The life of those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High may be called a Hidden Life, because the animating principle, the vital or operative element, is not so much in itself as in another. It is a life grafted into another life. It is the life of the soul, incorporated into the life of Christ; and in such a way, that, while it has a distinct vitality, it has so very much in the sense, in which the branch of a tree may be said to have a distinct vitality from the root.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

O Blinded Ones!

Many, who do not love God with the whole heart, nevertheless say that they desire, that they wish so to love him. O, blinded ones! How can this possibly be, when they are so obviously unwilling to renounce the pursuits and pleasures of the world, by which God is offended and separated from them!

Religious Maxims (1846) LXXXIV.

Friday, August 29, 2014

They Say Their Path With Flowers is Strown

They say, their path with flowers is strown,
And all their way is bright;
But as for me, I walk alone,
Encircled with the night.
But do not think my joy the less.
Oh, no! I love to be
Abandoned, in my helplessness,
To deep obscurity.

I love the thunder's voice to hear,
And see the lightnings play;
I smile, when many a danger near
Comes thronging round my way.
'Tis then all human help is vain,
All human hopes o'erthrown;
And, in my great necessity,
I rest in God alone.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wilt Thou, Oh My Father, Leave Me?

Wilt Thou, Oh my Father, leave me?
Still I'll bless thy holy will;
I may lose, but will not grieve Thee;
I will love Thee still.

Long and sharply dost Thou chide me;
I am filled with grief and shame;
But  I have no joy beside Thee,
Loving still, the same.

Like the sun-flower, ever turning
Meekly to the skies its face;
Still my heart for Thee is burning,
Though Thou hid'st thy grace.

Thus my Father heard me praying;
Drawing near, once more He smiled;
Joyfully I heard Him saying,
Thou art still my child.

I did leave thee but to try thee;
Trying, I have found thee mine;
Now I always will be nigh thee;
All I have is thine.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Consolation in Sorrow

Although affliction smites my heart,
And earthly pleasures flee,
There is one bliss that ne'er shall part,
My joy, oh God, in Thee.

That joy is like the orb of day,
When clouds its track pursue;
The shades and darkness throng its way,
But sunlight struggles through.

Oh Thou, my everlasting light,
On whom my hopes rely;
With Thee the darkest path is bright,
And fears and sorrows die.

American Cottage Life (1850)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Desire for Heaven

My heart is in a land afar,
Unseen by mortal eyes;
A clime, that needs nor moon nor star
A land of cloudless skies.

They tell me, that the earth is bright,
And I have pleasures here;
But still, in that far land of light,
Are pleasures yet more dear.

Oh, that I had an angel's wing,
To bear me hence away;
Where virtue blooms with endless spring,
And love shall ne' er decay.

My heart is in that land afar,
Unseen by mortal eyes;
A clime, that needs nor moon nor star,
A land of cloudless skies.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Presence of God in Prayer

A life of faith is necessarily a life of PRAYER. It must be obvious, that the faith, which makes God present at all times, and in all events, and yet without inspiring a sentiment of communion and sympathy with the Divine Mind, would be of no avail. When, therefore, we speak of believingly recognizing the presence of God in all things, we do not mean a recognition, in which there shall be no feeling, no sentiments of filial dependence, no gratitude and love. Far from it. God is made present by faith, in order to be loved and communed with. The spirit of true communion with God, which is only another name for the spirit of prayer, naturally flows out, as it seems to us, of the spirit of constant and specific faith; and naturally and necessarily forms an important part of the life of faith. True prayer always has relation to the existing state or tendency of the soul. Or rather it is, for the time being, the very state of the soul itself, and nothing else. And the existing state of the soul, it is hardly necessary to say, always and necessarily has a connection, more or less intimate, with the existing development of things. Connecting, therefore, the existing state of the soul with the existing state of things around it, and the development of things with the presence and agency of God, we are at once brought into correspondence and communion with God, in relation to the things, in which we are now most especially interested, and concerning which God is most pleased to know our filial trust, and to hear our humble supplications.

