The Spiritual Man, CFP, Vol. 2, Part 7 THE ANALYSIS OF THE SOUL-EMOTION, Ch. 4 & 5, by Watchman Nee
A Life of Feeling
WE CHRISTIANS BECOME affectionately attached to the Lord they are usually experiencing a life of feeling. Such an experience for them is most precious. They enter this phase of their Christian walk generally following their emancipation from Sin and before their entrance upon a true spiritual life. Because they lack spiritual knowledge, these Christians often assume this kind of emotional experience to be most Spiritual and most heavenly since it is encountered primarily after release from sin and affords them great pleasure. The delight it bestows is so satisfactory that they find it difficult to cut loose and forsake it.
During this period the believer senses the nearness of the Lord, so near that the hands can almost touch Him. He is alive to the delicate sweetness of the Lord’s love as well as gripped by his own intense love towards the Lord. A fire seems to be burning in his heart; it leave him with an unspeakable joy which makes him feel he is already in heaven. Something is heaving in his bosom, yielding indescribable pleasure, as though he were in possession of a priceless treasure. This sensation continues with him as he walks and works. Whenever the believer passes through this type of experience he wonders where his abode is, for he seems to have shed his earthly tent and now soars away with the angels.
For the moment Bible reading becomes a real delight. The more he reads the more joyous he feels. Prayer is also very easy. How wonderful to pour out his heart to God. The more he communes the brighter the heavenly light shines. He is able to make many decisions before the Lord which indicates how much he loves him. Great is his longing to be quiet and alone with God; if only he could close his door forever and commune with the Lord his joy would be full, for no tongue can speak nor pen can write of the joy that lies therein. Formerly he was gregarious, as though crowds and individuals could satisfy his needs; but today he cherishes solitude because what he could derive from the crowds can never be compared to the joy he now receives when alone with his Lord. He favors seclusion more than companionship for fear that among men he may lose his joy.
Moreover, service assumes considerable spontaneity. Hitherto he appeared to have nothing to say, but now with the fire of love aglow in his heart he experiences multiplied pleasure in telling others of the Lord. The more he speaks the more anxious he is to speak. To suffer for the Lord becomes sweet to him. Since he senses Him So near and dear, he gladly embraces the thought of martyrdom. All burdens turn light and all hardships grow easy.
With such a consciousness of the closeness of the Lord, the Christian’s outward conduct also undergoes change. In days gone by he was fond of talking, yet currently he is able to remain silent. In his heart he may even criticize others who talk incessantly. Previously he was rather frivolous, today he is quite serious. Very sensitive is he to any ungodliness appearing in other brethren, for which he judges them sternly. In a word, the Christian at this stage is increasingly careful about his outward deportment as well as possessed with more insight into the shortcomings of others.
Such a person always secretly pities those who are lacking in his experience. He estimates his joy to be most excellent; how pitiable his brethren know nothing of it. While he watches other brothers and sisters serving the Lord coldly and quietly, he considers their lives tasteless. Must not his be the highest life since he is so flushed with the joy of God? It seems to him that he himself is floating on the cloud above the mountains while ordinary saints are plodding along down in the valley.
Does this kind of experience last long however? Can one possess such exultation daily and be happy for life? Most of us cannot maintain such an experience for very long. And so what grieves the believer most is that upon enjoying such ain experience—generally speaking, for about a month or two—his most beloved joy suddenly vanishes. He rises as usual in the morning to read his Bible yet where is the former sweetness? He prays as before but finds himself exhausted after a few words. He feels as if he has lost something. Not long ago he was judging others for being far behind him in the spiritual race, but now he considers himself to be one of them. His heart has turned cold; the earlier sense of a fire burning within has been smothered. No longer is he conscious of the presence and proximity of the Lord; instead the Lord appears to be quite remote from him. He now begins to wonder where the Lord has gone. To suffer becomes a real suffering now because he cannot sense any more the former joy he had in suffering. Moreover, he has lost interest in preaching: he no longer feels like continuing on after saying but a few words. In sum, during such an episode everything seems to be dark, dry, cold and dead. It appears to the believer as though he has been abandoned by the Lord in a tomb; nothing can comfort his heart. His former expectation of lasting bliss has faded completely away.
At this moment the child of God will naturally surmise that he must have sinned and that the Lord has consequently forsaken him (for if he had not sinned, he reasons, the Lord would not have withdrawn His presence, would He?). Accordingly, he probably sets about scrutinizing his recent conduct, trying to ascertain how he has sinned against the Lord. He hopes that upon confession the Lord will return and replenish him with that previous feeling of intimacy and high spirits. As he examines himself, however, he cannot detect any special sin; he seems to be just the same as before. And so the believer once more resumes his inward inquiry: if today’s condition provokes the Lord to depart from me, he asks himself, why did He not forsake me before? And if I have not sinned, then I say again why has the Lord left me? The believer is completely mystified. He can only conclude that he must have sinned against the Lord somewhere and hence this forsaken condition. And Satan accuses him too, reinforcing the false notion that he has actually sinned. Wherefore he cries in prayer to the Lord for forgiveness, hoping to regain what he has lost.
The believer’s prayer is nonetheless ineffectual. Not only is he unable to have the lost experience instantly restored; he also day by day grows colder and drier in his feelings. He loses interest in everything. Previously he could pray for hours: today even a few minutes becomes forced. He has no inclination to pray at all. The reading of the Bible, which in the past greatly interested him, currently looms before him as a massive rock from which he can derive no nourishment. He experiences no pleasure when fellowshipping with others or undertaking any task; he engages in these affairs merely because a Christian is expected to do them. All is dull and forced.
Confronted by such a sensation some Christians, not all, shrink back. Many matters which they know belong to God’s will are left undone because they have fallen into despondency. Many duties go unfulfilled. Their former conduct which they had corrected during the period of ecstasy returns to them. What they pitied others for in earlier days has presently become their own experience. They adopt talkative, frivolous, jesting and fun-loving manners. Although they had undergone a change, that change did not last.
When a child of God is stripped of his joyous feeling, he concludes that all is gone. Since he no longer senses the Lord’s presence, surely the Lord cannot possibly be with him. If he does not feel the warm affection of the Lord, he most certainly must have displeased Him. As this experience lengthens, the believer seems to lose even the sense of God. He will therefore seek earnestly to recover what he has lost, so long as he does not faint in his heart. For does he not love the Lord and has he not longed to be near Him? How can he abide the absence of the sensing of God’s love?
