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PART II. THE LIFE OF FAITH AND LOVE FOLLOWED BY THE CRUCIFIXION OF THE LIFE OF NATURE.


CHAPTER TWELFTH.


Remarks on interior Trials and Desolations.


IT is perhaps a common opinion, that those, who are greatly advanced in religion, and have experienced what may properly be regarded as the grace of present sanctification, are not very much tried and afflicted. They are supposed to possess not only an inheritance of constant peace, but of much joy.

That a truly sanctified person is never in darkness, in one sense of the term, viz. condemnatory darkness; in other words, that he never loses the grace of a confiding trust in God and of solid internal peace, which his Savior has given to him as his inheritance, is undoubtedly true. If there ever be an exception, as for instance when the mental powers are depressed and darkened by the pressure of some physical disease, yet such exceptions are, probably, few in number, are explainable on principles peculiar to themselves, and are not to be regarded as essentially affecting the general doctrine. But although those, who are wholly devoted to God, may be said always to have a solid and permanent peace, it is not true, that they are exempt from heavy afflictions both external and internal. On the contrary, there is some reason to believe, that those, who love most, will suffer most; that those, who are the strongest in the Lord, will have the heaviest burden to bear. "In the world," says the Savior, "ye shall have tribulation." "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ," says the Apostle in his Epistle to the Philippians, "not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." It is important to understand this, to know that it is our lot and our privilege to be partakers of Christ's sufferings, so that those, who enter into the way of holy living, which is just what it is described to be, viz.
a narrow way, may not be discouraged and overcome in the season of heavy trial. Satan will say to them at such times, Where now is your God? And it is exceedingly desirable, that they should know how to answer him.

FIRST.— It is reasonable to suppose, that a holy soul, one that has experienced the richness of sanctifying grace, will oftentimes be much afflicted in consequence of not finding in others a spirit corresponding to its own. In the present state of the world, when practical holiness is but partially understood and still less realized, such a soul, although the social principle remains strong in it, is necessarily solitary to a considerable degree. How can it enter with spirit and eagerness into worldly conversation? How can it participate with any degree of relish in vain worldly amusements and pleasures? Such souls are sometimes borne down with the desire of imparting to others the spiritual tidings, which God has inwardly communicated to them. But they find few, and perhaps none, that are ready and willing to hear them. And thus they sit alone in secret places, and shed in silence the solitary tear.

SECOND.— They are afflicted in view of the condition of the Church. With all disposition to be grateful for what amount of piety there is, and also to make all due allowance for the deficiencies that exist, they perceive and cannot help perceiving, that the Church is, to a considerable extent, in bondage. They see very distinctly, that she lives far below her duties and privileges; those duties and privileges to which her God calls her. It is their sympathy with the Divine mind, as well as their sorrow for the Church, which affects them. How can they possibly be without grief, in view of the insulted honor and the disregarded beneficence of the God whom they love? And if this were possible, as it certainly cannot be, how is it possible for them to refrain from weeping, when the Church, for whom their bleeding Savior has purchased garments of light, voluntarily walk in sordid and defiled habiliments?

THIRD.— They have feelings of deep compassion and sorrow for sinners, which others have not. We would not assert, that these feelings are always stronger than those of other persons; but they appear to be more deeply rooted in the mind; more thoroughly based upon principle; more permanent and unchangeable. In view of the situation of sinners, they may even be said to have continual heaviness; not a heaviness which is periodical; which goes and comes with a change of circumstances; but is, at least, in a modified sense of the term, continual. There is this peculiarity, however, that their sorrow, however deep it may be, is always calm. While they think much of sinners, they think more of God. And they know that God will be glorified, though sinners are destroyed. This consideration imparts a tranquility of mind, which may sometimes be supposed to originate in absence of feeling. This calm, deep rooted sorrow, in view of the danger of sinners and of the dishonor which they put upon God, although, in accordance with the laws of the human mind, it has its alternations with other feelings, and is subject to occasional variations, may yet be said, with a high degree of truth, to be always with them. It is in this respect peculiarly, that they may be said to sympathize with the blessed Savior in bearing the burden of the cross; since there can be no doubt, that it was on account of others far more than his own, that he was afflicted in the world, was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."

FOURTH.— But this is not all. God sometimes sees fit to impose upon these, his beloved children, internal, as well as external crosses. There seems to be almost a necessity for this. "The life, which they now live, they live by faith on the Son of God." The Christian life is truly and emphatically a life of faith. A life of faith is necessarily the opposite of a life of direct vision. And how can the principle of faith operate, much more how can it acquire strength, unless God shall at times withdraw himself from the direct vision, and leave the soul to its own obscurity? If a man, wishing to test the spirit of obedience in his son, commands the son to follow him in a certain direction, does he not render his own test unavailable, by taking him by the hand and dragging him along? And so our heavenly Father, if he wishes to test and to strengthen our faith, must he not sometimes take us out of the region of openness and clearness of sight, and place us in the midst of entanglements, uncertainties, and shadows? What we need, what we must have, what is absolutely indispensable to our interior salvation, is faith; faith which gives the victory; faith strong, unwavering, adamantine. It was by want of faith that we fell; it is by want of faith that we are kept in continual bondage; and it is only by the restoration of faith that we can sunder the chains that shackle us, and walk forth in spiritual freedom. But faith can never arise to that degree of invigoration, which our necessities so imperiously demand, while we are permitted to walk continually in the field of open vision and under the sunlight of present manifestations. Hence there seems to be a necessity, that he who has made us and who loves us with an infinity of love, should, nevertheless, sometimes wrap himself in the majesty of uncreated darkness, in order that we may learn the great lesson of following God without seeing Him, and of appreciating his uttered word, his simple declaration, at the same value with his manifested realities and acts.

