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.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Lord's Spiritual Garden

Providence, considered as the divine arrangement of things in relation to men, is the Lord's spiritual garden. It is to the spiritual growth what the earth is to the germination and growth of material products. If it be true, that the earth is the appointed instrumentality, through which and by which the seeds of things grow up, it is not the less true, though it may be less obvious, that the arrangements of Providence, spread out in the wide and variegated surface of things and events, constitute, in like manner, the instrumentality, the receptive and productive medium, in which the seed of the spiritual life is to be planted, to germinate and perfect itself.

The analogy is not limited to the productive medium. It extends to that which is produced, and also to the manner of production. The seed, which is planted in the earth, is a dead seed. So man's soul, when it is first cast into the soil of God's providence, is a dead seed. They are both alike dead, the material seed and the seed of immortality.

But neither the ground of nature nor that of providence, into which they are first received, would of itself alone reproduce them to a new life. To the natural seed, when planted in the earth, there must be applied the rain and the sunshine before it can be decomposed, incorporated with new elements, and vivified with new life and beauty. The earth, operating in connection with these exterior helps, takes off and removes the outer coats of the seed, until it reaches the central principle, which had been encrusted and shut out from all the benign influences of the sun and atmosphere, and with its fostering care rears it up from its embryo of existence to its developed and beautiful perfection. In like manner, when the seed of man's immortal spirit is planted in the midst of God's providences, it is not till the influences of the Holy Spirit are applied, that it is decomposed, if we may so express it, by a separation of the good and evil, and the eternal element, deprived of life by reason of sin, is made alive in the spiritual regeneration.

The analogy in the two cases is a very close one. The encircling system of providential arrangements, operating in connection with the aiding energy of God's Spirit, removes coat after coat of that selfishness which had enveloped and paralyzed every faculty; and reaching at last the central element of the soul, the principle of love, which had suffered this dreadful perversion, it restores it to that life, light, and beauty, from which it had wickedly fallen.

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Localities of Heaven and Hell

The Scriptures assert the doctrine of a local heaven, and also of a local hell. But  it  is not the locality or place which constitutes either the one or the other. Supreme love to God is the element or constituting principle of heaven. And nothing more is wanted than its opposite, viz., supreme selfishness, to lay the foundation of all the disorder and misery of hell.

Religious Maxims (1846) CXIX.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Confession and Repentance

Confession of sin is an important duty; but there is no true confession of sin where there is not at the same time a turning away from it.

Religious Maxims (1846) CXVIII.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Singleness of Heart

The desires and affections should all converge and meet in the same center, viz., in  the love of God's will and glory. When this is the case,  we  experience true simplicity or singleness of heart. The opposite of this, viz., a mixed motive, partly from God and partly from the world, is what is described in the Scriptures as a double mind. The double minded man, or the man who is not in true simplicity of heart, walks in darkness and is unstable in all his ways. "If thine eye be SINGLE, thy whole body shall be full of light."

Religious Maxims (1846) CXVII.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Same Things, Different Character

A holy person often does the same things which are done by an unholy person, and yet, the things done in the two cases, though the same in themselves, are infinitely different in their character. The one performs them in the will of God, the other in the will of the creature.

Religious Maxims (1846) CXVI.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Love of the Cross

O Father! Let me bear the Cross,
Make it my daily food,
Though with it Thou dost send the loss
Of every other good.

Take house and lands and earthly fame;
To all I am resigned;
But let me make one earnest claim;
Leave, leave the Cross behind!

I know it costs me many tears,
But they are tears of bliss;
And moments there outweigh the years
Of selfish happiness.

The Cross is Love, to action given;
Love "seeking not its own;"
But finding truth and peace and heaven,
In good to others shown.

The Cross doth live in God's great life,
In Christ's dear heart doth shine;
And how, without its pains and strife
Shall God and Christ be mine?

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXVIII.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Do Right

[CHRIST  IN  THE SOUL, is an expression, embracing all the mental or spiritual elements, which constitute the Christian character. It includes, therefore, the sentiment of rectitude, the soul's law of right, as well as the strictly religious affections.]

Go boldly on. Do what is right;
Ask not for private ease or good;
Let one bright star direct thy sight,
The polar star of rectitude.

