Page images

humble obedience; and we never lose any thing of our joy, by laying it aside to attend a duty : and Plutarch reports more honour of Agesilaus' prudence and modesty, than of his gallantry and military fortuned; for he was more honourable by obeying the decree of the Spartan senate, recalling him from the midst of his triumphs, than he could have been by finishing the war with prosperous success and disobedience.

26. Our obedience, being guided by these rules, is urged to us by the consignation of Divine precepts and the loud voice of thunder, even sealed by a signet of God's right hand, the signature of greatest judgments. For God did, with greater severity, punish the rebellion of Korah and his company, than the express murmurs against himself; nay, than the high crime of idolatry: for this crime God visited them with a sword; but for disobedience and mutiny against their superiors, God made the earth to swallow some of them, and fire from heaven to consume the rest; to shew that rebellion is to be punished by the conspiration of heaven and earth, as it is hateful and contradictory both to God and

And it is not amiss to observe, that obedience to man, being as it is “ for God's sake,” and yet to a person clothed with the circumstances and the same infirmities with ourselves, is a greater instance of humility, than to obey God immediately, whose authority is divine, whose presence is terrible, whose power is infinite, and not at all depressed by exterior disadvantages or lessening appearances : just as it is both greater faith and greater charity to relieve a poor saint, for Jesus' sake, than to give any thing to Christ himself, if he should appear in all the robes of glory and immediate address. For it is to God and to Christ, and wholly for their sakes, and to them that the obedience is done, or the charity expressed; but themselves are persons whose awfulness, majesty, and veneration, would rather force than invite obedience or alms. But when God and his holy Son stand behind the cloud, and send their servants to take the homage or the charity, it is the same as if it were done to them, but receives the advantage of acceptation, by the accidental


d Titus Manlius securi percussit filium, postquam hostem gloriosè vicerat in interdicta pogna.-A. Gell. lib. ix. c. 13.

adherences of faith and humility to the several actions respectively. When a king comes to rebels in person, it strikes terror and veneration into them, who are too apt to neglect and despise the person of his ministers, whom they look upon as their fellow-subjects, and consider not in the exaltation of a deputed majesty. Charles the Fifth found a happy experience of it at Gaunt, in Flanders, whose rebellion he appeased by his presence, which he could hardly have done by his army. But if the king's authority be as much revered in his deputy, as it is sacred in his own person, it is the greater humility and more confident obedience. And as it is certain, that he is the most humble, that submits to his inferiors; so, in the same proportion, the lower and meaner the instrument, upon which God's authority is borne, the higher is the grace, that teaches us to stoop so low. I do not say, that a sin against human laws is greater than a prevarication against a Divine commandment; as the instances may be, the distance is next to infinite, and to touch the earth with our foot within the octaves of Easter, or to taste flesh upon days of abstinence, (even in those places, and to those persons, where they did or do oblige,) have no consideration, if they be laid in balance against the crimes of adultery, or blasphemy, or oppression : because these crimes cannot stand with the reputation and sacredness of Divine authority ; but those others may, in most instances, very well consist with the ends of government, which are severally provided for in the diversity of sanctions respectively. But if we make our instances to other purposes, we find, that to mutiny in an army, or to keep private assemblies in a monarchy, are worse than a single thought or morose delectation in a fancy of impurity; because those others destroy government, more than these destroy charity of God, or obedience. But then, though the instances may vary the conclusion, yet the formal reason is alike, and disobedience to man is a disobedience against God; for God's authority, and not man's, is imprinted upon the superior; and it is like sacred fire in an earthen censer, as holy as if it were kindled with the fanning of a cherub's wing, or placed just under the propitiatory upon a golden altar; and it is but a gross conceit, which cannot distinguish religion from its porter, Isis from the beast that carried it: so that, in all disobedience to men, in proportion to the greatness



of the matter, or the malice of the person, or his contradiction to the ends of government and combinations of society, we may use the words by which the prophet upbraided Israel, Is it not enough that you are grievous unto men, but will you grieve my God also € ?” It is a contempt of the Divinity, and the affront is transmitted to God himself, when we despise the power, which God hath ordained, and all power of every lawful superior is such; the Spirit of God being witness in the highest measure," rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as idolatryf.” It is spoken of rebellion against Gods, and all rebellion is so; for “ he that despiseth you, despiseth meb," saith the blessed Jesus; that is menace enough in the instance of spiritual regiment. And, “ You are gathered together against the Lord,” saith Moses to the rebellious princes in the conspiracy of Dathan; that is for the temporal. And to encourage this duty, I shall use no other words than those of Achilles in Homer, “ They that obey in this world, are better than they that command in helli.”

