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PART SEVENTH.
UNION WITH GOD IN THE WORK OF MAN'S REDEMPTION.



CHAPTER III.


OF UNION WITH GOD IN THE WORK OF MENTAL OR PERSONAL REDEMPTION.


References to the prophet Isaiah. — Remarks. — Of man's union with God in the work of his own restoration. — References to the prophet Malachi. — Of inward death or crucifixion.— Spiritual crucifixion followed by spiritual resurrection. — Of the soul’s new life.

CONCERNING the ultimate effects of Christ's coming upon the material world, and upon the inferior orders of creation, effects which are incidentally connected with man's restoration, who is the head of the whole system, it is not necessary to add anything to the few remarks already made. With one or two passages, therefore, from the prophet Isaiah, we leave that view of the subject. Of the restoration of the earth, he says: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon." [Isa. 35:1, 2.] Of the animal creation, he says: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them." [Isa. 11: 6.]

2. It may undoubtedly be said of these, and other similar passages, that they are figurative. But it will be found, in the end, that the truth which they anticipate and predict will exceed the beauty of the picture, as it existed in the imagination of the prophetic poet. When the head of creation resumes his nature of holy love, the untamed and violent passions of the inferior members will become extinct. And the earth herself, as if conscious of the mighty change, will withdraw her thorns and crown herself with roses.

3. But our great business now is with man. Whatever other things may be involved incidentally in the work of redemption, the great object of Christ’s coming is the restoration of man. And pursuing the subject of the union of man with God in this new aspect, namely, in the work of redemption, the question arises here, how can man be said to be united with God, in the work of his own restoration?

Various answers might be given to this inquiry. full examination of the subject involved in the inquiry would exceed our limits. We propose, therefore, to make but few remarks upon it. Our first remark is this. Man corresponds in his position, and may be said to be united with God in the work of his personal recovery, when he willingly and firmly yields his disfigured spirit to the restoring power of the hands of the great workman. In other words, he unites with God in his own restoration, when he lets the great Master of the mind work upon him.

4. There is an illustration of the subject to be found in the prophet Malachi: "Who may abide the day of his coming” says the prophet, "and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiners fire and like fuller’s soap. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi,
and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness."

The great trouble with men is, even when they have some sense of religion, and begin to estimate its value, that they are unwilling to let the Spirit of God perform his appropriate work upon them. Sin has attached itself to the spirit's surface, like dross to the pure gold. Not more insinuating than it is adhesive, it intertwines itself with man's powers and mental exercises with indescribable strength; so much so that it is difficult to separate the good from the evil, to detach the pure from the impure. And it never can be done effectually and truly without the operations of that omniscient Spirit, which are "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit." [Heb. 4: 12.]

5. We cooperate, therefore, with God, in the work of personal redemption, when we submit to this divine operation without reluctance; — willing to be placed in the crucible, and to be subjected to the fiercest flames till everything evil is consumed and taken away. This is what some ancient experimental writers call
death, that is to say, death to nature, or rather to the corruptions of nature. Occasionally varying the expressions they employ, they sometimes call it crucifixion or inward crucifixion. As Christ died in the body, say these writers, so we must die in the spirit; — as Christ was crucified and laid in the tomb, so we, in the spiritual sense, must be crucified and be laid in the tomb with him. The expressions, though they may sound singularly to some, convey a great truth, which has a permanent foundation in the principles of morals and religion. We cannot be allied with God without freedom from sin. To be free from sin is obviously to die to sin. And it would not be easy to die to sin, without going through that process of inward crucifixion, which is the antecedent of death.

6. But it is a great mistake to suppose, that those, who go down into the tomb by the death of their earthly or sensual life, must remain there; — as if, because they are dead to sin, they must therefore be dead to humanity. We become dead to one system of life, which is wholly evil, that we may become alive to another, which is intrinsically and wholly good. And as we cooperate with God in our crucifixion, by submitting to all the pains he inflicts; so we cooperate with him in our spiritual resurrection by voluntarily accepting the terms by which he becomes in us a new life. And the only terms which God does or can propose, are, that he shall be
All in All to the soul; — becoming its life just as truly, though under different circumstances and in a different way, as he is the life of the material universe, — just as truly as he is the life or life-giving principle of plants and trees, and of the instincts of the lower animals. If plants and trees grow by their own law of growth, it is still true that God is in the law. If animals move by their own law of movement, it is still true that the central principle of the law of movement is a divine power. And if the holy man acts, it is still true that God acts in him. And the only difference between this case, and those which have just been mentioned, is this. God acts in the holy man in connection with, and perhaps we should say, in subordination to, his own choice.

