The life of those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High may be called a Hidden Life, because the animating principle, the vital or operative element, is not so much in itself as in another. It is a life grafted into another life. It is the life of the soul, incorporated into the life of Christ; and in such a way, that, while it has a distinct vitality, it has so very much in the sense, in which the branch of a tree may be said to have a distinct vitality from the root.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Divine Guidence and Poetry

Without stopping to say what poetry is, or on what principles it operates, every one knows that its influence has been very great. But it is to be regretted, that, like history, it has been employed, for the most part, in immortalizing deeds of cruelty, and in giving luster to crime. Or, if it should be said in modification of this statement, that it has given a larger share of its attention to love than history has, it ought to be added that the love which it celebrates has not always been that refined and pure love, which receives the sanction of Christianity.

It is a matter of great satisfaction, however, that  a change is beginning to take place in this department of literature, as well as in others. The eclat of war, although it has yet a strong hold upon fallen humanity, is much diminished; and domestic affections, regulated and refined by religious sentiment, are more highly  appreciated, as compared with irregular and sinful desires. Rural and domestic life and other subjects, such as are congenial with the truths of nature, and with the spirit of the Gospel, are beginning to find hearts that can estimate, and pens that can develop, them. The man who writes a poem after the manner and in the spirit of the Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil, or, taking more recent examples, in the spirit of the Seasons of Thomson and the Task of Cowper, in which the beauties of nature and the humble virtues of agricultural life are celebrated, does a great work for God and humanity. The Scotch poet, Burns, has sung both of war and love; and few persons have touched with a stronger hand those mighty passions; but the time is coming, when the gentler and purer virtues, which are celebrated in his beautiful poem, entitled "The Cotter's Saturday Night," will excite a wider and deeper interest.

Poetry has done much for vice. The day has come when it is expected to do much for virtue. This is not an art in which it is safe for a man to separate himself from God. Let it be employed in showing the deformities of wickedness and the excellences of goodness; in depicting the beauties of nature, and in describing the attributes of the God of nature; and in encouraging men to walk in the paths of truth and peace.

Among other things, it ought not to be forgotten that poetry has its religious uses. If angels sung at the birth of the Savior, certainly there is more reason that men should sing. The author of a good hymn, expressive of sentiments of Christian piety, may feel that he has lived and labored to some purpose. In enumerating those who through divine grace have done a good and great work for God and his church, we should not be likely to forget the names of Watts, Cowper, and Wesley.

But whatever a person undertakes to write of this kind, whether hymns or poetry which is more secular in its character, it is very certain that he can do nothing well, without God to help him. If the ancients needed the aid of Apollo and the muses, it would be a shame to a Christian poet to attempt to write without the aid of that divine inspiration which Christianity teaches him to supplicate.  And, accordingly, Milton was unwilling to proceed in his great work, the Paradise Lost, without first invoking the divine assistance:

"And chiefly Thou, O Spirit! that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou knowest."

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 8.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Divine Guidance in the Account of Human History

Literature also will fail to arrive at and to sustain itself in its perfected life and beauty without the spirit of God in it.

Take, for instance, the single department of history, which is undoubtedly one of great importance and interest. The importance of history is seen, when we consider that the history of the deeds and sufferings of man is at the same time the history of the dealings of God with man. It details the conflicts of virtue and vice and anticipates, in the conclusion of its pages, the destruction of the one, and the final victory of the other. There is a close connection between human history and the coming of Christ in the world; — as the incidents in the history of all nations, previous to that event, seem to have been arranged in reference to it, and all subsequent history has been influenced by it. And, in this point view, many judicious persons have been disposed with much reason, to set a high value upon the work of  President  Edwards, entitled "The History of Redemption." The object of this interesting work is, to give an outline of the history of the human race, in connection with the history  of redemption; — uniting the two in such a  manner  as to show their reciprocal relations and influences. And the history is exceedingly valuable, not because it illustrates the idea of history in all respects, but because it so fully introduces an element, or point of view, which is generally left out.

As a general thing, history has limited itself to giving an account of national wars.  It has been so written, for she  most part, as to be a commemoration of deeds of violence, so that he, who kills the most and conquers the most, however deficient in civic and moral virtues, holds the prominent position, and is made the subject of undue panegyric. But history, in order to be a true record of the human race, should embrace not only war, but also civil and political events, and the progress of the arts and literature; — so that the man, who serves his country by peaceful labors and excellencies, may have his reward, as  well as the warrior.

A favorable change, however, has already taken place. The spirit of the Gospel is beginning to take effect. The rights, the happiness, the immortal interests of the masses of men are receiving a consideration which they have not received before. And history at last sees the wisdom of placing the man who has made improvements in some useful art, or has done some benevolent deed, on a footing at least with those who command armies. And so far as the historian, looking to God and receiving direction from that source, has an eye to the good of mankind and the claims and advancement of virtue, he is in union with God. And this is at the same time his highest honor, and the source of his highest power.

The doctrine of divine union applies to everything.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union Part 7, Chapter 8.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Divine Guidance and the Arts

If a divine guidance is necessary to make a man perfect in the more common arts of life, so that he cannot build his own habitation, or do any other mechanic work as he ought to do, without God to help him, still more is such guidance necessary in those arts which imply higher exercises of the intellect, such as painting and sculpture. Give a man all the requisites of a great painter, a practiced hand, an eye alive to all the beauties of external nature, a creative imagination; — and then add a heart in alliance with God, and rich in holy feelings, and it is not easy to limit the beautiful and sublime works which his pencil will give rise to. The same may be said of sculpture and of architecture in its higher forms.

