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, December 19, 2014

Peace in Seasons of Temptation

In seasons of temptation, it is highly important, that we should remain recollected, and in the exercise of true patience of spirit. The adversary of our souls gains great advantages at such times, if he can succeed in disturbing our peace. And in order to help us in retaining this valuable state of mind, we should always remember that our heavenly Father is present in temptations, as he is in everything else. It is true he is not the tempter, but he permits the temptation; and he permits it, however mysterious it may sometimes seem, both for our good, and for his own glory. And the temptation, however threatening it may appear, and from whatever source it may come, will not be allowed to go farther than he shall see to be connected with those great objects. This consideration should have great influence with us. It should exclude disquieting thoughts; it should keep us in perfect submission and peace, till the day of our visitation be passed.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 19.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Doubtful Matters

When we are doubtful as to the character of the temptation, in other words, when we are doubtful whether the proposed action or feeling is wrong or not, we should be careful to lay the subject before God, and to wait for the instructions of the Holy Spirit, before indulging in the desire or action whatever it may be. We should remain where we are and do nothing, rather than run the hazard of doing wrong. The language of the Apostle is applicable in a case of this kind. "Whatsoever is not of faith [that is, is not done in the faith or belief of its lawfulness] is sin."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 19.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Be Aware of Your Own Weaknesses

It is the part of Christian duty to endeavor to understand the nature of temptations. And as included in this, it is our duty to understand their specific, as well as their general nature; in other words, their nature in its application to ourselves personally. That, which would be a temptation to one, would not be so to another. The general idea, expressed by the word temptation, embraces not only the object which tempts, but also the subject of the temptation. In particular, therefore, we should study the weak and comparatively defenseless points in our character and situation; those particulars, in which wrong influences will be most likely to have an effect upon us and lead us astray.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 19.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Violent Temptation

Temptations will, in general, be violent, in proportion to the decided resistance which is made to them. And accordingly, although it is perhaps different from what we should naturally expect, the more holy a man is the more violent at times will be the temptations, which he is called to endure. A person, who yields to temptation either in whole or in part, which is very apt to be the case with those who are not wholly devoted to the Lord, will not be likely to understand its full power. He does not oppose resistance enough to ascertain the strength of the aggressive movement. Satan has no inducement to show his full strength to the man, who yields easily. But he, who is determined to sin not at all, who had rather die than commit any known transgression, who opposes the broad and upright energy of his whole being to the assaults of Satan, will know the immense power of the terrible enemy, that wages war upon him. And it is the natural result of this general view, that when in the life of practical holiness we have taken some new and untried position, which for the first time we have ascertained to be a true and a safe one, and are undertaking the discharge of some new but obvious duty, we shall be likely, in connection with that new position, to be tried and tempted very severely. Satan will drive us from it if he can. He hates holiness, and every thing which is involved in holiness, and every thing which holiness does. He hates it in general; and he hates it in particulars. And whoever proposes, in aiming at entire holiness to do better in a particular thing, will be likely to find him in the attitude of defiance and resistance just at that point.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 19.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Don't Trife With Temptation

It is hazardous to estimate lightly, and to trifle with temptations. The person is greatly wanting in wisdom, who undertakes to make a sport of them, or who delays a moment under the pressure of their influence when he can possibly escape. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation," is the command of Scripture. And the question is well asked in the book of Proverbs, 6: 27, 28, "Can a man take fire into his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?" The Christian, who is desirous of securing fully the approbation of his heavenly Father, must be careful not only to do the right and avoid the wrong; but also to avoid all places and all occasions, which would be likely for any reason to lead him into wrong.

 — edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 19.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Everyone Is Subject to Temptation

In the present life, all persons, not excepting those, who are most advanced in holiness, are subject to temptations. Even the truly sanctified person is not exempt. Holy persons like others retain the attributes appropriate to man's nature; differing from the same attributes in others in this respect only, that they are deprived of irregularities of action, and are entirely subordinate to the divine will. Accordingly the holy person, or the person in whom faith and love exist in the highest degree attainable in the present life, hungers and thirsts like any other person; he is the subject of the propensities and affections, which lay the foundation and which furnish the support of the various family relations; he loves his children, parents, and other relatives, and is the subject of other natural ties and sympathies; he suffers from fatigue and sickness; he is grieved, troubled, and perplexed in various ways; and even displeasure and anger, as is evident from what was witnessed in the life of our Savior, are not entirely excluded. While, therefore, it is our privilege, even in the present life to be exempt from the commission of voluntary and known sin, it does not appear, retaining, as we do, our constitutional tendencies and remaining subject to constitutional infirmities, that we either have, or can reasonably expect, any such exemption from temptation. We cannot suppose, that any of us, in the present life, can be in a better situation than our Savior, who was "without sin;" but who, nevertheless "was tempted in all points as we are."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 19.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Difference Between Thoughts of Evil and Evil Thoughts

Looking at the subject of temptations in relation to the intellect, there seems to be ground for saying, that we may properly make a distinction between intentions or thoughts of evil, and evil thoughts. All wandering and unprofitable thoughts, and indeed. all thoughts, which have not a connection either directly or indirectly with the glory of God, are evil, just so far as they are at the time under our control, and are susceptible of being made to assume a different and better character. But thoughts of evil, that is to say, ideas or suggestions of some evil to be done, which are introduced or injected into the mind from a source external to itself, or which on certain occasions arise necessarily and involuntarily in the mind, are not evil, unless they are consented to in act or in feeling. The form of expression here will be noticed, viz. so far as they arise necessarily and involuntarily. If they originate in ourselves by a voluntary movement, and are cherished by our own acts, so as to make us in some sense the authors of our own temptations, they are obviously of a very different character, and are by no means free from sin.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 19.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Temptations That Affect the Emotions and Desires

In some cases ... temptation passes the limit of the intellectual action, and actually takes effect in the emotions and desires and YET WITHOUT SIN.

The foundation of this view of the subject is, that there are many emotions and desires which in their nature are morally and religiously right and lawful, and are wrong only in their degree. The temptation, (that is, the object which possesses the seducing or tempting power,) is presented intellectually ... and it is desired, received into the affections, and delighted in to a certain limit or degree. The precise place or mark of this limit or degree will be different under different circumstances; varying with the precise nature of the seducing or tempting object and with the precise position and responsibilities of the person, who is the subject of the temptation. But wherever it may be, it is susceptible of being ascertained in various ways, either by a reference to the commands of God, or by the indications of an enlightened conscience, or by the special operations of the Holy Spirit, and not unfrequently by their combined influence. At that particular limit or boundary in the desires and affections, wherever it may be found to exist, the temptation, in the case of a truly holy person, and in the case of every person who does what is right, necessarily stops; just as in the first mentioned class of temptations, it stops with the limit or boundary of the intellectual action. And in this case also, as well as in the other, there is a conscious perception and feeling of danger, when the temptation approaches the boundary in our desires and affections, which it ought not to pass, accompanied at the same time with an internal and repellent effort of the mind.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life Part 1, Chapter 19.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Innocent Stage of Temptation

The incipient and what may be called, in the cases we are now considering, the innocent stage of the temptation, is, when the object, which embodies the temptation or is the medium of temptation, is first presented to us intellectually; that is to say, in our mere thoughts or perceptions; and is there perceived and known, not only as an object, but as an object of temptation. If it stops at the limit of the intellectual action, and does not enter into the heart and the will, there is no sin. It is obviously necessary in all cases of temptation, that the object should exist first in this manner, viz. intellectually; in other words that it should exist in the thoughts, or be perceived and thought of. Without this, viz. the perceived or intellective presence of the object, it is entirely clear, that there could not possibly be any such thing as temptation. But, as has been observed, the temptation may exist to this extent, and may be perceived and felt by us so far to exist without sin.

Temptations, limited in their results to the intellectual action, and which do not in any degree take effect in the desires, could not properly be considered temptations, without the physical or natural possibility of a further and sinful action of the mind, without an internal conviction of that possibility, and perhaps we may add, without a distinct sense of danger. Hence, when temptations of this particular character are presented, although they do not take effect in the desires, they are both perceived and felt to be temptations; that is to say, there is a clear perception of their true character, both in themselves and in relation to certain possible results. And in addition to this, there appears to be an instinctive and prompt alarm of the sensitive and moral nature. The desires and affections are not inert and dormant, as some may perhaps suppose; neither are the conscience and the will; but all seem to be penetrated with the sense of imminent hazard, and are thrown into the conscious attitude of repellancy.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life Part 1, Chapter 19.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sinful Desires

The tendency of temptations, in some instances, is, to bring feelings into existence, which, under the circumstances of the case, are wrong in the very fact of their existence, wrong in their very nature, and which therefore ought not to exist at all. The temptation, by a special concurrence of circumstances, or through the well calculated influence of Satanic agency, is precisely adapted to that particular wrong result. And if the feeling, appropriate to the temptation, exists, not only in a degree inordinate and irregular, but if it exists at all, it is sin.

