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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Confidence In God in Bereavements

"A  voice was heard in, Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel, weeping for her children, refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not." — Jer. xxxi. 15.

Why has my child, my darling child departed?
Why has my God in wrath that loved one taken?
Leaving me desolate and broken-hearted,
O'erwhelmed and prostrate, hopeless and forsaken.
And is it all in wrath that I am smitten,
And pressed with burdens heavy to be borne?
Hope yet, my soul, in God, for he hath written
With his own finger, blessed are they who mourn.
Perhaps I loved my child more than my God,
Neglecting and forgetting every other,
And He in mercy sent the chastening rod,
And took away the child to save the mother.
Farewell, then earth! Why should I look below?
I too will take my staff, and weeping heavenward go.

American Cottage Life (1850) IX.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Practical Guidelines for Conversation

We proceed to make a few brief practical remarks.

We should make it a general rule to avoid expressing ourselves in a very emphatic and passionate manner, and with a high tone of voice.  It is well understood, that such a method of outward expression reacts upon the mind, and has a tendency to produce an excited and inordinate state of the feelings within. And besides, it is generally unpleasant and unprofitable to the hearers. It will be noticed, that we are not speaking here of public occasions, in respect to which the rule must be adopted with its appropriate restrictions, but of conversation. And I think we may profitably add here, that the rule is capable of some extension. A truly consecrated person will not only be characterized by quietness of manner, so far as words and voice are concerned; but also in other outward respects.  His  countenance, his action, his general movement will be pervaded, in a great measure, by the same beautiful and Christ-like trait.

We should be careful not to speak much of ourselves and of our own affairs. There are undoubtedly some exceptions to this view; especially when suitable opportunities present themselves of speaking of God's dealings with our souls. But, nevertheless, this seems to be the correct general rule. Such conversations, viz. those which turn frequently and almost exclusively upon ourselves, besides not being in general edifying to others, are apt, by directing our thoughts from the glory of God to the persons and the affairs of the creature, to reanimate and strengthen the dying life of self.

It is not religiously profitable to make the persons and concerns of our neighbors  the frequent subjects of our discourse, unless it be for the purpose of saying what we know can properly be said in their favor, of vindicating them against aspersions, or for some other good and charitable purpose. This rule too has, in practice, its appropriate limitations, which a judicious piety will be likely to suggest. The only further practical remark, which we wish to make on this subject at present, is, that, when we are falsely spoken against, or in some other way greatly injured, we should not, as a general rule, be hasty to reply. The life of nature would prompt us to reply quickly, to vindicate ourselves at all hazards; and sometimes perhaps with a considerable degree of sharpness and violence. But the gentle spirit of Christ in the soul which says, "without my Father I can do nothing," always leads us to look to God for aid and direction before we look to ourselves and our own wisdom, or to the precipitate help of earthly friends. It was thus with the prophet Daniel. When misrepresented, injured, and persecuted; he at once turned his thoughts to God as his only protection. In his solitary chamber, kneeling before the face of the Infinite Presence, and with no disposition to look any where else, he entrusted his cause to Him; who alone is able to help. The example of the Savior also, in relation to this subject, is particularly instructive. When brought to trial before Pilate, although he could easily have made a defense, he chose to be silent; "he answered him to never a word,  insomuch that the Governor marveled greatly." In the language of the evangelical prophet, "He was oppressed and he was affllicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." The deep grace, which manifests itself by patience and silence under the circumstances which have been mentioned, will plead far more eloquently in our behalf, than all the torrent of words and all the vivacity of effort, which the life of nature is so ready to pour forth.

"Teach us in time of deep distress,
To own thy hand, O God!
And in submissive silence learn
The lessons of thy rod.
In every changing scene of life,
Whate'er that scene may be;
Give us a meek and humble mind,
A mind at peace with thee."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 8.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Scriptural Warnings About the Tongue

So liable are we to offend in the use of the tongue, and so difficult is it to regulate ourselves in this respect, that we are told by the Apostle James, "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." In Proverbs also, 21:23, it is said, " Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles." There are other passages of similar import; but how little, notwithstanding, is the importance of properly regulating our speech realized. Some persons, even some Christians, seem to think, (if we may be allowed to judge from their conduct,) that crime may attach to almost any form of human action but this. Oh, that they would remember the words of the Savior; words, which should be engraven upon the heart of every one, who aims at holiness! "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified; and by thy words shalt thou be condemned."

