Andrew Murray on Christian Mysticism

After attempting to dialog with those opposed to the International House of Prayer (IHOP) I realized one of their many issues is their belief that mysticism is polluting the Church.  Andrew Murray is a well respected Christian author and it is my hope that his words can help move the dialog from the extremes toward the center.

The following is bits and pieces taken completely from the introduction to Wholly For God (click here to download complete book) by Andrew Murray p. xii – xxxii. I tried to keep it somewhat short,  if this is too disjointed then please download and read the whole introduction for yourself.

That we be not, on the one hand, led unaware into error, nor, on the other, be prejudiced against truth by undue apprehension, it may be well for us to consider what this work “mystic ” means.

In mysticism, as in everything human, there is an admixture of good and evil.  Mysticism, because it is at root a truth, its good has, notwithstanding a considerable amount of error, greatly outweighed its evil.

The mystic insists especially on the truth that the organ, by which God is to be known, is not the understanding but the heart; that only love can know God in truth.  Reason can form its conceptions, and frame its image of what God must be; but the Hidden, the Incomprehensible One Himself, reason cannot touch.  As He is in Himself so His working in man: His dwelling and His dwelling-place in the heart are a mystery too.

One of the great reasons that our religion is so powerless is that it is too much a thing of reason and sense.

We place our dependence on the intellectual apprehensions of truth, and the influence these exert in stirring the feelings, the desires, and the will.  But they cannot reach to the life, to the reality of God both because they are in their nature unfitted for receiving God, and are darkened under the power of sin.  Mysticism insists upon this –and presses unceasingly the cultivation of the spiritual faculty which retires within itself, and seeks in patient waiting for God by faith to open the deepest recesses of its being to His presence.  Man’s intellectual faculties are by the fall in a much worse state than his natural animal appetites, and want a much greater self-denial.

When the call of God to repentance first rises in thy soul, thou are to be retired, silent, passive and humbly attentive to this new risen Light within thee, by wholly stopping, or disregarding the workings of thy own will, reason, and judgment.  It is because all these are false counselors, the sworn servants, and bribed slaves of thy fallen nature.  They are all born and bred in the kingdom of self. Therefore if a new kingdom is to be set up in thee, if the operation of God is to have its effect in thee, all these natural powers of self are to be silenced and suppressed, till they have learned obedience and subjection to the Spirit of God.

We can now understand why such high value is attached to the contemplative life, to stillness of soul, and to the practice of the presence of God.  It is as the insufficiency of our own powers of thought is deeply felt, and their activity is restrained, that the deeper the hidden powers of our nature can take their place.  Faith can exercise its highest function as a faith of the operation of God, who raised Christ from the dead.  The door is opened for God to become our inward life as truly as self has been our very inmost life.

Another point in which the mystic seeks to enter into the hidden mystery of God, is the nature or redemption.  There are two views we find in Scripture, each the complement of the other.  In the one, the simpler, more outward and objective, Christ as our representative did a certain work for us, which He now in heaven applies, to us.  In the other, the knowledge of Him as an outward person and of His outward work is considered as but the means to an end, a preparation leading up to the inward experience to His indwelling in us. “A Christ not in us is the same as a Christ not ours.”

Our salvation consists wholly in being saved from ourselves, or from that which we are by nature.  In the whole nature of things, nothing could be this salvation or Savior to us, but such Humility of God as is beyond all expression.  This is the great trial of human life, whether a man will give himself up to the meekness, the patience, the sweetness, the simplicity, and the humility of the Lamb of God.  This is the whole of the matter between God and the creature.

Death to self is a man’s only entrance into the Church of Life, and nothing but God can give death to self.  Self is an inward life, and God is an Inward Spirit of Life; therefore, nothing kills that which must be killed in us, or quickens that which must come to life in us, but the inward work of God in the soul, and the inward work of the soul in God.  This is that mystic religion, which, though it has nothing in it but that same spirit, that same truth, and the same life, which always was and always must be the religion of all God’s holy angels and saints in heaven, is by the wisdom of this world accounted to be madness.

It is just this element of mysticism that has formed its great attraction to those who truly thirst for God.  Sin would be nothing if it were not sin in us, inspiring and ruling our inmost life.  And Christ cannot be a complete Savior until His indwelling and inworking be as real and full as that of sin.

Just one more of the special teachings of mysticism.  It is summed up in the expression that we must come away out of the manifold to the simple, out of multiplicity to unity, from the circumference to the center.  The thought runs through its whole system, and is the key to the right apprehension of much of its teaching.

