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.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Union With God

Among the higher forms of Christian experience, as we find them described, by writers on experimental religion, there is a state of mind, which we find denominated the state of UNION. It is also frequently called, by a phrase which intimates the same thing, the UNITIVE state of mind.— This state of mind is not unfrequently implied and even described by devout writers, without a formal mention of it by name.

Archbishop Leighton, for instance, speaks of the Christian, who perceives himself "knit to God, and his soul more fast and joined nearer to him than to his own body."

The following prayer is ascribed to John Climacus, many centuries since a devout and learned recluse of Mount Sinai.

"My God, I pretend to nothing upon this earth, except to be so firmly UNITED to Thee by prayer, that to be separated from Thee may be impossible. Let others desire riches and glory; for my part I desire but one thing, and that is to be inseparably UNITED to Thee, and to place in Thee alone all my hopes of happiness and repose."

These expressions indicate a full belief, on the part of this devout person, of the existence of the state of present mental union with God, as well as earnest desire for it. There are repeated allusions to this state of mind in the works of Thomas à Kempis and Tauler; writers, who, although Catholics, are favorably mentioned by Luther; and have always been much esteemed by Protestant Christians.

Sir Henry Vane, one of the English Puritans, a man religiously as well as politically memorable, wrote a religious treatise, which in part had express relation to this subject, entitled, ON THE LOVE OF GOD AND UNION WITH GOD. 

Many pious persons in more modern times, and in different denominations of Christians have spoken very emphatically of their union with the Divine Mind; and in such way as to leave the impression, that they considered the state of union as a distinct and peculiar, as well as a very desirable and eminent modification of Christian experience.

"Time would fail me," says Lady Maxwell, "to tell of the numberless manifestations of divine love and power. I have, though deeply unworthy, been favored with such wonderful lettings into Deity, as no language can describe or explain; but the whole soul dilates itself in the exquisite enjoyment; so refined, so pure, so tempered with sacred awe, so guarded by heavenly solemnity, as effectually to prevent all irregularity of desires. These, with every power of the mind, bow in holy subjection before Jehovah. Surely the feelings of the soul, on these memorable occasions, are nearly similar to those enjoyed by the heavenly inhabitants. I have it  still to remark, that all my intercourse with God the Father is strongly marked with that superior solemnity and awe which lay and keep the soul in the dust, yet raised to that holy dignity, which flows from a consciousness of union with the Deity."

— edited from The Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition, 1844) Part 3, Chapter 13.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Liberty of the Gospel

"Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. If the Son, therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." — John 8. 34, 36.

If thou, oh God, will make my spirit free,
Then will that darkened soul be free indeed;
I cannot break my bonds, apart from thee,
Without thy help I bow and serve and bleed.
Arise, oh Lord, and in thy matchless strength,
Asunder rend the links my heart that bind,
And liberate and raise and save, at length,
My long enthralled and subjugated mind.
And then with strength and beauty in her wings,
My quickened soul shall take an upward flight,
And in thy blissful presence, King of kings,
Rejoice in liberty and life and light,
In renovated power and conscious truth,
In faith and cheerful hope, in love and endless youth.

The Religious Offering (1836) Scripture Sonnets I.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Importance of Faith

Such is faith considered psychologically or mentally; a principle, or rather a mental state, essential to the human mind; naturally and necessarily arising on its appropriate occasions; of which every one has the experience in the ordinary conditions and transactions of life, and of which consequently every one has a knowledge in his own consciousness; a principle, not always the same in strength, but existing in a variety of degrees, proportioned to the evidence presented before it.