He goes forth to find God. He struggles to free himself from this desolate state, but without success. Even when he can force himself into manifesting some good conduct, his heart secretly condemns him as being hypocritical. It is not easy for him to succeed in anything for his failures are many. This naturally intensifies his suffering. If anyone should praise him at this moment he is keenly embarrassed, because no one can appreciate how miserable he is inside. On the other hand if anyone should blame him, he senses the rightness of it because he understands his own weakness. He deeply admires those who are advancing in the Lord and who are having sweet communion with Him. He looks upon all others around him as better than he since they each possess some measure of good while he has not a shred.
Will this barren condition continue forever? Or will he regain his former experience? What usually happens is as follows. After awhile, perhaps within a few weeks, the coveted feeling suddenly returns to him. This may occur at the hour of listening to a sermon, or following earnest prayer in his early morning devotion or during his midnight meditation. The time varies but the joy does return. During this break in the believer’s condition, all which had been forfeited is restored. The presence of the Lord is as precious as before; the glow of love fires up again in his bosom; prayer and Bible reading become sweet as in days gone by; and the Lord is so lovely and so approachable that He can almost be touched. To draw nigh to Him is not a burden but the pleasure of his heart. Everything is transformed: no more darkness, suffering and staleness: all is now light, joy and refreshment. Since he considers his unfaithfulness the reason for the Lord’s departure, he thereafter uses all diligence to preserve what is regained, lest he be deprived of this life of feeling all over again. His outward conduct is more careful than ever; he serves the Lord daily with all his strength, hoping to sustain his joy and never again fail as before.
Yet strange as it may seem, despite all his faithfulness, the Lord shortly afterwards leaves the saint once more. His transport of delight has altogether taken flight. He again slumps into anguish, blackness, and barrenness.
If we examine the biography of many Christians we discover that this type of experience is shared by many after they have been delivered from sin and encounter God as a Person. Initially the Lord causes them to sense His love, His presence, His joy. But soon such feeling disappears. It subsequently comes back, rendering them extremely happy; not long afterwards, though, it vanishes a second time. At least several times the Christian undergoes these come and go occurrences. Such phenomena will not happen while he is still fleshly, before he learns to love the Lord; only after he has made some progress spiritually and begun to love the Lord will he meet with this kind of situation.
According to the believer’s interpretation, he is at his spiritual peak when in possession of the wonderful feeling: he is at his lowest when deprived of it. He often characterizes his walk as full of ups and downs. By this he means that while he is feeling joyful, loving the Lord and sensing His presence he is at his spiritual best; but if his inward sensation is marked by dryness and pain he must be at his spiritual worst. In other words, he is spiritual so long as the warm fire of love is burning in his heart but soulish if his heart turns icy cold. Such is the common notion among Christians. Is it accurate? It is totally inaccurate. Unless we understand how it is wrong we shall suffer defeat to the very end.
A Christian should recognize that “feeling” is exclusively a part of the soul. When he lives by sensation, no matter what the kind, he is being soulish. During the period that he feels joyful, is loving the Lord and senses His presence, he is walking by feeling; likewise, during the period that he feels just the opposite he is still walking by feeling. just as he is soulish whose life and labor are dictated by a refreshing, bright and joyous sensation, so is he equally soulish whose walk and work are determined by a dry, gloomy and painful. one. A real spiritual life is never dominated by, nor lived in, feeling. Rather does it regulate feeling. Nowadays Christians mistake a life of feeling for spiritual experience. This is because many have never entered into genuine spirituality and hence interpret happy sensation to be spiritual experience. They do not know that such feeling is still soulical. Only what occurs in the intuition is spiritual experience—the rest is merely soulical activity.
It is here that Christians make one of the grossest mistakes. Under the stimulation of emotion a child of God may feel he has ascended to heaven. And naturally he assumes he has an ascended life. But he does not realize this is solely how he feels. He thinks he possesses the Lord whenever he is conscious of His presence, yet he believes he has lost the Lord whenever he cannot sense Him; once more he knows not that this is but the way he feels. He thinks he is truly loving the Lord as he senses a warmth in his heart; but should there be no burning sensation then he concludes that he has veritably lost his love for Him; yet again he is ignorant of the truth that such are only his feelings. We know that fact may not agree with feeling for the latter is exceedingly untrustworthy. Indeed, whether one senses much or senses nothing, the fact remains he is unchanged. He may feel he is progressing and yet may make no progress at all; he may likewise feel he is regressing and yet may not regress in the slightest. These are simply his feelings. When full of lively stirrings he reckons he is advancing spiritually; this, however, is just a time of emotional excitement which soon will subside to its former state. The working of emotion seems to assist soulical people to advance but the working of the Spirit causes spiritual men to advance. The progress of the former is false; only what is attained in the power of the Holy Spirit is true.
Why then does God impart and later withdraw these feelings? Because He has a number of aims He wishes to fulfill.
First. God grants joy to believers to draw them closer to Him. He uses His gifts to attract men to Himself. He expects His children to believe in His love in every circumstance after He has once shown how gracious and loving He is towards them. Unfortunately Christians love God only when they sense His love and forget Him the moment they do not.
Second. God deals with our lives in this fashion in order to help us understand ourselves. We realize the hardest lesson to learn is that of knowing oneself—to appreciate how corrupt, empty, sinful, and void of good one is. This lesson has to be absorbed throughout life. The deeper one learns it the more one perceives the depth of uncleanness of his life and nature in the eyes of the Lord. Yet this is instruction which we do not relish learning nor is our natural life able to learn it. Hence the Lord employs many ways to teach and to lead us into this knowledge of self. Among His numerous ways the most important is this giving of joyous feeling and later taking it away. Through such treatment one begins to comprehend his corruptness. In the state of aridity he may come to see how in the former days of joy he misused God’s gift in uplifting himself and despising others, and how he many times acted through the ferment of emotion rather than with the spirit. Such realization evokes humility. Had he understood that this experience is arranged by God to assist him to know himself, he would not have sought blissful sensation so intently as though it were the summit. God desires us to recognize that we may act just as often in dishonoring God’s name when in ecstasy as when in anguish. We progress no more during the bright than during the dull period. Our life is equally corrupt in either condition.
Third. God aims to help His children overcome their environment. A Christian should not allow his surroundings to change his life. He whose path is altered by the influence of environment is not deeply experienced in the Lord. We have learned already that what can be affected by environment is emotion. It is when our emotion is influenced by environment that our lives undergo change. How imperative therefore for us to conquer emotion if we wish to overcome environment. To conquer his surroundings the Christian must prevail over all his various sensations. If he cannot surmount his ever vacillating feeling how can he overcome his environment? It is our feeling which is alive to any shift in environment and which varies accordingly. If we do not override our sensation our lives shall oscillate with our changing sensation. Thus do we need to overcome feeling before we can overcome environment.
