George Douglas Watson.

Soul food : being chapters on the interior life with passages of personal experience online

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by persevering prayer, get in such abiding relation with
the real source of all holiness as to make our very
words conductors of heavenly electricity. Our infinite,
loving God will gladly utilize any little humble one on
this earth as a channel of holy fire, if they will utterly
yield themselves up to His will and the current of the
Holy Spirit.


WE have a revelation of God's personal feelings
in the very nature of the first great command-
ment, that we are to love Him with all our heart.

The complaint that Jesus had against the Church
at Ephesus was their lack of fervent, personal love for
Him ; they had ' ' works' ' and ' ' labor ' ' and ' ' patience, ' '
and great zeal in searching out heretics, and in bearing
persecution and the scorn of their neighbors, and had
not fainted under hardships.

If such a list of graces were now found in one per-
son, he would be esteemed a great saint ; and yet the
infinite Searcher of hearts saw the lack of something
for which all these massive* virtues could not atone ;


and that was a warm, deep, incessant, cleaving, tender
passion of soul for the person of the Lord Jesus.

Very few Christians reach such an intimacy with
our dear Lord as to receive and appreciate His individ-
ual feelings. Jesus is an infinite lover, and nothing will
satisfy Him but a pure, sacred, passionate, and per-
sonal love. He loves to be loved. He loves those most
who have the most personal affection for Him. There
are so many things that are eminently religious,
and brave, and enterprising, and reformatory, which
display great zeal and orthodoxy, but which do not
satisfy the longings of our Savior's heart.

There are so few Christians that are positively af-
fectionate with Jesus. Personal love of Jesus is
marked by several characteristics :

I. It is a unique and undefinable love for His person
as the God-man. When we are filled with the Spirit,
there will be unfolded in our minds a fixed apprehen-
sion of each person in the Godhead ; and there will
be individual love for each person in the Godhead, and
a sweet, peculiar adoration and affection and wor-
ship for the Father and for Christ, and for the Holy
Spirit. And there is something in our love for each
of the Divine persons which is peculiar to their per-
sonality. In such a state, our love for Jesus is the
blending of love for the eternal Son and the sacred hu-
manity, so this affection is composed of the most ar-
dent attachments which a creature can have for


his God, and the strongest attachment which one crea-
ture can have for another.

The human soul and sacred bod}" of Jesus are the
highest of all things in the creation of God. His
suffering and death render Him the most precious
creature in the universe, both to Father and to us ; and
when this is joined w4th the eternal Logos, who was
our Creator, it puts Him in such relation to us that we
can love Him with a kind of love as we cannot have
toward another person, either divine or human. It is
this compound love, this blending of aifections, like
the composition of the sweet spikenard, which Jesus
wants us to pour forth on Him.

We can love Jesus with more different kinds of af-
fection than any other person in the universe. Look
at the number of tender relationships that He sustains
toward a soul that is perfecth' wedded to Him by the
Holy Spirit. As our Creator, we adore Him ; as our
Redeemer, we boundlessly trust Him ; as our King,
we obey Him ; as our Judge, we fear Him ; as
our Master, we submit to Him ; as our Savior, we
praise Him ; as a little Infant, we feel a fatherly and
motherly love toward Him ; as a Brother, we feel a
brotherly and sisterly love for Him ; as our spiritual
Bridegroom, our hearts are passionately devoted to
Him. *

Every relation that He sustains to us calls forth
a new form of love. There is no kind of affection


possible to the human soul which Jesus should uot re-
ceive. See in how many ways Eve was related to
Adam ; being builded out of his rib, she was his own
daughter, and at the same time his own sister, and at
the same time his bride ; and he being the lord of the
human famil}^, she was his servant, and all these rela-
tions entered into her affections for him.

Jesus is to us, in a similar way, all that Adam was
to Eve, with a great deal more besides. Now do we
love our precious Lord in all these relationships !
Is our love for Him an ever- flowing stream, which is
made up from all these vSeveral rivulets? There is no
one in the universe, to a divinely-illuminated mind, so
lovable as our blessed, Divine Jesus.

