To the lover of God all affections go up and become enclosed, as it were, into one affection, which is Himself; so that we have no love for anyone or anything apart from Him. In this is included, in a most deep and mysterious fashion, marriage-love in all its aspects. In every way it can become a sacrament: there is nothing in it which is not holy, in no way does the marriage bond of the body separate the spirit from acceptableness to God.
But I was some time before I could arrive at this, and could see marriage as the physical prototype in this physical world of the spiritual union with Himself in the spiritual world. And this was arrived at, not by prudish questionings and criticisms, but by remembering that this relationship between men and women is His thought, His plan, not ours. We are responsible for our part in it only in so far as to keep the bond of it pure and clean and sweet, and submit ourselves in all things as completely and orderly as possible to His plans, whatever they may be. In this attitude of unquestioning, unresisting submission, the Holy Spirit finds a swift and easy channel through us. It is our opposition to the passage of the Holy Will which causes all the distress and uneasiness of life. He has no wish to impose distress and suffering upon us. His Will towards us is pure joy, pure love, pure peace, pure sweetness. This bond of earthly marriage is of the flesh and can be kept by the body, and yet the heart, mind, and soul remain in lovely perfect chastity; and I found that this exquisite freedom—after prolonged endeavours on the part of the soul and the creature—was at length given them as a gift by act of grace, and remained in permanence without variation.
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We know that these things are deep mysteries and largely hidden; but this I know: as the heart feels love in itself for God, in that same instant comes God into the soul of the lover. Now, where God is we know that there is neither evil, nor sadness, nor unhappiness, nor any recollection of such things; therefore, to be a great and constant lover to Him is to be automatically lifted from all unhappinesses.
This is our wisest and our best desire, to be a splendid lover to our Most Glorious God.
The more I see of and talk with other people, the more I see how greatly changed I am. I am freed. They are bound. I find them bound by fears, by anxieties, by worries, by apprehensions of evil things, by sadness, by fears of death for their loved ones or for themselves. Now, we are freed of all these things if we keep to the Way, which is the Road of Love. This change we do not bring about for ourselves, and do not perhaps even realise that it can be effected. For myself, I seemed to be lifted into it, or into a capacity for it, on that day and in that moment in which I first loved God. This is not to say that since that moment I have not had to struggle, suffer, and endure, to keep myself in, and progress in this condition; but my sufferings, struggles, and endurances, being for love and in love and because of love, were and are in themselves beautiful, and leave in the recollection nothing inharmonious. They are the difficult prelude to a glorious melody.
Another thing—we become by this love for Him so large that we seem to embrace within our own self the Universe! In some mysterious manner we become in sympathy with all things in the bond of His making.
Are these things worth nothing whatever, that the majority of people should be content to spend their lives looking for five-pound notes and even shillings—and this not only the poor, but the rich more so? I am far more at a loss to understand my fellow-men than I am to understand God. We have need of the shillings, but of other and more lovely things besides, which cost no money and may be had by the poorest. It is rapidly becoming the only sorrow of my life that people do not all come to share this Life in which I live. How that parable knocks at the heart, "Go out into the highways and the hedges and compel them to come in!" To know all this fullness of life and not to be able to bring even my nearest and dearest into it: what a terrible mystery is this!—it is an agony. Now, in this agony I share the Agony of Jesus. This is a part of the Cross, and only the Father can make it straight. I see Heaven held out, and refused; love held out, and refused; perfection shown, and killed upon a cross. What is the crucifix but that most awful of all things—the Grief of God made Visible? Perfect Love submitting itself to the vile freewill of man and dying of wounds! My God! my God! and did I ever have a hand in such a thing? I did.
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What is it that seems more than any other thing whatever to throw us at last into the arms of God? Suffering. And this not because it is His will (for how much rather would He have us turn to Him in our joy and prosperity), but rather that it is our will, that in our earthly joys and prosperities we turn away from Him, and only seek His consolations when we see the failure of our health or happiness. And having by His mercy and forgiveness found Him, we too often and too easily think to glorify ourselves and name each other saints! Did Jesus call us saints? These glorifications mankind would appear to bestow upon itself. He spoke of His flock, and of those who through Him should have life eternal, and of those who, because of the road they take, have their joys in this world only.
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When I was being taught to pray for national things and for other persons, and found these prayers answered, I was inclined to be afraid; thinking, What am I that I should dare to petition the Most High? But He showed it me so, which, as in everything, is for all of us: "It is but a cloud which reflects the glories of the promise of My rainbow; so can the dust, such as thyself, reflect yet other fashions of My will and glory. There is no presumption in the cloud that it should glow with My power; neither is there presumption in thy dust that it should be My vehicle. Both the cloud and thy dust are Mine."