But some will perhaps inquire, whether we may not converse much, if our object, be to do good. I admit that we may, if we can do more good in this way, including what we owe to ourselves as well as what we owe to others, than we can by a judicious mixture of conversation and silence. But then we should consider, that we cannot reasonably expect to do much good, without a heart richly replenished with divine grace. And I believe it is a common opinion, that the disbursements of frequent talking, without the incomes of a prayerful silence, generally result, and, very rapidly too, in the evaporation and loss of the inward life. And accordingly it is a frequent saying, that a man may, in a modified sense of the expressions, "talk away his religion." And it may be added further, as in accordance with what has now been said, that pious ministers not unfrequently lament, that calls for outward action and for much speaking to others leave them too little time for interior retirement, and for seasons of spiritual refreshment and advancement, by communication with the Everlasting Fountain.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 8.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Outward Silence Favors Inward Silence

Outward silence favors inward silence. In other words, it promotes inward and spiritual REST;  a cessation from that inordinate and grasping activity, which is prompted by the life of nature. This is involved, in part, in what has already been said; but it is worthy of a distinct and particular notice. The utterance of words necessarily connects us with things outward to ourselves; and sometimes implicates us very strongly with scenes transactions, and interests of an external and generally of a worldly character. But the natural and almost necessary result of outward silence is the retrocession of the soul into itself, and, in general, a decided tendency to the resumption of inward peace. And this state of things, as we have already had occasion to notice, is favorable to the entrance, in-dwellings, and operations of the Holy Spirit. It is in such a soul much more than in others, that the great Comforter and Teacher loves to take up his residence and to expand his benign influence. "As much as lies in thy power," says the devout Kempis, "shun the resorts of worldly men; for much conversation on worldly business, however innocently managed, greatly retards the progress of the spiritual life. We are soon captivated by vain objects, and employments, and soon defiled. And I have wished a thousand times, that I had either not been in company or had been silent."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 8.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Vain and Useless Thoughts

Too much conversation has an injurious effect upon the religious interests of the mind, in addition to what has already been said, by filling the soul with many vain and useless thoughts. All such thoughts take up more or less of the mind's attention; and just so far as it is so occupied, it is necessarily deprived of the consciousness of God's sweet and purifying presence. Such are the laws of the mind, that it cannot possibly be occupied with God and a multitude of worldly vanities at the same time.

And in addition to this, it should be remembered, that words are one of the outward signs and natural expressions of the inward passions; and whatever may be true of those of a different character, it is well understood, that the resentful or angry passions, which often interpose an obstacle to holiness, generally acquire great vigor by outward exhibitions. On the contrary it is equally well understood, that they as generally wither and die under a system of repression and silence. So that by maintaining a judicious practice of silence, we shall not only find our thoughts less liable to wander and more collected in God, than they would otherwise be; but shall also find the resentful passions, and the exciting passions generally, when thus deprived of the powerful stimulation of words, more submissive, and more perfectly under control.

— edited from  The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 8.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Injurious Conversation

It is almost impossible to speak much, without saying that which is positively injurious, as well as unprofitable.  It would be unreasonable to expect to indulge freely in conversation with others, in the manner in which men commonly do, without conforming, in part at least, to their own views and terms of social intercourse. In other words, we seem to be under the necessity of sympathizing, to some extent, with their trains of thought and experience; and are not at liberty wholly to reject subjects, which are pleasing to them. And who does not know, that, acting on this view, we are often introduced to various topics, which, both in their nature and tendency, are exceedingly remote from a religious and edifying character. How large a portion, for instance, of the conversation of the great mass of mankind is taken up with censorious and unfavorable comments on the conduct of their neighbors. How much there is of expressed or hinted suspicion! How much of back-biting and slander! Now, if we would not be accessory to sins of this kind, we must learn the difficult art of controlling the tongue, and of forming habits of conscientious silence.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 8.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Frivolous and Useless Conversation

A great freedom in the use of the tongue, an incontinence of speech, if we may so express it, necessarily involves a loss of time.