II. Personal love for Jesus has in it the extremes
of the most sacred fear and the most child-like famil-
iarit3^ Some people think that those who have much
sacred fear can not have much love ; and, on the other
hand, that those who have a fond familiarity of love
can not have a reverential fear ; but such people are
greatly mistaken. Fear and love are the two equal
wings to this soaring devotion. Those who have an
awe which in the least hinders their love, have a
slave's aw^e, and not that of a child. There is nothing
more beautiful in the interior life than that sacred awe,
that sweet and sacred dread, which the soul feels in the
presence of its Lord. When we gaze at His beautiful
and blazing majesty, when our whole soul feels a gentle


trembling before Him, there is something in the very
holy dread that draws us to a deeper and more tender

And, on the other hand, there is a spotless familiar-
ity which the soul can take with Jesus — a boldness and
libert}^ of thought and speech — which only ser^-es to
make our worship more true, so that, in realit}', sacred
fear and familiar love act and react on each other.

III. Personal love of Jesus is indicated b}^ an ex-
treme sensitiveness for His honor. The soul feels an
insult at ever\' dishonor that is shown to its Divine
Husband. When Jesus is wounded, His name lightly
used, His majesty- disregarded, His precious blood ig-
nored — when He is treated irreverently, or when He is
in any way dishonored as to His person or merits or
claims — this hot personal love will feel a delicate, divine

The heart is as sensitive to the preciousness and
honor of Christ as the apple of the eye. The truly
wedded soul is ver}^ touch}' as to the glor}' of its hus-
band. And, on the other hand, this kind of love is al-
ways elated and happy at every advancement of Christ's
glor3^ It loves to see Him extended ; it glories in the
spread of His glory.

IV. This kind of love has an inceSvSant 3'earning
for all the dispositions manifested in the life of Jesus.
This personal love of Jesus has large, bright ej^es, and
from the New Testament records it can see marvelous


things in the Christ-life. It has vast and penetrating
vivsions into the depths of His lowliness, the vastness of
His charity, the tenderness of His Spirit, the perpet-
ual self-sacrifice of His will, the absolute courage of
His obedience, the everlastingness of His kindness. It
sees His whole inner life, like a magnificent cit}^, all lit
up with unspeakable attributes, and all bespangled
wdtli majesties and virtues and graces and sweetnesses,
that charm and bewilder the .soul, and make it leap
with intensest desire to possess everything which it sees
in its lovely Lord. No .splendor in creation can com-
pare with the dazzling charms which an ardently lov-
ing soul peceives in Jesus. It cries out, with St. Paul,
"Oh, the depth of the riches!" It is this vision
wdiich makes the soul pine and pray, and weep loving
tears, and dream over and over of the ineffable trans-
formation of being made just like its heavenly Bride-

V. This form of love is stroiigly attached to the
possessions of Christ. There is a peculiar attachment
w^hich always goes with the possession of a thing. It
is the affection of ownership. As soon as anything
becomes our propert}^ we have a peculiar attachment
which never could exist previous to owaiership. This
is why Jesus .said, " Where 3'our po.ssessions are, there
will your heart be." He does not .say the possessions
will go where the heart is, but the heart will go where
the possessions are. Hence the soul in perfect, loving


union with Jesus will find itself taking hold of all His
personal kingdom and all His propert}', as a young
queen finds the affections of her heart stretching out
to all the subjects and enterprises of her king's do-

VI. I should not omit to say that this personal love
for Jesus has in it a fond, caressing spirit for Him. It
twines its thoughts around Him. It folds Him round
and round with the delicate embraces of the Spirit. It
often finds itself, like John, leaning on His breast ; or,
like Mary, sitting at His feet ; or, like Magdalene,
bathing His feet with tears ; and w^hatever posture the
body may be in, the soul is often on its face before Him
in perfect, penitential tenderness.