Accordingly it is, in our apprehension, a true doctrine, that every returning day brings with it its special burden of prayer; in other words, something which it is especially proper for us to introduce to the notice of our heavenly Father for his direction and blessing. And this is true, not only of every day, but of every hour and every moment. And thus it is, that those who live the life of faith, may not only be said to recognize God in everything, and to be in communication with him in every thing; but to look for guidance and the divine blessing in every thing and "TO PRAY WITHOUT CEASING."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 10.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Seeing God at Work in National Events

It is important... in the experience of a holy life, to extend the principle of the recognition of God's presence and agency, to all public and national events, as well as to those of a more private nature.

In republican governments, and in all governments of a constitutional character, there are almost constantly before the public questions of great interest, which, when viewed out of their relation to the Divine Mind, are calculated to excite in the Christian, as well as in others, a degree of anxiety. When he beholds conflicting parties and nations, when he witnesses the wild political commotion and uproar, which has characterized almost every age of the world, the heart of the good man would faint within him, if he he did not know and feel, that the hand of the Lord is in it. And yet the faith even of Christians, when exercised in relation to public events, is exceedingly weak; so much so as hardly, in the comparative sense, to have an existence. It is very different, in this matter from what it should be. Nothing but a strange and blind unbelief could thus exile God from a participation in national movements. There has no political event ever taken place; there has been no fall or rise of empires; no building up or overthrow of parties; no aggressions of war or pacifications of peace, without the presence of the hand of the Lord either for good or for evil, for punishment or reward. Such is the doctrine of the Scriptures, as well as of reason. Their language is, "The kingdom is the Lord's; and he is the governor among the nations." Ps. 22: 28. "By me kings reign, and princes decree justice." Prov. 8: 15. God says of Cyrus, the Persian king and conquerer, "He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built, and to the temple, thy foundation shall be laid." Isa. 44: 28. And He adds in the next chapter a remarkable passage, which shows, that kings and rulers, who have no realizing sense of the divine superintendence and presence, may yet be the instruments in his hands for the accomplishment of his purposes. "For Jacob, my servant's sake, and Israel, mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name; I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me."

Oh, that we might learn the great lesson, (the lesson absolutely indispensable to him, who would experience the highest results of the inward life,) of beholding God, either in his direct efficiency or his permissive and controlling guardianship, as present in all things, whether high or low, of whatever name or nature. Without taking this view of his presence, we deprive ourselves of that great Center, where the soul finds rest. We are tossed and agitated by passing events. Every thing is perplexed, mysterious, and hopeless.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 10.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Finding God in Our Daily Work

It is obvious from the Scriptures, that we are required to be "diligent in business;" "whatever our hand findeth to do, to do it with our might;" "to provide for our own households;" and undoubtedly every person must, on Christian principles, regularly and conscientiously, accomplish the appropriate work of his hands, whatever it may be.

But here also, as in every thing else, we must recognize the presence and agency of God. We must do whatever God requires us to do; and must recognize him alike in the fulfillment and the disappointment of our efforts. We must not think too much of the inferior instrumentality of the rain and the sunshine; of the turning of the furrow and of the planting of the seed, although these are important in their place; but placing these and all other secondary acts and causes comparatively under our feet, must endeavor to gain a higher position, and to stand in nearer proximity to the Primitive Agency. "He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he, that regardeth the clouds, shall not reap." God works in connection with second causes; but not in dependence on them. They are his servants, and not his masters; a sort of dumb expositors of his purposes and will, but in no sense, though blind man seldom looks above them, the originating and effective cause. "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." [Ecclesiastes, 11: 4, 6.] Blessed is the man, who, as he goes about his daily business, tending his flocks with Abraham, or ploughing his fields with Elisha, can see God in trees and flowers and running brooks, in hills and valleys and mountains, in clouds and in sunshine; and can connect him, as an intelligible and effective agency, with everything that has relation to the time and the place, the nature and the results of his labors.