Go boldly on. And though the road
Thy weary, bleeding feet shall rend,
Angels shall help thee bear thy load,
And God Himself thy steps attend.

Do  RIGHT.  And thou hast nought to fear;
Right hath a power that makes thee strong;
The night is dark, but light is near;
The grief is short, the joy is long.

Know, in thy dark and troubled day,
To friends of truth and right are given,
When strifes and toils have pass'd away,
The sweet rewards and joys of heaven.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXVII.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Life of Nature

The life of nature is no other than the life of the soul, deformed, perverted, and poisoned in all its extent, in its fountain and its streams, in its root and its branches, by an influence disseminated from the inordinate action of the principle of self-love. And it is easy to see, as implied in this statement, that the love of God, which is the true corrective of this contracted and pernicious influence, is banished and shut out from the mind that is under its unholy power. It is not possible that the love of God should dwell in a heart where self-love is supreme. So that the life of nature is not only the life of self; but it is a life, which, in being filled with self, is necessarily destitute of God; and which, in seeking nothing but its own ends, overlooks all other claims, and despises that true happiness and true glory, which are found in God alone. With a life originating in a root so evil, and bearing fruits so baleful, a life which deliberately chooses human weakness and error for its basis, instead of the divine strength and wisdom, it is certain that a holy soul can have no kindred spirit of feeling and no union of effort. On the contrary, it is the part of holiness, as an active and indwelling principle in the heart, to meet it, to search it out, contend with it, destroy it. This is the great practical warfare. Having been freely justified and forgiven in the blood of Christ, Christians can do no less than clothe themselves for this battle, and contend step by step, and with divine assistance slay to its very root a life so polluted in its origin and its results, in order that they may receive, enjoy, and perfect the life of God.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 5.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Selfishness is Morally Wrong

But there is another view of the principle of self-love, or the natural desire of happiness, which requires our attention. We refer to that inordinate and unsanctified modification of it, which, in order to distinguish it from a properly regulated and sanctified action, is denominated SELFISHNESS. Whatever may be true of the properly regulated desire, it is certain that selfishness is morally wrong, and can never be otherwise than wrong. In a certain sense, I think we may truly say, that we find the root and center of all moral evil in selfishness; meaning by the term here, the inordinate action of the principle of self-love. It is true, that other principles of our nature are susceptible of an inordinate action, and that such obliquity of action always implies guilt. But there seems to be ground for saying, that the inordinate action of other principles results from the inordinate action of the principle of self-love. From this strong root of evil, an influence goes out, which is not more virulent than it is pervasive; and which, by a secret insinuation of itself in every direction, at length reaches and poisons every part of the mind. Examine, for instance, the social propensity, which is a principle good in itself, and we shall find, that, stimulated by a secret influence from the pernicious root of selfishness, it will often become inordinate and evil. The same may be said of the principle of curiosity; a principle entirely innocent in itself, and very important; but which, when unrestrained by sentiments of right and. duty, becomes divergent and capricious in its applications, and insatiable in strength. I think we may reasonably assert, that every active principle of our nature, even those which are embraced under the head of the benevolent and domestic affections, and which are so amiable and beautiful when free from contamination; are liable to be perversely affected by an evil influence going out from this source.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 5.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Self Love and the Desire for God's Glory

But whatever love we may be permitted to exercise for ourselves or our fellow-men, the obligation still remains of loving God, as the Scripture expresses it, with "all our soul and heart and mind and strength." It seems to be generally agreed, that nothing short of the power of our whole being will satisfy the obligations and claims of divine love. And here it becomes necessary to consider briefly the relation, which self-love or the desire of our own happiness sustains to the desire of God's glory, and the consistency of the one with the other. This is a topic of no small importance; and perhaps it may be added, that it can hardly be supposed to be easily understood, without the aid of some degree of personal experience.

The doctrine on this subject, which seems to us to be a correct one, is this. The desire of our personal happiness, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may take a religious direction, and may operate beneficially. But it will always be found true, in point of fact, that, as we advance in religious experience, the desire of our own happiness will gradually diminish and will finally become evanescent and practically extinct, under the continually increasing influence of the desire of God' s glory.