This explains why the Lord leads one through different feelings in order that he may learn how to quell these feelings and thereby triumph over his surroundings. If he can subdue his strong and contrasting sensations he surely will be able to cope with the changing atmosphere. Thus will he achieve a steadfast and established walk, no longer drifting with the tide. God desires His child to remain the same with or without high feeling. He wants His child to commune with Him and serve Him faithfully whether he is happy or is sad. God’s child must not reshape his life according to how he feels. If he is serving the Lord faithfully and making intercession for others, then he should do so in gladness or in sorrow. He should not serve only when he feels refreshed and cease serving when he is parched. If we cannot subdue our many varied sensations then we can in no wise conquer our diverse surroundings. He who fails to surmount his environment is one who has failed to subjugate his feeling.
Fourth. God has another objective in view. He purposes to train our will. A genuine spiritual life is not one of feeling; rather, it is a life of will. The volition of a spiritual man has been renewed already by the Holy Spirit: it now awaits the spirit’s revelation before it issues a command to the whole being. Unfortunately the will of quite a few saints is often so weak that either it cannot carry through the commands given it or, under the influence of emotion, it rejects God’s will. To train and strengthen the will consequently becomes a very essential step.
A Christian who is excited can easily advance because he has the support of his high emotion. But if he grows despondent he finds the going rough because he then has solely his will on which to rely. God intends to make the volition strong but not to excite the emotion. From time to time He permits His child to experience a kind of weary, barren and insipid feeling so as to compel him to exercise his will through the strength of the spirit to do precisely the same thing as he would in a time of emotional stimulation. When stimulated, emotion undertakes the work; but now God aims for the believer’s will to work in lieu of emotion. The will gradually can be strengthened through exercise only during periods of receiving no aid from feeling. How many mistake sensation for the measure of spiritual life. They erroneously construe the hour of strong feeling to be their spiritual apogee and the hour bereft of such feeling as their spiritual perigee. They are unaware of the fact that one’s true life is lived by his spirit through the will. The position to which his volition attains in the hour of barren sensation represents the reality of the Christian’s attainment. The way he dwells amid drought is his authentic life.
Fifth. Via such leading God longs to guide the Christian onto a higher level of existence. If we carefully examine the Chrisitian’s walk we shall realize that the Lord at each instance He has desired to lead His own to a higher spiritual plateau first gave that one a taste of such a life in his feeling. We may say that on every occasion that one experiences a life of feeling, he has reached one more station on his spiritual journey. God grants him a foretaste of what He desires him to have: first He arranges for the Christian to sense it and next He withdraws the sensation so that by his spirit through his will he may keep what he has felt. If his spirit can press on with the assistance of his will, the Christian, by disregarding his emotion, can then see that he has made real progress in his walk. This is confirmed by our common experience. While we are pursuing an up-and-down type of existence we usually assume we have not made any advance. We conclude that during these months or years we have simply gone forward and then backward or simply backwards and then forwards. If, however, we were to compare our current spiritual state with that which obtained at the commencement of such alternating phenomena, we would discover we have actually made some progress. We advance unknowingly.
A great number err because they have not appropriated this teaching. Upon fully consecrating themselves to the Lord for entering upon a new experience such as sanctification or victory over sin, they truly and distinctly step into a new kind of life. They believe they have made progress, for they are brimming with joy, light and lightness. They account themselves already in possession of that perfect course which they admired and sought. But after awhile their new and happy circumstance suddenly evaporates: gone are the joy and thrill. Most of them faint in their hearts. They judge themselves unqualified now for perfect sanctification and unfit to have the more abundant life which others possess. Their judgment is based on the fact that they have lost what they had long admired and had possessed for but a brief moment. What they do not realize is that they have been experiencing one of God’s vital spiritual laws, which is: that what has been possessed in the emotion must be preserved in the will: that only what is retained in the will truly becomes a part o f one’s life. God has only withdrawn the feeling; He wants us to exercise our volition to do what we had formerly been stimulated to do by our feeling. And before long we shall discover that what had been forfeited in our feeling has unconsciously become a part of our life. This is a spiritual law. We would do well to remember it so as never to faint.
The whole problem is therefore the will. Is our organ of volition still yielded to the Lord? Is it free to follow the spirit’s leading as before? If so, then however much feeling has changed, it is of no concern. What we must be concerned with always is this: is our will obeying the spirit? Let us not indulge our feelings. Rather let us wisely heed the example of what occurs surrounding the experience of new birth: on that occasion the believer is usually full of joyous sensation; yet soon this sensation disappears; has he consequently perished all over again? Of course not! He has already possessed life in his spirit. How he subsequently feels makes not a particle of difference.
There is positively no danger if, while having such an experience, we comprehend its meaning and press forward in accordance with God’s will. But it can be highly hazardous to spiritual life if we do not apprehend God’s will and fail to resist our living by feeling; that is, when we encounter a buoyant feeling we advance unhesitatingly, but in the absence of such sensation we refuse to move at all. Those who make feeling their principle of life expose themselves to many dangers.
Anyone who walks by blissful emotions is usually weak in his will. It is unable to follow the direction of the spirit. The development of spiritual sensing is hampered by substituting his feeling for the spirit’s intuition. He walks by his emotion. His intuition on the one side is suppressed by emotion and on the other is left unused; it is barely growing. Now intuition is active solely when emotion is quiet; only then can it communicate its thought to man. It waxes strong if it is often exercised. But the will of that person who leans on feeling is deprived of its sovereign power: his intuition is stifled and cannot transmit a distinct voice. Since the will thereby slips into a withered condition, the believer requires even more help from feeling to provoke the will to work. The will turns by feeling. If the latter is high the will is active; but should it be taken away the will suspends action. It is powerless to do anything by itself; it relies on the activation of emotion to propel it. Meanwhile the believer’s spiritual life naturally sinks lower and lower until it seems that whenever emotion is absent no spiritual life is indicated at all. The operation of emotion has become an opiate to such ones! How tragic that some remain unconscious of this fact and seek emotion as the zenith of spiritual life.
The cause behind this error lies in the deception which feeling imparts. At the moment of great ecstasy the child of God not only senses love from the Lord but feels an intense love of his own towards the Lord as well. Must we deny our feeling of loving the Lord? Can such a warm sensation of affection towards Him hurt us? This very interrogation discloses the folly of these saints.
Let the question be asked instead: is a person actually loving the Lord when he is full of exultation? Or is it that he loves the exultant feeling? Granted, this joy is given us by God; but is it not God Who also takes it away? If we genuinely loved Him we should fervently love Him in whatever circumstances He may put us. If our love is present merely when we feel, then perhaps what we love is not God but our feeling.
