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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Assurance and Appropriating Faith

The experience of assurance of faith involves the experience of appropriating faith. Appropriation may exist without assurance; but, such is the relation of ideas and doctrines in the two cases, that assurance cannot exist without appropriation. The person who exercises appropriating faith, believes in Christ, not only as the sacrifice for men generally, and believes in the promises of God not merely as promises available to men generally, but unites the object of faith with the subject of faith; and believes in Christ as a Savior applicable and savingly available in his own case, and in the promises, as belonging to himself. Assurance of faith, without being the same thing as appropriation of faith, includes all this; but it includes also or rather it implies something more. In other words, assurance of faith differs from appropriation of faith, which may be more or less decided and strong according to the circumstances of the case, chiefly in the particular of carrying the act of belief or faith to the highest degree. He, who is in the state of assurance of faith, does not believe in his acceptance with God feebly and inefficiently. The faith, which he exercises, is a strong faith; so much so, as the term assurance itself obviously indicates, as altogether to exclude the feeling of uncertainty.

We think it cannot well be doubted, that there have been individuals, both anciently and in modern times, who have been the subjects of this high religious state. And we see no reason, why, instead of being so unfrequent as it is, it should not be the common experience, the common state of Christians. There are some persons, it is true, of minds of so little capacity, that they seem almost incapable of fully understanding the grounds of a perfected Christian life. Others appear to combine, with an adequate understanding, a want of decision, a weakness of purpose, which vitiates and annuls what their reason approves and instigates. And others, again, in consequence of a disordered state of the nervous system, or for some other cause, may be described as constitutionally subject to a sort of conceptive and apparitional experience, or what is hardly more favorable, are under the influence of strong and variable emotional impulses, which throw them off from the true track. But with some exceptions of this kind, in which charity, prompted by the acknowledged existence of unusual human infirmity, is disposed, without making any unwarrantable allowances, to diminish, nevertheless, its favorable anticipations, every Christian is very reasonably and justly expected, not only to have faith, but to become assured in faith; to be not only the servant, but the child of God; and to walk with God, and to live with God in the most intimate, affectionate, and sacred communion.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 16.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Assurance of Faith

We have already had occasion to make the remark, that there are different degrees of faith. In some cases faith is feeble, so much so as scarcely to be a distinct subject of notice in our consciousness. In other cases, existing with increased strength in greater or less degrees, it develops itself as a distinctly marked and operative principle. And there are yet other cases, less frequent, it is true, than would be desirable, in which it exists in that high degree, which is denominated ASSURANCE. A state of Christian experience, which implies the highest degree of Christian devotedness, and brings the soul into the most intimate communion with God.

The existence of the state of Assurance is generally admitted. There are many passages of Scripture, which imply its existence; and many statements, which cannot well be explained on any other grounds.

President Edwards in his Work on the religious affections, says,

It is manifest that it was a common thing for the saints that we have a history or particular account of in the Scripture, to be assured. God, in the plainest and most positive manner, revealed and testified his special favor to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Daniel, and others. Job often speaks of his sincerity and uprightness with the greatest imaginable confidence and assurance, often calling God to witness to it; and says plainly, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that I shall see him for myself, and not another,’ Job 19:25. David, throughout the book of Psalms, almost every where speaks without any hesitancy, and in the most positive manner, of God as his God; glorying in him as his portion and heritage, as his rock and confidence.
The Apostle Paul, through all his Epistles, speaks in an assured strain; ever speaking positively of his special relation to Christ, his Lord, and Master, and Redeemer; and his interest in, and expectation of the future reward.
Many of the formularies of belief or creeds of different religious sects, which may properly be regarded as expressing the deliberate and cherished sentiments of those who have adopted them, recognize the existence of the state of assurance. The Confession of Faith, adopted by the American Congregational Churches in 1680, has the following expressions in a short chapter especially devoted to this subject. “Such as believe in the Lord Jesus and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace; and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.”

And in accordance with this view, Dr. Hopkins, the learned author of a system of theology and a member of the religious denomination whose belief on this subject has been given in the passage just quoted, says, “If a person, who has lived a life eminently devoted to God, and in the constant practice of all the duties of Christianity, shining externally in good works, and all the graces of our holy religion, should, on proper occasions, humbly and modestly declare to his Christian friends, that he was raised above all doubts about his state, and had, for a long time, enjoyed full assurance of his salvation, no one would have reason to call it in question.” [Hopkins’ System of Doctrines, Part. 2d. Ch. 4.] And he adds very correctly, that it is the duty of Christians “constantly to have and maintain this assurance.”

And it may be proper to add here, that the doctrine of Assurance, generally expressed by the phrase Assurance of Faith, was formerly more familiar to the public mind in this country, as it seems to me, than it is at present. In the early periods of our country’s history, the subject of religion took the precedence of every other subject, and men were expected, under the thorough discipline of the Word and of Providence, not merely to believe faintly and doubtfully, but to believe with that higher degree of religious trust, which is expressed by assurance. A writer in the recently published work, entitled the Great Awakening, in giving an account of a meeting of Ministers in Boston, more than a hundred years ago, at which he himself was present, says, “Our conversation was upon Assurance; the grounds of it, the manner of obtaining it, and the special operation of the Holy Spirit therein. A very useful conversation.”

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 16.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Love and Justice

They tell us, we must first do right,
And not leave JUSTICE out of sight.
We answer, look below, above;
and what is justice but to LOVE?

God's law is full of righteousness
All truth, all justice; nothing less;
So just, it fills the world with awe;
And yet 'tis "Love fulfills the law."

We LOVE,  because we would be just;
We LOVE, because in God we trust;
We LOVE, because we would fulfill
His holy law, his holy will.

And he, who walks not in the light,
Of Love, leaves justice out of sight:
Look where thou wilt, below, above,
And what is Justice but to LOVE?

Christ in the Soul (1872) LXXXI.

Friday, October 27, 2017

God and Nothing

We conquer ill and all distress,
By sinking into Nothingness;
For in our Nothing we are such,
That nothing can our Nothing touch.

Our enemies their arms prepare;
They smite, but find us empty air;
For when we see the lifted rod,
We leave ourselves, and hide in God.

We always know which way to run,
And thus all threatening dangers shun;
In vain they seek; they cannot find
Our hiding place in God's great Mind.

And when they undertake to smite,
They find that God is in the fight;
And God and Nothing make them know
A great and sudden overthrow.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LXXX.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Place of Refuge

"A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest." — Ia 32. 2.

The clouds are gathering in the distant sky;
I hear the fiercely muttering thunders roll;
Terrors invade my breast; my trembling soul
Looks forth around, but sees no refuge nigh.
Ah, whither shall I flee? What friendly hand
Shall guide me to some safe, select retreat,
Where, while the dark, perpetual tempests beat,
Unscathed, uninjured, I may safely stand?
He comes! He comes! I see the platted crown;
I see the bleeding feet, the wounded side.
Now let the bellowing storm rush fiercely down,
Thy smile shall comfort me, Thine arms shall hide.
With Thee, Thou dear Redeemer, are no fears;
Thou scatterest all my doubts, and wipest all my tears.

The Religious Offering (1835) Scripture Sonnets XXV.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Ruler of the Nations

"The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters; but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind." — Is. 17.13.

