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, April 12, 2017

Strive to Believe

Those persons, who have been inwardly convinced, that the promises of God ought to control their belief, and those who have endeavored to secure this result by resolves or purposes calculated to diminish the effects of former habits of unbelief, have found themselves blessed in it. The susceptibility of belief, which had been weakened and almost prostrated in its action, has in this way become invigorated. And not only this, it is continually increasing its facility and strength of movement by each repeated exercise. The powerful law of habit lends its aid. So that the exercise of faith, which once seemed the most difficult thing, is now found to be easy.

If these views are correct, it seems to be a proper and important direction: STRIVE TO BELIEVE. Make efforts to exercise faith. Resist, as much as possible, the dreadful influence of long-continued habits of unbelief; not in order that belief may be yielded to that which is not the truth; but that the truth, liberated from such unpropitious and erroneous influences, may have its appropriate and just effect.

— edited from The Life of Faith Part 1, Chapter 12.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Overcoming Disbelief

In reading some account of the experience of a pious person, who is said to have died in the triumphs of faith, I find the following expressions:

I have given God my undivided heart; believing that he does accept of it, and believing that the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin. Like a stone which the builder takes, and puts on the foundation, so do I lie on Christ’s blood and God’s promises; giving God my soul and body a living sacrifice, and covenanting with him never to doubt more. My language is, I will believe. I will sooner die than doubt.

And we may add, it is very proper, and it seems to us indispensable on the part of those, who wish to live the life of faith, that they should not only watch against unbelief, but that they should resolve against unbelief.

This course is sometimes objected to. It is said, and in a general view of the subject is said very correctly, that belief ought to rest upon evidence, and not upon volition. The objection, however, is divested of validity, when it is understood, that the act of volition is not designed to have an influence independently of evidence, but in accordance with it, and in its support. Such have been the results of long-continued habits of doubting, that the faculty of belief, when exercised upon religious subjects, seems to have lost its appropriate power. It has become in a degree paralyzed, and its assent fails to be given, where it obviously ought to be. Under such circumstances it is obvious, that an act of the will may not only be proper, but that it is necessary. The mind, in consequence of having become in some degree disordered, stands in need of the aid, which a purpose or resolve of the will is calculated to give.

A person, for instance, has been the subject of that inward experience, which may be supposed to constitute him a religious person; and as such a person, he has given himself to God in an act of sincere and permanent consecration. He has an inward conviction, in accordance with what is really the case, if he be truly a devout and sincere man, that he has placed all upon the divine altar. And he knows from the Scriptures, that God is pledged to receive all who are in this situation; and that, in accordance with his promises, he will be, and that he is now, a friend and father to them; and that all such persons are, and will be, so long as they continue in such a state of entire consecration, encircled and blessed in his paternal love. All this he knows to be true, because statements and promises of this kind, and to this effect, are abundantly announced in the Scriptures. But it is true, notwithstanding, that he finds a great difficulty in taking these promises home to himself. They are written, but they are not received; they are applicable to his own case, but they are not applied. He has so long disbelieved, that the very faculty of believing, as already has been intimated, may be said to be struck with a palsy. It certainly seems incapable of moving and acting effectually, until it is encouraged and aided by some accessory influence. And a portion of this influence is a volition, or firm resolve, embodied in the declaration, “I will believe,” which I understand to be the same thing with saying, and nothing more than saying, “I will no longer yield to doubts, which I have found to be unreasonable, and which I know to be destructive. The evidence of God, to which Satan, taking advantage of my former evil habits, would blind me, shall have its effect. I will receive it.” 

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 12.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Faith and the Law of Habit

One of the most general laws of our mental nature, is the law of habit.

The law of HABIT, in its application to the principles of the mind, may be expressed by saying, that it is the facility and strength of action, resulting from frequent exercise or repetition. The perceptive powers, the memory, the power of reasoning, the affections, all invigorate themselves under the influence of this mighty law. The same can be said of faith. Faith unexercised, becomes weak; faith, in frequent exercise, becomes strong. He, who believes frequently, will believe energetically; while he, who puts forth the act of belief only at distant intervals, will find the impotency of his faith corresponding to the infrequency of its exercise.