Moreover, a person may misinterpret such a feeling to be God Himself, not aware that a vast distinction exists between God and the joy of God. Not until the time of barren feeling shall the Holy Spirit show this one that what he so earnestly sought was not God but His joy. He does not really love God; what he loves is the feeling which makes him joyous. The sensation does in truth give him the sense of God’s love and presence, yet he does not love Him for His sake alone but rather does he love because he feels refreshed, bright and buoyant. Thus he craves such feeling again whenever it recedes. What brings him pleasure is the joy of God and not God Himself. Were he actually loving God he would love Him even if he must suffer through “many waters” and “floods” (S. of S. 8.7).
This of course is a most difficult lesson to learn. We must indeed have joy, and the Lord delights to give us that joy. If we enjoy his felicity according to His will, such enjoyment is profitable rather than harmful. (This means we do not seek this joy ourselves, though we are thankful should God desire to grant it; yet we are equally thankful if He wishes us to be barren: we shall not try to force the matter). Nonetheless, should we deem it so pleasurable that we afterwards seek it daily, then we already have forsaken God in favor of the joy which He dispenses. The happy feeling God gives can never be separated from God the Giver. Should we try to enjoy the delightful sensation He gives, yet without Him, our spiritual life is in peril. That is to say, we are not able to progress spiritually if we find satisfaction in the joy God gives rather than in God as our joy. How often we love Him not because of Himself but because of ourselves. We love, for in loving God we experience a kind of joy in our hearts. This sharply reveals that we do not actually love Him; what we love is only joy, even if that is the joy of God.
This indicates that we esteem God’s gift higher than God the Giver! It also proves we continue to walk by our soul life and do not appreciate what a true spiritual life is. We deify joyous feeling and incorrectly regard it as pleasurable. To cure His children of this mistake God withdraws the joyous feeling as He wills and topples them into suffering that they may know that pleasure is in Himself, not in His joy. If they verily make God their joy they will uplift Him and love Him even in the hour of suffering; if not, they will sink into darkness. God, in so undertaking, aims not to destroy our spiritual life but purposes to destroy all idols we worship other than Himself.
He wants to eliminate every obstacle to our spiritual walk. He wants us to live in Him, not in our feelings.
Another danger may arise for those who live by sensation rather than by the spirit through the will: they may be deceived by Satan. This is one matter about which we ought to inform ourselves. Satan is skillful in counterfeiting the feelings which come from God. If with diverse kinds of sensations he attempts to confuse Christians who aspire to walk wholly after the spirit, how much more will he play his tricks on those who desire to follow their feeling. In their pursuit of emotion they fall directly into the hand of Satan, for he delights to supply them with all kinds of feeling which they assume to be from God.
The evil spirit is able to excite or to depress people. Once a person is misled into accepting Satan-dispensed feeling, he has yielded ground to Satan in his soul. He shall continue to be further deceived until Satan has gained control over nearly all his feeling. Sometimes Satan will even induce him to experience supernatural sensations of shaking, electrifying, freezing, overflowing, floating in the air, fire burning from head to foot and consuming all his uncleanness, etc. When anyone has been beguiled to this extent his whole being comes to thrive on feelings, his will is totally paralyzed, and his intuition is entirely surrounded. He exists altogether in the outer man; his inner man is completely bound. At this stage he follows Satan’s will in almost everything, for the enemy merely needs to supply him with some particular feeling to goad him to do what he wants him to do. The tragedy is that the believer is not aware he is being tricked by Satan; he instead pictures himself as being more spiritual than others since he enjoys such supernatural experiences.
Supernatural phenomena such as those described damage the spiritual life of many a Christian most severely today. Countless numbers of Gods children have fallen into this pit. They consider these supernatural occurrences—which give them a physical feeling of the power of the spirit and render them happy or sad, hot or cold, laughing or crying and which supply them with visions, dreams, voices, fires and even inexpressible wonderful sensations—as most definitely bestowed by the Holy Spirit, and thus represent the highest attainment of a Christian. They are unable to recognize that these are but the works of the evil spirit. They would never dream that the evil spirit as well as the Holy Spirit could perform such work Totally ignorant are they of the fact that the Holy Spirit operates in the spirit of men. Whatever induces feeling to the body proceeds nine out of ten times from the evil spirit. Why have so many fallen into this snare? Simply because they do not live in the spirit but love to live in their feeling! They accordingly provide the wicked power opportunity to play his tricks. Christians must learn to deny their sensational life or else they shall give ground to the enemy to deceive them.
Let us seriously warn every one of God’s children to take note of their bodily feeling. We should never allow any spirit to create any feeling in our body against our will. We should resist each of these outward bodily feelings. We should not believe in any of these physical sensations. Rather than follow them we should forbid them, for they constitute the enemy’s initial deception. We ought solely to follow intuition in the depths of our beings.
A careful observation of a Christian s life of feeling can uncover an underlying principle in such a life—which is none other than “for the sake of self.” Why is joyous sensation so sought after? For the sake of self. Why is barrenness so abhorred? Again for self’s sake. Why seek bodily feelings? For self. Why crave supernatural experiences. Also for self. on may the Holy Spirit open our eyes to behold how full of self is a so-called “spiritual” life of feeling! May the Lord show us that when we are filled with joyous emotions our life is still centered on self. It is the love of self-pleasure! The reality or falsity of spiritual life can be gauged by the way we treat self.
THE BIBLE DISCLOSES for us the normal path of a Christian’s walk in such passages as “the righteous shall live by faith”; “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God”; and “we walk by faith, not by sight” (Rom. 1.17 ASV; Gal. 2.20; 2 Cor. 5.7). By faith are we to live. But while this principle may be quickly grasped in the mind it is not so readily experienced in life.
The life of faith is not only totally different from, but also diametrically opposite to, a life of feeling. He who lives by sensation can follow God’s will or seek the things above purely at the time of excitement; should his blissful feeling cease, every activity terminates. Not so with one who walks by faith. Faith is anchored in the One Whom he believes rather than in the one who exercises the believing, that is, himself. Faith looks not at what happens to him but at Him Whom he believes. Though he may completely change, yet the One in Whom he trusts never does—and so he can proceed without letting up. Faith establishes its relationship with God. It regards not its feeling because it is concerned with God. Faith follows the One believed while feeling turns on how one feels. What faith thus beholds is God whereas what feeling beholds is one’s self. God does not change: He is the same God in either the cloudy day or the sunny day. Hence he who lives by faith is as unchanging as is God; he expresses the same kind of life through darkness or through light. But one who dwells by feeling must pursue an up-and-down existence because his feeling is ever changing.
