WHAT IS GOD'S WILL? 279
want to know what to do next — your calling in
life, for instance. You want to know what action
to take in a certain matter. You want to know
what to do with your money.
You want to know
whether to go into a certain scheme or not. Then
you enter into this private chamber of God's will,
and ask the private question, " Lord, what wouldest
thou have me to do?"
Then it is distinguished by its action. It con-
cerns a different department of our life. The first
part of God's will, all that has gone before, afifects
our cJiaractcr. But this afifects something more.
It affects our career. And this is an important
distinction. A man's career in life is almost as
important as his character in life; that is to say,
it is almost as important to God, which is the real
question. If character is the end of life, then the
ideal career is just where character can best be
established and developed, which means that a
man is to live for his character. But if God's will
is the end of life, God may have a will for my
career as well as for my character, which does not
mean that a man is to live for his career, but for
God's will /;/ his character through his career.
I may want to put all my work upon my charac-
ter. But God may want my work for something
else. He may want to use me, for instance ; I
may not know why, or when, or how, or to whom.
But it is possible He may need me, for some-
thing or other at some time or other. It may
be all through my life, or at some particular part
28o WHAT IS GOD'S WILL?
of my life which may be past now, or may be
still to come. At all events, I must hold myself
in readiness and let Him trace my path ; for
though it does not look now as if He had any-
thing for me to do, the next turn of the road may
bring it ; so I must watch the turnings of the
road for God. Even for the cJiance of God need-
ing me it is worth while doing this — the chance
of Him needing me even once. There is a man
in Scripture whom God perhaps used but once.
He may have done many other things for God ;
still, there was one thing God gave him to do so
far overshadowing all other things that he seems
to have done but this. He seems, indeed, to
have been born, to have lived and died for this.
It is the only one thing we know about him.
But it is a great thing. His name was Ananias.
He was the instrument in the conversion of Paul.
What was he doing in Damascus that day, when
Paul arrived under conviction of sin? Why was
he living in Damascus at all? Because he was
born there, and his father before him, perhaps
you will say. Let it be so. A few will be glad
to cherish a higher thought. He was a good
man, and his steps were ordered — by ordinary
means, if you like — by the Lord. Could Ana-
nias not have been as good a man in Jericho,
or Antioch, or Ephesus? Quite as good. His
character might almost have been the same. But
his career would have been different. And, pos-
sibly, his character might have been different
WHAT IS GOD'S WILL? 281
from the touch of God upon his career. For
when God comes into a man's career, it some-
times makes a mighty difference on his charac-
ter — teaches him to hve less for character and
for himself, and more for his career and for God,
rather more for both — more for his character
by hving more for his career. Gold is gold wher-
ever it is ; but it is some difference to the world
whether it make a communion cup or gild the
proscenium of a theatre.
There is a difference, then, between God in char-
acter and God in career. You may have God in
your character without having God in your career.
Perhaps you should have been in London to-day,
perhaps in China. Perhaps you should have been
a missionary; perhaps you should be one yet.
Perhaps you should have been in poorer circum-
stances, or in a different business altogether. Per-
haps you have chosen a broader path than God
would have willed for you. Your character may
not seem to have suffered ; but your career has.
You may be doing God's will with one hand con-
secrated to Christ, and making your own auto-
biography with the other consecrated to self.
Would you know the will of God, then? Con-
sult God about your career. It does not follow
because He has done nothing with you last week
or last year. He may have nothing for you now.
God's will in career is mostly an unexpected thing
— it comes as a surprise. God's servants work
on short notices. Paul used to have to go off to
282 WHAT IS GOD'S WILL?
what was the end of the world in those days, on a
few hours' warning. And so may you and I. It
is not a thing to startle us, to make us alarmed at,
to make us say, "If this might be the upshot we
would let God's will alone." It would be a wonder-
ful privilege to come to you or me; yes, a won-
derful privilege that He should count us worthy
to suffer this or anything more for Him.
But you are old, you say. Ananias was old.