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As we progress in this new way of living we find an increasing difficulty in maintaining petition; for on commencing to petition we will almost invariably be instantly lifted up to such a state of adoration that the whole soul is nothing but a burning song, a thing of living worship. At first I was inclined to blame myself, but now I know that it is acceptable for us to pass from petitioning (no matter who or what for) to high adoration, even though it is a great personal indulgence (and the petitioning is a hard task)—an indulgence so extreme that I cannot call to my mind anything in any experience or time of my life, excepting actual raptures, which could, or can, in any way compare or be named in the same breath with this most marvellous joy; for out of this joy of adoration flows the Song of the Soul.
And all these previous years of my life I have lived with the greater part of me dead, and most persons the same! The more I think of it, the more amazed I am at our folly—working and fretting, and striving and looking for every kind of thing except the one thing, beautiful, needful, and living, which is the finding of the personal connection between ourselves and God and the Waters of Life.
Looking to my own experiences, I see clearly how I never could have found without the most powerful and incessant assistance. We are, then, never alone. But first we must have the will to seek these waters. This is the secret of the whole matter. He can turn the vilest into a pure lover—if the vilest be willing to have the miracle performed on him! This is the grace of God, and what does it cost Him to pour out this mighty power through us? For everything has its price. My Lord! my Lord! we are not worthy of it all.
This I notice, that when He removes this grace, very shortly the mind goes back to a false, uneven, inharmonious state; so we become like an instrument all out of tune, and are caused indescribable sufferings, like a musician whose ears and nerves are tortured by false notes, whilst his unmusical neighbours feel no pain! The musician pays a price for the privilege of his great gift; so the lover of Christ.
Again, there is a price to pay for the immeasurable joy of prayer, for prayers are not always sweet nor life-giving. The prayers to Christ are always a refreshment, but prayers to the Father may suddenly be turned without any previous thought or private intention into a most awful grief for the abominations of the whole world of us, a terrible wordless burnt-sacrifice of the soul, of unspeakable anguish. And high petitioning is a fearful and profound strain upon the soul and the whole creature.
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We say that we have need of the purification and conversion of the soul; but rather it is first the conversion of the heart, mind, and will that we have need of. For this would feel to be the drama of our life—the human heart, intelligence, and will are the ego of the creature. Our soul is the visitor within this creature, containing within herself a pure, holy, and incorruptible sparkle of the Divine, and lies choked and atrophied in her human house until revived and awakened by her holy lover; and this awakening is not given to her till the heart and mind of her human house (or the will and spirit of the creature) is in a state of regeneration, or condition to go forward towards God. Which is to say, the creature has been touched by repentance and a desire for the pure and the holy. For if the soul should be awakened to an unrepentant creature, this Will and imperishable worm of the creature (which is of greater coarseness and lustiness than the delicate and fragile soul) will overcome the soul; and this is not the goal, neither is the death of the creature the goal, but the lifting up of the creature into the Divine—this is the goal.
After being awakened, then, in her human house, the soul finds herself locked in with two most treacherous and soiled companions—the human heart and mind; and so great is her loathing and her distress, that for shame's sake these two are constrained to improve themselves. But their progress is slow, and now comes a long and painful time of alternation between two states. At one time the soul will conquer the creature, imposing upon it a sovereign beauty of holiness; and at another the creature will conquer the soul, imposing upon her its hideous designs and desires, and causing her many sicknesses. Hence we have the warring which we feel within ourselves, for the soul now desires her home and the creature its appetites.
Until this awakening of the soul takes place, we mistake in thinking that we either live with our soul, or know our soul, or feel with our soul. She does but stir within us from time to time, awaking strange echoes that we do not comprehend; and we live with the mind and the heart and the body only—which is to say, we live as the creature; and this is why on the complete awakening of the soul we feel in the creature an immense and altogether indescribable enhancement of life and of all our faculties, so that in great amazement we say, "I have never lived until this day." When first the will of the creature is wholly submitted to the lovely guidance of the divine part of the soul, then first we know the ineffable joys of the world of free spirit. For to live with the mind and the body is to be in a state of existence in nature. But to live with the soul is to live above nature, in the immeasurable freedom and intensity of the spirit. And this is the tremendous task of the soul—that she help to redeem the heart and mind from their vileness of the creature and so lift the human upwards with herself to the Divine from whence she came. This, then, is the transmutation or evolution by divine means of the human into the divine; and for this we need to seek repentance or change of heart and mind, which is the will of the creature turning itself towards the beauties of the spirit, that Christ may awaken in us the glories of that sleeping soul which is His bride.
When the soul is fully revived we can know it by this, that we are not able any longer to content ourselves with anything nor anyone save God. Neither are we able to love any save God, for all human desires and loves mysteriously ascend and are merged into the Divine. So, though we love our friend, we love him in God, and in every man perceive but another lover for the Beloved.
Source: Project Gutenberg