What God expects of His children is that they will not make enjoyment the purpose of their lives. God wants them to walk by believing Him. As they run the spiritual race they are to carry on whether they feel comfortable or whether they feel painful. They never alter their attitude towards God according to their sensations.
However dry, tasteless or dark it may be, they continue to advance—trusting God and advancing as long as they know this is God’s will. Frequently their feeling appears to rebel against this continuation: they grow exceedingly sorrowful, melancholic, despondent, as though their emotions were pleading with them to halt every spiritual activity. They nonetheless go on as usual, entirely ignoring their adverse feeling; for they realize work must be done. This is the pathway of faith, one which pays no heed to one’s emotion but exclusively to the purpose of God. If something is believed to be God’s mind, then no matter how uninterested one’s feeling is he must proceed to execute it. One who walks by sensation undertakes merely what he feels interested in; the one however who walks by faith obeys the complete will of God and cares not at all about his own interest or indifference.
The life of feeling draws people away from abiding in God to finding satisfaction in joy, while the life of faith draws believers into being satisfied with God by faith. They having possessed God, their joyful feelings do not add to their joy nor do their painful sensations render them woeful. A life of emotion induces the saint to exist for himself but a life of faith enables him to exist for God and cedes no ground to his self life. When self is entertained and pleased it is not a life of faith but simply a life of feeling. Exquisite feeling does indeed please the self. If one walks according to sensation it indicates he has not yet committed his natural life to the cross. He still reserves some place for self—wishing to make it happy—while simultaneously continuing to tread the spiritual path.
The Christian experience, from start to finish, is a journey of faith. Through it we come into possession of a new life and through it we walk by this new life. Faith is the life principle of a Christian. This is of course acknowledged by all saints; but strangely enough many seem to overlook this in their experience. They forget that to live and to move by emotion or happy sensations is to do so by sight and not by faith What is the life of faith? It is one lived contrary to a life of feeling because it disregards feeling altogether. If Christians desire to live by this principle they should not alter their demeanor or bitterly cry as though bereft of their spiritual life whenever they feel cold, dry, empty, or pained. We live by faith and not by joy.
When we forsake physical happiness and mundane pleasures we are apt to conclude that the cross has finished its perfect work in us. We do not perceive that in God’s work of annulling the old creation in us there remains a deeper cross awaiting us. God wishes us to die to His joy and live to His will. Even if we feel joyous because of God and His nearness (in contrast to being joyous because of fleshly and earthly things), God’s aim nevertheless is not for us to enjoy His joy but to obey His will. The cross must continue to operate till His will alone is left. If we rejoice in the bliss God dispenses but renounce the suffering He also dispenses, then we have yet to experience the deeper circumcision by the cross.
Great is the contrast between the will of God and the joy of God. The first is ever present, for we can behold God’s mind in His providential arrangement; but the second is not always present, since it is experienced only in certain circumstances and at certain times. When a Christian seeks the joy of God he takes simply that part of His purpose which makes him happy; he does not desire the entire will of God. He chooses to obey God’s aim when God makes him happy; but if He should cause him to suffer he at once revolts against His will. But the person who receives His will as his life will obey regardless how God makes him feel. He can discern divine arrangement in both joy and suffering.
During the initial stage of a Christian’s experience God allows him to delight in His joy; after he has advanced somewhat in his spiritual walk God withdraws His joy, since this is profitable for the Christian. God appreciates the fact that should the believer seek and enjoy this kind of bliss too long he shall not be able to live by every word which proceeds from His mouth; instead he shall live wholly by that word which makes him glad. Thus he abides in the comfort of God but not in the God Who gives comfort. For this reason God must remove these pleasurable sensations so that His child may live exclusively by Him.
We know that the Lord at the commencement of our spiritual walk normally comforts us during those times we suffer on His behalf. He causes the believer to sense His presence, see His smiling face, feel His love, and experience His care in order to prevent him from fainting. When the believer apprehends the mind of the Lord and follows it He usually gives him great pleasure. Although he has paid some price for following the Lord yet the joy he obtains far surpasses what he has lost and hence he delights to obey His will. But the Lord perceives a danger here: upon having experienced comfort in suffering and happiness in heeding His mind, the child of God naturally looks for such comfort and joy the next time he suffers or obeys the Lord’s will or else expects to be helped immediately by His comfort and joy. Hence he suffers or does the Lord’s will not purely for His sake but for the sake of being rewarded with consolation and happiness as well. Without these crutches he is powerless to continue. The will of the Lord becomes inferior to the joy which He bestows at the moment of obedience.
God realizes His child is most eager to suffer if he is comforted, and is delighted to follow His will if he is accorded joy. But God now wishes to learn what motivates him: whether he suffers exclusively for the Lord’s sake or for the sake of being consoled: whether he heeds God’s mind because it should be heeded or because he derives some joy by so heeding. For this reason, after a Christian has made some progress spiritually God commences to withdraw the consolation and delight which He gave him in the hour of suffering and obedience. Now the Christian must suffer without any ministration of comfort from God: he suffers externally while feeling bitter inwardly. He is to do the will of God without the least thing to stimulate his interest; indeed everything is dry and uninteresting. By this process God will learn precisely why the believer suffers on His behalf and obeys His will. God is asking him: are you disposed to endure without being compensated by My comfort? Are you ready to endure just for Me? Are you amenable to perform labor which does not interest you a bit? Can you do it just because it is My purpose? Will you be able to undertake for Me when you feel depressed, insipid and parched? Can you do it simply because it is My work? Are you able to accept joyfully physical suffering without any compensation of refreshment? Can you accept it because it is given by Me?
This is a practical cross by which the Lord reveals to us whether we are living for Him by faith or living for ourselves by feeling. Frequently have we heard people say, “I live for Christ.” What does this really convey? Many saints assume that if they labor for the Lord or love the Lord they are living for Christ. This is far from being exactly so. To live for the Lord means to live for His will, for His interest, and for His kingdom. As such, there is nothing for self-not the slightest provision for self-comfort, self-joy, or self-glory. To follow the mind of God because of comfort or joy is strictly forbidden. To recoil from, to cease or delay in, obedience because of feeling depressed, vapid or despondent is positively impermissible. We ought to know that physical suffering alone may not be regarded as enduring for the Lord, for often our bodies will be bearing pain while our hearts are full of joy. If we actually suffer for Him, then not only do our bodies suffer but our hearts feel pained as well. Though there is not the least joyfulness, we yet press on. Let us understand that to live for the Lord is to reserve nothing for self but to deliver it willingly to death. He who is able to accept everything gladly from the Lord—including darkness, dryness, flatness—and completely disregard self is he who lives for Him.
