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



CHAPTER X.


PRINCIPLES AND EXPLANATIONS ON THE SUBJECT OF PRACTICAL HOLINESS.


Definition of holiness. — Reference to the Hebrew and English terms. — Of wholeness or completeness in God. — Practical or experimental holiness implies the fulness of the divine life in the soul.— It is by means of God in the soul that the definition of holiness is realized.— Principles involved in the life of God in the soul, namely, entire consecration, appropriating faith, and living by the moment.

IN connection with the views, which have hitherto been presented in this work, we are aided, I think, in obtaining some new and important ideas in relation to practical holiness. Holiness is often defined (and, perhaps, more generally than in any other way) to be conformity to God's law; — including conformity of the heart or feelings, as well as of the outward action. To this definition, or to others stated with the same import, though, perhaps, with some variation of terms, we do not propose to object. Perhaps it would not be easy to give a better one.

2. There is a great difference, however, between holiness defined and holiness practiced; — between holiness, abstractly considered, and holiness in realization. If, therefore, it may be important to know in what holiness consists by definition, it is certainly not less so to know who is the actual possessor of it. The Hebrew word, which is translated holiness, involves, as one of its ele­ments, the idea of being set apart to a sacred or religious purpose. The English term holiness, in its original import, means
whole-ness, completeness. And this idea, when the subject is contemplated in a practical point of view, ought not to be lost sight of. Accordingly, presenting the matter in a little different light from that in which it is usually presented, it would not be improper to say, that the holy man is one who is whole or complete in God. If every part of the life of the creature is filled up and completed with the life of God, then he is a whole or holy man, and not otherwise. A holy man, therefore, is one who freely surrenders himself to God, that he may receive everything from God in return; — so that, by means of a divine life, operating as a central principle at the seat or heart of his own nature, he is brought into entire harmony with God, and fully represents the divine conception or idea in faith, in knowledge, in love, in will, in harmonizing with providence, in everything. Holiness, therefore, considered practically, is the perfect restoration of the divine life in the soul.

3. In making these statements we are not to forget, (and we are the more solicitous that we should not forget it, because great truths sometimes lie in the close vicinity of great errors,) that man is a moral being endued with the power of free choice; and that the divine presence cannot exist in him, as a principle of life, except with
his own consent. Moral life is a different thing from mere physical or instinctive life. There is a sense in which God is the life of everything. He is the life of the earth, the sky, the waters. He is the living principle of whatever the earth produces, — of the leaf, the flower, the plant, the tree. He is the life also, by means of their various and wonderful instincts, of all lower animals. But he is their life, in some cases, without their knowing it at all, because they are not percipient existences; and in other cases, without their exhibiting any distinct recognition and knowledge, if it is possible that they have It. But it is not so with moral beings. God is and can be the life of such beings, only so far as he is so with their own consent. In the words of a modern English poet,

"Our wills are ours; we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine."

[Tennyson]

So that it is not more necessary that God should be our life, than it is that we should choose him to be so. If it be true that we cannot live without the life of God in the soul, it is also true that we cannot have that life without our own choice. And the reason is, that the principles of moral government, as it exists among beings who are subject to the supremacy of a divine government, require, without the exclusion of either, that there should be an harmonious action and union of the two in one. When God works within us with our own consent and in answer to our own prayer, then the human and divine may be said to be reconciled, because the work of God, by the harmonious adjustment of the two, becomes both the work of God and the work of the creature. So that it is true, in all cases of holiness actually experienced that the man lives and has a true life; while it is also true, and in a still higher sense, that God lives in him.

4. The consent or choice, of which we have been speaking, may not always be formally or expressly given; but it always exists as an element of the inward nature. And, accordingly, the alienation or loss of life depends upon the alienation or withdrawal of consent. The beings who inhabit other worlds, so far as they remain holy beings, have never withdrawn their consent, and, consequently, have never fallen. Nothing could be so unpleasant to them as to be left to themselves. Accordingly, the desire to dethrone and alienate the great central principle has never entered their minds. It was otherwise with man. He chose to separate himself from God by trusting to his own wisdom, and yielding himself to his own desires. He thus lost the true life. And as there is and can be but one true life, he necessarily died. He lives, it is true; but it is a
dead life. He lives physically, but is dead morally; he lives in the form, but is dead in the spirit. Death is his truth, and life is his fiction. So that, though both are true in a certain sense, it is the greater truth to say that he is dead.

5. Returning, therefore, to the leading idea involved in these remarks, we proceed to say, that man is restored from death just in proportion as he begins to live in and from God. And when, by exercising that consent which God allows him, he lives wholly from God by choosing to live wholly from him, and by exercising faith to that effect, then he is a
whole or holy man. Taking the common definition, that holiness is entire conformity to God's law, still it is not the definition which makes a man holy, but the life of God in the soul. It is God within, that makes the definition available. Who properly understands God's law, and knows what it is, unless he is first taught of God? Who loves God's law, unless love is first inspired within him by the breath of God himself? Who obeys God's law by bringing his will into conformity with it, except by the constant aids of divine grace?

