Stacks Image 905

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

CHAPTER FOURTEENTH.


ON THE RELATION OF FAITH TO THE STATE OF DIVINE UNION.


Passages of Scripture, which have reference to the state of union with God. No such union without a similarity of character. Only one principle of movement in God, that of holy love. Those only, in whom there is the same ruling principle, can unite with him. Where the correspondence of mind exists, the union necessarily takes place. The relation of faith to the state of divine union. Concluding remarks.

“HE, that is joined to the Lord,” says the Apostle, “is ONE SPIRIT.” “Abide in me, and I in you,” says the Savior. “I am the vine, ye are the branches. He, that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.” “Holy Father,” says the Savior in another place, “keep through thine own name those, whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are.” That is to say, as is evident from another passage in the same chapter, that they may be in oneness or unity with us, as we are with each other. The passage to which we refer is that, in which, with a little change of expression, the Savior repeats in behalf of his future disciples the supplication, which he had just offered in behalf of those who were present. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which believe on me through their word; that they all may be ONE; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee,. that they also may be ONE IN US.” Finding such passages of Scripture, as those to which we have just referred, in different parts of the New Testament, it is not surprising, that writers on Christian experience should recognize the state of Divine Union or Union with God as a scriptural state, and should endeavor to describe its nature. We have endeavored to say something in illustration of this interesting subject, in another Work somewhat kindred to this in its character, the Interior Life. A few remarks, however, may properly be made here.

2.—One remark is this. There can be no effectual and real union in those objects, where there is an entire unlikeness to each other. This is true, to a certain extent, of natural objects. The sunbeam will not mingle with the mud, on which it shines. The pure gold rejects all real assimilation and mixture with the dross, that forms a part of the original mass. But still more true is it in relation to things of a moral and religious nature. Truth cannot unite with falsehood. Love cannot assimilate with hatred. The spirit of rectitude can have no harmonious alliance with laxity of moral principle. They are necessarily variant and antagonistical. And this is universally true. Things, which are morally and religiously unlike, cannot be the subjects of a real and harmonious union. God, therefore, who is holy, can never enter into moral union with a being, who is unholy. He may unite with such a being physically, in the way of giving a physical support to its various powers; but he can unite morally, and to the degree of entire union, only with a being, that is like himself.

3.—With these general views on the subject, we proceed to say further, that the Divine Mind, in its principle of movement, is never variant with itself, is never multiplied but simple. In other words, God, being in unity with himself, without which he could never under any circumstances be in permanent unity with other beings, has inwardly but one principle of action, namely,
love regulated by rectitude. Love itself, when it exists in the highest or supreme degree, always excludes every selfish movement; which is practically the same as to say, that it requires a strict adherence to right. It would be a moral contradiction, as well as an absurdity, in language, to suppose supreme or perfect love, a love which by the very definition of itself loves every object just as it ought to love it, to be knowingly at variance with supreme or perfect rectitude. God, therefore, in the divine simplicity of his character, may be said, in the Scripture expressions, to have a “single eye,” to act with a single motive, namely, from the pure and powerful inspiration of holy love. This is the element, in which God moves. Or perhaps we may say without irreverence, and with still greater propriety, that this is the paramount and inspiring element, which moves God. “God is love.” We assert therefore, in accordance with what has already been laid down, that it is impossible for God to enter into union, in the moral sense of the terms, with beings, who are unlike himself, in not acting from one principle. The whole inward action, so far as it is of a moral and religious nature, must be conformed to one law, and the man must be made in unity with himself, before he can become in unity with God. It is self-evident, that a man, who is variant with himself, acting partly from good and partly from bad motives, can never be in perfect union with a being who is one with himself and acts only from a holy motive. It is only, therefore, he, who is holy, in other words whose heart is inspired with the one great principle of holy love, and who in the figurative language of Scripture has a “single eye,” that is in the state of mind, which is necessarily prerequisite to that of union with God.