Or steeped in a profession. Paul was steeped in
a profession. Or you are inexperienced and
young. A lad came to Jesus once with five
loaves and two small fishes ; but they fed five
thousand men. So bring your lad's experience,
your young offer of service, and God may use
you to twice five thousand souls. That does not
mean that you are to do it. But be in God's
counsels, and He will teach you whether or no.
How are you to know this secret will of God?
It is a great question. We cannot touch it now.
Let this suffice. It can be known. It can be
known to you. The steps of a good man are
ordered by the Lord. " I will guide thee with
Mine eye." Unto the upright in heart He shall
cause light to arise in darkness. This is not
mysticism, no visionary's dream. It is not to
drown the reason with enthusiasm's airy hope or
supersede the word of God with fanaticism's blind
caprice. No, it is not there. It is what Christ
said, " The sheep hear his voice, and he calleth
his own sheep by name, and leadeth them."
The Relation of the Will
of God to Sanctification
" This is the will of God, eveti yotir satictificationP
I Thess. iv. 3.
'■'■As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in
all manner of conversation j because it is writtefi, ' Be
ye holy, for I atn holy,'' " — 1 Pet. i. 15, 16.
"Z(?, / conic to do Thy will, O Cod. . . . By the which
will we are sanctified through the offering of the body
of Jesus Christ ojicefor ally — Heb. x. 9, 10.
jUR discussion of the will of God landed us
two Sabbaths ago — perhaps in rather an
unforeseen way — in the great subject of sancti-
fication. You may remember that we then made
this discovery, that the end of sanctification, in
the sense of consecration, is to do the will of God,
and that the proof was based on these words :
" Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy,
acceptable unto God, and be not conformed to
this world." Why? "That ye may prove what
is that good and acceptable and perfect will of
God." We are to present ourselves to God, not
because it is a pleasant and luxurious thing to
live in the state of consecration, but to do the
284 THE WILL OF GOD
will of God. Or, to sum this up in a single
sentence, it might read : " This is sanctification,
even to prove the will of God."
But our text to-day is apparently the very
opposite of this. " This is the will of God, even
your sanctification." Last day it looked as if
sanctification was in order to the will of God ;
now it looks as if the will of God was in order
It is evident, therefore, that there is still some-
thing in this part of the subject which demands
a clearance. And in order to gain this it will be
necessary to present the other side of the same
question, and complete the view of the subject of
There are in the Bible two great meanings to the
word " sanctification." The first may be roughly
called the Old Testament word. The second is
identified, but not exclusively, with the New.
The Old Testament meaning had this peculiarity,
that it did not necessarily imply any inward
change in the heart sanctified. In fact, it was
not even necessarily applied to Jicarts at all, but
to things. A field could be sanctified, a house
could be sanctified, an altar, a tabernacle, gold
and silver vessels, the garments of the priest, the
cities of refuge. Anything, in short, that was set
apart for sacred use was said to be sanctified.
But the New Testament word had a deeper mean-
ing. It meant not only outward consecration,
but inward holiness. It meant an internal pari-
THE WILL OF GOD 285
fication of the heart from all uncleanness, and an
enduing it with the holy mind of Christ. It ^yas
not a mere separation like the first, but a visita-
tion — a separation from the lower world, and a
visitation from the higher, the coming in of God's
Spirit from above with a principle of holiness
that was to work an inward likeness to the char-
acter of God.
The practical object of the first process is
mainly to put the thing in position where God
can use it. A golden candlestick was sanctified,
so that it might be of some use to God. A house
was sanctified, so that it might be exclusively His
— to do what He liked with. In like manner a
man is consecrated — that God may use him. It
is the process by which he is got into position
for God. And all that sanctification does for him,
in the first sense of the word, is so to put him in
position that he shall always be within reach of
God — that he shall do what God likes, do, that
is to say, what God wills.
But there is something more in sanctification
than man's merely being a tool in the hands
of God. If there were not, aiitoinatons could
do the work far better than men. They would
never oppose God's will, and they would always
be in position. But God's will has a reaction
upon the instruments whom He employs. God's
will does not stop with His will, as it were.