There is a God, whose searching eye doth look
Into the hearts of private men and kings;
Who turns the nations, as the running brook,
And mighty empires to subjection brings.
If nations to his will and ways are given,
He binds them fast to his eternal throne,
But scatters, as the chaff by winds is driven,
Such as forget his laws, and such alone.
See Rome, with flags unfurled and eagles spread!
'Twas virtue made her powerful at first;
When virtue failed, and honor bowed its head,
An angry God did smite her to the dust,
Sheer from her seat of pride and empire hurl'd,
And made her thence the scorn and hissing of the world.

The Religious Offering (1835) Scripture Sonnets XXIV.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

She Bears Her Trials in Silence

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

Reflections on her conversion — and her continuing domestic sorrows.

In general, she thought it best to bear her domestic trials in silence, whatever they might be. As a woman of prayer and faith, she did not look upon them exclusively in the human light; but regarding them as sent of God for some gracious purpose, she was somewhat fearful of seeking advice and consolation from any other than a divine source. Indeed she was so situated that she could not well do otherwise than she did, having but few friends at this time, with whom it would have been prudent to have consulted upon these things. Her own mother was dead. The half sister, whom she loved so much, and with whom she had been accustomed in earlier life to take counsel, was no longer living. The two sisters of her husband, constituting with him all the children of their family, who seem to have had no unfavorable dispositions, were almost constantly absent at the Benedictine Seminary. They were brought up under the care of the prioress, Genevieve Granger, a pious and discreet woman, whom we shall have occasion to mention hereafter. Those of her pious friends in whose discretion she could fully trust, were not only few in number, but it was not always easy or safe to see them. "Sometimes," she remarks on one occasion, "I said to myself, Oh that I had but any one, who would take notice of me, or to whom I might unbosom myself! what a relief it would be! But it was not granted me."

It ought to be added, however, in connection with the domestic trials of which we have given some account, that they were alleviated in some degree, by the satisfaction which she took in her two younger children. They were both lovely, and worthy to be loved. The birth of the second son has already been mentioned. The third child was a daughter, born in 1669. Of this child she speaks in the warm terms of admiration and love, dictated by the observation of her lovely traits of character, as well as by the natural strength of motherly affection. She represents her as budding and opening under her eye into an object of delightful beauty and attraction. She loved her for her loveliness; and she loved her for the God who gave her. When she was deserted by the world, when her husband became estranged from her, she pressed this young daughter to her bosom, and felt that she was blessed. This too, this cherished and sacred pleasure, was soon destined to pass away.

— edited from The Life of Madam Guyon (1877) Volume 1, Chapter 8.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Domestic Sorrows

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

Reflections on her conversion.

The sorrow, therefore, which pained her life before her conversion, remained afterward. It was a wound of the heart, deep and terrible, but which cannot well be appreciated or expressed. To a woman who possesses those confiding and affectionate inclinations which characterize and adorn the sex, there is no compensation, there can be no compensation, for an absence of love, — least of all, in that sacred and ennobling relation, in which she gives up her heart, in the fond expectation of a heart's return. It is true, that it was a marriage, in the first instance, without much acquaintance; but still it was not without some degree of confidence, and still less without hope. But it ought to be said that Madame Guyon always refers to this painful subject with dignity and candor, — not condemning others with severity; and willing to take a full share of blame to herself. These trials would never have been known from her pen, had they not been written at the express and positive command of her Spiritual Director, whom she regarded it a religious duty to obey. At the time of her writing she had no expectation that her statements would be made public. We do not think it necessary to repeat every thing that is said on this subject in her Life; it is perhaps best, that it should pass away and be forgotten. Only one or two statements more will be given.

The waiting-maid, who had gained so much influence over her husband,

...became, every day more haughty. It seemed as if Satan were in her, to incite her to torment me. And what enraged her most of all was, that her vexatious treatment, her fretfulness, and her impertinent complaints and rebukes, had ceased to trouble me as they once did. Inwardly supported, I remained silent. It was then that she thought, that if she could hinder me from going to partake of the holy Sacrament, she would give me the greatest of all vexations. She was not mistaken, O divine Spouse of holy souls! since the only satisfaction of my life was to receive and honor Thee. The church at which I worshiped, was called the Magdalen Church. I loved to visit it. I had done something to ornament it, and to furnish it with the silver plates and chalices of the Communion service. It was there, when things were in such a situation at my house as to allow me to do it, that I retired and spent hours in prayer. It was there, with a heart filled with love, that I  partook of the holy Sacrament. This girl, who knew where my affections were and how to wound them, took it into her head to watch me daily. Sometimes I evaded her, and had my seasons of retirement .and prayer. Whenever it was otherwise, and she discovered my going thither, she immediately ran to tell my mother-in-law and my husband.
One of their alleged grounds of complaint was the length of time which I spent in religious services. Accordingly, when the maid servant informed them, that I had gone to the church, it was enough to excite their angry feelings. Whenever this took place, I had no rest from their reproofs and invectives that day. If I said anything in my own justification, it was enough to make them speak against me as guilty and sacrilegious, and to cry out against all devotion. If I remained silent and made no answer at all, the result was merely to heighten their indignation, and to make them say the most unpleasant things they could devise. If I were out of health, which was not unfrequently the case, they took occasion to come and quarrel with me at my bedside, saying that my prayers and my sacramental communions were the occasions of my sickness. As if there were nothing else which could make me ill, but my devotions to Thee, O my Lord!

The efforts of the step-mother were not limited to attempts to dissociate the affections of her husband; she endeavored also to alienate from her the respect and affections of her eldest son. And she too well succeeded; although there is reason to think that he came to better dispositions in after life. There was something in this, so deep and sacred is a mother's love, which seems to have affected the feelings of Madame Guyon more keenly than anything else in her domestic afflictions.

The heaviest cross, which I was called to bear, was the loss of my eldest son's affections and his open revolt against me. He exhibited so great disregard and contempt of me, that I could not see him without causing me severe grief.

She says, that she conversed with one of her pious friends in relation to this strange and heavy trial, whose advice was, that since she could not remedy it, she must suffer it patiently, and leave every thing to God.

— edited from The Life of Madam Guyon (1877) Volume 1, Chapter 8.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Opposition in Her Family

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

Reflections on her conversion — and the opposition that arose.

Happy would it have been, if she had been exposed only to the ridicule and the opposition of those who were without. Among the members and relatives of her own family still less than ever, with the exception of her father, did she find any heart that corresponded fully to her own. It seems to have been the great object of her step-mother, who was exceedingly desirous to retain the influence over her son which she had exercised previous to his marriage, to weaken and destroy his affections for his wife. Her object was cruel as it was wicked, although she probably justified herself in it, from the fear that the benevolent disposition of Madame Guyon, both before and after experienc­ing religion, might result in a waste of the property of the family, if she should possess all that influence with her hus­band, to which such a wife was entitled. "My mother-in-law," she says, "persuaded my husband that I let everything go to wreck, and that, if she did not take care, he would be ruined." The step-mother's plan of alienating her son's affections from his wife, was seconded by the maid-servant, who has been mentioned,— a laborious and artful woman, who had rendered herself almost absolutely necessary to her master in those seasons of sickness and physical suffering of which he had a large share. The result of their combined efforts was, that he became unsettled and vacillating in his affections, — not constant in his love; sometimes and perhaps we may say, always, when separated from their influence. truly and even passionately affectionate; at other times, and more frequently, he was distrustful and cruel.

