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The Will in Religious Belief

The Will in Religious Belief

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Published by glennpease
By Rev. Arthur F. Winnington Ingram, D.D.


" If any man will do the will of God, he shall know of the
doctrine whether it be of God." — St. John vii. 17,
By Rev. Arthur F. Winnington Ingram, D.D.


" If any man will do the will of God, he shall know of the
doctrine whether it be of God." — St. John vii. 17,

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Published by: glennpease on May 07, 2014
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THE WILL I RELIGIOUS BELIEF By Rev. Arthur F. Winnington Ingram, D.D. " If any man will do the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." — St. John vii. 17, A LIVIG, loving, just, and righteous Being, -'*' His mercy reaching unto the heavens and His truth unto the clouds, His righteousness standing like the strong mountains, and His  judgments like the great deep — that was the vision of God which we contemplated together in the last address. And yet to some who may have tried to realize this glorious vision it may perhaps seem little better than a touching dream. We will pass, therefore, to the place of the will in religious belief, and endeavour to trace the action of the will in confronting the greatest difficulties which beset faith ; and I think I shall carry most of you with me in placing as the first great diffi- 28 The Will in Religious Belief culty which besets faith the greatness of God's universe when contrasted with the smallness of our planet, and our little lives. We thought in the previous address of the great scale on which God works, the wide field of His operations reaching far into the realm behind the veil. But that thought has also another side, and many a man's faith has broken down when he has realized that we are like insects crawling along the surface of one of the smallest planets in a universe
 
whose sun is not one of the largest among twenty millions, at least, that God has made. As an American writer, whose little book, called "An Essay towards Faith," I have commended to the attention of this congregation, says in words upon which I cannot improve, " As we figure this earth of ours, a mere dust-speck amidst countless myriads of whirling worlds, how strangely remote and unreal, like a fancy from childhood's dreamland, seems the thought of Incarnation and the doctrine of a special providence guiding the destiny of the individual to its petty ends ! A great statesman on his xieath-bed confessed that his faith failed him when he looked at the stars. A student at one of our Universities, in the confidence of intimate converse, recently said, ' I believed until 29 Faith the vastness of the universe dawned on me. ow, when I enter a church and kneel before the altar, my heart revolts at the mockery. What has this to do with the immensities and the eternities which encompass this tiny world of ours?' " And who has not at some time felt the presence of the difficulty which is here so clearly expressed? — the vastness of creation, the smallness of our planet, the impossibility at first of believing that God's own Son should have come down to have His part in so mean a sphere. The faith which was so bright in our childhood and boyhood sometimes refuses to stand the strain. But here first the intellectual will comes into play. Once steady ourselves by an effort of the will and face this apparently enormous diffi-
 
culty, and what do we find? A trick of the imagination. " Moral or spiritual facts have no relation whatever to physical size, for such moral and spiritual facts have kinship with the absolute. To suffer ourselves to be fooled by what in the last analysis is a mere unreasoning sentiment is the part of a tyro in the intellectual exercise. Special relations seem almost like a receding mirage ; the mystery of magnitude is set off by the mystery of minuteness. Pray, what will 30 The Will in Religious Belief you call great — a mouse or a mountain or a myriad suns? Size is a purely relative con- ception. The marvellous complexity of a diatom vies in perfection with the intricacy of a star system, but honour, freedom, love — these refiise to be classed in the same category. An act of self-sacrifice would not gain in dignity and worth because the doer of it was fifty cubits high."* Follow oiit that thought, and you will see that the difficulty may be exactly described as a trick of the imagination. If we can once realize that the greatest things have no relation to physical size, and that all the splendour of self-sacrifice and love and truth and beauty depends in no way upon mere extent, then the overshadowing difficulty becomes a ghost. It is no difficulty to the reason, or to the heart, to believe that a planet carefully placed not too near the sun and not too far from it, guarded with evident care by seventy miles of atmosphere so as to make life possible in it, should be the home of creatures in whom the Almighty takes an infinite interest, and for whom He gave His only Son. This can only become

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