VII. The love of Jesus would not be complete if it
did not include a longing for His personal appearing,
and to see Him come in the glory of His kingdom.
The Holy Spirit loves Jesus with an infinite love, and
He alone can flood our being with fervent love for
Christ ; and the Holy Ghost has told us that we are to
' * love Christ's appearing. ' ' St. Paul speaks of a crown
of righteousness for all those who love our Lord's ap-
pearing. Any love for Jesus which does not include an
intense desire to see and be with Him is below the
standard of affection which He requires of us. They
please Him most who love Him personally and ardently
up to their capacity.




THE very thought of lukewarmiiess implies that
the soul has previously been iu a good, hot state
of grace. Persons who have never known a good de-
gree of fervor, either in a justified or sanctified state,
will never have the malady of lukewarmness. It is
like pestilential insects, which attack thrifty, living
vegetables, and not dry, dead sticks. We never think
of a' dry, rainless desert as suffering from a drouth.
The very thought of suffering from drouth implies that
the ground has previously been well watered.

It often happens that those who have been the most
richh^ blessed with divine grace, and who have been
lifted into fervent love, will imperceptibly decline into
lukewarmness. Very few Christians on earth entirely
escape this miserable tepidit}^ altogether. One of the
worst features about lukewarmness is that it steals on
the soul in such quiet, respectable ways. If the hor-
rible thing had horns and hoofs, and a smack of crim-
inality in it, it would alarm the soul ; but, as a rule,
lukewarmness of spirit is so decent and well-behaved,
that it chloroforms its victim and kills him without a
scream of terror. This is what makes it so awfully
fatal. While open sin slays its hundreds, nice, respect-
able lukewarmness sla3's its tens of thousands.

Could we get a vision of a soul that has been all


aglow with sanctif3'ing grace, as it was beginning to
get lukewarm, we would see a heart seemingl}- spotless
and empt}', with the heavenly dove and the good angels
just on the outside, but with their faces turned away
from it, as if about to leave ; and, on the other hand,
we would see unclean beasts and birds on the outside
of the heart, but with their faces turned toward it, as
if about to enter. We would see the eyes half closed,
as if about taking a nap, and a dull, expressionless
mouth, reminding us of a winter fireplace where the
fire burns low^ Oh, could the soul but see the awful-
ness of such a condition !

Lukewarmness is indicated by a negligence in acts of
piet}', and a carelessness in fixed habits of devotion ;
such as daily reading God's Word, regular seasons of
prayer, constant guarding of our conversation, seasons
of fasting, and habits of divine and heavenly medita-
tion. There is not only a carelessness in the perform-
ing of these acts, but a dullness of spirit, a slovenness
of mind, in the doing of them. As nearl}^ all tight-
rope walkers and lion-tamers sooner or later get killed
in their foolish game by a little carelessness, so man}^
Christians fall from elevated grace, and are devoured
by lions, through a thoughtless and careless spirit in
Christian duty.

Another sj-mptom of lukewarmness is a trusting to
the magic of former grace. The soul has experienced,
by an instantaneous regeneration, or an instantaneous


sanctificatiou, such floods of. light and love as seem to
sweep it out on an irresistible tide, and everything re-
ligious seems so easy, that everything works like a
charm. But this very flood- tide of holy ease becomes
a snare to the soul. It leans upon these instantaneous
blessings to work by a sort of magic, and to take the
place of patient, thoughtful perseverance. There are
hundreds who are lazily expecting the mere blessing
of sanctificatiou to take them through, and do not per-
ceive that the chilling frost is settling down in the edges
of their souls. It is as if a captain of a fine ship,
after getting her out to sea, with the sails all set, and
fairly in the wind, should lash the helm, and tell the
crew they might take a holiday, expecting the wind
and the ship, the chart and the compass, to do the bal-
ance. There are more souls doing this thing than we
dream of.