In this perplexed and conflicting state of mind, it is not surprising that we find his language and his conduct equally conflicting, equally inconsistent. Sometimes he speaks to her in the language of violence and abuse, sometimes in a relenting spirit and with affection. He was not pleased with the religious change which appeared in his wife. "My husband," she says, "was out of humor with my devotion; it became insupportable to him.  'What!' says he, 'you love God so much that you love me no longer.' So little did he comprehend that the true conjugal love is that which is regulated by religious sentiment, and which God himself forms in the heart that loves him."  At  other times, when left to his better nature, he insisted much on her being present with him; and frankly recognizing what he saw was very evident, he said to her,  "One sees plainly, that you never lose the presence of God." 

— edited from The Life of Madam Guyon (1877) Volume 1, Chapter 8.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Opposition to Her New Faith

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

Reflections on her conversion.

Religion is the same in the Catholic and in the Protestant. I speak now of the substance, and not of the form; of the  internal and not of the external. Religion, so far as it is religion, is always the same; the same in all lands and in all ages; the same in its nature, the same in its results; always allied to angels and God, and always meeting with the opposition of that which is not angelic and is not God. It is not surprising, therefore, that Madame Guyon's new heart should meet with opposition from the world's old one.

When the world saw that I had quitted it, it persecuted me, and turned me into ridicule. I became the subject of its conversation, of its fabulous stories, and of its amusement. Given up to its irreligion and pleasures, it could not bear that a woman who was little more than twenty years of age, should thus make war against it, and overcome it.

Her age was not the only circumstance that was remembered. That youth should quit the world was something, but that wealth, intelligence, and beauty, combined with youth, in the same person, should quit it, was much more. On merely human principles it could not well be explained. Some were offended; some spoke of her as a person under some species of mental delusion; some attributed her conduct to stupidity, inquiring very significantly, "What can all this mean? This lady has the reputation of knowledge and talent. But we see nothing of it."

But God was with her. She relates that, about this time, she and her husband went into the country on some business. She did not leave her religion on leaving her home. The river Seine flowed near the place where they staid. "On the banks  of the river,"  she says, "finding a dry and solitary place, I sought intercourse with my God." Her husband had gone with her into the country; but he did not accompany her there. There is something impressive in this little incident. She went alone to the banks of the Seine, to the waters of the beautiful river, and into the dry and solitary place. It was indeed a solitary place; but can we say that she who went there, went alone? God was with her. God, who made the woods and the waters, and who, in the beginning, walked with his holy ones amid the trees of the garden. "The communications of Divine Love," she adds, "were unutterably sweet to my soul in that retirement." And thus, with God for her portion, she was happy in the loss of that portion which was taken away from her.

"Let the world despise and leave me;
They have left my Savior too;
Human hearts and looks deceive me
Thou art not, like them, untrue.

"Man may trouble and distress me,
'Twill but drive me to Thy breast;
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest."

— edited from The Life of Madam Guyon (1877) Volume 1, Chapter 8.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

To Teach All the World the Love of God

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

Reflections on her conversion.

But it is to be noticed further, that under the influences of her new life, which required her to go about doing good, she labored for the spiritual, as well as the temporal benefit of others, — for the good of their souls, as well as for that of their bodies. Before the day dawned, prayers ascended from her new heart of love; "So strong, almost insatiable, was my desire for communion with God, that I arose at four o’clock to pray.” Her greatest pleasure, and, comparatively speaking, her only pleasure, was to be alone with God, to pray to him; and to commune with him. She prayed for others as well as herself. She says, "I could have wished to teach all the world to love God." Her feelings were not inoperative. Her efforts corresponded, if not absolutely, which would perhaps have been impossible, yet in a very high degree, with her desires. She says that God made use of her as an instrument in gaining many souls to himself. Her labors however, were more successful in some cases than in others, as would naturally be expected. Speaking of one of the female relatives of her husband, who was very thoughtless on religious subjects, she remarks,

I wanted her to seek the religious state, and to practice prayer. Instead of complying with my request, she expressed the opinion that I was entirely destitute of all sense and wisdom, in thus depriving myself, when I had the means of enjoying them, of all the amusements of the age; but the Lord has since opened her eyes to make her despise them.

She relates among some other incidents,

There was a lady of rank, whom I sometimes visited. She took a particular liking to me, because, as she was pleased to say, my person and manners were agreeable to her. She said, that she observed in me something extraordinary and uncommon. My impression is, that my spiritual taste reacted upon my physical nature, and that the inward attraction of my soul appeared on my very countenance. And one reason of this opinion is, that a gentleman of fashion one day said to my husband's aunt, 'I saw the lady your niece, and it is very visible that she lives in the presence of God!' I was surprised at hearing this, as I did not suppose that a person so much addicted to the world, could have any very distinct idea of God's presence, even in the hearts of his own people, This lady, I say, began to be touched with the sense of God.

The circumstances were these. At a certain time she proposed to me to go with her to the theater. I refused to go, as, independently of my religious principles and feelings, I had never been in the habit of going to such places. The reason, which I first gave to her for not acceding to her proposition, was of a domestic nature, namely, that my husband's continual indisposition rendered it inconvenient and improper for me. Not satisfied with this, she continued to press me very earnestly to go with her. She said, that I ought not to be prevented by my husband's indispositions from taking some amusement; that the business of nursing the sick was more appropriate to older persons, and that I was too young to be thus confined to them. This led to more particular conversation. I gave her my reasons for being particularly attentive to my husband in his seasons of ill health. But this was not all. I told her that I entirely disapproved of theatrical amusements; and that I regarded them as especially inconsistent with the duties of a Christian woman. The lady was far more advanced in years than I was; but whether it was owing in part to this circumstance or not, my remarks made such an impression on her, that she never visited such places afterwards."

But our intercourse with each other did not end here. I was once in company with her and another lady, who was fond of talking, and had read the writings of the Christian Fathers. They had much conversation with each other in relation to God. The learned lady, as might be expected, talked very learnedly of him. I must confess that this sort of merely intellectual and speculative conversation, in relation to the Supreme Being, was not much to my taste. I scarcely said anything; my mind being drawn inwardly to silent and inward communion with the great and good Being, about whom my friends were speculating. They at length left me. The next day the lady, with whom I had previously had some conversation, came to see me. The Lord had touched her heart; she came as a penitent, as a seeker after religion; she could hold out in her opposition no longer. But I at once attributed this remarkable and sudden change, as I did not converse with her the day previous, to the conversation of our learned and speculative acquaintance. But she assured me it was otherwise. She said, it was not the other's conversation which affected her, but my silence; adding the remark, that my silence had something in it which penetrated to the bottom of her soul, and that she could not relish the other’s discourse. After that time we spoke to each other with open hearts on the great subject.

