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PART III. ON THE RELATION OF FAITH TO THE DIVINE GUIDANCE, OR THE OPERATION OF THE HOLY GHOST IN THE SOUL.


CHAPTER FIRST.


“THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU.”


Remarks on the inward or spiritual kingdom. Illustrations of the subject from St. Augustine, from Fenelon, and Madame Guyon. God, in a certain sense, present in the soul of every moral being. Especially present with those, who are willing to receive him into their hearts. Not to be sought as a God afar off.

“And he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come. He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, Lo, there! for, behold, THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU.” Luke 17:19, 20. The words, which close this interesting passage of scripture, viz., THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU, have at times particularly arrested our attention. They belong to that class of profound and fruitful expressions, which are not read and forgotten, but which adhere to the memory, and give an impulse to the principle of thought. They probably express some important fact in Christian experience, or some great truth in the religious life, which is worthy of being analyzed.

2.—Thus St. Augustine says, in that remarkable and instructive book, entitled his CONFESSIONS, “I asked the earth of God, and it answered, I AM NOT HE. I asked the sea and the deeps and the living and creeping things, and they replied, WE ARE NOT GOD. I asked the moving air, but the whole air with its inhabitants answered, Anaximenes was deceived, WE ARE NOT GOD. I asked the heavens, the sun, the moon, and the stars; and they gave the same answer, but they added in the silent voice of their moving and beautiful forms, GOD MADE US. Oh Beauty of ancient days, ancient but ever new! Too late I sought thee; too late I found thee.
I sought thee at a distance, and did not know that thou wast near. I sought thee abroad in thy works, and behold, thou wast within me.” [Confessions of St. Augustine, Bk. X. § 6, as compared with § 27.]

3.—And thus Fenelon also, when he had sought God in vain, outwardly and discursively, in the woods and in the stars, in the beauties and sublimities of the visible earth and heaven, and by forming conceptions of Him external to himself, in some beatific but distant locality, at last found Him, where he had long neglected to look for Him, seated on the throne of his own renovated heart. “Thou art, my God,” he exclaims in his remarks on God’s Operation in the Soul, “operating without ceasing in the midst of my heart. Thou workest there invisibly, just as a laborer works in the mines and bowels of the earth. Thou doest every thing, and yet the bulk of men see thee not. They ascribe nothing to Thee. I myself wandered, and strove in vain to find thee at a distance from myself. I tried, by collecting together in my mind all the wonderful works of nature, to frame an idea of thy grandeur. I sought thee among thy creatures; I did not think of finding Thee in my own heart, where Thou art never absent. No, there is no need, my God, to descend into the deep, nor to go over the sea, as say the Holy Scriptures, nor to ascend into heaven, to find thee; for thou art nearer to us than we are to ourselves.”

4.—There are some passages in the life of Madame Guyon which have a relation to this subject. “God permitted a religious man,” she remarks, “who had just come out of a five years’ solitude, to pass by my father’s habitation, and make him a visit. My father, knowing the religious concern I was under, advised me to make my condition known to him, which I had no sooner done, signifying the difficulties I had about prayer, but he presently replied,
‘Tis, madame, because you seek without what you have within. Accustom yourself to seek God in your heart, and there you will find Him.’ When he had spoken these words, he left me; but they were like the stroke of a dart, which pierced my heart asunder. They brought to my heart what I had sought for so many years; or rather they helped me to discover what was there; but for want of knowing it, I had not enjoyed it. O my God, Thou wert in my heart, and requiredest nothing but a turning of my mind inward to Thee, to make me feel thy presence. O infinite Goodness! Thou wert so near, and I ran hither and thither to seek Thee, but found Thee not. My life was a burden, though my Happiness was within me. I was poor in the midst of riches, and starving with hunger near a table spread with dainties, and near a continual feast. O beauty, ancient and new, why did I know Thee so late? Alas! I sought Thee where thou wert not, and did not seek Thee where Thou wert. ‘Twas for want of understanding these words of the gospel, ‘The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, Lo, here! or Lo, there! for, behold, the KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU.’ This I now experienced; for then Thou becamest my King, and my heart was thy kingdom, where thou reignedst as sovereign, and didst what thy will was to have done.”

5.—We are brought by these remarks and illustrations to an interesting and important inquiry. In what sense, then, is it true, that God is so really and truly present in the hearts or minds of men, as to render it proper to seek Him there, rather than to seek Him as existent outwardly, and at a distance?