When people meet together, as they generally do, without recollection in God, how many things are said, which are obviously unprofitable; but which, nevertheless, do not occupy less time, on account of their inutility. It was one of the rules of conduct, laid down by that devoted servant of God, Herman Franke, "not to make the things of this world a subject of conversation, except when God may be honored, or good done to our neighbor thereby." The application of some rule of this kind to the conversation of the great mass of Christians, would undoubtedly show, that much of it neither honors God nor benefits their neighbor; and that, consequently, the precious time, which it requires, is lost. But he, who is fully resolved to walk in holiness before the Lord, cannot deliberately waste his time. It is a precious deposit, which his heavenly Father has committed to his trust; and for which he is responsible. We repeat, therefore, that a holy person cannot deliberately waste it; and consequently he will feel constrained by the most serious reasons, to refrain from frivolous and useless conversation.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 8.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Solitude From Words

Again, the true solitude of spirit, in the full import of the terms, may be regarded as including, to some extent at least, a cessation or solitude from words. If speech is a blessing when it is under the regulation of holy principles, it is a source of great and almost unmitigated evil when it proceeds from unsanctified passions. And when we consider how closely and extensively it is connected with such passions, we have good reason, at least in a multitude of cases, for regarding silence as a sign of moderation, truth, and peace. To say nothing but what is appropriate, to say nothing but what Christ would say, bearing reproaches without reply, and uttering the truth in love, is a virtue, which is a product of the Holy Ghost, and which belongs to him only who has been taught of God. The speech of him who is the subject of spiritual solitude, like everything else that comes within the reach of moral obligation, is under the restrictions of a divine law; and he can no more speak without God to guide him in his utterance, than he can do anything else without God. In being silent, with the exception of those occasions in which the providence of  God calls him to speak, he has sundered one of the strong links, which would otherwise have bound him to what is vain, frivolous, and wicked in the world.

Solitude from words is not solitude from communication. The soul that,  in consequence of its sanctification, does not speak outward to things that are temporal, speaks inward to things that are eternal. And in proportion as it ceases from those communications with men which God does not call for and does not authorize, it increases its communications with God himself.

And these last remarks indicate the true result of spiritual solitude, when it is rightly understood and experienced. The soul is not left alone with itself,— which  would be much the same as to say, that it is left alone with Satan, — but is left alone with God, who is Eternal Life. Separation, in its spiritual application, is not only seclusion, but transition.  Separation from the world, when predicated of a being to whom absolute separation is an impossibility, is transition to God; and he who is not of the world, is of God; alone and in unison at the same time; in solitude from that which is evil, but in union with that which is good. He has hidden himself, not in the dark and weak enclosure which selfishness furnishes to those who do not believe, but in the strong fortress of the Infinite. He is not only with God, but in him; not only in harmony of action, but in the sacred enclosure of his being: — so that God may be said, in the language of Scripture, to  “compass him round  about." No noise of unholy thoughts, no suggestions of unhallowed reason, no clamors of unsatisfied desire, no confusion of the tongues of men, nothing that is hurtful, nothing that is unprofitable, reaches him. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people." Ps. 125:2.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 10.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Solitude From Our Own Thoughts

The soul, in a state of spiritual solitude, is in a state of solitude or separation, also, from its own  thoughts. By its own thoughts are meant thoughts which are self-originated,  and have selfish ends. When all such thoughts, as well as all desires which are not from God, are extinct, the inward solitude is greatly increased.

Let it be remembered that the state of spiritual solitude does not exclude all thoughts from the mind; but only those which are its own,  which  are  self-originated, and which tend, therefore, to dissociate it from God. Accordingly, it does not exclude those thoughts, to what ever subjects they may relate, of which God may properly be regarded as the author. And it is proper to say here, in order to determine what thoughts are from God and what are not, that thoughts which are from God are characterized by this mark, in particular, that they always harmonize with the arrangements of his providence.  Thoughts, which arise from the  instigations of self, and not from a divine movement, are not in harmony with what God in his providential arrangements would desire and choose to suggest; but, on the contrary,  they busy themselves with recollections and images  of persons, things, and plans, which are wholly inconsistent with such arrangements. All conceptions of persons, things, and situations, all imaginations, all thoughts, and all reasonings, which, in coming in our own will, are out of harmony with the existing providential arrangements are not only not from God, but they constitute so many disturbing influences, which separate God from the soul. The evil is inexpressibly great. In the truly holy soul, which, after many temptations and hesitancies, is fully established in the way of holiness, thoughts so discordant and out of place are not permitted to enter. It stands apart, if one may so express it, constituting an unoccupied space, a closet shut up, a still and sacred seclusion, unapproachable to everything which comes unbidden by its great Master.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 10.

Friday, June 19, 2015

True Spiritual Solitude

True spiritual solitude, which always implies the special operations of divine grace, is not merely mental solitude. It is not the solitude, even when added to that of the body, of a merely disappointed and impenitent mind; of the mind as it now is.