And, in accordance with this general view, it is related of some pious persons, who have distinctly seen the connection between a strong faith, and the life of God in the soul, that they have endeavored to sustain and strengthen acts of faith, by acts of the will. Taught by an experience, which had already cost them much, that, in the language of an English poet,

—— "Our doubts are traitors,
"And make us lose the good we oft might win,
"By fearing to attempt,"

they have determined to meet and resist the treachery of unbelief by the religious patriotism, if we may so express it, of a fixed resolve. Their language has been, “I will believe.” “I am determined not to doubt.”

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 12.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Poor of this World Rich in Faith

"And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor; for yours is the kingdom of God." — Luke 6.20.

In yon dark forest dwells an aged man,
Whose hoary beard descending sweeps his breast;
His numerous days "are dwindled to a span,"
He waits for his dismissal and his rest.
He  hath no worldly wealth, no worldly fame,
But inward wealth and joys of soul are his;
For he doth love the Savior's blessed name,
And prayer and praising constitute his bliss.
In every evening star a God he sees,
In the wild mountain wind a God he hears,
And bending to the earth his aged knees,
He pours his prayer into Jehovah's ears.
His soul, ascending above earthly things,
Finds audience high in heaven, the glorious King of kings. 

The Religious Offering (1835) XXI.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Consolation in the Gospel

"That, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope  set  before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast." — Heb. 6.18, 19.

How beautiful, as fades the gloom of night,
How beautiful the early sunbeams fall
In long and level'd lines of light, o'er  all
The wide expanse of plain and vale and height,
And clothe them with a young and purple bloom!
So, when my heart environ'd is with sorrow,
And from the earth no ray of hope can borrow,
The Gospel's glory dissipates its gloom.
That Gospel plants a sun within my breast,
Which hath the power to change dark shades to day;
Unchanged, unfailing, it transmits its ray,
And e'en in sorrow makes my bosom blest.
The vales throw off their shades, the mists take wing,
The flowers unfold their leaves, the birds start up and sing.

 The Religious Offering (1835) XX.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

God Righteous in Judgements

"Clouds and darhness are round about him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne." — Ps. 97.2.

Sad is my heart, embittered with deep grief,
E'en as a bulrush I bow down my head;
The dark, substantial clouds are overspread,
I see no friendly hand, find no relief.
No more I taste the joys which once I tasted,
My hopes, my honors, and my pleasures flown;
There's nought on earth which I can call my own;
All blacken'd, wither'd, torn away, and wasted,
And, in their stead, afllictive tears and woe.
Oh, give me faith, Thou holy, sovereign Power,
That I may know the hand that smites me so.
Oh, give me faith, when the dark tempests lower,
To yield Thee reverence and submission due;
Thou art the righteous God, thy judgments just and true.

The Religious Offering (1835) XIX.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

When Thy Pure Fires Prevail

Reflections on
the Life of
Madame Jeanne de la Mothe Guyon.

Such are the expressions, in which she speaks of the remarkable change which thus passed upon her spirit, — an event in her life which opened new views, originated new feelings, instituted new relations, and gave new strength. Too important in itself and its relations to be forgotten under any circumstances, we find her often recurring to it with those confiding, affectionate and grateful sentiments, which it was naturally calculated to inspire.

One of her religious poems, which Cowper has translated, expresses well the feelings which we may suppose to have existed in her at this time.

"All are indebted much to Thee,
But I far more than all;
From many a deadly snare set free,
And raised from many a fall.
Overwhelm me, from above,
Daily with thy boundless love.

What bonds of gratitude I feel,
No language can declare;
Beneath the oppressive weight I reel,
'Tis more than I can bear;
When shall I that blessing prove,
To return Thee love for love?

