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



CHAPTER XI.


ON UNION WITH GOD IN THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER.


God, in doing his own work, accepts of man's agency. — Remarks on the operations of the Divine mind. — Illustrations of the subject. Souls in union with God harmonize with the Divine mind in its inward experiences. — God’s desires and purposes made known, in some degree, in the experiences of his people. — Of the power of a good man's prayer.

THE work of redemption, in all the various forms in which it is carried on, is truly and emphatically God's work. But it is worthy of grateful notice, that our heavenly Father, in doing his own work, condescends to accept of human agency. Placing the Infinite in alliance with the finite, he allows man to be a co-worker with himself. And one of man's great works, that work without which nothing else is available, is
prayer.

But, in saying this, it should be added, that we use the term prayer, not in the restricted sense of particular or specific supplication, but in the more general sense in which it is sometimes employed, namely, as expressive of communion with God in all its forms.

2. In order to illustrate properly the subject of union with God in prayer, it is necessary to lay down some principles in relation to Divine experience, as it may, perhaps, be termed; — that is to say, in relation to the feelings experienced in the mind of God. It is sometimes said of God, that, being infinite and perfect, he is beyond the reach of emotionality; in other words, is an "impassive" existence, a being without feeling. The truth seems to us to be directly the opposite. God, so far from being the negation, is the perfection of feeling; that is to say, he feels, and cannot help feeling, just as he ought to feel, on all possible occasions.

3. This remark we proceed now to illustrate in some particulars. And, accordingly, it may be said, in the first place, that God, instead of being impassive and without sensibility, is a being of desires and aversions. Can it be supposed, for instance, that any good takes place in the universe, without God's desiring it to take place? And if such a supposition is impossible, it is equally so that any evil can take place without causing in him feelings of dissatisfaction and aversion. And this is not all. He not only desires good to take place, but he rejoices in it, when it has taken place. And he cannot do otherwise. And, on the other hand, he not only disapproves of wrong-doing, and desires that it may not take place, but it cannot take place without exciting grief in him.

It is a great and affecting truth, that the infinite God, in the true sense of the terms, is grieved with sinners. To be indifferent to sin in any of its forms or degrees, which is the same thing as being "impassive" in view of sin, is not in his nature. Such a supposition, namely, the sight of sin without experiencing any emotions, would imply, at least, a great imperfection of character. And if it is impossible for him to be indifferent to sin, it is certainly impossible for him to be pleased with it. To be grieved with sin, therefore, to be grieved with an infinite grief, is the necessary result of the infinity and perfection of his nature.

4. And it is the same with other feelings. It is prob­ably not necessary to go through with them in detail It is sufficient to say that God has, and necessarily must have, all those feelings which are appropriate to a perfectly wise, benevolent, and holy being. They correspond to things as they take place; and they vary exactly with the changing incidents of those things; every shade of alteration in the facts causing a shade of alteration in the corresponding feelings. So that it is true of the divine mind, that it is constantly in motion and constantly at rest at the same time; — the rest, or rather the perfect tranquility, being the result of the perfection of its movement. It is not the rest of inaction, but of perfect adjustment; not the rest of impassive stagnation, but of emotional and moral harmony.

5. We proceed now to state, in connection with these brief explanations, that the soul, which is fully in the experience of divine union, will harmonize perfectly with the emotions and desires of the divine mind. If, for instance, there are soon to be especial operations of tbs Holy Spirit, and if souls are to be enlightened and restored to God, the preparations for such events will always exist first in the mind of God himself. It is not possible that such things should exist accidentally They are the developments, coming in their appropriate order and under appropriate circumstances, of the divine thought, of the divine feeling. But if it be true that the heavings of the billows, whether gently or more powerfully, will first show themselves in the great ocean of thought and feeling, it will also be true that they will excite a correspondent movement in all smaller steams and fountains which are in alliance with them. In other words, God, in all good works, moves first; and the minds of his people, (all those who come within the particular sphere of movement,) move in harmony with him.

If God desires a particular thing to take place within their particular sphere of feeling and action, the desire of the Infinite mind sympathetically takes shape and develops itself in the finite mind; and the unspoken desire of the Father shows itself in the uttered prayer of the children. As in nature a small moaning sound of the winds often precedes a wide and powerful movement, so the sighing in the bosoms of the finite denotes an approaching movement of far greater power in the Infinite.

6. In connection with these views we have one of the methods given us, by which we discover the particular thing or purpose which now exists in the mind of God. It is obviously the dictate of the common sense of mankind, that the fact of unity of spirit implies and involves the fact of unity of movement. All those who are "born of God," in the higher sense of the expressions, (for instance, in the sense in which the expressions are used in St. John's epistles,) are in unity with him, whose spiritual birth is within them. It is not more true that God is their Father, than it is that they are God's children. They are one; — as the planets are one with the sun, as the billow is one with the ocean, as the branch is one with the vine, as the son is one with the father. And, in the existence of such union, there cannot, as a general thing, be a feeling or purpose in one party, without the existence of a correspondent feeling and purpose in the other. There are some limitations and exceptions undoubtedly; but, as a general thing, when we know the thoughts of God's true people, we know God's thoughts; when we know what God's true people desire, we know what God desires; when we know what the people of God are determined to do, we know what God is deter­mined to do.

7. And another remark, following from what has been said is this: Whenever thou hearest God's people praying, perhaps in yonder little prayer-meeting, perhaps in some solitary place in the wilderness, perhaps in the desolate and lonely room of some poor widow, then know that the day of divine manifestation is near at hand. We cannot tell, perhaps, in what direction or in what way the manifestation of God's presence is to be made; but we cannot doubt the general fact that it is approaching.

All persons whose fulness of faith has brought them into the state of union with God, know this to be the case. They know (without knowing how they know it) that the movement of desire in their own souls, arising sometimes under remarkable circumstances and in a remarkable way, is the continuation, the distant but affiliated throbbing, of the great heart of the universe. And with such a conviction existing in their minds, it obviously becomes easy, and, perhaps we may say, necessary for them, to exercise that particular form of faith which is appropriate to their state of desire. Having, therefore, a desire for a particular thing, and believing that this desire is only the vibration from the great centre, the finite repetition of the infinite desire, they cannot doubt that there will be a manifestation of God, correspondent to that form of inward feeling which exists in him as well as in themselves.

8. If what has been said is correct, then it may properly be added, that there is something not only impressive but sublime, and almost terrible, in a holy man's prayer; whether it take the form of supplication, or of blessing, or of praise. That praying voice which thou hearest, broken though it may be with weakness and trembling with age, is not more the voice of man than of God. Oh, do not trifle with it, if thou wouldst not trifle with God himself! Uttered in these last days, it is nevertheless true, that, in its attributes of origin and power, it is the voice of Abraham, of Moses, of Daniel; — men who had power with God, because God had power with them. It is the chain of communication between two worlds; the circumference, showing the light and heat of the centre. It brings down the sunlight of God's favor, or the lightning of his displeasure. If it curses thee, then thou art cursed; if it blesses thee, then thou art blessed. If it expresses itself in pity, then the tear of compassion is falling upon thee from the omniscient eye. Listen reverently, therefore, to the good man's prayer. God is in it.