It recoils back upon the person using it, and
benefits him. If the instrument is a sanctified
286 THE WILL OF GOD
cup, or a sanctified house, it does not recoil back,
and make an internal change in them ; but if
it is a person who does God's will, God's will is
not only done, but the person or doer is affected.
God never keeps anything all to Himself. He
who so loved the world that He gave His only
begotten Son, does He not with Him also freely
give us all things? His Son is for us, His love
is for us. His will is for us. How do we know
that it is for us .-' Because this is the will of God,
even your sanctification. Whatever else may be
involved in it, this is in it; whatever else He
may get from it, this is something which you
get, your sanctification. " By the which will,"
as Hebrews says, " we are sanctified." " This
is My will, not My gain, but yours; not My
eternal advantage, but yours ; not My holiness,
but ' your sanctification.' " Do you think God
wants )^our body when He asks you to present
it to Him? Do you think it is for His sake that
He asks it, that He might be enriched by it?
God could make a thousand better with a breath.
It is for your sake He asks it. He wants your
gift to give you His gift — your gift which was
just in the way of His gift. He wants your will
out of the way, to make room for His will. You
give everything to God. God gives it all back
again, and more. You present your body a liv-
ing sacrifice that you may prove God's will.
You shall prove it by getting back your body
■ — a glorified body. You lose the world that
THE WILL OF GOD 287
you may prove God's will. God's will is that
you shall gain heaven. This is the will of God,
therefore, that you should gain heaven. Or this
is the will of God that you should gain holiness,
for holiness is heaven. Or this is the will of
God, even your sanctification.
To sum up these facts, then, we find that they
shape themselves into these two propositions:
1. That our sanctification, or, more strictly,
our consecration, is in order to the will of God,
" to prove what is that good and great and
acceptable will of God."
2. That this reacts upon ourselves, a conspicu-
ous part of God's will being that we should be
personally holy. " This is the will of God, even
The first of these has already been discussed,
and now the question comes to be how we can best
fulfil this conspicuous part of the will of God and
become holy ourselves. It is God's will for all of
us that we should become holy. How are we to
become holy ?
We have probably asked this question many
times already in our life. We have thought, and
read, and prayed about it, and perhaps have
never yet reached the conclusion Jioiv indeed we
are to become holy. Perhaps the question has
Ions: ago assumed another and evasive form with
us, " When are we going to become holy ? " or
perhaps a hopeless form, " How ever are we to
become holy ? "
288 THE WILL OF GOD
Now the real way out of the difficulty is to ask
a deeper question still : " IV/iy do I want to be
holy ? " All the great difficulties of religion are
centred round our motives. Impurities in a
spiritual stream generally mean impurities at the
spiritual source. And all fertility or barrenness
of soul depend upon which source supplies the
streams of the desires. Our difficulties about
becoming holy, therefore, most likely lie in our
reasons for wantmg to become holy. For if you
grant the true motive to holiness, you need no
definition of holiness. True holiness lies touch-
ing the true motive. We shall get nearer the
true roots of holiness, therefore, if we spend a
little time over the root-question : " Why do I
want to be holy ? "
I. The first thing which started some of us to
search for a better life, perhaps, was Infection.
We caught an infection for a better life from
some one we knew. We were idling our own
way through life, when some one crossed our
path — some one with high aims and great en-
thusiasm's. We were taken with the principles
on which that life was lived. Its noble purpose
charmed us : its disregard of the petty troubles
and cares of life astonished us. We felt unac-
countably interested in it. There was a romance
in its earnestness and self-denial that captivated
us, and we thought we should like to take down
our own life, and put it together again on this new
plan. So we got our first motive to holiness.
THE Vv^ILL OF GOD 289
Now this was not a wrong motive — it was
only an imperfect one. It answered its purpose
— so far. For God takes strange ways to start
a man's religion. There is nothing more remark-
able in the history of conversion, for instance,
than the infinite diversity of answers to this
question : " What made you first think about
your soul?" God does take strange ways to
start a man for heaven. The way home is some-
times shown him by an unexpected finger-post;
and from a motive so unworthy that he dare
not tell it in after-life, there comes to many
a man his first impulses toward God. And long
after he has begun to run the Christian race,
God may try to hasten his lagging steps by the
spur of a motive as far beneath an heir of heaven
as his spiritual life is beneath what it ought
But the principle to be noted through it all
is this, — that the motives which God allows us
to start on are not the ones we are to live on.