It was then that God left indelible impressions of grace on her soul; and she continued so athirst for him, that she could scarcely endure to converse on any other subject. That she might be wholly his, God deprived her of a most affectionate husband. He also visited her with other severe crosses. At the same time he poured his grace so abundantly into her heart that he soon conquered it, and became its sole master. After the death of her husband and the loss of most of her fortune, she went to reside on a small estate which yet remained to her, situated at the distance of about twelve miles from our house. She obtained my husband's consent to my going to pass a week with her, for the purpose of consoling her under her afflictions. The visit was attended with beneficial results. God was pleased to make me an instrument of spiritual good to her. I conversed much with her on religious subjects. She possessed knowledge, and was a woman of uncommon intellectual power; but being introduced into a world of new thought as well as new feeling, she was surprised at my expressing things to her so much above what is considered the ordinary range of woman's capacity. I should have been surprised at it myself, had I reflected on it. But it was God, who gave me the gift of perception and utterance, for her sake; he made me the instrument, diffusing a flood of grace into her soul, without regarding the unworthiness of the channel he was pleased to make use of. Since that time her soul has been the temple of the Holy Ghost, and our hearts have been indissolubly united.

— edited from The Life of Madam Guyon (1877) Volume 1, Chapter 8.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Her New Benevolence

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

Reflections on her conversion.

But we ought to add, that her care was not limited to her family, to the exclusion of other appropriate objects of Christian benevolence. She had means of doing good, which she did not fail to employ. The income of her husband's property, or rather the property of which he had the control at this time, stated in the French currency, was about forty thousand livres annually. A very large income at that period, when money had relatively a higher value than it now has. Of this amount, a certain portion was placed in her hands by her husband, to be expended by her as she might think proper. And accordingly as God gave her opportunity, and in imitation of that Savior whom she now followed, she did what she could for the poor and the sick, discharging, without any hesitation, duties which would be exceedingly unpleasant and irksome to a mind not supported by Christian principle. She remarks in her Life,

I was very assiduous, in performing deeds of charity. I had feelings of strong compassion for the poor, and it would have been pleasing to me to have supplied all their wants. God, in his providence, had given me an abundance; and in the employment of what he had thus bestowed upon me, I wished to do all that I could to help them. I can truly say, that there were but few of the poor in the vicinity where I lived, who did not partake of my alms. I did not hesitate to distribute among then the very best which could be furnished from my own table. It seemed as if God had made me the only almoner in this neighborhood. Being refused by others, the poor and suffering came to me in great numbers. My benefactions were not all public. I employed a person, whose business it was to dispense alms privately, without letting it be known from whom they came. There were some families, who needed and received assistance, without being willing to accept of it as a gratuity. And I reconciled their feelings with their wants, by permitting them, in the reception of what was needful for them to incur the formality of a debt. I speak of giving; but looking at the subject in the religious light, I had nothing to give. My language to God was,  “Oh my Divine Love, it is thy substance:  I am only the steward of it; I ought to distribute it according to thy will.”

Her efforts for the good of others were not limited to gifts of food and clothing. Those who are acquainted with the state of things in France during the reign of Louis Fourteenth, know that ruinous vices prevailed at that period. The profligacy of the Court, though less intense than that which was exhibited subsequently in the time of the Regency of the Duke of Orleans and in the reign of Louis Fifteenth could hardly fail to find imitators among the people. This will help to explain some further statements which she makes in connection with her efforts to do good. In a number of instances, with a forethought creditable to her sound judgment as well as her piety, she informs us that she caused poor young girls, especially such as were particularly characterized by beauty of person, to be taught in some art or trade; to the end; that, having employment and means of subsistence they might not be under a temptation to adopt vicious courses, and thus throw themselves away. And this was not all. Inspired with the sentiments which animate the hearts of some pious females of later times, she did not consider it inconsistent with religion to endeavor to reclaim those of her sex who had fallen into the grossest sins. She says, that God made use of her to reclaim several females from their disorderly lives, one of whom was distinguished by her family connections as well as her beauty, who became not only reformed, but truly penitent and Christian in her dispositions, and died a happy death.

I went, to visit the sick, to comfort them, to make their beds. I made ointments, aided in dressing wounds, and paid the funeral expenses incurred in the interment of those who died.

And as one of her methods of doing good, she adds,

I sometimes privately furnished tradesmen and mechanics, who stood in need of assistance, with the means that were requisite to enable them to prosecute their business. 

It is very obvious, I think, if we may rely on her own statements, as undoubtedly we may, that in acts of outward charity she did much; perhaps all that could reasonably be expected.

— edited from The Life of Madame Guyon (1877) Volume 1, Chapter 8.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

She Now Sees God in All Things

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

Reflections of her conversion.

Sustaining the relations of a wife, a mother, and a daughter, and seeing now more clearly into the ways and requisitions of Providence, she endeavored, from higher motives and in a better manner than ever before, to discharge the duties which she owed to her father, her husband, and her children. I speak of her duties to her children, because, previously to the time of which we are now speaking, God had been pleased to give her another son. The birth of her first son, — whom she frequently names as being made, through the perverting influence of her step-mother, a son of trial and sorrow, — has already been mentioned. The second son, who gave better promise both for himself and others, was born in 1667. We shall have occasion to recur to him again, although we have scarcely anything recorded of him, except the few painful incidents of his early death. These new and expanding relations furnished opportunities of duty and occasions of trial, which ceased from this time, at least in a great degree, to be met in the strength of worldly motives or in the arts of worldly wisdom. God, in whom alone she felt she could trust, became her wisdom and strength, as well as her consolation.

We may well and truly say, whatever allowance it may be necessary to make for human infirmity, that God was her portion. She could say with the Psalmist, "The Lord is my fortress and deliverer,— my strength in whom I will trust." The views, which she took of religious truth and duty, were of an elevated character, without being mixed and perverted, so far as we can perceive, with elements that are false and fanatical. It is true, that, even at this early period of her experience, the religious impulse, as if it had an instinctive conviction of the end to which it was tending, took a higher position than is ordinary, but without failing to be guided by the spirit of sound wisdom. If she was a woman, who both by nature and grace felt deeply, she was also a woman who thought dearly and strongly.

Among other things it is worthy of notice, that she distinctly recognized, not only intellectually, but, what is far more important, she recognized practically, that God orders and pervades our allotment in life; that God is in life, not in the mitigated and merely speculative sense of the term, but really and fully; not merely as a passive spectator, but as the inspiring impulse and soul of all that is not sin; in life, in all life, in all the situations and modifications of life, for joy or for sorrow, for good or for evil. The practical as well as speculative recognition of this principle, may be regarded as a sort of first  step towards a thorough walking with God. A heart, unsubdued, a heart in which worldly principles predominate, does not like to see God in all things, and tries unceasingly to shake off the yoke of divine providence. To the subdued heart, on the contrary,— to the heart, in which christian principles predominate, — that yoke always is, and of necessity always must be, just in proportion as such principles predominate, "the yoke which is easy and the burden which is light." Early did this Heaven-taught woman learn this. And she was willing to apply to her own situation, and to her own responsible relations, what she had thus learned.

It is one thing to have the charge of a family, and another to know and to feel, that this responsible position is the arrangement and the gift of Providence. Providence, whose eye is unerring, had placed her in that relation; and whatever cares or sorrows might attend her position, she felt that, as a woman and emphatically as a Christian woman, she must recognize it as the place which God had appointed, and as involving the sphere of duty which God had imposed.

— edited from The Life of Madame Guyon (1877) Volume 1, Chapter 8.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Effects of Her Conversion

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

Reflections on Madame Guyon's conversion.

