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CHAPTER VII.

FLUCTUATIONS.

O ever-swaying, conscious soul,

What tidal mysteries are these
That through my very being roll,

As borne upon the heaving seas?

“From wave to wave, from land to land,

Of this vast inner world I'm tossed,
And now on heavenly heights I stand,

And now in dreadful deeps am lost.” – Landerf.

some

It is the experience of almost every one who has really begun the new life that leads to heaven, not only to be in warfare and temptation, but to be subject more or less to certain vacillations; to be, at times, elated and depressed; times to endure the extremes of heavenly joy and assurance, and at others, to be cast into the depths of despair. Even in natural life, such fluctuations continually occur, but in spiritual life they are of a different character. They do not come of natural things, but of spiritual things. Who hath not felt them? We need not cite the experience of the "old saints,” for it is the experience of the humblest Christian. And it seems almost invariably the lot of those who reach the highest summits of holiness and joy, who catch the clearest glimpses of the heavenly beatitudes, to be most familiar with the deeps that range beneath them. At least it is so until perfect rest is obtained. These fluctuations are frequently alluded to in the Psalms, and in other portions of the Word :—in the Psalms more particularly, because throughout this wonderful composition, the temptations of the Lord, his combats with the hells, and his victories

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over them, are continually referred to, and by connection and analogy, the like states in man who is regenerating. Thus, in the 69th Psalm

“ Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow

Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness; and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none: (1, 2, 20.) referring to the terrible inundation of falsities and evils which came flowing in upon Him from the hells, and the almost despair which enters the heart on such occasions. Again, but shortly after, being delivered from this state and mounting up to another, —“My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed. My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long; for they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt.” (71: 23, 24.) Again, from the gloomy depths goes the

cry “ Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee. Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble, for my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as a hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning, my bones cleave to my skin. I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert.” (102: 1–6.) And again, in the very next Psalm Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.” (103: 1-5.) And so we might go on through many of the Psalms, from high to low, and from low to high, in a succession so rapid and consecutive, that, read with this point particularly in view, they present to us quite a new and interesting feature. The Psalms, indeed, without this view of

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them, are an unsolved problem. With all their beauties and manifest proprieties, there is no sufficient reason why a soul should thus pass so often from one state to another, and from the extremes of depression to the extremes of elation, without the admission of temptations and trials from the unseen world. It is strikingly manifest in the 107th Psalm. Six times is it there said that the people cried unto the Lord from the depths of humiliation and trouble, and as many times, that He “led them forth by the right way” – that He “ brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,” and “out of all their distresses." And in a beautiful correspondence taken from a life upon the sea “ They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble.” Then “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still,” and with gladness and quietness bringeth them to the desired haven.

These things, in their spiritual import, all relate to the fluctuations experienced in the regenerating life. Human life is often compared to a voyage at sea, but the comparison becomes all the more interesting when seen in the light of genuine correspondence in application to our spiritual progress.

These fluctuations are also what is referred to in the account of the Flood in the time of Noah. The flood here spoken of was an inundation of spiritual waters - falsities and evils from the unseen world. And we read, according to the truest translation, that “the waters returned from off the earth (that is, from the earth of the natural mind] in going and returning.(Gen. 8: 3.) That is, by a continual fluctuation between truth and falsity. The nature of the fluctuation, however, can only be understood by the nature of the temptation. If the temptation is celestial, the fluctuation is chiefly between good and evil; if it is spiritual, it is between truth and falsity. But inasmuch as the states of all, in the present condition of the world, are more or less mixed, that is to say, not celestial nor spiritual entirely, but a mixed mass of good and evil, truth and

falsity, pertaining to the world as we now find it, so these fluctuations partake of a like varied and indeterminate character. And who hath not experienced them? What Christian what humble and earnest-seeking disciple of the Lord, hath not, more than once, been made the subject of the like vacilla tions? A man, for example, starts out upon the course of a new life, is convicted of his evils, repents of them, and truly commences the regenerate work. For a time he does well. He may be always doing well, but it is not always so apparent to him.

He acquires new truth, realizes more deeply the divine Word of the Lord; eternity, with all its hopes, and fears, and infinite realities, becomes to him a matter of more than mere speculation ; he is alive to spiritual conviction, is thoroughly aroused, the old scales have fallen from his eyes, and he sees, oh, what wonders, and glories, and prospects before him! Shame and humiliation seize upon him for his past life; his understanding is stimulated by the new spirit, his affections touched, and he resolves henceforth to pursue the path which leads to heaven. But how little he yet knows of the “great and terrible wilderness” through which he is to travel ! Yet still he is elated, and it is of the mercy of God that he should be. He has made some successful resistance, and has received some delights of the new life he has commenced. are mostly, perhaps, delights of the understanding; for the understanding can be elevated into the very light of heaven, and partake somewhat of its joys, while the will is yet in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. But now it is that he is greatly refreshed and inspirited. He is mortified that he never saw so much before. He feels himself a new man, in a dear and beautiful sense of the word. He says, perhaps, with David —"O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.” But this very light into which he is now elevated, by and by reveals new evils in him; he sees for the first time what he never could have believed before, that there are depths in his soul which he had never

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dreamt of; that his spiritual nature is a thing not to be trifled with ; that it is more heavenly, and more devilish, than any human moralities or earthly philosophies had ever presented to him; that the very light of eternity which has broken into his poor soul, and the holiness of angel visions, and of Him who is himself the very Soul and Centre of Perfection, in all his majesty and glory,—that all this reveals to him such a contrast in his own sin-deformed and polluted character, that he turns from the contemplation with a sense somewhat of discouragement. He is oppressed and humiliated. There occurs to him, perhaps, the language of the patriarch :-"I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee ; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job, 42: 5, 6.) Then it is that the spirits of evil are let in upon him to stir up his evil. He is now in a condition to profit by their aid. They can show him what he could not see himself. But,“ not a hair of his head” will the great Father suffer them to injure ; the angels of mercy stand ever by him to minister to him in this most necessary trial. But he falls and oh, how low ! — from his high ecstatic stateinto discouragement and misery, and is overwhelmed with evil! Perhaps goes venting his ill humor upon his companions around him; perhaps is somewhat ashamed that he ever made so fully the profession of religion ; perhaps, in fine, is throroughly miserable, - a scorn in his own eyes, and a reproach with his acquaintance. “I looked for comforters, and found none."

It is a true picture ; it is this which is presented all through the Psalms, and in many other portions of the Word. These are the fiery trials that purge men's souls. We pine in secret over a hidden grief that we dare not reveal to any fellow mortal, and we go, perhaps, more penitently than ever, to Him who hath bidden us confess to Him, and lay our burden at his feet. Thus it is that we gain strength and encouragement for renewed efforts. We rise by the light of the same Sun with

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