Spirit of Charity! Dispense
Thy grace to every heart;
Expel all other spirits thence
Drive self from every part.
Charity divine! Draw nigh;
Break the chains in which we lie.

All selfish souls, whate'er they feign,
Have still a slavish lot;
They boast of liberty in vain,
Of love, and feel it not.
He, whose bosom glows with thee,
He, and he alone, is free.

Oh blessedness, all bliss above,
When thy pure fires prevail!
LOVE only teaches what is love;
All other lessons fail;
We learn its name, but not its powers,
Experience only makes it ours.

— edited from The Life of Madam Guyon Volume 1, Chapter 6.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Stroke of a Dart

Reflections on
the Life of
Madame Jeanne de la Mothe Guyon.

It  may be interesting to hear Madame Guyon state the effect of this conversation in her own words.

Having said these words, the Franciscan left me. They were to me like the stroke of a dart, which pierced my heart asunder.  I  felt at this instant deeply wounded with the love of God; — a wound so delightful, that I desired it never might be healed. These words brought into my heart what I  had been seeking so many years; or rather they made me discover what was there, and which I did not enjoy for want of knowing it. Oh my Lord! thou wast in my heart, and demanded only the turning of my mind inward, to make me feel thy presence. Oh, infinite Goodness! Thou wast so near, and I ran hither and thither seeking thee, and yet found thee not. My life was a burden to me, and my happiness was within myself. I was poor in the midst of riches, and ready to perish with hunger near a table plentifully spread and a continual feast. Oh Beauty; ancient and new! Why have I known thee so late? Alas, I sought thee where thou wast not, and did not seek thee where thou wast! It was for want of understanding these words of thy Gospel: 'The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, neither shall they say, Lo! here, or  lo!  there; for, behold, the kingdom of  God is within you.' This I now experienced, since thou didst become my King, and my heart thy kingdom, where thou dost reign a Sovereign, and dost all thy will.

I told this good man, that I did not know what he had done to me; that my heart was quite changed; that God was there; for from that moment he had given me an experience of his presence in my soul, — not merely as an object intellectually perceived by any application of mind, but as a thing really possessed after the sweetest manner. I experienced those words in the Canticles:  'Thy name is as precious ointment poured forth; therefore do the virgins love thee.' For  I felt in my soul an unction, which, as a salutary perfume, healed in a moment all my wounds. I slept not all that night, because thy love, oh my God! flowed in me like delicious oil, and burned as a fire which was going to destroy all that was left of self in an instant. I was all on a sudden so altered, that I was hardly to be known either by myself or others. I found no more those troublesome faults, or that reluctance to duty, which formerly characterized me. They all disappeared, as being consumed like chaff in a great fire.

I now became desirous that the instrument hereof might become my Director,  in preference to any other. This good father, however, could not readily resolve to charge himself with my conduct, though he saw so surprising a change effected by the hand of God. Several reasons induced him to excuse himself: first, my person, then my youth, for I was only twenty years of age; and lastly, a promise he had made to God, from a distrust of himself, never to take upon himself the direction of any of our sex, unless God, by some particular providence, should charge him therewith. Upon my earnest and repeated request to him to become my Director, he said he would pray to God thereupon, and bade me do so too. As he was at prayer, it was said to him, 'Fear not that charge; she is my spouse.' This, when I heard it, affected me greatly. 'What! (said I to myself,) a frightful monster of iniquity, who have done so much to offend my God, in abusing his favors, and requiting them with ingratitude, — and now, thus to be declared his spouse!’ After this he consented to my request.

Nothing was more easy to me now than to practice prayer. Hours passed away like moments, while I could hardly do anything else but pray. The fervency of my love allowed me no intermission. It was a prayer of re­joicing and of possession, wherein the taste of God was so great, so pure, unblended and uninterrupted, that it drew and absorbed the powers of the soul into a profound recollection, a state of confiding and affectionate rest in God, existing without intellectual effort. For I had now no sight but of Jesus Christ alone. All else was excluded, in order to love with greater purity and energy, without any motives or reasons for loving which were of a selfish nature.

