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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

God Universal

The meditative man dwells upon God as a God limited or particular; — that is to say, as circumscribed by the limitations of form and locality. The contemplative man, on the contrary, dwells upon him as a God universal. But this remark requires some explanation.

The common idea of God not only ascribes to him the attribute of personality, — an attribute which is essential to all correct views of him under all circumstances, but also assigns to him a form, and places him as having form in some definite and distant locality; as dwelling, for instance, within the walls of the New Jerusalem, as shut up within golden gates, or as seated on a lofty white throne of celestial beauty. This conception of the Divinity, which appears to be the common one at first, is probably well suited to the earlier stages of religious experience, when the mind is just beginning to recover itself from the weakness and blindness of sin. And we may say, further, there is great truth in it as far as it goes, — but it is not the whole truth. It is true, that God occupies place; and that place may be here, or there, or anywhere; but it is equally true, that he is not limited to place. It is true that God may assume form; and that, on special occasions and for special reasons, he has assumed it; but it is equally true, that form is not essential to him. So that, when our conception, relieved from the embarrassments of sin, expands, so as to correspond, in some degree, to the magnitude of the object, we find him not under one form only, but under all forms; not in one place merely, but in all places. Everywhere the Divin­ity which was before veiled by unbelief, enlarges into light. But he is still a personal God, though infinite in the varieties of form, infinite in the multiplications of place; though seen and recognized by faith in every tree, and plant, and rock, and flower; in every star,  in the wandering moon, in the bright sun, in the floating cloud, in the wide and deep sea, in insects and birds, and the wild beasts of the mountains, in men, in angels, in all things, beings and places. It is God thus revealed in his universality that we call God universal, in distinction from God local.

The meditative man attaches himself to the God local; the contemplative man attaches himself to the God universal. But to do the first, namely, to seek God in a particular place, to the exclusion of other places, requires effort, and is in some degree painful; because we must seek him "as a God afar off.” The latter, namely, to commune with him in all places and in all objects, — supposing ourselves to have arrived at the appropriate state, and the adequate power to be given us, — is natural and easy; because, finding God even without seeking him at all, we contemplate him as a God present. Being in the midst of place and objects, none of which are, or can be, separate from a divine presence, all the soul has to do is to look and love. Calmly and sweetly it casts its eye upon every object which is presented to its notice, and it finds itself dwelling upon God in all.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 10.

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