— edited from The Interior of Hidden Life (1844) Chapter 10.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Faith That Makes God Present

The form of faith, which is especially necessary, in order to live the life of faith, is that, which makes God present, moment by moment, in any and all events which take place. The want of this form of faith is one great source of evil. It is owing to a defect here, in a great part at least, that many persons, who believe, to some extent, in God, and in Christ, and perhaps in their own final acceptance, nevertheless make but little progress in sanctification. Adhesive in a general faith, which looks at things in masses, and rejecting that which is particular, they necessarily place God at a great distance; while, on the other hand, that faith, which is specific and particular, brings him near; makes him present and intimate in all our concerns, and establishes between him and our own souls a perpetual and happy relationship. We hope we shall not be misunderstood. We admit that other modifications of faith are important in their place. We know them to be so. But we cannot doubt, that the true life of God in the soul must be sustained, in a very considerable degree, by means of that specific form of faith, which recognizes God, AS PRESENT, NOT ONLY IN EVERY MOMENT OF TIME, BUT AS PRESENT, EITHER PERMISSIVELY OR CAUSATIVELY, IN EVERY EVENT THAT TAKES PLACE.

Those who are in the exercise of that form of faith, which makes God present in every thing, will perceive and recognize the hand of God in every thing which relates to themselves, viz. in the preservation of their lives and health, in their affairs of business, in their sufferings and joys, in the strength or weakness of their intellectual powers, in their opportunities of acquiring knowledge, in their opportunities of discharging duty, in their inward and outward temptations, in every thing whether it relates to mind, body, or estate, or whether it relates to suffering or to action, which in any way concerns themselves, or which in any way concerns those with whom they are closely connected by family ties.

If we are in the exercise of that kind of faith, which makes God present in all things, we shall be enabled to see distinctly his presence and his operative hand in the movements and acts of those, who entertain hostile dispositions towards us, and who may properly be denominated our enemies. Notwithstanding the suffering, to which the cruel and unjust course of our enemies often exposes us, we shall find no difficulty, if we are in the exercise of this form of specific faith, in recognizing and believing the presence of God in that, as in other things. The mind is in that delightful position, which enables it to think much more of God, than of the instrument, which he employs. Looking up to the great Author, it accepts from his hand with acquiescence and thankfulness the cup of bitterness; while it has mingled emotions of disapproval and pity, (compassion being the predominant feeling,) for the subordinate agent. But it is the distinct and unwavering perception, that God is present, and that it is God who offers it to our lips, which most of all changes and sweetens the draught. It is inexpressibly delightful, in all the trials that come upon us from within and without, to realize, without any misgivings of spirit, that the rod, whatever may be the subordinate agency, is in the hands of our heavenly Father.

— edited from The Interior of Hidden Life (1844) Part 1, Chapter 10.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Am I an Idol Worshiper?

Am I an idol worshiper? This is an inquiry which comes home with tremendous import to all men. It is not too much to say, perhaps, that a divided heart cannot easily answer it. Because a divided heart, by the simple fact of its division, which perplexes the action of the judgment, cannot readily understand its own position. Him, whose heart is fixed to serve God alone, God will teach. To such an one, whose "eye is single," God gives the true light; — and it is under the influence of this light, that he understands the dangers which surround him.

In determining whether we are under the influence of idolatrous tendencies and affections, we must always remember that the true life, the living and life-giving instinct of holiness, can never deviate from its straight path, but, in the flashes of its flaming progress, points upward to God, and to God only. The holy heart has but one law. And the subjective or inward law of its life it expresses and lives out in the exterior action. The needle does not more truly turn to the pole, — the planets do not more steadily and truly turn to the solar center and revolve around it, — than the holy heart turns to God and revolves around him. If it is conscious, at any time, of any centrifugal influence, that is to say, of any influence which is calculated to make it fly off from the great Center, then there is something which is taking a position and influence as an idol. When the heart is exempt from idols, there is no such disturbing and retarding consciousness as this. On the contrary, everything is free, easy, unembarrassed in its movement. In its exemption from everything but holy love, which is its life, it is not possible for the soul to discern any tendency which is at variance with, or which perplexes, the tendency which is innate and essential in all holy beings, towards the great central Life, namely, God himself.

