Galatians v. 16, 17.
I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
A great poet speaks of ‘Happiness, our being’s end and aim;’ and he has been reproved for so doing. Men have said, and wisely, the end and aim of our being is not happiness, but goodness. If goodness comes first, then happiness may come after. But if not, something better than happiness may come, even blessedness.
This it is, I believe, which our Lord may have meant when He said, ‘He that saveth his life, or soul’ (for the two words in Scripture mean exactly the same thing), ’shall lose it. And he that loseth his life, shall save it. For what is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own life?’
How is this? It is a hard saying. Difficult to believe, on account of the natural selfishness which lies deep in all of us. Difficult even to understand in these days, when religion itself is selfish, and men learn more and more to think that the end and aim of religion is not to make them good while they live, but merely to save their souls after they die.
But whether it be hard to understand or not, we must understand it, if we would be good men. And how to understand it, the Epistle for this day will teach us.
‘Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.’ The Spirit, which is the Spirit of God within our hearts and conscience, says—Be good. The flesh, the animal, savage nature, which we all have in common with the dumb animals, says—Be happy. Please yourself. Do what you like. Eat and drink, for to-morrow you die.
But, happily for us, the Spirit lusts against the flesh. It draws us the opposite way. It lifts us up, instead of dragging us down. It has nobler aims, higher longings. It, as St. Paul puts it, will not let us do the things that we would. It will not let us do just what we like, and please ourselves. It often makes us unhappy just when we try to be happy. It shames us, and cries in our hearts—You were not meant merely to please yourselves, and be as the beasts which perish.
But how few listen to that voice of God’s Spirit within their hearts, though it be just the noblest thing of which they will ever be aware on earth!