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PART III. INWARD DIVINE GUIDANCE


CHAPTER TENTH.


On the principle of inward quietude or stillness.


WE proceed in this chapter to lay down and explain a principle, which is more or less distinctly recognized by writers on Christian experience; and which, by the common consent of those who have examined it, is very intimately connected with the progress and perfection of the interior Christian life. The principle is that of inward QUIETUDE OR STILLNESS, in other words,
a true and practical ceasing from self.

FIRST.— This principle involves, in the first place, a cessation from all inordinate and selfish outward activity. It does not, it will be remembered, exclude an outward activity of the right kind. To entertain any idea of this kind, would be a great error. But it disapproves and condemns that spirit of worldly movement and progress, that calculating and self-interested activity, that running to and fro without seriously looking to God and without a quiet confidence in Him, which has been in all ages of the world the dishonor and the bane of true Christianity. How much of what may be called secular scheming and planning there is in the church at the present time! How much of action, prosecuted on principles, which certainly cannot be acceptable to a truly holy heart! While it exhibits much of true piety and much of the right kind of action, is it not evident, that the church exhibits a great deal also, both in its plans of personal and of public activity, of that restless, unsanctified, and grasping eagerness, which characterizes, and may be expected to characterize those who live and act, as if there were no God in the world! The principle of quietude or stillness decidedly condemns this injurious and evil course.

SECOND.— But this principle has inwardly still more important results. The true state of internal quietude or stillness implies three things.

(1.) — And accordingly our first remark is, that true quietness of soul involves a cessation from unnecessary wandering and discursive thoughts and imaginations. If we indulge an unnatural and inordinate curiosity; if we crowd the intellect not only with useful knowledge, but with all the vague and unprofitable rumors and news of the day, it is hardly possible, on the principles of mental philosophy, that the mind should be at rest. The doctrine of religious quietude conveys the notion of a state of intellect so free from all unnecessary worldly intruders, that God can take up his abode there as the one great idea, which shall either exclusively occupy the mind, or shall so far occupy it as to bring all other thoughts and reflections into entire harmony with itself. This is, philosophically, one of the first conditions of union with God. It seems to be naturally impossible, that we should realize an entire harmony or oneness with the divine mind, while the soul is so occupied with worldly thoughts flowing into it, as almost to shut out the very idea of God. A state of religious or spiritual quietude is, in other words, a state of rest in God. The idea of God, therefore, that magnificent and glorious idea, must so occupy the intellect, must be so interwoven with all its operations and modes of thinking, that the thoughts of other things, which so often agitate and afflict the religious mind, may be easily shut out. And in order to do this, they, who would be perfect in Christ Jesus, must not mingle too much in the concerns of the world. Little have they to do with the unprofitable frivolities and pleasures of secular society; with idle village gossiping; with the trades and adventures and speculations of those who hasten to be rich; with the heats and recriminations of party politics, and many other things, which it would be easy to mention. No reading, also, should be indulged in, which shall tend to separate between the soul and God. Knowledge is profitable, it is true, but not all kinds of knowledge. It is better, certainly, if we cannot consistently with religious principles have a knowledge of both, to be familiar with the psalms of David, than with the poems of Homer; not only because the former are in a higher strain, but especially because heavenly inspiration should ever take precedence of that which is earthly. When, however, we read in the world's books from the sense of duty, when we may be said to read and study for God and with God, then, indeed, the great idea of the Divinity remains present and operative in the soul. And such inquiries and studies are always consistent with Christian quietude, because the mind, venturing forth at the requisition of the great Master within, returns instinctively at the appointed time, to the inward centre of rest. Hence we should lay it down as an important rule, to chasten the principle of curiosity, and to know nothing which cannot be made, either directly or indirectly, religiously profitable. Such knowledge, and such only, will harmonize with the presence of the great idea of God. All other knowledge tends to exclude it. And hence it is, that it can be so often said of those, who possess all worldly knowledge, to whom all arts and languages and sciences are familiar, that God is not in all their thoughts. The intellect is not in sufficient repose from the outward and purely worldly pressure constantly made upon it to receive Him. He comes to the door, but finds no entrance, and leaves them alone in their folly.

Perhaps in order to prevent mistakes, it should be added, that, when the mind is thus in a state of quietness and repose from worldly and errant imaginations, it does not by any means follow, as some may suppose, that it is, therefore, in a state of sluggish and insentient idleness. Not at all. No sooner has it reached the state of true stillness, by ceasing from its own imaginative vanities, and thus giving entrance to the purifying and absorbing conception of the great Divinity, than it becomes silently, but actively meditative on the great idea. Not, indeed, in a discursive and examinative way; not in a way of curious inquiry and of minute analysis; but still active and meditative. Much in the manner perhaps, that an affectionate child silently and delightedly meditates on the idea of an absent parent, not analytically and curiously, but with that high and beautiful meditation, which exists in connection with the purest love. Or much as any persons, who sustain to each other the relation of dear and intimate friendship, when in the providence of God they are separated at a distance, often repose in mental stillness from all other thoughts inconsistent with the one loved idea; and thus reciprocally the mind, active in respect to the object before it, though still and quiet in respect to every thing else, centres and dwell with each other's image.

