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



CHAPTER TWENTY FIRST.


ON THE RELATION OF FAITH TO THE FREEDOM AND ENLARGEMENT OF THE SOUL.


Remarks on the fact of spiritual enlargement. Illustration of the statement from Madame Guyon. Of the nature of spiritual enlargement. Extract from Fenelon. Enlargement of spirit has its origin in faith.

“HE brought me forth into a LARGE PLACE,” says the Psalmist, 18:18; “he delivered me, because he delighted in me.” It is not uncommon to hear very devoted Christians speak of being in a “large place;” of experiencing, at a particular time, a delightful freedom and enlargement of soul. And there is some reason for supposing, that every one, in the progress of his religious history, will at length find a cord broken; (perhaps it may be in the triumphs of that victorious grace to which it would be presumption in man to set limits, “the last cord that bound him,”) which will be followed by a consciousness of enlarged, expansive freedom, unknown before.

2.—Thus Madame Guyon, after having experienced severe inward trials, gives an account of her deliverance, and her subsequent state, in the following terms. “After I had come out of the trying condition I have spoken of, I found it had purified my soul, instead of blackening it, as I had feared. I possessed God after a manner so pure and so IMMENSE, as nothing else could equal. In regard to thoughts or desires, all was so clean, so naked, so lost in the divinity, that the soul
appeared to have no selfish movement, however plausible or delicate; both the powers of the mind, and the very senses being wonderfully purified. Sometimes I was surprised to find that I was destitute, so far as I could perceive, of any intellectual action. Every thing was calm and quiet within me. The imagination, formerly so restless, now no more troubled me. I had no more perplexity or uneasy reflections. The will, being perfectly dead to all its own tendencies, was become void of every human inclination, both natural and spiritual, and only inclined of God to whatever he pleased, and in whatever manner he pleased. [That is to say, she could not of herself desire any natural gift or even any specific spiritual gift or exercise, independently of the will of God. The limitations of self seemed to be demolished; and the soul went cheerfully out into the unbounded freeness of God’s will.] This vastitude or enlargedness, which appears to be without limits, and is not bounded by any thing, increases every day; so that my soul, in partaking of the qualities of her Spouse, seems also to partake of his immensity.”—“I believe,” she adds, “God was pleased to bless me with this experience at the beginning of the new life, to make me comprehend, in favor of other souls, this passage of the soul into God.”

3.—We would remark here, that the enlargement of which we are speaking does not appear to be originally so much an intellectual enlargement, as a liberty and enlargement of the heart, of the affections. Whatever there is of intellectual enlargement, is founded upon an enlargement of the religious affections. The heart expanding expands the whole. The period, at which we experience that special and unlimited enlargement of soul, to which we especially refer, is when we fully cease from self; in other words, when we cease from desires; that is to say, from all natural desires which remain unsanctified, and which are of course selfish desires. All such desires, as they run in a particular direction, and are restricted by their appropriate laws, necessarily impose a limit upon the soul’s action. They contract the soul to the limits of mere selfish humanity, which sees but a little distance, and is shut up within the sphere of its own objects. And if we permit ourselves to be governed by such desires, as unsanctified men generally do, the soul of course is restricted and shackled by the law of their action; and although we often imagine ourselves to be possessed of great freedom at such times, yet in truth the soul cannot expand itself beyond the boundaries which they have set. Just so far as it is under the government of the natural desires, in distinction from the will of God, it feels itself to be a slave; and just so far it really is so.

4.—We proceed to say, further, that there may be an abandonment of the self-interested and unsanctified desires in part, and this will be followed by partial emancipation and partial enlargement. But it is not till the last desire is surrendered, it is not till the last link of the chain is broken, that the emancipation becomes perfect, and the enlargement immense. And this result connects itself with the fact, that the soul, although it may abandon and ought to abandon its own desires, cannot live without desires of some kind. In yielding therefore its own desires, which involves the yielding of its own aims and purposes, it assumes another life, “the life of God.” Its desires, therefore, after the change which has been mentioned, are God’s desires; its purposes God’s purposes; its will God’s will. Such a soul cannot remain contracted and shut up in narrow limits. He, who becomes nothing by making the surrender of his own desires, and in so doing assumes, upon this basis of personal nothingness, the divine nature, necessarily experiences something of the divine enlargedness and immensity. He goes forth at once into a “large place.” He can say with the Psalmist, “Thou hast broken my bonds; I will offer thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Truly regenerated soul! In ceasing to grasp at self, he gains God. God himself is his; and all that God has is his. He looks upon the wide universe, and calls it his own; because, in having nothing of his own, he has every thing which is God’s.

5.—Every thing becomes free, expansive, and immense, because every thing is seen in the immensity of the divine relation. That, which is smallest, assumes a new importance, because God is seen to be present in it. Considered in the merely human relation, it diminishes and becomes nothing; but, considered in the divine relation, it assumes a vastness proportioned to the new aspect in which it appears. The finite is magnified by being made to take hold of the infinite. Time is merged in eternity, and thus assumes something of the expansion of eternity. And God, manifested in Christ, is the sum, the substance, and the glory of all. He, who has experienced this inward enlargement, by the loss of himself in God, knows in a new sense, and after a new manner, the meaning of the Apostle, when he says to the Corinthian brethren, “Therefore let no man glory in men, for all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

6.—The following prayer, written by Fenelon, seems to have been dictated by that state of enlarged confidence in God, which is described in the foregoing remarks.—“O Lord! I know not what I should ask of thee. Thou only knowest what I want; and thou lovest me, if I am thy friend, better than I can love myself. O Lord! Give to me, thy child, what is proper, whatsoever it may be. I dare not ask either crosses or comforts. I only present myself before thee. I open my heart to thee. Behold my wants, which I am ignorant of; but do thou behold, and do according to thy mercy. Smite or heal! Depress me or raise me up!
I adore all thy purposes without knowing them. I am silent. I offer myself in sacrifice. I abandon myself to thee. I have no more any desire but to accomplish thy will. Lord, teach me to pray. I pray thee, dwell thou thyself in me by thy Holy Spirit!”

7.—We proceed now to say, that the liberty and enlargement of spirit of which we have attempted to give some account, takes place the moment that we
cease to doubt. Looking at the subject in another point of view, we have had occasion to remark, that it takes place when the last desire, that is to say, when the last natural or unsanctified desire, is broken. And this also is true. It is desire, which forms the link and the chain of bondage; and the liberation cannot take place till the bondage ceases. But what breaks the link? What sunders the chain? What extinguishes the mere human and unsanctified desire? It is FAITH. Not faith, it is true, in the ordinary sense of the term; not that imperfect and weak faith, which is characteristic of many minds in the beginning of the Christian life; but still it is faith. And this is so obvious, that it seems hardly to require remark. It is as certain as the law of gravitation, as certain as the relations of numbers, as certain as any thing the opposite of which is a contradiction in terms, that full faith in God, that faith which excludes doubt, will break down and extinguish the desire of any thing and every thing, which is not in accordance with God’s will.

8.—When we arrive at full faith, therefore, at that state of mind which our pious ancestors termed, in accordance with scripture phraseology, ASSURANCE OF FAITH, and not till then, the soul enters upon the state of broad and full emancipation; knowing all things by being willing to be ignorant of all things; enjoying all things by renouncing every thing; and by rejecting the contracted and contracting desires of the creature, enlarging itself, so far as our present capacity will permit, into the infinity of God’s desires.