Christ whose glory (6)
Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee;
Joyless is the day's return,
Till thy mercy's beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
More personal than the first verse, and perhaps not quite so crammed with
scriptural allusions; and yet there are several things we should comment on
The first four lines may owe something to Psalm 30 (29 Vulgate), "heaviness
may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." The joy does not
come, says Wesley, without Christ's grace. The physical and literal morning
is only a type of the real Dawn, the 'oriens ex alto'.
On 'inward light' I cannot do better than quote the entry in the new edition
of the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church:
"Inner (or Inward) Light. The Divine light in every individual, which is
held to guide, teach, and lead to salvation, and to bring those who accept
it into unity with God and each other. This concept (deriving from Jn.,
esp. 1:9) is characteristic of, but not exclusive to, the Society of Friends."
"and warm my heart". It is well-known that Charles Wesley's brother John,
while attending a meeting where Luther's commentary on Romans was being
expounded, felt his heart "strangely warmed" and regarded this experience as
The phenomenon of "spiritual heartburn" has a long history. The disciples
at Emmaus "said to each other, 'Did not our hearts burn within us while he
talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?'" (Luke 24:32).
Richard Rolle made much of this "Fire of Love". At the beginning of the
"Incendium amoris" he writes:
"I cannot tell you how surprised I was the first time I felt my heart begin
to warm. It was real warmth too, not imaginary, and it felt as if it were
actually on fire. I was astonished at the way the heat surged up, and how
this new sensation brought great and unexpected comfort."
(Penguin Classics translation, p. 45).
Other spiritual writers however are very suspicious of this phenomenon, and
suggest it has purely natural causes, or may even be diabolically inspired.
Thus we read in "The Cloud of Unknowing":
"Or, if they do not get this, they get (and deserve to get, because of their
spiritual obtuseness and the physical irritation caused by the pretended
work of the spirit - in fact, of course, it is animal) an unnatural glow
within themselves, caused by the abuse of their bodies, or their sham
spirituality. Or, again, they experience a spurious warmth, engendered by
the fiend, their spiritual enemy through their pride, and materialism, and
"And yet, maybe, they imagine it to be the fire of love, lighted and fanned
by the grace of goodness of the Holy ghost. In truth, from this falsehood
many evils spring . . ."
(Chapter 45; Peguin Classics translation).
In a similar vein, we find in Walter Hilton's "Scale of Perfection":
"If it so happens that you see any kind of light or brightness with your
bodily eye, or in imagination, other than everyone can see; or if you hear
any pleasing and wonderful sound with your bodily ear; or if you have any
sweet savor in your mouth other than what is natural, or any heat in your
breast as of fire, or any kind of pleasure in any part of your body; or if
a spirit appears to you in bodily form like an angel to comfort and teach
you; or you have any other such feeling which you well know does not come
from yourself or from any bodily creature: be on your guard at that time or
soon after. Wisely observe the stirring of your heart, in case you are
stirred because of the pleasure you feel to withdraw your heart from
spiritual occupation . . . This feeling is suspect and from the enemy, and
therefore however pleasing and wonderful it may be, refuse it and do not
consent to it; for this is the trick of the Enemy."
(Walter Hilton, "The Scale of Perfection" trans. John Clark and Rosemary
Dorward, Classics of Western Spirituality 1991, pp. 84-5.)
Oriens ex Ebor.