(2.) Again, the state of internal quietude implies a cessation or rest from unrestrained and inordinate desires and affections. Such a cessation becomes comparatively easy, when God has become the ruling idea in the thoughts; and when other ideas, which are vain, wandering, and in other ways inconsistent with it, are excluded. This rest or stillness of the affections, when it exists in the highest degree, is secured by perfect faith in God, necessarily resulting in perfect love. We have already had occasion to say that perfect faith implies, in its results, perfect love. How can we possibly have perfect faith in God, perfect confidence that he will do all things right and well, when at the same time we are wanting in love to him? From perfect faith, therefore, perfect love necessarily flows out, baptizing, as it were, and purifying all the subordinate powers of the soul. In other words, under the influence of this predominating principle, the perfect love of God resting upon perfect faith in God, the harmony of the soul becomes restored; the various appetites, propensities, and affections act each in their place and all concurrently; there are no disturbing and jarring influences, and the beautiful result is that quietness of spirit, which is declared to be "in the sight of God of great price."

Those, who are privileged by divine assistance, to enjoy this interior rest and beautiful stillness of the passions, are truly lovely to the beholder. The wicked are like the troubled sea, that cannot rest, tossed about by conflicting passions, and are not more unhappy in themselves, than they are unlovely in the sight of holy beings. There is a want of interior symmetry and union; that guiding principle of divine love, which consolidates and perfects the characters of holy beings, is absent; the lower parts of their nature have gained the ascendency, and there is internal jarring and discord and general moral deformity. In such a heart God does not and cannot dwell. How different is the condition of that heart, which is pervaded by the power of a sanctifying stillness, and which, in the cessation of its own jarring noise, is prepared to listen to the "still small voice!" It is here that God not only takes up his abode, but continually instructs, guides, and consoles.

On this part of the subject, in order to prevent any misapprehension, we make two brief remarks. The first is, that the doctrine of stillness or quietude of the desires and passions, does not necessarily exclude an occasional agitation arising from the
instinctive part of our nature. The INSTINCTS are so constituted, that they act, not by cool reason and reflection, but by an inexpressibly quick and agitated movement. Such is their nature. Such agitation is entirely consistent with holiness. And it is not unreasonable to suppose, that even the amazement and fears, which are ascribed to our blessed Savior at certain periods of his life, are to be attributed to the operation of this part of his nature, which is perfectly consistent with entire resignation and with perfect confidence in God. The other remark is, that the doctrine of internal quietude, pervading and characterizing the action of the sensibilities, is not inconsistent with feelings of displeasure, and even of anger. Our Savior was at times grieved, displeased, angry; as he had abundant reason to be, in view of the hardness of heart and the sins, which were exposed to his notice. Anger, (so far as it is not purely instinctive, which at its first rise and for a mere moment of time it may be,) is, in its nature, entirely consistent with reason and reflection; is consistent with the spirit of supplication, and consistent also, even in its strong exercises, with entire agreement and relative quietude in all parts of the soul. In other words, although there is deep feeling in one part of the soul, the other parts, such as the reason, the conscience, and the will, are so entirely consentient, that the great fact of holy, internal quietude, which depends upon a perfect adjustment of the parts to each other, is secured. A strong faith in God, existing in the interior recesses of the soul, and inspiring a disposition to look with a constant eye to his will alone; keeps every thing in its right position. Hence there still remains the great and important fact of holy internal rest, even at such trying times.

(3.) — We proceed now to the third characteristic. The true state of internal quietude implies a cessation not only from unnecessarily wandering and discursive thoughts and imaginations, not only a rest from irregular desires and affections, but implies, in the third place, a perfect submission of the will, in other words, a perfect renunciation of our own purposes and plans, and a cheerful and perfect acquiescence in the holy will of God. Such a renunciation of the will is indispensably requisite. It is not to be understood that we are to have no will of our own, in the literal sense. This would be inconsistent with moral agency. But that in its action, under all circumstances, however adverse and trying, our will is cheerfully and wholly accordant with God's will. A mind, in such a state, must necessarily be at rest. It realizes that God is at the helm of affairs and that necessarily all the plans of his wise and great administration shall come to pass. Why then should it be troubled? "What a blessed thing it is," says Dr. Payson, "to lose one's will. Since I have lost my will, I have found happiness. There can be no such thing as disappointments; for I have no desire but that God's will may be accomplished." The blessedness of such a soul is indeed indescribable. It is an inward death out of which springs inward and eternal life; a self annihilation, out of which rises immortal power. The man, who has the true quietude, is like a large ship firmly at anchor in a storm. The clouds gather around, the winds blow, the heavy waves dash against her, but she rides safe in her position, in conscious dignity and power. Or perhaps his situation is more nearly expressed by the memorable and sublime simile of Goldsmith,

"As some tall cliff; that rears its awful form,
Swells from the vale and mid-way leaves the storm,
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread.
Eternal sunshine settles on its head."

But some will say. is there to be no action; and are we to do nothing? A person in this state of mind, being at rest in the will of God, and never out of that divine will, is operative precisely as God would have him so; moving as God moves, stopping where God stops. He is at rest, but never idle. His God forbids idleness. Therefore he keeps in the line of divine cooperation, and works with God. There may be less of vain and noisy pretension, and sometimes less of outward and visible activity, but there is far more wisdom, and far more actual efficiency, for God is with him.