WHAT IS GODíS WILL?

 

 

Chapter 1

In a recent investigation of a certain public institution, a blind child was bound shut up in a cage. His keepers had made this cage, and had shut the child in it, so they could avoid giving to him the care and attention that he otherwise would have required. Though he was six or seven years of age, there had been little normal development of his intelligence, because he had been kept from contact with most of the things about him, outside his cage. He did not even know the ordinary articles of furniture, for since he was blind, he could learn only by touch and hearing. When he had been removed from his cage, and given the freedom of an apartment, he went about handling all the objects with which he come in contact, and constantly saying, ďWhat is this? What is this?Ē

Everything new excited his interest, and drew forth questions. These questions revealed in him a something that lies inherently in all of us. Every new object or substance, every new experience or emotion, is the progenitor, when presented to our minds, of a brood of new questions. Our curiosity and interest are aroused, our minds are made alert, and our thirst for knowledge impels us to seek an understanding of that which is new. When our questions are answered, the mind is satisfied. If they are not answered, they will probably recur again and again, as the mind searches for a solution.

The material realm holds many mysteries that challenge our attention. It is not strange, therefore, that the spiritual realm should also hold many locked secrets, the key with which we may gain access to them we feel impelled to seek. He, who approaches the threshold of spiritual things, finds the door locked before him, and turns away with the thought that it is useless to try to understand that realm, is more foolish than he who turns back from all the mysteries of the natural world.

Is there a God? If so, what kind of a being is he? What are my relations to him? What is his attitude toward me? These, and a thousand other similar questions, at times arise spontaneously in our minds. Somewhere along the path of life they confront us. Upon the way in which we answer them depends to a great extent, the outlook of our lives and the attitude of our souls. Can these questions be answered with any certainty? Can we really know whether there is a God? And if there is one, what is he like? What is his character? What is his attitude toward us? And what is our duty toward him? Or, must all these questions remain unsolved riddles?

While the Deity is veiled in clouds of mystery, and while many of his purposes and ways are inscrutable to us, we deem it no more improper to inquire reverently and earnestly as to his being, character, and will, than to investigate any other legitimate subject. It is manifest that the same laws of evidence establishing other facts are capable of being applied to such an inquiry with good prospect of yielding satisfactory results. Through this process, the author has arrived at some conclusions, which he believes are fully justified by the evidence, and which agree in substance with the conclusions of a multitude of other godly people. While he has explored but a small portion of the great continent of truth, he believes that he has something of interest and value to report. Proceeding, then, we inquire ďthe reason for the hope that is within us.Ē

We find, in our physical being, many appetites and desires. For each such appetite or desire, we find in the natural world about us an answer. There is provision in nature, or, at least, there exists in nature, something to gratify and satisfy each and every natural appetite, and every such desire may find in nature the responding element for its fulfillment. Each appetite and desire, therefore, has it correlative. Hence, each appetite or desire has within it the assertion of the existence of that which will satisfy or gratify it.

Within ourselves are other desires not capable of being gratified with natural things, but which look to a different realm for satisfaction. They reach into the sphere of moral and spiritual being, for they cannot be satisfied with material things any more than hunger can be satisfied with stones, or thirst with dust. In every life, this outreach of moral and spiritual desire is found at some time, and it usually asserts itself at frequent intervals. When desire thus looks to moral or spiritual things, only moral or spiritual things can gratify it. Some of these classes of desires we can gratify ourselves, but as for the greater part of them, satisfaction cannot be found in self, or from self. Those who repress and silence their desires may cease to realize the direction of those desires, or what is required for the gratification of them. Then, they may think that they find in themselves and in nature all that they require for satisfaction. But those who rightfully analyze their desires, or those who by any means become conscious of the direction and nature of those desires, have in their consciousness a sense of the deep significance of them. That inner consciousness speaks with finality, and with convincing utterance. Those who cultivate moral and spiritual desires, by seeking their gratification, become most conscious of their inability entirely to satisfy them from within. Only those who neglect, repress, or destroy their inner spiritual yearnings fail to feel the need of relations to corresponding elements from without, including relations to the source of responding, satisfying, correlative of desire.

