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, December 3, 2015

Love Adapts to the Situation

One of the characteristics of holy love, in its developed and operative forms is, that it naturally and necessarily adapts itself to the existing state of things. Feelingly alive to every possible variety of circumstance, it assumes, at successive times, an infinity of modifications, without failing, under any of them, to maintain its own simplicity and truth. Its own nature, which harmonizes with the true good of all other natures, requires this. When it is alone, for instance, and its thoughts are
allowed to revert to God in distinction from the creatures of God, sympathizing with the divine excellence and blessedness, it naturally takes the form of adoring communion and praise. It begins to sing. "Bless the Lord,” it says with the Psalmist, "Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits!"

When it is not permitted to be in retirement, but is in company with others, it takes its character from those with whom it is. In the good and proper sense of the expressions, "it becomes all things to all men." If they are persecuted and in prison, if they are sick, or blind, or lame, or deprived of reason, or are afflicted in any other manner, then it is full of compassion.  It  feels all their sufferings. It sheds sincere tears. It binds up their wounds. And these kind acts, which are not more full of truth and beauty than of moral power, are not the results of artifice, but of nature. It cannot do otherwise.

If, on the contrary, those with whom it associates at a given time are in health and in joy, it naturally rejoices in their joy, just as in the other case it has sorrow in their sorrow. Love, in the form of benevolent sympathy, is the just reward and the life of innocent pleasure. It may be said to double the happiness of every smile by the reflection of sympathetic happiness from itself.

The results in religious things are analogous to those in natural things. It harmonizes there also, in a manner appropriate to its own nature, with the weak and the strong; rejoicing with the one, and rendering pity and aid to the other. If, for instance, it enters the church on the Sabbath, and hears a man proclaiming God’s message with sincerity, but still with evidence of want of intellectual power, it does not turn away with scorn or coldness; but deeply sympathizes with him, and prays the more earnestly that the divine power may be revealed and perfected through human weakness.  Its course, as would naturally be expected, is just the opposite of that of selfishness. Its desire is not to please itself; but, in its sympathy with God and his word, to help out, as it were, the struggling message.

And it is the same in other cases. Everywhere, freed as it is from the restrictions of a low and selfish spirit, it is seen to do the thing which is appropriate to the time and place; and always by the impulse of a spiritual nature, and never by human artifice. Accordingly, if we transfer this principle of holy love from the public assembly in the church to the smaller assembly of the private prayer-meeting, the same results are witnessed. It sees those assembled together, who, it is obvious, need to be conversed with, to be instructed, to be encouraged. Being always in sympathy with God, and knowing that its heavenly Father has called them together in order that they might be assisted, it does not set itself aside and wrap itself up in its own isolation; but feels in its own nature all the wants of those around, just as God does. It sees God in everything. It is God, who in his providence has assembled them together. It is God, who has placed itself in communication with them, and has done it with some benevolent object appropriate to their situation. It cannot be doubted, that the mighty heart of God desires their restoration; and he, who is united with God in love, desires it also. And such is the sympathy between his state of mind and the arrangements of Providence, that his thoughts and feelings and words may justly be expected to be in precise accordance with the occasion. And this feeling of benevolent sympathy, (such are the reciprocal influences of mind upon mind,) will necessarily be known, and felt, and appreciated, by those with whom he sympathizes.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 9.

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