On the other hand, any attachment which is misplaced, or is inordinate, is a weight upon the soul. Under its influence, the mental consciousness misses that lightness and upwardness of movement which it recognized before, and feels a perplexity and heaviness of action, which is not more obvious than it is embarrassing. In the illimitable space, the planets move on, swift and unobstructed in their immense course, because God, who is their mighty Guide and Supporter, prepares the track for them. God is not more the God of nature than he is the God of the living soul. He prepares the track of the soul, not so much by displacing outward obstacles as by preparing the soul itself; and when, by his divine agency, it is dislodged of its idols, its flight is free and unembarrassed to himself.

By marking closely these contrasted states of the soul, we shall be likely to know whether we are under the influence of idols or not.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 9.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


It is important to understand the distinction between love, and that excess of love, under whatever circumstances it may exist, which may properly be denominated idolatry. It is one of the directions of the apostle John to Christians, whom he addresses as little children, that they should "keep themselves from IDOLS."

The term  IDOL, in its original sense, is the name for those false gods, to which human blindness and unbelief have given an outward form, and have set up and worshiped instead of the true God. In its secondary or figurative sense, it is the appropriate name of any object or person, which attracts and concentrates upon itself any affection, or any degree of affection, which belongs to God.

It is worthy of notice, that the ennobling principle of love is the basis of idolatry, as well as the basis of true holiness. But holy love, or love in the true sense of the terms, is always right. Idolatrous love is always wrong love; — wrong either in its place or its degree. And if right love is the highest and best exercise of the heart, it is difficult, on the other hand, to estimate the evil results of a love that is wrongly placed.

Objects, which may easily become idols, by being the subjects of an affection which is wrongly placed, surround us on every side. They are sometimes said to be innumerable. And if that be too strong an expression, it is certain that they are limited in number only by the capacity of inordinate love. This beautiful world, beautiful even in its ruins. which was originally designed to be the temple of God and of his worship, has become one great idol temple. A man's idol may be his property, his reputation, his influence, his friends, his children, those who are bound to him by the ties of natural affection, and even those who are united by religious attachments, and all other persons or things which are capable of being objects of affection, and which can attract that affection in an inordinate degree.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 9.

Monday, August 18, 2014

When the Will is Truly Free

All deliberate deviation from the will of God necessarily implies a degree of moral imperfection. If we would be perfect, therefore, our wills must, in the direction of their movement, be completely blended with the will of God. But this does not imply the annihilation of the human will, nor even an obstruction of its appropriate action. It is a correct saying of Francis de Sales, that our "will is never so much enslaved as when we serve our lusts; and never so free, as when it is devoted to the will of God."

Religious Maxims (1872) LXXXIII.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

This is the Divine Moment

The past is gone; the future has no existence. The PRESENT, which a certain writer calls the "divine moment," or moment of God, is the only period of time which is really committed to us. As there is no other point of time in which we can really serve God but this, which is present to us, the language of the heart should ever be, What wilt thou have me to do NOW?

Religious Maxims (1872) LXXXII.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Gift or the Giver?

A parent, who loves an obedient and affectionate child, will sometimes give him a picture book, a musical instrument, or some other thing, as  a token of his confidence and love. But if the parent should find the child so much taken up with the picture book as to forget the parental commands, and to be getting into ways of disobedience, he will take it away. And thus God sometimes imparts especial spiritual consolations to his children; but if he finds them, as he sometimes does, more taken up with the joys he gives than they are with himself and his commands, he will remove them. And he does it in great mercy. It is certainly better to lose the gift than to be deprived of the Giver; to lose our consolations, than to lose our God.