4.—But supposing that we are in the right state of mind, so far as the antecedent preparation is concerned, the inquiry still remains, how shall the state of union be brought about? By what process shall it be effected? The proper reply to this inquiry, if we have a right understanding of it, is, that it takes place of itself. It seems to me to be a self-evident truth in moral and religious philosophy, that there is, and must be, a natural and necessary tendency in all holy beings, to seek, and to rejoice in each other. It is their nature. They cannot help it. How can purity be averse from purity? How can holy love fail to love its own likeness? They tend, therefore, towards each other naturally and necessarily, in the line of a pure and ardent affection. It is a matter of course, therefore, and as certain as the existence of God is certain, that God will unite himself in the most intimate manner with every holy mind, not merely as a sustainer of the mind physically, but as a friend, a counsellor, a father; more intimately, we have no hesitancy in saying, than the power of language can express. As the natural sun may be said to see his own glory repeated in every planet that reflects his beams; so the Divine Mind may be said to see the image and reflection of itself in every being that is holy. Indeed it may be said, when we consider their moral as well as physical dependence upon God, that the holiness of every inferior mind, is his own holiness; as much as the glory of every inferior and attendant planet is the glory of the natural sun. God, therefore, can no more fail to love and to unite himself with holy beings, than he can fail to love and be at union with his own character. This is an eternal law, developed from the very nature of holiness; and unchangeable as truth is. And accordingly in the language of the Book of Proverbs, “God loves them that love Him; and his delight is to be with the children of men.” (Proverbs 8:17, 31.)

5.—After what has been said, it is hardly necessary to add, that the state of Union is entirely at variance with the life of Self, and that consequently it implies the extinction of all unsanctified desire. Those, who are the subjects of that pure and holy love, which results in the state of divine unity, have given themselves to God, to act from the same principle on which he acts, to be his only, and his forever. And God, in the process of purification, always works in them in correspondence to their willingness to be his. Purified, therefore, from every inordinate and wrong element, they must of course be purified from every desire, which has not God in it. Desires, which are necessary to every rational being, have not ceased; but they have merged their character of desires of nature, in that of desires of grace. And if, considered in relation to subordinate objects, they may be said to be many, it is still true, that they all terminate in one, namely,
that God’s will may he accomplished. It is desire, in unity with God’s desire, which sanctifies all other desire. It is this also, which simplifies them all, by reducing them, when they are analyzed, into one. And consequently there are no conflicting motives of action. God, in-dwelling, takes the place of nature. One principle rules, and one alone; that of holy love. So that those, who are in union with God, brought into harmony with themselves, as well as into harmony with their Creator, have no object at variance with that which he himself proposes; but are always inspired with the same motive which animates him, and always move in the same direction. Their former life, which was characterized by its wild and uncentred, “multiplicity” of movement, has not only changed its nature and become simplified by the predominance of a single motive; but has passed from notice, as a thing acting for itself and in itself, and has become “hidden,” as the Scriptures express it, in its unity with the divine life.

6.—The object of the present work, which aims chiefly to indicate the position of faith, considered as the foundation and the great support of the religious exercises, leads us to remark further, that the state of DIVINE UNION implies the existence of strong faith. Without strong religious faith, it is morally impossible, that there should be a relinquishment of those desires, which constitute the life of nature. We are so formed, that we must desire something, must cling to something, and if we do not cling to God, we must cling to ourselves. Faith, existing in an adequate degree, gives us the victory over the world. Faith sunders the disordered ties of nature, and forms the tie, which binds us to the Divinity. And it does it, first of all and chiefly, by working in us a deep, unalterable conviction, that God is the only worthy object of our supreme thoughts and affections. And he is so, because he is
right; right in his nature, right in his purposes, right in his actions. This faith, which, in recognizing God as holy and good, leads us to seek a reconciliation with him through Jesus Christ, reacts upon our own nature, and tends to purify it. It is not possible to have faith in God as a pure and holy being, and to love him and to desire to be like him, which is the natural result of such faith, without becoming better and purer ourselves. It is thus, that faith, by giving us the victory over ourselves, prepares us for union with God; an union, which is never delayed, and which never can be delayed after the antecedents, which are appropriated to it, are completed.

