I started out some years ago, when I was a student, to find out the meaning of life, to discover what was the ideal-life, and I went for my information to this Book, where I found a sketch of an ideal man, which I want to give you in a very few words, in the language of this book.
The definition of the ideal man I found to be this; "A man after my own heart who shall fulfil all my will."
The first thing a man needs is a reason for being born at all. What are we here for? What is the object of life? I found this answer to that question: "I come to do thy will, O God." And that is the principle which a Christian life ought to be built upon. Our Christian experience is very apt to be made of scraps, bits of sermons, stray texts, and isolated sentences instead of being of a piece and of increasing forces directed constantly from the beginning of life until the curtain drops. If we realized that we come into the world to do the will of God and set the helm steady from the beginning, our lives would work out to a great purpose. The real object of life is simply to do the will of God. When Mr. Moody was in London some years ago, they put up for his meetings, a building which held ten thousand people. After the meetings were over, this building which was put up at a great cost was to be taken down. A number of the committee said, "Well, it is rather a shame to take down this great house after only a few months' use; could we not get some of the great preachers to preach to the people? "They wrote to Mr. Spurgeon, and asked him to come there for a week. They said, "Here is a chance to reach ten thousand people every night," and they magnified the part Mr. Spurgeon would have to these vast crowds. Mr. Spurgeon wrote a letter back to Mr. Moody which I happened to see, and it began with these words, "I have no ambition to preach to ten thousand people, but to do the will of God;" and he declined. The responsibility lay with him to satisfy his own conscience as to why he declined, but what struck me about that letter was that it exposed the vertebral column of that great Christian life. "I have no ambition to do this or to do that, but to do the will of God."
The first thing a baby needs who comes into the world and begins to live is food. I searched my Bible for food for the ideal man, and I found it: "My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me."
After a child has food, the next thing needed is companionship. The hunger of the affections begins to speak, and the child begins to feel around after objects of affection. Hence, the next thing the ideal man needs is friends; and I started out to see what company he would have, and I found this: "Whosoever doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my mother, and sister and brother." All the people in the world, black and white, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, who are doing the will of God, are my mother, my brother, and my sister. They may not believe as I believe; they may not hold the same form of church government as I hold; that doesn't disinherit them, or dismember them from the family. "Whosoever doeth the will of God, the same is my mother and sister and brother."
The next thing an ideal man wants, after he has his friends, is language. Although I cannot find any kind of language he is to talk to his earthly friends, yet I can learn a great deal what it ought to be from the ideal man's prayers, the language which he uses in talking to his Father: "Thy will be done." And let us notice that this prayer does not mean resignation; it is not passive, but active.
To pray this prayer is not in effect to say, "God evidently is going to have his way and we may just as well succumb; it is of no use to kick against the pricks; let us just resign at once; Thy will be done." It is an active prayer, and means, "Let that will work through the earth; let it be done in the world; let it be as energetic in the world, as it is triumphant in heaven, until it carries and sweeps everything in the earth along with it!" "Thy will be done!"
All men may be saved; hence the prayer Thy will be done is followed by the expression, "Thy kingdom come."
It is the will of God that Christ's program for the world should be carried out, and the ideal man will turn away from all the other objects and ambitions one by one until he has centred himself and gives the last drop of his blood to the coming of Christ's kingdom. The kingdom of God is coming in Northfield about as plain as in any other part of the world, perhaps a great deal plainer. Those who know Northfield to-day, and those who knew it twenty years ago, know that even in that short time the kingdom of Christ has been coming here. Things are possible here now that were impossible then; lives are lived here now that were not then; the whole atmosphere of the place has felt the influence of Christ. If you could pass that on to every town in America and to every city, we should see, even in our own lifetime, the kingdom of God coming; and it should be our business, if we try to lead the ideal life, to have God's will done in our town and in our state and city as it is clone in heaven. Let us localize that prayer; let us localize it and particularize it and get it into the bit of the world that we are responsible for and not lose it in space -- "Thy will be done."
I will dwell for a few moments on the other parts of the ideal life. Education is the next thing an ideal man wants: "Teach me to do thy will, O God." One might go on to speak of the enjoyments of the ideal life: "I delight to do thy will, O God; thy statutes have been my song in the house of my pilgrimage." The pleasure of life consists in living along the lines of God's will.
The close of life, the final step of life, the end of it all, is an eternal life; all the other lives may be very fine, beautiful and interesting, and in their way useful, but this is an eternal life, -- "He that doeth the will of God abideth forever." Not an hour of a life lived along that line can be lost, because it is a mere conductor to the eternal, a mere physical means of communicating the spiritual law to this natural world. George Eliot says, "I know no failure save failure in cleaving to the purposes which I know to be the best." I fancy we all know pretty well that this is the best purpose to which we can put our life, -- to do the will of God, and our lives cannot fail so long as we do that. That principle equalizes all life, it makes a life lived in the kitchen and a life lived in the pulpit equally heroic, equally Christian and equally divine, because a servant girl in the kitchen can do the will of God just as much as Mr. Spurgeon from his platform. When life is all over, nothing greater can be said of any man than that he did the will of God, whatever that was.
I close by giving you a text indirectly connected with this: "Seek first the kingdom of God." Seek it first! It is not worth while being a Christian unless a man makes it his meat and drink to do the will of God, and help on Christ's kingdom; and I dare say many of you have found out a further secret, not only that it is not worth while, but that it is a hundred times easier to seek the kingdom of God first than it is to seek it second. A man is very apt to think that if he gets more religious and more earnest, life will be come more complicated, and everything will be very much more difficult. That is not true. Life becomes vastly more simple and vastly more easy the more that a man determines that he will seek first the kingdom of God. Just in proportion as we link our wills with the will of God, there will be a lasting outcome from our lives. Some years ago the Atlantic cable was broken, and the operator on the coast of Ireland used to stay at night and watch the needle, as it waved back and forth trying to utter itself in inarticulate words. For months and months this incoherent muttering went on without any meaning, but one night as he watched the needle, he thought he noticed a change, and he tried to follow what it was saying. He saw it spell out a coherent syllable, and that was followed by a second syllable and a third, and a fourth, until he read whole sentences. In mid ocean the cable had been joined. You know an incoherent, inarticulate muttering comes from a man's voice, or lips, or life, who is not linked with the will of God. The moment those two wills touch and are joined together, and keep together, life begins to spell out its great words, and the messages from the other side become real and intelligent. It is only as we can keep up this connection and live habitually in this great stream of existence in the will of God, which is the winning force in life, that our lives can count for Him.