Religious Maxims (1846) LXXXI.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wisdom from Socrates

There are some heathen philosophers, such as Socrates, Cicero, and Seneca, that occasionally announce moral and religious truths of great value. Truths which are susceptible of an interpretation that will bring them into close harmony with the practical doctrines of Christianity. "The fewer things a man wants," said Socrates on a certain occasion, "the nearer he is to God."

Religious Maxims (1846) LXXX.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Inward Victory

Smite on! It doth not hurt me now;
The spear hath lost its edge of pain;
And piercing thorns, that bound my brow,
No longer leave their bleeding stain.

What once was woe is changed to bliss;
What once was loss is now my gain;
My sorrow is my happiness;
My life doth live by being slain.

The birth-pangs of those dreadful years
Are like the midnight changed to morn;
And daylight shines upon my tears,
Because the soul's great life is born.

The piercing thorns have changed to flowers;
The spears have grown to sceptres bright;
And sorrow's dark and sunless hours
Become eternal days of light.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXIV.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Acceptance of Trials

'Tis all the same to me;
Sorrow, and strife, and pining want, and pain!
Whate'er it is, it cometh all from Thee,
And 'tis not mine to doubt Thee or complain.

Thou knowest what is best;
And who, oh God, but Thee hath power to know?
'Tis Thine alike with good to make us blest,
And Thine to send affliction's hour of woe.

No questions will I ask.
Do what Thou wilt, my Father and my God!
Be mine the dear and consecrated task,
To bless the loving hand that lifts the rod.

All, all shall please me well;
Since living faith hath made it understood,
That in the shadowy folds of sorrow dwell
The seeds of life and everlasting good.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXIII.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Not Alone

I cannot be alone;
Where'er I go, I find,
Around my steps, the presence thrown
Of the Eternal Mind.

He lives in all my thoughts;
His home is in my heart;
There is no loneliness for me;
I never live apart.

I sometimes go from men,
Far in the silent woods;
But He is with me even then,
In shady solitudes.

The fellow of my walks,
Companion ever nigh,
He fills the solitary place,
With love and sympathy.

I cannot be alone,
Where'er I go, I find,
Around my steps, the presence thrown,
Of the Eternal Mind.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXII.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

"Love, and Do What You Please"

 It is a saying of St. Augustine — "Love, and do what you please." In acting from the impulse of love, we are conscious of the highest freedom. But pure love, or right love, (that to which St. Augustine refers,) is, by the very terms used, a love which is conformed to law. It is a love which is pure from selfishness, a love which is right;  a love which does not, and cannot, while it remains pure, vary from the law of moral rectitude. He, who acts from such love, while he is conscious of the highest freedom, is safe in doing what he pleases, not only because his pleasure consists in benevolent feeling and action, but because his pleasure is always conformed to what is right. He is under law without feeling its pressure; because the pressure of law, or that which makes it felt as a compulsive and constraining power, never is and never can be felt, while the subject of it entirely harmonizes in feeling as well as in action with its requisitions. The man who, in perfect health, breathes the pure air of heaven, breathes freely; — but he does it in subjection to the laws of respiration, and yet without feeling any constraint, and perhaps without knowing that there are such laws. The man who walks the earth, in the perfect exercise of his muscles, is conscious of freedom, and of acting his own pleasure, while, at the same time, every movement is in subjection to the law of gravitation, and cannot be made without it. Indeed, it is the physical law in these cases, harmonizing with the purpose of the personal volition, which sustains both breathing and movement. And so it is the eternal law of right, indicating the channels in which it should flow, but without using compulsion, when compulsion is not needed, which sustains pure or holy love in a state of purity.

