On the Law of God 13-16

On the Law of God by St. Philaret the Confessor
by St. Philaret the Confessor

XIII. The Education and Development of Man’s Will

We must now examine the question of the training and development of man’s will. The moral character and moral value of man’s personality depends most of all on the direction and strength of the will. Of course, everyone understands that for a Christian it is necessary to have: first, a strong and decisive will, and second, a will which is firmly directed toward the good of the neighbor, toward the side of good and not evil.

How is one to develop a strong will? The answer is simple–above all through the exercise of the will. To do this, as with a bodily exercise, it is necessary to begin slowly, little by little. However, having begun to exercise one’s will in anything (e.g., in a constant struggle with one’s sinful habits or whims) this work on oneself must never cease. Moreover, a Christian who wishes to strengthen his will, his character, must from the very beginning avoid all dissipation, disorder and inconsistency of behavior. Otherwise, he will be a characterless person, not presenting himself as anything definite. Neither other people nor even the person himself can rely on such an individual. In the Holy Scripture such a person is called a reed shaking in the wind.

Discipline is necessary for every one of us. It has such vital significance that without it, a correct, normal order and success in work is impossible. In the life of each individual it is of primary importance, for inner self-discipline takes the place of external school or military discipline here. Man must place himself in definite frame-works, having created definite conditions and an order of life - and not depart from this.

Let us note this, too: man’s habits have a large significance in the matter of strengthening the will. We have already seen that bad, sinful habits are a great obstacle for a Christian, moral life. On the other hand, good habits are a valuable acquisition for the soul and, therefore, man must teach himself much good so that what is good becomes his own–habitual. This is especially important in early years, when man’s character is still forming. It is not in vain that we say that the second half of man’s earthly life is formed from habits acquired in the first half of this life.

Probably no one would argue against the fact that man needs a strong will. In life we meet people with various degrees of strength of will. It often happens that a person who is very gifted, talented, with a strong mind and a profound good heart, turns out to be weak willed and cannot carry out his plans in life, no matter how good and valuable they might be. On the contrary, it happens that a less talented and gifted person, but one with a greater strength of will, stronger in character, succeeds in life.

A more important quality of the human will, however, is its correct direction to the side of good and not evil. If a good but weak-willed person can turn out to be of little use to society, then a person with a strong, but evil, destructive will is dangerous; and the stronger his evil will, the more dangerous he is. From this it is clear how extremely important are those principles, those basic foundations and rules by which man’s will is guided. An unprincipled man is a moral insignificance, not having any moral foundations, and dangerous for those around him.

From what source can man’s will draw for itself these principles in order to act according to them? For an unbelieving person, an answer to this is extremely difficult and essentially impossible. Are they to be drawn from science? But science, in the first place, is interested primarily in questions of knowledge and not morals, and secondly, it does not contain anything solid and constant in principles, since it ceaselessly widens, deepens and changes much. From philosophy? But philosophy itself teaches about the relativity and not any unconditional authenticity of its truths. From practical life? Even less. This life itself is in need of positive principles which can purge it of unruly, principleless conditions.

Though the answer to the present question is so difficult for unbelievers, for a believing Christian the answer is simple and clear. The source of good principles is God’s will. It is revealed to us in the Saviour’s teaching, in His Holy Gospel. It alone has an unconditional steadfast authority in this area; and only it has taught us self-sacrifice and Christian freedom, Christian equality and brotherhood (an understanding stolen from it by those not of the Faith). The Lord Himself said of true Christians, “not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven(Mt. 7:21).