Our Savior was at a certain time tempted by having the kingdoms and wealth of this world presented before him, obviously with the view of their being desired and possessed by him as a means of personal aggrandizement and enjoyment; but we suppose we give the general sentiment of Christians and of biblical interpreters, in saying, that the temptation went no further, and under the circumstances of the case could innocently go no further, than the thoughts. It had no effect upon the Savior's desires or will; that is to say, it secured no pleased and consentient action; but was instantly rejected. The temptation presented to the Savior at the same time, to throw himself down from the temple, is equally appropriate and decisive, considered as an illustration of the present subject. It could hardly be considered less than a proposition under a very specious pretext to commit himself immediately and fully into the hands of Satan, instead of remaining in the will and under the government of God. Considered intellectually, or rather in reference to the intellect, there is no doubt that the temptation was distinctly perceived and appreciated in itself and in its relations. Without this it could hardly be regarded as a temptation. But it seems very obvious, that it found no entrance into the heart; and the only action, which it did or could produce, in such a pure spirit as the Savior's, was that of decided resistance, resulting in its instant rejection.

The incipient and what may be called, in the cases we are now considering, the innocent stage of the temptation, is, when the object, which embodies the temptation or is the medium of temptation, is first presented to us intellectually; that is to say, in our mere thoughts or perceptions; and is there perceived and known, not only as an object, but as an object of temptation. If it stops at the limit of the intellectual action, and does not enter into the heart and the will, there is no sin. It is obviously necessary in all cases of temptation, that the object should exist first in this manner, viz. intellectually; in other words that it should exist in the thoughts, or be perceived and thought of. Without this, viz. the perceived or intellective presence of the object, it is entirely clear, that there could not possibly be any such thing as temptation. But, as has been observed, the temptation may exist to this extent, and may be perceived and felt by us so far to exist without sin.

Temptations, limited in their results to the intellectual action, and which do not in any degree take effect in the desires, could not properly be considered temptations, without the physical or natural possibility of a further and sinful action of the mind, without an internal conviction of that possibility, and perhaps we may add, without a distinct sense of danger. Hence, when temptations of this particular character are presented, although they do not take effect in the desires, they are both perceived and felt to be temptations; that is to say, there is a clear perception of their true character, both in themselves and in relation to certain possible results. And in addition to this, there appears to be an instinctive and prompt alarm of the sensitive and moral nature. The desires and affections are not inert and dormant, as some may perhaps suppose; neither are the conscience and the will; but all seem to be penetrated with the sense of imminent hazard, and are thrown into the conscious attitude of repellancy.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 19.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Subjection to Natural Events

We should also keep our wills in subjection to natural events. Such events are from God; and, in no case, should the human will act itself in opposition to them, whether they seem to be of greater or less consequence. How often are expressions of dissatisfaction and regret heard to fall even from those who have the reputation of being Christians, in view of natural events, which no one thinks of controlling. To one, the weather is too warm; to another, it is too cold. To one, there is too little rain; to another, too little sunshine. They thus wickedly unsettle the quiet of the spirit by forgetting that both the rain and the sunshine and all other natural things are God's; that they are all indications of the divine goodness, though given in different degrees; and that neither regrets nor wishes can make them otherwise than they are. It is important to check the rising feeling in all such cases; and, by a cheerful acquiescence, to harmonize the heart and the will with the arrangements of Providence.

And these views are the more important and urgent when we consider that sin, here and elsewhere, is measured, not so much by the occasion on which it exists, as by the spirit which is manifested in it.  It  may utter itself in a loud and fierce voice, or gently breathe itself out in the slightest wish, that the state of things were otherwise than it is. But in the latter case, as well as in the former, there is the element of rebellion; something, no matter how small it may be, which is not in entire harmony with God and the divine arrangements. In a word, there is sin. But this is not all. It is sin laying the foundation for other and higher sin. On the other hand, a cheerful acquiescence, in such cases as have been mentioned, is not only right in itself, but, by purifying the tendencies of the will, is laying the foundation for a better state of things in other cases of greater difficulty in all coming time.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 6.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nature Speaks; Grace is Silent

It is often the case, in the ordinary intercourse and affairs of life, that our actions, without being calumniated as criminal, are more or less misrepresented, and our motives aspersed by thoughtless or evil-disposed persons. Undoubtedly the natural tendency of the heart, under such circumstances, is to reply at once, and generally with as much energy as promptness. But, generally speaking, our true victory will be in silence. Nature speaks, but grace is silent; because nature is destitute of confidence, except in itself, but grace has confidence in God. To be silent, therefore, in ordinary cases, is best in every respect not only because it is the course indicated by true religion, but because it aids in breaking down the irregular and sinful action of the will.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 6.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Denying Ourselves Even in Good Things

We should deny ourselves, and bring our wills into subjection, even in good things. It is naturally expected of the Christian, that he will have in hand many little designs and purposes of good in behalf of his neighbor. This is well, but evil will come of it, if, in connection with his good designs, he indulge in strong and precipitate­ desires in bringing them to pass. His will, by being brought into harmony with Providence, must be subjected here as elsewhere.

— from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 6.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Denying Ourselves in Small Things

The Savior's directions will be found, on a careful examination, to harmonize in a wonderful manner with the tendencies and operations of the human mind. Under their wonderful simplicity, great insight and true wisdom, (estimating them even on human principles,) will be discovered to be hidden. "Whosoever," the Savior says in Mark 8:34, "will come after me, let him deny himself,  and take up the cross, and follow me."

This command, which of course applies to the will as well as other things, is universal. It implies, if we must deny ourselves in great things, we must deny ourselves also in those which are small. Such are the laws of the human mind, that indulgence in the latter will take away our strength, and deprive us of victory in the former. Deny thyself, therefore, in small things; subject thy will, in matters of minor importance, that thou mayest have power to conquer in things which are more difficult.

— edited and adapted from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 5.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Subjecting Our Will to Others

It is not only necessary that our feelings and purposes should, by divine aid, be brought back to a right position, but that the mysterious and powerful influence of former evil habits should be entirely annulled. And this result is the more likely to be secured, if we unite the concurrence of our own efforts with the operations of divine grace.

A favorable effect will oftentimes be experienced in this particular, if we adopt the practice, in things which are indifferent, of subjecting our desires and our will to the will of others. In other words, our wills will be the more easily placed beyond the influence of former evil habits, and brought into undisturbed harmony with God, if we keep them in subjection in our intercourse with men. Occasions of a conflict of will, in matters of mere convenience, and which involve no moral principle, occur constantly. In such cases, in the prospect we have before us of an improvement in our spiritual characters, we should make it a rule to give a precedence to the desires and purposes of others over our own.

"There is nothing more sweet," says Antonia Bourignon, in speaking on this subject, "and which brings more rest to the body and the soul, than obedience and submission to another in good things. Yea, obedience in itself is always profitable to our perfection, though it were yielded even to imperfect persons, provided they command nothing that is evil.  For, by submitting to another in indifferent things, one always overcomes the corruptions of his nature, and  denies himself,  as Christ, in Mark 8: 34, has taught us to do." [Letters of Antonia Bourignon on, pp. 72, 73.]

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 6.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Degrees of Union With God's Will

There are different degrees of union with the Divine Will, some of which it may be proper to notice and discriminate.

1. Union With God in Submission

The first degree may be described as union with the divine will in submission. Submission is a relative term, and always implies, when employed in a religious sense, a reference to a divine arrangement or order of things. It  is acquiescence in, or conformity to, such arrangement; and is, consequently, the opposite of rebellion. Accordingly, it may always be said, when there is no element of positive resistance, no actual rebellious movement against the order of things, that there is submission to it. And this can be said without impropriety and with entire truth, even if it should be the case that the submissive state borders so closely on the line of resistance as to require all our powers of thought and  of the will to keep it where it is.

Illustrations of this state of mind are very frequent. Occasion is furnished for them by events which are constantly taking place, — such as the loss of property and reputation, and the experience of physical sufferings, either by ourselves, or by those who are dear to us. If those, who are the subjects of these trials, are truly submissive, their minds are brought by divine grace into such a position, that there is actually no resistance, no rebellious movement, of the heart. And this is so much the case, that we can probably say of them, that their wills are in union with the divine will.