Angels have a conscience. They do always what is right, and never otherwise than what is right. But they do not do it under the compulsions of conscience, but from the excellent and just impulses of a purified and loving nature. Conscience is a law to them, as it is a law to all other holy beings. But law, we are told, "is made for the lawless." (1 Tim. 1: 9.) Those who are not lawless, but whose hearts and actions, of their own accord, harmonize with the law, are under the law without feeling the pressure of the law; rendering obedience to the law, almost without knowing what the law is. If they should attempt or desire to disobey, they would at once have knowledge as distinct as it would be painful. In other words, the operations of the conscience are anticipated and lost, as it were, in the antecedent operations of holy love. And these statements, which apply to angels and other unfallen beings, will apply essentially to men.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 8.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Love vs. Moral Obligation

There are two important principles in the human constitution, which are very different from each other in their nature; but which, operating in different ways, often harmonize in the production of the same results. The one is the great principle of love, which we have been endeavoring to illustrate; the other is the feeling of moral obligation. Cases of human conduct, illustrative of the operation of these two principles, are very frequent.

A man, for instance, visits and relieves one who is sick. The action, which is so interesting and important, may be ascribed either to the principle of love, or the sentiment of duty. The father of a family restrains those under his care from outward labors on the Sabbath day, and visits the house of God with them; and, in doing so, he may be moved by love to God, or merely by the constraint of mental conviction and obligation. A child may render obedience to his parents from either of these motives; either because he loves to obey, — it being a pleasure, a delight to him to obey,— or because, without love, and sometimes against love, he feels it to be his duty to obey. And thus of many other instances.

It is important to ascertain the true position and the comparative relations of these principles. In the order of nature, love is the first in time. The heart naturally operates before the conscience. One evidence of this is, that it is the office of the conscience to intimate the proper regulations, and to establish the law of the heart. It is obvious, however, that there can be no regulation without something which is regulated; and conscience, whose business it is to regulate and direct, would obviously be a faculty without application and without use, if there were not propensities and affections which in the order of nature operated antecedently. Love is the true impulsive principle, the central movement or life of man, as it is of God and of all holy beings. Of conscience, it can only be said that it is its guard, the flaming sword which waves and flashes round it to protect its purity. And he who does not act in the right way naturally, and by the power of his own loving life, must be wounded and goaded into the right by the authority and the penalties of the moral sense.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 8.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sympathy With God

Holy sympathy, in distinction from mere natural sympathy, is discriminating.  That is to say,  it is restricted and modified, so far as it relates to man, by the operation of the still higher form of the same principle, which may be described as sympathy with God. Holy sympathy, in being the offspring of holy love, is not like that weak sympathy generated from the natural heart, which modifies kindness by selfishness, and seeks a momentary relief of the sufferer rather than the ultimate and greatest good. Having its origin in the Divine Nature, it is always, in its operations and results, subjected to the providence and will of God. And, accordingly, it sometimes exists where it does not find itself at liberty to relieve the suffering for which it feels. It is not in the nature of holy sympathy, however intense it may be, to do anything which is wrong. And, accordingly, the person whose heart harmonizes with God, never undertakes to relieve that suffering which God, in his providence, evidently imposes for the good of him who is afflicted. His sympathy with God's ultimate designs regulates the tendencies of his sympathy for the sufferer.

And thus regulated, the principle of sympathy, springing as it does from holy love, is one of the most important and effective elements of a holy life. It links the divine with the human, the upright with the fallen, the angel with the man. It has been the moving impulse, the life, of good men in all ages of the world. It detached Moses from the court of Egypt, that it might unite him with the sufferers of the desert; it poured its energies into the heart of Paul, and carried him from nation to nation: in modern times, it has carried devoted missionaries into all parts of the world; it moves the hearts of angels, of whom it is said, "there is joy among the angels in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." It achieved its mightiest triumph when the Saviour of the world, clothing himself in human form, chose to be smitten and die upon the cross rather than separate himself from the interests of fallen humanity.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 7.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Coming Down from the Mountain