Madame Guyon dates this great change as taking place on Magdalen's day, as it is termed in the Catholic church, the 22d of July; 1668.1 She was then a little more than twenty years of age.

It  is hardly necessary to say, that the change which persons experience in their transition from the life of nature to the life of God in the soul, are very different, in their commencement, in different persons, being much more marked in some cases than in others.  In the case of Madame Guyon, although slowly progressive in its preparatory steps, it seems to have been very decisive and marked at the time of its actually taking place. It was obviously a great crisis in her moral and religious being, — one in which the pride and obstinacy of the natural heart were broken down, and in which, for the first time, she became truly willing to receive Christ alone as her hope of salvation.

A gospel change implies the existence of a new nature. A nature which has life in it; and which, having the principle of life in itself, puts forth the acts of life. And it is thus that the fact, both of its existence and of its character, is verified. The true life always shows itself outwardly, in its appropriate time and way. “By their fruits,” says the Savior, “ye shall know them.” No other evidence will compensate, or ought to compensate for the absence of this. This evidence Madame Guyon gave. From the moment that she gave herself to the Lord to be his, in the inner spirit as well as the outward action, and in the action corresponding to the spirit, the language of her heart, like that of the Apostle Paul was, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? ”

“I bade farewell forever" she says “to assemblies which I had visited, to plays and diversions, to dancing, to unprofitable walks, and to parties of pleasure. The amusements and pleasures which are so much prized and esteemed by the world, now appeared to me dull and insipid,— so much so, that I wondered how I ever could have enjoyed them." She adds the remark, that for two years previously she had left off the curling of her hair,— a very general and favorite practice at that time, and which, — if we may believe the Maquis De Dangeau, although his statements strictly apply to a somewhat later period,— was sometimes carried to an injurious and unseemly extent. And in connection with doing this she expresses an opinion,— which others, who wish to honor the Savior in a Christian life, might do well to remember, — that she abandoned a practice, which, in the judgment of a correct taste, does not in reality contribute to the attractions of personal appearance; and the abandonment of which, therefore, if rightly considered, cannot be supposed to involve any great personal sacrifice.

Without going into particulars, it may perhaps be sufficient to say, that from this time it became her object, in her dress, in her modes of living, and in her personal habits generally, as well as in her interior dispositions, to conform to the requisitions of the Inward Monitor, the Comforter and Guide of holy souls, who now began to speak in her heart.

— edited from The Life of Madame Guyon (1877) Volume 1,  Chapter 8.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Consecration and Grace

Consecration therefore, as it seems to us, consecration without reserve either as to time or object, is the indispensable condition of inward religious advancement.

But it will be inquired perhaps with some solicitude, whether this doctrine, which denies advancement in religion without consecration, and which thus implies an act of the creature, does not exclude grace? In replying to this question, we feel obliged to say, that we cannot perceive any reasonable grounds of distrust and anxiety here. It is certainly difficult to see, how an act of correspondence on the part of the creature to God’s intentions and acts of mercy, is inconsistent with what we variously denominate grace, free-ness, or gratuity on God’s part. Man, considered as a moral and responsible being, could not do less than what is implied in such correspondence, without rejecting God. There is, and can be no alternative. He must either correspond with God by a reception of what God proposes to give and by a full and harmonious cooperation, or he must reject. And it is virtually impossible, as it seems to us, for God, while the creature rejects what he offers, to give more, or to continue for any length of time that which he has already given. But the act of correspondence, which is thus rendered indispensable on man’s part, if he would experience the continuance and the increase of the divine favor, being obviously nothing more than an act accepting what God offers, or perhaps more definitely and truly an act of consent to enter into harmony with the divine operation, it does not, and cannot detract from the free and gratuitous nature of the divine gifts. It is self-evident, that the mere reception of a gift, by an intelligent approval and cooperation on the part of the recipient, can never alter its nature as a gift.

What a motive is presented by these views, to a full correspondence with God; in other words, to a consecration, immediate, unreserved, and perpetual. An act so obviously necessary, and yet which so few are ready and willing to perform; the omission of which so fully accounts for the prevalence of inward darkness and the want of inward growth. Give yourself to God in all things, if you would have God give himself to you. True, the act of consecration, in its relation to the world, and the things of the world, may be like the cutting off of the right hand or the plucking out of the right eye; it may be attended, as it undoubtedly will be, with the painful sundering of earthly ties, but it is the only condition, so far as we can perceive, on which we are able to advance from the lower to the higher degrees of faith and love, and ultimately to possess the fullness of God, as our present and everlasting portion.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Consecration is the Condition of Advancement in Faith

The human ability must correspond without reserve, and to its utmost extent, to the divine light, whether it be more or less. Knowledge to the extent, in which we are able to conform to what we know, furnishes the basis of obligation. It is a principle of moral philosophy, which is well understood and is considered as very obvious, that our obligations can never be less than our ability and our knowledge. “He, who knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.” In other words, the person, who does not correspond to God in accordance with the obligation which God imposes, will not be likely to have the disposition, and certainly will not have the right, to plead the divine promises, and is clearly the subject of God’s marked disapprobation. But to correspond, in the utmost extent of our ability, to all that we actually know and to all that we are now able to know of our duty, is essentially the same thing, perhaps we may say, is precisely the same thing, as to consecrate ourselves entirely to God.

Consecration therefore, as it seems to us, consecration without reserve either as to time or object, is the indispensable condition of inward religious advancement.

Whether, therefore, you have much religion, or little religion, or none at all, follow the divine light; whether it be the light of nature, which only shows us our state of condemnation; or the light of restoring and redeeming grace, which leads us to the Cross, that we may be pardoned there; or the light of that grace, which sanctifies the heart, by exploring its secret recesses and by bringing all into subjection; be it each or all, be it more or less, correspond with all your powers to all that is given, and God will give more. This, if we rightly understand it, is the law of increase in spiritual things, the law of light added to light, of grace, added to grace, of glory brightening in the front of glory.

We find here an answer to the question, often proposed with intense interest, why is it that there are so few cases of assured faith and hope? why is it that there are so few persons, who, under the influences of sanctifying grace, have reached the state of assured or perfected love, and of constant communion with God? The answer is, it is because by not corresponding to the light and grace which they had, they lost that, which they might have had. They would not take the cup of consecration, which they knew to be bitter to the natural taste, and therefore they did not, and could not receive the inward healing, which, in connection with God’s plan of operation, it might have imparted. It is impossible in the nature of things, that a person can have strong faith in God as a father and friend, or that he can love him with unmixed love, when he is conscious that by not consecrating himself he is violating a religious duty. Belief will always sink, and consequently love, which has its foundation in belief, will always sink in proportion to the weakness or defect of the consecrating act.

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

With What You Have, Obtain More

If we are so constituted, that we naturally and necessarily know something of God, it is still true, that we may know him more. If it is a conceded fact, that we know him in a small degree, it is equally true that we may also know him much. If we may know him as the God of nature, we may also know him as the God of the Bible, as the God of providence, as the God of the New Covenant, as the God of the promises. We may know him as our own God and Father, as ours in prosperity and adversity, as ours in life and death, as ours to-day, to-morrow, and forever.

