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If we look into ourselves, if we consider attentively the mystery of our own moral and spiritual being, we shall see at once, that our life may be regarded under two distinct aspects. In the first place, there is the outer life, the life of action, what we are actually induced and enabled to do in the circumstances in which our lot is cast. And in the second place, there is the inner life, the life of the thoughts, affections and dispositions, indicating what we should like to do if our circumstances would permit or were favorable. Now it is not denied, that in our intercourse with other men it is chiefly with their outer life that we are concerned; nay, more, that in making up our opinion respecting them we are obliged to judge the inner life by the outer life, what they are by what they do, the tree by its fruit. And this as a general rule, and for all the practical purposes of this world, is, as the Scriptures intimate, a sufficiently safe criterion; but, I hardly need say, it is not an infallible criterion. A man, every body knows, may designedly deceive and mislead by his actions, as well as by his words. He may adopt, and for years pursue, a particular line of conduct for the very purpose of sustaining an assumed character, which does not really belong to him. Every one's outer life is not so transparent, that we can see his inner life through it. Besides, supposing men to be perfectly honest and sincere, we all know that many are not in a condition to act themselves out; they have no opportunity of showing what their real dispositions are; they are not in circumstances to do as they would. Thus there are always men in the community as ambitious at heart as Cæsar or Cromwell—of a spirit as grasping-under the dominion of the same lust of power. The only difference is, that they are not in a condition to show it, or are constrained to show it in so humble a way, and on so contracted a scale, that it does not seem to be the same thing. Outwardly it is not the same thing; but inwardly it is. Their outward lives have but little in common, but their inward lives are one. So likewise many poor men have a truly munificent spirit. They have nothing to give to public objects; but they have a heart to give, if they only had the means. Outwardly, therefore, they cannot become the patrons of science, the founders of humane institutions, or the almoners of charity; but inwardly, that is to say, in themselves, they are as munificent, they have as enlarged and generous a soul, as those who bestow their thousands, or their tens of thousands.
Accordingly we see, not only that the outer life is not the same with the inner life, but that often it is not even so much as a true index of the inner life. There is moreover another, and in some respects still more important, point of view, under which this distinction should be considered. Men's outward lives, at the best, are but similar; their inward lives may be one and the same. Persons may be placed in similar circumstances, and so be led to adopt and pursue a similar line of outward conduct. It is similar; it is not the same. The most that can be said in any case of their actions respectively is, that they are like; they are not, and cannot be, the same and identical. But they may act from the same principles, from principles which are absolutely identical. Thus, ambition or avarice is not merely a similar principle of action in different individuals; it is, in strictness of speech, the selfsame principle in all who are swayed and determined by it. Again, the love of truth and justice is not one thing in you, and another thing in me; it is the same thing in us both. And so of benevolence: the way of showing benevolence is multiform ; benevolent actions are many; but there is nevertheless only one benevolence; and consequently so far as men are really benevolent, they are filled with the selfsame spirit. I do not say, with a like spirit, but with the selfsame spirit. And thus may we reproduce within ourselves not one disposition and principle only, but the entire mind of another person. We shall not manifest it under the same, or even under apparently similar outward forms; we may not be called upon to perform the same or similar outward actions, or to undergo the same or similar outward sufferings and trials; but we may have the same mind to do it, if we were called upon. The same spirit, the selfsame spirit, has, if I may so express it, again become incarnate. It is as if that person, all that is properly himself, were dwelling in us, we doing precisely what he would have done in the same circumstances and with the same means. There are two outward lives, it is true; but the inward life, which pervades and determines both, is one.
You will now readily perceive what I suppose to be intended by the deeply affecting exhortation of the Apostle, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you." It is not that we are to do precisely the same works which Jesus did, or undergo precisely the same privations and hardships, or make precisely the same sacrifices; it is not that we can hope ever to
arrive at the same degree of actual perfection. All this the difference in our external condition, as well as in our original endowments, forbids; and it is not required or expected. But one thing is expected, is required: we must be animated with the same spirit which animated our Lord; the same mind must be in us that was also in him; he must dwell in us through the manifestation of the same spirit; or we are none of his. The selfsame constancy in duty, the selfsame aspiration after goodness, the selfsame reverence for what is holy and divine, which constituted the inward life of Jesus, must be reproduced in our own souls, and constitute our inward life. Then, and not till then, the Christ will be revealed in our own consciousness. We shall know him, not historically alone, but spiritually; and this is that knowledge of him, I hardly need say, which "is life eternal." Books, study, reasoning cannot give us this knowledge; the letter of Scripture will not give it to the unsanctified mind. In order properly to know God or Christ, the elements of the divine life must be developed in our own spiritual nature; there must be some degree of inward and practical conformity to what Christ is, before "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" can shine in our hearts.
