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Of the true idea of the subjection of the will. Some general results of a subjection of the will. Extract from Cudworth. Some of the more specific results and evidences of a will subdued. The will brought into subjection and kept in subjection by the influences of faith. Reasons for this view.

IT is not sufficient, that the lower principles of our nature are brought into subjection; it is not sufficient to possess affections purified and sanctified; God requires, in addition to these results and evidences of the rectification of our inward nature, the subjection of the will; an equally important and perhaps still more difficult work. One of the results of the highest Christianity, a Christianity far different from and far above that which is merely nominal, or which is but little better than nominal, is the LOSS OF OUR OWN WILLS. It is not meant by this, that we may not have a will different from that of our fellow-men, nor is it meant, that we may not have a strong, energetic will; but that we ought not to have, and that as Christians, who aim at the highest results of the divine life, we cannot have a will of our own, in distinction from and at variance with the divine will.

2.—In this last sense, he, who approaches nearest to an annihilation of his own will, approaches nearest to the state of entire sympathy and harmony with the Divine Mind. The prostration of our own will, in such a sense that it shall not in any respect oppose itself to the will of God, seems to be the completion or consummation of those various processes, by which the inward spirit is purified. When the will in its personal or self-interested operation is entirely prostrated, so that we can say with the Savior, “Lo, I come to do
thy will,” then the wall of spiritual separation is taken away, and the soul may be said, through the open entrance, to find a passage, as it were, into God himself, and to become one with Him, in a mysterious but holy and glorious union. Then and not till then, can it be truly said that the warfare against God has ceased, and a perfect reconciliation taken place, enabling those who have arrived at this blessed state to exclaim with the Savior, (perhaps in a modified but still in a true and most important sense,) “I AND MY FATHER ARE ONE.”

3.—“The highest mystery of a divine life here,” says the learned and pious Dr. Cudworth, [Cudworth’s Criterion of the true knowledge of Christ; a sermon preached before the English House of Commons, March 31, 1647] “and of perfect happiness hereafter, consisteth in nothing but mere
obedience to the divine will. Happiness is nothing but that inward sweet delight that will arise from the harmonious agreement between our wills and God’s will. There is nothing contrary to God in the whole world, nothing that fights against him, but SELF-WILL. This is the strong castle that we all keep garrisoned against heaven in every one of our hearts, which God continually layeth siege unto; and it must be conquered and demolished before we can conquer heaven. It was by reason of this self-will that Adam fell in Paradise; that those glorious angels, those morning stars, kept not their first station, but dropped down from heaven like falling stars, and sunk into this condition of bitterness, anxiety, and wretchedness, in which they now are. They all entangled themselves with the length of their own wings; they would needs will more and otherwise, than God would will in them. And going about to make their wills wider, and to enlarge them into greater amplitude, the more they struggled they found themselves the faster pinioned, and crowded up into narrowness and servility, insomuch that now they are not able to use any wings at all; but inheriting the serpent’s curse, can only creep with their bellies on the earth. Now our only way to recover God and happiness again, is, not to soar up with our understandings, but to destroy this self-will of ours. And then we shall find our wings to grow again, our plumes fairly spread, and ourselves raised aloft into the free air of perfect liberty, which is perfect happiness.”

4.—It would be interesting to delay here and to illustrate some of the more specific results and evidences of a will subdued. One result is, that the man, who has lost his will, in the sense which has been explained, namely, by an union of his will with God’s will, HAS NO PLANS OF HIS OWN; his own plans, if in any sense we may call them such, being merged and lost in the general conception of the plan, whatever it may be, of God’s overruling providence. He regards himself as merely an instrument;
God’s instrument; and he does not, and cannot feel, that his plans are so much his, as God’s. We do not mean, in saying this, that he has no thought, no foresight; nothing “considerative” and prudential; but that in laying his plans, he asks the divine direction; and that, in the prosecution of them, he still asks the divine direction; and that, in the entire submission of his will, holding as he does the thread of his purpose as a divine gift moment by moment, his plans can be regarded as nothing more nor less than God’s plans, begun, prosecuted, and either continued or abandoned as God chooses.