And still their own consciousness tells them, even if it is not obvious to the observation of others, that it is the union of simple acquiescence rather than of positive desire; the union of submission to suffering rather than of love to suffering. The fact of obedience, however sincere and true the obedience itself may be, does not prevent their saying with equal truth, that it is hard for nature to yield it. The tears flow, even when the heart does not murmur. There is submission in fact, but a submission which costs a struggle in the beginning, and watchfulness and struggles in the maintenance of it.

2. Union With God by Choice.

The second degree may be described as union with the divine will with choice. That is to say, we not only submit, but submission is our pleasure, our delight. The endurance of loss and suffering is not, and cannot ordinarily be, so great as to prevent a true and substantial joy of the heart. It is said of the early Christians, not merely that they submitted to suffering with patience, but that they rejoiced  that they were accounted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. [Luke 5:42.] It ought, perhaps, to be added, that persons in this state are not insensible to sufferings. On the contrary, they feel them; probably as much so as others. But while they submit to them by enduring them with entire patience, they also, in the exercise of a full and victorious faith, rejoice in them  as  expressions of the divine will. They have. learned to love the cross, as well as to bear it.

3. Union With God Perfected by Habit.

This last state of mind may assume a new character, and may present the union of the will in a new aspect, by becoming invigorated and perfected by habit. It may ultimately become so well established and strong that the effect of antecedent evil habits, which generally remains for a long time, and greatly perplexes the full sway of holiness in the heart, shall be done away entirely. And this is not all. In the course of time, our perceptions of the transcendent beauty and excellence of the will of God may become so increased in clearness and strength, that the pleasure of doing and suffering his will, increased in the same proportion, may entirely absorb and take away our sense of suffering. The suffering will be lost in the joy. "Death," a name which includes all temporal evil, "will be swallowed up in victory."

It was thus, in the experience of this higher degree of volitional union, that Paul and Silas sung songs in prison. It was thus that martyrs of every age have illustrated the stake and the cross with their triumphs. It was thus that Jesus Christ, though a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, "endured the cross, despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God." [Heb. 22:2.]

— adapted from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 5.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Temptations, or tempting objects, are those objects which are presented by the intellect to the sensibilities and the will; and are of such a nature that they have a tendency to induce or cause in the sensitive part of our nature, viz. in the appetites, propensities, and affections, and also in the will, a wrong action. Sometimes the action, to which the temptations lead, is wrong in the FACT of its existence, or in itself considered; and sometimes it is wrong only in the DEGREE of its existence. If, the temptations advance in their influence beyond the intellect and take effect in the desires and will, prompting them to action when they should not act at all, or prompting them to a prohibited and inordinate degree of action when they are permitted to act, they are always attended with sin.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 18.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Great Center

Every thing that exists has its converging point, its elementary principle, its great CENTER. And when separated from the central tendency, it is necessarily upon a wrong track. The soul, therefore, whose tendencies, are towards the world, can be at most only partially holy. The center of the sanctified soul is the great GOD. To that it tends. In that it rests. Neglecting all other attractions, it aims earnestly after the divine mind. It is there, and there only, than it finds a present and everlasting home.

Religious Maxims (1846) XCIX.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Keep Yourself to the Order of God's Providence

It is very desirable, that we should always keep ourselves in the order of God's providence; in other words that we should receive things as they come, and do things as they are presented to us, in the spirit of Christian acquiescence and faithfulness; for that is the only way in which we can truly recognize God as at the helm of affairs, or realize our own nothingness. Let us never forget that God is competent to the direction of his own movements; and that whatever we may think of our own capabilities, he has other agencies in other situations. And what he requires of us, is to be and do just as he would have us, in his own providential time, in his own manner, and his own place.

Religious Maxims (1846) XCVIII.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Serving God in the Present Moment

He who serves God perfectly at the PRESENT MOMENT, though it be in a very small thing, such as the hewing of wood or the drawing of water, does in reality glorify him more than another who is prospectively athirst and anxious for things of much greater consequence, but at the same time neglects or imperfectly performs his present duties.

Religious Maxims (1846) XCVII.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Living Well and Praying Well

It was a saying among the fathers of the Christian church, "NOVIT RECTE VIVERE, QUI NOVIT RECTE ORARE." In English, "he knows how to live well, who knows how to pray well." And it will always be found, that he who does not live a holy life, either prays amiss, or does not pray at all.

Religious Maxims (1846) XCVI.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Strength or God's Strength?

One of the blessed results of a life of entire religious consecration is, that it necessarily unites us to God. We cannot live, we cannot breathe, we cannot move, even for a moment, in the straight and narrow way, without the Divine presence and aid. A half-way Christian is living, or endeavoring to live, in his own strength; but the whole-hearted Christian lives wholly in the strength of God.

Religious Maxims (1846) XCV.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Heart Gives the Sacrifice Acceptance

We may give up all outward things to God; we may surrender houses and lands, wife and children, and whatever else has a worldly value; but unless we give the heart with them, it is after all no real gift. It is a saying of William Penn, in that remarkable book of his entitled "No Cross, No Crown," that it is not the sacrifice that recommends the heart; but the heart, that gives the sacrifice acceptance."

Religious Maxims (1846) XCIV.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Are You Willing?

Our advancement in the Christian life may be said to depend upon one thing, viz., whether we wish to direct God, or are willing to resign ourselves TO BE WHOLLY DIRECTED BY HIM.

Religious Maxims (1846) XCIII.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Meeting Our Cross Where God Has Placed It

While we admit the duty of ever bearing the cross, we are to remember that we must bear it just where God, in his providential dealings, sees fit to impose it upon us, without assuming the  responsibility of either seeking or shunning it. We shall find that God has placed it in the whole course of our life, and at precisely the right place; and all he requires of us is to bear it  with a faithful heart when we meet it.

Religious Maxims (1846) XCII.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Joy of Faith in Times of Trial

When all earthly comforts are dried up, and when faith alone remains as the sustaining principle of the soul, there is an interior consolation, deep and tranquil, flowing out from faith itself. This is a circumstance which is often overlooked. But it is a great truth contrary to the opinion of some who do not fully understand the nature of the divine operation in the soul, that there is a JOY IN FAITH. The life of faith, though it may be destitute of every outward support and comfort, is not so desolate in itself, so wanting in every thing that brings inward happiness, as some seem to suppose. It is true, sustained in the spirit of self-sacrifice, and seeking nothing but unity with the divine will, it never aims at consolation as an ultimate object. It thinks more of what God is, than of what he gives. And thus God himself, the great original of all good, becomes the fountain of the soul's joy. And the joy, which is thus experienced, is necessarily a pure joy, uncontaminated by any mixture of self. Ask those pious persons; who in the exercise of faith are endeavoring to lay all upon the altar of God, but who, nevertheless, are called in the course of his wise but mysterious dealings and providences to pass through the extremity of interior and exterior desolation, if they are sustained by anything in the nature of consolation, and they will readily answer in the affirmative. Their language is, if they have nothing else, they have the consolation which flows from believing. If the sweetness of every other fountain is closed, they still have the joy of faith.

This is one of the unalterable conditions of faith, especially when it exists in a high degree, viz. that it is attended with a pure and tranquil consolation; consolation so sure and permanent, that we can never be deprived of it, whatever else may be taken away. The soul is led up, as it were, into the mountain of God's protection. In the attitude of calm repose, it remains established on that sublime height with the sunlight of heavenly peace for its companion, while there is nothing but darkness and the roaring of tempests in the valleys below. Such was the pure and sublime consolation, which our Savior experienced, when his heavenly Father had withdrawn from him the manifestations of his love, and left him in extreme and inexpressible desolation of spirit He still possessed, though apparently and terribly forsaken, the consolation and the joy of faith. He could still recognize the bond of union, and still appropriate, as it were, his Heavenly Father to himself, and say, "My God" "My God."

— from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 18.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tribulation and Faith

"In the world ye shall have tribulation" is a declaration of the Savior, confirmed by individual and general experience. Even the most devoted Christians are not exempt.

The tribulations, to which the people of God are subject, are internal, as well as external; sorrows of the mind as well as sufferings of the body. Sometimes they are very great. There are some occasions, on which all those subordinate consolations, of which God generally permits his people in a greater or less degree to partake, are taken away. There is left to them neither the vivacity of health nor the consolation of friends; no pleasures of social intercourse; no prosperity in worldly business; no rest from outward persecutions; no cessations from the bitter temptations of the adversary. This, it will be said, is an extreme case; but it is only extreme cases, of which, in the present chapter, we propose to speak. There is reason to suppose, that many souls, whom God designs to bring to the highest degree of purity in this life, especially if they are disposed to resist and do not render themselves up easily to his great purpose, will be called upon to pass through some heavy and perhaps extreme trials. Such trials seem oftentimes to be rendered necessary. Necessary not in the nature of things, but on account of the corruption of the natural heart. The possession of internal purity implies the entire crucifixion of self; and this is an operation which the natural heart finds it hard to submit to. Hence it is, that earthly joys are temporarily dried up; that human consolations are taken away; and "the axe is laid at the root" of all the sources of self-seeking and self-enjoyment; in order that the soul may experience the truth and the severity of inward crucifixion.