To state it more particularly and definitely, the process seems to be this. When we first begin the search after God, we are influenced, in a considerable degree, by the consideration of personal happiness. This is a movement, which is in accordance with the principles of our mental constitution; and though exceedingly inferior in kind to that which subsequently takes place, is not in itself wrong. But as God, in condescension to our poor and imperfect manner of seeking him, gradually unveils his nature, we begin to love him and seek him for himself. And as the divine glory from time to time reveals itself more and more, so in that proportion does the external or objective motive, viz. that of the divine glory, expand itself, and approaching inwardly, begin to occupy the whole mind; while the internal or subjective motive, viz. that of our personal happiness, contracts and recedes. In other words, just in proportion as there is an entrance of God into the soul, there is a retrocession of SELF, using the term self in a subordinate and good sense. There is thus a loss of the one, and a realization of the other; or perhaps we may say, a gradual transition of the human into the divine. The principle under consideration, therefore, is not condemned; but may rather be said to have fallen into desuetude. It is not rejected as criminal; but has become practically extinct, on the ground of having fulfilled its destiny. The higher motive of God's glory has absorbed the less. So that when a person, in the progress of inward growth, arrives at the position of a complete or perfected love, (which is the true position at which every Christian should aim, and is the true place of the soul's permanent rest,) the soul knows its happiness no more but as merged in the divine happiness; it knows its will no more but as encircled and lost in the divine will, and it may even be said, in a mitigated sense of the terms, to know itself no more, but as existent in God. "God is love. And he, that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God; and God in him."

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 5.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

People Should Seek Their Own Highest Good

It is generally conceded both by theologians and mental philosophers, that a principle of self-love or a desire of personal happiness is implanted in man. As an implanted or connatural principle, it cannot, in its subordinated and legitimate exercise, be otherwise than right. In other words, when, in the pursuit of our own happiness, we have a suitable regard to the claims of all other beings, especially the Supreme Being, we cannot be otherwise than approved and guiltless in the view of conscience and of our Maker.

The command, that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, evidently implies, that the love of ourselves, in the sense of seeking our own happiness so far as is consistent with the happiness and rights of others, is admissible. Hence men are properly directed and encouraged to seek their own happiness. It is proper even to direct and encourage them to seek religion for the sake, (not for the exclusive sake, but still for the sake,) of their own happiness. In seeking religion, in other words, in seeking the restoration of the mind to God, there can be no doubt, that one legitimate motive may be the desire of our own highest good. It is certain that this is one of the motives, calculated ultimately to lead men in a religious course, which is not unfrequently addressed to them in the Holy Scriptures. "There is not," says Dr. Wardlaw, "any part of the Divine Word, by which we are required, in any circumstances, to divest ourselves of this essential principle in our constitution. That Word, on the contrary, is full of appeals to it, under every diversity of form. Such are all its threatenings, all its promises, all its invitations."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 5.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Regulation Not Destruction

It is a more difficult thing and requires more reflection and more religious principle to regulate the appetites and propensities, than it does to destroy them. And while the work of a holy regulation is to be regarded as a more difficult work than that of destruction, we may add, that it is undoubtedly more acceptable to God; although it is probably less calculated to attract notice and to secure celebrity. God expects us to do what he requires us to do; and to attempt to do more, or do otherwise than He requires, can result only from a mistaken judgment or from perverse intentions.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 4.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Human Tendencies to be Sanctified Not Destroyed

It is certainly not too much to say, that we are accountable to God, strictly and fully accountable, for the exercise of the social feelings, for the exercise of the principle of curiosity or the desire of knowledge, and of other propensive principles, as well as for the indulgence of the appetites, or the exercise of any other inward act or tendency, of which we are susceptible. And accordingly it cannot properly be said, in the full sense of the terms, that we live in Christ, or that "Christ liveth in us," while any of these principles retain an unsanctified influence. They do not require to be destroyed; but it is obvious, that they must be made holy.