The principle of holy sympathy is very important, considered as constituting a medium of communication and a bond of union between hearts which have experienced the highest degrees of love, and those which are only partly sanctified. In a holy heart, to a considerable extent at least, faith takes the place of desire; and consequently, as a general thing, praise will  predominate over supplication. A holy heart is a heart jubilant; a heart "always rejoicing." But when the holy person comes into the company of those who are in a lower degree of experience, — who have much darkness mingled with their light, and much sorrow mingled with their joy, — the principle of holy sympathy alters his position, and leads him to unite his supplications with theirs. He goes down from "the mount of transfiguration" into the deep and dark valley; and, under the impulse of love, which is now changed into sympathy, he seeks, with wrestling and tears, to deliver his brethren.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 7.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sympathy Allies Christians With the Toils and Wants of Humanity

The principle of sympathy, as it exists in a holy mind, is not limited in its exercise to occasions furnished by men's physical sufferings, or by their spiritual wants. In things which are not directly of a religious character, but have certain prudential relations and issues, and are thought, by the men of the world, to be important to them, we are at liberty to harmonize in feeling and action, so far as can be done consistently with the claims of religion. This results, in part, from the peculiarities of our position. While a renovated heart, on the one hand, allies us with angels, a weak and dying body, on the other, allies us with the toils and wants of humanity. And we still have a bond of union in many things connected with our position, however different we may be in character. So that there may be occasions on which the most devoted Christian may as truly sympathize with his neighbors in building a bridge or a road, in establishing manufactories, in perfecting useful inventions, or in some other work connected with the ordinary wants of men, as in building a church. It is a mistake to suppose that religion dissociates us from humanity in anything which is lawful.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 7.

Monday, August 4, 2014


It is especially characteristic of the man who is united with God in love, that he is sympathetic. The term SYMPATHY, which, in its origin, is derived from the Greek language, expresses literally and strictly, harmony, or union of feeling.  There must, therefore, be two or more persons, who are the subjects of this united or common feeling. There must, also, be some common object, in reference to which this united feeling is exercised. Accordingly, the sympathetic man is one who harmonizes in feeling, on the appropriate occasions of sympathy, with the feelings and situation of those around him.

The basis of sympathy is love.  Love is the essence, of which sympathy is one of the modifications or forms. It is the nature of pure or holy love, not only to seek the good of others, but, harmonizing with the peculiarities of their situation, to rejoice in their joys, and to grieve in their sorrows. If we truly love others, it will be a necessary result that we shall take an interest in everything which concerns them. Love, taking this form, is sympathy.

We will endeavor to give some illustrations of this interesting state of mind.  A truly pious person, one in whom the principle of holy love predominates, is a member of a family. It does not make any difference, in relation to the subject under consideration, whether  he is a member by the ties of relationship, or a member by mere residence. One of the members of the family is severely afflicted with sickness. The occurrence of this affliction furnishes the occasion on which the principle of holy love, moved by its own law of action, assumes the form of sympathy. The person who is the resident of the family, being such as we have described him to be, cannot witness such an affliction without "weeping with him who weeps." His sympathy, in the existing state of his mind, is a sort of necessity to him. It is possible that it may not present the same aspect with the sympathy of unsanctified nature, which is often agitated by fear, and perverted by selfishness. But, always necessary and certain in its existence, it will be of that tender, judicious, and permanent character, which will be the most useful, besides being the most heavenly.

We will suppose, again, not that the persons around us are sick, but that they have been deprived of the means of knowledge, and are exceedingly ignorant. They are excluded from science and literature, even in their simplest forms. The Bible, with its precious consolations, is a sealed book to them. It is impossible that they should experience such deprivations without being afflicted; and it is impossible that holy persons, filled with the love of God and man, should be acquainted with their situation, without sympathy. That is to say, under the impulse of love, they suffer with those afflicted ones at the same time that they desire to relieve their sufferings; the term sympathy, expressing, in this case, the combined feeling of sorrow for their want, and of benevolent desire for its alleviation.

