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Chapter II.

True Faith, And Converse With The Soul, The Only Means Of Attaining To This Inward Treasure.

Bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.Isa. 46:8

The true way of attaining this divine inward treasure is, by a true and living faith. Though we have already in Books I and II treated largely of faith, with all its powers and properties, how it cleaves unto Christ, rests and depends upon him; yet we must here return to it, and show of what use and advantage it is, in the matter before us. The property of a true and living faith is, to cleave unto God with our whole heart; to put our whole trust in him; to depend upon him; to dedicate and resign ourselves entirely to his mercy and goodness; to be united to God; and to enjoy him in the internal rest of the soul. True faith prefers nothing to God; it makes him the true object of all its desires, by unfeigned abstraction from all earthly comforts. In a word, it places its chief, eternal, infinite, and perfect good in Him alone, who is the true fountain of all good, whether in heaven or earth, in time or eternity, and all through Jesus Christ, who is “the author and finisher of our faith.” Heb. 12:2. This is that faith which leads us to our inward treasure, which is our chief good. Of this the Psalmist was an instance: he was full of this faith: “Whom,” says he, “have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.” Ps. 73:25. Such was the faith of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, when she sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word with eagerness. Luke 10:39. For faith, as has been observed, brings the soul into the true sabbath of the heart, into a state of divine quiet and heavenly rest, in which God delights to manifest himself. Therefore the Lord said to Martha: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41, 42. What is “that good part” but God in Jesus Christ? For by this faith which opens the heart, in order to receive God alone is that better part chosen. By this faith it is, that the ever-blessed Trinity enters into the heart, and takes possession of it. Eph. 3:17; John 14:23. This is “that good part” which we ought all to choose; namely, eternal life and blessedness.

2. In this one article is contained the whole sum of the Christian religion; it is the fountain of charity and of all virtues. For faith produceth love; love produceth hope; hope, patience; patience worketh meekness; 382 meekness, humility; humility produceth the fear of God; and the fear of God teacheth us to pray to him, to “crucify the flesh” (Gal. 5:24), to deny ourselves, to hate our own life, and to despise the world. Matt. 16:24. Upon this account St. John calls faith, “the victory that overcometh the world.” 1 John 5:4. This was that one thing to which our Lord directed the attention of the rich young man in the Gospel (Luke 18:18), when he asked him, saying, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” When he had commanded him to keep the commandments of God, he answered, “All these have I kept from my youth up.” Jesus, hearing him, said, “Yet lackest thou one thing; sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” In these words the Lord directs him to choose that one thing, that better part, by faith; and, by forsaking himself and his worldly possessions, to turn to God, the true fountain and centre of his being and happiness. From this one thing proceeds the whole Christian life, and all the commandments, as a stream from its fountain, not by compulsion or law, but from love and freedom of the spirit. “For it is God which worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13); neither will he own anything in us as his, which he himself has not wrought. Here, then, is no need of laws, no need of commands or prohibitions. For faith, by its free motion and spirit, does everything in us which is necessary to be done: that is, it surrenders itself freely and entirely to God, and to the operations of his grace. And this is what the prophet Isaiah means, when he invites us to come unto God, to “buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Isa. 55:1.

3. Faith, then, is the means of attaining to this inward treasure, whilst it keeps a sabbath of rest unto God in every soul that is collected into itself. For as the motion of the heavens is therefore the most perfect, because it terminates in itself, and returns to its beginning; so the life of man may then be accounted most excellent and perfect when it returns to its original, which is God. And this a man does, when he enters deeply into himself, having collected all the powers of his understanding, will, and memory, and emptied them of the world, and all the lusts of the flesh; offering up his soul, with all its affections, to God, by the Holy Ghost, and celebrating an eternal sabbath in his presence. Then God begins to operate in him. He waits for such a frame of spirit, and rejoices to finish his work within us. For so great is the love of God towards us, so ardent is his affection, that it is as if his divinity itself could not consist without us; as if he should himself cease to be, unless he could discover the abyss of his divinity in us, and transfuse the overflowing fulness of his essence into us. So that the most acceptable service a man can do unto God, is to keep his heart so quiet and still that God may rest and manifest himself in it. All that God requires, in order to accomplish this work in us, is an humble and quiet spirit. Whenever he finds such a habitation, he dwells there with a high manifestation of his wisdom and power. The eternal wisdom of God cannot unite with the wisdom of man; but when the human soul is entirely submitted to God, then God entirely rests in her. But if thou wilt engage thy will, thy 383 understanding, memory, and affections in the service of thy own mind, then they are no longer proper instruments for the work of God. For in every union of two beings as one, the one must of necessity be active and the other passive. But God is an infinite and eternally active power, an essential pure motion; perpetually operating in thee, unless hindered by thee. This may be illustrated by the following similitude: as the eye cannot fix upon any object, nor receive any impressions from it, unless it be free from all other images (for otherwise one will hinder the other); so the soul, with all her powers, understanding, will, and memory, can receive no impressions or influences from God, if it be not empty of, and disengaged from, the world. The ear cannot receive or enjoy the sweetest music, whilst employed and filled with other sounds: so neither can the soul receive the divine sweetness whilst it listens to the voice of the world. The more, therefore, a soul withdraws itself from the world, the nearer it approaches to God. The more it renounces the pleasures of the flesh, the nearer it comes to the participation of “the divine nature.” 2 Pet. 1:4.

4. Nature cannot admit a vacuum. So if a man will empty himself of the love of the world and himself, with all his passions and affections for worldly things, God will infallibly fill his soul with divine grace, love, wisdom, and knowledge. But if thou art full of worldly things, thou canst not at the same time be full of heavenly things. When Abraham, at the command of God, went from his own country and kindred, then was he enlightened from above. Gen. 12:1; 13:1. Our carnal affections, self-love, self-will, and self-conceit, with all our inclinations to the profits and pleasures of the world, are to us as so many near friends and relations; and it is hard to flesh and blood to part with them. But how hard soever it be, this is the first step that conducts to this hidden treasure, this pearl of great price; of which our Lord says, that the merchant having “found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Matt. 13:46. This is what the Lord says: “Verily, I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, but shall receive a hundredfold, and eternal life.” Mark 10:29, 30. What are our brethren and sisters but our carnal lusts and corrupt inclinations, of which we must be emptied, if we expect to be filled with the fulness of God. As the Virgin Mary was a pure, immaculate virgin (so remaining eternally), when she conceived our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 1:27); so must every soul be like a pure, immaculate virgin; that is, be unspotted, free from all the pollutions of the world, in order to this spiritual conception of him. A soul thus pure and unspotted is, “as the king's daughter, all glorious within” (Psalm 45:13); enriched with hidden treasure. But how can the soul be betrothed to God, that is betrothed to the world? “I come,” saith our blessed Lord, “to send fire on the earth.” Luke 12:49. Oh, that such a fire of divine love would so burn in us as to consume all our dross of worldly affections, that nothing might live and move in us but the pure and holy love of God! He adds, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Luke 12:51; Matt. 10:34. And would to God that the Holy Spirit might so mortify and destroy all our carnal concupiscence, that God alone 384 might move and operate in us! But if you will say, that you are so much taken up with the business of the world, that you cannot be so collected as you ought, then set apart some corner of your house, and some little portion of your time, either by day or night, to retire into yourself, and to pour out your soul to God, in the words of St. Augustine: “Lord, my God, be pleased to enter into covenant with me, that I may die entirely to myself, and that thou mayest live in me; let me keep silence in myself, and do thou speak within me; let me rest from all things, that thou mayest operate in me.”

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