English Author, Cleric, Divine and Theological Writer, Important figure in the Latter Day Saint movement
English Author, Cleric, Divine and Theological Writer, Important figure in the Latter Day Saint movement
Each of these foregoing states has its time, its variety of workings, its trials, temptations, and purifications, which can only be known by experience in the passage through them. The one only and infallible way to go safely through all the difficulties, trials, temptations, dryness, or opposition of our own evil tempers is this: It is to expect nothing from ourselves, to trust to nothing in ourselves, but in everything to expect and depend upon God for relief. Keep fast hold of this thread, and then let your way be what it will -- darkness, temptation, or the rebellion of nature -- you will be led through it all, to an union with God: for nothing hurts us in any state but an expectation of something in it and from it, which we should only expect from God.
If it is our glory and happiness to have a rational nature, that is endued with wisdom and reason, that is capable of imitating the divine nature, then it must be our glory and happiness to improve our reason and wisdom, to act up to the excellency of our rational nature, and to imitate God in all our actions, to the utmost of our power.
Many people not only lose the benefit, but are even the worse for their mortifications [i.e., sacrifices, abstentions]... because they mistake the whole nature and worth of them: they practice them for their own sakes, as things good in themselves, they think them to be real parts of holiness, and so rest in them and look no further, but grow full of a self-esteem and self-admiration for their own progress in them. This makes them self-sufficient, morose, severe judges of all those that fall short of their mortifications. And thus their self-denials do only that for them which indulgences do for other people: they withstand and hinder the operation of God upon their souls, and instead of being really self-denials, they strengthen and keep up the kingdom of self.
Perhaps there cannot be a better way of judging of what manner of spirit we are of, than to see whether the actions of our life are such as we may safely commend them to God in our prayers.
The obedience of men is to imitate the obedience of angels, and rational beings on earth are to live unto God, as rational beings in heaven live unto him.
This useful, charitable, humble employment of yourselves is what I recommend to you with greatest earnestness, as being a substantial part of a wise and pious life.
When religion is in the hands of the mere natural man, he is always the worse for it; it adds a bad heat to his own dark fire and helps to inflame his four elements of selfishness, envy, pride, and wrath. And hence it is that worse passions, or a worse degree of them are to be found in persons of great religious zeal than in others that made no pretenses to it. History also furnishes us with instances of persons of great piety and devotion who have fallen into great delusions and deceived both themselves and others. The occasion of their fall was this: ... They considered their whole nature as the subject of religion and divine graces; and therefore their religion was according to the workings of their whole nature, and the old man was as busy and as much delighted in it as the new.
Everything in... nature, is descended out that which is eternal, and stands as a... visible outbirth of it, so when we know how to separate out the grossness, death, and darkness... from it, we find... it in its eternal state.
If our common life is not a common course of humility, self-denial, renunciation of the world, poverty of spirit, and heavenly affection, we do not live the lives of Christians.
Men must not content themselves with the lawfulness of their employments, but must consider whether they use them, as they are to use everything, as strangers and pilgrims that are baptized into the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that we are to follow Him in a wise and heavenly course of life, in the mortification of the worldly desires, and in purifying and preparing their souls for the blessed enjoyment of God. For to be vain, or proud, or covetous, or ambitious, in the common course of our business, is as contrary to these holy tempers of Christianity as cheating and dishonesty. If a glutton were to say, in excuse of his gluttony, that he only eats such things as it is lawful to eat, he would make as good an excuse for himself as the greedy, covetous, ambitious tradesman that would say that he only deals in lawful business. For, as a Christian is not only required to be honest, but to be of a Christian spirit, and make his life an exercise of humility, repentance, and heavenly affection, so all tempers that are contrary to these are as contrary to Christianity as cheating is contrary to honesty.
Personal pride and affectation, a delight in beauty, and fondness of finery, are tempers that must either kill all religion in the soul, or be themselves killed by it: they can no more thrive together than health and sickness.