Brethren, have you sought to know Christ in this way? All other knowledge of him, unless it leads to this, unless it ends in this, is vain. To know him as he is, we must be like him; our inward life must be his inward life reproduced; he must dwell in us through the manifestation of the same spirit. We must be one with him, in the same sense in which he is one with God; that we "all may be made perfect in one." Then will the vail that is upon our hearts be taken away; the mystery of godliness will be more fully revealed; we shall know as we are known. We shall know what is meant by the Christ of Consciousness; we shall know what is meant by the life of God in the soul of man; it will not be mysticism merely, or nothing but a figure of speech, when the Father and the Son are said. to "come and take up their abode" in us. Above all, we shall learn in what sense, and in what way, and to what extent, we may in the language of Scripture, become "partakers of the divine nature" and be "filled with all the fulness of God,"
Extracts from a letter to his children, by the Rev. E. Q. Sewall, from Niagara Falls, Sept. 28, 1839.
I borrowed the letter soon after it was received, and made the following extracts from it, for my own gratification. But I feel unwilling to confine them to myself. The perusal of them, (they are so redolent with piety and poetry,) will do the hearts of all readers good; and knowing that this is what their author would delight in, I take the liberty to send them to the Miscellany, though they were not written for the public eye. S. J. M.
"IN the midst of the scenes, on which my imagination has pondered so long, with the sounds ever in my ear, and the sights right before my eyes, which were until now like the unshapen and dim things of a dream-land, I find myself unable to utter my impressions. Only let me say, from the fulness of my overcharged heart, that my most excited expectations, my highest conceptions of what Niagara was, are by the reality so surpassed, that I am almost giddy with the wild, and thrilling, and joyous, and tremulous, fearful, soulsubduing emotions, which are rushing over me with every gaze. Tell our dear that she may gather my first impressions, what I felt the first moment when my eye rested on the sublime spectacle, from those words of the Liturgy-" the Father of an Infinite Majesty." No earthly object was ever so clothed in majesty as this. None ever spake so at once, and so awfully to my soul, of God, the Everlasting One. It is not of earth! It is not of this world !— this beauty, and might, and terrible majesty! The veneration of the heavenly hosts was never inspired by a diviner glory than this! But I cannot, I cannot find utterance. Thank God, I've seen it, and felt it, and drawn into my worn heart riches, and solace, and a new life from it.
On our arrival at Utica from Albany a week ago, we turned aside to the village of Trenton, to see Trenton Falls. I am glad I went there first. But if not comparable to Niagara, which indeed has no parallel, no like in the universe, still Trenton Falls were enough to repay the cost and toil of the longest travel. They differ so entirely from Niagara, that we can enjoy them to the full, and not feel that we have taken from the peerless queen any part of her due homage.
At Trenton, as at Niagara, my first feeling was of a profound awe, melting at length into child-like tenderness and tears. I could have knelt down and kissed the rock, on which I stood, and yielded to the inspiring beauty of the scene every fear, every fond hope, all my soul, all my life. Any where else one may speak of loving and trusting God; but for me, I know not that in any moment, or in any situation, I have experienced so quickening, penetrating, all-hallowing influence of a divine faith, hope, fear and love, as when these glorious works of God first touched my heart.
Our memories will be full when we come back. I leave till then saying more.
We have had the usual fortune of travellers, and some hardships on our journey, but how little seem the cares and vexations of our pilgrimage, (aye, of our whole earthly pilgrimage,) while we stand by Niagara. Poor, paltry cares of earth, what are they in presence of this voice and form? A voice, that speaks from the bosom of ages, and will speak to the last hour of time, but has in it no note that can harmonize with man's low passions, that ever and ever onward will utter only the pure, passionless, calm, though mighty words, which are heard of angels in the halls of the Blest, and in all the walks of God are echoed by worshiping spirits! A form, so bright in its resplendent robes of beauty, and so clothed in the highest dignity, as to make us blush, as we gaze, that our thoughts were ever disturbed or our affections annoyed by things of a meaner nature!
Give our best love to all our dear friends. I hope we shall find the sick yet here, when we come back. But if not-eternity will give them to me in new attractions, and a happier form of being. Oh! how I bless God that the Eternal Reality has been revealed to us by his dear Son from Heaven, amidst the shadows and sorrows of a dying world; and how thankful must I ever be, that I have seen and heard, in the wonderful works of his hand before me now, the testimony of a witness so sublime, so true, sealing what Scripture proclaims." * *