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PART EIGHTH.
OF THE PEACE OR REST OF A SOUL IN A STATE OF UNION.


CHAPTER X.


THE SOUL IN UNION WITH GOD HAS REST BECAUSE IT HAS PASSED FROM THE MEDITATIVE TO THE CONTEMPLATIVE STATE.


The contemplative state naturally preceded by the meditative. — Some account of the meditative state. — This state implies effort, and some degree of pain. — Nature of the contemplative state. — Particulars in which it differs from the meditative state. — In all cases it is natural and easy. — Of the fixedness or permanency of the contemplative state. — The beauty snd wonderful effects of this state.

ONE of the characteristics of a soul which is brought into union with God, is that it is
contemplative. This is so much the case, that it seems to be proper here to give some explanations of a state which is eminently delightful and profitable; and especially because it is in this state of mind that we find one of the elements and sources of that divine peace which we have been endeavoring to explain.

2. We shall the better understand the contemplative state, if we keep in mind that it is naturally preceded by the
meditative state. Every religious man knows what it is to direct his thoughts to God; in other words, to meditate upon him and upon those objects which are closely connected with him. In the meditative state, the religious man not only holds God in view by means of the meditative act, namely, by acts of perception and reflection upon the divine character; but he always does it with more or less of mental effort; — that is to say, by a definite and formal act of the will. So that the meditative state, though necessary and important in its place, is in some degree painful. And hence it is, that meditation, in order to render the mental operation more easy and effective, is generally understood to imply and to require a particular time to be set apart, and also a particular place remote from interruption. Meditation, therefore, though very necessary, is not in all respects a natural state; and, consequently, implying as it does a degree of effort and of resistance against other tendencies, does not appear to be entirely consistent with the highest rest and peace of the soul.

3. But it is not so with the contemplative state. Contemplation, in the religious sense of the term, is meditation
perfected. Considered as a religious state, contemplation, without formally aiming at the discovery of new truths in relation to God, is a calm dwelling upon him in thought, as he is already known to the mind, attended with faith, with such new views also as are naturally and easily presented, and with affectionate exercises of the heart. And, accordingly, it differs from the meditative state in a number of respects; some of which we shall now proceed to mention.

4. Contemplation, like the meditative state, has an object towards which it is especially directed, and that object is
God. But the remark to be made here is this. While it is like the meditative state in the sameness of its object, it is unlike it in another particular; namely, it is not propelled towards its object, if we may so speak, by a forced effort of the will; but is rather gently and sweetly attracted towards it by the perception of its innate loveliness. The contemplative man, therefore, in consequence of being in perfect union with God, dwells upon him, in his acts of contemplation, with a sweet quietude or rest of spirit, of which the merely meditative man is, in a greater or less degree, destitute.

5. Another point of difference is this. The meditative man dwells upon God as a God limited or particular; — that is to say, as circumscribed by the limitations of form and locality. The contemplative man, on the contrary, dwells upon him as a God
universal. But this remark requires some explanation.

The common idea of God not only ascribes to him the attribute of personality, — an attribute which is essential to all correct views of him under all circumstances, but also assigns to him a form, and places him as having form in some definite and distant locality; as dwelling, for instance, within the walls of the New Jerusalem, as shut up within golden gates, or as seated on a lofty white throne of celestial beauty. This conception of the Divinity, which appears to be the common one at first, is probably well suited to the earlier stages of religious experience, when the mind is just beginning to recover itself from the weakness and blindness of sin. And we may say, further, there is great truth in it as far as it goes, — but it is not
the whole truth. It is true, that God occupies place; and that place may be here, or there, or anywhere; but it is equally true, that he is not limited to place. It is true that God may assume form; and that, on special occasions and for special reasons, he has assumed it; but it is equally true, that form is not essential to him. So that, when our conception, relieved from the embarrassments of sin, expands, so as to correspond, in some degree, to the magnitude of the object, we find him not under one form only, but under all forms; not in one place merely, but in all places. Everywhere the Divin­ity which was before veiled by unbelief, enlarges into light. But he is still a personal God, though infinite in the varieties of form, infinite in the multiplications of place; though seen and recognized by faith in every tree, and plant, and rock, and flower; in every star, in the wandering moon, in the bright sun, in the floating cloud, in the wide and deep sea, in insects and birds, and the wild beasts of the mountains, in men, in angels, in all things, beings and places. It is God thus revealed in his universality that we call God universal, in distinction from God local.

6. The meditative man attaches himself to the God
local; the contemplative man attaches himself to the God universal. But to do the first, namely, to seek God in a particular place, to the exclusion of other places, requires effort, and is in some degree painful; because we must seek him "as a God afar off.” The latter, namely, to commune with him in all places and in all objects, — supposing ourselves to have arrived at the appropriate state, and the adequate power to be given us, — is natural and easy; because, finding God even without seeking him at all, we contemplate him as a God present. Being in the midst of place and objects, none of which are, or can be, separate from a divine presence, all the soul has to do is to look and love. Calmly and sweetly it casts its eye upon every object which is presented to its notice, and it finds itself dwelling upon God in all.

7. The contemplative state, like that of meditation, is, for the time being, a
fixed state. That is to say, the mind unites itself firmly and fixedly with its appropriate object for a length of time. In the highest degrees of sanctification, it becomes almost a permanent state. It may be broken temporarily by the pressure of care and worldly business. But it is the natural tendency of the truly holy mind, when left to itself, to fall into this state. That is to say, in every object the contemplative man, who cannot be truly contemplative without being truly holy, catches a new glimpse of the Divinity; and has no heart to leave it, until the vicissitudes of Providence call him to other objects where he has new revelations of the divine nature, and new exercises and intimacies of love.

8. To him who has this deeper insight and this higher unity, God breathes in the vernal zephyr, and shines brightly in the summer's sun; he sees him moulding and painting the fruits of autumn, and sending the hoar-frosts and piling up the snows of winter; all inanimate nature is full of him. He sees God, also, in what is ordinarily called the work of men's hands. It is God that spreads his pillow; — it is God that builds his house; — it is God that ploughs his fields; — it is God that sells for him and buys for him; — God gives him pain, and sends him joy, — smites him when he is sick, and heals him when he gets well.

And what God does for himself, he does also for others, and for communities. He sees God in all the changes which take place around him. It is God that builds up and puts down,— that makes kings and makes subjects, — that builds up one nation and destroys another, — that binds the chains of the captive and gives liberty to the free, — that makes war and makes peace. All men, and princes, and nations, are in his hands like clay in the hands of the potter. His eternal will, which, in being established on the basis of eternal wisdom and justice, never has changed and never can change, dashes them to pieces, or fashions them to ever­lasting life. All things are his,
sin only excepted, and sin is sin, because it is not of God.

9. What blessed results would follow, if all men, arrived at the state of holy contemplation, had that faith which deprives God of form, and displaces him from a particular locality, in order that, being without form, he may attach himself to
all forms, and that, being without place, he may be found present in all places. Such a faith, if it would not at once carry us up to the New Jerusalem, would do that which amounts to much the same thing, — it would bring the New Jerusalem down to earth, and would expand its golden walls and gates to the limits of the world and of the universe. "And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be wIth them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."