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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 NINTH.


ON THE RELATION OF FAITH TO THE PRAYER OF RECOLLECTION.


Of the different names given to the state of mind under consideration. Of the value of the prayer of recollection. One result of this prayer is, that it makes God” always present to the mind, as the central principle. Another is. that, in the exercise of strong faith, it recognizes in God a central position and a controlling influence in all events. Limited, in a great degree, to objects and events now present. Some of the results of this form of prayer. Its relation to the influences of the Holy Spirit. Characterized by outward silence.

AMONG the various forms of religious experience, there is a state of mind, which is variously described, sometimes as the state of Recollection, sometimes as the state of Inward Recollection, and which, as it seems to us, may otherwise be properly designated as the Prayer of Recollection. Certain it is, that it would not be difficult to find good authority for this form of expression in religious writers.

2.—Of the value of the prayer of RECOLLECTION, as one of the incidents and securities of growth in religion, we do not now propose particularly to speak. It does not appear to be necessary. In reading the lives of truly devoted and holy men in different ages of the world, we often find the remark made, that they were
recollected. And the remark is made in such a way as to imply, that the writer regarded the state of inward or religious recollection as incidental to the highest religious experience. It is exceedingly obvious, we think, without attempting to sustain the assertion by any extended remarks, that it is not possible for a person to devote himself to God in the highest sense of the terms, and to continue in intimate and holy communion with him for any length of time, without being in a religiously recollected state.

3.—One element of the prayer of recollection, one thing which helps to constitute its nature, is, that God is always mentally present to the mind in such a state. To be recollected, in the religious sense of the terms, is not merely by recalling the past, to exercise an act of remembrance; is not merely, as some might naturally suppose, to remember or to recollect in the sense, which mental philosophy commonly attaches to those expressions. It is something different from this; and in some respects nearly the opposite. It is to have the soul
collected in itself. It is to restrain it from its earthly wanderings; to give it power against inordinate and wrong attractions; and to consolidate it around some centre. And that centre, it is hardly necessary to say, is God. So that to be recollected, in the religious sense of the terms, necessarily implies, in the first place and especially, a mental recognition of God’s presence. That is to say, the thoughts and feelings, instead of being divergent in every direction, running “like the eyes of the fool to the ends of the earth,” are drawn in from the circumference, are collected, and all have reference to the central presence and the central influence.

4.—The principle, which has the wonderful power of thus restoring the soul to its true position, and of placing God in the centre, is Faith. It is the principle of faith, considered in its relation to the limited capacity of the human mind, which reveals the fact of the divine existence. That is to say, God, who is
infinite, never can be made known to the human mind, which is finite, by a positive act of cognition: and consequently can never be made known independently of an act of faith. And the same principle or power, which reveals God to the soul in the first instance, must keep him present to the soul in all time to come. It is by faith that he comes, and by faith that he is retained. Faith, whose influence in our religious nature, is every where felt, has the power to do this; and no other principle, so far as we can perceive, independently of faith, either has it, or can have it. It is to those who believe and those only, that God is, and that he is always present as the central principle, around which the soul’s thoughts and affections should congregate, and to which they are every moment responsible.

5.—In the prayer of Recollection, God is not only present as the central object in relation to our own thoughts and our own mental action; but another element of this prayer is, that God
is made present by it in every event which takes place around us. This is a truth, namely, that God is the central element in events, which is not more easy to be received than that of the presence of God as the central element to the soul and the soul’s thoughts and affections. I think we may say confidently, it is a truth which is never received, where there is not a high degree of faith. If God is not, in the immediate and absolute sense, the originator of all acts and all events, I suppose, it will generally be admitted, that he is in some sense present to all events, that he exercises over them a degree of control and direction, and that every thing, which takes place, exists either by his aid or by his permission. We are told, that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without God; and that the hairs of our heads are numbered. [Matt. 10:29, 30.] God is present in all things. Such is the fact; a fact often rejected by the imperfection of human wisdom; but always received by those, whose wisdom is from above. So that he, who exercises the prayer of recollection, is sustained in it by a faith, which first places God in the midst of his own thoughts and affections; and then doubly encloses and shields itself with the divine presence by placing God in the centre of each event and of all events, which throng around it.