Should we walk by emotion we can perform God’s desire only as we have a happy feeling. But should we live by faith we can obey the Lord in all regards. How often we do realize a certain matter is in fact God’s will yet we have not the least interest in it. And so we feel parched when we try to perform it. We have no registration that the Lord is pleased nor do we experience His blessing or strengthening. Rather do we feel as if we are passing through the valley of the shadow of death, for the enemy is contesting our way. And alas, without mentioning the innumerable believers who today do not even follow God’s will, there are those few following it who more or less only follow that part which interests them. They obey the mind of God solely when it suits their emotion and desire! Unless we advance by faith we shall flee to Tarshish (see Jonah 1.3, 4.2).
We should inquire once again as to what the life of faith is. It is one lived by believing God under any circumstance: “If he slay me,” says job, “yet would I trust in Him” (13.15 Darby). That is faith. Because I once believed, loved and trusted God I shall believe, love and trust Him wherever He may put me and however my heart and body may suffer. Nowadays the people of God expect to feel peaceful even in the time of physical pain. Who is there who dares to renounce this consolation of heart for the sake of believing God? Who is there who can accept God’s will joyfully and continuously commit himself to Him even though he feels that God hates him and desires to slay him? That is the highest life. Of course God would never treat us like that. Nevertheless in the walk of the most advanced Christians they seem to experience something of this apparent desertion by God. Would we be able to remain unmoved in our faith in God if we felt thus? Observe what John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, proclaimed when men sought to hang him: “If God does not intervene I shall leap into eternity with blind faith come heaven, come hell!” There was a hero of faith! In the hour of despair can we too say, “O God, though You desert me yet will I believe You”? Emotion begins to doubt when it senses blackness, whereas faith holds on to God even in the face of death.
How few have arrived at such a level! How our flesh resists such a walk with God alone! The natural disinclination for cross-bearing has impeded many in their spiritual progress. They tend to reserve a little pleasure for their own enjoyment. To lose everything in the Lord, even self-pleasure, is too thoroughgoing a death, too heavy a cross! They can be fully consecrated to the Lord, they can be suffering untold pain for Him, they can even pay a price for following the will of God, but they cannot foresake that obviously trifling feeling of self-pleasure. Many cherish this momentary comfort; their spiritual life rests on this tiny twinge of feeling. Were they to exercise the courage to sacrifice themselves to God’s fiery furnace, showing no pity or love for self, they would make great strides on their spiritual pathway. But too many of God’s people remain subservient to their natural life, trusting what is seen and felt for safety and security: they have neither the courage nor the faith to exploit the unseen, the unfelt, the untrodden. They have already drawn a circle around themselves; their joy or sorrow hinges upon a little gain here or a little loss there; they accept nothing loftier. Thus are they circumscribed by their own petty self.
Were the Christian to recognize that God wishes him to live by faith, he would not murmur against God so frequently nor would he conceive these thoughts of discontent. How swiftly would his natural life be cut away by the cross if he could accept the God-given parched feeling and could esteem everything given him by God as excellent. Were it not for his ignorance or unwillingness, such experiences would deal with his soul life most practically, enabling him to live truly in the spirit. How sad that many succeed at nothing greater in their lives than the pursuit of a little feeling of joy. The faithful, however, are brought by God into genuine spiritual life. How godly is their walk! When they examine retrospectively what they have experienced they readily acknowledge that the ordering of the Lord is perfect: for only because of those experiences did they renounce their soul life. Today’s crying need is for believers to hand themselves over completely to God and ignore their feeling.
This should not at all be misconstrued to signify, however, that henceforth we shall become joyless persons. “Joy in the Holy Spirit” is the greatest blessing in the kingdom of God (Rom. 14.17). The fruit of the Holy Spirit, moreover, is joy (Gal. 5.22). If this is so, then bow can we reconcile this apparent inconsistency? Simply come to see that though we do lose joy in our feeling, nevertheless the joy we gain issues from a pure faith and cannot be destroyed. Joy of this caliber runs far deeper than emotion. In becoming spiritual we abandon the old desire for self-pleasure and hence additionally the former search for bliss; but the peace and joy of the spirit which arises from faith remains forever.
To walk after the spirit a Christian must deny every scintilla of his life of feeling. He must move by faith and eliminate the crutches of wonderful sensation to which the flesh naturally clings. When he is following the spirit he neither fears if he receives no help from feeling nor if feeling opposes him. But when his faith is weak and he follows not the spirit, he then will heed the support of the visible, the sensible and the touchable. Emotion replaces intuition in guidance whenever spiritual life grows weak. He who abides in feeling will come to see that, having long sought pleasurable sensations, he shall soon seek as well the help of the world, because feeling rests nowhere save in the world. An emotional Christian often employs his own way and seeks man’s help. To follow the leading of the spirit requires faith, for it usually is contrary to feeling. Without faith no one can actually march forward. A soulish person ceases to serve God the moment he becomes depressed; on the other hand one who lives by faith does not delay in serving the Lord until he becomes joyful: he simply goes forward while beseeching God to increase the strength of his spirit that he may overcome any depressed feeling which may descend.
The life of faith can be called the life of the will since faith is impervious to how one feels but chooses through volition to obey God’s mind. Though the Christian may not feel like obeying God, even so he wills to obey Him. We find two opposite kinds of Christians: one depends on emotion, the other relies on the renewed will. A Christian who trusts in feeling can obey God solely while he is deriving stimulus from his feeling, that is, excitable feeling. The one however who depends on volition determines that he shall serve God amid whatever circumstance or feeling. His will reflects his real opinion whereas his feeling is only activated by outside stimulus. From God’s viewpoint not much value accrues in doing His will out of a pleasurable sensation: to do so is merely to be persuaded by the joy of God and not by a wholehearted aspiration to do His will. Except he neither feels a bit of joy nor is stimulated by some wonderful feeling and yet decides to do God’s will can the Christian’s obedience be counted truly valuable, because it flows from his honest heart and expresses his respect for God and disregard of self. The distinction between the spiritual and the soulish Christian lies precisely there: the soulish primarily considers himself and therefore only obeys God when he feels his desire is satisfied; the spiritual has a will fully cooperating with God and hence accepts His arrangement without wavering even though he has no outside help or stimulus.
Of what have we to boast if we obey God merely while we experience joy in our body? Or how can we brag if we enjoy the cheer of the Lord while suffering? Precious is it in God’s sight if we determine to obey His mind and suffer for Him even when the comfort, love, help, presence and joy of the Lord are absent.
