By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;…
What, then, is it that a person does when he chooses? Why is it that he sifts the myriad influences that are exerted upon him, appropriating some and rejecting others? There are a thousand things that come in to-day, and there are a thousand things that come in to-morrow, to affect us. Each hour shifts the glass. The world, like a glass, is perpetually turning. We are all the time seeing different combinations. And we learn instinctively to choose from among the things that rise up before us. We have taken the line of our life, and we say, "All that I have must lie parallel with that line. I cannot take this or that at pleasure." And our life is a system of selecting and rejecting. In looking around we put our eye on this or on that, and choose it; and then we follow up that which we have chosen. A desire which is so much a desire that the reason, when it is true to its function approves it as rational, and that the will applies the means to the end, and that you prefer it, together with all the circumstances which are required for getting it — that is a choice. Choosing takes, not the thing alone, but the whole apparatus by which it is to be obtained. Choosing is not only desire, but the machinery by which desire becomes reality. Choosing always carries with it something more potential than mere susceptibility. So that when a man says, "I choose such a thing," it is as if he said, "I think that thing to be not only desirable, but more desirable than other things that are inconsistent with it; and so much more desirable that for its sake I will give them up, and will apply all the forces that are necessary to getting it." Such is choosing.
1. There are a great many young men and young women who desire very much to be cultivated and educated. They have some genuine tastes. They take pleasure in the finer aesthetic elements. They desire to have an education. And if you were to ask them, "Do you choose to be educated?" they would say, "Certainly, I do choose to be educated." But no, they do not. They desire to be educated, but it is one of those desires which everybody is subject to. Myriads of desires we have which never ripen. Have you ever noticed what a profusion of apple blossoms there are every spring, and how few apples there are that come from them? There are a million blossoms to a bushel of apples. Just so it is with desires and choices. Men have a million of desires to a bushel of choices. So that when you say, "I choose to be educated," you are mistaken. You do not choose it; you desire it — that is all. You have sometimes thought to yourself, "How nice it would be if I could speak the modern languages! " but you did not choose to take the pains to learn the French and German and Spanish. You tried once or twice, and got stuck in the grammar the first thing, and gave up. When you saw what such a choice involved you did not venture upon it. Your choice was, "Give me present pleasure; give me good prospects in this world; give me something to eat and something to drink and something to wear; give me a place where I shall be praised and where I shall be honoured, and I will let intelligence go, and I will pick up what little information I need to get through life with." And so it turns out to be nothing more than a fair dream which so many young persons have in early life when they say, "I will be a knowing man." They desire knowledge, but they choose ignorance, or only partial knowledge.
2. There are men who desire to be rich, and make up their minds that they are going to be rich — that is, they say they are, until they begin to find out what it costs. This is the young man that came down to the city to be rich, but the moment he found that gaining wealth required self-denial, painstaking industry and integrity, the moment he found that it required that a man should rebuff the tempters on the right and on the left, and hold himself steadily to his purpose, he did not, choose riches. He chose self-indulgence, he chose the wine-cup, he chose pleasures, he chose companionship, he chose the present and let the future take care of itself. And when he came down to that which he had chosen — pleasure and its outcome — he was bankrupt and destroyed.
3. There are a great many men among you who choose, as you suppose, to so grow up that they shall have an established reputation, and the things which properly belong to a good character. There are many men who come into life, and begin life, feeling that they desire to have an honourable name. They do desire it, but whether they choose it or not we can tell when we see how they act. If they are circumspect, vigilant, and self-denying, if they take a high standard, if they steadily press their way up, if they buffet every temptation, if they are really forming themselves on a high model, and are seeking for honour or glory, then we say that they have chosen such a name. Otherwise we say that they have merely desired it.
4. There are very many persons who desire the happiness which comes from well-doing, and they also desire clandestine enjoyment of evil-doing. There is nothing in this world which more men are mistaken about than the possibility of being wicked underhandedly and having good on the top of it. You cannot grind charcoal downstairs and keep clean upstairs. But many men are trying that which is just as impossible. "You cannot serve God and Mammon." You cannot obey Christ and Belial. You must choose between them, and take one or the other. And desiring is not choosing. When men are doing wrong, and they know it and regret it, as they often do; when wrong puts them into this or that misalliance; when they are filled with shame — which is God's quickener of the conscience; when they come very near the verge of destruction, and are filled with fear; when they come to a sense of their danger, so that they desire to be free from their wickedness, they only desire it. They do not choose it. If they did choose it they could break their bonds and rise up and be free.
5. Rising from the question of morality to that of spirituality, there are a great many persons who, all their life long, have the impression that they should be Christians, and mean to be Christians, and hope they shall be. I talk with these persons and say, "Do you not choose to be a good man?" "Yes; oh yes." "Do you not choose to repent?" "Yes." "And to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?" "Yes." "To rise up into the spirit of communion with Him?" "Yes." "And to live by faith of Christ and love to God and man?" "Yes." "And to purify your life with everything that is consistent with the Divine will?" "Yes, it is eminently desirable," you say. This, then, is precisely the ground on which you stand; you have the moral sensibility to see that it it desirable, but you have not moral stamina enough to choose it.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;