Another element in lukewarmness is a sort of indefi-
nite contentment with the present level of the spirit-
ual life. There is a quiet, unexpressed decision of the
mind that the soul is getting on very well, and that it
will settle down into its present thought and feelings.
Most Christians have quietly decided to live the re-
mainder of their days just about like they are now
doing. They expect no further great epochs in their

A great many holiness people are so afraid of what
resembles a third blessing that they expect no great


widening deluges of the Spirit, but nestle down in the
thought that if the}' can only keep a clean heart, they
will never bother themselves about the ocean-depths of
boundless, melting, fiery love. Such souls are already
on the decline, and do not know it. Their spiritual life re-
sembles a quiet, lazy , drowsy summer Sunda}' afternoon.
Thej^ feel the Saturday night's work has been well
done up ; the Sabbath morn religion has been nicely
attended to ; and they can't bear the thought of the
duties of Monda}' morning, and so spend the time nap-
ing. Even holiness preachers settle down into this
Sunda}' afternoon condition, with just enough spirit-
ual fervor to brush the summer flies away.

It is amazing how few Christians are seriously de-
termined to get bej^ond their present experience ; and
of course the}^ do not get beyond. And this luke-
warmness manifests itself by a disposition to criticise
as heretics those who do push be3'ond. The legalist
suspicions the man as being erratic who knows his sins
are forgiven. The merely converted man looks upon
the fully sanctified with a good deal of suspicion,
and even many who are sanctified regard any greater
enlargements in the Holy Ghost life as bordering on
heresy. And so it goes on. Will there ever be any
end to the narrowness and the littleness of our minds
and faith?

Another element in lukewannness is the secret fact
in the mind that the soul has done so much for God,


has fought so many battles, endured so many afflic-
tions, had so many uplifts in grace, that it can put
itself on the retired list of the army and draw full pay.
This is a very subtle disposition, and the soul hardly
dares to whisper it to itself, for the conscience feels that
its meanness is like the gunpowder plot, which must
not be breathed : and yet, w^iere is the saint who has
known much of God, into whose mind this low, sneak-
ing thought has not crept ? God only knows how many
of His children, once hot with holy love, are living,
like broken-down aristocracy, on the faded splendors of
the past. Their experiences resemble faded photo-
graphs, or the withered flowers that were used at last
week's funeral.

Another feature in lukewarmness is the hidden
compliment which the soul takes to itself, that glowing
fervor is onl}^ a juvenile thing which it has outgrown,
and that it is now "serving God on principle." All
states of toning down in spiritual life are accompanied
b}^ some sort of self-complacency. When the soul be-
gins to think less of God, and of the precious blood,
and of the Holy Ghost, it begins to think more of

This thought of serving God on cold principle in-
dicates a sad state : it may not be ruinous to one's life,
but it is ruinous to deep spirituality. One of the worst
things al30Ut it is its respectability. It keeps in the
beaten path of decent religion ; no one can lay any


charge against it ; it can pass in and out around any
circle of Christians ; it does nothing to call down se-
vere rebukes ; it is an old, sober, well-behaved thing,
keeping on good terms with everybody and everything
in general. If only something terrific would happen
to it ; if it could be hurled to the dust in humiliation
and mortification ; if it could onl}^ be set weepni?- and
w^ailing, it would be an infinite advantage to it. But
such a miserable state of soul is vSo pleasing to the devil
that he will not even tempt it to commit au}^ great sin,
lest it should be shocked into renewed repentance and
fer\^or of grace. The devil likes to bury a hot relig-
ious experience in a smooth shroud of cold virtue.

There is one more symptom of lukewarmness, and
that is a dull sense of inward breaking with God.
The heart feels that something is not just right. The
orthodoxy is all right ; the outward life may be cor-
rect ; the verbal testimony still kept up ; and all Chris-
tian duties in a general way looked after ; but the ani-
mating spirit is weakened. There is no conscious
touch from God ; no sense of fulness dilating the
heart ; no sweet vision of God's attributes ; no bright,
far-awa}^ fields open to it in secret pra3^er ; no lowly
feeling of kissing the Savior's feet ; no rapt adoration of
His majesty ; no sweet hymns vibrating in the mind
during the sleep; no melting, 3^earning love for the
saving of souls ; no spells of divine laughter rippling
through the mind ; no bullet-like piercing of the words


of the Scripture ; no whispering of the H0I3' Ghost as
of old ; no conscious grasp on the throne through