But let us notice this in particular. The belief in God, which we have from nature, valuable as it undoubtedly is, has the effect merely to bring men under condemnation, unless it is followed by something further. And this is essentially true also of the incipient steps, the beginnings of a really gracious experience. On what principle, therefore, or in what way is it, that having but little light, whether it be the light of nature or the light of grace, we may reasonably expect to get more? I know of no principle and of no way or method, but that of spiritual correspondence with God according to what we now have; in other words, the way of humbly and unreservedly giving ourselves to God to be his, according to our present light; trusting in him for wisdom and strength, and for all that we need. Every thing, which has relation to our progress in the divine life, seems to depend upon the position which we here take, viz. upon our conformity to this rule on the one hand, or our rejection of it on the other. If we do not give ourselves to God in correspondence with what he has imparted to us, but on the contrary, rejoice in the light which we have as our own light, which is the same thing as to rejoice in ourselves, and thus turn away from God, we can make no advancement. But if, entirely renouncing our own strength and wisdom, and giving ourselves wholly to God, we receive and rejoice in the light which we have as God’s light, and in the deep feeling of our dependence look to God for more, we are in the way of increased light and of true salvation.

This, therefore, seems to be the law of inward progress, viz. WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, OBTAIN MORE. Be faithful to what is given, and the giver will add to his gifts. A law, enforced by the penalty already alluded to, viz. that the gifts of nature without the additions of grace, and the incipient gifts of grace without grace super-added, so far from essentially benefiting us, will only add to our condemnation. Or, as the Scriptures express it, “whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”

We will suppose, that the reader of these pages is a Christian. God has given you, in addition to the unavailing light of nature, (unavailing if it remain merely what it is,) the light of grace; so that you can say that you have some faith in God and some communion with him. It is an interesting inquiry, how you shall increase it? The Savior has given the answer on various occasions and in various forms of expression; but all to the same import, viz., improve what you have, and you shall have more. Just in proportion as ye seek not honor, one from another, but the honor which cometh from God only, ye shall have faith, and shall find that faith increasing. “If any man be a worshiper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth,” John 9:31. “Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.” Matthew 25:23. Be all to me according to the light, which I have condescended to give you; and I will be all to you in return.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Consecration and Our Initial Faith

I think we may regard it as one of the established principles, having relation to the origin and the operations of faith, and which may properly be included under the denomination of the doctrines of faith, that our faith in God will be in proportion, or nearly in proportion, to our consecration to God. In other words, just in proportion as we give ourselves to God to do and to suffer his will without reserve, just in that proportion or degree we shall be likely to have confidence in him; a confidence, which will receive him not only in his more general character as God, but as the God of providence and the God of the promises. It is especially obvious, I think, and beyond all question, that the highest results of faith, Assurance of Faith for instance, cannot be experienced, without a personal and specific consecration; a consecration which is entire and without reserve. The Savior himself may be regarded as fully implying all that has now been said in the instructive and interesting passage, where he says, addressing himself to the Jews, “How can ye believe, who receive honor one from another, and seek not that honor, which cometh from God only?” John 5:44.

It will perhaps be objected here, that consecration to God necessarily implies the antecedent existence of faith in God to some extent; in other words that we cannot give ourselves to God in the act of consecration, without previously believing that God is. This difficulty seems to be fully met by the important fact, that we are obviously created with a belief, or perhaps we should rather say with tendencies to belief, in the God of nature; or in other words are created with such elements and tendencies of mind as necessarily result in the belief of God as the God of nature. There is much reason for thinking with bishop Butler, that natural religion and revealed religion are not in their nature different, but are parts of one and the same great system of truth; although it is true that revealed religion embraces things, which natural religion of itself could never have reached. And one of the most obvious and certain truths of natural religion is, that there is a God. He, who carefully notices the wonderful works of God either within him or without him, and who by his very mental constitution judges and cannot help judging between right and wrong, and who feels either the pangs of remorse in doing evil or the joys of doing and sustaining the right, has an amount of knowledge and experience, which lays the foundation for the additional and deep conviction, that there is a God, that there must be a God.

God, therefore, himself, in the exercise of that kindness which marks all his dealings with men, has given the preliminary, which the doctrine of faith demands. The divinity stands unveiled before the human mind; revealed both within and without; both in what it knows, and in what it feels. The Bible itself recognizes this view. It does not profess to reveal God, as a being absolutely unknown before. It takes for granted the existence of God, just as it takes for granted the existence of the human soul, and the fact of a conscience in man. And those, who say that they do not believe in God, be they Christian or heathen, if they will only analyze their own thoughts and heart, and will speak truly and candidly, can hardly fail to alter their mode of expression. They will be much more likely to say, that they believe in God’s existence, and at the same time knowingly and deliberately reject him. They believe, and they reject. It would not be possible for men to reject God, a crime which is alleged against all natural men, without first believing that God is. The Apostle has expressed it precisely when he says, in connection with his general doctrine, that the heathen have a knowledge of God independently of Revelation, “they knew God, but glorified him not as God.” They had faith enough to bring them under condemnation; but not faith enough to renew their hearts in love.

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Vanity of Life

"As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more." — Ps. 103. 15, 16.

And they are gone, the friends that once I knew;
I look in vain to find them; low and still
They coldly lie, shut out from human view,
And from the joys which erst their breasts could fill.
No more for them the rosy morn shall gleam,
Nor wild bird charm their ear at day's sweet close;
No more shall friendship soothe life's fevered dream,
And love's sweet voice allure them to repose.
But, oh, 'tis vain to murmur or bewail,
Dwells ought on earth, that long on earth shall be?
The columns of the world itself shall fail,
Its gorgeousness shall fade, its pomp shall flee.
'Tis a small thing to die, if we shall rise
In renovated bliss, unchanging in the skies.

The Religious Offering (1835) Scripture Sonnets XXIII.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Establish Your Faith in the Higher Truths

The sooner we establish ourselves by a strong unwavering faith in those general religious truths, which, occupying a higher position, sweep over and control particular and subordinate cases, the better it will be for us. Being thus established, the mind is at once placed in a position of hope and strength, and is relieved from a multitude of perplexities. When human reasonings have become consolidated in firm faith, the soul is not only relieved from assaults and perplexities from below, but seems to have power, such as it could not otherwise have, with that which is above. On such a soul the love of God, in particular, seems to be gently but richly shed abroad and infused from on high, instead of being laboriously wrought out and forced upward from beneath. No longer continually wearied with efforts originating in itself; but reposing in childlike quietness, of which faith is the true parent, it is purified and refreshed with the dews of divine grace unceasingly descending.

“The ship’s navigation ceases,” says a certain writer, “when it enters the port. Thus the soul, after the fatigue of MEDITATION, [a word which he uses as synonymous with perceptive and reasoning acts,] finding itself in the calm of CONTEMPLATION, a state of mind resulting from the highest faith, ought to quit all its own reasonings, and remain peaceful and silent with its eye fixed simply and affectionately upon God.” [Molinos, Introduction to the Spiritual Guide.] A state, which, in being closely united to God, is separated from all entangling alliances with that, which is not God; and which is followed by a sweet and peaceful rest, such as a condition of doubts and fears can never be acquainted with.

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 14.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

But, Faith Does Not Abandon Reason

It is not uncommon for Christians to eulogize faith in distinction from reason; and not unfrequently they speak of faith as a higher authority than reason. We are aware, that expressions of this kind, which are often on the lips of eminently pious and devoted people, suggest trials and doubts in the minds of some, as if they implied an abandonment of reason. And it is not surprising that they should, when the expressions are taken in their literal and obvious import. But a little reflection on the subject will help to remove this difficulty.