It will be perceived, that these views are not entirely accordant with the sentiments, which have sometimes been entertained by individuals, and even by large bodies of Christians. Many pious persons, at different periods in the history of the church, have maintained, that the various propensities and affections should not merely be crucified in the true scripture sense, viz. by being reduced from an irregular to a subordinate and holy action, but should be exterminated. In accordance with this opinion, obviously erroneous as it is, many persons of both sexes, some of them distinguished for their learning and their rank in life, have avoided, by a permanent principle of action, every thing, that could please the appetites or gratify the demands of our social nature. Influenced by mistaken notions of what Christianity really requires, they have literally made their abode in the dens and caves of the earth; and may be said, with too much foundation in fact, to have rejected the society of man for the companionship of wild beasts. Ecclesiastical history is interspersed with instances of this kind, from the days of the anchorets who macerated their bodies and uttered their solitary prayers in the deserts of Egypt, down to the present time. It is related, for instance, of Catherine of Cardonne, a pious Spanish lady of the 16th century, moving in the first ranks of society, and well accomplished in the endowments of intellect and education, that she retired to a solitary cavern in a remote mountainous region, and spent many years in the strictest seclusion, with no adequate clothing, and with no food but what the uncultivated earth afforded. No one can read the story of the extreme privations, to which she subjected herself, for the purpose of a more intimate communion with God, without a mixed emotion of regret for the errors of her judgment, and of profound respect for the self-sacrificing piety of her heart. There have been many instances of this kind.

There is some reason to think, that many of the class of persons, to whom we have reference in these remarks, placed more reliance on works than on faith. This was a great error, though a candid consideration of their lives will probably justify us in regarding it as an unintentional one. The mighty efficacy of faith, in its relation to the renovation of the human mind, seems not to have been well understood by them. And being left destitute, in a considerable degree, of the aids and consolations which so abundantly flow from that source, they pressed the principle of consecration, which, independently of faith, becomes the imperfect and unsatisfactory principle of mere works, to its extreme limits. They deprived themselves of the necessary sleep; wore garments, that inflicted constant suffering; mingled ashes with their bread; and submitted to other acts and observances of a penitential nature, either to render themselves, in their present characters, more acceptable to God, or to propitiate the divine mercy for the commission of past sins.

With feelings of entire sympathy with the sincerity, which has characterized the conduct of many humble and suffering recluses, we still feel bound to say, that we do not understand the Scriptures as requiring the crucifixion of the appetites and propensities to be carried to this extent. The Scriptures require us to become Christians; but they do not require us to cease to be men. They require us, to put off the "old man," which is fictitious, a perversion of good, and a "liar from the beginning;" but they do not, and could not require us to put off the "new man," which is the same, if not physically and intellectually, yet in all the attributes of the heart, with the primitive or holy man, the man as he existed in Adam before his fall, and as he became re-existent in the stainless Savior. But Christ, who is set before us as our example, ate and drank without sin; he recognized and discharged the duty of social intercourse without sin; and he performed the various other duties, which are appropriate to human nature, in equal freedom from anything that is wrong and unholy.

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 4.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

True Rectitude

"And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men." Acts xxiv. 16.

What constitutes the true nobility?
Not wealth, nor name, nor outward pomp, nor power,
Fools have them all; and vicious men may be
The idols and the pageants of an hour.
But 'tis  to have a good and honest heart,
Above all meanness and above all crime,
And act the right and honorable part
In every circumstance of place and time.
He, who is thus, from God his patent takes,
His Maker formed him the true nobleman;
Whate'er is low and vicious he forsakes,
And acts on rectitude's unchanging plan.
Things change around him; changes touch not him,
The star, that guides his path, fails not, nor waxes dim.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Blessed Name of Christ

"If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you. On their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified."  I Peter iv. 14.

Whate'er our griefs in life, whate'er in death,
If doomed perchance to feel the martyr's flame,
Still, with our last and agonizing breath,
In joy will we repeat Christ's precious name:
Oh! there's a magic in that glorious word;
No other has such power; the mighty voice,
From senatorial lips and patriots heard,
Can ne'er like this enkindle, rouse, rejoice.
For Christ's dear name the saints, without a groan,
In times of old met death upon their knees;
For Christ's dear name the lonely Piedmontese
Down headlong o'er the crimson rocks were thrown.
That blessed name gives hope and strength and zeal
That sets at nought alike the flood, the fire, the steel.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Monday, April 13, 2015

Our Choice or God's?