It is here, then, that we find the secret reason, that God sees fit to leave to interior desolations and sorrows those, who are truly his sanctified people. Hence it is, that he not only shows us the vanities of the world, and the desolations of the church, the present and prospective wretchedness of impenitent sinners, a burden without any thing else to enhance it which is heavy to be borne; but he also withdraws at times the light of present manifestations; he withholds the comfort of inward sensible joys; he leaves the understanding, and even at times the affections in a painful state of comparative inertness and aridity; he permits Satan, in addition to these fearful evils, to assail us with his fiery darts, injecting into the intellect a multitude of unholy thoughts, and besieging us continually with sharp and varied temptations. But there still remains the blessed privilege of believing. We can still say, our expectation is from the Lord. We still have the privilege of declaring, even in the deep dejection and brokenness of our hearts, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."

Happy are they, who endure these grievous trials without shrinking. Thrice happy, who, like soldiers in a severe contest that have lost all but honor, can still assert, the enemy has not taken the standard with which they went into battle; and that in the loss of all things else, they still retain their confidence in God. Such souls are not only redeemed, but purified. They have passed the decisive test, the object of which is to ascertain whether they love God for himself or for his favors, and have not been found wanting. If there were dross upon them before, it has been burnt off in this fiery trial. In the purification and strengthening of our faith, (that glorious principle which unites us to God, and which opens in the heart the full fountains of submission, gratitude, and love,) we are recompensed, and more than recompensed, for the temporary loss of all outward goods and all interior consolations. Henceforth there is union between the soul and its Beloved. It has no more occasion to say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He returns with assurances, that wipe away present tears, and give the presage of future victories. God, in his condescension, permits himself to be conquered. Infinite love is led captive.



[In connection with the remarks of this chapter, we take the liberty to introduce to the reader some stanzas of Madame Guyon, translated into English by the poet Cowper, which seem in a happy manner to express the state of a soul, which is temporarily left to interior desolations.]


The Trial of Christian Faith.

'Twas my purpose, on a day,
To embark and sail away:
As I climbed the vessel's side,
Love was sporting in the tide.
"Come," he said,— "ascend — make haste,
Launch into the boundless waste."

Many mariners were there,
Having each his separate care;
They, that rowed us, held their eyes
Fixed upon the starry skies;
Others steer'd, or turn'd the sails
To receive the shifting gales.

Love, with power divine supplied,
Suddenly my courage tried;
In a moment it was night;
Ship and skies were out of sight;
On the briny wave I lay,
Floating rushes 'all my stay.

Did I with resentment burn
At this unexpected turn?
Did I wish myself on shore,
Never to forsake it more?
No — "My soul" — I cried, "be still;
If I must be lost, I will."

Next he hasten'd to convey
Both my frail supports away;
Seized my rushes; bade the waves
Yawn into a thousand graves;
Down I went and sunk as lead,
Ocean closing o'er my head.

Still, however, life was safe;
And I saw him turn and laugh;
"Friend," cried he, "adieu! lie low,
While the wintry storms shall blow;
When the spring has calm'd the main,
You shall rise and float again."

Soon I saw him with dismay,
Spread his wings and soar away;
Now I mark his rapid flight;
Now he leaves my aching sight;
He is gone, whom I adore;
It is in vain to seek him more.

How I trembled, then, and fear'd,
When my LOVE had disappeared!
"Wilt thou leave me thus," I cried,
"Whelm'd beneath the rolling tide?'
Vain attempt to reach his ear!
LOVE was gone, and would not hear.

Ah! return and love me still;
See me subject to thy will;
Frown with wrath, or smile with grace,
Only let me see thy face!
Evil I have none to fear;
All is good, if thou art near.

Yet he leaves me — cruel fate!
Leaves me in my lost estate
Have I sinn'd? O, say wherein;
Tell me, and forgive my sin!
King, and Lord, whom I adore,
Shall I see thy face no more?

Be not angry; I resign,
Henceforth, all my will to thine;
I consent that thou depart,
Though thine absence break my heart;
Go, then, and forever too;
All is right, that thou wilt do.

This was just what LOVE intended;
He was now no more offended;
Soon as I became a child,
LOVE return'd to me and smiled;
Never strife shall more betide,
'Twixt the Bridegroom and his Bride.