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PART III. INWARD DIVINE GUIDANCE


CHAPTER ELEVENTH.


Additional remarks on the state of interior stillness.


FENELON has somewhere remarked to this effect that in our inward feelings,
"it is often more easy to perceive what is the result of nature than of grace." This remark may perhaps be of doubtful correctness in the view of some persons; but it is certainly worthy of serious examination.

If it be true, it is a remark, which involves important principles. We are aware, that the common opinion is the opposite of this. It is generally supposed that the emotions and affections of the religious life are more marked and perceptible, than those of the natural life. It seems to be a prevalent idea, that a person, who is not internally perceptive of strong emotions and affections, has but little claims to depth and power of religious experience. It is implied in this idea, that there must be a salient or projective aspect to these feelings so that to the subjects of them they shall appear in comparison with other feelings, to stand out distinctly and prominently perceptible. It is to this particular phasis of the common doctrine, that the remark of Fenelon, viz., that, in our inward experience, it is more easy to perceive what is the result of nature, than of grace, is particularly opposed. He would not by any means deny the strength of religious emotions and feelings in those, who are truly and eminently pious. This would be a great error. His idea is, that, when the soul is wholly given to God, there is such an entire harmony and internal rest, that no one of the religious affections, however strong they may be, is comparatively so much in advance of what might reasonably be expected of other religious feelings, as necessarily to claim and secure a distinct and particular notice. All are the subjects of a perfect relative adjustment; all are kept in their place by the superintendence of the principle of perfect love; all are sprinkled over and bright with the celestial dew; so that one part or exercise is as beautiful in its place as another, and as much calculated to arrest particular attention as another. The result is the harmony, the internal stillness, and the beauty, which must ever characterize true holiness.

This doctrine is in accordance with the facts, which from time to time present themselves to notice in the annals of personal Christian experience. The interesting form of the religious life, of which this doctrine may be regarded as the theological or philosophical expression, seems, indirectly at least, to be indicated in those beautiful expressions in 2d Corinthians, where the Apostle, speaking of himself and others, says; "as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." He, who is known and yet unknown, dying and yet living, sorrowful yet rejoicing, poor yet communicating riches, having nothing, and yet possessing all things, is the subject of feelings, the result of whose various action, strange as it may seem, is perfect harmony and internal calm. His fame is counterbalanced and harmonized by his obscurity; his sorrow by his joy; his poverty by his riches; his absolute possession of nothing by his possession of all things; so that the soul, pressed as it were by equal forces in opposite directions, necessarily maintains the central position of interior rest.

The state of mind, of which we are speaking, appears to be disclosed in one of the short prayers, that are found in Fenelon's Pious Reflections; a part of which is as follows. "Oh Lord, I know not what I should ask of Thee. Thou only knowest what I want; and Thou lovest me, if I am thy friend, better than I can love myself. Oh Lord, give to me, thy child, what is proper, whatsoever it may be. I dare not ask either crosses or comforts. I only present myself before Thee. I open my heart to Thee. Behold my wants, which I am ignorant of; but do Thou behold and do according to thy mercy. Smite, or heal! Depress me, or raise me up! I adore all thy purposes, without knowing them. I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice."

Such supplications give evidence of a mind, that is at rest in itself; a mind, that reposes with entire confidence, whatever may be its temptations and sorrows, upon the Divine Mind.

The religious state of Madam Guyon, in the latter part of her life, illustrates this form of Christian experience. "In these last times" she says, "I can hardly speak at all of my dispositions. It is because my state has become simple and without variations. It is a profound annihilation. I find nothing in myself to which I can give a name; [that is, no feelings so specific and remarkable, separate from this simplicity and this loss of self in God, as to enable me to describe them.] All that I know, is, that God is infinitely holy, righteous, good, and happy." — All good is in him. As to myself, I am a mere NOTHING. To me every condition seems equal. All is lost in his immensity, like a drop of water in the sea. In this divine immensity, the soul sees itself no more."

In that state of internal experience, which is described by Madam Guyon, there seems to be a perfect balance and harmony of the different parts of the mind. There may be deep feeling, (and there is in reality very deep feeling,) but it is so perfectly controlled by a sense of union with the will of God, that the result is complete simplicity and rest of soul. Just as it is in a piece of complicated machinery. If the wheels and other parts are out of order, or if there is much friction, the action of the machinery is perplexed and is really weak, although there is exceedingly great jarring and discordant noise. But when the wheels are all in position, and there is no friction, the action may be one of tremendous power, and yet so easy and quiet as to be hardly perceptible. And such is the true kingdom of God in the soul. It comes and exists with power, but with great simplicity. There is nothing in it, in itself considered, which is calculated to attract and secure worldly observation. It is mighty; but like God himself, it is inwardly silent, "a still, small voice." The religiously quiet man, that is to say, the man who is inwardly and truly subdued and quiet in consequence of religion, is really the man of great religious strength; and yet this strength, in consequence of that harmonious silence of movement, which is the result of its own perfection, is so hidden from his view, that he seems to be hardly conscious of its existence. But it is very different with the natural man; and also with the Christian, who still retains a large infusion of the natural element. While the operations of the sanctified man are harmonious and quiet, and, therefore, are withdrawn, in a great measure, from distinct inward notice; those of the natural mind are not only self-interested, but are restless, impetuous, and contradictory; and, therefore, as a matter of course are mentally prominent and perceptible. The true controlling principle of the mind, in the case of the natural man, is gone; and its parts in action strike and jar upon each other with an inward concussion, like the hinges of the gates of Hell, that grate "harsh thunder."