The one supreme, unchangeable rule of love, which is a law to all intelligent beings of all worlds and will be a law to all eternity, is this, viz., that God alone is to be loved for Himself, and all other beings only in Him and for Him. Whatever intelligent creature lives not under this rule of love is so far fallen from the order of his creation, and is, till he returns to this eternal law of love, an apostate from God and incapable of the kingdom of Heaven. Now, if God is alone to be loved for Himself, then no creature is to be loved for itself; and so all self-love in every creature is absolutely condemned. And if all created beings are only to be loved in and for God, then my neighbor is to be loved as I love myself, and I am only to love myself as I love my neighbor or any other created being that is, only in and for God.
This, and this aloneâ€¦ a universal holiness in every part of life, a heavenly wisdom in all our actions, not conforming to the spirit and temper of the world but turning all worldly enjoyments into means of piety and devotion to God.
Where has the Scripture made merit the rule or measure of charity?
Faith is not a notion, but a real strong essential hunger, which as it proceeds from a seed of the divine nature in us, so it attracts and unites with its like.
If parents should be daily calling upon God in a solemn deliberate manner, altering and extending their intercessions as the state and growth of their children required, such devotion would have a mighty influence upon the rest of their lives.
Money we either lock up in chests, or waste it in needless and ridiculous expenses upon ourselves, whilst the poor and the distressed want it for necessary uses.
Persons that are well affected to religion, that receive instructions of piety with pleasure and satisfaction, often wonder how it comes to pass that they make no greater progress in that religion which they so much admire. Now the reason of it is this: it is because religion lives only in their head, but something else has possession of their heart; and therefore they continue from year to year mere admirers and praisers of piety, without ever coming up to the reality and perfection of its precepts.
The progress of these terrors is plainly shown us in our Lord's agony in the garden, when the reality of this eternal death so broke in upon Him, so awakened and stirred itself in Him, as to force great drops of blood to sweat from His body... His agony was His entrance into the last, eternal terrors of the lost soul, into the real horrors of that dreadful, eternal death which man unredeemed must have died into when he left this world. We are therefore not to consider our Lord's death upon the Cross as only the death of that mortal body which was nailed to it, but we are to look upon Him with wounded hearts, as being fixed and fastened in the state of that twofold death, which was due to the fallen nature, out of which He could not come till He could say, It is finished; Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit..
Though the light and comfort of the outward world keeps even the worst men from any constant strong sensibility of that wrathful, fiery, dark and self-tormenting nature that is the very essence of every fallen unregenerate soul, yet every man in the world has more or less frequent and strong intimations given him that so it is with him in the inmost ground of his soul. How many inventions are some people forced to have recourse to in order to keep off a certain inward uneasiness, which they are afraid of and know not whence it comes? Alas, it is because there is a fallen spirit, a dark, aching fire, within them, which has never had its proper relief and is trying to discover itself and calling out for help at every cessation of worldly joy.
Whilst you are divided betwixt God and the world, you have neither the pleasures of Religion, nor the pleasures of the world, but are always in the uneasiness of a divided state of heart. You have only so much Religion as serves to disquiet you, to show you a handwriting on the wall, to interrupt your pleasures, and to appear as a death's-head at all your feasts, but not Religion enough to give you a taste and feeling of its pleasures. You dare not wholly neglect Religion, but then you take no more than is just sufficient to keep you from being a terror to yourself, and you are as loth to be very good as you are fearful to be very bad.
A frequent intercession with God, earnestly beseeching Him to forgive the sins of all mankind, to bless them with His providence, enlighten them with His Spirit, and bring them to everlasting happiness, is the divinest exercise that the heart of man can be engaged in. Be daily, therefore, on your knees, in a solemn deliberate performance of this devotion, praying for others in such forms, with such length, importunity, and earnestness, as you use for yourself; and you will find all little, ill-natured passions die away, your heart grow great and generous, delighting in the common happiness of others, as you used only to delight in your own.
Feasts and business and pleasure and enjoyments seem great things to us, whilst we think of nothing else; but as soon as we add death to them they all sink into an equal littleness.
If Religion has raised us into a new world, if it has filled us with new ends of life, if it has taken possession of our hearts, and altered the whole turn of our minds, if it has changed all our ideas of things, given us a new set of hopes and fears, and taught us to live by the realities of an invisible world -- then we may humbly hope that we are true followers.