God may be regarded as present within us, in the first place, because all our mental powers, both in their intrinsic nature and in the acts or exercises which they put forth, are evidently sustained by the divine agency inwardly exerted. We do not mean by this remark to exclude or to question the doctrine of man’s personal agency or responsibility. Undoubtedly man possesses, in himself, a delegated power of life and action; a power of life and of action, without which he could not properly be accounted a man; but it is equally true, that he does not possess this power, be it more or less, in any such sense as to exclude the presence, agency, and power of God. It seems to me that God is, and ever must be, most intimately present to all his works. They cannot exist without him. His absence is necessarily synonymous with their annihilation. From the nature of the case, he is, and must be,
physically, if not morally and responsibly, the support, the basis, and the continuance of their action. In this sense God is present even in the heart or mind of impenitent sinners. He is as truly present, though not in an equal degree, in the mind of the sinner, as in the mind of the saint. The rebellious transgressor looks upward, and hurls his reproaches against God, as if he were in some distant locality, and little does he appear to be aware of what is nevertheless an interesting and solemn truth, that the blessed Being, who is the subject of his insane hostility, is intimately united to the very recesses of his own soul; giving vigor to the intellect that denounces, and sustaining the very heart that hates him.

6.—Again, He is not only present in the minds of impenitent sinners, to sustain physically the internal powers and their action, but as the eternal Word or Teacher, the source of all wisdom and truth, he inwardly instructs, advises, and admonishes. Operating by divine influences, through the legitimate and appropriate organs of the REASON and the CONSCIENCE, he becomes an inward voice in the soul. He continually speaks; but, alas, he is not known nor heard. The precious intimations of the “still small voice” are lost in the tumult and noise of the unholy passions. He is present, but without being recognized. He loves, but without being loved in return. But still he is there; intimately present to the soul; however depraved it may be, however rebellious and blind. And in the sense of an ever present sustainer of its powers, and as an inward voice, speaking in the reason and in the conscience, either for its weal or its woe, for its comfort or its reprobation, he will be there for ever.

7.—But we must stop here. It cannot safely be said that he is present in the HEART of the impenitent sinner, in distinction from the reason and the conscience, except in the
physical sense. God may occupy the intellect and the conscience in an especial manner, and yet be excluded from the heart. But if, in relation to the heart or rather in relation to the affections, he is not present within, he is present at the door, seeking patiently for admission. “His head is wet with the dew, and his locks with the drops of the night.” His language is, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” And as soon as men open the door, by removing the strong and indurated bolt of their worldly affections, he comes quicker than his own lightnings, and claims his seat of dominion in the inner soul. It is done so quickly that there is no longer an opportunity to look for him abroad. There he is, rejoicing in his recovered position; forgetting and forgiving all the injury and guilt of his exclusion; purifying and beautifying the mansion, which had been stained with the world’s dark sin, and rent with its stormy sorrow.

8.—In connection with these views, we suggest, as a practical inference, that in seeking God, we are not to seek him as a
God afar off. It is his nature to unite himself with all moral beings, where there is not a positive exclusion. He keeps near us, therefore, even in our rebellion. If it should ever be our happiness to know him in that spiritual unity in which his people are made one with him, we shall find him and know him within, and nowhere else. Think not, then, of the spiritual kingdom, at least so far as it has an existence in the present life as an outward locality. Attach no value to the New Jerusalem, as consisting merely or chiefly of burnished walls and golden pavements, and adorned as a bride for her husband. It has a beauty unseen, far above that which is visible. “The kingdom of God is within you.” In your souls, if any where in the present state of being, the New Jerusalem shall be set up. There flows the true river of life; there the tabernacle of God is erected. It hath need neither of the sun nor of the moon, for “the Lamb is the light thereof.” “And in it there shall in no wise enter any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie.”

But the question still remains, what is the power, which sets up this hidden kingdom? What mighty influence is it, which breaks the bars and bolts of a selfish heart, and admits the rightful occupant? Whatever may be said of human effort or human instrumentality, it is a thing which never can be done without faith. “Have faith in God;” that degree of faith which is appropriate to so great an object, and the work will not fail to be accomplished. Faith makes those things near, which would otherwise be distant. Faith, building upon nothing, erects a spiritual kingdom, where there was nothing good, nothing righteous before. “The righteousness which is of
faith, says the Apostle Paul, “speaketh on this wise, Say not in thy heart, who shall ascend into heaven? (That is, to bring Christ down from above.) Or, who shall descend into the deep? That is, to bring Christ again from the dead. But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart.” [Romans 10:6, 7, 8.] “Faith,” says another passage of the Scriptures, “is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” That is to say, it makes that inwardly perceptible which is outwardly invisible; it makes that real which without it would have no existence; and builds up a pure and beautiful kingdom in the heart, which without its purifying influence would be an utter desolation, a wide and blackened ruin.