And perhaps we may appropriately add in this connection, that there is no one of the natural principles of the human mind, which is more constantly operative and more important in its results, than natural faith is. I am aware, that this is not generally understood, and perhaps not generally admitted. And probably the reason of its not being so is, because faith is a principle which, in itself considered, attracts but little notice. We cannot doubt, nevertheless, that the statement is essentially true. We grant, that the state of mind, which we call belief or faith, is not, in general, so distinct in our consciousness, as some other states of mind. That is to say, it does not stand out quite so prominently, quite so distinctly, to inward observation. And we think we can see a reason for it. It is this. It seems to be the intention of nature, or rather of the wise and benevolent Author of nature, that we should give less attention to the act of belief, than to the object believed in. The fact, in the case under consideration, seems to be the same with what is known and acknowledged to exist in the case of those sensations, which connect us with the outward world. It is well known, in the case of these sensations, that the mind passes with rapidity from the inward state, which scarcely attracts any notice to itself, to the outward object, whatever it may be, which the inward sensation or state makes known to us. And in the same manner, the state of mind, which we denominate belief, fulfills the purpose, for which it is given us, not by turning the mind’s notice upon itself, but by passing on, if one may so express it, and by directing it towards the object believed in. With this remark in view, we repeat what has before been said, that there is no one of the natural principles of the human mind, which is more constantly operative, and more important in its results, than natural faith.

It is this remarkable principle, exceedingly simple in its nature but almost infinite in its applications, which, not only connects the soul with its own acts, but with almost every thing around it; with woods and waters and sun and moon and stars, which would be nothing to us, if they were not believed in; with men, whose existence is made available and desirable to us only by belief in their existence and by confidence in their character; with God himself, whom it is impossible to realize as God, except by means of faith. Annul this principle, so simple in its appearance and yet so wonderful in its results, and man becomes, by the law of his own nature, an isolated being; he is like a person thrown into the midst of the ocean without even a plank to rest upon; not only desolate and hopeless in himself; but with nothing to console him in nature or help him in humanity, or be his support and his “bread of life” in the Infinite Mind.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 1.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Degrees of Natural Faith

Natural faith, which is always the same in its nature or essence, exists in different degrees. And this is so truly and distinctly the case, that we frequently employ different names as expressive of the different degrees of credence, which we yield. Differences in the degree of belief depend chiefly upon differences in the evidence, which is presented before the mind. And as the evidence in its different kinds is greater or less, we are in the habit of designating the resulting belief by names appropriate to its strength, such as presumption, slight or strong presumption, probability, low or high probability, and certainty. The same inward consciousness, which teaches us the nature of faith, indicates also the degree of it. And in accordance with this general view, which is scripturally as well as philosophically correct, we very frequently and very properly speak of a person’s faith in reference to its degree; describing one person as a man of strong faith and another as a man of weak or small faith, or by some other epithets intermediate in signification.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 1.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Illustrations of Natural Faith

Taking it for granted, in view of what has been said, that every person has exercised more or less of belief, and that consequently every person, as a matter of inward consciousness, knows something of its nature, we will proceed to give a few simple illustrations.

The child, that sets out with his parents upon a long and untried journey, without a doubt that his parents will supply his wants and guide him in the right way and will bring him home again in safety, (if, indeed, he feels that he can have a home but in the arms and presence of those parents,) knows what it is to believe. The young man, who for the first time enters upon business for himself, and in the prosecution of the plans and labors which now devolve upon him, finds it necessary to implicate himself with his fellow-men, and to enter into arrangements and contracts, which imply the discharge of duties and the fulfillment of promises on the part of others, knows what it is to believe. The man of more mature years, who is called by his countrymen to the high office of sustaining and administering the laws, but who is obviously unable to do it, without confidence in himself, without confidence in his subordinate agents and in the community at large, knows what it is to believe. So complicated are the relations of society, and so dependent is man on his fellow-man, that it is difficult to see, if man had not faith in others, how he could exist in the world for any length of time. But it seems to us unnecessary to dwell upon this point.