It is at such a time, and amid these various and unmitigated trials, that the soul sustains itself by FAITH; by what is variously called in different writers, but generally as I suppose with the same meaning, "simple faith", "pure faith", or "naked faith." And there seems to be a marked propriety in these forms of expression; because faith, as the sustaining principle, stands at such times alone. All human supports are removed. On every side there appears discouragement and darkness; and it is by faith and faith only, that the soul is enabled to retain its religious integrity. It is under such circumstances, that faith becomes, as it were, a superior and guiding faculty of the soul; upon which the others, especially the various inferior principles, seem to rest. While the subordinate principles of our nature, the natural desires, and the various forms of natural affection, are assailed by their appropriate temptations, and sometimes in a very severe and terrible manner, they derive from the sublime principle of faith, which stands in its central position of strength and grandeur, a defensive and repulsive power, which makes them more than conquerors.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 18.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Recalling Sensual Pleasures

We are at liberty to take to ourselves the pleasure which naturally results from the use or gratification of the senses, such as eating and drinking, when such use or gratification occurs in the providence of God and with the  divine permission; but if in our thoughts we unnecessarily anticipate such pleasures, or, when they are past, recall them to recollection in a sensual manner, it is a melancholy evidence that God is  not the full and satisfying portion of our souls, and that our heart is not wholly right with him.

Religious Maxims (1846) XCI.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Worldly Concerns

It is a sure sign that our heart is not perfect before God, and does not entirely rest in him, when, like the unconverted Athenians of old, we are anxious to hear or tell some new thing, when we are exceedingly troubled about our own reputation among men, and when in regard to anything of a worldly nature, we exhibit an eager and precipitate state of mind

Religious Maxims (1846) XC.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sorrow the Nurse of Love

Oh God, Thou heard'st my early vow,
('Twas sacred then, 'tis sacred now,)
The vow which promised to fulfill,
With Thee to aid me, all thy will.

Resigning all the soul held dear,
It pledged Thee, with a heart sincere,
Never, Oh never, to incline
To plan or choice, which was not thine.

And Thou hast put me to the test
In times and ways Thou thoughtest best;
But He, who smote me, gave the power
To conquer in the trying hour.

When sickness Thou didst on me send,
When Thou didst take each dearest friend;
I found, in spoiling earthly bliss,
Thou madest thyself my happiness.

My earthly loss, my earthly pain,
Was changed to joy and heavenly gain;
And Thou didst grieve me but to prove,
That sorrow is the nurse of love.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Resource in Temptation

My Savior! Wilt thou leave me now,
When sharp temptations round me throng?
All other helps have failed — and thou
Alone canst hope and truth prolong.

TEMPTED; — but can I turn away,
And give my thoughts to aught but thee?
Oh, let me die; but ne'er betray
My pledge of truth and constancy.

I know that sorrow has its power,
I know that pleasure has its charm;
But oft the least propitious hour
Beholds the triumph of thine arm.

Oh, who or what shall lead to sin,
Whate'er its power, whate'er its art —
So long as Christ is King within,
And binds his being round my heart?

American Cottage Life (1850).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Death and Resurrection of the Human Will

Properly speaking, or perhaps we should rather say, in this case, psychologically speaking, man's will can never die. A will is essential to man's nature, as it is to the nature of every moral being. Man, without a will, ceases to be man.

When, therefore, in examining the topics connected with religious experience, we speak of the death of the human will, we mean the human will considered in its action and its tendency to action, out of the divine order. It is the human will divergent, —  resting in the origin of its movement on the limited and depraved basis of personal interest,  and out of harmony with the will of God.

In the sense which has just been given, the human will, before it can have a higher and divine life, not only may die, but must die. Its death is not only possible but necessary. In its present life, if we may so express it, it has its principle of movement in motives which God cannot respect and approve; but, on the contrary, he disapproves and condemns them as inconsistent with the highest good of the universe. From such a will he is necessarily excluded.

It is impossible, therefore, that there should be any mitigation of its sentence; any pity or compromise whatever with its natural life. The hand of God himself, through the working of his unerring providences, nails it to the cross. It may exhibit much resistance; it may experience a painful and lingering death; with the nails driven through its hands and feet, it may plead that its bones may not be broken, and that its side may not be pierced; but no attention can, or ought to be given to its supplications.

The death of the will (that is to say, its death to the selfishness of nature) is the antecedent of its resurrection to holiness. In its resurrection love takes the place of selfishness. The will can no more be born into its new and divine life, and expand and flourish in its new beauty and maturity of love, before the extinction and death of its natural life of selfishness, than the spiritual body of the resurrection, adorned with immortal beauty, can come into existence before the death of the natural body. "That which thou sowest," says the apostle Paul, speaking of wheat and other grains, "is not quickened except it die." "So also," he adds, "is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."

And these expressions, applied to the resurrection of the body, are applicable to the death and resurrection of the will. If it dies to all that is the opposite of God, it is made alive to all that has God in it. Dishonored and corrupted in its selfish nature, it perishes and is thrown lifeless into its burial place, until the spirit of God, brooding over and operating in its ruins, brings life out of death, and glory out of shame.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 4.

Monday, October 27, 2014

How Do We Come to Love God?

How can we obtain the basis of love which unites our will with God's will? How can we be made to possess that which we are not possessed of, by being made to love that which we do not love?  Especially as love, in that higher sense of the term which has been explained, is not human, but divine; not a thing created, but eternal.

The answer is, that God, in being a benevolent existence, necessarily loves to dispense his own nature, to enter into all hearts where there is a possibility of entrance, to pour out everywhere the radiance of his own brightness. What we have to do, then, is first to be emptied, in order that we may be filled; first to cease from self, that we may be recipients of that which is not self.

But how can we do this? Or how can we learn to do it? Daily, O man, is the Providence of God teaching thee, by perplexing human wisdom, by disappointing human efforts, and by showing, in a thousand ways, the blindness, the weakness, and the iniquity of selfishness. It is for this that thou art smitten. Sorrow is thy teacher. It is a hard lesson to learn, but still a necessary one, that a life out of the divine life is not life, but that the true life is from God. Our heavenly Father, in the infinite fulness of his nature, will pour out upon us the principle of holy love, as soon as we are ready to relinquish the opposing principle of self.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 4.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Moral Union and Affectional Union

There are two forms of union of the will; — namely, moral union, and affectional union. It is the combination of the two, uniting the outward act, or the thing done, with the motive of doing it, which constitutes perfect or holy union.

Moral union of the will exists when the will is united with God by means of moral enforcement merely, that is to say, under the constraints of moral obligation, without the consenting and affectionate concurrence of the heart. Such an union, which can exist only in respect to outward acts, makes what the world calls a moral man, but not a religious one. When a man does what God commands,— in other words. does what is right in action,  but does it in opposition to his own selfish desires, — he is in union with God, if we may so express it, morally, or in the outward manner, but not  affectionally, or in the inward disposition. He is a man divided; partly for God, and partly against him.  His conscience is right, but his heart is wrong. In the language of the apostle Paul, he does that which he hates to do: he does good, but "evil is present with him."

Some would, perhaps, say, that a union so imperfect as this, including only a part of our nature, is not to be regarded as union in any proper sense of the term. But looking at the subject psychologically, that is to say, in reference to the nature of the mind, it is obviously a positive or real union as far as it goes. Undoubtedly it is imperfect. It has not that full and broad basis which it might have, and which it ought to have. But still it is something, and especially because it involves that conviction of mind which is likely to lead to something else better. He who observes the Sabbath, not because he loves to observe it, but because his conscience requires it is in a more favorable condition than he who has neither conscience  nor love. But if something is done, it is still certain that the most important part remains to be done.

The union of the will, which has just been described, becomes consolidated and perfect when we add the concurrence of the affections to the supports of the moral sense.  It is this union which we have denominated affectional. In order, therefore, to that union of the will with God which is requisite in the highest state of religious experience, the action of the will, in harmonizing with God's will, must rest upon the twofold basis of the approbation of the conscience and of the love of the heart.  In any other state of the mind, the union of the will with God is more or less obstructed and enfeebled. When, in connection with the moral union, the obstruction of all discordant tendencies and desires is out of the way, and the affections are in the right direction, the union is such as it should be. Of a will thus united with God, it may be said, with almost literal truth, that it is the subject of a new creation, and has a new life.

