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PART II. THE POWER OR EFFECTS OF FAITH IN THE REGULATION OF MAN’S INWARD NATURE.



CHAPTER TWELFTH.


ON THE RELATION OF FAITH TO INWARD CRUCIFIXION.


Of the crucifixion of the inward nature. Importance of the subject. Reference to the Mystics. Of the suffering involved in inward crucifixion. Statements illustrative of inward crucifixion. Extract from Tauler. Inward crucifixion implies the destruction of undue self-confidence, of inordinate self-seeking, and of all desire and love of every thing, which is not embraced in God and God’s will. On daily crosses. Inward crucifixion the result of strong faith.

A SOUL, right with God, is a soul crucified. A soul right with God, is a soul, which, in having undergone a painful death to every worldly tie, is a soul, which may be described, in the figurative sense, as being nailed to the cross. The crucifixion of the outward life, by a separation from outward error, and by doing right outwardly, is of far less consequence, in itself considered, and far less painful than the crucifixion of the inward life by doing and being right inwardly.

2.—The subject of inward crucifixion is one of no small interest and importance. It is a subject, which very seldom fails to receive a due share of notice in those devout writers, who have endeavored to analyze and explain Christian experience. In some writers, especially that remarkable class who are usually denominated the Mystics, and are so denominated, more than for any other reason, in consequence of their insisting so much on a new spiritual life in distinction from the old sensual life, it is a theme of especial interest and remark. Some of these writers, particularly Tauler, John of the Cross, Canfield, Catharine of Genoa, and Madame Guyon, denounce the natural life, the Old Adam, as they sometimes denominate man’s fallen nature, with an unsparing, unmitigated eloquence, which, as it seems to us, finds no parallel except in the solemn and overwhelming denunciations of the Scriptures. They attack it with the weapons of argument also, and with a keen and hostile inspection, as well as with denunciation. They pursue it into its hidden places. They detect it under its hidden disguises. They reject all its excuses, all its flattering speeches, all its insinuating applications for a little forbearance, a little lenity. They are not satisfied, because they think and know, that God is not satisfied, until they see it dying and dead on the Cross. “If any man,” says the Savior, “will come after me, let him deny himself, and
take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23. The Apostle Paul says, referring to the trials he was called to endure, “I die daily.”

3.—The term crucifixion implies
suffering. The crucifixion of our inward nature cannot take place without the experience of suffering. The suffering, which we experience, is mental, and is analogous to that, which we experience at any and all times, when our desires are crossed and disappointed. It is the pain or suffering of ceasing to be what we have been by nature, and what by nature we have loved to be. A desire, a love, a passion, disappointed of its object, is always a sufferer. Such is the natural law in the case. And the intensity of the pain will be in proportion to the intensity of the passion. If we loved the world with but little strength, if we were bound to it but by slight adhesion, the process, which sunders this attachment, and disappoints this love, would give but slight pain. But bound as we are in fact with a tie which reaches forth from the heart to its object with the first moment of life, and which grows stronger and stronger with every pulsation, until it embodies, if we may so express it, the whole strength of the soul, the pain of separation, which corresponds to the strength of the previous attachment, is keen and intense indeed. The suffering of a parent, who sees all his attachments and hopes expiring in the death of a beloved child, are not keener. Hence in experiencing the new inward life, we are said to be crucified to that which went before; not only because we die to it, but because in dying to it we suffer.