It is sufficient to add here, that this state of mind, of which it is so difficult to give a definition, but which may be supposed to be so well known and understood in each one’s consciousness, arises on a multitude of occasions; on the testimony of our senses in relation to the outward world; on the declarations of consciousness in relation to the facts and modifications of inward feeling; on the statements which are made by our fellow-men in the ordinary affairs of life; in view of that sort of circumstantial evidence, which is furnished by a continuous course of conduct in others; and in connection with the suggestions of the simplest forms of judgment and with the numerous and complicated deductions of reasoning.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 1.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Human Knowledge of Belief

Belief not only exists in man, as an essential part of his nature; but we may add as a separate proposition, that man knows what it is. There is belief in man, and a knowledge of that belief. It is no more possible for man to be without the knowledge of belief, than it is to be without belief itself. If a man believes, for instance, in his own existence, if he exercises any degree of faith in the physical and mental power he possesses, if in the affairs of life he relies more or less on the statements and promises of his fellow-men, if he believes in the fact of the revolution of the heavenly bodies, in the vicissitudes of the seasons, or in many other things which might be mentioned as things likely to control his belief, it is obvious that he knows, and that he cannot help knowing what natural belief or faith is, by his own inward experience. The knowledge of the thing, as well as the fact or existence of the thing, is involved necessarily in the constitution of the mind itself. And it is in that constitution, therefore, that we must seek for a knowledge of it. In other words, we obtain a knowledge of belief by a reference to our own inward consciousness; and we cannot obtain an adequate knowledge of it in any other way.

It should be added, however, that, while, by turning the mind inward upon itself, we know what it is, we are, nevertheless, not able to define it. It is admitted, that it is not possible to give a definition of belief or faith, which, independently of inward experience, will render it easy to be understood. But this difficulty, whether it be regarded as greater or less, and which on a close examination will be found to be more formidable in appearance than in reality, is not limited to belief. All other states of mind, which are truly simple and undefinable, are better known by a reference to our own consciousness, than by any statements in words.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 1.

Monday, October 24, 2016

What Is Natural Faith?

All men have faith; but it cannot be said with truth, that all men have religious faith. All men have faith in something; but it is not true, that all men have faith in God. It is proper, therefore, to make a distinction, and to discriminate between religious faith and natural faith.

In order, however, to understand religious faith, it is desirable, as it seems to me, to understand something of the nature or character of natural faith. Our attention, therefore, is properly directed, in the first place, to the inquiry, What is natural faith?

And in the prosecution of this inquiry, an obvious remark here is, that faith, or belief, which is only another name for the same thing, arises within us naturally and necessarily, on its appropriate occasions. In other words, it does not depend for its origin on our volition; but it comes of itself. It does not depend, for instance, upon a man’s volition or his mere arbitrary choice, whether he shall believe in his own existence or not; whether he shall believe in his personal identity or not; whether he shall believe in the existence of an outward material world or not. In these cases, and in others like them, it is conceded, that he cannot help believing. The state of mind, therefore, which we denominate faith or belief, using the terms in the natural and not in the religious sense, exists in us by our very nature. It is not only there; but by the very constitution of our nature, it must continue to remain there, while man is what he is.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 1.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Editor's Note: Hiatus & Ebooks

Having finished blogging through A Treatise on Divine Union, I am taking a very brief break from posting here.

I imagine I will be back at it pretty soon.

Life threw me off my rhythm.

In the mean time here are links to two ebooks (in ePub format) — which were drawn together from the material on my web site — by a reader in Switzerland:

Now you can read these books on your e-reader.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Faith in God

My faith, oh God, unshaken stands
In the great doings of Thy hands;
Thou hast the power, and Thou the will,
And what Thou sayest wilt fulfill.

I know the threatening, hostile host,
With many a proud, insulting boast,
Stands fiercely, in their banner'd wrath,
Across thy weeping children's path.

But faith looks up with tearful eye,
And prayer ascends with heart-felt cry;
And Thou, who see'st the mourner's tear,
And bending low, his prayer dost hear;

Thou, in the great appointed hour,
Thou, in the moment of Thy power,
Their banner'd host shall smite and slay,
And sweep their impious strength away.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LXIX.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Living by the Moment

The morrow, when it comes, shall know
Its daily task, its daily care;
But not till then it deigns to show
Its needed act, its needed prayer.