The flash has left the eye ; the smile from the lip ;
the divine throb from the heart ; the promptness has
left the will ; the gentleness has left the voice ; the third
heavens, with its retinue, have gone off somewhere.
Some unpleasant, undefinable, imexplorable something
has settled on the inner spirit ; it has ceased to feel to-
ward Jesus as a real lover ; it is getting offensive tq^the
Holy Spirit ; and unless something can be done to re-
kindle its fading fires, it will nauseate the Infinite
heart, and Christ will spew it out of His mouth. This
is an awful metaphor, and indicates the awfulness of



INASMUCH as faith is the condition of all the spiri*
ual life, of the entrance into that life, and the steps
to progress in that life, it behooves us to give it all the
nourishment possible. Faith can be strengthened, and
fed, and thus will grow ; but the growth of faith is
often ver}' opposite to our notions concerning it. We
often suppose that faith is made strong by receiving
great encouragement, by having quick and abundant
answers to prayer, by high states of joy, by lofty vis-



ions of divine things ; but in reality these things do
not strengthen our faith as much as we fancy. Our
faith is to be nourished on the promises of God. Those
promises are contained in His written Word. They
may be also promises communicated to the soul by the
Holy Spirit, or through other souls who are in close
fellowship with God, and who may speak to us great
promises of what God has told them concerning us.
When God first called Abraham, He inundated his soul
with a sea of promises ; He spoke to him from the
starr}^ heavens, and from the soil of Canaan on which
he walked, and by the visits of angels, and by the
Holy Ghost in the deep of his nature. Abraham saw
great fields of light — great possibilities of things for
himself and his posterity. His soul drank in these
promises, until his faith became wide and powerful, even
before any of them were fulfilled. God deals with souls
in a similar way ; yet when He calls any one to great
degrees of perfection or of usefulness. He begins by
opening up to them the promises of His Word, and the
possibilities which they may achieve, even before there
are any outward symptoms of their fulfillment. The
heart that anchors itself in the promises of God,
until those promises become as real as God himself, will
have strong faith.

Another nourishment to faith is the removing from
the soul of natural and human props. Naturall}- we
lean on a great many things in nature, and society, and


the Church, and friends, more than we are aware of. We
think we depend on God alone, and never dream of
how much we depend on other things, until they are
taken from us, and if they were not removed, we
should go on, self-deceived, thinking that we relied on
God for all things. But God designs to concentrate
our faith in Him alone by removing all other founda-
tions, and, one step after another, detaching us from all
other supports. There are many souls which can not en-
dure this utter desolation of secondary supports, which
would be more than they could bear, and they would
react into open rebellion ; so God allows them to have
a junior faith, and to lean on other things more or less.
But to those who are able to undergo the strain of faith,
He allows all sorts of disappointments — the death of
bright hopes, the removing of earthly friendships or
destruction of property, the multiplied infirmities of the
bod}^ and mind, the misunderstanding of dear ones,
until the landscape of religious life seems sw^ept with a
blizzard, to compel the soul to house itself in God

At the time the soul is having all secondary support
removed, it does not perceive w^hat is taking place
within itself, but afterw^ards it finds that faith has been
growing and expanding with every wave that has beat
against it. Faith grows when we least expect it ;
storms and difficulties, temptations and conflicts, are its
field of operation ; like the storni}^ petrel on the ocean,


faith has a supernatural glee in the howling of the
storm and the dash of the spray.

Faith not only is nourished by the removal
of earthly props, but by the seeming removal of
divine consolation. Our answer to prayer seems too
long delayed, and faith is tested to its uttermost, when
it seems as if the I^ord has turned against us and all
we can do is to continue holding on, with the pitiful
cry of " lyord, help me!" Even then faith is ex-
panding and growing beyond all we are aware of, by
the very extension of the delay of the answer. The
longer the L

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Online LibraryGeorge Douglas WatsonSoul food : being chapters on the interior life with passages of personal experience → online text (page 2 of 9)