The desire for high and holy things proves there is a source of such things, and proves by analogy, at least, that there can be a drawing from that source of whatever may be necessary to supply that deep need of our higher nature. The mindís and heartís sense of need of a God proves that there is a God, even as the appetite for natural food proves that there is natural food to satisfy that appetite, or even as the thirst for water proves that there is water to gratify and satisfy the desire. The human heart is never at rest until it is trusting in some supreme power greater than that which is has within itself. It is never satisfied until it draws its satisfaction from a source which it feels is infinitely higher and nobler than itself. This inner sense of the kind of a God the soul needs, proves what kind of a God exists. Gross and sensual ideas of God come from allowing ourselves to be so influenced by those parts of our being that may be satisfied with natural things that we seek only the fulfillment of natural desires. The savage believes in a savage and sensual god, because he lives almost entirely in the realm of the natural. But wherever, even in the state of savagery, a man rises to think and desire higher and nobler things, his idea of God rises accordingly. When once his desire, and with it his idea of God, has risen above the natural, he knows from thenceforth of a realm of being higher and nobler than mere natural things.

The true idea and consciousness of God must come from that higher part of self which cannot find its gratification purely in natural things. An idea of God coming in this way is always pure, and corresponds with the true need of the soul. When I know my soulís own deepest desires and highest aspirations, its most earnest out-reaching that cannot always be formulated in words, itís unsatisfied yearnings that run out to that which is greater than itself, then I know God as he is, because I know what I need him to be. There is no surer knowledge than that wordless voice that speaks in the depths of our souls.

There are those who tell us that there is no God; there are others who tell us that there is a God, but that we can know nothing of him. Such assertions can be made only by those who have stifled their spiritual desires, and have turned a deaf ear to the cry of their own hearts. For to know ourselves, is to come to a knowledge of God, because God must answer to that which is greatest and noblest within us. Most persons feel that they know there is a God, that they have the same evidence for knowing him that they have for knowing anything else. That inner consciousness, the testimony of their own being, is to them fairly convincing, even without the addition of those other arguments and evidences that may be brought out to prove Godís existence and nature.

To be sure, we cannot know spiritual things with our physical senses; so we cannot thus know God. Neither can we know honor, fidelity, friendship, the existence of angels, nor, in fact, any mental or spiritual fact through our physical senses alone. But we are not limited to these physical senses as the medium through which all knowledge reaches us. There are some things that we learn which are even contrary to our physical senses, and some things that in the spiritual world are contrary in principle to natural things. Nevertheless we are capable of learning them.

But, has God a will toward man? Interest in or obligation to others affects the attitude of our will toward them. Since man is the handiwork of God, we may naturally expect Godís will to be actively engaged in relation to man. The further fact that man is conscious of obligation to and dependence upon God is abundant evidence that he not only can know, but does know Godís will toward him. The consciousness of obligation to Godís will can rest on nothing but a knowledge of that will. So where there is this sense of obligation to his will, there is likewise the sense of what his will is.

Some people are much more conscious of Godís will than are others; hence, they are more conscious of obligation. There are reasons why some know more of Godís will than others. Some have sought to know his will, while others are indifferent or even hostile to it. Even those who are hostile know it in a measure, or they could not be hostile to it. Some men know science, not accidentally, but because they have devoted themselves to an intelligent study of it. They have taken a course that brings them to such knowledge. Some know the will of the president of the United States, and others do not. Some know his will very well; others, much less fully. Some know him well because they are closely associated with him. They hear his voice expressing his will and purpose. They see his actions that reveal his will. They know his manner of thought, his likes and dislikes. There are others who never saw him, but who know his will in some particulars through having had communications from him.