5.—Another mark or characteristic of the man, whose will has passed from his own unsafe keeping to the high custody of a divine direction, is this. He has no disposition to complain, when God, in the course of his providences, sees fit to send disappointments and afflictions upon him. This remark will apply not only to afflictions, which originate in the loss of health, of property, and of friends, but to all others of whatever nature, and coming from whatever source. We have sometimes thought, that the entire subjection of the will is seen particularly in the quietness and silence of spirit, with which misrepresentations and persecutions are endured. That the people of the world should be greatly agitated, and should find in themselves the movings of a rebellious and belligerent spirit, when their motives are aspersed and their characters injured, is entirely natural. And, unhappily, when persecution arises, we see too much of this unquiet and rebellious spirit, even in those whom charity requires us to recognize as Christians. Not so with those Christians of a higher grade, whose wills act in perfect harmony with the divine will. That they are afflicted, when they are subject to unjust persecutions, is true; but they are not rebellious; they are not disquieted; and although they are afflicted, it cannot be said with truth that they are destitute of happiness. Connecting with the instrument which troubles them, the hand of God, which permits the agency of that instrument, they regard the persecutions they endure as the lot which God has appointed them; and as such they rejoice in it. But this could not be, if their wills, renouncing all private and selfish modes of action, did not move harmoniously with the divine will.

6.—The subjection or loss of the will discovers itself, among other things, by entire meekness and submission under those interior dealings with the soul, which are of such a nature as is calculated to try the faith of those who endure them. There are certain gifts of the spirit, or better perhaps, certain spiritual graces, which God seems to regard himself as pledged to give to his people; gifts which it seems beyond doubt they may always have for the asking, if they will only ask in the spirit of consecration and faith. God will never withhold from his people, if they are in a temper of mind to ask and receive them, the gifts or graces of purity of heart, of humility, of gratitude, of forgiveness, and love; nor any of those pure and lovely traits of temper and disposition, whatever they may be, which characterized and perfected the nature of Jesus Christ. But there are other spiritual gifts, which belong rather to the intellect than the affections, and which may be described, therefore, if we may be allowed the expressions, as intellectual rather than “affectional,” such as the gift of knowledge, the gift or power of ready and eloquent utterance, and the state of mind, sometimes found among the facts and incidents of Christian experience, which may be described as a purely intellectual view or vision of heavenly things; such a view, whatever it may be, as may be supposed to gratify the curiosity, rather than improve the heart. These things God gives or withholds as he pleases; catching one up, like the apostle Paul, into the third heavens, where he sees and hears unutterable things; and keeping another, so far as gifts and illuminations of this kind are concerned, in a state of comparative ignorance and abjection.

7.—Nor is this all. He oftentimes mingles bitterness in the cup of those, to whom he has given the purest and holiest affections; leaving them not only to sorrows without, to which we have already alluded, but oftentimes to heavy sorrows within. But the Christian, whose will is entirely subdued, will drink this portion also. All he asks, and what he feels he must have, is HOLINESS; and if with this cup of God and of angels, his heavenly Father sees fit to mingle some ingredient of bitterness, to remind him of his former sinful state, and to teach him more fully the way of submission, he cheerfully accepts it. God may take from him all mere intellectual manifestations of spiritual things; he may even deprive him of the ordinary intellectual powers, and reduce him almost to a state of idiocy; he may pour into his heart the deepest amazement and grief, and yet his language is, “Not my will, God, but thine be done.” He knows, notwithstanding his afflictions, that he is dear to God; and that his name is written on the heart of infinite love. He knows that he is just in that place where God has seen fit and best to place him; and that he endures just what God sees best he should endure; and he would not even now, though thick darkness is around his path, exchange his position for that of angels.

8.—Without prolonging the remarks on this part of the subject, we would merely add, that the man, who has experienced the practical annihilation of his own will, does every thing and suffers every thing precisely
in the order of God’s providence. It is the PRESENT MOMENT, considered as indicating the divine arrangement of things, which furnishes the truest and safest test of character. Holiness requires the fulfilment of our whole duty; and our duty necessarily has relation to the facts which God’s providence now presents before us. If our whole soul goes forth in obedience to what his holy providence now imposes on us, then, and not otherwise, are we acceptable in his sight. It is necessary, therefore, to keep our eye fixed upon God’s order of things. “We must do this in relation to our place and situation in life, whatever it may be; not murmuring at our supposed ill lot; not giving way to any eager desires of change; but remaining quietly and humbly just where God has seen fit to place us.