— from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 4.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Prayer and Union With God

In order to determine whether our wills are in harmony with the divine will, it is not necessary nor best, as a general thing, to look at the will itself and to examine its action as it comes under our notice independently of the influences which surround it.

When certain conditions are fulfilled, certain results may be expected to follow.

And, accordingly, we may anticipate that our wills will be in harmony with the divine will when we are in the habit of asking God for a divine direction of our wills. There can be no union with God without prayer. We do not mean to say that the prayer, which, if it be a true prayer, always implies a state of sincere and entire consecration, must always be formal;  but there must always be an inward disposition, which constantly recognizes the soul's dependence upon God, and which as constantly looks for his aid. To such a soul, if it has faith corresponding to its desires, God will not fail to grant his assistance. When we feel that we have strength from God, by feeling that we have an accepted communion with him. then we may have hope that we shall and do will only what God wills.

— from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 4.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Union Not Extinction

Union of the human will with the divine is a different thing from an extinction of the human will. A will, a proper and effective will, is essential to humanity. Man, without a will, ceases to be man. The perfection of man's nature does not consist in the extinction of his will, but in its union with God's will.

The truly holy person, therefore, ought to be able to say specifically, at all times, that he wills as God wills. It  is due both to his happiness and his safety to be able to know, and on proper occasions to assert, the union of the two wills. If there is a separation of wills, even if it be a slight one, there will be likely to be something out of position somewhere else. A separation of wills is a separation of natures. As the will is, so is the man, either for God or against him. It is as true in philosophy as religion, that it is impossible to serve God and Mammon at the same time.

It may be asked, perhaps, what view are we to take of ourselves when we do not will at all. The answer to such a question is not difficult, because we can hardly ever be said to be in that state. Our whole life, with the exception of purely involuntary states, may be represented by two terms, action and inaction. Neither of these states can exist without volition as its basis. If we act, we will to act; if we are in a state of inaction, we will not to act. Whatever state we are in as moral agents, and not as mere involuntary agents, whether it be characterized as action or inaction, we will to be in it. So that we may, without impropriety, speak of the action of the will as perpetual. Perpetual action implies the obligation of perpetual harmony.

— from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 4.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We Cannot Rightly Seperate Ourselves From God

All moral beings, whether men or angels, as they have a right to do only what is right, have no right to dislocate and remove themselves from under the divine will. The liberty they have of doing as they please undoubtedly gives them the power or enables them to do it: but the law of right, which prescribes in what manner their capability is to be exercised, forbids it. If it is not right for them to remove [themselves] from under God's will, then it is their duty to remain under it. As moral beings, they cannot do otherwise without a violation of morals. God's will is supreme over them physically or naturally, because their natural or physical life is wholly dependent upon it. It is supreme over them morally, because they cannot abdicate its supremacy without doing a wrong. The supremacy is secured in the one case by a physical necessity; in the other, by a moral necessity. The physical law subjects them to God as physical men; the moral law subjects them to God as moral men.

Accordingly, if we carry these principles into particulars, we shall find that, in no case whatever, can we separate ourselves from God rightly. In union alone, that union which is appropriate to the relation of superior and inferior, is there true life. And here, living, not by what we have originally, but by what is momentarily given us, if we need strength, the law of morals requires us to look for it where we can best obtain it. If we need wisdom, we cannot, without a violation of duty, seek it where it is not to be had, but must go to him, who alone has true wisdom. If we need love, which, more than anything else, is the true inspiration of the soul, we must go to him, who, in being himself LOVE, can supply us from the original fountain. And so in every other case. If it be true, as the apostle James asserts, that "every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights," then we can have nothing good which does not come from him. And, as the law of duty requires us to seek good in preference to evil, and as we can find the true good in God alone, it is not possible for us, in doing what we ought to do, to take any other position than that of humble recipients. And in that position, bound to submit to a higher guidance if that guidance will be best for us, God's will becomes morally supreme over us, and we can neither be in the right nor the good, except so far as we are in harmony with that blessed will.

— from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 3. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Natural and Moral Suprememcy of God's Will

There is a natural supremacy of the divine will. There is a moral supremacy also. In natural things, it is supreme by nature. In moral things, it is supreme by right.

The natural supremacy, which presents itself first for consideration, is fixed, and cannot be otherwise than it is. It is the supremacy which makes and originates; the infinite energy concentered in the one infinite purpose, overspreading all, consummating all. All things which exist, so far as the mere fact of being is concerned, have their existence, both in its origin and its continuance, in the natural supremacy of God's will. In that will, all trees and plants, and all other things which are produced on the earth's surface, have their life. In that will, the sun, and moon, and stars live; and all things and beings that inhabit them. In that will, all men, and all animals inferior to men, in all their varieties, have their origin and their continued support. It is a will supreme, because everything else is a dependency.

This, it will be noticed, is said in connection with the physical  nature of things. Over all things in their physical nature, there is what may be called a natural or physical supremacy of the divine will, which transcends everything because it is the source of everything.

There is also a moral supremacy of the divine will. God, in the exercise of the natural supremacy of his will, and acting under the direction of his moral nature, created beings like himself, beings having a moral nature. In  doing this, he gave them the power to do as they pleased; that is to say, to take any course which they might choose to take within the sphere of their natural or physical capability. But in giving them the power thus to act, which was essential to them as moral beings, he did not give them the right.  He could not do it. As a being possessed of all power, he could give them the power to do what they pleased; but, as a being possessed of all holiness, he could give them the right to do only what  was right, and nothing else. Further than this, they never had any right, nor ever can have.

— from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 3.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Loving the Children of God

Those, in whom the love of God is perfected, will love the children of God with peculiar strength. Perfect love is the image of Christ in the soul; and wherever we see that image, in whatever denomination of Christians, and in whatever persons, our hearts will recognize the divine relationship, and rejoice in it. Without this strong love to those who bear the divine image, we may be sure that our love is not perfect. It is God's great work, and highest delight, to create this image in the hearts of men; and if our will is swallowed up in his will, we shall rejoice in it in some degree as he does, and shall know the delightful meaning of those numerous passages of Scripture which speak of the love of Christians to each other.

"Tis Love unites what sin divides;
The centre, where all bliss resides;
To which the soul once brought,
Reclining on the first Great Cause,
From his abounding sweetness draws
Peace, passing human thought."

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Perfect Love Perserveres

Perfect love will exhibit a trait of permanency and perseverance under the most trying circumstances. Our fears and hopes vary; our joys and sorrows vary; but we may reasonably expect that the love, which is pure in its nature and perfect in its degree, will continue the same. There is no reason why it should change, since the object at which it aims is the same with the immutable will of God. The will of God is its true life. Accordingly, when in the providence of God we are afflicted, our joys will be less, but there will be no diminution of love. Joy flourishes in the sunshine, but love grows and flourishes in the storm also. God may hide his face from us, but hearts of love still look in that direction where his face is. The Savior, on a certain occasion, was greatly afflicted. His language was, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." His joy was taken from him, but his love remained. He could still say, while he prayed that the cup might, if possible, pass from him, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt."

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Love for the Bible

A person who has perfect love, will love his Bible above all other books. It will be dear to his heart, an inexpressible treasure. And the reason is obvious. It is because in the Bible he learns the will of God, which he delights in, more than in any thing else. And hence it is one of the artifices of Satan, who is no friend of the Bible, to endeavor to detach devout minds from the study of the Di­vine Word under the plausible pretense that the inward teachings of the Spirit are of more value, than the outward letter. An artifice, which he, who desires a close walk with God, will carefully guard against; remembering that God cannot consistently, and will not, neglect and dishonor his own divine communications; that the Holy Spirit operates in a peculiar manner, in connection with the written Word; and that he, who deserts the Word of God, may reasonably expect to be deserted by the Spirit.

