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 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.

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