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We find in some devout writers on inward experience, the phrase spiritual nuptials. It is a favorite method with some of these writers, to represent the union of the soul with God by the figure of the bride and the bridegroom. Similar expressions are found in the Scriptures.
We are not to suppose that such expressions mean anything more, in reality, than that intimate union which exists between God and the soul, when the soul is in the state of pure love.
We find again other forms of expression, which it is proper to notice. The union between God and the soul is sometimes described by them as an "essential" union, and sometimes as a "substantial" union, as if there were a union of essence, substance, or being, in the literal or physical sense. They mean to express nothing more than the fact of the union of pure love, with the additional idea that the union is firm and established; not subject to those breaks and inequalities, to that want of continuity and uniformity of love which characterize inferior degrees of experience.
It is the holy soul of which St. Paul may be understood especially to speak, where he says, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (Rom. viii. 14.)
Those who are in a state of simple faith, which can always be said of those who are in the state of pure love, are the "little ones" of the Scriptures, of whom we are told that God teaches them. "I thank you, says the Saviour, "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and has revealed them to babes." (Luke x. 21.) Such souls, taught as they are by the Spirit of God which dwells in them, possess a knowledge which the wisdom of the world could never impart. But such knowledge never renders them otherwise than respectful to religious teachers, docile to the instructions of the Church, and conformable in all things to the precepts of the Scriptures.
The doctrine of pure love has been known and recognized as a true doctrine among the truly contemplative and devout in all ages of the Church. The doctrine, however, has been so far above the common experience, that the pastors and saints of all ages have exercised a degree of discretion and care in making it known, except to those to whom God had already given both the attraction and light to receive it. Acting on the principle of giving milk to infants and strong meat to those that were more advanced, they addressed in the great body of Christians the motives of fear and of hope, founded on the consideration of happiness or of misery. It seemed to them, that the motive of God's glory, in itself considered, a motive which requires us to love God for Himself alone without a distinct regard and reference to our own happiness, could he profitably addressed, as a general rule, only to those who are somewhat advanced in inward experience.
Among the various forms of expression indicative of the highest experience, we sometimes find that of "Divine union," or "union with God."
Union with God, not a physical but moral or religious union, necessarily exists in souls that are in the state of pure love. The state of "Divine union " is not a higher state than that of pure love, but may rather be described as the same state.
Strive after it; but do not too readily or easily believe that you have attained to it. The traveler, after many fatigues and dangers, arrives at the top of a mountain. As he looks abroad from that high eminence, and in that clear atmosphere, he sees his native city; and it seems to him to be very near. Overjoyed at the sight, and perhaps deceived by his position, he proclaims himself as already at the end of his journey. But he soon finds that the distance was greater than he supposed. He is obliged to descend into valleys, and to climb over hills, and to surmount rugged rocks, and to wind his tired steps over many a mile of weary way, before he reaches that home and city, which he once thought so near.
It is thus in relation to the sanctification of the heart. True holiness of heart is the object at which the Christian aims. He beholds it before him, as an object of transcendent beauty, and as perhaps near at hand. But as he advances towards it, he finds the way longer and more difficult than he had imagined. But if on the one hand we should be careful not to mistake au intermediate stopping place for the end of the way, we should be equally careful on the other not to be discouraged by the difficulties we meet with; remembering that the obligation to be holy is always binding upon us, and that God will help those who put their trust in Him.
"Whatsoever is born of God, overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, EVEN OUR FAITH." (1 John v.4.)
Note by T.C. Upham: In the preceding view I have omitted a number of passages which were exclusively Roman Catholic in their aspect, in being of less interest and value to the Protestant reader than other parts.
Taken from: The Story of Madame Guyon’s Life, by: T.C. Upham
Reprinted by Christian Books, Atlanta, Ga. 1984 from
A reprint by Sampson and Low Inc., England (1907)
Upham, Thomas Cogswell, 1799 – 1872, Life and Religious Opinions and Experience of Madame de La Mothe Guyon (New York, Harper & brothers, 1847).
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