We are privileged to know God. We have the capacity to know him. We may come into an association with him so that we can learn his character, his likes and dislikes, and what he desires. We may have communications from him, revelations of his purpose and will. We may hear his voice speaking in our hearts. And so we may know God and his will. To be sure, we shall know him only as a man knows, which means that our knowledge will not be absolutely perfect. Nevertheless, if we make use of the means to obtain knowledge of him that are open to us, we may come to know much of him.

It is not the authorís purpose to discuss the will of God from a scientific standpoint, as a matter of philosophical reasoning, but to view the question from its practical aspects, and in the main, to give attention to those phases of the question which relate especially to the Christian, to the man who already believes that he knows something of Godís will, personality, and character.

All Christians believe that the Lord is with his people, that he is Immanuel---ďGod with us.Ē They believe that Jesus Christ is the revealer of God, that he revealed the character, fatherhood, purpose, and will of God. When they read in their Bibles that all shall know God from the least to the greatest (Jer. 31:34) and that all shall be taught of God (Isa. 54:13) and that the Holy Spirit is sent to guide us into all truth (John 16:13) they feel in their hearts the assurance that they are not following ďcunningly devised fablesĒ or being led in the ways of folly, but that they really and truly do know at least something of the will of their Father which is in heaven. We are commanded, ďBe ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord isĒ (Eph. 5:17). In view of these things, we seek his will earnestly, reverently, confidently, assured that he will reveal unto us as much of it as may be necessary in our own individual cases, in order that we may be acceptable and well pleasing in his sight.

We may know his will for the race---it is certain that in some things he deals with humanity as a whole. But the individual is not so lost in the whole that he has no personal relation with God, no personal obligation to him as an individual. This being true, God has a will toward us individually. Not only should we know his will for the race, but more particularly his will for us as individuals. We should know it, not only in the general outline of his purpose for us as one of the race, or in the general course of our lives, but also in regard to us from day to day, in the details of our lives, where we need to know his will in order that we may be guided aright. Thus we may walk with sure footsteps in a plain path, not fighting or striving in uncertainty or darkness, not laying our course with dead reckoning, but using a reliable chart and a trustworthy compass. Uncertainty is a great bane. Having a conscience toward God, yet being uncertain of his will, loses us in a maze. The heart can be at rest only when sure it is in harmony with God, for only then is the conscience giving approval. Godís promise, ďI will give you rest,Ē is a pledge that we shall not only know his will, but be able also to fulfill it, and be conscious that we are so doing.

The fact that some know not Godís will, and think others do not know it and can not know it, is no valid proof that others do no know it, any more than the fact that some do not know how to count proves that there is no such thing as mathematical science, or that because some one does not know that air is composed of a number of gases is proof that there is no such thing as chemical affinity or the science of Chemistry. Knowing this, the Christian is not troubled with the argument of unbelievers, stating that he can not know the will of God. He is conscious that in some respects, at least, he does know it, and he knows when he conforms to it.

It is reasonable that God should have a will for the race, because the race is of his creation. He tells us that he created man for his own glory. He had a purpose in creating him, for he does nothing without a purpose---intelligence acts only for adequate reasons. It is just as reasonable that God should have a definite will for each one of us individually as for the race as a whole. Since he created us, he is, therefore, interested in the outcome of our lives. Being moral creatures, there must be a moral outcome to our lives. As a moral being, God cannot be indifferent to this outcome. We have great need of such a God as the Bible reveals. This need must be fulfilled in him, and the kind of a God we need is the kind of a God we inevitable find the God we serve to be. Since we need a God upon whom we can rely, and since we are often conscious of the limitations of our knowledge, and since the awakened heart hungers for love, we know that God answers to all these needs in being to us knowledge, wisdom, and help, and in loving us as our hearts crave to be loved.

He is ďour FatherĒ; so the interest of a father is manifested toward us. He is benevolent; therefore he holds a benevolent attitude toward us. He is love; therefore he has an abiding interest in our welfare, and a warm affection for us. And having these attributes which he exercises for us, he has a will for us in harmony there with. Since he had a purpose in our creation---a purpose of his own---he is interested that we know and do his will in order to carry out that purpose. How comforting and inspiring are these thoughts! How satisfying they are to the heart that craves for a God of just such a character and such an attitude toward manís finite weakness!

