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PART III. INWARD DIVINE GUIDANCE


CHAPTER FIFTH.


On Spiritual Cooperation with God.


IT is very obvious, that man, considered as a rational and voluntary being, is designed for action. And when we consider the relation of entire dependence, which man sustains to his Creator, it is no less obvious, that human action ought to assume and to maintain the shape of cooperation with God. This is designed to be, and it ought to be, the great object of our life, viz. COOPERATION WITH GOD.

FIRST.— In endeavoring to ascertain the principles of this important subject, we remark in the first place, that we are not to undertake to decide for ourselves, (that is to say, by a reference to our own wishes merely,) what we are to do, and what we are not to do. Such a course would exhibit a disposition to cooperate with ourselves, if we may so express it, rather than with God. On the contrary, realizing deeply the general fact of our liability to error, we should ever be in that state of mind, which will lead us with meekness and simplicity to inquire what our heavenly Father will have us to do. We should have no choice of our own, which shall be, in any degree whatever, at variance with his choice. The thing to be done, whatever it may be, must be left with him. This is one condition, on which we can cooperate with God; and without which it is evident, that no acceptable cooperation with Him can take place.

SECOND.— We are not, in the second place, while we leave to God to ascertain the object to be done, to undertake of ourselves to prescribe the TIME of doing it. God has not only a work to be done, but He also has a time of doing it. His time is the right time; and no other time is. David was willing to build a house of worship for the Lord. But the time, which infinite wisdom prescribed for this great work, had not arrived. And in the spirit of acquiescence, he left it to his successor. In repeated instances the Savior expressed the sentiment, that "his hour was not yet come"; implying very evidently that the great events of his life, whether of action or of suffering, had their appropriate time. And neither the protestations of friends nor the dictation of enemies could induce Him to violate the maxims of true wisdom, by anticipating, even for a moment, that appropriate period. If, therefore, we gird ourselves for action, however good the object to be done may be, either before the appropriate time or after it, we do not cooperate with God, who always acts precisely at the right time. This is a point, which it is very important to remember. Persons are more likely to fall into error here, than in the particular which was first mentioned. There is a sort of latent feeling, (a very unrighteous feeling it is,) that if God is permitted exclusively to designate the object, we should have some degree of liberty in exercising our own wisdom, either partially or wholly, in the designation of the time, In other words, we are apt to feel, that a less perfect submission is required in regard to the time, than in regard to the object. This tendency must be carefully guarded against.

THIRD. We are not, in the third place, while we leave to God to ascertain the object to be done and the time of doing it, to undertake to decide for ourselves as to the MANNER of doing it. We know how it is in ordinary life. A servant sometimes, or even a son will do what the master or father has commanded, and do it at the right time; but will do it perhaps with excitement and rudeness of feeling, without true cordiality of heart and that laborious care, which might reasonably be expected. It is true, that we have here the essentials of a visible and operative cooperation; but it is evident, that we have not that higher inward and mental cooperation, which God requires. We must cooperate cordially. If we are associated with others, we must be willing to take the first place or the last place, to act as leader or servant just as God chooses. We must also take any part of the work, which God sees fit to impose upon us; that which is esteemed low and degrading, as well as that which is more agreeable to refinement of taste and to prevailing notions of honor and dignity. In every thing of this kind, and in every thing else which can properly be included in the MANNER of doing what God imposes, we are required to follow cheerfully and unhesitatingly the indications of the Divine Will. Otherwise there is no true co-operation.

FOURTH.— In order to realize personally the conditions of divine cooperation, which have been mentioned, it is necessary to be mentally in a state of PASSIVITY, as it is sometimes expressed; or more properly and truly,
of strict impartiality before God. In other words, we must be willing to submit ourselves to the divine guidance, without the least resistance or bias of mind; remaining in the attitude of silent and sincere waiting upon God, that we may learn from Him what he would have us to do; and also at what time and in what manner. The language of our souls must be essentially that of the Psalmist, when he exclaimed, "My soul, wait thou only upon the Lord; for my expectation is from him." And it is implied in this especially, that our minds should not be under the influence of prejudice or of wrong passion in any form. When the mind has arrived at the state of entire submission and of holy impartiality, resulting in the removal of the stains of prejudice and the shades of passion, it resembles a clear and bright mirror; reflecting easily and distinctly the desires and purposes of God. In this state of mind, it is easy to leave every thing with Him; to receive from Him implicitly the annunciation of the thing to be done, and also all the attendant conditions of doing it. God is pleased to be present with, and to operate in such a soul. The Holy Spirit teaches it; and it has both the power to hear and the spirit to obey. But in any other condition of mind there must necessarily be a conflict between the agitated and self-interested will of the creature and the decisions of the Supreme Mind.

