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Many, if not all of our bodily diseases, arise from mental diseases; and if the mental diseases could in all cases be ascertained, it is probable that spiritual, instead of physical remedies, might be applied. The miracles of healing the sick recorded in the Bible, seem to have been performed by perceiving the spiritual causes of the diseases, and applying spiritual remedies.
If natural kindness is a good medicine, how much more powerful must be the effect of real faith and charity. All men acknowledge the power of natural truth, displayed in the skill of the physician; and the power of natural love, displayed in the kindness of friends. Are faith and charity less active and communicable than the corresponding natural qualities? I believe that they are less obstructed in their operations by the material body; and that they possess a living energy, which disregards our natural laws of cause and effect. It seems plain to me, but it may require something more than natural truth to show it, that mind acts upon mind without the intervention of a material body. A great part of thé influence which human beings exercise upon each other, appears to me to be effected by the immediate operation of mind upon mind. The more pure and internal thoughts and affections are peculiarly adapted for this internal intercourse. We know that both good and evil spirits hold intercourse with us, without the medium of material bodies. Are not faith and charity sufficiently abstracted from what is material to possess the same power of operating?
The effect which your prayer for your sick friend will produce, will consist, first, in improving the state of your own mind, and, secondly, in imparting your own feelings to your friend. If, by drawing nigh unto the Lord, you abandon whatever is of yourself, and receive faith and charity froin him, you must be in a state to impart healing virtue to any one towards whom your thoughts and affections may be directed. The power which the mind possesses in such a state, is the strength of the Lord. It can, therefore, be limited only by the laws of the divine providence. It may produce any effect on the mind of your friend which is consistent with his free agency.
The faith and love which you exercise when you pray, operate upon the internal principles of your friend's mind; and these operate on the more external, and thence on his body. This is the only way in which I suppose prayer to have any effect in healing the sick. It cannot be supposed that your prayer changes the will of the Lord respecting your friend. Whatever good is done to him must therefore be effected by medicine, applied internally or externally, which changes his state. This medicine removes the cause of the bodily disease, or suspends its operation; and it sometimes so nearly repairs the injuries which the system has sustained, as to make the remedy sudden.
You will recollect that I consider prayer as consisting in such a state of mind as possesses entire submission to the light and life which the Lord imparts. In that state, the mind will exercise no desires which are inconsistent with the divine will; and therefore every prayer offered in this state, will be granted. But you must not make yourself the judge of the praying thoughts and feelings which you ought to exercise. You must pray for things agreeable to God's will, and not for such as your natural man desires. It is important also to remember that you are very ignorant, and that you are likely to substitute your own will for the Lord's. It is of no use for you to pray definitely for what you ordinarily desire. Lay aside all your own notions about what is convenient and desirable, and receive new life from the Lord: let your prayer be a season of refreshing from his
presence. In such a state of mind, it seems to me that your
words would be very few. You would feel very little able to order your own speech before the Lord; but would rather say, “ Lord, teach us to pray." You would be exceedingly cautious as to offering special petitions; and would certainly limit yourself to such as you distinctly perceived to be indited in your mind by the Lord.
With these remarks before you, you will readily infer what sort of prayers I think it proper to offer for our friends, and why I suppose that those which are offered aright, are always effectual. I do not think it necessary to quote those passages of Scripture which illustrate and confirm the principles here advanced, because your memory will readily supply them.
The principal purpose of prayer for our friends, and for all mankind, is to improve their moral state. The way in which this is effected, will readily be inferred from what has already been stated. Your mind influences the minds of others, not only through the medium of your body, but by internal, social influx. Your influence on others is good, in proportion as you are good; and goodness is promoted in you by drawing nigh unto the Lord, and receiving from Him those principles of faith and charity, which are exactly adapted to your own wants and the wants of others. You know not, and it is not your business to know, how much a real desire for your neighbour's good will influence him; but you do know, that in many cases its effect is very great; and doubtless it would be still greater, if your faith and charity were more pure, your prayers more from the Lord.
You will not fail to observe that prayer for our enemies is of equal importance with prayers for our friends. It is true that we cannot expect that our minds will improve our enemies while a
state of alienation exists. At such times, human minds act upon each other only as opposites; and only do each other evil. But when we draw nigh unto the Lord, we lay aside all our enmity, we become reconciled to our brother before our gift can be offered acceptably. What we receive from the Lord is totally destitute of enmity.
The very purpose of prayer for our enemies, is to remove evil from our own minds, and from theirs. When we remove it from our own, and approach them, internally or externally, as friends, we may do them good; and even if the son of peace be not there, our peace will return unto us. Yours truly,
For the New Jerusalem Magazine.
THOUGHTS ON THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE,
CONSIDERED IN RELATION TO THE FREE AGENCY OF MAN.
The end of the divine providence is a heaven out of the human race; and, in all its operations, it protects the freedom of man in a manner which could be only the effect of the divine love for this end. Nothing can be appropriated by man but in a state of liberty. Consequently, it is only in this state that man can be reformed, regenerated, and be receptive of heavenly love and happiness. Therefore, the divine love of the liberty and of the salvation of man are essentially the same. A person is truly free, in proportion as he suffers himself to be led by the Lord.' The celestial angels are free in the highest sense, because they are receptive of the love of the Lord in a purer state than others. This love is perfect freedom; being essential good, and in the constant effort to do that which is good. The divine freedom being infinite, utterly precludes the possibility of acting otherwise than in conformity to the laws of Infinite Wisdom.
