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, 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.

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