9.—We must take this course, also, (which is sometimes a more difficult thing,) in relation to our duties. We must not only do the right thing, but must endeavor to do it in the
right time: which is not our time, or that which mere human wisdom would suggest, but God’s time. It is one of Satan’s artifices, not merely to prevent the discharge of duties, but when this fails, to prevent the performance of them at the right time; for instance, by infusing in us too great eagerness of spirit, and leading us in our hurry to anticipate the divine order. When he makes us do this, he secures his object in a considerable degree at least; because if we do the precise thing which God requires of us, we nevertheless sin in the manner of doing it. It is of the highest importance, therefore, that we should keep our will in complete subjection to the divine moment, the moment of God, which is the present moment. The question which should be ever present, is, what does God require of me NOW? And we are to remember, that God makes known his order in parts, and not as a whole; he has his own plan and not ours; and he reveals it in his own time and degree, and not in ours. We must receive it, therefore, humbly and submissively, just as he presents it to us; though, in the view of our limited understandings, nothing but clouds and darkness may rest upon the future. It is a mind in this position which God is pleased with; which sees the divine developments in every thing that takes place; and which, in every situation, walks in the simplicity of a will lost to itself, and found only in God.

10.—The question arises here, as in the other cases, how is this great work,
the subjection of the will, to be effected? And the answer must be repeated, which has already been so often given, that it can be done, so far as we can perceive, only by the operations and influence of FAITH. And in saying this, it can hardly be necessary to add, that we do not mean to exclude personal effort, in whatever form of resolve or of action it can properly be made; although it is true, and always will remain true, that personal effort here, as elsewhere in the things of religion, will be unavailing without faith. And this is so truly and emphatically the case, that we cannot hesitate to speak of faith as the cause, and as the one great and preeminent cause of a result so desirable and glorious.

It is obvious, in the first place, that the man, who has no faith in God, can see no reason, and in the actual state of his views and feelings he has no reason, so far as he himself is concerned, why he should subject his will to God’s will. To subject our wills is to subject ourselves. If God has the control of the will, he has the control of the man. And no man, no rational being whatever, could be expected to subject his will, and thus to subject himself, to another being, however exalted he might be supposed to be, without faith in such being. It would obviously be against nature. That is to say, it is something, which in our apprehension is naturally impossible.

11.—We admit, that there may be, and that there sometimes is a subjection of the will, which is rendered on the principle of
fear; the submission or subjection, which slaves render to despots, who bend their necks to the yoke, which they cannot shake off. Undoubtedly a subjection of the will of this kind may exist without faith. But this is not a subjection of the will, which is an attribute of God’s people; nor is it such an one as God either values or desires. It is obviously not the submission, of which we are now speaking, or of which we are understood to speak; and therefore it is not necessary to delay upon it. And accordingly we repeat, that a subjection and union of the will such as God requires, is a natural impossibility, in other words is contrary to the laws and operations of the mind, without the existence of faith as its basis.

12.—We observe further, it is not only a natural impossibility; but, using the expressions in the sense which is common among writers on morals, it is a moral, as well as a natural impossibility; that is to say, it is a thing, which cannot be done, without doing what is wrong. God asks no control on his part, and no subjection of the will on the part of the creature, which is not right, and which a rational being, acting in view of what is right, shall not feel bound to render. But as a rational being, as a being that is supposed to perceive clearly what is right to be done and what is duty to be done, man cannot surrender his will to another being, in whose character and in whose administration of affairs he has no confidence. It is morally impossible. And if it were otherwise, it would not be possible on the part of God, who asks only what is right and who receives only what is right, to ask or to receive a submission rendered on such terms. He asks no man’s will, and will receive no man’s will, as a thing separate from his FAITH; and for the reason which God can appreciate better than any other being,
it would not be right for him to do it. There is a sense, undoubtedly, in which he may limit and control such a will, as something which may properly be guarded and ruled by a higher authority; he may restrain it in certain directions as something which without restraint would be hurtful in his universe; but to receive it into harmony with himself, which is always the result of that acquiescence and submission of the will which is attended with faith, is what he never ought to do; is what, as a just and holy being, he never can do. From the nature of the case, therefore, we may regard it as a fixed and unalterable law, that the will of the creature always will be, as it always has been under such circumstances, antagonistical to the will of God; and that there always will be, as there always has been, a contest between them, so long as the creature remains without faith.

