This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
BY Alexander Gardiner Mercer
Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely . — Rev. xxii. 1 7 All things are possible to him that believeth. — Mark, ix. 23.
T SPEAK first of the power of human will in our life, especially in religious life. It seems to me that the idea of soul-freedom — of a power of choice in ourselves — is a practical necessity; for a man cannot be human, or lead a human life, without consciousness of free-will. If this is granted, and the full weight given to it, if we start with the consciousness of such a spirit in ourselves, then all the other great mysteries outside of ourselves which puzzle us so much — the mystery of God, of God acting in miracle, the efficacy of prayer — are intelligible ; but without this we must give up all religion, all idea of spirit, shut our Bibles and Moral Codes, — understanding all such things in a non-natural sense, — go on to reduce the world and God and man to a few simple and eternal brute forces. For if we ourselves are things, not wills, then we can know of nothing spiritual except from ourselves; all else must be
things also. As God and spirit and spiritual acts are
THE POWER OF WILL. 293
all taken from the image of ourselves, then, if we are things, we can know nothing but things.
The whole outside spiritual world rests on the sureness of our consciousness of a spirit in ourselves, — the possession of a will. I mention this merely to show how sure the fact is that we have wills, — for God and a spiritual universe all rest upon that fact, — and I mention it also to give a basis to the exhortation I wish to make ; for if we have such a wonderful power, we should believe in it, and use it to its full extent.
There is this singularity in this matter; namely, that though our natures are made fret, yet if we do not believe that and use their freedom, if we believe we are the creatures of circumstances, we become the creatures of circumstances, and, as much as we can,
we become things; while a full assurance that we can do much, that we are made for a wide sweep of power, gives us the full freedom we were born to. It will not do that we are made free ; we must also believe the fact before we can be free practically.
Of course there is a limit to the power of will, and only the insane will attempt to go beyond obvious natural bounds. But while we must know that, let us beware of contracting these bounds too closely around us; while we are in fact eagles, made to sweep the great circles of the air, let us not confine ourselves, like the moth or the butterfly, to a few feet of the fields. No man can certainly say where his power stops; or,
294 THE POWER OF WILL,
if he knows where it stopped yesterday, he does not know how far it will go to-morrow. It is a growing power, which ascends as we use it. In the ordinary concerns of life we exert this power very much, though there are great differences in this respect among men
and ages. The will as used in the bettering of our material state, that is, determined enterprise, is a majestic power here in America, and a mere petty power in Spain, and still more petty in the East, and sinks down to its weakest among the low savages.
But nowhere is the religious will used as it ought to be. To be determined in religion, to be industrious Christians, seem strange expressions. Yet to be determined Christians is just what we want, — to set the will " like flint" against wrong; to make ''full proof" of all the religious capacities of our souls; to be bent to exercise all Christian virtues as we exercise our muscles or our business energies; to make an advance every day, as any true worker advances in his knowledge, or in his fortune, and says in the evening, " I have gained so much, I have mastered so much."
Was there ever in business or war an intenser expression of spiritual energy than when Paul said, "This one thing I do"? He used the whole scope of his will. His poor hard-worked body solicited him for some ease, for some rest, for a little comfort. His
poor human heart sunk under discouragements, shrunk from calumny, quailed under fears. Did he pause?
THE POWER OF WILL, 295
'* This one thing I do." He saw iniquity in the church, Httleness in its leaders, — poor, scattered results, — an opposing world growing greater and more impregnable before him; did he halt? ** This one thing I do."
A thousand things sapped his faith; for one example, Christ did not come from the skies as he expected, and that great test of the truth of all his soul rested on failed him. Did he sink? Nay, his faith enlarged; he was surer of God and surer of Christ when his expectations failed than even when they were realized. Let everything fail, I will believe ; and I will believe in a mightier and mightier fashion, for when this and that give way I will fall back on the strength of the dictates of my soul. '' Though flesh and heart fail," I will grow a purer, more disinterested, more
believing, more powerful servant of God. I will do it to the end. And he did it, — glory and honor to him !
Myriads of creatures are born with this divine willpower. Of course I do not say in the same degree as Paul, but with the same faculty; and they die like great embryonic masses, undeveloped souls, which have never come to anything. Here and there is one man who lives and proves that he is a being with a divine will, — proves it, too, all the more powerfully, when circumstances are all against him.
These awful things, — circumstances, — whose power is the talk of this age, which are so weighty that they
296 THE POWER OF WILL.
forbid religion and laugh at morality, — these overpowering circumstances, which shrivel us up as before a fire, which will not allow us to have a soul within our bosoms, and which we set up openly with shameless
faces as our excuse before man, yes, and before God. *' Circumstances are against us." And what are these circumstances? They are but a shadow wherever there is present a greater circumstance; namely, the pure, unconquerable will, which overrides them, which converts them, the worst of them, and makes its diamonds out of all such charcoal. You are a will, I say, and hence you are, by the very intention of your nature, made to dominate, made for triumph over circumstance.
We are ever losing our humanity, because to be human means to be under the control of righteous will. We are the prey of almost everything without us, and of almost every vagrant passion within us. We are made to govern ourselves by the righteous law, — not self-degraded mortals, but pure, immortal wills. I speak this, not for the purpose of pride, but that we may be instigated to reject every day the whole world of flesh and self, and to accept whatever is humble, generous, and just, pure, and adoring, — to do this in our thoughts and in our work, being as God-made men in all the details of our living. It is a large and awful work; all the more must we push
it while the day lasts. '' I will arise," must be the motto of every moment.
THE POWER OF WILL. 297
When I think of men, hundreds, almost thousands of milHons, appearing and disappearing every thirty years, what a common, cheap creature man is ! But when I think that each of these men has a will, — is made to enact into existence all righteousness, — that he is formed to work together with God in the awful, universal conflict between good and evil, then I stand back before the meanest man, for he makes the very earth sacred. Oh that some power, some voice would speak to him and make this grand possibility real. But our wishes are worthless if a man does not help himself.
There are two sources of power in a man, — the God-given will is one, the God-given trust is another. The mere will is cold and cheerless without the trust, and the trust is weak and boneless without the will.
Man must add to the power of his own spirit the power of the spirit of God. It is comparatively easy to be a man of will only ; it is comparatively easy to have only the woman's pre-eminent faith and trust: but the duty is to have both working together in our ordinary lives; to cast ourselves, like the most helpless children, upon the parent's breast, — to receive of his fulness, and ''to quit us like men" in the daily strife of temptation and effort. If we do all well that is within our will, heavenly glimpses open, lights and powers stream in, and the spontaneous life of the soul grows. Then " be it unto thee even as thou wilt " must have this other sentence added, '* All things are
298 THE POWER OF WILL.
possible to him that trusteth." Rest on your soul as if there were no other power in heaven or earth; but your soul must rest on God as if there were no such thing known as will, and " the gates of hell shall not prevail against you."
1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000