A great number of believers are unconscious of the fact that to walk by the spirit is to walk by the will which is joined to God. (A will which is not so joined is untrustworthy and inconsistent; it requires a will that is entirely yielded to God’s to always choose what the spirit desires). In the early stage of their Christian experience they heard how other saints enjoyed unutterable bliss during obedience or suffering. They ardently admired such a life, so they too offered themselves exclusively to the Lord with the hope of possessing this “higher” life. In truth, following their consecration they did experience time and again the Lord’s intimacy and love, which prompted them to conclude that their hope had been realized. But far too soon did these wonderful experiences become past history.
Because they are unaware that the expression of true spiritual life issues not from feeling but from the will many suffer endless pains, for these believe they have lost their spiritual life when no happy sensation is felt. Such ones, at a time of low feeling, need to ascertain whether their original heart of consecration has been changed or whether they still harbor the desire to do God’s will. Are they yet disposed to suffer for Him? Is there any change in their readiness to do anything or go anywhere for God? If these have not been altered, then their spiritual life has not receded. But if these have changed, their life in the spirit has indeed receded.
Just as one’s retrogression is not due to any loss of joy but to the weakening of his will in obedience to God, so his progress is not because he possesses many delightful feelings now which he previously did not, but because of a deeper union of his will with God. It is this which renders him more inclined to follow God’s will, more amenable to His desires. The touchstone of genuine spiritual life is how much one’s volition is united with God’s; good or bad sensation, happy or sad feeling does not in the slightest serve as an indicator. If one is willing, however dry he may feel, to be faithful to God even to death, his spiritual course becomes the noblest. Spirituality is measured by our volition because it unfolds our undisguised condition. When our choices and decisions are yielded to God we may safely say we have yielded to God and no longer act as our own sovereign. Self stands in opposition to spiritual life. With self broken down that life grows up: should self remain strong that life will suffer. We accordingly can judge one’s spirituality by looking into his will. Feeling, on the contrary, is distinctly different. For even if we possess the most glorious sensations, we are nonetheless full of self, being self-gratified and self-pleased.
Let not those who sincerely strive after spiritual growth be deceived into thinking that feeling is their life principle, because this shall entice them to be mindful always of tingling sensation. Just be certain that the will is utterly offered to God. Joy or no joy is not to be the consideration. God wants us to live by faith. Should He wish us to live by faith and be satisfied solely with His will bereft of consolation or ecstatic delight for long duration, would we be inclined to so live? We should delight in our having obeyed the mind of God, not in being accorded some joy. God’s will alone should be sufficient to make us joyful
While a Christian is governed by feeling he invariably will neglect his duty towards others. This is because he makes himself the center and is consequently unfit to care for the needs of others. For a Christian to fulfill his duty it requires faith and will. Responsibility ignores feeling. Our duty towards men is defined and our responsibility in the mundane affairs of life is certain. These cannot be altered according to one’s changing emotion. Duty must be performed according to principle.
During the period that a Christian knows the truth merely in his feeling he certainly cannot fulfill his duty. He is so taken up with the joy from fellowshipping with the Lord that that is all he pursues. His greatest temptation is to want to do nothing but be alone with the Lord and bask in this joy. He does not like the work in which he formerly was engaged because it holds out no other prospect than many trials and troubles. When face to face with the Lord he senses intense holiness and victory, but when he emerges to perform his daily tasks he finds himself as defeated and defiled as before. What he wants is to escape his duties: he hopes that by lingering lengthily before the Lord he can remain holy and victorious the longer. He views these matters of duty as earthy and unworthy of occupying the attention of so pure and triumphant a person as he. Since he cares so much about finding time and place to commune with the Lord and hates so deeply those works which are his duties, he naturally neglects the need and welfare of those around him. Parents and servants who think like this do not, respectively, take good care of their children nor serve their masters faithfully because they judge these duties as worldly, therefore of negligible worth. They believe they must seek something more spiritual. The reason for this unbalanced approach is the believer’s failure to walk by faith; he continues to look for self-support. He has not yet been united fully with God. Hence he needs special time and special place to commune with God. He has not learned to discern the Lord in all matters and to cooperate accordingly with Him. He does not know how to be united with the Lord in the daily details of living. His experience of God is but in his feeling; and so he loves to erect a tent on the mountain and dwell there permanently with the Lord but hates to descend to the plain to cast the demon away.
The loftiest Christian experience is never contradictory to the duties of one’s pathway. In reading the letters to the Romans, Colossians and Ephesians we can plainly see how perfectly a Christian must perform his duty as a man. His highest life does not necessitate special hour and situation in order to be manifested; it can be thoroughly expressed at any time or place. To the Lord there is no dichotomy between household work and preaching or praying. The life of Christ can be exhibited through all sorts of activity.
As a consequence to living an emotional life we become dissatisfied with our present position and are loathe to perform the duties connected with that position. We revolt because in those duties we do not find the pleasure we seek. But our life is not for pleasure; why do we therefore look for it again? The path of feeling bids us neglect our duty; the path of faith calls us not to forsake our duty to friends or foes. If we are united with God in every detail of living, we shall know what are our tasks and how we should properly fulfill them,
To deny the life of emotion and live by faith completely is one of the basic requirements for serving God. An emotional believer is useless in God’s hand. He who walks by feeling knows how to enjoy pleasure but not how to work for God. He has not yet attained the status of a worker, since he lives for himself and not for God. Living for the Lord is the prerequisite to working for Him.
A Christian must realize the way of faith before he can be a useful instrument to God and actually perform His work. Otherwise his aim in life is pleasure. He works for the sake of feeling and for that reason he will stop working. His heart is brimming with self-love. If he is placed by the Lord in a field of labor filled with physical and emotional suffering he begins to pity himself and finally gives up. But even as the work of the Lord Jesus was that of the cross, exactly so is the work of a Christian to be. What pleasure is there in such work? Except Christians utterly commit their emotion and their heart of self-love to death, God can hardly find any real workers.
Today the Lord needs men to be His followers who shall trail Him to the end. Too many saints labor for the Lord when the task is prosperous, is suited to their interest, or does not imperil their feeling; but how quickly they retreat should the cross come upon them and require them to die and give them no help except to lay hold of God by faith. We know that if a work is veritably accomplished by God there cannot but be results. Yet supposing one has been commissioned by the Lord and has labored for eight or ten years without achieving any results. Can he continue to labor faithfully simply because God has commanded it? How many saints are there who serve purely because it is God’s command? Or how many work just to produce fruits? Since God’s work is eternal in nature, He demands men with faith to labor for Him. It is difficult for human beings who live in time to perceive and to understand the work of God, for it is replete with eternal character. How, then, can those who live by feeling ever join in God’s work since nothing in it can please their feeling? Unless the death of the cross cuts penetratingly into the soul of a believer so that he reserves nothing for self, he cannot follow the Lord in work except to a limited extent. Beyond that he is unable to go. God asks for men who are totally broken and who will follow Him even to death to work for Him.