And such are the difficulties attending these arts, when it is proposed to carry them to their highest results, — so much invention is necessary, so much care in the relative adjustment of the parts which a happy invention has given rise to, so much wisdom and skill in conveying inward thought and feeling by outward form and gesture, — not to speak of other difficulties and other requisites, that all great artists, if they sympathize with their own aspirations, and are true to the instincts of their own nature, feel very much their need of a higher power to guide them. They know that nothing but God could carry out and complete the outlines of beauty and grandeur, which often float vividly before them; — and, under the pressure of this conviction, their souls instinctively yearn for the possession of that divine presence and aid, which would enable them to complete what their imaginations have conceived.

The subject of one of the great paintings of Raphael is "Paul preaching at Athens." The conception of the apostle as the living embodiment of a new and purer religion, his position in the front and on  the steps of a heathen temple, the mighty power of truth and Christian benevolence which struggles forth in his dignified but fervent attitude and action, the different groups that stand or are seated around him; — some calmly indifferent and skeptical; — some expressing in their countenances the mingled feelings of fear and hatred; — others yielding a rational conviction, and showing the signs of true sensibility and rising hope; — all combined together present a scene of the greatest conceivable interest. How is it possible that a great painter, who appreciates the magnitude of such a work, the exceeding difficulties attending its execution, and the mighty moral influence which follow a successful result, can enter upon it,  without first praying to God for wisdom and help, and without continuing to pray for them at every successive step?

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 7.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

George Herbert: Teach me, my God and King

The following striking stanzas of George Herbert, an old English poet, now almost forgotten, illustrate and sustain some of the views which have now been expressed.


Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it unto Thee.

Not  rudely, as a beast,
To run into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossest
And give it thy perfection.

A man, that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye,
Or,  if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heaven espy.

All may of Thee partake,
Nothing can be so mean,
That with this tincture — FOR THY SAKE 
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant, with this clause,
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes that, and the action, fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.

— from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 8.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

God's Role in all Arts and Labors

Believing, therefore, that the work of redemption and restoration extends to all things, and that no art or work of man can be carried to its highest and most beneficial results without God's presence, we proceed now to illustrate the union of God with man in the redemption and perfection of the arts and literature.

And, in doing this, we shall first refer briefly to those arts which, though very useful and necessary, are generally regarded as comparatively low in rank. Our view is, that the divine presence and aid are necessary in the development and application of all such arts, however humble they may be thought to be. The art of agriculture, the mechanic arts, the arts connected with domestic life, all of them not only admit, but require, the union of the divine with the human, in order to secure their perfection and their proper use. We do not hesitate to say, that the man who holds the plough, the man who lifts his arm of toil in the workshop, can do it usefully and happily, only so far as he does it in connection with God. The true doctrine is, — God in all things.  God made the earth; —  God sends the rains, that fertilize it. But this is not all. It is equally true, whenever and wherever the original harmony of things is readjusted, that God guides the hand that guides the plough, and smites in the hand that smites the anvil. And the laborer and the artisan are not in true union with God, until they have dispositions which will lead them to pray and to believe that this may be the case.

And especially may this be said, because all arts and labors have relationships and influences beyond what is first presented to our notice. It is obvious, for instance, that God designs that the Gospel shall be preached in all lands. And this great and benevolent design as obviously involves the fact, that missionaries must be sent just as far and as widely  as  the Gospel is to be preached. And every one perceives that they cannot thus go from land to land, and over intermediate seas,  without the aid of ships and other conveyances. Those, therefore, who build ships, and those who navigate them, and those who develop and perfect the principles and methods of navigation, are all in the natural line of divine cooperation; that is to say, — they  are doing a sort of work which God designs and wishes them to do. And if they will only add the spirit of union to the form of union, then they are actually in the state of union, so far as this particular thing is concerned and will do just what they ought to do. And without the spirit of union, which leads them to look to God in everything, they will fail to do what they ought to do. God, dwelling in the soul, is just as necessary to make good sailor as to make a good preacher.

God not only needs missionaries, who are to be met abroad in ships; but he needs Bibles to be distributed by those missionaries. But Bibles must be printed; and they cannot be printed without printers to do the work. Printers, therefore, are as necessary in their sphere as missionaries. And the remark which has just been made, may be repeated here, namely, that the presence of God in the soul is as necessary for printers, in order to help them do their work properly, as it is for others. And this is true of every art and calling whatever. No art ever comes to its ultimate and highest good, and never can come to such good, except so far as it has God in it, both to approve the thing done, and to direct and aid in doing it.

And this we understand to be the doctrine of the Bible everywhere. When Moses was required to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, it was necessary that he should employ mechanics. But the fact of their being mechanics did not exclude the idea of their being taught of God. On the contrary God seemed to be unwilling that any should be employed except those in whom his own spirit of wisdom dwelt. He did not propose to do the work miraculously; — but, in using human instrumentality, he was desirous of finding men of such dispositions that he could enter into them; and working unitively, if we may so express it, perfect the human thought by harmonizing it with the divine. The passage in relation to this matter is one of great and beautiful interest.

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, — See, I have called by name Bezaleel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah

“And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; — to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.

“And I, behold, I have given with him Aheliab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; — and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee.” [Exodus 31:1-5; also, 36:1-4.]
— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 8.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Redemption of the Arts and Literature

If God is man's great teacher... then, in his efforts in acquiring knowledge, he will be likely to go astray and to seek out hurtful ”inventions,” [Ecclesiastes 7: 29] so far as he does not accept a divine guidance. It is, therefore, not too much to say, that the Holy Ghost, the inward teacher sent down from heaven,  both ought to be, and that he is designed to be, the great master in art and literature. And it is worthy of notice, that heathen nations, who everywhere give evidence that they have some glimpses of the truth, agree in ascribing the early inventions in art, and the early works in poetry and music, either to a divine agency or to human agency aided by divine. According to  the mythology of the Greeks, it required the skill of Mercury to invent the lyre; — and there could neither be poetry nor music without the aid of Apollo and the muses. Accordingly, the great poets of the Greeks and Romans frequently begin their works by a distinct recognition of their dependence upon a higher power, who gave inspiration to their thoughts. And it is worthy of notice that Livy, in the commencement of his work on Roman history, (certainly in many of its attributes one of the most perfect and interesting works of that kind,) proposes to his readers, that they should imitate the custom of the poets, and commence their undertaking by supplicating the presence and aid of the gods.