—  from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Forgetfulness of Self

Perfect love excludes, in a great degree, and perhaps entirely, any reflections upon self, (or "reflex acts," as they are sometimes termed,) which are of a self-interested or selfish character, In other words, perfect love, when in actual exercise, implies a forgetfulness of self. Whenever our thoughts return upon ourselves; whenever in the exercise of "reflex acts" we begin to inquire into the specific nature of our feelings, for the purpose of estimating the amount of their enjoyment; whenever we experience a jealousy, that God does not give to us all those returns and caresses of love which we should be pleased with; we may be assured, that although we may possibly love much, we might love much more. In other words, our love, whatever other terms may be applied to it, cannot be regarded as perfect. It is the nature of perfect love, in its forgetfulness of self, to array the object, towards which it is directed, in every possible excellence. To that object, so far as it is truly worthy of its attachment, it gives the strength of its affections, without reservation and without limits. It is perfectly self-sacrificing; and it would account itself dishonored and degraded, if it turned back on itself for a moment, to estimate its own reward. It has its reward, it is true. Perfect love is necessarily its own rewarder. But the reward comes without seeking. And is enjoyed so entirely without notice, that it does not turn the mind away a moment from the object of its affections.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Perfection of Love is Willing God's Will

We may, perhaps, illustrate [our view of perfect love], by what we sometimes notice in the various forms and degrees of filial love. We will take, in the first place, the case of a child, who is sincerely attached to his father, but who, as we sometimes express it, exhibits a "will of his own." This child, undoubtedly, loves his father very much; but at the same. time he does not always do, with entire pleasure and readiness, what his father wishes him to do. He sometimes hesitates, exhibits a clouded brow, or utters an impatient expression when certain things are required of him. He has certain little objects of his own, which he is very much attached to; and if his father's plans happen to cross and oppose them, he exhibits, in a greater or less degree, a disposition to set up for himself and to rebel. And when he outwardly obeys, it is found that he does it reluctantly, and not with a will harmonizing and blending with the paternal will. Now we may say very truly, that this child loves his father — perhaps he loves him very much — and yet it is clear he does not love him perfectly. But when we see a child who is happy only when he sees his father happy; whose delight it is to anticipate the father's wishes; whose will, by a sort of instinctive tendency, is invariably and powerfully united and blended with the paternal will, so that the least opposition between the two wills is a source of the greatest grief to him, we at once feel, and cannot help feeling, that the love of such a child may properly be called perfect. And in accordance with this view, it is said to have been one of the sayings of the devout Francis Xavier, that "the perfection of the creature consists in willing nothing but the will of the Creator."

What other idea of perfection of love can we have than this? The heart of such a person is made one with another heart, and what could we ask for more? This, then, more than any thing else, is the decisive mark of perfection in Christian love, viz. an entire coincidence of our own wills with the divine will; in other words, the rejection of the natural principle of life, which may be described as love terminating in self and constituting self-will; and the adoption of the heavenly principle of life, which is love terminating and fulfilled in the will of God. And this view, which is practically, as well as theologically, a very important one, seems to be confirmed by what the Savior says of himself in a number of passages. John 6. 38, "For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." John 4. 34, "Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." Heb. 10. 9, "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." The same idea, viz. that perfection of Christian love exists, and exists only in connection with a will united to and perfectly coincident with the will of God, is conveyed in that interesting passage, Mark 3. 34, 35, "And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother." Matt. 7. 21, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Marks of Perfect Love

The first mark of perfect love to God is an entire approbation of and delight in his character in all respects. In other words, approving and complacent emotions, without the least intermixture of doubt and dissatisfaction, arise in view of his power and justice, as well as of his goodness and mercy, so that we delight truly and continually in his whole character, and in all the exhibitions of his character, as they are actually made known to us in the Holy Scriptures or in any other way. The least want of trust and complacency in the divine character will necessarily be a vicious ingredient or element in the affection of love, which cannot fail to diffuse weakness and imperfection throughout.— This is one point, then, on which it is important to examine ourselves. If we find, that the character of God, as it presents itself to notice in all its varieties, appears to us exceedingly pure and lovely; if we contemplate it with a perfect conviction, that all its manifestations will be in accordance with truth, mercy, and righteousness, and with no other emotions in any respect, than those of entire complacency, then we have reason to think, that we have one of the marks or characteristics of perfection of love. Not, in all probability, the leading and decisive, but still an indispensable one.

A second mark of perfect love to God is the existence of a desire to promote his glory, which is the other higher and more decisive characteristic of this complex mental state, in such a degree, that we are not conscious of having any de­sire or will at variance with the will of God.

In other words, it is our sincere and constant desire to do and suffer in all things the will of God. When such is the case, when there is an entire and cordial acquiescence of our own in the will of God both to do and to suffer, we have the second mark, and we may add also, the most important and satisfactory one, that our love is perfect. The nature of the human mind is such, that we never can have an entire and cordial acquiescence in the will of God in all things, without an antecedent approval of and complacency in his character and administration.— Accordingly the second mark, viz, a will entirely accordant with and lost in the will of God, is of itself sufficient, inasmuch as it necessarily includes and embraces the first. And by this mark alone, as I suppose, we might know, whether our love is or is not perfect.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What is Perfect Love?

If the doctrine, which is variously termed sanctification, evangelical holiness, and evangelical or christian perfection, be true, or if the related and equivalent doctrine, which is denominated assurance of faith, be true, then it will follow, that it is our duty and privilege, even in the present life, to realize in our own souls the fulfillment of that great command, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," In other words, it is our duty and privilege to possess what may properly be called "perfect love." Accordingly it becomes a very important and interesting inquiry, When can our love properly be said to be perfect?

Perfection of love implies the removal or extinction of all selfishness. In other words, perfect love is always PURE love. We may probably conceive of love, which is pure in its nature; but is deficient, and therefore not perfect in its degree or intensity. But we cannot conceive of love which is acceptable to God, and is perfect in degree, which has any intermixture of selfishness.

Perfection of love is necessarily relative to the capacity of the subject of it. In other words, what would be perfection of love in one would not be in another, whose capacity of loving is greater. That precise amount or degree of love in man, which would be characterized as perfect in consequence of being all his capacity could render, would be imperfect in an angel or other being of greater capacity.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 17.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Subjection of Every Natural Desire to God

We take the liberty to urge upon all, who wish to live the true inward life, the importance of not resting satisfied with mere intellectual light, however valuable it may be; of not resting satisfied with joyful or any other emotions, which stop and terminate in themselves; and of acting invariably upon the principle, that nothing ought to satisfy themselves, and that nothing can satisfy God, but the subjection of every natural desire, and the substitution of desires, affections, and purposes, which terminate in God and God alone.

Move onward, therefore, with a firmness which no obstacles shall shake, to the entire revolution and renewal of the inward nature; the increased illumination of the conscience, that great light of the mind; the sanctification of the desires, which embrace the whole propensive and "affectional" nature; and the subjection of the will, which is naturally so proud and rebellious, to the will of God.

Fear not that God will desert you. Aided by the intellectual light which he has seen fit to give, and by those favorable emotions he has already excited, form the fixed, unalterable purpose, "the high resolve," in reliance upon divine grace, to be wholly his. No doubt, in many cases, the struggle will be severe. The unsanctified desires especially, including the various appetites, propensities, and affections, which form so important a part of our nature, are selfish and tenacious; and, considered as opposed to any and all human strength, are undoubtedly invincible. But God has said, "My grace is sufficient for thee." His word shall never fail; and least of all, in such a struggle, in which his own heart of infinite love is enlisted. Desire after desire will fall; idol after idol will be demolished; the Christian graces will successively gain the ascendancy; till the Holy Ghost shall take up his permanent residence in his own purified temple, and victory will sit crowned in the center of the heart.

Jehovah, sovereign of my heart!
My joy by night and day!
From Thee, oh may I never part,
From Thee ne'er go astray.
Whene'er allurements round me stand,
And tempt me from my choice;
Oh, let me find thy gracious hand,
Oh, let me hear thy voice!

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 16.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Affections and the Will Must Also be Subject to God

There are mental susceptibilities, which, on account of their being subsequent in the time of their action, may be described as laying back of the emotive part of the mind, as truly as the emotions can be said to lay back of the intellectual part. In making this remark, we have especial reference to the desires in their various modifications, particularly those modifications which are denominated the affections, and to the will.

Any religion, or rather pretense of religion, which is not powerful enough to penetrate into this region of the mind, and to bring the affections and will into subjection to God, is in vain. It is an important fact, and as melancholy as it is true, that a person may be spiritually enlightened and have new views on the subject of religion, and that he may also have very raised and joyful emotions, and yet may be a slave to his natural desires. He has not experienced what every one must experience, who would enter into communion with the Divine Mind, viz. the death of nature. He loves the things of the world more than the things of God.

Many, very many, are the instances, which can verify this remark. As the result of their intellectual illumination, the persons, to whom these statements will apply, are undoubtedly in advance of what they were previously, and are able to talk fluently on the subject of religion. And in consequence of some premature application of the Savior's merits to their own case, they can speak of pleasures and of hopes, which they never before experienced. But only urge upon them the necessity of self-crucifixion; only touch the idols which they cherish in their inner heart; and they discover at once the dominion which the world has over them still. God has not become the life of the soul. At a proposition, so necessary to the life of God and so repugnant to the life of nature, the spirit of untamed and almost unmitigated evil, which reposed so closely and secretly in their bosoms, will start into existence with features of opposition and malignity, altogether at variance with the peace and purity of a holy heart.