A Prayer for the Grace of Holy Obedience. O Lord and blessed Saviour Jesus, by whose obedience many

became righteous, and reparations were made of the ruins, brought to human nature by the disobedience of Adam; thou camest into the world with many great and holy purposes concerning our salvation, and hast given us a great precedent of obedience, which, that thou mightest preserve to thy heavenly Father, thou didst neglect thy life, and becamest obedient even to the death of the cross. O, let me imitate so blessed example, and, by the merits of thy obedience, let me obtain the grace of humility and abnegation of all my own desires in the clearest renunciation of my will; that I may will and refuse in conformity


e Isaiah, vii. 13.

1 Samuel, xv. 23. ε Ημίν δε πολλών νόμων και καλών όντων, κάλλιστος ντός έστι, Τιμών βασιλέα, και προσκυνείν εικόνα Θεού πάντα σώζοντος.

Plutarch, in Themist. h Ος μάχεται μακάρεσσιν, έμώ βασιλή μάχοιτο. 1 Βουλοίμην κ' επάρερος έων θητέυεμεν άλλα 'Ανδρι παρ' άκλήρω, ω μη βίοτος πολύς είη, Η πάσιν νεκύεσσι καταφθιμένοισιν ανάσσειν. - Οd. λ. 488.

to thy sacred laws and holy purposes; that I may do all thy will cheerfully, choosingly, humbly, confidently, and continually; and thy will may be done upon me with much mercy and fatherly dispensation of thy providence. Amen.


Lord, let my understanding adhere to, and be satisfied in, the

excellent wisdom of thy commandments ; let my affections dwell in their desires, and all my other faculties be set on daily work for performance of them : and let my love to obey thee make me dutiful to my superiors, upon whom the impresses of thy authority are set by thine own hand; that I may never despise their persons, nor refuse their injunctions, nor choose mine own work, nor murmur at their burdens, nor dispute the prudence of the sanction, nor excuse myself, nor pretend difficulties or impossibilities; but that I may be indifferent in my desires, and resigned to the will of those, whom thou hast set over me; that since all thy creatures obey thy word, I alone may not disorder the creation, and cancel those bands and intermedial links of subordination, whereby my duty should pass to thee and thy glory, but that my obedience being united to thy obedience, I may also have my portion in the glories of thy kingdom, O Lord and blessed Saviour Jesus. Amen.


upon the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

1. The holy Virgin-mother, according to the law of Moses, at the expiration of a certain time, came to the temple to be purified. Although, in her sacred parturition, she had contracted no legal impurity, yet she exposed herself to the public opinion and common reputation of an ordinary condition; and still amongst all generations, she is, in all circumstances, accounted blessed, and her reputation no tittle altered, save only, that it is made the more sacred by this testimony of her humility. But this we are taught from the consequence of this instance; that if an end, principally designed in any duty, should be supplied otherwise in any particular person,

the duty is nevertheless to be observed ; and then the abedience and public order is reason enough for the observation, though the proper end of its designation be wanting in the single person. Thus is fasting designed for mortification? of the flesh, and killing all its unruly appetites; and yet married persons, who have another remedy, and a virgin, whose temple is hallowed by a gift and the strict observances of chastity, may be tied to the duty: and if they might not, then fasting were nothing else but a publication of our impure desires, and an exposing the person to the confidence of a bold temptation, whilst the young men did observe the faster to be tempted from within. But the holy Virgin, from these acts, (of which, in signification, she had no need, because she sinned not in the conception, nor was impure in the production,) expressed other virtues besides obedience; such as were humble thoughts of herself, devotion and reverence to public sanctions, religion and charity, which were like the pure leaves of the whitest lily, fit to represent the beauties of her innocence, but were veiled and shadowed by that sacramental of the Mosaic law.

2. The holy Virgin received the greatest favour, that any of the daughters of Adam ever did ; and knowing from whence, and for whose glory she had received it, returns the holy Jesus in a present to God again ; for she had nothing so precious as himself to make oblation of: and besides that

every first-born among the males was holy to the Lord;" this child had an eternal and essential sanctity; and until he came into the world, and was made apt for her to make a present of him, there was never in the world any act of adoration proportionable to the honour of the great God; but now there was, and the holy Virgin made it, when she presented the holy child Jesus. And now, besides that we are taught to return to God whatsoever we have received from him, if we unite our offerings and devotions to this holy present, we shall, by the merit and excellency of this oblation, exhibit to God an offertory, in which he cannot but delight, for the combination's sake and society of his holy Son.

3. The holy mother brought five sicles, and a pair of turtle-doves, to redeem the Lamb of God from the anathema;

a Vide Rodriquez in Explic. Bullæ Cruciatæ ; and Sir Thomas More against Tindal.

« PreviousContinue »