The operation of the divine love is immediately upon the involuntary principle of inan—called involuntary, because it is entirely above his own controul. Of the existence of this principle, we have a kind of consciousness. We cannot, however, make it an object of thought, any more than we can see the spirit with the natural eye; for a higher principle of the mind may conceive of a lower, but not vice versa. This would be to invert the order of creation. The mediate effect of the operation of the divine influx is the voluntary principle. This, in true order, is an exact correspondence of the involuntary—that principle in which the individual, (acknowledging that the love, as it descends, is divine, and this love being such as to desire to be that of another,) acts as of himself, yet from the Lord. This is the mar
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riage of the Lord with the church. But the voluntary principle in man is, in consequence of the fall, entirely perverted. It is therefore provided by the Lord, in order to the preservation of human liberty, that the influx should be directly from the involuntary into the intellectual. Had not this been so ordered, it would have been impossible to do other than evil. But the intellectual, being capable of an elevation above the voluntary, may see the true light; and, by conformity to it, a new voluntary principle will be formed in the intellectual. There is then a new and a higher kind of liberty. The will was before determined by the free exercise of the understanding; the understanding now resumes its proper place, and becomes the servant of the will.
The distinction between the involuntary and the voluntary principle, is apparent in the different organs of the body. Those organs whose operation is not subject to our own controul, correspond to the involuntary principle. Such are the heart, and - most of the viscera. In the lungs, corresponding to the intellectual, the involuntary and the voluntary meet. Our breathing is sometimes the effect of our own volitions, and sometimes not; and, as an individual is introduced into a society of heaven, though his respiration may be voluntary, he cannot but respire with that society, in the same way as he acts as of himself from the Lord.
The relation between the involuntary and voluntary is such that man cannot, by any immediate act of his own mind, destroy his natural life; for lower principles cannot ascend into higher; though natural disease and death can hardly fail to be ultimately produced, by a continued resistance to the divine order. If the lungs were altogether a voluntary organ, death might be produced at the pleasure of the individual; but involuntary respiration will press in, and thwart his efforts. His power to destroy his own life is not from within outward, but from without inward; and in thus counteracting the divine order and influx consists spiritual death also. Not that it is in the power of an individual in the other world to destroy his own existence; for life is constantly flowing in from the Lord above his reach. But the lower principles, which are under his controul, may be destroyed, and rendered utterly unreceptive of his heavenly life.
It is supposed, that the voluntary principle of man exists only when it is called forth in what is usually termed an act of volition. That the voluntary powers of man are in constant operation, whether he be quiet or active, is obvious from the state of the voluntary muscles. For, immediately on sleep, when these powers are suspended, the head falls, and all these muscles become relaxed. Hence we see why, in the Word, the Jews are called a stiffnecked people. For the muscles about the neck are particularly
under the province of the voluntary principle; and this expression becomes the true ultimate by which self-will is expressed in the letter of the Word.
The very wonderful manner in which human liberty is protected by the divine providence, is very apparent in our progression from infancy to old age. Previous to birth, the involuntary principle only is operative; but, at this time, the lungs respire, and the voluntary principle begins to manifest itself, though in an exceedingly faint, and almost imperceptible degree. The principles are developed in the same order in which they are designed to exist after their development; from inmost to ultimates: and are developed in such a gradual and tender manner, that, if society was such as to fully cooperate with the divine endeavour from within, every obstacle to the descent of the true order of heaven, which occurs from infancy to manhood, would be freely met and over
Brutes are born directly into an instinctive knowledge of whatever their condition requires; but the Lord thus gently unfolds the power of man, in order that there may be nothing of coercion; but that the individual himself may fully cooperate in their development, and thus become a voluntary medium of divine influx. It was said, that, in infancy, the voluntary principle had hardly begun to operate. The infant is nearly passive, and his motions are mostly involuntary. He does not will or think, according to the usual understanding of volition and thought; but possesses that kind of consciousness which we should have, if we ascended, within ourselves, above those principles which appear to be at all the work of our own hands. Thus to ascend into the elements and beginning of our own creation, where the Lord stretcheth forth the heavens; and thence, by our cooperation, to permit the lower principles of the mind to be formed after the same pattern, is to be born again, to become as little children, to ascend to where the good and the true are perpetually born within us from the Lord, to return, as it were, to our own infancy, save that the innocence of infancy, as it now descends, becomes clothed with the wisdom and strength of manhood. The infant is associated with the celestial angels, of whom our Lord said, that they do always behold the face of my Father, who is in the heavens; and the term of infancy is of considerable duration, in order that the highest principles of the mind may acquire strength to overcome the resistance to divine order, which hereditary evil will perpetually offer beneath; or if, in later periods, he be borne away by his own will, he may yet not be entirely insensible to the presence of the Lord within him, by which his evils may still possibly be curbed and subdued; so that the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb; and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling,