Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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Many believers do not know how to differentiate inspiration from emotion. Actually this is not difficult. Emotion always enters from outside of man, whereas inspiration is given by the Holy Spirit within man’s spirit. For example, when a believer beholds the beauty of nature, a feeling within him spontaneously wells up. He feels the beauty of the scenery and his own joy. This is emotion. Perhaps, when he sees a loved one, some kind of inconceivable feeling rises up within him as though a certain power is drawing him. This is also emotion. Both the beautiful scenery and the loved one are outside the man; hence, the feelings which they produce simply belong to emotion.

However, inspiration is not the same. It is influenced only by the Holy Spirit within man. Only the Holy Spirit can inspire the spirit. Since the Holy Spirit lives within the spirit, inspiration must come from within. It does not need to be stimulated by the beautiful scenery or a dear one; it can take place in the calmest environment. The emotion, on the contrary, becomes instantly dispirited when the outside stimulus is gone. Hence, an emotional believer lives solely according to his environment. He must be stirred up and encouraged in order to go on; otherwise, he stops. Inspiration does not require outside help. In fact, when the emotion is influenced by the external environment, it is confused, resulting in a believer being unable to know which of the two he should follow.

A believer should be careful not to consider calmness and absence of stimulation as spirituality. This is far from the truth. We should know that emotion can cause people not only to be excited but also to be depressed. When the emotion urges us, we feel quite excited; when it impedes us, we feel very depressed. In the same way that emotion excites, it also calms down. Just as excitement belongs to emotion, so does calmness. A believer often commits many errors because he is under the influence of his emotion; but when he is awakened from the state he is in, he will suppress his feelings and consider this as being spiritual. He does not realize, however, that the stirring of his emotion at this point has produced a reaction opposite to excitement which spontaneously calms him down. This calmness or quietness causes the believer to lose interest in much of God’s work; he does not have much affection for many of God’s children. Gradually the believer’s outer man is reluctant to work. The spirit, therefore, is imprisoned, and the life of the spirit cannot flow out. Since he is no longer enthusiastic and has become extremely calm, he may think that he is walking according to spirit. What he does not know is that he is still walking according to his emotion, only this time it is according to another aspect of the emotion.

In reality, the believers who turn to this kind of emotional calmness are few. The majority of them continue to be excited by their emotion. Because of their stimulation, they do many things which are beyond the bounds of the ordinary. As they quiet down and recall their actions under the influence of this function of the emotion, they cannot help but laugh at themselves and consider themselves to have acted nonsensically. This is usually true of the things done according to the emotion. In retrospect a believer often feels embarrassed and regrets his rudeness. It is very pitiful when a believer is influenced by his emotion; his spirit is powerless to subject his emotion to death and deny its control.

(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 26, by Watchman Nee)