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PART FIFTH.
ON THE WILL OF GOD, AND THE UNION OF THE DIVINE AND HUMAN WILL.



CHAPTER VI.


ON TRAINING THE WILL TO HABITS OF SUBJECTION.


Necessity of personal effort. — We should yield our will to others in matters indifferent. — Extract from Antonia Bourignon. Remarks on the directions given by the Saviour. — On submission to natural events.


THE closing remarks of the last chapter naturally lead us to a subject of no small practical importance, that of training the will to habits of subjection. It is not only necessary that our feelings and purposes should, by divine aid, be brought back to a right position, but that the mysterious and powerful influence of former evil habits should be entirely annulled. And this result is the more likely to be secured, if we unite the concurrence of our own efforts with the operations of divine grace.

2. A favorable effect will oftentimes be experienced in this particular, if we adopt the practice, in things which are indifferent, of subjecting our desires and our will to the will of others. In other words, our wills will be the more easily placed beyond the influence of former evil habits, and brought into undisturbed harmony with God, if we keep them in subjection in our intercourse with men. Occasions of a conflict of will, in matters of mere convenience, and which involve no moral principle, occur constantly. In such cases, in the prospect we have before us of an improvement in our spiritual characters, we should make it a rule to give a precedence to the desires and purposes of others over our own.

"There is nothing more sweet," says Antonia Bourignon, in speaking on this subject, "and which brings more rest to the body and the soul, than obedience and submission to another in good things. Yea, obedience in itself is always profitable to our perfection, though it were yielded even to imperfect persons,
provided they command nothing that is evil. For, by submitting to another in indifferent things, one always overcomes the corruptions of his nature, and denies himself, as Christ, in Mark 8: 34, has taught us to do." [Letters of Antonia Bourignon on, pp. 72, 73.]

3. This reference to the instructions of the Saviour leads us to remark, that his directions will be found, on a careful examination, to harmonize in a wonderful manner with the tendencies and operations of the human mind. Under their wonderful simplicity, great insight and true wisdom, (estimating them even on human principles,) will be discovered to be hidden. " Whosoever," the Saviour says in the passage just referred to, "will come after me,
let him deny himself, and take up the cross, and follow me." This command, which of course applies to the will as well as other things, is universal. It implies, if we must deny ourselves in great things, we must deny ourselves also in those which are small. Such are the laws of the human mind, that indulgence in the latter will take away our strength, and deprive us of victory in the former. Deny thyself, therefore, in small things; subject thy will, in matters of minor importance, that thou mayest have power to conquer in things which are more difficult.

4. We should deny ourselves, and bring our wills into subjection,
even in good things. It is naturally expected of the Christian, that he will have in hand many little designs and purposes of good in behalf of his neighbor. This is well, but evil will come of it, if, in connection with his good designs, he indulge in strong and precipitate­ desires in bringing them to pass. His will, by being brought into harmony with Providence, must be subjected here as elsewhere.

And here we take occasion to mention a case a little different from those hitherto referred to, where some of these remarks will apply well. It is often the case, in the ordinary intercourse and affairs of life, that our actions, without being calumniated as criminal, are more or less misrepresented, and our motives aspersed by thoughtless or evil-disposed persons. Undoubtedly the natural tendency of the heart, under such circumstances, is to reply at once, and generally with as much energy as promptness. But, generally speaking, our true victory will be in
silence. Nature speaks, but grace is silent; because nature is destitute of confidence, except in itself, but grace has confidence in God. To be silent, therefore, in ordinary cases, is best in every respect not only because it is the course indicated by true religion, but because it aids in breaking down the irregular and sinful action of the will.

5. And while we should thus, so far as can be done consistently with moral principle, subject our purposes to the wishes and purposes of others, we should also, and with the same general object, and certainly with no less reason, keep our wills in subjection to natural events. Such events are from God; and, in no case, should the human will act itself in opposition to them, whether they seem to be of greater or less consequence. How often are expressions of dissatisfaction and regret heard to fall even from those who have the reputation of being Christians, in view of natural events, which no one thinks of controlling. To one, the weather is too warm; to another, it is too cold. To one, there is too little rain; to another, too little sunshine. They thus wickedly unsettle the quiet of the spirit by forgetting that both the rain and the sunshine and all other natural things are God's; that they are all indications of the divine goodness, though given in different degrees; and that neither regrets nor wishes can make them otherwise than they are. It is important to check the rising feeling in all such cases; and, by a cheerful acquiescence, to harmonize the heart and the will with the arrangements of Providence.

And these views are the more important and urgent when we consider that sin, here and elsewhere, is measured, not so much by the occasion on which it exists, as by the spirit which is manifested in it. It may utter itself in a loud and fierce voice, or gently breathe itself out in the slightest wish, that the state of things were otherwise than it is. But in the latter case, as well as in the former, there is the element of rebellion; something, no matter how small it may be, which is not in entire harmony with God and the divine arrangements. In a word, there is
sin. But this is not all. It is sin laying the foundation for other and higher sin. On the other hand, a cheerful acquiescence, in such cases as have been mentioned, is not only right in itself, but, by purifying the tendencies of the will, is laying the foundation for a better state of things in other cases of greater difficulty in all coming time.