7.—There is an important passage of Scripture, which is forcibly brought to our attention in connection with this subject. The Savior, having prayed, that his immediate disciples, and those who should afterwards be his disciples, might be brought into unity with himself and with God; adds as a special reason for desiring this result,
“that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Is it not a just inference from the reason, which is thus assigned by the Savior as the ground of his supplication, that the unbelief, which exists in the world, is owing in a considerable degree, to the fact, that Christians are not generally in the state of divine union? If the world, seeing them divested of self and in union with God, are led to exercise belief, it is certainly natural to suppose, that, seeing them disobedient and divergent from God, they would be led to unbelief, or at least would believe less strongly than they otherwise would. And if such be a correct view of the subject, how strong is the obligation resting upon every disciple in Christ, to seek earnestly the highest possible attainments in religion. In proportion as Christians enter more and more deeply into the spirit of the gospel, in proportion as they have more faith, more love, and enter more into unity with God, in that same proportion may we expect, that other minds will be led to perceive the errors of irreligion, and to put their trust in the Savior. At the present moment, the world needs, and perhaps we may say in general terms, it desires no argument additional to what it already has, except that of holy living. It is obvious, from the remarkable passage to which we have referred, that the Savior looked forward with the deepest interest to the development of this mighty argument. I think it is very clear that he has connected, in the relation of effect and cause, the world’s salvation with this development. We are permitted to judge, therefore, on the Savior’s principle, of the state of the church from the state of the world.

8.—And what is the state of the world? There are many things to encourage, undoubtedly. There are many things which we gratefully recognize as showing, that there is some degree of faith on the earth. But if something has been done, much remains undone. If there is something to be grateful for, there is much to call forth bitter tears. Wars still exist on the earth in many places. Man still sheds the blood of his fellow man; and gives that money for purposes of slaughter, which would better be expended in the circulation of the Bible. Millions are held in slavery; their chains unbroken. Intemperance, licentiousness, and many other moral evils still abound. There are hundreds of millions, to whom the Gospel has never been preached. And in lands more favored there are many millions, who do not practically receive it. And why is it after the lapse of so many Christian ages, that these unfavorable things exist? The Savior has distinctly intimated the answer in the passage, to which we have referred. His disciples are not made “one, as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee.” They are not made “one in us.” They stand divergent from the great Centre. The grace of sanctification has not had its just work. And just so far as there is a want of sanctification, there is a want of union. They refuse fully and cordially to unite with God; and God, therefore, cannot unite with them. But if the Savior was unable to do any thing of himself, as he expressly assures us, [John 8:28] much less can man. Man has power to do good, only so far as he has God in him in union. The world, therefore, remains unconverted.

9.—It is obvious, then, that there must be more religion. And in saying this, we hope we shall be excused in adding, that we mean something more than that religion, which taking root in the head, with a little stirring perhaps of the emotions, works outwardly to the circumference without going inward to the centre; a form of religion, which shows itself in various ways, which are calculated to attract attention, but always in sound more than in substance, in profession more than in truth. We mean, in distinction from these inadequate developments, that religion, which is described by the Savior himself in the fifth chapter of Matthew, and which consists in meekness, in humility of spirit, in mercy, in peace-making, in purity of heart, in laboring and suffering for the Gospel, and in hungering and thirsting after righteousness. We mean that kind of religion, which is described by the Apostle Paul in the thirteenth chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians; a religion, which suffereth long and is kind, which neither boasts of itself nor envies others, which seeks not its own and is not easily provoked, but hopes all things and bears all things. A religion, which, with a humble acquiescence and gratitude, and without disquieting thoughts for the morrow, loves, in the spirit of holy union, to be just where God places it, and to do just what God imposes upon it. A religion, which loves the great object of love so much, that it forgets itself; and which, in forgetting and losing itself, finds all things, and more than all things, in God. Under the influence of such a religion, which, if it exists at all, must exist with Faith for its foundation, the aspect of the world would soon change. Well, therefore, may we say with the Disciples, “LORD, INCREASE OUR FAITH.” [Luke 17:5.]