It may be adversity in business that gives us a
fresh start. It may be affliction, or ambition,
or church-pride, or a thousand things. But the
impulse cannot last, and it cannot carry us far.
And there must come a time of exchange for
a higher one if we would grow in grace, or move
onward into a holier life. A man's motive must
grow, if grace would grow. And many a man
has to live on old grace, because he lives on an
old motive. God let us begin with a lower one,
290 THE WILL OF GOD
and then when He gave us more grace, it was
that we might get a higher one ; but we spent
the grace on something else, and our motive is
no higher than before. So, although we got a
start in religion, we were little the better of it,
and our whole life has stood still for want of a
strong enough motive to go on.
2. But it was not necessary that we should
have caught our infection from a fric7id. There
is another great source of infection, and some
of us are breathing its atmosphere every day —
books. We may have got our motives to be good
from a book.
We found in works on ethics, and in all great
poets, and even perhaps in some novels, that the
highest aim of life was to be true and pure and
good. We found modern literature ringing with
the praises of virtue. By-and-by we began to
respect it, then to admire it, then to wish for it.
Thus we caught the enthusiasm for purity which
has changed our whole lives, in a way, and given
us a chief motive to religion.
Well, we must thank God for having given us
a start, anyhow. It is something to have begun.
It is a great thing to have an enthusiasm to be
true and pure and good. Nor will the Bible ever
be jealous of any lesser book which God may
use to stir men up to a better life. But all lesser
books sin and come short. And the greatest
motives of the greatest of the lesser books fall as
far short of the glory of God as those who live
THE WILL OF GOD 291
only on the enthusiasms which are kindled on
the altar of modern literature fall short of the life
and mind of Christ. God may give these mo-
tives to a man to start with. If he will not look
into God's book for them, God may see fit to put
something remotely like them into men's books.
Jesus Christ used to come to men just where
they were. There is no place on earth so dark
that the light of heaven will not come to it; and
there is no spot of earth where God may not
choose to raise a monument of His love. There
is always room anywhere in the world for a holy
thought. It may come to a man on the road-
side, as to Paul ; or in the fork of a sycamore
tree, as to Zacchaeus. It may come to him at
his boats, as to Peter ; or at his Bible, as to the
Eunuch. But, whether it come at the boats, or
whether it come at the Bible, whatever is good is
God's ; and men may be thankful that the Giver
of all good has peopled the whole earth and air
and sky with thoughts of His glory, and filled
the world with voices which call men near to
Him, At the same time, it must be understood
again that the initial motives are never meant to
continue us far on the road to God. As a matter
of fact, they never can continue us ; and if a man
does not get higher ones, his religion must, and
his morality mayy come to a bitter end. The
melancholy proof occurs to every one in a mo-
ment, that those who inspire us with these almost
Divine enthusiasms are, and have been, many
292 THE WILL OF GOD
of them, degraded men and women themselves.
For if a man's motives to goodness are not higher
than the enthusiasms of his own higher nature,
the chances are that the appeals of his lower
nature, in time, will either curb or degrade
The true motive to holiness, then, is not to be
caught from books.
3. In the next place, some of us, perhaps, were
induced to aim at a better life from prudential
motives, or from fear.
We had read in the Bible a very startling sen-
tence — "Without holiness no man shall see the
Lord." Now we wished to see God. And we
found the Bible full of commands to keep God's
law. So, with fear and trembling, we began to
try to keep it. Its strictness was a continual
stimulus to us. We were kept watching and
, praying. We lived in an atmosphere of fear, lest
we should break it. No doubt this has done
good — great good. Like the others, it was not
a bad motive — only an imperfect one. But, like
the others, it will have to be exchanged for a
higher one, if true progress in holy living is to
4. Then some of us found another motive in
gratitjide. The great love of God in Christ had
come home to us with a peculiar power. We felt
the greatness of His sacrifice for us, of His for-
giveness of us. And we would try to return His
love. So we set our hearts with a gracious pur-
THE WILL OF GOD 293
pose towards God. Our life and conversation
would be becoming the Gospel of Christ. We
would do for His sake what we would never do for
our own sake. But even a noble impulse like this
has failed to fulfil our heart's desire, and even
our generosity has left us little nearer God.