4.—But the pain of inward crucifixion, although it is probably the circumstance which in part has given origin to the name, is a different thing from the crucifixion itself. What, then, is it to be inwardly crucified? To be inwardly crucified is to be dead to every desire, whatever it may be, which has not the divine sanction; to be dead to every appetite and every affection, which is not in accordance with the divine law; to have no desire, no purpose, no aim but such as comes by divine inspiration or is attended with the divine approbation. To be inwardly crucified, is to cease to love Mammon in order that we may love God, to have no eye for the world’s possessions, no ear for the world’s applause, no tongue for the world’s envious or useless conversation, no terror for the world’s opposition. To be inwardly crucified is to be, among the things of this world, “a pilgrim and a stranger”; separate from what is evil, sympathizing with what is good, but never with idolatrous attachment; seeing God in all things and all things in God; having God for our friend and heaven for our country. To be inwardly crucified, in the language of Tauler, “is to cease entirely from the life of self, to abandon equally what we see and what we possess, our power, our knowledge, and our affections; so that the soul in regard to any action originating in itself is without life, without action, and without power, and receives its life, its action, and its power from God alone.” [Choix d’Ouvrages Mystiques, Institutions de Frere Jean Tauler. Ch. 12.]

5.—We have already, without referring to the subject by name, in part explained what is to be understood by inward crucifixion in the remarks, which have been made upon the suppression of the inordinate exercises of the appetites and affections. Such appetites and affections, without being extinguished, are reduced to their true position; and are no longer the recipients of any life or any law but what conies from God. But this is not all; nor is it a principal part of what is implied in it. The process of inward crucifixion destroys and removes many other evils, to which our nature is exposed. Without going into a full detail of them, we may be allowed to say, among other things that it implies the destruction and removal of that feeling of SELF-CONFIDENCE, which is so natural to the heart that is not fully the Lord’s. Least of all things does the man, who has undergone the process of inward crucifixion, place a high estimate, a self-confident estimate, on his own strength, his own perseverance, his own wisdom. Every feeling of that kind, which once characterized his proud nature, has passed away. So much so, that, so far from cherishing them, even the recollection of them is painful.

6.—The truly crucified man, like the truly humble man, does not desire great or eminent things for himself; but deeply sensible of his unworthiness and dependence, it is entirely natural to him, in his new state of feeling, to seek, and to take the lowest place. In other words, as one of the results of his being crucified with Christ, he is dead to the perception and the pursuit of worldly honors. If, however, God should see fit, in his providence, to call him to a conspicuous and important station in the world, as he did anciently some of his pious servants, the fact of inward crucifixion would leave him no choice but the divine choice, no will but the divine will. He is entirely acquiescent, and not only acquiescent but rejoices alike in what God gives, and in what he takes away; because he esteems all things which he has, whether it be more or less, whether it be regarded by the world as honor or dishonor, in the light of a gift from God, and looks upon it as valuable only as it is subservient to God’s glory.

7.—It is implied in what has just been said, that the inwardly crucified man is not troubled and disquieted at those unavoidable imperfections which exist in his own person and mind. It is very true, that he sometimes mourns over them, as the indications and the sad results of our fallen condition, but so far as they cannot be corrected, so far as they are really unavoidable, he submits to them, however painful they may be, as facts and incidents in his condition and being, which originate in the wise dispensations of an unsearchable Providence. It is true, he is thus cut off from many ways or forms of usefulness; but, though afflicted, he does not allow himself to be disquieted. He is aided in thus maintaining himself in interior rest, by the important consideration that God, when he sends intellectual or bodily imperfections and weaknesses, and thus renders a person apparently useless, can avail himself of other instrumentalities and operate in other ways.

8.—The inwardly crucified man receives with entire acquiescence and peace of spirit all adverse occurrences of whatever nature, the misrepresentations and rebukes of his fellow-men, the various injuries of body and estate, the disappointments of broken friendship and violated faith, the natural and unavoidable disruptions of social and family ties, and whatever other forms of human affliction exist. Whatever comes upon him, he feels that he deserves it. He opens not his mouth, except to praise the hand that is laid upon him. Satan, it is true, avails himself of the trials of his situation, and tempts him to evil thoughts; but he is enabled with divine assistance to resist them and to triumph over them. It seems to him a light thing to suffer any thing which God sees fit to impose. It is true, that the trials which he endures sometimes occasion sorrow and even deep sorrow; but it is a sorrow which is consistent with reconciliation to his lot and even happiness; a sorrow without repining, grief without bitterness.

