« Prev Chapter I Next »



I omitted to say that this is where true liberty begins; not, as some imagine, a liberty which necessitates idleness; that would be imprisonment rather than liberty, fancying ourselves free because, having an aversion to our own works, we no longer practise them. The liberty of which I speak is of a different nature; it does all things easily which God would have done, and the more easily in proportion 212 to the duration and the painfulness of the incapacity to do them which we have previously experienced. I confess I do not understand the resurrection state of certain Christians, who profess to have attained it, and who yet remain all their lives powerless and destitute; for here the soul takes up a true life. The actions of a raised man are the actions of life; and if the soul remain lifeless, I say that it may be dead or buried, but not risen. A risen soul should be able to perform without difficulty all the actions which it has performed in the past, only they would be done in God. Did not Lazarus, after his resurrection, exercise all the functions of life as formerly, and Jesus Christ after His resurrection was willing to eat and to converse with men. And so of those who believe themselves to be risen with Christ, and who are nevertheless stunted in their spiritual growth and incapable of devotion,—I say, that they do not possess a resurrection life, for there everything is restored to the soul a hundred-fold. There is a beautiful illustration of this in the case of Job, whose history I consider a mirror of the spiritual life. First God robbed him 213 of his wealth, which we may consider as setting forth gifts and graces; then of his children; this signifies the destruction of natural sensibilities, and of our own works, which are as our children and our most cherished possessions: then God deprived him of his health, which symbolises the loss of virtue; then He touched his person, rendering him an object of horror and contempt. It even appears that this holy man was guilty of sin, and failed in resignation; he was accused by his friends of being justly punished for his crimes; there was no healthy part left in him. But after he had been brought down to the dunghill, and reduced as it were to a corpse, did not God restore everything to him, his wealth, his children, his health, and his life?

It is the same with spiritual resurrection; everything is restored, with a wonderful power to use it without being defiled by it, clinging to it without appropriating it as before. All is done in God, and things are used as though they were not used. It is here that true liberty and true life are found. “If we have been planted in the likeness of Christ's death, we shall be also in the likeness of 214 His resurrection” (Rom. vi. 5). Can there be freedom where there are powerlessness and restrictions? No; “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed,” but with His liberty.

This is where true liberty begins. Nothing that God desires is difficult to us, or costs us anything; and if a person is called to preach, to instruct, &c., he does it with a marvellous facility, without the necessity of preparing a discourse, being well able to practise what Jesus commanded His disciples, “Take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist” (Matt. x. 19; Luke xxi. 15). This is not given till after an experience of powerlessness; and the deeper that experience has been, the greater is the liberty. But it is useless to endeavour to force ourselves into this condition; for as God would not be the source, we should not realise the desired results. It may well be said of this risen life, that all good things are given with it. In this state, the soul cannot practise the virtues as virtues; it is not even conscious of them; but all the virtues 215 have become so habitual to it, that it practises them naturally, almost instinctively. When it hears others speak of deep humiliation, it is surprised to find that it experiences nothing of the kind; and if it sought to humble itself, it would be astonished, as though it were guilty of unfaithfulness, and would even find it impossible, because the state of annihilation through which it has passed has placed it below all humiliation; for in order to be humbled, we must be something, and nothingness cannot be brought lower; its present state has placed it above all humility and all virtue by its transformation into God, so that its powerlessness arises both from its annihilation and its elevation. Those persons have nothing outwardly to distinguish them from others, unless it be that they do no harm to any one; for, so far as the exterior is concerned, they are very ordinary, and therefore do not attract observation, but live in a state of quiet rest, free from all care and anxiety. They experience a deep joy, arising from the absence of all fear, or desire, or longing, so that nothing can disturb their repose or diminish their joy. David possessed this experience when 216 he said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid” (Ps. xxvii. 1).

A heart ravished with joy no longer looks at itself, nor thinks of itself; and its joy, though great, is not an object of contemplation. The soul is in a state of ravishment and ecstasy which cause no uneasiness, because God has enlarged its capacity almost to infinitude. Those ecstasies which cause the loss of consciousness are the effect of human imperfection, and are nevertheless the admiration of men. God is, as it were, drawing the soul out of itself that it may be lost in Him; but as it has neither sufficient purity nor strength to bear the process, it becomes necessary, either that God should cease thus to draw it, which involves the cessation of the ecstasy, or that nature should succumb and die, which not unfrequently happens. But in this resurrection life, the ecstasy lasts, not for a few hours only, but for ever, without either violence or variation, God having purified and strengthened the subject of it to the extent necessary to enable it to bear this glorious ravishment. It seems to me 217 that when God goes out of Himself, He creates an ecstasy,—but I dare not say this for fear of teaching an error. What I say then is, that the soul drawn out of itself experiences an inward ecstasy; but a happy one, because it is only drawn out of itself in order that it may be drowned and lost in God, quitting its own imperfections and its own limited thoughts to participate in those of God.

O happy nothingness! where does its blessedness end? O poverty-stricken, weary ones! how well ye are recompensed! O unutterable happiness! O soul! what a gain thou hast made in exchange for all thy losses! Couldst thou have believed, when thou wast lying in the dust, that what caused thee so much horror could have procured thee so great a happiness as that which thou now possessest? If it had been told thee, thou couldst not have credited it. Learn now by thine own experience how good it is to trust in God, and that those who put their confidence in Him shall never be confounded.

O abandonment! what gladness canst thou impart to the soul, and what progress it might have made if 218 it had found thee at first; from how much weariness it might have been delivered if it had known how to let God work! But, alas! men are not willing to abandon themselves, and to trust only in God. Even those who appear to do it, and who think themselves well established in it, are only abandoned in imagination, and not in reality. They are willing to abandon themselves in one thing and not in another; they wish to compromise with God, and to place a limit to what they will permit Him to do. They want to give themselves up, but on such and such conditions. No; this is not abandonment. An entire and total abandonment excepts nothing, keeps back nothing, neither death, nor life, nor perfection, nor salvation, nor heaven, nor hell. O poor souls! give yourselves up utterly in this abandonment; you will get only happiness and blessing from it. Walk boldly on this stormy sea, relying on the word of Jesus, who has promised to take upon Himself the care of all those who will lose their own life, and abandon themselves to Him. But if you sink like Peter, ascribe it to the weakness of your faith. If we had the faith calmly, and without hesitation, to face all dangers, what good should we 219 not receive! What do you fear, trembling heart? You fear to lose yourself? Alas! for all that you are worth, what would that matter? Yes, you will lose yourself if you have strength to abandon yourself to God, but you will be lost in Him. O happy loss! I do not know how sufficiently to repeat it. Why can I not persuade every one to make this abandonment? and why do men preach anything less? Alas! men are so blind that they regard all this as folly, as something fit for women and weak minds; but for great minds it is too mean; they must guide themselves by their own meagre share of wisdom. This path is unknown to them, because they are wise and prudent in themselves; but it is revealed to babes, who can suffer self to be annihilated, and who are willing to be moved by God at His pleasure, leaving Him to do with them as He will, without resistance, without considering what others will say. Oh, how difficult it is to this proper prudence to become nothing both in its own eyes and in the sight of others! Men say that their one object in life is to glorify God, while it is really their own glorification. But to be willing to be nothing in the sight of God, to live in an entire abandonment, in utter 220 self-despair, to give themselves to Him when they are the most discouraged, to leave themselves in His hands, and not to look at self when they are on the very edge of the abyss; it is this that is so rare, and it is this which constitutes perfect abandonment. There sometimes occur in this life wonderful manifestations to the natural senses, but this is not usual; it is like Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration.

« Prev Chapter I Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection