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Divine Influences.

1.— The doctrine of Divine Influences, in other words that men are susceptible of being inwardly taught and guided by the Spirit of God, and that such teaching and guidance is a part of the spiritual and religious economy of the Universe, is a doctrine not only historically illustrated and confirmed in the ancient books of many nations, but is agreeable to the highest thought and reasonings of men, and therefore properly takes its place among the doctrines of the Absolute Religion. Setting aside for the present the historical argument, which may be regarded as highly confirmatory, and looking at the subject in the light of intuition and reasoning alone, we may remark, in the first place, that the doctrine of divine influences flows naturally and necessarily from the fact, which we suppose now to be recognized and established, of the existence of God. God exists. And his existence as God makes Him the source of existence to all other beings. And it is certainly reasonable to say, that his position as the source of being, entitles Him to the control, and not only gives the right but imposes the duty of control, over the beings He has created. He makes them what they are; and it would not be possible for Him because it would not be right and just, to relieve himself from all responsibility in relation to them. And responsibility cannot be separated from any degree of guidance and control, which is necessary to meet the claims that the existing responsibility imposes. In a word God creates and therefore He rules. On this point when it is properly explained, there can hardly be a difference of opinion.

2.— When we come to the subject of the kind or manner of the control which he is entitled to exercise, and which it is his duty to exercise, there may possibly be ground for some differences of thought. We may say however in general terms, that the manner of this control must be determined by a consideration of the nature and relations of the beings respectively, who govern on the one hand, or are governed on the other. God is a spirit; and man in his essential nature is a spirit also; and having by means of our personal consciousness gained some knowledge of our own spiritual nature, we are assisted by that knowledge to some extent, in gaining a knowledge of the spiritual nature of God. And in affirming the doctrine of Divine Influences, the doctrine of God operating upon man, and of man, in his mental nature accepting and responding to the divine influence, we are aided in meeting the problems involved in the subject, by a knowledge, that it is mind operating upon mind, and by a just consideration and application of known mental laws.

3.— And accordingly we proceed to say, that the exercise of divine influence is not the application of material force, nor anything strictly analogous to material force, which would obviously be inconsistent with the nature of mind; but, so far as we can perceive, such divine influence is, and can be, only the application of that mental force which is lodged in
motives. God influences by setting motives before us. If difficulties are to be surmounted, he sets before us motives which are fitted to increase our courage; if threatening dangers are in our way, he sets before us motives which are adapted to excite our fears; and in the vast field of human purpose and action, he is at no loss for appropriate suggestions and appliances suited to every possible occasion.

It is proper to make the remark at this point, that God, in operating upon man by means of motives, never violates his freedom. Man is not merely an existence but a moral and accountable being; and freedom, placed beyond the reach of violation, is one of the attributes which constitutes him a man.

4.— It is not necessary for us, however, to pursue the subject largely in this direction. The great topic before us, that of the absolute and unchangeable religion and what is included in it, renders it more important to affirm the fact than the manner of the fact; to say what
is rather than how it is. In saying, therefore, that there are and must be Divine Influences, God operating upon man and man the subject of the divine operation, we say that which is affirmed by human experience. And human experience, considered in the different aspects in which it presents itself, includes the testimony both of feeling and reason. Eternal and unchangeable truth, when existing within the sphere of humanity and having relation to humanity, is always verified by human intuition. Intuitional reason affirms the influences of God. The existence of such divine influence is not identical with its affirmation; but the affirmation is the out-birth and the revelation of the existence. And it may further be said, that the affirmation brings the great fact within the range of one of the forms of human experience; and enables us to recognize it, to speak of it, and to rejoice in it.

5.— And this is not all. The existence of Divine Influence upon the mind is verified also by that form of experience which we call
feeling. How common it is for men to say, with considerable variety of expression, that God is near them or that He impresses them or that he is within them. Men affirm the thing, not merely because it is intuitionally perceived, on the ground that it is because it cannot be otherwise, but because they feel it to be so. The emotions or sentiments have a voice as well as the perceptions; and although the utterance is different in form, it is the same in meaning. The history of the churches, the history of individuals, the testimony which is given by persons in all situations, from the highest to the lowest, is in harmony with this statement, that divine influences are experienced and recognized in the inward feeling.

6.—In a recently published work on Mental Philosophy, I have referred to the doctrine of divine influences in the following terms; with the introduction of which here, I leave the subject, which is one of great practical importance to the reflections of the reader.

The susceptibility of inspiration from higher sources is not merely, as some may perhaps suppose, a theological dogmatism, but is one of the great and precious facts of humanity. God never ignores the sublime truth of his universal Fatherhood, and has never released his connection with any of the tribes of men. He utters his voice everywhere. Homer, Plato, Euripides, Cicero, Livy and Plutarch, as well as the long record of those whose inspirational history has given lustre and power to the unequalled pages of the Bible, have recognized the fact, that man in the weaknesses and ignorance incidental to his finite nature, is susceptible of strength and guidance from the Infinite.

But these results are reached through law. The conditions of inspirational receptivity, at least those which are leading and indispensable, are three. First, Faith in this great fact, that there is thus an open door of communication between God and man; second, a sincere desire that God, who never violates our freedom, will by means of his inspirational influences come into communication with us; and third, a freedom from all biases and prejudices of self-will,—in other words, unselfishness. Under such circumstances, the human mind in virtue of the unchangeable laws of its being, is susceptible of being reached, instructed, and guided. Nothing is more important to man than such guidance. And the mental susceptibility (not exclusively, but much more than some other of our mental powers,) which is open to divine influences, and which turns to catch the inspirational suggestions of God, is the Intuitional power.