The mind may become so intensely selfish that even the world cannot supply its wants. How many persons, the victims of intense avarice, of burning selfish sensuality, of overleaping ambition, have renounced and cursed the world, because even the world, with all its adaptedness to their desires, could not give all that they asked! Men of wealth, voluptuaries, statesmen, warriors, kings, worn out with indulgence, or disappointed in their boundless aspirations, have separated themselves from society, when probably it did not occur to them to separate from themselves.  In forests and in dens of the earth, and wherever they could flee away, and shut themselves up alone, they have poured forth, not their prayers to God, but their misanthropy and hate against man. In leaving the world behind them, they have carried in their hearts that which gave the world its evil and its sin.

True spiritual solitude, in being something more than solitude of the body, and something more than solitude of the unholy mind, is solitude from that in the mind, whatever it may be, which tends to disunite and dissociate it from God.

The soul, in the state of interior solitude, is in a state of solitude or separation from two things, in particular, namely, from its own desires and its own thoughts. IT IS SEPARATE FROM ITS OWN DESIRES. Sick of the world, if thou wouldst erect an inward oratory, and enter into the secret place of the heart, then let it be thy first purpose, as it certainly is an indispensable one, to cease from all desire, except such as God himself animates. In order to control the desires, and bring them into subjection to God, it is necessary to control the senses. The desires must have their appropriate objects; and in a multitude of cases the objects are made known by the senses. Keep a close watch, therefore, upon the senses. Let not your eye rest upon anything which is forbidden. Let not your ear listen to any corrupting or unprofitable conversation; but be as one who has no sight, and no hearing, and no touch, and no taste for anything, except what God allows and is pleased with. Contend with all because all have gone astray. Crucify all, because all have crucified him, who is the Eternal Life. Separate from all, so far as they have separated from God; in order that being united with them in their truth, you may be united with the God of truth.

—edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 10.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Spiritual Solitiude is More Than Seclusion

To be alone with God, which implies being in solitude from the world, is indescribably pleasing to the devout mind. And in order to realize an idea, which carries with it so much attraction, it is not surprising, that many pious persons have, in all ages of the world, secluded themselves from society. In plucking the roses of the world, they have been pierced with the thorn; and in the depth of their sorrow they have sought to avoid that, which, under the appearance of good, conceals so much evil. Their designs have been right, but their methods have not always been successful.

Interior or spiritual solitude is not to be confounded with physical or personal solitude.  It is something more, and something higher, than mere seclusion of the body in some hidden or remote place.

In the accounts of those, who, in the early periods of Christianity, retired into solitary places, with the object of perfecting their inward state in desolate caverns, in forests, and in the seclusions of monasteries, we find frequent mention of unexpected and heavy temptations. Often did the world, in the shape of evil desires and vain imaginations, follow them to their lonely retreats. It is related of St. Jerome, whose devout writings still edify the church, that, in the ardor of his young piety, he thought he could successfully escape the temptations of luxurious cities, and perfect his inward experience, by dwelling alone in the solitary deserts of Syria. In the midst of those vast plains, scorched by the burning sun, he sat down alone, emaciated, disfigured, with no companion but wild beasts. Strong were his resolutions; great were his sufferings; many were the penitential tears which he shed; — but, in the midst of this desolation and of these flowing tears, he informs us that his busy imagination placed before him the luxuries of Rome and the attractions of her thoughtless voluptuaries, and renewed the mental tortures which he hoped he had escaped. [See Pantheon Litteraire. Ĺ’uvres de St. Jerome.]

To be secluded, therefore, in body is not enough. To be alone in caves and in forests is not necessarily to be alone with God.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 10.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

End the War with Providence

Man is at war with Providence (there are exceptions, it is true, but not enough to reverse, or to modify essentially the assertion). "All seek their own," says the apostle, "not the things which are Jesus Christ.”

In this state of things it is obviously impossible that there should be peace or happiness. The divine harmony is broken. Man, in being by his selfishness antagonistical to God and God's arrangements, is necessarily antagonistical to his neighbor. Place is at war with place, and feeling with feeling. Judgment is arrayed against judgment, because false and conflicting judgments necessarily grow out of the soil of perverted affections. On every side are the outcries of passion, the competitions of interest, and the crush of broken hearts.

