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.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Harmony and Internal Rest

Fenelon has somewhere remarked to this effect that in our inward feelings, "it is often more easy to perceive what is the result of nature than of grace." This remark may perhaps be of doubtful correctness in the view of some persons; but it is certainly worthy of serious examination.

If it be true, it is a remark, which involves important principles. We are aware, that the common opinion is the opposite of this. It is generally supposed that the emotions and affections of the religious life are more marked and perceptible, than those of the natural life. It seems to be a prevalent idea, that a person, who is not internally perceptive of strong emotions and affections, has but little claims to depth and power of religious experience. It is implied in this idea, that there must be a salient or projective aspect to these feelings so that to the subjects of them they shall appear in comparison with other feelings, to stand out distinctly and prominently perceptible. It is to this particular emphasis of the common doctrine, that the remark of Fenelon, viz., that, in our inward experience, it is more easy to perceive what is the result of nature, than of grace, is particularly opposed. He would not by any means deny the strength of religious emotions and feelings in those, who are truly and eminently pious. This would be a great error. His idea is, that, when the soul is wholly given to God, there is such an entire harmony and internal rest, that no one of the religious affections, however strong they may be, is comparatively so much in advance of what might reasonably be expected of other religious feelings, as necessarily to claim and secure a distinct and particular notice. All are the subjects of a perfect relative adjustment; all are kept in their place by the superintendence of the principle of perfect love; all are sprinkled over and bright with the celestial dew; so that one part or exercise is as beautiful in its place as another, and as much calculated to arrest particular attention as another. The result is the harmony, the internal stillness, and the beauty, which must ever characterize true holiness.

This doctrine is in accordance with the facts, which from time to time present themselves to notice in the annals of personal Christian experience. The interesting form of the religious life, of which this doctrine may be regarded as the theological or philosophical expression, seems, indirectly at least, to be indicated in those beautiful expressions in 2d Corinthians, where the Apostle, speaking of himself and others, says; "as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." He, who is known and yet unknown, dying and yet living, sorrowful yet rejoicing, poor yet communicating riches, having nothing, and yet possessing all things, is the subject of feelings, the result of whose various action, strange as it may seem, is perfect harmony and internal calm. His fame is counterbalanced and harmonized by his obscurity; his sorrow by his joy; his poverty by his riches; his absolute possession of nothing by his possession of all things; so that the soul, pressed as it were by equal forces in opposite directions, necessarily maintains the central position of interior rest.

The state of mind, of which we are speaking, appears to be disclosed in one of the short prayers, that are found in Fenelon's Pious Reflections; a part of which is as follows.

Oh Lord, I know not what I should ask of Thee. Thou only knowest what I want; and Thou lovest me, if I am thy friend, better than I can love myself. Oh Lord, give to me, thy child, what is proper, whatsoever it may be. I dare not ask either crosses or comforts. I only present myself before Thee. I open my heart to Thee. Behold my wants, which I am ignorant of; but do Thou behold and do according to thy mercy. Smite, or heal! Depress me, or raise me up! I adore all thy purposes, without knowing them. I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice.

Such supplications give evidence of a mind, that is at rest in itself; a mind, that reposes with entire confidence, whatever may be its temptations and sorrows, upon the Divine Mind.

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 11.

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