Outline Chapter 13 with the following guide:

I. The Education && Development of Man’s Will

A. Examine _____________________________

1. Moral character _____________________________

a. First _____________________________

b. Second _____________________________

B. How to develop a strong will.

1. Exercise _____________________________

a. Little _____________________________

2. Avoid _____________________________

3. Discipline _____________________________

a. Man must _____________________________

C. Habits

1. Good habits _____________________________

D. The Quality of Human Will

1. If a good _____________________________

II. Principles

A. From science _____________________________

B. From philosophy _____________________________

C. From practical life _____________________________

Matt. 7:21 _____________________________

XIV. Strenghening the Will With Work and Vows

Work is an indispensable characteristic of every virtue of man which strengthens his will. It is an obedience placed by God upon sinful man when he lost paradise: “in the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.Therefore, each one of us must work.

In the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, Apostle Paul wrote about the necessity of work: “We beg you, brethren ... to go about your own business and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you(4:11). In the Second Epistle, he sharply rebuked those who act indecently and are superstitious, and he precisely sets forth his appeal to work: “He who will not work, will not eat.We must note here that Orthodoxy never divides work into “white collarand “blue collarwork. Such divisions are accepted in contemporary society which (although less so now) has tended to regard physical labor disdainfully. Orthodoxy requires only that a person’s work be honorable and bring corresponding benefit. From an Orthodox Christian point of view, a person who treats his obligations disdainfully, though he be in a high and responsible post, is far lower than the most insignificant of his subordinates who fulfill their obligations conscientiously, in an Orthodox Christian manner. Moreover, one can easily discover through personal experience what a fulfilling satisfaction is felt by one who works honorably and well, and what a squalid sediment remains in the soul after time spent in thoughtless emptiness.

A false and sinful view of work and amusement is becoming widespread in contemporary society. People look upon work as something very unpleasant, like a heavy, subjecting yoke, and they strive to remove themselves from it as quickly as possible. All their efforts are directed toward “rest(--from what?) and toward being amused ... Rest and amusement are pleasant and enjoyable only when they are earned by previous work. In order to prevent that emptiness and diffuseness in the soul which are so common now in our nervous, restless, vain times, an Orthodox Christian must learn to concentrate, to gather himself together. One must observe oneself in all respects and give oneself an account of one’s moods and longings. One must also consider what must be done at any given moment and the aim toward which to direct one’s efforts.

Speaking of strengthening the will, we must also remember those instances when a person feels his will to be powerless to withstand some temptation or sinful habit which has taken root. In such a case, one must remember that the first and basic means at such times is prayer, a humble prayer of faith and hope. More will be said about prayer further on. In the meantime, let us recall that even such a spiritually strong person as the Apostle Paul spoke of his impotence to struggle with sin and do good: “The good which I desire to do, I do not, but the evil I do not want to do, I do.How much more is it so with us then, who are ill and weak! But prayer can help us, since through it we receive God’s almighty strength to help our powerlessness.

In addition to prayer, vows and pledges have a great significance in the strengthening of the will in the struggle with sin. A vow is a personal promise to do any good, beneficial deed, for example, to help a person in poverty, to build a church or public institution, to adopt an orphan, to make a pilgrimage, etc. When applied to our personal lives, such vows can consist of the following: if a person notices himself deficient in any way–not helpful to others, lazy, having little concern for the family, etc., he must select a definite, constant good deed in this area and make himself fulfill it unfailingly, as his obligation. Pledges are negative vows. One gives a pledge not to commit one or another sin, to struggle in the most resolute manner with one or another sinful habit (for example, to cease drinking, smoking, swearing, etc.) ... It is obvious that a person must give vows or pledges only after having assessed his strength and resolved that with God’s help he will fulfill them no matter what. The Saviour warns us against vows which are made carelessly, without thought and not according to our strength, in the parable about the unwise builder. In the parable, the man began grandly to build a tower, but could not complete it and his neighbors laughed at him, saying, “This man began to build and could not finish.”

If you have made a vow, then having called upon God’s help, set yourself to fulfill it unwaveringly.


Write and answer five good questions that highlight Chapter 14.