Shall it always be so? The remedy, and the only remedy, is an adherence to the law of Providence. Renounce man's wisdom, and seek that of God. Subject the human to the divine. Harmonize the imperfect thoughts and purposes of the creature with the wisdom of the Eternal Will. Let the clamors of nature cease, that the still small voice of the Godhead may speak in the soul. Go where God may lead thee.

When this shall be the general disposition, when all shall cease to seek their own, and shall begin to seek the things which are Christ's, when man's life shall be again engrafted on the Universal Life, then will the Law of Providence universally take effect, and God will reign among men.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 9.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Contention and Disorder of the World

There cannot be discordance between man's moral nature and God's providence, without great contention and disorder in the world. And in point of fact, the world is in the greatest confusion and strife, because the ordainment of God is not corresponded to by the wishes of the creature. With scarcely an exception, there is something left of that life of nature which produces divergence and conflict. Every one has his choice. To be a merchant, a prince, a commander of armies, a man of pleasure, a man of science, a mechanic, a farmer, a soldier, a teacher of youth, such are some of the preferences they evince. The object at which they aim is not always, and perhaps not generally, wrong. The fault consists in unwillingness to harmonize with the decisions of a higher power. All wish to decide for themselves; all estimate the good or the evil on the small scale of their own personality and interests; all have their choice. Who among them, in the mournful degeneracy of our fallen race, wishes to follow, or thinks beforehand of following, the choice of Providence?

The world is a map of situations, inscribed with lines of demarcation, diversified everywhere with discriminative colors, which indicate opportunity, adaptation, want, fulfillment, duty. In one place the poor are to be aided; in another place the ignorant are to be instructed; in another the sick are to be consoled and watched over. In one place is the demarcation of endurance; in another is the arena of action; in another is the platform of authority and eloquence. But who, in beholding any one of these various demarcations and the duties it suggests, goes to God and asks: — Am I the man whom eternal wisdom has selected for this mission? Resigning my own will, I lay myself upon the altar of sacrifice, not to be what I might choose to be, but to be what God may choose to have me to be. Send me, if thou wilt; but let me not go, or have a thought of going, without thine own authority.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 9.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Providence and Peace

If the law of Providence were strictly fulfilled, it is obvious that order would at once exist throughout the world. The reign of harmony, which poets have dreamed and prophets have predicted, would from that moment commence. Every man would not only be in his place, but, what is more, he would be contented with his place. It would not be the order of tyranny, but the order of benevolent wisdom. It would not be the harmony of force, but the harmony resulting from a common faith in a common Father.

The first development, under the strict fulfillment of the law of Providence, would be order and harmony of position. And this would be attended with harmony of feeling. As each one would be in his place, so each would be satisfied with his place, without being more satisfied with his own place than with that of his neighbor. In looking at the great frame-work of society, all would recognize the necessity of the parts to the completion and symmetry of the whole. As each would have his place, with no rebellion of the foot against the hand, nor of the hand against the head; so there would be no feelings of distrust and envy. How could there be rivalries, how could there be distrust or envy, when each, in being contented with the divine arrangements, would of course be satisfied with that position which those arrangements had assigned him? The fact of the divine choice, especially when taken in connection with the imperfections of human wisdom, would far more than counterbalance all incidental evils; so much so, that want and sneering, attended with God's choice and favor, would be regarded as infinitely preferable to riches and pleasure without them.

The cessation of personal and social rivalries would involve that of nations; or, at least, the same divine law, which operated to secure the one, would not fail to bring about the other. Persons and neighborhoods would be at peace. Nations would be at peace also. There is a locality, a rank, a duty of nations, as well as of individuals. If each would take the position, and fully the duty, which the law of Providence indicates to them, national rivalries would cease, because the occasions of such rivalries would no longer exist; and the God of the individual man, and of the domestic hearth, and of social institutions and unions, would be the God of empires. The law of Providence, harmonizing the relations of states, as it does those of individuals and small communities, would constitute a family of nations, and war would be known no longer.

— from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851), Part 6, Chapter 9.

On Right Being

To think, to feel, to act, to BE,
This is life's mighty mystery;
But BEING is the secret spring,
From which the rest their birth-right bring.

The central source, hid deep within,
With Being all our acts begin;
And thought, and sentiment as well,
Within the folds of Being dwell.

'Tis thus the life-power of the soul,
And hath o'er all its acts control;
And as there's truth or falsehood there,
There's truth or falsehood everywhere.