FIFTH.— When we enter into the state of cooperation with God, we must feel, that our agency is entirely dependent and secondary in all the subsequent progress of the work, whatever it is, not less than in its incipient stages. I know that man has will, and that he has power. It would be a great error to deny or to doubt it. But it is equally true, that he is dependent; and that, in a very important sense, he has nothing. We must, therefore, not only begin in our nothingness; but must be willing to remain in it. It is a partnership, where we must realize, that not only all the capital; but, when properly considered, that all the personal operative power are from one source. Man works, it is true; but God works IN him. Man's working without God's working, as the basis of it, is of no avail. Man's strength is in God's strength, Hence there must be no undue anxiety, no unsuitable and excited eagerness, no methods and plans of action, originated and prosecuted on worldly principles; which necessarily implies some distrust of the skill and resources of the great Being, who has thus condescended to work by means of human instrumentality. We must move when God moves; stop when He stops; deliberate when He deliberates; act when He acts. Any assumption on our part of superior wisdom or strength, any disposition to move in anticipation of his movement, or in any way to forestall the divine intimations, would be getting not only out of the position of dependence and nothingness, but out of the line of cooperation.

SIXTH.— As closely connected with what has already been said, and in accordance with the commonly received doctrine of
"preventing" or prevenient grace, we remark further, that, in cooperating with God, it seems to be necessary, that we should be in a state of recipiency, rather than of communication. In other words, it being admitted that we have nothing of our own which we can communicate or give to God, it would seem to follow, that our cooperation, so far as it has an existence at all, must depend upon the fact of our receiving from him. Accordingly it seems to be our great duty, by meekness and simplicity of heart, by freedom from worldly vanities and entire self-renunciation, to put ourselves in the true receptive attitude. We must remember, especially as unbelief is apt to find its way in at this entrance, that God is always ready to communicate himself; we need not fear that our divine associate in this great co-partnership will be found wanting. On the contrary, it is his desire, his delight, his highest happiness to communicate himself. And the reason why he does not communicate himself to all men at once, is the existence in their bosoms of obstacles, which they themselves have voluntarily placed there. So that the highest honor and the highest power of man is, having put away these obstacles, to wait upon God, in the exercise of simple faith, for the reception of the divine sufficiency.

But some will perhaps inquire, in connection with the views now presented, Shall we remain inactive? I reply, that man is justly and efficiently active, when he is active in communication with God; and yet remaining deeply in his own sphere of nothingness. Man never acts to higher and nobler purpose, than when, in the realization of his own comparative nihility, he places himself in the receptive position, and lets God work in him. He, who is receptive, is neither idle nor unprofitable. In the intercourse between man and his Maker, it is the receptive and not the communicative activity, which is the source of truth, riches, and power. The religious man, in his receptive activity, is like the earth, (so far as we can compare things mental with material,) which receives into its ploughed and expanded bosom the morning dew and the summer shower and the daily sunshine; that thus, by being prepared to receive them and by being endowed with abundant communications from without and above, it may subsequently become rich in itself; and in its own vitality, as it were, be crowned with fruit and flower. Or perhaps we may say more appropriately, that he is like those scholars, who are impressed with a sense of their own inferiority and ignorance, and are willing to sit patiently and humbly at the feet of their distinguished teachers, that they may grow in knowledge. Their minds are receptive, but not inert; are in the attitude of listening, but are not idle. They ultimately, in the way of cooperation with what they have received, become fruitful in themselves; but it is only because they are humble and attentive recipients in the first instance.

SEVENTH.— Besides that cooperation in particular emergencies, which has already been remarked upon, we may observe further, that God requires a constant cooperation; a cooperation moment by moment; what some writers have described
"living to God by the moment." It is an universal law, unalterable as God is and lasting as eternity, that no created being can be truly holy, useful, or happy, who is knowingly and deliberately out of the line of divine cooperation, even for a moment. Accordingly we are to consider every moment as consecrated to God. It is true, that, in order to the full and assured life of God in the soul, there must be the general act of Consecration, which has already been explained in a former part of this Work; and which is understood to relate to a man's whole nature, and to cover the whole ground of time and eternity. And we may say further, that it is proper to recall distinctly to mind and to repeat at suitable times the general act of Consecration: but it does not appear to be necessary, in the strict sense of the terms or in any other sense than that of repeating it, to RENEW it, unless it has been, at some period really withdrawn. But while the general act remains good, and diffuses its consecrative influence over the whole course of our being, it is necessary to consecrate ourselves in particulars, as the events or occasions of such particular consecration may successively arise. And in the remark, as we now wish it to be understood, we do not mean merely those events, which, while they are distinct, are peculiarly marked and important; but all events of whatever character. In other words, although we may have consecrated ourselves to God in a general way and by an universal act of consecration, in all respects and for all time, we must still consecrate ourselves to him in each separate duty and trial, which his Providence imposes, and moment by moment. The present moment, therefore, is, in a special sense, the important moment, the divine moment; the moment, which we cannot safely pass, without having the divine blessing upon it.

Thus extensive is the doctrine of divine cooperation, when it is rightly understood. How thankful should we be, thus to be permitted, to enter into partnership, insignificant as we are, and to become co-workers with God! Such was the life of Enoch, of Abraham, of Daniel, of John, of Paul. How the idea of the life of man, thus united with the life and activity of God, throws discouragement and dishonor upon all low and groveling pursuits, and at once elevates and sanctifies our nature!