Let us turn now and note some of the effects of doctrines and beliefs that are contrary to the facts just stated. What is the effect of the doctrine that our lives are unguided, that is, guided only by human reason; of the idea that God is far off, unapproachable and unknowable; of the teaching that he has not revealed himself as the Bible declares, and as Christians believe? What is the result of such negation? Are those who hold such things profited thereby? Do those theories afford them comfort and satisfaction? Do such ideas sustain them in the hour of darkness and sorrow? Is there anything in these doctrines to ennoble or uplift the race? Not so. Instead their effect is to bring darkness, uncertainty, and despair. They wither all lofty aspirations, dry up the springs of joy, and becloud the pathway of life.

Did you ever see a really happy unbeliever? He may find some satisfaction in his unbelief, and even some pleasure, but it is the satisfaction and pleasure of the debater. It is the satisfaction that comes from showing an opposition to something---a sort of negative satisfaction. He is utterly devoid of that constant joy, comfort, rest of soul, peace, and quietness of spirit that comes to the believer through the truth of God. To be sure, he may have the happiness that comes from the gratification of natural desire, but such happiness has a very narrow basis, resting on bare materialism or a hazy spiritism---it is evanescent, and soon passes away. Take the cynic of things spiritual, the hostile critic, the infidel, the skeptic. They stand only on a platform of negation. Outwardly they may present a bold front, but let their heart be opened, let on gaze into their depths, and it will then be found that little genuine happiness or contentment is there, for their system of negation furnishes no possible basis for genuine happiness.

On the other hand, there is nothing so joyful or so abiding as the pleasure arising from Christian faith. The Bible doctrine believed is a source of true joy and rest. Herein lies: the great practical advantage of the Christian faith as a system of philosophy. Negation hangs like a dead weight upon the neck of him who makes it his creed, while faith is like wings to him who possesses it. While the one sinks down to despair, the other rises above the perplexities and troubles, cares, and disappointments of life into a realm of pure joy, into a place where his soul is at rest---not the ephemeral joy of the opiate, or the rest that it gives, but the joy of harmonious being, and conformity to the highest laws of his being.

The wholesomeness, reality, and truth of Christian faith are shown in the power it gives one to surmount obstacles in life, and to rejoice, even in disaster. Who but a Christian can joy in tribulation, and in the darkest hours see gleams of hope? The Christiansí faith is attacked, despised jeered, mocked, and made the butt of flippant wit. It is denounced and pitied, ridiculed and misrepresented. Under all this treatment it neither fails nor perishes, but waxes stronger and more joyful, for its strength is in its truth. The more faith a man has, the more truly he believes in God and Godís interest in the care over him, the more settled and steadfast he is, the more fruitful and blessed his life, and the more wonderful those spiritual fruits that he bears which the opponents of Christianity try in vain to produce.

The Christian believes that he knows God. Resting in that assurance, he goes calmly upon his way, finding in his life from day to day a thousand unanswerable proofs of the correctness of his faith. Every day there is added to his settled conviction new assurances that God is with him, that his Ďtimes are in his handsí, that God knoweth the way that he takes, and that he walks with him all that way. And so as his locks grow hoary, and as his form is bent with age, his spiritual horizon grows clearer and clearer, his faith becomes more steadfast, his assurance more certain, his rest of spirit more sweet, his peace and tranquility greater, and he has the satisfying consciousness that he is drawing nearer and nearer to the blessed fulfillment of his hope, to the full fruition of his faith. If the doubts that have obscured the lives of others, like dark clouds cast their shadows down upon his pathway, he can boldly say, ďI know whom I have believedĒ. So he comes to his end in peace, and says his last earthly good-bys in a quiet, confident expectation of a glorious hereafter.