It  is a sign that our wills are not wholly lost in the will of God, when we are much in the habit of using words which imply election or choice; such as, I want this, or I want that; I hope it will be so and so, or I hope it will be otherwise. When our wills are lost in the will of God, all our specific choices and preferences are merged in God's preference and choice. The soul truly loves the arrangements of God, whatever they may be. In regard to whatever is now, and whatever shall be hereafter, its language is, "Thy will be done."

Religious Maxims (1846) CXV.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Don't Dwell on the Failings of the Church

It is not safe to dwell upon the failings and weaknesses of the church, without at the same time dwelling upon the resources and goodness of God. In the exercise of a humble faith we must connect the greatness of the remedy with the virulence of the disease. Otherwise we shall promote the plans of our great enemy by falling into a repining and censorious spirit; a state of mind which is equally injurious to ourselves and offensive to our heavenly Father.

Religious Maxims (1846) CXIV.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Seeing Everything as a Manifestation of God

He, that standeth in God in such a manner as to have no will but the divine will, accounts every thing which takes place as a manifestation of God. If God is not the thing itself, God is nevertheless manifested IN the thing. And thus it is with God that he first communicates through the medium of the thing in which he manifests himself. And consequently, as God is the first object which presents itself, he imputes nothing to the subordinate creatures, neither condemning nor approving, neither sorrowing nor rejoicing, without first referring whatever takes place to God, and viewing it in the clearness and truth of the divine light.

Religious Maxims (1846) CXIII.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hate and Renounce Sin in Yourself First

It is impossible for a person to experience a true and deep compassion for sinners, and to be earnestly desirous to rescue them from their state, who does not hate and renounce sin in himself.

Religious Maxims (1846) CXII.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Restoration to the Divine Image

"That, which is  born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit."  John iii. 6.
"We  are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." 2 Cor. iii. 18.

Upon the morning flower the dew's small drop,
So small as scarcely to arrest the eye,
Receives the rays from all of heaven's wide cope,
And images the bright and boundless sky.
And thus the heart, when 'tis renewed by grace,
Recalled from error, purified, erect,
Receives the image of Jehovah's face,
And though a drop, the Godhead doth reflect.
It hath new light, new truth, new purity,
A rectitude unknown in former time,
A love, that in its arms of charity
Encircles every land and every clime;
Submission, and in God a humble trust,
And quickened life to all, that's pure and kind and just.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Necessity of Divine Illumination

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."  1 Cor. ii. 14.

Oh, send one ray into my sightless ball,
Transmit one beam into my darkened heart!
On Thee, Almighty God, on Thee I call,
Incline thy listening ear, thine aid impart!
In vain the natural sun his beams doth yield,
In vain the moon illumes the fields of air;
The eye-sight of my soul is quenched and sealed,
And what is other light, if shades are there!
Beyond the sun and moon I lift my gaze,
Where round thy throne a purer light is spread,
Where seraphs fill their urns from that bright blaze,
And angels' souls with holy fires are fed.
Oh, send from that pure fount one quickening ray,
And change these inward shades to bright and glorious day.

American Cottage Life (1850).

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Prisoners of God

Along the streets of the city of Bedford, in England, the poor and illiterate preacher, John Bunyan, is conducted to prison. Years roll on; to human appearance all his earthly prospects are cut off; he has no books with the single exception of the Bible and the Lives of the Martyrs. Had he not been imprisoned, he would have lived and died, as do many other men, known perhaps, and useful, within the limits of a single town, and for a single generation. But, shut up in prison, and cut off from worldly plans, God was enabled to work in him, in his own wonderful way, and to guide his mind to other and higher issues. It was there he wrote that remarkable work, the Pilgrim’s Progress. Had his enemies not been allowed to prevail against him, it probably would not have been written. It was thus that God turned that which was designed for evil into good. It was a wisdom higher than man's wisdom, which shut up the pilgrim himself in prison. The Pilgrim's Progress, which was the result of the imprisonment of the pilgrim whose progress it describes, free as the winds of heaven, goes from house to house, knocks at every heart, teaches all classes, visits all nations.