13.—There is another view of the subject. The subjection or submission of the will, for which we contend, is an affectionate submission, a submission which has some elements of the
heart in it, a submission of love. We do not mean to say, that the submission of the will is, psychologically or mentally, the same thing, with love; but that it is a state of mind which implies love. And furthermore, the existence of love, as a necessary attendant upon it, gives to it one of its marked peculiarities, and a great share of its exceeding value. And it is this submission, therefore, the submission of the will in love, which God desires, and which he demands. But it is well understood, that the love of God, implies faith in God. To love him without having faith in his character as a good and holy being would be an impossibility. And, accordingly, looking at the subject in this point of view, we may confidently say the will is never truly subjected to God, is never subjected in that sense which alone God can accept, without faith.

14.—We assert, therefore, negatively, that there can be no submission, of the will without faith. And we add, affirmatively, that faith produces or makes submission. But in laying down the affirmative proposition, it is obvious, that we must take into view the degree of strength, in which faith exists. So that the principle, stated specifically, would seem to be this. The submission of the will, by a natural law of the mind’s operation, exists in connection with faith, corresponding in degree, and being greater or less, in accordance with the degree of faith. Assurance of faith, therefore, or faith existing in the highest degree is always attended with entire submission or subjection of the will. Thus, in looking over the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we find, that Abel, having faith, offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. Noah, in the exercise of faith, prepared an ark to the saving of his house. Abraham, believing in God that he is, and that he is the friend of those that diligently seek him, dwelt in a strange land; and being tried, offered up Isaac, his only begotten son, of whom it was said that in Isaac shall thy seed be called. Moses, being a man of faith, forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. Similar statements are made in relation to Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Samuel and others, who in the exercise of faith, subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens; or on the other hand, had trial of mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonment, wandering in mountains and deserts, in dens and caves of the earth, of whom the world was not worthy.

15.—In such instances, which might be multiplied to almost any extent by a reference to the lives and acts of truly devoted Christians in all ages of the world, we find a striking and satisfactory illustration of the fact, that the will, the natural exponent of which is outward action, will be in precise accordance with faith; and that where there is an undoubting or assured faith, as in the case of Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and others, there will be an entire subjection of the will. In other words it will be found to be true, whether we consult the statements of the Bible or the history of Christians in any and every age of the world, that men of true and assured faith will do and suffer, just as God would have them do and suffer, which of course implies a will entirely resigned to God and entirely under his direction.

16.—And how can it well be otherwise? If we truly believe in God as a being possessed of every natural excellence, if we believe in him as a God present in all his providences, and ever watchful and faithful for the good of his people, and if at the same time we fully believe that in all his actions he is right and that in all his claims upon us he is right, there remains no reason, no possible consideration, no motive, why we should either desire on natural principles, or should feel under obligation on moral principles to possess a will, an aim, a purpose adverse to his. All ground or basis of movement in such a direction entirely fails. But every thing stands firm and effective in the other direction. So that it will not only be unnatural not to give our wills to God; but it will be impossible, (that is to say, it will be psychologically or mentally impossible,) not to do it. All the motives, which can be conceived of, those which have relation to our moral duty, all combine in the same direction; so that the laws of his being must cease to be the laws of his being and man must cease to be man, if, having full faith in God, he does not fully yield his will to God.

17.—And we cannot well leave the subject without reverting a moment more to the blessedness of a WILL LOST; that is to say, of a will lost to itself by its union with God. In reading the experience of devoted Christians in former ages, I find no subject, on which they dwell with greater interest, or in regard to which they use stronger expressions. They saw clearly, if not as philosophers, yet as men taught by the Holy Ghost, that the subjection and regulation of the will imply the subjection and regulation of every thing else. And hence the profound remark ascribed to St. Augustine, that the true servants of God are not solicitous that he should order them to do what they desire to do; but that they may desire to do what he orders them to do; that is to say, that they may have no desire, no choice, no will of their own. He knew well, as other eminent Christians in all ages of the world have known and have expressed, that there is no result so desirable, and no blessedness so pure and heaven-like, as that of entire union of the human will with the divine. And hence too the saying of St. Bernard,
“He, who destroys his self-will, destroys hell;” [As quoted in the D’Ouvrages Mystiques, Tauler, Ch. 14.] meaning Hell in its leading element or essence, and not in its locality. And we might add, that he not only destroys hell, but he makes heaven. He, who lives in his self-will, just so far as he does so, lives in hell; and he, who lives in the will of God, just so far as he does so, lives in heaven. As those, therefore, who have confidence in the power of faith, may we be able, not only to inquire, in the words uttered by the Apostle, “Lord what wilt thou have me to do;” but, what is still more important, may we be able also to answer the inquiry, in the words applied to the Savior, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.”