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, September 17, 2015

We Must Sacrifice Even the Gifts of God

All the Christian gifts and graces should be possessed in purity of spirit, uncontaminated by any unholy mixtures of an earthly nature. The mere suggestion, that they have merit of themselves and separate from the God who gives them, if it be received with the least complacency, necessarily inflicts a deep wound. They are, accordingly, held in purity of spirit and with the divine approbation, only when their tendency is to separate the soul from every thing inward and outward, considered as objects of complacency and of spiritual rest, and to unite it more and more closely to God.

In the language of Fenelon, "we must sacrifice even the gifts of God;" that is to say, we must cease to regard them and to take complacency in them, in themselves considered, that we may have God himself. We do not find the parent, who has that degree of affection for his child, which may be called entire or perfect love, making his love a distinct object of his thoughts, and rejoicing in it, as such a distinct object; that would not be the genuine operation of perfect love. If his love is perfect, he has no time and no disposition to think of any thing but the beloved object, towards which his affections are directed. His love is so deep, so pure, so fixed and centered upon one point, that the sight of self and of his own personal exercises, is lost.  It ought to be thus in the feelings, which we exercise towards God; and undoubtedly such will be the result, when the religious feeling has reached a certain degree of intensity. That is to say, when the feeling is perfect, the mind is not occupied with the feeling itself, but with the object of the feeling. The heart, if we may so express it, seems to recede from us; it certainly does so as an object of distinct contemplation; and the object of its affections comes in and takes its place. Oh the blessedness of the heart, that, free from self and its secret and pernicious influences, sees nothing but God; that recognizes, even in its highest gifts and graces, nothing but God; that would rather be infinitely miserable with God, if it were possible, than infinitely happy without him.

In connection with these remarks we are enabled to understand and appreciate the state of mind, which is described in some primitive writers on interior experience, as a state of cessation from "reflex acts." By REFLEX ACTS as we employ the phrase here..., we mean those acts of the mind, in which the soul turns inward upon itself, and ceasing for a time to regard the mere will of God as the only good, takes a self-conscious satisfaction in its own exercises. Such acts, when they are indulged in, stand directly in the way of the highest results of the religious life. On the other hand, he, who has entirely ceased to put forth acts of this kind, and loves God to the entire forgetfulness of self, losing sight even of his own exercises, in consequence of being fully occupied with an infinitely higher object, has reached the broad and calm position of spiritual rest, the region of inward and abiding peace. A region, where there is no noisy clamor; no outcries and contests of the passions; no contrivances of prejudice, interest, and ambition; no rebellious sighing and tears of the natural spirit; but all is hushed and lost in the one deep conviction, that there is nothing good, nothing permanently true, nothing desirable, no, not in heaven itself, but pure and everlasting union with the will of God. Of such a soul it may be said eminently, that it holds the gifts of God in purity; since it loses the distinct perception and knowledge of the gifts, in the consciousness of union with the Giver.

"Lord! Thou hast won, at length I yield.
My heart, by mighty grace compelled,
Surrenders all to Thee.
against thy terrors long I strove,
But who can stand against thy love!
Love conquers even me."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (Second Edition 1844) Part 2, Chapter 11.

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