7. Men have made a mistake in
locating, if we may so express it, the action of man's free agency. The true action of man's moral agency is found, not in the choice of particulars, but in the choice of the universal; — not in deciding upon this particular thing or that particular thing, which he cannot do with certainty on account of his limited powers, but in committing his power of choice into God's hands, and choosing God to choose for him.

There are different degrees of union in the work of redemption, as there are different degrees of union in other things. But in the case of the man who
fully unites with God in the work of his personal recovery, the choice which we have just mentioned is the choice which is actually made by him, — made for the present and made for the future, made now and made forever; — namely, the substitution, at the present time and in all time to come, of the divine choice for his own. His choice is to let God choose for him, — to cease to lead himself, that he may be led, not in some things merely, but in all things, by the Spirit of God. He alienates himself, that he may be possessed by another; and he does it, because he has in another that degree of confidence and hope, which he does not and cannot have in himself. He ceases from his own thoughts, that God may think in him and for him; — he ceases from his own desires, that God may inspire in him true and heavenly desires; — he relinquishes his own purposes, that he may fulfill the purposes of God and of God only. He is buried a dead Adam; and so renewed and beautified are the features of his nature, that he may be said, in a mitigated sense of the terms, to be raised again a living Christ.

8. A few words of explanation should, perhaps, be offered here. A philosophical difficulty suggests itself, which it is proper to meet. How is it possible that God should become operative in this manner, in the human mind consistently with its nature and laws? It is obvious that thought, desire and volition, are essential to man's nature, and are in fact embraced in the very idea of man. It is a matter of necessity that the human mind shall act by thinking and desiring, and in other ways, in the appropriate time of its action. All this is true. And it is equally true that all human action, when it is what it
ought to be, is divine action. And this is always the case, (namely, human action is what it ought to be and becomes divine,) when the power of action, which exists in man's nature, is brought out in its appropriate issues, not by human preference, but by the decisions of Providence.

The difficulty is met, therefore, by a proper adjustment of the relations existing between God and man. The divine and the human are made, if we may so express it, to go together. Nothing is gained either by the exclusion of God or by the extinction of humanity. Undoubtedly man must act when the time of action comes. Action is his nature. It cannot be otherwise. But if the action is decided, not by subjective or personal preferences, not by a regard to himself, but by a regard to the
whole, including himself, — in other words, by the divine intimations of an overruling Providence, — then it is true, that the action, which is his own, is also God’s; and that by his own choice, which is to have no choice out of God, the thing done, which would otherwise merely human, comes to bear the radiant stamp of divinity.

9. Without mentioning other devout men, we may properly repeat here, as being in harmony with some of the views hitherto given, the expressions of the learned and venerable John Arndt, whose name is deservedly dear to the Christian world. "If thou believest,” he says, "that Christ was crucified for the sins of the world,
thou must with him be crucified to the same. If thou refusest to comply with this, thou canst not be a living member of Christ, nor be united with him by faith. If thou believest that Christ is risen from the dead, it is thy duty to rise spiritually with Him. In a word, the birth, cross, passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, must, after a spiritual manner, be transacted in thee." And again he remarks in another place: — "Let us renounce wholly our own strength, our own wisdom, our own will and self-love, that, being thus resigned to God alone, we may suffer his power freely to work in us, so that nothing may, in the least, oppose the will and operations of the Lord." [Arndt's True Christianity, Vol. i., pp. 342, 355, — London edition, edited by Jaques.]


10. I am aware that this is a hard doctrine to the natural heart. It strikes heavily upon that feeling of self-confidence, which is one of the evil fruits of our fallen condition. But, as it respects myself, if I may be allowed in humility of spirit to refer to my own feelings, it is a doctrine which is inexpressibly dear to me. I have been taught for many years, and by painful experience, that I can place no confidence in my own thoughts, feelings, or purposes. In none of these respects can I be my own keeper. On the contrary, I have seen, with the greatest clearness, that to be left to myself, either in these respects or in anything else, is always to be left in sin. And so great has been my anguish of spirit, in view of my entire inability to guide myself aright, that I could only pray that I might be struck out of existence and be annihilated, or that God would return and keep that which I could not keep myself.

IF THOU, O GOD, WILT MAKE MY SPIRIT FREE.

If thou, O God, wilt make my spirit free,
Then will that darkened soul be free indeed;
I cannot break my bonds, apart from thee;
Without thy help I bow, and serve, and bleed.
Arise, O Lord, and in thy matchless strength,
Asunder rend the links my heart that bind,
And liberate, and raise, and save at length
My long enthralled and subjugated mind.
And then, with strength and beauty in her wings,
My quickened soul shall take an upward flight,
And in thy blissful presence, King of kings,
Rejoice in liberty, and life, and light,
In renovated power and conscious truth,
In faith and cheerful hope, in love and endless youth.