Nearly at the same time with the pious individual to whom we have just referred, there lived in England another person, whose extraordinary powers of intellect and imagination were developed and cultivated in the best institutions of that country.  In the revolutionary contests of that period, his pen, exuberant with the riches of thought and eloquence, was frequently employed with great effect. He became blind. The sun, the pleasant sky, the societies of men, were all shut off from him. "These eyes," he says in one of the sonnets written in his blindness,

"Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot;
Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear
Of sun, or moon, or stars, throughout the year,
Or man or  woman."

He was, indeed, in a dark and solitary place; but it was God, who, in the administration of his providence, constructed it for him. And there, in what seemed to the world a lonely prison-house, the light of the soul grew bright in the darkness of the body; and he wrote the Paradise Lost. In the enlargements of his own will, when he went where he chose to go, he gave his powers, too great to be thus limited, to a party; but, in what may be termed the solitude and captivity of God, he gave himself to religion and to mankind.

Wisdom can never be separated from providence, nor can goodness. And the darker the providence, the greater the wisdom. Souls that are formed for great and good purposes are so especially the objects of Providence, in its most mysterious arrangements, that they may be called, with scarcely a metaphorical use of the expression, the prisoners of God. For reasons which are perfectly known only to himself, they are hedged in by him on every side. He does with them what he thinks best; and he does not allow them, in the exercise of their own wisdom, to think what is best for themselves, because he intends to make them the subjects of his teachings, as well as the instruments of his own designs. The way in which he leads them is not only a narrow one, and built up with walls on every side, but is often precipitous and, to human sight, full of dangers. But out of that road they find, if they follow the true light, they have no liberty to go; and in it they must receive, not what they might choose, but what God sees fit to give them. He smites them, and he heals them; he pours light upon their path, or he leaves them in sudden darkness. "They are clay in the hands of the potter." They are broken to pieces, that out of their earthly fragments he may build up a heavenly habitation. He makes them nothing, that they may have divine strength. He cuts them loose from the creature, that they may be made receptive of the Creator. But in everything there is wisdom. Men may not see it; but it is there.


There is a light in yonder skies,
A light unseen by outward eyes;
But dear and bright to inward sense,
It shines, the star of Providence.

The radiance of the central throne,
It comes from God, and God alone;
The ray that never yet grew pale,
The star, that "shines within the veil.”

And faith, unchecked by earthly fears,
Shall lift its eye, though filled with tears,
And while around  'tis dark as night,
Untired, shall mark that heavenly light.

In vain they smite me, — men but do
What God permits, with different view;
To outward sight they wield the rod,
But faith  proclaims it all of God.

Unmoved, then, let me keep my way,
Supported  by that cheering ray,
Which, shining distant, renders clear
The clouds and darkness thronging near.

— Life of Madam Guyon, vol. ii, p. 317.

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

Saturday, April 4, 2015

How God Led the Bible Characters

The Bible is full of instances and illustrations of the subject [of divine providence]. The patriarch Moses, in particular, furnishes us a lesson in relation to it. Such were the arrangements of God's providence, that he found it necessary to quit the aspiring hopes which he had once entertained of being the immediate deliverer of his people, and to flee from the splendid court of Pharaoh into the deserts of Arabia Petræa. For forty years he tended his flocks in the vicinity of Mount Sinai, exchanging the palaces of Egypt for a rude home in the distant and solitary rocks. Undoubtedly it seemed very mysterious to Moses that he should thus be dealt with. He did not then understand that God, in thus leading him into the wilderness, and making him acquainted with the vast desert between the Nile and the Red Sea, was preparing him for the dangerous task of being a leader of his people through these very deserts and mountains.

But this was not all. His manners and intellect had been trained in the court of the Pharaohs; but God, who is a greater teacher than kings, saw it necessary that his spirit should be disciplined and trained in the wilderness. It was there that he learned, more fully than he had ever understood it before, the lesson of a present and special Providence. Taken from the bulrushes and placed in a palace, and then taken from a palace and placed for forty years in a lonely desert, he felt deeply that God selects and arranges the habitations of men; and that it is man's great business, submitting on religious principles to the arrangements of Providence, to harmonize his inward state with his outward situation.

And, besides that, he wanted all this time and all this solitariness of place, in order to break up his early and unfavorable associations, to chasten and subdue his natural pride, and to imbibe that wise and gentle quietude of spirit which is one of the surest signs of a soul that dwells with God.