As Christians we do not, and we cannot abandon reason. The abandonment of reason would involve the abandonment of Christianity itself. We abandon reason, only when it is perversely applied; and when we ought to abandon it. We abandon it in its support of particular facts and particular propositions; and then only when such particular facts and propositions come in conflict with some more general facts and propositions, in which our faith is fully established. Abraham did not doubt, he could not doubt, that God is good and holy. His mind, in connection with the antecedent evidence, of which he had the experience both inwardly and outwardly, rested firmly by faith in this general proposition. He did not doubt in the least. Accordingly being established in this general truth by faith, he had nothing left but to reject at once all suggestions adverse to it, which human reason might bring in the shape of particular facts and particular propositions. In other words, believing in God as a God of all knowledge as well as of holiness, he thought it better to distrust human reason, which is limited, than to distrust God’s reason, which is universal. He felt, that he himself in his blindness might be wrong; but that God, in whom “is no darkness at all,” could not be otherwise than right.

These considerations obviously analyze and adjust the conflict, or rather the supposed conflict, between faith and reason. Faith and reason, when the matter is rightly understood, are by no means the opposites of each other. True faith and right reason always have harmonized, always will harmonize. The conflict, which from time to time takes place, is in appearance and not in reality; is relative and not absolute. It is true, that faith, resting upon reflection and reason, sometimes places itself in the attitude of opposition, and will not permit reason hastily and erroneously to undo its own work. And this is a state of things altogether true and right. It is entirely consistent and right, that religious faith, resting for adequate reasons, in general religious propositions of a high and controlling nature, should sustain this sublime position, a position which may be regarded as the result of a higher and more universal reason; and should reject at once and forever all the adverse suggestions of that other and subsequent reasoning, which moves in a lower sphere and with a narrower vision. It is a state of things, which may be regarded as represented in the simple statement, that faith, considering the grounds and circumstances of its origin, is God’s reason against man’s reason, is strong reason against weak reason, true and right reason against false reason.

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 14.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Biblical Examples of the Conflict of Faith with Contrary Reasonings

Abraham had faith in God; that is to say, under the influence of the light which God had given him, light which had been addressed to him as a perceptive and rational being, he believed that God is, that all things are under his control, and that in all his dealings he is perfectly just. His mind, in the exercise of faith, rested fully and firmly in the general proposition of God’s existence, superintending providence, and holiness. Nevertheless, it is entirely reasonable to suppose, that, when he was called, in God’s mysterious providence, to the fearful and afflicting office of sacrificing his own son, human reason, in distinction from that higher reason, which is embodied in a well established faith, took occasion to suggest a multitude of doubts and inquiries. But he remained unshaken. Faith, holding on to the general proposition of God’s wisdom and goodness, at once rejected all suggestions, that were inconsistent with them.

Many are the instances in the Bible, many are the instances in all periods and ages of the church, in which faith and reason have thus come in conflict. Job was a man of faith. He also, when his property and children were taken, and when he was exceedingly afflicted in his person as well as in other respects, had his inward trials undoubtedly; resulting from the inability of human reason, in its ordinary operations, to reconcile the apparent dealings of God with the goodness and justice of his character. But faith, in the severe inward conflict to which he was subjected, prevailed against reason; and he was enabled to say, “The Lord gave; and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 14.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Faith Repels Contrary Suggestions

Faith implies the previous existence, in a greater or less degree, of perception and human reasoning. And such being the circumstances of its origin, it may properly be regarded as a principle or state of mind, entirely suitable to a reflecting and rational nature. But it ought to be remarked further, that, when faith, for its appropriate and adequate reasons, has attached itself to its appropriate objects, it does not allow itself to be driven from its position by any adverse suggestions, even when such suggestions are sustained by the imposing authority of thought and of deduction. This is particularly true of religious faith.

We illustrate the subject thus. We believe in God. That is to say, we believe in the fact of his existence. What we perceive, and what we feel, and what reason teaches us, leaves no doubt, that God is. To God, considered as an object of belief, faith attaches itself with the greatest firmness. Once having taken its position, it remains unchanged; in other words, it is, and it continues to be a fixed and controlling principle of the mind, notwithstanding reason may suggest many doubts as to the mode of his existence and the manner of his operation.

And in connection with this general view, I think we may lay down the principle, that the stronger our faith is, the less we are likely to be perplexed by such reasonings as have been indicated. We may suppose, in illustration of what has now been said, a case of this kind. A person, who has full faith in God, is afflicted by some great calamity. Reason is ready to inquire, why it is so, or suggest many doubts as to its justice. But strong faith, having its source in appropriate and adequate grounds of origin, and resting in the general idea of God’s truth and justice and goodness, repels all such suggestions at once; and maintains the soul in quietness and Christian strength.

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 14.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Faith in God's Promises

As Christians, we believe in the Bible; as believers in the Bible, we believe in the God of the Bible; as believers in the God of the Bible, we not only believe in all it affirms of God’s character, but in all it affirms of God’s promises. God, in connection with the great Atonement accomplished in the person and sufferings of his Son, an event in his moral administration, which authorized him to speak mercifully as well as truly and wisely, has at last spoken to men in terms of consolation and support which he could not otherwise have employed; and his word is unchangeable as its author. Here is a basis of faith, broad, ample, unalterable, meeting in its utmost extent all the multiplied exigencies of our nature. Hence the declaration of the Apostle Paul, who fully and freely acknowledged the conscience and the light of heathenism, such as it is, that the Jews had greatly the advantage over the heathen; “chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” It is the God of the Bible, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of the promises, the God who has declared that he will be all and every thing to man on the mere condition of being believed in, that furnishes the strong ground of the Christian’s belief, in distinction from, and above every other ground of belief. In condescension to our weakness, he goes into particulars; he illustrates by his statements man’s situation and trials, so that man can the better understand them himself; and by a multitude of specific declarations, beautiful in the expression as they are desirable and effective in their application, takes upon himself the responsibility of giving wisdom in every emergency, and of sustaining in the discharge of every duty.

It is one of the great offices of faith to lay hold of the Promises; and to apply them promptly and effectively on the occasions, in which they were intended to apply. Many an hour of grief has been consoled; many a purpose of renovated life and action has been confirmed; many a temptation has been resisted and overthrown; many a struggling hope of possessing a sanctified heart has been established by faith acting on the promises.