Then to the PRESENT be thou true;
To that let thought and act be given;
And thou shalt find a vigor new,
To take the next great step to heaven.

Each moment's task and duty done,
As ceaseless each to each succeeds;
Tis thus goes down life's setting sun,
Serene and bright with worthy deeds.

'Tis thus, that heavenly bands shall greet
Thine entrance to the realms of bliss;
Thy trials past, thy work complete,
And crown'd with endless happiness.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LXVIII.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

God's Kingdom & Nature

God, in being restored to the human soul and made at peace with it, not only sets up his kingdom in man, but in other things with which man is essentially connected. When the kingdom of God is restored in the human heart, it is restored everywhere. It should not be forgotten, that the world, in all its varieties, is but one system; a connection obviously running through all its parts; each part being sustained by and harmonizing with the others.  The mineral kingdom has a definite relation to the vegetable; the vegetable to the animal; the animal to the sentient; and the sentient to the moral. They expand and develop themselves in progression, and with an infinity of ties and relations. They are parts of one great and harmonious system of arrangements, conceived by one perfect wisdom, and sustained by one perfect love. The completion of all is in man. He stands at the head; and if all are made for man, it is equally true that man is made for all.

Time and God's grace will make this great truth better understood than it is at present. There is no isolation in the universe, except what is made by sin. There is a true and noble sense in which Adam and all created things around him were one. There is a sense in which Adam and all his posterity were one. There is a sense in which Christ, the second Adam, and all his redeemed children are one.

When man fell, nature fell. The flowers wept, and bowed their heads in sorrow. The beasts and the birds, that once loved him, now fled away from him. And the reverse will be true, when man returns again. All nature, sympathizing with the restoration of its head, will wipe away its tears and put on its smiles, whenever man arises from the dust. Life will return; and beauty will return with life. The cessation of mental death will be crowned with the return of physical health and strength, which will be experienced in outward nature as well as in man's person. The curse of "thorns and thistles" will be revoked, because man, on whose account it was inflicted, will be restored to favor. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree. The trees shall clap their hands; and the hills and the mountains shall break forth into singing." [Isa.  55:12, 13.]

Fear, also, shall be taken away from the beasts of the field. The bond of union, beginning with man in his restoration to God, will extend everywhere. The infusion of love flowing from God to man will be felt in every part of creation. The birds will sing with a happier note. "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." [Isa. 11:6.] 

“See truth, love, and mercy in triumph descending,
And nature all glowing in Eden's first bloom;
On the cold cheek of death smiles and roses are blending,
And beauty immortal awakes from the tomb."

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 12.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Highest Homage

The soul in the state of true peace or rest, is the kingdom of God, because it constantly renders him the highest homage. And it does so, because its state of peace or rest is the result, and may be said to be the completion, of every other state. It is not necessary for a soul, in such a state, to make costly sacrifices, to go to distant places, or to bow in temples, as if the true homage of the heart could be rendered only or chiefly by outward acts. Wherever it is, provided it is where God in his providence requires it to be, it is itself the highest worship and homage of God. The Infinite Mind delights in it, as a soul continually offering to himself the highest reverence and praise. The state of holy peace is more than that of penitence, because, although penitence implies a sorrow for sin, it does not necessarily imply a conquest over sin. It is more than good desire, because such desires are not acceptable in the sight of God without faith attending them. It is more than faith, because it is the end, of which faith is the means or instrument. It is more than gratitude, because it includes gratitude, as a whole includes a part. It is the result, the expression, the completion of the whole. It is man, harmonizing with God. It is God, dwelling and living in man.