9.—Again, those, who are the subjects of inward crucifixion, do not seek, and do not value inward consolations in themselves considered. “It is written,” says the Savior,
“man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Consolation is the attendant of religion, but it is not religion itself. Religion, in its highest sense, implies an entire union with the will of God. The true food of our souls is God’s commandment, which is only another name for God’s will. A desire of any thing, and complacency in any thing, which does not place God’s will first, is infidelity to God’s claims. Holy joy is not a thing, which comes by volition; but by a necessary law. If our hearts are right with God, such joy will always come in its appropriate place; not because it is called or willed, but because it cannot help coming. It is a thing which flows from holiness as from its natural fountain. The truly crucified man, therefore, is right in seeking the fountain first. Holiness is something which must be desired and sought for itself; something, which must stand, independently of its pleasant results, first in the mind’s eye, first in the heart’s affections.

10.—But perhaps the most decisive mark of the truly crucified man is, that he is crucified even to holiness itself. That is to say, he desires God only, seeks God only, is satisfied and can be satisfied with God only, in distinction from those truly spiritual gifts or graces, which God by his Holy Spirit imparts to the soul. The truly devout man, for instance, exercises penitence, submission, gratitude, forgiveness, and other Christian graces on their appropriate occasions; and he has great reason to be thankful to God that he is enabled to do it. But if in some moment of inward forgetfulness, of religious “irrecollection,” if we may so term it, he turns the thoughts and the interests of his heart from God to the graces which God gives, and begins to take complacency in his religious exercises, and to be happy in his holiness and to love his holiness, instead of a fixed and exclusive love for the Author of his holiness, I think we may confidently say, he is no longer a man dead to self, no longer in the proper sense of the terms a man inwardly crucified. “The purer our gifts are,” says Fenelon, “the more jealous God is of our appropriating or directing them to ourselves. The most eminent graces are the most deadly poisons, if we rest in them and regard them with complacency. It is the sin of the fallen angels. They only turned to themselves, and regarded their state with complacency. At that instant they fell from heaven, and became the enemies of God.”

11.—Inward crucifixion, when considered in particular instances, is the same thing as taking up the Cross; and if the Scriptures require us to
take up the Cross daily, as every reader of the Bible knows that they do, then inward crucifixion becomes our DAILY BREAD. I think it may be said with entire truth, (indeed the scripture command implies it,) that not a day passes, which does not furnish occasion for the fulfillment of the scripture requisition. Crosses, planted by the hand of a wise providence, meet us at every step. And we are not at liberty to avoid them. We cannot avoid them without turning aside from God himself. And accordingly, in the spirit of a heart crucified, we must always stoop to the burden, which they impose upon us and must take them on our shoulders, and must bear them as humbly, as willingly, and as rejoicingly as Christ bore his. And happy is the soul, that knows from his own inward experience, that a sanctified Cross is a storehouse of spiritual blessings.

12.—Inward crucifixion, when carried, as it always ought to be, to its full extent, is the result of strong faith. It is hardly necessary to make remarks in support of this proposition. Who would relinquish the world, with the attractions the world holds out, be they more or less, if he had not faith in something better than the world? Who, that is destitute of faith, can find in himself or elsewhere the power which is requisite to keep the various propensities and passions in their place, and in their right action moment by moment? Where will the man, that is without faith, find resources to sustain himself, against the trial of heavy temptations, without a fear or a murmur arising from the workings of a selfish nature? Who can walk in God’s way and will, deprived by his special providence of all inward consolations, without faith? How can a man have his soul so fixed upon God as not to look with a self-interested complacency even on his spiritual gifts and graces, without the supports of a strong faith? We need not delay upon this matter. It is exceedingly obvious, we think, and the concession is confirmed by the experience and testimony of all devout Christians, that without faith the results, which are involved in inward crucifixion, cannot be realized.