We may probably discover in these principles the reason, why it is, that, in times of especial religious attention, so many persons, who appeared to be much engaged in religion for a season, subsequently lose their interest, and become, both in practice and feeling, assimilated to the world. Such persons are undoubtedly the subjects of an inward experience; and this experience, in common parlance, is frequently called a religious experience; but it is obviously defective in the essential particular of not having a root. "But he, that received the word into stony places, the same is he, that heareth the word, and anon with joy, receiveth it. Yet hath he not root in himself."

Notwithstanding their increased ability and readiness to converse on the subject of religion, and the exhibitions which they make of emotion, sometimes of high emotion, they do not understand what it is to place themselves a living sacrifice upon the divine altar. They do not appreciate, and still less do they realize in their own hearts and lives, the "all of God and nothing of the creature."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 16.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

But, Is an Only Mental and Emotional Expereince Enough?

Consider the case of a person, who is the subject of a divine operation.

Under the influence of this inward operation, he experiences, to a considerable extent, new views of his own situation, of his need of a Savior, and of the restoration of his soul to God in spiritual union. The operation, which has been experienced so far, is purely intellectual. Of the necessity and value of such intellectual influences, there can be no doubt; but I believe it is generally conceded, that, in themselves alone, they do not, and cannot constitute religion. But in addition to this, we will suppose, that an effect, and perhaps a very decided effect, has been experienced in the emotive part, which in its action is subsequent to that of the intellect. The person has very pleasant emotions. The perception of new truth, as we should naturally expect, gives him happiness; and the perception of its relation to his salvation gives him still more happiness. He is very happy. He begins to speak a new language. His mouth is filled with praise. And others praise the Lord on his account.

But has such a person religion, as his friends are very desirous to believe, and are very apt to declare? He has an experience undoubtedly. We are willing to admit, that he has a valuable experience; an experience, which is naturally preparatory to religion, and is closely connected with it; and looks very much like it. But if the experience stops here, in such a manner as to constitute a merely emotional experience, and without reaching and affecting a still more inward and important part of the mind, as seems sometimes to be the case, we cannot with good reasons regard it as a truly religious experience; meaning by the terms an experience which meets the expectations and the demands of God, and which is saving. It is valuable; it is encouraging; it is closely connected with religion; but it is not the thing itself. We may perhaps designate it as a preparative or incident to religion, without being religion; and although we may thank the Lord for what it is, especially in its hopeful relations, it is still true, that the essential and indispensable element of the inward life is not there.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 16.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Holy Spirit's Effects on the Mind and the Emotions

It is the office of the Holy Spirit to operate, on the appropriate occasions of such operation, upon the human intellect; and especially by guiding it in the perception of the truth. The mode of the Spirit's operation upon the intellectual part, as it is upon other parts of the mind, is in many respects mysterious; but the ordinary result of his influences is the communication of truth. That is to say, the soul, when it is thus operated upon, knows spiritually what it did not know before. And it may properly be added, that the knowledge, which is thus communicated, will vary both in kind and degree, in accordance with the nature of the subject or facts to be illustrated, and with the special circumstances, whatever they may be, which render a divine communication necessary.

But it is not ordinarily to be expected, that the operation, of which we are now speaking, will stop with the intellect. By an original law of our mental nature, the perception of truth, which is the result of an intellectual act, is ordinarily followed by an effect upon that portion of the mind, which is usually designated as the emotional or emotive susceptibility; a part of the mind, which, as it is subsequent in the time of its action, is sometimes figuratively described, "as being back of the intellect."

The effect upon the emotive susceptibility, resulting from an operation on the intellect, will be different at different times and under different circumstances; varying in nature and. degree, according to the nature and degree of the truth which is presented, and also, in part, in accordance with its own previous situation at the time of its being affected. The truth, for instance, that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, will be attended with very pleasant emotions in one who feels himself to be a sinner, and to stand in need of a Savior; but will not be likely to be attended with any such effect in one, with whom this is not the case.

We can suppose, therefore, notwithstanding the general law which has just now been specified, an operation of the Holy Spirit upon the intellect, which is attended with no beneficial, with no sanctifying and saving effect upon the heart. Indeed, there are some cases, where the truth, which is impressed by a divine operation upon the intellect, is met and rejected in the sensibilities with feelings of opposition and contempt. But experience of this nature, which meets with no acceptance beyond the intellect, although it may have its origin intellectually in the operation of the Spirit of God, is not regarded as religious experience....

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 16.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Value of Spiritual Joy

Spiritual joy, being a truly Christian grace, is exceedingly valuable and desirable. And truly blessed is he, who possesses that state of mind, which is properly called "joy in the Holy Ghost." It is true it is a grace, both subsequent in time and inferior in rank to Love, which ought to be sought first as the reigning and controlling principle of the soul. But, it is, nevertheless, in its appropriate time and place, one of the precious gifts and graces of God. And hence the various expressions and commands, having a relation to this cheering state of mind, which are found in the Bible. "REJOICE in the Lord, O ye righteous; for praise is comely for the upright." Ps. 33:1. " But REJOICE, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." First Peter, 4:13. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." John, 15:11. " Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; in every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1st Thess. 5: 16, 17, 18.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Unchangeable Basis of Christian Joy

Holy joy, being founded in the perception of the character, attributes, and will of God, is not necessarily liable to changes. He, who rejoices in God to-day, having a correct view of his character and will, will never find good reason to do otherwise than rejoice in that character and will, in all coming time. And simply because God, in his character and his will, is always the same. In all afflictions and trials of whatever nature, there will still remain the basis of a serene and pure joy in the depths of the heart. But natural joy, being founded upon natural objects, which are frail, uncertain, and full of imperfection, necessarily partakes of the uncertainty and imperfect nature of its causes. And hence it is said in the portion of Scripture already referred to. "They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with JOY, [that is, with natural joy, as we are probably to understand it.] And these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation, fall away." So that holy or spiritual joy may be compared to the sun, which always shines with its pure and beautiful light, even when wrapped in clouds; but natural joy is like a meteor, gleaming for a moment and then extinguished; rekindled again after a time, but destined soon and suddenly to sink in still greater darkness. 

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Joy and Peace

Religious or sanctified joy, always bearing the stamp of deliberation and wisdom, always in keeping with that seriousness which naturally flows out of the truths and the responsibilities of religion, is entirely suited to the objects and occasions, on which it arises; so as to leave in the mind both the appearance and the fact of perfect tranquility; such as there is in God himself, who may be said to be always happy, always joyful, and yet to be always serious and unalterably tranquil. This joy seems to me to be often expressed in the Scriptures by the word PEACE; and is probably the precise state of mind, the delightful legacy of all true Christians, which the Savior had in view, when he said to his disciples, " PEACE I leave with you; MY peace I give unto you." Such a joy may be strong. In the language of Scripture, it may be "unspeakable and full of glory." But it is always calm and peaceful; and in this respect is entirely different from that excited and unprofitable intoxication of spirit, which is sometimes found to be experienced, and which so possesses and agitates the mind, that the will of God and our duty cannot be clearly perceived.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Friday, October 3, 2014

True Spiritual Joy Brings Tranquility of Mind

Natural joy, especially when it is strong, to perplex the action of the perceptive and discriminating or judging powers. This is true of the natural emotions generally, when they are in an excited state. Any considerable agitation in that portion of our sensitive nature which is termed the Emotions, is commonly understood to be unfavorable to correct perception and judgment. A man, for instance, who is agitated with emotions of displeasure, of jealousy, or of fear, will find it difficult, while remaining, in such state of agitation, to go through successfully with an intricate train of mathematical or other reasoning. And the result will be the same, if he is considerably agitated with emotions of natural pleasure or joy. But true spiritual joy, when undisturbed by unfavorable influences from the physical system and unmixed with natural joy, leaves the mind tranquil, and the perceptive and discriminating faculties clear and effective in the highest degree. And these views seem to be confirmed by a consideration of the state of holy beings. All holy beings, there can be no doubt, experience true joy of heart; but in our reflections on their mental character and operations, it is certain, that we never conceive of them as having their minds clouded and their perceptive powers blunted by excessive emotion. The natural feelings, which are regulated with difficulty, continually run into excess; but this is never the case with those truly religious or gracious feelings, which are really inspired by the Holy Ghost. And, therefore, when it said of the disciples on a certain occasion, (Luke 24: 41,) that they "believed not for JOY," it is probable, that they experienced an excitement and confusion of mind, resulting from a mixture of natural joy with emotions of an holy kind.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Natural Joy vs. Spiritual Joy

Natural joy and spiritual joy are different in their origin. Natural joy, which is sometimes denominated "the joy of the world," arises from natural causes; from physical or worldly good; from health, property, worldly influence, the indulgences of sense; from such causes, in a word, as we might suppose to exist and to produce joy within us, if we had no perception of a God and no knowledge of religion. Spiritual or gracious joy, which is spiritual or gracious in its origin, arises from the knowledge of spiritual objects, from the discharge of spiritual or religious duties, and from the inspiring agency of the Holy Ghost. And hence it is sometimes denominated the "joy of the Holy Ghost."