So let the BEING, made divine,
With central truth and glory shine;
And then the stamp and seal of heaven
To feeling, thought, and act are given.

Christ in the Soul (1872) XXXI.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Incarnation of Life and Love

The doctrine that Love is identical with Life, brings the subject of the Essential Life within the sphere of human cognitions. It is true that Love, considered as Life, operates in all space and all time; but it is also true that it does this, without being identical with either. So that it can be said, in expressions which imperfectly convey the idea, that it is the life of space without being space, the life of time without being time; in other words, a principle and not an expansion, an elemental activity, and not an outward, material measurement.

And hence arises both the fact and the possibility of its incarnation. The Essential Life, whether called Life or Love, is individual as well as universal; dwelling in God, and dwelling more or less, in all the creatures of God who are born into his image. And since the day when Christ walked in the valley of Nazareth, and wept in the garden of Gethsemane, it can be said that the life of God dwells in the soul of man, and the problem of the Infinite, so far as its most essential element is concerned, is brought within the field of human consciousness, and is made the subject of human affirmation.

The holy man, whoever and wherever he may be, walks in life; — the same divine and essential life which dwells in the bosom of the Infinite. The life of the follower of Christ is the same in its essence with the life of Christ. There is a philosophical and substantial foundation for that wonderful but most true assertion of the apostle Paul, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” The essential life of Christ was LOVE;—the cross of Calvary was only its necessary resultant, and its divine symbol. The cross is Love: and in that view of the interior and subjective nature of the cross, it stands as a bright and perpetual reality in the heart of every Christian.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873), Chapter 4.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Both Reason and Scripture Testify: God is Love

The religion of enlightened reason and the religion of the Bible are one; thorough and candid inquiries, enlightened by the spirit of humility and faith, will not fail to harmonize them. And hence we open the Bible, and find that wonderful expression, repeated and emphasized in its essential meaning in a variety of forms, “God is LOVE.” This great truth, upon which hinges the destiny of the universe, seems to have developed itself especially in the bosom of the apostle John. Without going through long processes of reasoning and possibly without any training in such processes, he nevertheless had the grand intuitions of the heart, and uttered affirmations, which God in the soul had taught him. Plato, the first of Grecian philosophers, could affirm that God “geometrizes,” and he uttered a truth, corresponding in depth and comprehension to this wonderful saying of the humble and loving disciple.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873), Chapter 4.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Love is Without Ending

The circumstances and intuitions which necessitate the affirmation, that Love is without beginning, involve also the additional affirmation, that Love is without ending, in other words, it is eternal. And as it has no beginning, and no ending, and thus covers all time; so, looking at it in another aspect, and by means of other processes of thought, such as will easily suggest themselves, we are under the necessity of affirming further that the principle under consideration is a principle without limitation; a principle surmounting the boundaries which might be supposed to stop its progress, and reaching to every place and every object within the realms of actual or possible existence. And this great principle, without beginning and without end, reaching to all objects and living in all events, universal by the same necessities which compel the fact of its eternity, is thus made to stand forth with the same attributes and the same features as the Essential Life. So that we are justified in saying that Life is Love, and Love is Life. And God, who is the embodiment of life, is the embodiment of love; and is what He is, whether He is called God or Life, because He is Love.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873) Chapter 4.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Love Must be the Constitutive Activity of the Universe

Love, in distinction from the counterfeits of love; we mean that divine love, which “casts out fear,” and which pursues the good of its object for the sake of the good and not for the sake of reward; such love has all the marks or characteristics which have already been ascribed to the Essential Life. It was said of Essential Life that it has no beginning. The same can be said of Love. Looking at love psychologically, and in one of its most distinguishing aspects, it may be described as simply benevolent desire, or the desire of good. And like every other desire, it involves in its very nature and as a part of its nature, a tendency to activity and to practical results. It is essentially a motive power. Now take the universe as the theater of inquiry, and say whether Love, considered as a motive power, has or can have, admits, or can admit, of any active and causative power antecedent to itself. Looking at the question psychologically, it seems to us that only three suppositions are possible in the case; first, indifference, which is not life, but the negation of life; second, the desire of evil, which, if it be admitted as the primal activity, would annihilate God, and enthrone Satan; and third, the desire of good, which is only another name for Love.