Those who live by feeling are even more worthless in spiritual warfare, because to battle the enemy in prayer is truly a self-denying work. What incalculable suffering is involved! Nothing for satisfying one’s self can be found here; it is pouring out one’s all for the body of Christ and the kingdom of God. How unbearable must be this resisting and wrestling in the spirit! What pleasure is there for the spirit to be laden with indescribable burden for the sake of God? Is it interesting to attack the evil spirit with every ounce of strength one can summon? This is a prayer warfare. But for whom is the believer praying? Not for himself surely, but for the work of God. Such prayer is for warfare which is thoroughly lacking in interest one usually encounters during ordinary prayer. Is there anything in this that can make him feel comfortable when he must travail in his soul and pray to destroy and to build? No element in spiritual warfare can gladden the flesh—unless of course one is contending merely in his imagination.
An emotional Christian is easily defeated in conflict with Satan. While he is praying to assault the enemy the latter by his evil spirit will attack his emotion. He will set the Christian to feeling that such contesting is painful and such prayer is lifeless. So as he becomes sorrowful, insipid, dark and dry, he immediately stops fighting. An emotional Christian is powerless to war against Satan, for as soon as his feeling comes under attack by Satan he quits the field of battle. If one’s emotion has not experienced death, he may provide opportunity to Satan to strike at any hour. Each time he rises to oppose the enemy he is defeated by a satanic touch upon his feeling. Can anyone expect victory over Satan unless he has first overcome his life of sensation?
Spiritual warfare accordingly demands an attitude of total death to feeling and an absolute trust in God. Only a person with this attitude can bear up alone and not seek companions or man’s approval in fighting the enemy. Only this caliber of Christian can proceed under all sorts of anguished feelings. He cares not at all for his life nor about death but only cares for the leading of God. He indulges no personal interest, desire or longing. He has offered himself to death already and then lives exclusively for God. He neither blames nor misunderstands Him because he considers all His ways to be loving. This is the class of person who is able to fill the breach. Though he may appear to be deserted by God and forgotten by men, yet he mans his battle station. He is a prayer warrior. He overcomes Satan.
After a believer has thus been dealt with, he can commence the walk of faith which is true spiritual life. And the one who arrives at this position enters upon a life of rest. The fire of the cross has consumed his every greedy pursuit. He at last has learned his lesson: he recognizes that God’s will alone is precious. All else, though naturally desirable, is incompatible with the highest life of God. Now he rejoices in relinquishing everything. Whatever the Lord deems necessary to withdraw, he gladly allows His hand to do it. The sighing, mourning and grieving which arose out of his former anticipation, seeking and struggling have today entirely disappeared. He realizes that the loftiest life is one lived for God and one obedient to His will. Though he has lost everything yet is he satisfied with the fulfillment of God’s purpose. Though he is left with nothing to enjoy, yet is he humble under the ordering of God. So long as the Lord is pleased he cares not the least what happens to him. He now has perfect rest; nothing external can any longer stimulate him.
Presently the child of God abides by a will which is united with the Lord. His volition, today filled with spiritual strength, is competent to control his emotion. His walk is steady, firm, restful. His former situation of ups and downs has vanished. Even so, we must not now rush to the conclusion that henceforth he shall never again be ruled by emotion, for before we enter heaven itself such sinless perfection is not possible. Nonetheless, in comparing his present state with his former condition, this one can indeed be described as experiencing rest, being established, and continuing firm. He suffers no further from that incessant confusion he encountered heretofore, though occasionally he may still be disturbed by the operation of his emotion. That is why watchful prayer continues to be indispensable. Let us therefore hasten to add: do not misunderstand what has been said to mean that from here on there shall be no possibility of feeling either joy or sorrow. As long as our organ for emotion is not annihilated (it never will be), our feeling shall continue to exist. We still can sense pain, blackness, aridity and sorrow. Yet those sufferings can penetrate our outer man only, leaving our inner man untouched. Due to the clear division between spirit and soul, outwardly our soul may be disturbed and consequently suffer but inwardly our spirit remains calm and composed as though nothing had happened.
Upon arriving at this restful position the believer shall find that all he heretofore had lost for the Lord’s sake has today been restored. He has gained God, and therefore everything belonging to God belongs to him as well. What the Lord had withdrawn before he now can properly enjoy in Him. The reason why God at the beginning had led him through many sorrows was because his soul life lay behind everything, seeking and asking too much for himself, desiring even things which were outside God’s will. Such independent action had to be circumscribed by God. Now that he has lost himself—that is, his natural life—the Christian is in a position to enjoy the bliss of God within its legitimate boundary. Not till today was he qualified to be rightly related to His joy. Hereafter he can thankfully accept whatever is given him, because the eagerness to secure something for self has already been put to nought; he does not petition inordinately for that which was not bestowed upon him.
Such a child of God has advanced onto a pure ground. Where there is mixture there is impurity. The Bible views impurity as something defiled. Before one reaches this ground of no mixture he cannot express a pure walk. He lives for God yet also lives for self: he loves the Lord but loves himself as well: his intention is unto God, yet simultaneously he aims at self-glory, self-pleasure, self-comfort. Such a life is a defiled one. He walks by faith but also walks by feeling, he follows the spirit but also follows the soul. While he does not in fact reserve the larger portion for himself, nonetheless this smaller portion held back is sufficient to render his life impure. Only what is pure is clean; anything mixed with foreign matter becomes defiled.
When a believer has experienced the practical treatment of the cross he finally arrives at a pure life. All is for God and in God, and God is in all as well. Nothing is unto self. Even the tiniest desire for pleasing one’s self is crucified. Self-love has been consigned to death. The present aim of existence becomes single: to do the will of God: so long as He is pleased, nothing else really counts: to obey Him becomes the sole objective of life. It does not matter bow he feels; what matters is obeying God. This is a pure walk. Although God affords him peace, comfort and bliss, he does not enjoy them for the sake of gratifying his desire. He from now on views everything with God’s eye. His soulish life has been terminated and the Lord has granted him a pure, restful, true and believing spiritual life. While it is God Who does destroy him, it equally is God Who builds him up. That which is soulish has been destroyed but that which is spiritual has been established.