6.—Another remark proper to be made is, that the prayer of Recollection is involuntary, in a great degree, in respect to its object. It has no selection. What we mean is, that it is a state of mind
recollected, and not in the midst of its own things, but in the midst of the things which God gives; not in reference to the things of its own choice, but in reference to the things of God’s providence. Instead of going forth in the manner of discursive prayer, embracing the earth and all its varieties and all its interests both for the present and in all coming time, it is a prayer which first establishes God in the centre of itself, and then realizes him as present and central in the constantly moving circle of present events, and prays in reference to what now is. When we say, however, that the soul in recollection is a soul praying to God and trusting in God in reference to what now is, we would not be understood to exclude those things, which have a natural and necessary connection with what is present. In other words, the prayer of Recollection, bound as it is to the present and the immediate, may go abroad to some extent, provided that we keep fully and firmly established in the centre; never losing sight of the claims and responsibilities of that which is directly around us; and embracing nothing, which has not a central relationship and connection.

7.—There is probably no form of prayer, which in its general results is more effectual than that of recollection, in keeping those, who are the subjects of it, both in body and in spirit, from any and every thing, which God disapproves. The reason is obvious. This state of recollection, implying, as it does, faith in God’s presence to the soul, faith in God’s presence in events, faith in God as the controller of events and the fulfiller of the promises, covers us from head to foot, if we may so express it, with the shield of faith, which meets and discomfits every danger. The experience of devout persons, in all periods of the church, confirms this statement. Those, who are religiously recollected, can hardly fail to be victorious. And they are the more likely to be so, because faith, when exercised in the state of recollection, conquers its enemies by looking only to God. And it may be proper to make a general remark here, which we cannot help regarding as of great practical importance, that the temptations to sin, to which we are always exposed in the present life, are not so easily overcome by opposing a direct resistance, which cannot be done without turning the mind in some degree from its true source of strength, as by keeping it fixed recollectedly and prayerfully upon God in the attitude of patient trust, and thus opposing what may be termed an
indirect resistance. Either in consequence of a law of the mind’s action or in virtue of the divine promise, or more probably in virtue of the promise fulfilled by means of the law, the temptation, assailing the soul when it is fixed recollectedly upon God, finds its most violent efforts unavailing; and while it sometimes leaves the soul scorched and blackened outwardly, showing the severity of the attack and how much we may have endured, it passes off and leaves it, in its inner nature, always unscathed, always unhurt. But when we cease to remain recollected, and in the ardor of an indiscreet zeal turn our faces from God, in order to contend face to face with the temptation, we are very apt to be overcome.

8.—The Spirit of God dwells in the recollected heart. Such a heart may well be described, in the language of Scripture, as the Temple of the Holy Ghost. But this is true, not so much, of the incipient efforts of recollection, which are often variable and imperfect, as of its established state. No state of religious experience is characterized by higher and more constant acts of faith than this, when it becomes the established habit of the mind. But such faith, applicable to God as present to the soul and as present in all facts and events which now surround us, is not the product of nature, but of God’s constant spiritual operation. God justifies us, renews us, sanctifies us, and makes us one with himself, in connection with that faith and that faith only, which is his own gift.

9.—Before leaving this subject, we wish to make one remark more. And we make it, in part, because it may aid some persons in correctly estimating their religious position. It is this. The prayer of recollection is characterized, in a high degree,
by outward silence. The noise and violence of the natural life, which deals chiefly with the visible and the outward, have passed away. The tendency of the mind, when it is recollected in God, is inward. “The kingdom of God,” says the Savior, “is within you.” The world, considered as separate from God, calls after it in vain. It is attracted by the communications of the still small voice, which speaks within itself. It turns interiorly upon the centre, because God is in the centre. And it goes outward, to mingle in the world’s acts, the world’s controversies, and the world’s conversations, only at the bidding of the central Wisdom.


'I hear a voice you cannot hear,
"Forbidding me to stay;
"I see a hand you cannot see,
"Which beckons me away."