On Character — Chapter 4 “Self-Control”

selfcontrolProverbs 25:28 is simultaneously one of my most and least favourite verses. It inspires me to pray for and practice “rule over my spirit” as the KJV phrases it, while also warning against the consequences of an undisciplined character. Ms. Soulsby’s fourth chapter deals with precisely this topic, largely in relation to educating children, but certainly just as applicable to the willing adult.

Instant obedience, at first to an outer voice, and very early in life to an inner voice, is almost entirely physical habit.” [Ch. 4, pg. 62]

… it is only this half of our task [i.e. self control] which is absolutely in our own power; all our life long, the development of our higher nature–the increase of our spiritual and intellectual force–is more or less a gift from without…What we can do, in childhood and youth (and, thank God! in middle age and old age too), is to dig those channels of self-controlled habits, through which (if we do our yeoman’s service faithfully) the waters of grace and power will assuredly flow some day.” [Ch. 4, pg. 65]

I know I’ve offered some limited commentary in past regarding how each quote speaks to me personally, but I think this week I’ll just let Ms. Soulsby speak for herself. It’s unnecessary to say that self-restraint–apart from not being especially fun–isn’t popular in modern society. Our culture (even in the church) isn’t much for telling us, and us women especially, to buckle down and do what we’re supposed to even when it’s hard. That isn’t to make light of anyone’s personal circumstances. God knows that I’ve been blessed with a very simple, very peaceful life and I have no business giving out trite advice about sucking it up. Regardless, God is infinitely faithful and infinitely merciful. It’s a living faith–living out our faith, in fact–when we trust God to fulfill His promises and simply obey. There, I’m done, get your dose of Soulsby.

“…I am very sure that we can each of us attest, that fasting, in some form, is a necessary medicine, and that self-indulgence…is, as I have heard it well put, ‘a dry rot eating the moral fibre.'” [Ch. 4, pg. 67]

“…Developmental of the higher nature is our ultimate aim in education, but restraint of the lower is the necessary foundation of the work.” [Ch. 4, pg. 64]

“Each stage of life has its fresh responsibilities, and we treat each set exactly as we have treated the last, i. e. we face the complications of property and marriage, exactly as we were taught to deal with pocket-money, and getting up, and sweets, and lessons.” [Ch. 4, pg. 69]

“No knowledge of evil and no warnings guard anyone against evil passions–the only safeguard is the habit of duty and of self-control, which brings those passions into subjection. What gets a girl into serious mischief in later life? Is it not the habit of doing what is pleasant at the moment? the habit of drifting through life…?” [Ch. 4, pg. 72]

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