Again, natural joy, arising from natural principles, and unchecked and unregulated by gracious influences, has oftentimes a very powerful effect upon the physical system. And it is possible and even probable, that this may sometimes be the case with true spiritual or gracious joy; especially when the emotion is strong and immediately successive to a painfully depressed and suffering state of mind. And it is not unreasonable to suppose, that, in some cases, when powerful physical results are found to exist, that there may be a union or combination of natural and gracious emotion. But it is nevertheless true, that the natural tendency of spiritual joy, IN ITSELF CONSIDERED, and independently of any peculiar circumstances, is, in a remarkable degree, and much more so than that of mere natural joy, to produce a tranquilizing effect upon the mind and through the mind upon the physical system, and to promote soundness and regularity of action in both.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Immutability of God's Will

The immutability of God's will presents a strong contrast with the mutability of the creature's will. Man's will, (we speak now of the natural man, or the man out of God,) is changeable. By separating himself from God, he took his will, which is hardly less than another name for himself, out of God's keeping, and placed it in his own. But man out of God neither knows, nor can know, what is true, nor what is good, nor what is right, except relatively and imperfectly. The absolute truth, as well as the absolute good and the absolute right, is beyond his reach. His views are not only limited, but perverted. As he has cut himself off from the source of truth, the truth is not in him, except imperfectly and pervertedly; and he is floating loosely amid a sea of errors, which flows out from the falsity of his own inward position. H!s will, therefore, unnmoored as it is from the eternal foundations, is fixed to no object, except to himself; and as self, or the life of self, has no centre but in its own selfishness, it wanders about, attracted by every object which promises to feed its depraved appetite, and seeking a rest, which, in the rejection of the true rest, it is never destined to find.

Such is the changeableness of man's will in his unsanctified state. How different is all this from the true and unchangeable foundations of God; — and how different the condition of the unholy man, who rests upon himself, from that of the man who is united with the infinite! On the strong rock of the perpetual identity of the divine will, and not on the uncertain quicksands of a will which is liable to change, the holy man rests his head in peace. No storms terrify him. Knowing, as he does, that to God there is no past and no future, his soul. combining the past and the future into one, may be said to be centered in the eternal present. To Sense, indeed, many things are new. To Faith, nothing is new. To Sense, many things are strange, unprecedented, terrifying. There are storms, diseases, wars, the sky in commotion, the earth heaving, nations destroyed.  But to Faith, whose eye penetrates beneath the surface, there is only what was designed to be; the development of a will, which, in being invariably true to mercy, wisdom, and justice, never changes from its own settled line of action, but is identical in its eternity. These present things, which occupy and perplex the senses, are the externalities which clothe the inward life. They may be described as the "veil of the temple," within which there is God without an image,  unseen by that external eye which can see only the form of things, but visible to that eye of Faith, which, beneath all outward forms, sees, and knows, and loves the Eternal Essence.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 5, Chapter 2.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Entire Consecration

If men of earth, for earth's renown,
Are willing long to wait or toil,
Nor shrink to lay existence down
Upon the war-field's bloody soil;­

If there is nought they'll not endure,
If there is nought they will not dare,
To make their hopes, their purpose sure,
Their wealth to gain, their wreath to wear;-

Oh, say, shall we, who bear a name
That intimates our heavenly birth,
Behold our efforts put to shame,
When placed beside the zeal of earth?

'Tis Jesus calls. For his dear sake,
If they their all for earth have given,
Oh, let us haste his cross to take,
And give our hearts, our all for heaven.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Delightful Attraction Toward the Divine Mind

I could speak of many remarkable deliverances and supports in time of mental trial. God has ever been with me, in time of trouble, a faithful God. But these and many other things which have called forth the deep gratitude of my heart, I am compelled to omit.

I cannot refrain from saying, however, that almost from the very moment of my obtaining the victory over those selfish feelings which have been spoken of; I was distinctly conscious of a new but powerful and delightful attraction towards the Divine mind. This, I believe, is a common form of interior experience among those who have enjoyed the blessing of sanctification. I perceived and felt very distinctly that there was a central existence, full of all glory, towards which the Spirit was tending. I could realize the meaning of the Psalmist, "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." I felt like an imprisoned bird, when the string is cut that bound it to the earth, and which soars upwards and spreads its wings to the skies. So conscious have I been that inordinate self-love has been the great cause of the separation between my soul and God, that the very idea of self as distinct from God is almost painful to me. When self is destroyed, the divine union, which sanctified hearts only know, takes place. If I know any thing, I know most certainly that the true resting place of my soul is and must be in the infinite mind; that it is not and cannot be any where else. Perhaps no part of the Scriptures, during the more recent periods of my experience, has more affected me, than the prayer of the Saviour for his disciples, "That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be ONE IN US." It is difficult for me to conceive of any heaven but God's presence; of any hell but his absence. I realize that the cup of my happiness is full, whatever may be my personal trials and sorrows, whenever and wherever my heavenly Father is glorified in me. Accordingly it is my earnest and constant prayer, that my will may be wholly and for ever lost in the will of God, and that I may never know self any more, except as the instrument of divine glory.

— from Phoebe W. Palmer (editor), Pioneer Experiences or The Gift of Power Received by Faith Illustrated and Confirmed by the Testimony of Eighty Living Ministers of Various Denominations (1872).

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An Experience of the Holy Spirit

I have continually what seems to me to be the WITNESS of the Holy Spirit; that is to say, I have a firm and. abiding conviction that I am wholly the Lord's; which does not seem to be introduced into the mind by reasoning, nor by any methods whatever of forced and self-made reflection, and which I can ascribe only to the Spirit of God. It is a sort of interior voice, which speaks silently but effectively to the soul, and bids me be of good cheer.

At times, especially on the 14th of February, 1840, I experienced some remarkable operations on my mind, which made a profound and lasting impression. Language would be but a feeble instrument in detailing them, and I will not attempt it. Indeed I do not know but I must say with the Apostle, "whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell." But in view of what I then experienced and have experienced at other times, I cannot help saying with the Apostle, "God hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."


— from Phoebe W. Palmer (editor), Pioneer Experiences or The Gift of Power Received by Faith Illustrated and Confirmed by the Testimony of Eighty Living Ministers of Various Denominations (1872).

Friday, September 26, 2014

Prayers for Sanctification Answered

On Sabbath evening, the 2d of February, I was greatly afflicted in mind; tossed to and fro as in a, tempest; and it, seemed to me that I could not easily stand where I was, but must either advance or retreat. But God's grace was sufficient. My faith remained unshaken; and, on Monday morning, I thought I could say with great calmness and assurance, Thou hast given me the victory. I was never able before that time to say with sincerity and confidence, that I loved my heavenly Father with all my soul and with all my strength. But, aided by divine grace, I have been enabled to use this language, which involves, as I understand it, the true idea of Christian perfection or holiness, both then and ever since. There was no intellectual excitement, no very marked joy, when I reached this great rock of practical salvation. The soul seemed to have gathered strength from the storm which I had passed through on the previous night; and, aided by a power from on high, it leaped forward, as it were by a bound, to the great and decisive mark. I was distinctly conscious when I reached it. The selfish exercises which had recently, and, as it were, by a concentrated and spasmodic effort, troubled me so much, seemed to be at once removed; and I believed, and had reason to believe, that my heart, presumptuous as it may appear to some to say it, was now purified by the Holy Spirit, and made right with God. I was thus, if I was not mistaken in my feelings, no longer an offering to the world, but SANCTIFIED UNTO THE LORD; given to Him to be His, and no longer my own; redeemed by a mighty power, and filled with the blessing of "perfect love."

The enemy might now be said to be cast out of the interior of the castle. Nevertheless, he has never ceased his hostility; He has laid his snares and presented his temptations. It would be presumption to assert positively that I had never in any case, nor for any length of time, yielded to his power. But I can testify abundantly to the goodness of God's grace, that he has heard the voice of my prayer, and in a wonderful manner preserved me. Certain it is that my spiritual life has been a new life. There is calm sunshine upon the soul. The praise of God is continually upon my lips.


— from Phoebe W. Palmer (editor), Pioneer Experiences or The Gift of Power Received by Faith Illustrated and Confirmed by the Testimony of Eighty Living Ministers of Various Denominations (1872).