He, therefore, who is in true peace of spirit, is a continual worshiper. He is himself his temple, and his heart is his altar. The fire is always burning; the incense always ascends.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 12.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

One Authority

A soul in peace is the true kingdom of God, among other things, because it recognizes but one authority. Its eye is "single;" looking in one direction, and having knowledge of but one master. It feels the deep import of the Savior's words, "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." And while it recognizes but one authority, in distinction from a two-fold or divided authority over it, it cheerfully submits to that authority and harmonizes with it. It thinks what God thinks, desires what God desires, wills what God wills.

On the other hand, a soul not at peace is one which is rebellious against its rightful master, or which wickedly proposes to serve two rival masters at the same time.

Again, a soul in peace is the kingdom of God, because God rules in it and over it. It is true, his government is sustained, not so much by positive and outward enactments, as by the perfect adjustment of affectional and moral relations. But still it is a true government, although carried on less by force than by the truth mutually communicated and received, and by love harmonizing with love. In the truly peaceful soul, the life of God, including that which is perceptive as well as that which is affectional, seems to be reflected in the life of the creature. God is not more a living speaker to the soul than the soul, in a state of peace, is a living auditor. Moment by moment he communicates his will inwardly by a spiritual operation; and the intimations of his will are obeyed, by the soul which receives them, in the very moment of their communication. And this divine obedience is the obedience of harmony rather than of compulsion; the obedience of a subordinate nature yielding to and mingling with a higher and originative nature, through the influence of that beautiful attraction which always exists between kindred natures; but it is still that true and perfect obedience which God approves.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 12.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The True Kingdom of God

The soul in peace is the true kingdom of God. Such it is virtually asserted to be in the Scriptures; and such it is in fact. And, if this be the case, it is important to understand and appreciate an idea, which is interesting in itself, and is susceptible of applications which are not less so.

In saying that the soul is God’s kingdom, it should be kept in mind that the term KINGDOM is relative in its meaning.  It implies the idea of a governor, as well as of that which is governed. Accordingly, it is not only the place where the king dwells, but the place of the king's authority. It is not only the king's home, which is the original meaning of the term, but the place which the king rules over.

In a certain sense God rules everywhere. There is no place where he does not dwell. Nor is there any place which excludes his authority; He rules in hell as well as in heaven. He rules also over all earthly things; over things material as well as immaterial. He rules over all moral beings. He rules over men.

Undoubtedly there is an universal kingdom; — a kingdom including all things. But, ordinarily, when we speak of God's kingdom on earth, we mean his spiritual kingdom, — the kingdom of mind, and not of matter; the kingdom of hearts, and not of outward forms and localities. The divine throne, erected everywhere, is especially and emphatically erected in man's spirit. The soul of man, a fit subject for the divine administration, always is, when renovated, and always ought to be, God's kingdom. Hence the remarkable expression of the Savior: "THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU."

But in speaking of the human soul as a fit subject for the divine administration, and in saying that it ought to be God's kingdom, we imply, that, under certain circumstances, by doing or being what it ought not to do or ought not to be, it is not God's kingdom. And thus we come to our proposition.  It is the soul IN PEACE, (that peace which the Savior speaks of when he says, "Peace I leave with you,  my  peace I give unto you,") the soul in peace, and not under any other circumstances, which constitutes, in the truest and highest sense, the kingdom of God. "For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, In returning and rest shall ye be saved. In quietness and confidence, [that is to say, in the quietness and peace of faith,]  shall be your strength." Isa. 30:15.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 8, Chapter 12.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Joys of the Good

Let men of worldly power and arts
The future love, the present hate;
It is the gift of holy hearts
The bliss of heaven to ante-date.

While sighing worldlings oft exclaim,
The hours are passing swift away;
To those of heavenly heart and name
They circle round, but love to stay.

Our heart's emotions are as flowers,
When cloth'd with pearls of morning dew;
With these we crown the passing hours,
With chaplets bright and ever new.

Not night more surely comes to day,
And day succeeds to starry night,
Than joys unnumber'd find their way
To bosoms bath'd in heavenly light.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LXVII.