But it is needless to recapitulate instances. The idea that a higher power was needed in the development of all good things, was so universal in the early periods of the human race, that it might well be called an instinct of man's nature. The ideas which men then entertained of God, were oftentimes very imperfect, and perhaps generally so; but, whatever they might conceive him to be, they had a conviction, which entitled to higher and better practical results, that he was the true source of all good. Mr. Dryden has alluded to this early conviction in some happy lines:­

"When Jubal struck the chorded shell,
His listening brethren stood around,
And wondering, on their faces fell,
To worship that celestial sound.
Less than a God they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell,
Which spoke so sweetly and so well."

Readily, and with entire strength of conviction, do we yield our assent to the great truth, which is thus imperfectly indicated in benighted times and by the the light of nature, while it is clearly asserted and illustrated in the Scriptures. All poetry, all music, all painting, all statuary and architecture, all wisdom in legislation, all useful mechanic invention, everything whatever, which has in it the elements of living truth and beauty, implies the fact, as it seems to us, of the presence and aid of a divine power. At any rate, so far as these things, or things of a kindred nature, are done or attempted to be done without divine aid, so far they are attended with imperfection. And so far as they are imperfect, and could be carried into effect otherwise and better than they are, so far they stand in need of redemption; — a redemption, which comes to them through the mediation of Jesus Christ, as truly as redemption comes in any other form from that source.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 8.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Person of Faith and Prayer May Have Great Influence

Think not that nothing can be done, because thou art little in the eyes of this world. The result does not depend upon what thou art in the world, but upon what thou art in God. It is God only, who is the source of all good. Various are the instruments he employs. He selects them, and he places them in the appropriate situations to be used by him. The power, whether it be more or less, is not in the instrument, in itself considered, but in God, who selects and locates it. In a multitude of instances has the declaration of the apostle been illustrated, that "God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty." [1 Corinthians 1:27.] A man of faith and prayer, however humble his situation in life, may yet have influence enough to affect the destiny of nations.

I will refer to an instance, which seems to be appropriate in this connection, and will illustrate what has now been said. Some years since, I was acquainted with an individual who has now gone to his rest and his reward. I have reference to the late William Ladd, the mention of whose name will recall cherished recollections to many hearts. In early life, he followed the sea; — in the course of a few years he became the commander of a merchant  vessel, and acquired some amount of property. On quitting the sea, he purchased a farm in the inland town of Minot, in the state of Maine. On reading a tract on peace, written by one of the former presidents of Bowdoin College, he was led to reflect upon the inconsistency of war with the Gospel. Having enjoyed favorable opportunities of education before going to sea, and being a person of a strong mind, he conceived the idea of putting an end to war throughout the world by means of a Congress of Nations, which should have power to establish an international code, and also a High Court of Nations. What a mighty project to be brought about by such limited agency!

A few years before his death, I visited his retired residence. He showed me the room in which he had written the numerous papers, and even volumes, on the subject of war. Walking with him in one of his beautiful fields, he pointed to a small cluster of trees at a little distance, and said, "It was beneath those trees that I solemnly consecrated myself in prayer to this one work of impressing upon the minds of men the principles of peace." For many years he spent a large portion of his time in going from city to city, and from town to town, in almost all parts of the United States, introducing the subject of peace to associations of ministers, conversing with all classes of persons in relation to it, and lecturing wherever he could find an audience. I met with him often, and have been deeply affected with his simplicity and fixedness of purpose.  He fully believed that God had inspired within him that central idea, around which the labors of his life turned. And those who knew him intimately, could hardly fail to be impressed with a similar conviction. He corresponded with distinguished individuals in Europe; — he scattered his numerous tracts and other writings on this momentous subject in all parts of the world. For many years the important movements of the American Peace Society appeared to rest upon him far more than upon any other individual. He died; and although he was preceded and has been followed by others of a kindred spirit, he was the means under God, of giving an impulse to the cause of peace, which is felt throughout the world. Society, penetrated by the great thought of universal pacification, seems to be brought to a pause. At Brussels, at Paris, at Frankfort-on-the-Maine, at London, we see nations, as it were, assembled in great Congresses, and consulting on their position and duties, in consequence of the impulse which God was pleased to communicate, in a great degree, through the labors of this comparatively humble individual. Let us not, then, look upon the outward person or the outward situation. It is one of the attributes of God to deduce great results from small causes. Wherever there is faith in God, there is power, — whatever may be the situation of the person who exercises it.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 7.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Leavening Influence of the Gospel

The Gospel is like the little leaven, which leaveneth the whole lump; always operating and always certain of securing its object, but not in a manner which attracts much notice. Operating in this gradual manner, the Christian religion has modified and improved the doctrines of international law. The principles which regulate the intercourse of nations, are different, in some important respects, from what they were a few centuries ago. And the difference shows the secret operation and influence of a religious sentiment.

For instance, it was once a recognized principle in the laws of nations, that, if a merchant vessel were wrecked on a foreign coast, the wreck became the property of the occupants of the coast, although the real owners were living. It was an established principle also, not less unjust, that, if a person, resident in a foreign country, died there, his property, instead of descending to those whom he designed and wished to be his heirs, should be taken for the use and benefit of the country where he happened to be resident at the time of his death. It was also originally one of the laws of war, which make a part of the existing laws of nations, that the prisoners taken in the progress of a contest might be put to death. The conqueror was regarded as possessing complete power over the captured; so that he could take away their lives if he supposed their death would turn to more account than their preservation. But, in  these and in a number of other respects, the code of nations has been very much improved. A more benevolent spirit now pervades it. But still, it must be admitted, that it is  far from being what it should be.