XV. The Struggle Against Lust

Man consists of soul and body. Many ancient religions and philosophical teachings spoke of man’s soul being created by God, while the body supposedly came from the evil principle–from the devil. Orthodoxy teaches otherwise. Both the soul and body of man are created by God. According to Apostolic teaching, after the mystery of baptism, man’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the members of the body–through union with Christ in the mystery of Holy Communion–are members of Christ. Therefore, man will pass over into the future eternal blessedness (or into eternal torment) with his entire being–both the deathless soul, and the body which will be resurrected and reunited with the soul before Christ’s judgment. This means that, while caring about one’s soul, an Orthodox Christian must not leave the body without attention. One must guard it–guard it in an Orthodox way - not only from illnesses, but also from sins which corrupt, defile and weaken it. Among such sins, the most dangerous and harmful is licentiousness–the loss of chastity and bodily purity.

It gives us no particular joy to bring up this subject...but it is impossible not to mention it, since without a doubt it is the sin most dangerous for youth.

We are speaking of fornication, of corruption and sexual degeneracy, which are without a doubt the most terrible wounds of contemporary mankind. It is difficult to enumerate the terrible consequences which follow after this sin like an inseparable shadow. We will not speak of specific illnesses which so often result from a disordered life, but most to be feared is the final judgment of Him Who commanded us to lead a pure and undefiled life...

How is one who wishes to preserve oneself pure and chaste to struggle with the temptation of this sin? The answer is simple: first of all, by purity of thought and imagination. It is often claimed that sexual need acts with such insurmountable strength that man is powerless to withstand it. This is a falsehood! This is not a matter of “need,but of depravity and lechery, and results from a person’s unrestrained provoking of himself with thoughts and desires. Of course, such a person builds upon the natural sexual inclination to an excessive degree, and this brings him to sin. An Orthodox Christian, however, who is God-loving and strict with himself, will never allow, never permit that bad desires and thoughts possess his mind and heart. In order to accomplish this, he will call upon God’s help in prayer and by the sign of the Cross, and struggle against such thoughts the instant they appear. By effort of the will one will bring one’s thoughts over to prayer, or at least to other, more edifying subjects. If one allows oneself to be inflamed by impure imagination, it means that one has depraved and ruined oneself. In order to struggle with bad thoughts, an Orthodox person must firmly turn away from and quickly depart from all that can elicit these bad thoughts. Our Saviour was not speaking in vain when He so strictly warns us of the impure, lecherous gaze–and the gaze Christ warned us about went no further than looking. So dangerous is mental temptation.

There are so many temptations: a general degeneration of morals and a departure from a pure, ordered Orthodox life, a disturbed and harmful relationship to marriage and married life–these cannot help but act upon the young soul. Added to this, there are motion pictures and literature vying with each other in praising sin and describing it in the most alluring colors, with complete shamelessness. Contrived music, dances and entertainments so blind contemporary, paganized “Christiansociety that it no longer perceives their sin and harmfulness. Various types of obscene humor are now quite acceptable in society. All this is a spiritual rottenness and pestilence, corrupting and killing the mind and heart of man–all this cloud of temptations moves upon the young, developing soul of humanity.

Blessed is the one who from youth to the end of one’s days has remained pure in body and soul. Blessed is the one who is brought with the fragrant freshness, strength of untouched power of the soul and body, into a bright wedded union consecrated by God through the Church; or who preserves all this to the grave in the radiant purity of virginity and chastity! God blesses only two paths for man on earth: either the holy path of Christian marriage, an indissoluble union of two hearts; or else a higher and holier path, a path of virginity, a consecration of oneself to God and neighbors–holy monasticism.

Terrible is the end of the path of him who disdains, ignores and stubbornly violates the laws of Orthodox purity and truth given by God, thus killing the soul.


Define the following terms using the words from Chapter 15.

Man -

Man’s body (after baptism) -

Sin (most dangerous to youth) -

Pure and chaste -

Temptations -

Holy Path -

Holier Path -