How strong are the arguments, (says Mr. Romaine in his interesting Treatise on the Life of Faith,)
to persuade the heirs of promise, to put their whole trust and confidence, in the faithfulness of their God! who, having provided an infinitely glorious and everlasting inheritance for them, was willing to make it over to them in the strongest manner of conveyance; and, therefore, he has given them the promise and the oath of God, which cannot possibly change or alter, that their faith might never doubt or waver, and their hope might at all times be sure and steadfast. And until he bring them to the inheritance itself, he has given them many sweet and blessed promises of all things needful for their temporal and spiritual estate, upon which he would have them not only to live comfortably at present, but also to receive them as part of the inheritance allowed them for their maintenance, till they come to age, and enter upon the possession of the whole. And what God intended in his promise and oath, has its effects in a good degree among those who have the word of God abiding in them. They cast their anchor where he commands them, and they are not only safe, but also in time of the greatest troubles and temptations, have strong consolation. When enemies come, corruptions arise and difficulties are in the way; they have a promise, and a promise-keeping God to depend upon. Whatever straights they are in, the word abiding in them brings some promise of support and deliverance: the promise shows what God has engaged to do, and faith receives the fulfilling of his engagements. When they draw nigh to God in duties in ordinances, they know what he has promised to them that wait upon him, and they judge him faithful who hath promised; and lo, he is present with them. In short, while they live like themselves, as the heirs of promise, they are preserved from all evil, and want no manner of thing that is good. This is their happy case, thrice happy, because the means used to deprive them of their happiness, are overruled of God for the establishing it. The enemy rages against them, but in vain.

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 13.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Heathen Faith in God

For my own part I find it difficult, not to yield a degree of respect to the humble and sincere faith even of a heathen; limited, as it probably is in almost all cases, to God, considered as the God of nature only. I recollect to have read in the Life of David Brainerd an interesting account of a poor Indian, with whom he had become acquainted in the American wilderness, who seems to have had such a faith.

The account, which this man gave of himself to Brainerd, who was then a missionary among the Indians residing near the Forks of the Delaware, was to this effect, and nearly in these words. He had formerly been like the rest of his heathen brethren; that is to say, he had been in the same unbelief and the same sins, until about four or five years before. At that time becoming very much distressed at what he had witnessed in himself and in others, he sought a retired and solitary place in the woods, and lived there entirely alone for a number of months. Having confidence neither in himself nor in his fellow-men, he could look no where in his sorrows but to that great Spirit, of whom he had a rude and imperfect conception as the God of nature, as a God shining in the stars and speaking in the winds. At length, he said, God comforted his heart, and showed him what he should do; and since that time he had known God, and had tried to serve him; and he now loved all men, of whatever nation or people they might be, as he had never done before. He built a small house, which Brainerd speaks of having visited; and having adorned it with various images cut upon the several parts, he consecrated it to religious uses, and was in the habit of performing his devotional and religious acts in it. Brainerd says, that he was treated by this person with uncommon courtesy; and that he seemed to be entirely hearty and sincere in his manifestations of kindness. He speaks of him as being a devout and zealous reformer; and adds, that he was told by the Indians, that he opposed their drinking strong liquor with all his power; and that, if at any time he could not dissuade them from it by all he could say, he would leave them and go crying into the woods. He represents him as being apparently sincere, honest, and conscientious in his own way, and according to his own religious notions. He further remarks, that he was looked upon and derided among most of the Indians as a precise zealot, who made a needless noise about religious matters; “but I must say,” he adds, “that there was something in his temper and disposition, which looked more like true religion than any thing I ever observed among other heathens.”

The faith of this poor Indian existed under the most unfavorable circumstances, but it gave him power; power over himself; power against threatening vices among his own people; power, in solitary places, with no companions but the wild woods and waters, to hold communion, after the imperfect manner of heathenism, with the Great Spirit, who is the Father both of the Christian and the Gentile. Of the origin of the faith of this Indian reformer, of its relation to the Atonement, of its ultimate effects upon his own character and happiness, we do not now undertake to speak. These are subjects, which require much discretion and piety rightly to solve them; and perhaps they are most wisely and safely left with him, who, as the common Father of all men, has the final destiny of all men in his hands. But we cannot help saying with great confidence, that it can be no discredit to a person, however advanced he may be in civilization and human culture, to regard such faith, whatever may be the amount of its supposed or its acknowledged imperfections, with a degree of sympathy and respect.

Among nations, both ancient and modern, that with more or less of civilization have not been visited and blessed with the lights of Christianity, we discover other instances illustrative of the same general views. Persons have been found of high intellectual endowments and attainments, to whom human literature and honors could furnish no true solace of soul; especially in seasons of disappointment and adversity. They have felt, and felt deeply too, that nothing human could be a substitute for the divine; that faith in humanity, whatever value might attach to it, could never supply the place of faith in the Supreme Power. And those among them, who have had the courage and wisdom to look to that higher Power with what light they had, feeble though it might be, have never failed to find increased light and increased strength of purpose. I think it would be difficult to read the life and death of Socrates, illustrated as they are by the sublime commentary of his religious sentiments, without a strong conviction, that God does not desert those, who have faith in him, even according to the dim light of nature. Numa, the religious legislator and the priest of the people over whom he presided as King, was a wiser, a juster, and better man for his faith. Camillus, the distinguished leader and commander of the Romans, the preserver of the city and the state which Numa had endeavored to establish in religious sentiments, “diligentissimus religionum cultor,” as he is described by the historians of his country, was a man of juster views and greater foresight, a man of greater energy and endurance, for his religious belief, for his confidence in the presiding Power of the universe, perplexed and imperfect as it undoubtedly was.

We repeat, therefore, it is no discredit and no error, to say, that we ought to respect the faith even of a heathen, especially when it has God for its object. Perhaps we may go further and say, that such faith, whenever and wherever found, has something in it, something in its own intrinsic nature, which may be said, not merely to deserve, but to command respect.

But if faith attaches value and honor to the character even of a heathen, to the Socrates of Athens, and to him, who, in his rude American hut, had the faith and the warning voice of Socrates without his knowledge and his moral and philosophical eloquence, then what limits shall we, or can we set to its value and to its renovating Power, when it rests upon the basis of God’s word added to the basis of nature! If God gives great strength to those few and scattered ones, even among the heathen, who are enabled to believe strongly in himself, how much greater resources, and how much greater strength must those have, who have faith in God, not only as the God of nature and of providence, but as the God of the Bible; who reveals himself not dimly as in the light of heathenism, but clearly in the light of revealed truth; not merely in the terrible attribute of his justice, but in justice mingled with and chastened by mercy; with his wonderful announcement of the way of salvation through the Atonement, and with all his gracious Promises applicable to every situation.

 — The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 13.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Faith Has Various Objects

Faith, in itself considered, is a very simple principle; but it possesses this peculiarity, a peculiarity which explains in part the great extent of its influence, that, on different occasions and under different circumstances, it may attach itself to any and every object; and consequently the sphere of its operations is very wide, perhaps we may say, as wide as the universe itself. And then there is this remark further to be made, that of all the various objects in this wide and unlimited sphere, it may make its selection, if we may so speak; that is to say, it may believe in many of them, or it may believe in a smaller number of them, or it may believe only in one of them; and it may also believe in that one, considered in one of its aspects and relations only, or as considered in many.

In religion, faith attaches itself to God as the primary object of belief. A belief in God, such a belief as issues in the soul’s renovation and salvation, involves undoubtedly the fact of other objects and other exercises of belief. It involves a belief in the mission of Jesus Christ. It involves a belief in the mission and operations of the Holy Ghost. God, nevertheless, is the primary object; the object to which all other belief tends, and in which it ultimately centers. But men may believe in God, in accordance with the remark just now made, considered in a part of his attributes and relations, or in the whole. They may believe in him, for instance, as the God merely of the natural creation; or they may believe in him as the God of events, the God of providence as well as of nature; or they may believe in him as the God of the Bible also.

The Life of Faith, (1852) Part 1, Chapter 13.