worldly applause. It is formed on the model of the Saviour, who was a man unknown. He came into the world, the highest personage on the highest errand; and yet so humble in origin, so simple in appearance, so gentle in heart and manners, that the world could not comprehend him; and he was ever a sealed book, except to those, who had the key of the inner life to open it with.

In close connection with what has been said, we may remark further, that the hidden life of religion is not identical with the place and with the formalities and observances of religion; nor is it necessarily dependent upon them. If it were so, it would no longer be hidden: but would be as much exposed to notice, as that which is most expansive and attractive in the outward temple and in the external formality. It is true that places of worship and the various outward formalities of worship may be its handmaids, and oftentimes very important ones; but they are not its essence. It has no essence, but its own spiritual nature, and no true locality but the soul, which it sanctifies. It may be found, therefore, among all classes of men and consequently in all places, occupying equally the purple of the king and the rags of a beggar; prostrating itself at the altar of the cathedral, or offering its prayer in the humble conventicle in the wilderness: like the wind that bloweth where it listeth, and “ye know not whence it cometh nor whither it goeth.” And, therefore, being what the Savior has denominated it, “the kingdom of God within you,” and essentially independent of outward circumstances, it possesses a perpetual vitality. It cannot die, for the vivifying breath of God is in it. And hence it is, that in the most disastrous periods of the church, there have always been some, (a seven thousand perhaps,) who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Ministers may have become corrupt; churches may have been infected with unholy leaven; the rich and the learned may have been unanimous in their rejection of every thing except the mere superficialities of religion; and yet it will be found that God, who values the blood of his beloved Son too highly to let it remain inoperative, has raised his altar in individual hearts. In the dwellings of the poor, in solitary places, in the recesses of vallies and mountains, he has written his name upon regenerated minds; and the incense of their adoration, remote from public notice, has gone silently up to heaven.

These are general views and remarks, which will perhaps be better understood in the result. We do not think it necessary to dwell upon them longer at present. In conclusion, we would say, however, that the true Hidden Life has its principles; principles of origin and principles of perpetuity. The popular Christianity, that which exists in great numbers of the professed followers of Christ, has sometimes seemed to those, who have looked into its nature, to be a sort of chaos, entirely irregular and confused, “without form and void.” The measurement, and almost the only measurement of its vitality, is excitation, temporary emotion. It is driven downward and upward, backward, forward, and transversely, by the blind impulse of emotive power. So that if we seek it here, supposing it has a fixed principle of movement which will help to designate where it is, it is gone somewhere else; and if we seek it somewhere else, it has already altered its position. The true Hidden Life, refusing to be characterized by the fatal mark of inconstancy, has cast anchor in God; and its principles are the strong cable, which holds it there. This is one thing, which, if we estimate the subject correctly, the church of God are called upon to learn more fully, viz. that the true life of God in the soul has its principles; principles founded in wisdom; principles fixed and inflexible.

God never made a stone, an herb, a blade of grass, or any natural thing however insignificant; nor does he sustain it for a moment, without a principle of action. It is impossible for God to operate accidentally. Whatever he does. He does by principle. And if this is true in natural things, it is equally so in spiritual things. God did not make and does not sustain the soul by accident. Nor does He raise it from its fallen condition; rekindle within it a renovated life; and bear it onward to present and eternal victory by a fortuitous aid, an accidental fatality. The new life in the soul, therefore, has its laws of beginning and progress, as well as every other form of life.

— from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844), Chapter 1.