It was in the prisons of Egypt that Joseph received that discipline which fitted him to be the great Egyptian ruler. It was when he was tending his father's flocks in Bethlehem, or when he was driven into mountains and caverns, that the hand and soul of David were trained and strengthened to the great task of holding a nation's scepter. Daniel was taught of God in the lion's den; and Paul was aided in learning the great lesson of entire dependence, when he could find no escape from persecution, and perhaps from death, but by being let down by a basket over the wall of Damascus.

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Plant in the Lord's Garden

In early life I was acquainted with a woman, a resident of the village of my youth....

In her earlier — I will not say her better — days, she held a leading position in society, to which she seemed to be well entitled by great excellence and intelligence of character, as well as by wealth. In the alternations and reverses of the times, her property was entirely lost; her husband died; all her near relatives died also, or were scattered abroad, and she was left entirely alone. She was supported in her old age at the public expense; but, out of respect to her character, the town authorities permitted her to occupy a single room in the house which she had formerly owned.  At the time I became acquainted with her, she was nearly seventy years of age, and had long been unable to leave her room without assistant. But she was far from supposing that God, in depriving her of friends and property, and in confining her in her old age to these narrow limits, was unkind. Her constant companions were her Bible and a few old books on practical and experimental religion. She had faith. No complaint escaped from her lips. In the walls of her little room she felt herself far more closely and lovingly encircled by the arms of her heavenly Father, than if she had been left in the greatest enlargements of society. A plant in the Lord's garden, closely hemmed in, but diligently nurtured, she resembled that patriarch, who is described as "a fruitful bough, whose branches run over the wall."

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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Diverse Allotments in Life

We have seen that the allotments of men in the present life, like things in external and material nature, are exceedingly diversified. And it must be admitted that, to human view, these diversities are oftentimes mysterious.  It is not easy for men to see, certainly not in all cases — the wisdom of that arrangement which makes one poor, and another rich; which confines one to a particular spot, but enlarges and diversifies the habitation of another; which places one on a throne, another in a dungeon. It should not be forgotten, however, that it is God who does it all; and, to the eye of faith, everything which he does is full of wisdom and goodness, however it may appear to those who see only with human wisdom.

In one of the retired streets of yonder city there lives an honest and laborious mechanic. His daily walk is limited by the few rods which separate his house from his workshop. Arrived at his place of labor in the morning, he toils from morning till night within the limited space of a few feet in circumference. From day to day, and from year to year, the muscles of his arm are lifted at the same anvil, or are turning at the same wheel. An unseen hand, which is acquainted with all localities, has drawn the lines around him, and planted him there for life. He is a prisoner, if we may so express it, in the Lord's captivity. But it would be a sad mistake, if he should suppose that this providential arrangement is instituted without wisdom and without goodness. Though he will probably never wander beyond those narrow boundaries, yet that place, of all the places in the universe, is the best one for him. We do not say it appears best to human wisdom, which is incapable of judging, but is best in the view of Him who has assigned it. Happy will it be for him if he does not doubt. Believing that He who has given him life has constituted his habitation, !et it be his aim to harmonize his feelings with his position, and thus the principle of faith, whatever view the world may take of him, will make him a happy child in his Father's house.

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Finding True Solitude

In order to keep the mind in that spiritual seclusion which is implied in being truly united with God, it is not necessary that we should quit our ordinary duties, and separate from our fellow-men. If the solitary places of forests and mountains are not interdicted, it is certain that they are not absolutely necessary. The man is in the true seclusion, the true spiritual retirement, who is shut up in the inclosures of Providence, with willingness and joy in being so. When we are in harmony with Providence, we are in harmony with God; and harmony with God implies all that seclusion from the world which is necessary. This is the true solitude. In its external forms it may be more or less.  It  may restrict us to the limits of a sick chamber; it may compress us within the walls of a  prison; it may lead us for a time to the most retired and lonely place of meditation and worship; or it may allow us, on the other hand, the widest range of business and intercourse, and mingle us with the largest multitudes of men. But, whether its lines are stricter or more  expanded, it is the true solitude, the place of retirement which God has chosen, the select and untrodden hermitage where the soul may find and delight itself with its Beloved.

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