THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CONTROL
"He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city which
is broken down and without walls."--Proverbs 25:28.
THE word "spirit" is used in a variety of ways. We speak of a horse as having a fiery spirit or as having no spirit. We speak of the angels as being spirits. We sometimes speak of the spirit of life. We also speak of the spirit of the human mind--that is evidently the thought that is here presented. The words of the text are equivalent to saying, He that hath no rule over his own mind, his thoughts, is like a city that is broken down.
What would a broken-down city be like? In olden times, when civilization had not reached the degree to which it has now attained, there was but little police protection, and marauders were numerous. Those who were disposed to get their living by stealing had excellent opportunities. [R5653 : page 87] It was necessary that cities be surrounded by walls as a protection against enemies. Any city with broken-down walls would have great reason to fear such marauders. It would invite attack and be certain to meet with disaster some time.
The wise man has here likened such a city to a broken down human will. The will is to be continually on guard over the mind and to allow nothing to enter there except through the regular gates--Conscience and Judgment. These gates are to be watched so closely that they may admit only such thoughts as would be non-injurious, profitable, wise--in harmony with the Word of God. Every human being should have a will and should keep it in good repair, should see to it that it does not get broken down; otherwise shipwreck of character will follow.
By the will is not meant merely a wish. There is a decided difference between a wish and a will. Some wish that they possessed a million dollars, but they have not the will even to try to get it. Some have a wish to get up at a certain hour in the morning; but the wish does not get them up, because the will is broken down. They say to themselves, "Oh, a little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands in sleep!" They have no control of themselves. They may think they will gain this control by setting an alarm clock. By and by the alarm clock does no good; they do not hear it at all.
CONTROL IN SMALL THINGS GAGE OF CHARACTER
Whoever allows his will to become broken down as to the time he will arise in the morning has a more or less weak will in all matters. We should make reasonable regulations for our time of rising and of retiring. Having used our best judgment as to what should be done, we should see that it is done. Unless the doing of this should be found harmful to ourselves or to someone else, it should be carried out.
It is important to carry out the dictates of our best judgment so that the will may be strong, so that the individual may not be a vacillating character. The same principle applies to our choice of food. Some will say, "I know that this dish does not agree with me; but it comes to the table, and it seems to agree with others. I cannot eat it without subsequent discomfort; but I like it. I wish it would not come to the table!" So he partakes of it and suffers the consequences. He has the desire for the food, but not the will to resist taking it. The proper course for each one is to see to it that he does not eat what he knows is injurious to him, whatever others may be able to do or may choose to do.
Indecision and lack of character in little things affect all the greater things in life. The person who gets up irregularly is apt to be irregular in business. The person who cannot determine what he should eat is likely to be subject to caprice, to be weak in all his decisions. Such a one will be likely to let some salesman influence him as to what he will buy. Some are too largely subject to the control of others.
A FIRM WILL--NOT OBSTINACY--ESSENTIAL
An old adage has it that "A wise man sometimes changes his mind--a fool never." Ruling our own spirit does not mean that we are to go to extremes and say, "Well, I said I wouldn't; and I won't!" There may be good reasons for changing our mind, and then it would be our proper course to make that change. God is seeking for the class of people who properly rule their own minds. If they learn to rule their minds before they come into the family of God, it will be that much the better for them. But at any rate, the only way they can get into the Kingdom will be by developing character.
The Bible tells us particularly what things are of the flesh, and what are of the Holy Spirit, the holy mind, of God; what things, therefore, constitute the holy disposition we should have. It tells us that we should put away anger, malice, hatred, bitterness, wrath, anger, strife; and that we should put on meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, brotherly-kindness, love. These lessons must be learned. We cannot say that the flesh will ever be brought under complete control; but the will must be there, and as much control of the flesh as is possible by Divine help should be added day by day.
The Lord is seeking people of strong will, strong character. Therefore there must be a positive turning to the Lord and a definite covenant with Him at the first, or else we are not acceptable to the Father. Then after we come into His family we find that some things that we thought all right are all wrong and must be corrected; and in proportion as we have in our past life ruled our own minds, controlled our fleshly appetites and impulses, in that proportion we shall make slow or rapid progress in the new way. How much of consecrated time may we use for business, for pleasure, or in one way or another? How much of consecrated money shall we spend on ourselves? All this is to be regulated by our Covenant with God. We must seek first the interests of the Lord and His Kingdom. These must be first in all our arrangements, and earthly things must be secondary. Hence the importance of fixed character, a will prompt and unflinching for God.