Now apply this analysis to God. If God exists at all, he exists as Essential Life. As essential life, He is essential activity; and that, too, without a beginning of such activity. Forever, and as a part of his nature, He must have had in himself a motivity, a principle of action. That principle of activity, could not have been indifference; for that would be a contradiction in terms. It could not be the desire of evil, for that would constitute a satanic Infinite. On the only remaining supposition, it must have been the desire of good or love. Love therefore, is, and, from the nature of the case, must be, the constitutive activity of the universe. And being central in the infinite nature, we may say of it as we say of God, it is without beginning; and, therefore it is, and must be to that extent, the same with the Essential Life of things.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873), Chapter 4.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

God is Life: God is Love.

There is something within the limits of human experience, which allies us to the great Source from which we come, and which may be appealed to in [our] inquiries. The Essential Life, in recognizing itself in its causative and sustaining form as existing in humanity, and in being thus brought in some degree within the sphere of human comprehension, and made the subject of human analysis, reveals itself as Love. So that in view of the evidences that attend it, we may venture to lay down the proposition, that Love and Life are essentially the same: a proposition so wide in its sweep and so fruitful in its consequences that, while its evidences compel the acquiescence and homage of the intellect, its tendencies and results, when rightly understood, fill the heart with joy.

God is Life: God is Love.

In being inseparable from all existences, in being the central causative principle of all existences, and in harmonizing with all existences, there is no possible motive or reason why the Divine Life should not be interested, (the relative position and responsibilities of all being taken into account,) in seeking the good, the happiness, and the perfection of all. Its motive of action cannot turn back upon itself and seek a causation prior to that which is already first, because, being infinite itself, it cannot ascend a higher height, or sound a deeper depth, than it has in its own nature. And thus standing central, and at the same time without limitation, and consequently having no power outside of itself to excite its fears, or to limit its responsibilities, what strength of thought or ingenuity of conception can suggest a motive in the Infinite Mind, which is adverse to the universal good. In other words, the Life of God, in its substance and essentiality, is, and must be, a Life of Love.

— edited from Absolute Religion (1873), Chapter 4.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Excessive Curiosity as Idolatry

The man, who indulges in excessive curiosity, makes this indulgence, in other words, his love of some new thing, his IDOL. The tyranny, which the love of news exercises over him, is as strong and as terrible, as the tyranny, which the love of his possessions exercises over the mind of the miser. And it is not too much to say of him, that he worships NEWS as really and as strongly, as other men worship MONEY. And how can we suppose, that the love of God, which is inconsistent with the inordinate love of every thing else, can take up its residence in a heart that is in this situation?

We trust that none will pervert these important views. The principle of curiosity is one of the most important and powerful principles of our nature. But it varies in its exercise. Sometimes, it must be admitted, it is too weak. At other times it so increases in strength as not only to be inordinately active and strong, but so much so as to assume almost a diseased or morbid character. The doctrine, therefore, which we propose, is nothing more nor less than this, viz.: That this powerful and important principle should be properly regulated. It ought to be as strictly and carefully brought to the test of supreme rectitude, as any other internal principle, such as the love of society, or the natural desire of esteem, or of happiness. We are bound, as seekers or professors of holiness, to pray for direction in what we shall know, as much as we are to pray for direction in what we shall do. And unless this rule is constantly and devoutly observed, no person is at liberty to indulge the belief, that he is acceptable with God.

Let us not forget the awful lesson, which stands written in the early records of our fallen race. When our first parent, under the instigations of Satan, who declared to her that she should be as gods, "knowing good and evil," beheld the fruit of the forbidden tree, as desirable to make one wise, she took it and did eat. How much better, we may well exclaim, in view of an event attended with such melancholy results, is ignorance with holiness, than knowledge with transgression! — Knowing, then, the dangers, generally so little understood and so little suspected, of an unrestrained and unhallowed curiosity, may we go to the great Teacher, who will never guide us wrong. The language of our blessed Savior is, "LEARN OF ME, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls." We need not fear that he will consign us to any ignorance which is really unprofitable.  It is true,  He will not, like the great enemy of our race, direct to the pursuit of any form of knowledge which will involve us in destruction; but he will encourage us in the pursuit of true knowledge. It is given to the people of Christ, in his own cheering expressions, "to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven." And while, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they will be permitted to become acquainted with all those forms of secular knowledge which are truly desirable and proper, the great subjects of their thoughts and inquiries will be the truths and mysteries of the heavenly kingdom. And thus grace and peace shall be multiplied to them, "through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 7.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Curiosity Can Work Against Peace with God