A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 7.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

God is the Guide to Love's Direction

The union of God and man in love implies that man's love, in its particular directions, namely, as it flows out to his fellow-men in general, or to particular classes of persons, or to any created objects whatever, must be subjected to a divine regulation. In other words, it is to be regarded as a fundamental principle in the life of God in the soul, and in the doctrines of divine union, that God must not only give us the power to love, but that he must tell us whom to love. We have no more right to say whom we shall love out of God, than we have to do anything else out of God. In our character of dependent creatures, who have nothing of our own, and who do not know how to use even that which is given us, we have no other resource but to trust God equally for the gift and for the regulation of it. And this is particularly true as respects the affection which we are now considering. Love is not only the highest, the most ennobling, and the most sacred principle of our nature, but it is the most powerful. All history, religious as well as profane, is a testimony to the immensity of its power. Whether for good or for evil, it is the true life of the soul; making it satanic by its alliance with Satan, or divine by its participation in God. Such a principle, which carries with it immortal destinies, should enfold God in it, not only as the source of its life, but as the guide of its movement.

It is the tendency of all rivers to flow to the ocean, but they do not flow there in a straight line; on the contrary, they are continually diversified in accordance with the laws of nature. The rule, applicable in this case to a holy mind, is, that we must leave this tendency under the direction of Providence, and not direct it in our own will. It is true we cannot rightfully be deprived of our own choice; but we are bound to make a right choice, and our choice ought always to be, to let the movements of our hearts be guided by God's choice. The will of the creature is as disastrous here as anywhere else. Let our love, then, flow where Providence indicates that it ought to flow. God, who reveals himself in his providences, and acts through them, and God only, should choose for us.

But supposing that the Providence of God places before us, as the objects of our love, those who are exceedingly depraved and vicious, are we bound to love them in that case? Most certainly we are. They are appropriate objects of [that] love... which loves existences simply because they have an existence....

As the appropriate object of this form of love is existence in distinction from character, it will naturally direct itself, in an especial manner, towards those whom Providence has particularly associated with us, no matter what their characters may be. The mere fact of sentient existence, presented before us as an object of contemplation, will stir up the waters at the heart's fountain; but the relations of Providence will indicate the channels in which they must flow. Our relatives and others, with whom we are particularly associated in providence, may be very wicked. But the fact of their wickedness does not destroy the other and everlasting fact, that they are accountable existences; that they have immortal souls; that they are capable of great happiness or great misery. Fallen, degraded, miserable, they may be; but if we are like God, how can we help loving them? God is a fountain of love, flowing out continually towards all his creatures, sparing not even his own Son to save and bless them, and showing, more than in any other way, his love to those who are his enemies.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 6.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Love Like God's Love

The union of God and man in love implies a number of things.

It implies, in the first place, that the love which thus unites them shall have the same origin. The two streams must flow from the same fountain. God's love is in and from himself. Man's love, in order to be in harmony with it, must be in and from God also. It is impossible that the pure or perfect love which "loves God with all the heart, and our neighbor as ourselves," should rest on any other than a divine and infinite basis. It is of a nature so high, flowing out freely and cheerfully even to those "who hate us and despitefully use us," that it requires and can accept nothing less than God for its author and supporter. This sentiment we have already expressed; but it is so important that it will bear repetition. Man has not strength enough to sustain himself in the exercise of pure love, breathing out, as it does, its aspirations of benevolence towards its enemies, except so far as he rests upon God, and becomes a "partaker of the divine nature."

The union of God and man in love implies, in the second place, that man's love must not only be from God so as to be nothing more or less than a stream from the everlasting fountain, but it must flow out without adulteration or modification — in other words, it must be like God's love.

And this love, as it exists in him now, which consists in a sincere desire for the happiness of all beings, simply because they have a being or existence susceptible of happiness, is now, and always will be, the original and basis of all other true love. It was this love, which, in the bosom of eternity, prompted the plan of salvation. We cannot experience the blessed state of perfect union with God in love, unless our hearts are filled with a love of this kind. Our love must not only have its origin in the divine nature, in God himself, but must be like his. So that it should be our constant prayer, that God would give us a love-nature, which, in being kindled from the eternal fire, will burn of itself; which will send out its divine blaze in the midst of persecutions; and which "many waters cannot quench."

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 6.