— edited from The Life of Madam Guyon Volume 1, Chapter 6.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Accustom Yourself to Seek God in Your Heart

Reflections on
the Life of
Madame Jeanne de la Mothe Guyon.

God was pleased to send one more messenger. 

"Oh, my Father!” says Madame Guyon, in connection with the incidents we are about to relate, "it seems to me sometimes, as if Thou didst forget every other being, in order to think only of my faithless and ungrateful heart." 

There was a devout man who belonged to the Religious Order of St. Francis. His name is not given, nor will it now probably ever be known on earth. This man, deeply impressed with religious sentiments, spent five years in solitude, for the express purpose of spiritual renovation, and of communion with God. With a heart subdued to the world's attractions, and yet inflamed for the world's good, he went out into the field of labor. He thought that God called him to labor for the conversion of a person of some distinction, who lived in the vicinity of M. De La Mothe. But his labors there proved fruitless, — or rather they resulted only in the trial of his own faith and patience. The humble Franciscan, resolving in his mind where be should next go and announce the divine message, was led by the inward monitor, speaking in connection with the indications of providence, to go to the house of M. De La Mothe, with whom he seems to have had some acquaintance in former times. 

M. De La Mothe, a man in whom the religious tendency was strong, was exceedingly glad to see him, and to receive his instructions, especially as he was then out of health, and had not much expectation of living long. His daughter Madame Guyon, who was desirous of rendering him every assistance in his increasing infirmities, was there at her father's house, although her own health was very infirm. Her father was not ignorant either of her outward or inward trials. She had conversed with him with entire frankness on her religious state. She related to him the exercises of her mind, her dissatisfaction with her present spiritual condition, and her earnest desire to avail herself of every favorable opportunity to receive religious instruction. Her father, influenced by the representations she made, as well as by his high sense of the piety and religious wisdom of the Franciscan who had visited him, not only advised but strongly urged her to consult with him.

Attended by a kinswoman, as seemed to be proper under the existing circumstances, she visited the room of the Franciscan, and stated to him her conviction of her need of religion, and the often-repeated and long-continued efforts she had made without effect. When she had done speaking, the Franciscan remained silent for some time, in inward meditation and prayer. He at length said: 

Your efforts have been unsuccessful, madame, because you have sought without, what you can only find within. Accustom yourself to seek God in your heart, and you will not fail to find him.

It is very probable, that she had heard a similar sentiment before; but if it were so, it came to her as religious truth always does come to those in their natural state, who are permitted to hear, before grace has enabled them to understand. But now the hour of God's providence and of special mercy had arrived. Clearly and strongly did the divine Spirit apply a truth which otherwise would have fallen useless to the ground. "Your efforts have been unsuccessful, Madame, because you have sought without what you can only find within. Accustom yourself to seek God in your heart, and you will not fail to find him." These few words, somewhat singular in the mode of expression as they are, obviously convey the great principle, that religion does not and cannot consist in outward working, — in a mere round of ceremonial duties, — in anything which comes exclusively under the denomination of an external action. But, on the contrary, it is inward in the sense of having its seat in the heart's affections, and in accordance with the great scriptural doctrine, that the "just shall live by faith." 

From the moment that Madame Guyon heard these words, she was enabled to see the error she had committed, — that of endeavoring to obtain God by a system of outward operations,— by the mercenary purchase of formal services, rather than by the natural and divine attraction of accordant sympathies. Speculatively, there may be a God objective, a God outward, a God recognized by the intellect as a great and majestic being living in the distance. And in certain respects this is a view of God which is not at variance with the truth. But still God can never be known to us as our God, He can never be brought into harmony with our nature, except as a God inward, a God received by faith and made one with us by love, and having his home in the sanctified temple of the heart. "Believe in the Lord your God; so shall ye be established."  “Believe his prophets; so shall ye prosper.”