Now, it may not be the duty of all Christians to labor directly for the improvement of the code of nations, because Providence may not give to all the power and the opportunity to do so; but it belongs to Christianity, it is a part of the results of the Christian system, not only to improve, but to perfect it. Christianity operating from the center to the circumference, contemplates universal advancement. It raises all, — and raises all at the same time; — not only the individual, but the family, the state, and the whole world as it is united together by the international code.

Every man, therefore, who fully possesses the Christian spirit, and whom Providence permits to labor in that direction, will bear his part in this great work. His relations to God are such that he will necessarily contribute that mite or talent, whatever it may be, which is appropriate to his personal ability, and his position in the social arrangement. His first work is to perfect his own nature; or rather, to let God do it, by leaving himself is the hands of the divine operator. But in being perfected in himself, he is perfected at the same time in the relations he sustains to others. In being a better man, he is not only a better father and husband, but a better citizen; — and while he labors and prays for the new and perfected life of those immediately around him, he does what he can for the restoration of all others in all places.

— edited from  A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 7.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Human History of Warfare

But society has its external, as well as its internal, form. Society, existing in the external form, is the society of nation united with nation. If society is not perfected in itself, that is to say, in its civil or internal form, still less is it perfected in its external relations. Each nation, existing as a corporate civil association, stands at a great degree by itself; recognizing but very imperfectly that bond of international brotherhood, which should bind together nation with nation. One of its first principles is its relative independence; that is to say, while it recognizes in the general sense the principle of union, it claims the right of judging of its own interests, and of deciding for itself in all cases. Consequently, there are frequent collisions. Massive and giant-like in its strength, but, like the sightless Polyphemus of the Grecian poet, nation, blinded by passion, dashes against its fellow-nation; and both are broken by the concussion, and are covered with blood.

It is painful, to the pure and fully christianized mind, to read the history of nations. We need no argument to establish the doctrine of the fallen condition of the human race, in addition to that of its history. Beginning with Herodotus and the other Greek historians of that period, and reading the records of mankind in the pages of eminent writers of different ages and countries, what do we find but a series of sorrows and crimes, arising out of the struggles of national interest, and the antagonisms of national passion? In how many battle fields has human right contested with human power, and strength gained the victory over justice!  It is not without reason, therefore, that Cowper, whose beautiful poems have the merit of being infused with a Christian spirit, feelingly exclaimed,

“Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
Where rumor of oppression and deceit,
Of unsuccessful or successful war,
Might never reach me more!"

It is the part of Christianity, in the fulfillment of the great plan of redemption, to put an end to this state of things. Christ's work on earth is not accomplished, and of course the work of his followers is not accomplished, so long as wars exist. Let it, therefore, be the language of every Christian heart, — language which shall find its issues in appropriate action, — that wars shall exist no longer.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 7.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How the Gospel Spirit Modifies Jurisprudence

In all times past, society, (with some exceptions undoubtedly, but comparatively few,) has treated those who have offended against it, on the principles of strict justice, — returning "blow for blow, and stripe for stripe." One of the results of the greater prevalence of the Gospel spirit will be, to mingle mercy with justice, and to save and bless the criminal, at the same time that all necessary measures are taken for the protection of society. Within a few years, benevolent men, in different parts of the world, have directed their attention to this important subject. They have not been ashamed to have it understood that they have felt a deep interest in the situation of their erring and lost brethren, who have violated the rights of the state, — remembering that they themselves also are sinners. In the true spirit, as it, seems to me, of our blessed Savior, who would not and did not "break the bruised reed," they have gone to the prisoner; they have taken him by the hand; they have fed him, clothed him, instructed him. And while they have pressed upon him the necessity of repentance for sins committed, they have held up, at the same time, the joyous hope of sins forgiven.

The result of the prevalence of this truly Gospel spirit will be gradually to modify the systems of civil and criminal jurisprudence. Love, founded upon faith, and never at variance with justice, will be recognized as a regulating principle in the conduct of the social body, as it is and ought to be in the conduct of the individual. Society, having faith in God, and in itself as an instrument of God, will no longer crush the criminal whom it holds in its grasp; but will show its confidence in its mighty strength, by mourning for those whom it condemns, and by gently leading them back to truth, to duty, and to happiness.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 7.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Restoration of Human Society

In proportion as the influences of  Christianity are more generally and fully felt, there will be a gradual restoration of human society in all its aspects; — so that, while we cannot always foresee what precise form it will take, we may say, in general terms, that it will be made to harmonize perfectly with the principles of the Gospel.

Civil society, or society as it exists between man and man united together in the state, is very imperfect. It is true that the great law of progress, which insures the ultimate triumph of good over evil, has reached and beneficially affected the combined man of the state, as well as the man of the family, and the man individual. Men in various ages of the world, Solon, Lycurgus, Burns, among the legislators of antiquity, and other wise and benevolent men of later times, have endeavored to improve civil society; and their efforts have not been without success. But, after all  that  has been done, it is still attended with great imperfection.