This truth holds in reference to God.  Until a soul learns to see how entirely God is the center of all, how God is to be met and found and enjoyed in every thing, so that nothing in heaven or earth can for one moment separate from Him it never can have perfect rest.  And rest in God is the first duty and the true bliss of the creature. You have Christians who devote themselves most diligently to the study of God’s word, who are delighted with every new truth they discover, or every new light in which an old truth is set before them, and who yet scarce ever meet the one Divine Word, who speaks in power within them.  You have others who are consumed with zeal and labor, and yet know not what it is through all to have their rest in God.  We need to be brought from the circumference to the living center.  There we shall be rested and refreshed, and endued with the power of a Divine strength to do our work in the power of the eternal world.

This truth holds in reference to sin.  Self is the whole evil of fallen nature.  Self is the root, the tree, and the branches of all the evils of our fallen state.  Self is not only the seat and habitation, but the very life of sin. The works of the devil are all wrought in self; it is his peculiar workhouse.  Therefore Christ is not come as a Savior from sin, but so far as self is beaten down, and overcome in us.

It is as the soul in this light is led to turn from the hopeless multiplicity of its sins, by which it has been distracted, to the one source of all, that it will learn how hopeless its efforts are, and see its need of a death to self in the death of Christ as its only hope.

This truth holds especially also in regard to faith.  It is as the soul is led to see that in God is the unity and center of the universe and of our life, and thus that sin is nothing but our having turned from this God to self, and that therefore our one need is the deliverance from self, that it will discover in Christ a new meaning, and will understand how in the very nature of things nothing can save us but the simplicity of faith. Christ becomes to us the man who lived the life of God for us in human nature, and who brings salvation from self by Himself being born into us, and giving us a life of God in which self is swallowed up as darkness is swallowed up in light.  This life must be received; and to receive it nothing avails but a true desire and a simple faith.

Now, this way of attaining goodness (by rules and precepts), though thus imperfect, is yet absolutely necessary in the nature of the thing, and must first have its time, work, and place in us.  Yet it is only for a time, as the law was a schoolmaster to the gospel.  All this effort is only to bring a man to such a total despair of all help, from human means, as to make him turn to God from whom alone life can come.  Faith becomes the one thing needful.  It is a belief that puts the soul into a right state, and that makes room for the operation of God upon it.  Oh, blessed simplicity of the Christian life!  May we all learn its blessed secret.  Let God be all to us.  Let Christ be all, as our way to God, as God working and dwelling in us.  Let faith be all to us, the simple and unceasing turning of our souls to Christ Jesus.

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6 thoughts on “Andrew Murray on Christian Mysticism

  1. I love Andrew Murray! I was just thinking over Christmas how sad it was that no one quotes Murray anymore. Nice job. 🙂

    I’m not sure I understand the connection here, though. I would agree almost entirely with Murray’s words on Christian Mysticism; but that doesn’t settle the IHOP movement for me. Perhaps you could (if you don’t mind!) talk about the connection between IHOP and Christian Mysticism, and why that is objectionable to some.

    Pax Christi!
    Semmie 🙂

  2. Semmie,

    There is a bunch of dialog back and forth on a wordpress blog called sadparent. You can see more of my views and theirs if you would like.

  3. Duane-I find it puzzling that people object to the IHOP thing because of “mysticism”. , good grief, what a state we are in. Appreciate the Andrew Murray words, they certainly seem appropriate.
    Just thought I’d add to this with a quote from Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation, Page 136 “We have been brought up with the absurd prejudice that only what we can reduce to a rational and conscious formula is really understood and experienced in our life………….Faith does not simply account for the unknown, tag it with a theological tag and file it away in a safe place where we do not have to worry about it. This is a falsification of the whole idea of faith. On the contrary faith incorporates the unknown into our everyday life in a living, dynamic and actual manner. The UNKNOWN REMAINS UNKNOWN (my emphasis). It is still a mystery, for it cannot cease to be one. The function of faith is not to reduce mystery to rational clarity, but to integrate the unknown and the known together in a living whole, in which we are more and more able to transcend the limitations of our external self”
    Having said that, this also brings up part of my problem with the “faith” movement or theology. It seems like the attitude is , ‘here is such and such a scripture therefore we know what God’s attitude is about this….so therefore I/we can ask knowing that He wants to do this and when it doesn’t happen, as we thought it should, then we say we prayed incorrectly or the other person failed in some way or……But the simple truth is-we know very little and we presume much. We need to acknowledge that this Glorious and Holy One (and we don’t even know what that means) is seen “through a glass darkly”. I am thankful for what has been revealed but in any situation what I can possibly know is a speck in the ocean. I trust Him and try to remain open to His will and doings, as incomprehensible and dark as they may seem. He alone knows what will bring about ” His will on earth as in heaven”
    Thanks for your blog, I may respond infrequently, but I do value your thoughts and efforts for His sake.

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