 — edited from The Life of Madam Guyon Volume 1, Chapter 6.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Influence of M. De Toissi

Reflections on
the Life of
Madame Jeanne de la Mothe Guyon.

Another individual, besides the lady whose conversation and influence have just now been stated, had a share in that series of providences, which God saw to be necessary, in order to turn the mind of Madame Guyon from the world to himself. This was a pious person, who has already been mentioned, M. De Toissi, the nephew of M. De La Mothe. He had been to Cochin China as a sharer in the religious enterprises which were carried on there, and after an absence of about four years, had returned on business connected with the Mission with which he was associated. 

He visited the house of M. De La Mothe, where his cousin, Madame Guyon, was exceedingly glad to see him. She knew his character. She remembered what was said of his conversation and his appearance, when he visited her father's house some years before, just  before his departure for the East. And, in her present state of mind, groping about as she was in solitude and desolation of spirit, she eagerly sought interviews and conversations with pious persons. This pious cousin, impelled by natural affection as well as by a regard for the interests of religion, did all that he could to encourage her in her search after God. There were other things which gave him an increased interest in the case, such as her personal accomplishments, her great talents, the wealth of her family, her position in society, and her comparative youth, — circumstances, which, in that age of worldly splendor and enjoyment, were particularly adverse to the humble and pure spirit of religion. And it was not easy for one to see the possessor of them seeking religion, with a full determination to be satisfied with nothing else, without feeling a deep interest in the result, — much more so, probably, than would be felt in ordinary cases. Madame Guyon very freely and ingenuously stated her views of her inward state to her cousin, — the faults of her character, her inward sense of her alienation from God, the efforts she had made, and the discouragements she had met with. He expressed the deepest interest in her case. He prayed for her. He gave such advice as he was able. With earnest exhortations he cheered her onward, not doubting that God's wisdom and goodness would bring all well in the end.

Her interviews with this good man had an encouraging effect. His spiritual habits, as well as his conversation, affected her. Among other things she gives us to understand, that he was in a state of inward and continual communion with God; that state of mind, probably, which, in accordance with the nomenclature of the higher experimental writers, she variously denominates, in her religious works, as the state of "Recollection," or of "Recollection in God;" and which I think may be properly denominated the Prayer of Recollection. This state of continual prayer affected her much, although she was unable at that time, as she expressly admits, to understand its nature. She also noticed, with interest and profit, the conversation which passed between him and the exiled lady resident at her father's, who has already been mentioned. As is the case with all truly religious people, they seemed to understand each others' hearts. "They conversed together," she says, "in a spiritual language.”  They had that to speak of, which souls unconverted can never know,— a Savior "who was no longer as a root sprung out of the dry ground," sins forgiven, and joy and peace in believing. 

The example and the exhortations of her cousin, De Toissi,  could not fail to make a deep impression. Many were the tears she shed when he departed. She renewed her solemn resolutions. She endeavored to imitate him in his state of continual prayer, by offering up to God ejaculations, either silent or spoken, moment by moment. On the system of making resolutions and of mere human effort, she seems to have done all that she could do. But still she did not understand; a cloud hung over one of the brightest intellects when left to itself, — so perplexing to human wisdom, and so adverse to the natural heart is the way of forgiveness and justification by faith alone. Those know it who experience it, and those only; but her hour had not yet come. 

More than a year had passed in this state of mind, and with such efforts, —  but apparently in vain. With all these appliances which have been mentioned, with afflictions on the one hand to separate her from earthly objects, and encouragements on the other to allure her to heaven, she still seems to have remained without God and without hope in the world. So much does it cost, in a fallen world like this, to detach a soul from its bondage and to bring it to God! God has not only spread the feast, in the salvation which he has offered through his Son, but, by means of ministers, both providential and personal, he goes out into the highways, and compels them to come in. 

— edited from The Life of Madam Guyon Volume 1, Chapter 6.