The imperfection of human society is the necessary result of the imperfection of those human laws which give it shape and sustain it. Human laws are imperfect for the simple reason, (at least it is not necessary to mention other reasons,) that the human mind, which is the maker of human law, is not omniscient. Law is, or ought to be, the expression of perfect right. Consequently, there is and can be but one perfect lawgiver, namely, God himself. Man, by the very fact of his creation and dependence, is properly the  subject of law, and not the author of law. It is one of the remarks of Hooker, the distinguished author of the work entitled "Ecclesiastical Polity," that the "seat of law is in the bosom of God." Consequently, if views and remarks of this kind are justly entitled to consideration, human law will be perfected, and human society, so far as it is sustained by law, will be perfected, just in proportion as the God of the universe descends and takes possession, and becomes the God of the human mind. When that is the case, law will be the expression of right; and it will not be more just and right in itself, than it will be just and right in its individual application.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 7.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Living by the Moment

It is the providences of God, taken undoubtedly in connection with other sources of information, which indicate, in particular, the will of God; and those providences are revealed, and can be revealed, only moment by moment. The doctrine of living in the present moment, therefore, or in the state of momentary inward recollection, is founded not only on the necessity of watching against temptation, which is one reason for it, but on the fixed and immutable relation existing between the providences of God and the claims of God upon the human soul. If we are bound to obey the will of God, and if we can know his present will, which is necessarily the source of present obligation, only in connection with his providences, it is very obvious that there can be no other mode of holy living than that of living by the moment.

Religious Maxims (1846) CXLIII.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Keeping Desire Subject to God

It is very important that our desires should be kept in entire subjection. If the providence of God reaches to all things, not excepting the numbering of the hairs of our heads, it is certain that a man never desires strongly without running the hazard, which is always a very great and responsible one, of exercising desire against the claims of God's providential order. We cannot keep in harmony with God, without having our desires in subjection to a higher desire or purpose, that of God himself.

Religious Maxims (1846) CXLII.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Our Great Work is to Have a Right Heart

It is a principle in sound morals, and equally so in religion, that actions should be judged of by the intentions which prompt, rather than by the success which attends them. Our great work, therefore, is to have a right heart.

Religious Maxims (1846) CXLI.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Trust Your Reputation With God

As Christians, who aim at the highest results of Christian experience, attach a suitable value to your reputation; to that honorable acceptance and name which God may see fit to give to you with your fellow men; but do not seek it in the first instance, nor seek to maintain it afterwards by any other means than those which God approves. As no other name is desirable, except what he in his providence gives, so no other name is desirable except what he is able and willing to keep for us. In other words, trust your reputation with God in the same way and on the same principles that you trust every thing else with him.

Religious Maxims (1846) CXL.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Eternity of Love

Oh LOVE! The life-power of my heart,
If all things else should die,
There's one thing, that can never part,
There's one thing ever nigh.

I look upon the worlds above;
Their light may all decay;
But there's eternal life in LOVE;
Love cannot pass away.

Oh sun, that in thy fading years,
May cease at last to shine,
Thou canst not whisper to my fears,
That such a lot is mine.

Oh no! the shining sun may fade,
And wither like a scroll;
But death is powerless to invade
The love-light of the soul.

—  Christ in the Soul (1872) XL.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Living Near to Christ

"Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an ensample. For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
— Philippians iii. 17, 20.

When the bright sun is nearest to the earth,
In vernal months and days of summer bloom,
The buds and flowers and bending fruits have birth,
Instinct with life and beauty and perfume.
And so the man, who near the Savior lives,
Finds his heart kindling 'neath that radiant face;
The cheering light and heat the Savior gives,
And renovates and blesses with his grace.
But if the Christian keeps himself away,
And. follows Christ, as Peter did, far off;*
But seldom meditates, nor loves to pray,
Or  meets, on doubtful ground, with those who scoff;
His  heart grows cold, no genial ray shall bless,
'Twill be Siberian waste, mere ice and barrenness.

* At the time of his denying the Savior. See Matt. xxvi. 58.

American Cottage Life (1850) XIX.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Madam Guyon: The Trial of Christian Faith

'Twas my purpose, on a day,
To embark and sail away:
As I climbed the vessel's side,
Love was sporting in the tide.
"Come," he said,— "ascend — make haste,
Launch into the boundless waste."

Many mariners were there,
Having each his separate care;
They, that rowed us, held their eyes
Fixed upon the starry skies;
Others steer'd, or turn'd the sails
To receive the shifting gales.

Love, with power divine supplied,
Suddenly my courage tried;
In a moment it was night;
Ship and skies were out of sight;
On the briny wave I lay,
Floating rushes 'all my stay.

Did I with resentment burn
At  this unexpected turn?
Did I wish myself on shore,
Never to forsake it more?
No — "My soul" — I cried, "be still;
If I must be lost, I will."

Next he hasten'd to convey
Both my frail supports away;
Seized my rushes; bade the waves
Yawn into a thousand graves;
Down I went and sunk as lead,
Ocean closing o'er my head.

Still, however, life was safe;
And I saw him turn and laugh;
"Friend," cried he, "adieu! lie low,
While the wintry storms shall blow;
When the spring has calm'd the main,
You shall rise and float again."

Soon I saw him with dismay,
Spread his wings and soar away;
Now I mark his rapid flight;
Now he leaves my aching sight;
He  is gone, whom I adore;
It is in vain to seek him more.

How I trembled, then, and fear'd,
When my LOVE had disappeared!
"Wilt thou leave me thus," I cried,
"Whelm'd beneath the rolling tide?'
Vain attempt to reach his ear!
LOVE was gone, and would not hear.

Ah! return and love me still;
See me subject to thy will;
Frown with wrath, or smile with grace,
Only let me see thy face!
Evil I have none to fear;
All is good, if thou art near.

Yet he leaves me — cruel fate!
Leaves me in my lost estate
Have I sinn'd? O, say wherein;
Tell me, and forgive my sin!
King, and Lord, whom I adore,
Shall I see thy face no more?

Be  not angry; I resign,
Henceforth, all my will to thine;
I consent that thou depart,
Though thine absence break my heart;
Go, then, and forever too;
All is right, that thou wilt do.