Let it ever be remembered that there is only one that is holy in the higher and original sense. And that is God. All other beings, whatever position they may sustain in the universe, are holy only as they are holy in and by him. If there is anything at variance with the Scriptures, unsound in philosophy, and pernicious in practice, it is the idea of right or holy living from one's self; that is to say, by means of the elements of strength and of guidance which he has in himself. It is no more philosophical than the doctrine of effect without a cause. Sooner shall the flower grow without the earth and rains to nourish it, or the mighty oak spring from the surface of the barren rock, than the soul of man live without having its roots struck, if we may so express it, in the bosom of the Infinite; and deriving, not a partnership of nourishment, but the whole of its nourishment from God.

6. These views go to confirm some of the principles laid down from time to time by writers, whose object it is to describe and to inculcate the higher states of religious experience. Among other principles, to which I have reference in this remark, are these: — personal and entire consecration; unwavering faith in God's acceptance of the consecration when it is once made; and that practical conformity of heart and life to God's providences, which is termed living by the moment. And it seems to me that this is a proper place briefly to call attention to these principles.

7. And our first remark, in relation to the principle of entire consecration, is, that no man can experience the highest results of religion, and become a truly holy man, unless he has thus consecrated himself to God. We do not suppose, however, that this, although it is indispensable in the growth of religion in the soul, is ordinarily the first thing that takes place. Before a man can consecrate himself to God, he must be led to see that he is alienated from God. Conviction of sin, therefore, would naturally be the first thing. He could hardly be expected to return, until he had first been made sensible of his departure. But when this has been done, when he has been made in some degree to see and feel his situation, and to apply to Christ for relief, he may reasonably be expected, in his new position and in the exercise of a new faith, to lay himself, as it is sometimes expressed, upon the "altar of sacrifice." And in doing this, he alters his whole position. Dissatisfied with his past experience, he now ceases to look to himself, and to repose confidence in himself. In his blindness, of which he now for the first time has a proper conception, although he knew something of it before, he looks to another and higher source for light. In his weakness, which he finds after a greater or less experience to be universal and total, he looks somewhere else for strength. And this disposition to renounce himself, and to place himself entirely in the hands of God for strength and wisdom and whatever else is necessary for him, is what is generally understood to be meant by consecration.

But consecration, even when realized in the highest sense, is not enough. And, indeed, standing alone, and without the aid of other principles and feelings, it seems to be wholly unavailable.

8. And, accordingly, another principle, involved in the full or perfect return of the soul to God, is the necessity of
appropriating faith; — that is to say, faith, that he who exercises it, is himself received of God, and that God will do in him and for him all that he has promised to do. To give ourselves to God, in order that we may receive him as our life, and at the same time not to believe in him as actually becoming our life in accordance with his promise, is virtually to annul our consecration, because it is impossible for us sincerely to consecrate ourselves to a being, in whom we have not perfect confidence that he will do what he has promised to do. So that faith, as we have now explained the term, is as necessary as consecration.

9. When we have thus fully consecrated ourselves to God, and have faith in him, that he does now receive us, then the true life, which before was greatly obstructed in consequence of the consecration being imperfect or partial, flows from God into the soul with greatly increased freeness. The divine fountain is not only opened, but the obstructions, which had previously existed in the recipient, are removed; so that the elements of life are not only offered but received; and they gradually extend, and perhaps very soon, to every part of the soul. We now live with a true life; but it remains to be said, that we live and can live only
by the moment.

As soon as God, by his in-dwelling presence, becomes the inspiration and life of the soul, he inspires in it those thoughts and feelings, and those only, which are appropriate to the present time. To every moment of time there is but one mental state which is suited. Between the circumstances of the time and the correspondent attributes of the mental state there is, and necessarily must be, a relationship as wise as infinite wisdom, and as perfect as infinite adjustment. God himself cannot alter it, because he cannot deviate from the perfect to the imperfect. God, therefore, as the infinite giver, (that is to say, when he is allowed to be and is accepted as the infinite giver,) can give only what he does give; and can give it only at the present time. The life, therefore, which we live in God, is and can be only life by the moment. The stream flows forever, but it strikes upon the soul only at the given time.

10. The man who thus consecrates himself to God, and, in the exercise of faith, puts himself in the line of divine communication, so that he receives from God his knowledge, his feeling, and his purpose, is the truly holy man, because he is the
whole man.




OH SACRED UNION WITH THE PERFECT MIND.

Oh sacred union with the perfect mind!
Transcendent bliss, which Thou alone canst give!
How blest are they, this pearl of price who find,
And, dead to earth, have learnt in Thee to live!

Thus, in thine arms of love, O God, I lie!
Lost, and forever lost, to all but Thee.
My happy soul, since it hath learnt to die,
Hath found new life in thine Infinity.

O, go, and learn this lesson of the cross!
And tread the way which saints and prophets trod;
Who, counting life, and self, and all things loss,
Have found in inward death the life of God.