5. And, lastly, there is this other thought which
has sometimes helped us onward for a time — a
feeling which comes over us at Communion times,
at revival times, which Christian workers feel at all
times: " Here are we surrounded by great privi-
leges — singled out from the world for God's
peculiar charge. God comes very close to us;
the very ground is holy oftentimes. What man-
ner of persons ought we to be in all holy conver-
sation and godliness? How different we ought
to be from all the people around ! How much
more separate from every appearance of evil !
How softly we should walk, who bear the vessels
of the Lord !
Now some of these motives are very beautiful.
They are the gifts of God. Doubtless many have
attained to a certain measure of holiness by em-
ploying them. And they have at least awakened
in us some longings after God. But they are all
deficient, and hopelessly inadequate to carry on
what sometimes they so hopefully begin.
And they are deficient in these three ways : —
I. They are unscriptural — rather, they do not
convey the full scriptural truth.
294 THE WILL OF GOD
2. They are inadequate to produce more than
a small degree of holiness.
3. They never produce the true quality of
If we have not yet had higher motives than
these, then, it follows that our spiritual life is
being laid down upon principles which can never
in the nature of things yield the results we had
hoped and waited for.
We have been wondering why our growth in
grace has been so small — so small, indeed, that
sometimes it has almost seemed to cease. And
without looking at books or doctrines, as we look
into our hearts, we find one reason, at least,
— . perhaps the great one — that our motive is
Now, the weakness of the old motive, apart
from the error of it, consisted in this : in the first
place it wanted autJiority ; in the second, it pro-
posed no standard. As regards the first, there
was no reason why one should strive to be better.
It was left to one's own discretion. Our friend
said it, or our favourite author, and the obliga-
tion rose and fell with the nearness or remote-
ness of their influence. And as regards the
standard, our friend or our favourite author's
favourite hero was but a poor model at the best,
for only a most imperfect spiritual beauty can
ever be copied from anything made of clay.
Well, then, what is the right motive to holiness
of life? We have been dealing with ordinary
THE WILL OF GOD 295
motives hitherto ; now we must come to extra-
ordinary ones. Holiness is one of the most
extraordinary things in hfe, and it demands the
noblest motives, the noblest impulses, or none.
Now we shall see how God has satisfied this
demand of our nature for an extraordinary mo-
tive to this extraordinary thing, holiness — satis-
fied it so completely, that the soul, when it finds
it out, need never feel unsatisfied again. God's
motive to holiness is, ^^Be ye holy, for I am holy.'"
It is a startling thing when the voice of God
comes close to us and whispers, " Be ye holy;"
but when the question returns from our Hps,
*' Why should we be holy ? " it is a more solemn
thing to get this answer, " For I am holy." This
is God's motive to holiness — " For I am holy." Be
ye holy: here is its authority — its Divine obliga-
tion. For I am holy: here is its Divine motive.
Be ye holy. Think of the greatness of the ob-
ligation. Long ago, when we began the Chris-
tian life, we heard a voice, " Be ye holy." Per-
haps, as we have seen, it was an infectious voice,
the voice of a friend. Perhaps it was an inspiring
voice, the voice of poetry and literature. Perhaps
it was a warning voice, the voice of the law. But
it was not a commanding voice — the voice of
God. And the reason was, perhaps, that we
were not thinking of the voice : we were thinking
of the holy. We had caught sight of a new and
beautiful object — something which seemed full
of promise, which was to consecrate even the
296 THE WILL OF GOD
common hours of our life. The religious world
seemed bright to us then, and the books and the
men were dear that would help us to reach out