This was just what LOVE intended;
He was now no more offended;
Soon as I became a child,
LOVE return'd to me and smiled;
Never strife shall more betide,
'Twixt the Bridegroom and his Bride.

— Madame Guyon, as translated by William Cowper.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

External Crosses

God sometimes sees fit to impose upon his beloved children, internal, as well as external crosses. There seems to be almost a necessity for this. "The life, which they now live, they live by faith on the Son of God." The Christian life is truly and emphatically a life of faith. A life of faith is necessarily the opposite of a life of direct vision. And how can the principle of faith operate, much more how can it acquire strength, unless God shall at times withdraw himself from the direct vision, and leave the soul to its own obscurity? If a man, wishing to test the spirit of obedience in his son, commands the son to follow him in a certain direction, does he not render his own test unavailable, by taking him by the hand and dragging him along? And so our heavenly Father, if he wishes to test and to strengthen our faith, must he not sometimes take us out of the region of openness and clearness of sight, and place us in the midst of entanglements, uncertainties, and shadows? What we need, what we must have, what is absolutely indispensable to our interior salvation, is faith; faith which gives the victory; faith strong, unwavering, adamantine. It was by want of faith that we fell; it is by want of faith that we are kept in continual bondage; and it is only by the restoration of faith that we can sunder the chains that shackle us, and walk forth in spiritual freedom. But faith can never arise to that degree of invigoration, which our necessities so imperiously demand, while we are permitted to walk continually in the field of open vision and under the sunlight of present manifestations. Hence there seems to be a necessity, that he who has made us and who loves us with an infinity of love, should, nevertheless, sometimes wrap himself in the majesty of uncreated darkness, in order that we may learn the great lesson of following God without seeing Him, and of appreciating his uttered word, his simple declaration, at the same value with his manifested realities and acts.

It  is here, then, that we find the secret reason, that God sees fit to leave to interior desolations and sorrows those, who are truly his sanctified people. Hence it is, that he not only shows us the vanities of the world, and the desolations of the church, the present and prospective wretchedness of impenitent sinners, a burden without any thing else to enhance it which is heavy to be borne; but he also withdraws at times the light of present manifestations; he withholds the comfort of inward sensible joys; he leaves the understanding, and even at times the affections in a painful state of comparative inertness and aridity; he permits Satan, in addition to these fearful evils, to assail us with his fiery darts, injecting into the intellect a multitude of unholy thoughts, and besieging us continually with sharp and varied temptations. But there still remains the blessed privilege of believing. We can still say, our expectation is from the Lord. We still have the privilege of declaring, even in the deep dejection and brokenness of our hearts, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."

Happy are they, who endure these grievous trials without shrinking. Thrice happy, who, like soldiers in a severe contest that have lost all but honor, can still assert, the enemy has not taken the standard with which they went into battle; and that in the loss of all things else, they still retain their confidence in God. Such souls are not only redeemed, but purified. They have passed the decisive test, the object of which is to ascertain whether they love God for himself or for his favors, and have not been found wanting. If there were dross upon them before, it has been burnt off in this fiery trial. In the purification and strengthening of our faith, (that glorious principle which unites us to God, and which opens in the heart the full fountains of submission, gratitude, and love,) we are recompensed, and more than recompensed, for the temporary loss of all outward goods and all interior consolations. Henceforth there is union between the soul and its Beloved. It has no more occasion to say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He returns with assurances, that wipe away present tears, and give the presage of future victories. God, in his condescension, permits himself to be conquered. Infinite love is led captive.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 12.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sorrows of the Sanctified Life

There is some reason to believe, that those, who love most, will suffer most; that those, who are the strongest in the Lord, will have the heaviest burden to bear.

They are afflicted in view of the condition of the Church. With all disposition to be grateful for what amount of piety there is, and also to make all due allowance for the deficiencies that exist, they perceive and cannot help perceiving, that the Church is, to a considerable extent, in bondage. They see very distinctly, that she lives far below her duties and privileges; those duties and privileges to which her God calls her. It is their sympathy with the Divine mind, as well as their sorrow for the Church, which affects them. How can they possibly be without grief, in view of the insulted honor and the disregarded beneficence of the God whom they love? And if this were possible, as it certainly cannot be, how is it possible for them to refrain from weeping, when the Church, for whom their bleeding Savior has purchased garments of light, voluntarily walk in sordid and defiled habiliments?

They have feelings of deep compassion and sorrow for sinners, which others have not. We would not assert, that these feelings are always stronger than those of other persons; but they appear to be more deeply rooted in the mind; more thoroughly based upon principle; more permanent and unchangeable. In view of the situation of sinners, they may even be said to have continual heaviness; not a heaviness which is periodical; which goes and comes with a change of circumstances; but is, at least, in a modified sense of the term, continual. There is this peculiarity, however, that their sorrow, however deep it may be, is always calm. While they think much of sinners, they think more of God. And they know that God will be glorified, though sinners are destroyed. This consideration imparts a tranquility of mind, which may sometimes be supposed to originate in absence of feeling. This calm, deep rooted sorrow, in view of the danger of sinners and of the dishonor which they put upon God, although, in accordance with the laws of the human mind, it has its alternations with other feelings, and is subject to occasional variations, may yet be said, with a high degree of truth, to be always with them. It is in this respect peculiarly, that they may be said to sympathize with the blessed Savior in bearing the burden of the cross; since there can be no doubt, that it was on account of others far more than his own, that he was afflicted in the world, was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 12.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Solitary Tear

It is reasonable to suppose, that a holy soul, one that has experienced the richness of sanctifying grace, will oftentimes be much afflicted in consequence of not finding in others a spirit corresponding to its own. In the present state of the world, when practical holiness is but partially understood and still less realized, such a soul, although the social principle remains strong in it, is necessarily solitary to a considerable degree. How can it enter with spirit and eagerness into worldly conversation? How can it participate with any degree of relish in vain worldly amusements and pleasures? Such souls are sometimes borne down with the desire of imparting to others the spiritual tidings, which God has inwardly communicated to them.  But they find few, and perhaps none, that are ready and willing to hear them. And thus they sit alone in secret places, and shed in silence the solitary tear.