The unrestrained action of the principle [of curiosity] is inconsistent, to a considerable extent at least, with that degree of religious retirement, and with that inward and outward silence, which have so close a connection with the growth of the inward life. It  cannot reasonably be expected, when we consider the natural results in the case, that men, who indulge an excessive curiosity, will find time to be much alone with God, or that they will be possessed of that "quietness of spirit," which the Bible has pronounced to be of great price. On the contrary, they are necessarily compelled to pay the heavy penalty of their unchastened eagerness of spirit, by being withdrawn from the inward to the outward, and by finding it easier and sweeter to their perverted tastes to indulge in the attractions and excitements of the world, than to commune with the calmness and purity of the God of peace.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 7.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Curiosity Can Work Against Faith

A life, of which excessive curiosity is the leading element, is necessarily antagonistical to a life of faith. Knowledge necessarily excludes faith, in regard to the thing which is known. And we do not hesitate to say, that ignorance with faith is, in many things, better than knowledge without it. In many things, therefore, having relation to ourselves and others, and especially in many things, which have relation to the divine government, we must be willing to remain in the darkness of sense, in order that we may enjoy the light of religious trust. It is obvious, that this is a condition, to which the man of excessive curiosity does not easily submit. He is restless in his state of ignorance, because he has but little trust in God. How different is the state of mind, (a state of mind which many Christians can testify to be of inexpressible value,) which is disclosed in the devout words of Fenelon. "Behold my wants which I am ignorant of; but do Thou behold, and do according to thy mercy. Smite or heal! Depress or raise me up! I adore all thy purposes without knowing them."

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 7.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Crowding the Mind

The undue indulgence of the principle of curiosity, by filling the mind with that which is unprofitable, necessarily excludes much which is of essential value. There are undoubtedly limits to the mind's receptive capacity. And there is such a thing as filling and crowding it so completely with other things, as to exclude, in a great degree, the idea of God, and many important religious truths. How is it possible for God to dwell in a mind, that is already occupied, "pressed down and running over," if one may so express it, with idle thoughts, with foolish and romantic speculations, with the criminations and recriminations of party politics, with idle and often cruel and unjust village and neighborhood reports, which are indiscriminately sought and swallowed by the insatiable eagerness of this principle, when it has become excessive in its action?

The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 7.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Unchastened Curiosity

The principle of curiosity, like the other propensities which have been mentioned, is an original principle of our mental constitution. It is implanted there in the wisdom and goodness of the great Being, who constituted the mind; and may justly be regarded as an appropriate and essential attribute of every rational nature. It is hardly necessary to say, that this principle is given to be employed. It is altogether desirable and proper, that men should inquire, and reflect, and obtain knowledge. But this principle also is liable to be perverted. One of the greatest obstacles, which practical sanctification has to contend with, is the prevalence of a spirit of irregular and unchastened curiosity. It is here that Satan has taken up his position in great security and strength, almost unseen by any one; and is throwing his weapons, and slaying numbers, who seem to be entirely ignorant what poisoned dart has hit them.

I will take a case, by no means an uncommon one, which will stand for many others. Here is an individual, a member of a church, who sustains in the view of his brethren, a fair religious reputation, but who, by his own confession, has but little real communion with God, and like many others, has but little religious enjoyment. And what is the reason of this? He is constant at church; he is regular in his family devotions; he is fair and honest in his transactions in business; he is liberal to the poor and to the cause of religious missions; and he does not perceive himself, and others do not clearly perceive, why he does not walk with God, and enjoy continually the light of his countenance. But  the reason is, that he is ignorantly seeking himself and making an idol of himself, contrary to the will and the honor of God, by indulging a wandering and excessive curiosity. It has perhaps never occurred to him that he is as much accountable to God for the regulation of the curious or inquisitive propensity, as for any other principle of our nature. This principle he exercises in a way to gratify himself, by indulging inordinately in a variety of miscellaneous reading, by lending an itching ear to the constant influx of political news, by taking an undue interest in the constantly circulating gossip of families and neighborhoods; in a word, by a strong and almost irresistible craving to hear every thing that is to be heard, and to know every thing that is to be known, whether good or evil, profitable or unprofitable. Like the Athenians of old, he spends no small portion of that time which God has committed to him as a precious trust, in telling or hearing some new thing. Such is the melancholy statement, which is applicable to hundreds and thousands of those who bear the Christian name. There can be no doubt that the evils of this state of things are manifold and great.

— from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 7.