— from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 12.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Trials of the Sanctified Life

It is perhaps a common opinion, that those, who are greatly advanced in religion, and have experienced what may properly be regarded as the grace of present sanctification, are not very much tried and afflicted. They are supposed to possess not only an inheritance of constant peace, but of much joy.

That a truly sanctified person is never in darkness, in one sense of the term, viz. condemnatory darkness; in other words, that he never loses the grace of a confiding trust in God and of solid internal peace, which his Savior has given to him as his inheritance, is undoubtedly true. If there ever be an exception, as for instance when the mental powers are depressed and darkened by the pressure of some physical disease, yet such exceptions are, probably, few in number, are explainable on principles peculiar to themselves, and are not to be regarded as essentially affecting the general doctrine.

But although those, who are wholly devoted to God, may be said always to have a solid and permanent peace, it is not true, that they are exempt from heavy afflictions both external and internal. On the contrary, there is some reason to believe, that those, who love most, will suffer most; that those, who are the strongest in the Lord, will have the heaviest burden to bear. "In the world," says the Savior, "ye shall have tribulation." "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ," says the Apostle in his Epistle to the Philippians, "not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." 

It  is important to understand this, to know that it is our lot and our privilege to be partakers of Christ's sufferings, so that those, who enter into the way of holy living, which is just what it is described to be, viz. a narrow way, may not be discouraged and overcome in the season of heavy trial. Satan will say to them at such times, Where now is your God? And it is exceedingly desirable, that they should know how to answer him.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (1844) Part 2, Chapter 12.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Family Will Be Sustained in Heaven

The social principle will be sustained in full exercise in heaven. It seems to us that the law of sociality, out of which spring families and societies, is universal and eternal. It would, perhaps, not be too much to say, that the perfect development of the social principle constitutes heaven; — and that, on the other hand, perfect isolation, which is the complete or perfected result of selfishness, constitutes hell. It is a great mistake, as the matter presents itself to our apprehension, to suppose that heaven is a solitary place; and much more that it is so spiritualized as to be a mere abstraction, — a place without locality, an existence without form, a form without beauty. Heaven has far more substance in it, than such shadowy conceptions would seem to imply. Heaven is not the extinction of existence, nor the mere shadow of existence, but a higher and purer state of existence; the growth and perfection of that, of which we have the obscure idea in the present life.

And, accordingly, reasoning from the identity of truth, which is the same above as it is below, we cannot hesitate in saying, that love is the life of heaven, as it is of earth. And such is the nature of love, that it must have objects there, as it has here. It must have its laws there, as it has here.  It  must have its great centre and also its subordinate centers there, as it has here. It must fulfill its own ends and grow up into society there, as it does here. To be in heaven, and not to be in the exercise of love, is a contradiction. Angels have their loves; — and heaven, if they were not allowed to exercise their benevolent affections there, and to group themselves together in bright clusters,  in accordance with the constitutive and eternal laws of moral beings, would cease to be heaven to them, and would become a place of sorrow. And it is one of the consolations which God allows us in the present state, in being permitted to believe that the wants of the heart here will be met and solaced hereafter; — that those suffering, but holy, ones, who have been smitten and robbed in the rights of the affections here, will find kindred spirits, (celestial stars, as it were, reflecting their own brightness,) who will mast and embrace them, and will wipe away their tears at the threshold of the New Jerusalem.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 6.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Family Will be Preserved in the Millennium

Some persons have supposed, (we hardly know upon what grounds,) that in the approaching and perfected period of the church, which is conveniently denominated the millennial period the family institution, admitted by these persons to be necessary until that time, will then be dispensed with. If this view were correct, it would be of but little importance to contend against those erroneous efforts for the immediate reorganization of society, to which we have just now referred.

Perhaps the idea of the millennial extinction of the family has arisen from the imperfections, the sorrows and the sins, which now attend it. But, it is hardly necessary to say, it is unsound reasoning, which condemns a good thing, especially if it be a great good, on account of the perversions to which it is sometimes liable. Undoubtedly the imperfections and perversions, with which the family is now surrounded, are all destined to cease in that better period; — but it seems to us, that nature, reason, and the Scriptures, all point to the conclusion, that the thing itself, the substance of the institution, will remain. Any other view would, of course, deprive the mind of a center of love and of spiritual rest in its appropriate sphere of life; and leave it under the necessity of wandering from object to object gratifying momentary impulses, of seeking rest and finding none. Such a view presents to us a state of things made worse, instead of being improved; — a reduction from a higher and holier state to one less perfect; — in other words, a millennium retrograde.

We admit that sin has obscured the ideal of the family, as it existed and as it still exists in the mind of God. We know, very well, that the family does not now present its true aspect. But if it is true that the divine beauty of the original conception is greatly marred, it is also true that its brightness will be restored with the extinction of the sin which has obscured it.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 6.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Dangers of Social Reorganization

[The] subject [of the family] throws light upon the discussions which are now held in different parts of the world on the subject of social reorganization. These discussions, which already shake society to its basis, are of immense consequence. The intellectual ability which has been brought to them is of the highest order; and it has been sustained, in many cases, by a life of benevolence and self-sacrifice. Willing as we are to do justice to the ability, and the good motives of those who agitate these great problems, it is obviously the duty of the friends of humanity to give a careful attention to their movements, and to prevent if possible the introduction of error. We are ready to give credit for many good suggestions, which will, in due time, produce their appropriate fruits. But it has attracted the painful notice of many true friends of human progress, that propositions have been started, from time to time, which affect the existence of the family.

To build up society by the abolition of the family seems to the Christian a strange idea. This is not to reorganize and to improve society, but to destroy it. As Christians, we are bound to do everything, and, what is more, we shall love to do everything, which will tend to improve the condition, and to increase the happiness, of our fellow-men. But we cannot throw away the Bible; — we cannot violate the first principles of Christianity, especially when they are confirmed by sound reasoning, have their signatures and proofs in the affections, and are strengthened by the lessons of all history. To injure the family by bringing its claims into doubt, by diminishing its purity, or weakening its authority, is to do an injury to society in general. Law, order, the state, intellectual improvement, morals, everything, would, fall with the family. And it would so, because the family is of God; and nothing which is of God can be shaken out of its position, or be lost, without causing the most disastrous results.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 6.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Laws of the Affections

[Consider the laws of the affections.] Everything has its nature. Of course, everything has its laws, not excepting the passion or affection of love.

The original, or first center of love, is God. From this great and divine centre, it flows out and embodies itself in other centers. Love, as it exists in God, is like the ocean. The ocean is the great center of waters.  It always retains its central position; but, at the same time, it diffuses itself everywhere; — forming other subordinate centers, in plains, and on mountain tops, in fountains and in lakes, from which issue a multitude of streams and rivulets, giving life and beauty. In like manner, the great ocean of love in the Godhead empties itself into subordinate centers, which are in harmony with itself, and which, in imitation, as it were, of the great center, and being, in fact, but continuations of the ebbings and flowings of the great central ocean, send out their waters of life to all within their sphere of movement.

The central love, then, in the sphere of human life, is in the family. From the family, where it is kept full from the great center in the Godhead, it flows out to the neighborhood, the state, and the world.  If it is full and beneficent at the source, it will be full and beneficent in its issues; and not otherwise. Truth, like beauty, always harmonizes with itself. Truth, in the centre of the affections will always secure a right or true movement. He, who is not true to his father and mother, his wife and children, his brother and sister, being false at the center, is not, and cannot be, true to his neighborhood, his nation, and mankind. How is it possible  for him to be true in his affections, when the truth of affection is not in him? And besides, if it were possible that his love, or rather the pretense of love, could be given, it would be hardly possible that it could b received. Both the state and humanity would instinctively reject an offering which is false at the core.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Power of God Manifested Through the Family

In the progress of religion in the world, it may reasonably be expected that the power of God will be especially manifested in families. Each household, linked together by peculiar and strong ties, will constitute practically a church of God. The holy man, at the head of his family, stands forth in a special sense the representative of his heavenly Father. Such is the peculiar nature and the importance of his position, that he speaks, if he is a man of true religion, with an authority which belongs to no other. He is a priest, —  not, indeed, by the forms of earthly ordination, — but still a priest, like Christ himself, by the inspiration of God, and after the "order of Melchisedek." It is from him and through him, if he sets a good example, and fulfills his office of teacher or priest of his household,  that  the child obtains, more distinctly than in any other way, his first ideas of our Father in heaven. And then add to the example and influence of the father, that of the mother, (for the father is not the completed or perfect man without the mother,) — an influence so gentle, so constant, so effective, — and it will be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the family constitution, considered in its relation to human virtue and happiness.

I am reminded, in these remarks, of a passage in the beautiful poem of the Cotter's Saturday Night:­

"Then, kneeling down to heaven's eternal King,
The saint, the father, and the husband prays;
Hope springs exulting on triumphant wing,
That thus they all shall meet in future days:
There ever bask in uncreated rays,

"No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear,
There ever hymning their Creator's praise,
In such society, yet  still more dear,
While circling time moves round in an eternal sphere."

Within a few days, and since commencing the writing of these remarks, an incident has come to my knowledge, which illustrates the subject. A young man not far distant, having arrived at an age when it seemed to be proper for him to do so, left his father's house to engage in some business in another place. He was soon exposed to unforeseen temptations, and fell into great sin.  He not only sinned, but became hardened and desperate in sin. His friends followed him, reasoned with him, entreated him, but all in vain. The victory of the great adversary, who had entangled him in his toils, seemed to be complete. They then made one request; — that, fixed and desperate as he was in his vicious course, he would so far yield to the common claims of humanity as to visit once more his father's house, and permit his aged parents to look upon him before they died.  It was with great reluctance that he consented.  As he came back, the home of his youth rose before him. The fields, where he had wandered in the delightful days of childhood, expanded in his sight; — beautiful in themselves, but, alas, how changed to him, who had lost the mirror of beauty in his own darkened heart! All received him with those unaffected tokens of benevolent interest, which are the natural language of love. There were no reproofs, no remonstrances. They understood that he came back professedly a sinner, — and a sinner by choice. And having already exhausted their efforts for his recovery, they had no courage to do or say anything more.

Accordingly, the day of his return passed away without any visible signs of penitence and returning union. And yet he was a son and a brother. The bright sun went down over the hills; and the various members of the family, resting from their labors, shared in each other's society. At the usual hour in the evening, they gathered around the domestic hearth, as had ever been their custom, that they might pray together, and mingle their hearts in penitence and faith, in the presence of their Maker, before they slept. The father read the Bible, and prayed; and they sang their evening hymn. This affecting scene, that Bible which had warned and instructed his childhood, a parent's supplication, that sacred song in which brothers and sisters joined, the presence of so many beloved objects, the peace and purity of the dear and sacred heaven of home, presented in contrast with the wretchedness and sin of the scenes to which he had recently been accustomed, broke the barrier of his rebellious spirit; the tears of true penitence and love fell from his eyes; and he was rendered doubly happy by being restored, at the same time, to the center of affections in God, and the center of affections on earth.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 6.