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our actions. And since God, having derived rays and beams of majesty, and transmitted it in parts upon several states of meny, hath fixed human authority and dominion in the golden candlestick of understanding, he that shall question the prudence of his governor, or the wisdom of his sanction, does unclasp the golden rings, that tie the purple upon the prince's shoulder; he tempts himself with a reason to disobey, and extinguish the light of majesty by overturning the candlestick, and hiding the opinion of his wisdom and understanding. And let me say this; he that is confident of his own understanding and reasonable powers, (and who is more than he, that thinks himself wiser than the laws ?) needs no other devil in the neighbourhood, no tempter but himself to pride and vanity, which are the natural parents of disobedience.
24. But a man's disobedience never seems so reasonablez, as when the subject is forbidden to do an act of piety, commanded indeed in the general, but uncommanded in certain circumstances. And forward piety and assiduous devotion, a great and indiscreet mortifier, is often tempted to think no authority can restrain the fervours and distempers of zeal in such holy exercises ; and yet it is very often as necessary to restrain the indiscretions of a forward person, as to excite the remissness of the cold and frozen. Such persons were the Sarabaites, spoken of by Cassiana, who were greater labourers and stricter mortifiers, than the religious in families and colleges; and yet they endured no superior, nor laws. But such customs as these are humiliation without humility; humbling the body, and exalting the spirit; or, indeed, sacrifices, and no obedience. It was an argument of the great wisdom of the fathers of the desert b: when they heard of the prodigious severities exercised by Simeon Stylites upon himself, they sent one of the religious to him, with power to inquire what was his manner of living, and what warrant he had for such a rigorous undertaking, giving in charge to command him to
2 Μη έριζε γονεύσι, καν δίκαια λέγης. - Laert.
2 Modum antem tenere in eo difficile est, quod bonum esse credideris. — Sen. ep. 23.
· Collat, xviii. c. 17.
b Apud Enagrinm. De eodem Stylite consulat lector Epiph. lib. i. c. 13. Theod. et 7. Synod. gener, et Baron. ad A.D. 432.
give it over, and to live in a community with them, and according to the common institution of those religious families. The messenger did so; and immediately Simeon removed his foot from his pillar, with a purpose to descend; but the other, according to his commission, called to him to stay, telling him his station and severity was from God. And he that in so great a piety was humble and obedient, did not undertake that strictness out of singularity, nor did it transport him to vanity; for that he had received from the fathers to make judgment of the man, and of his institution : whereas if, upon pretence of the great holiness of that course, he had refused the command, the spirit of the person was to be declared caitive and imprudent, and the man driven from his troublesome and ostentatious vanity.
25. Our fasts, our prayers, our watchings, our intentions of duty, our frequent communions, and all exterior acts of religion, are to be guided by our superior, if he sees cause to restrain or assuage any excrescence.
For a wound may heal too fast, and then the tumour of the flesh is proud, not healthful ; and so may the indiscretions of religion swell to vanity, when we think they grow towards perfection: but when can endure the caustics and correctives of our spiritual guides, in those things, in which we are most apt to please ourselves, then our obedience is regular and humble ; and in other things there is less of danger. There is a story told of a very religious person“, whose spirit, in the ecstacy of devotion, was transported to the clarity of a vision ; and he seemed to converse personally with the holy Jesus, feeling from such intercourse great spiritual delights and huge satisfactions. In the midst of these joys, the bell called to prayers; and he, used to the strictness and well instructed in the necessities of obedience, went to the church, and having finished his devotions, returned, and found the vision in the same posture of glories and entertainment; which also said to him, “ Because thou hast left me, thou hast found me; for if thou hadst not left me, I had presently left thee.” Whatever the story be, I am sure it is a good parable; for the way to increase spiritual comforts is, to be strict in the offices of 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.
c Cassian. Collat. iv. Abbat. Dam. c. 20. et S. Basil. Exhort. ad Vitam Monast. S. Grey. lib. xxxv. Moral. c. 13. S. Bern. De Ord. Vitæ et Morum Instit. c. 1.
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
Tirus 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 alsoe?” 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 idolatry.” It is spoken of rebellion against Gods, and all rebellion is so; for “ he that despiseth you, despiseth men,” 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 Iloly 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.
i i Samuel, xv. 23. και 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, εμώ βασιλή μάχοιτο. 1 Βουλοίμην κ' επάρκος έων θητέυεμεν άλλω 'Ανδρι παρ' άκλήρω, ω μη βίοτος πολύς είη, Η πάσιν νεκύεσσι καταφθιμένοισιν ανάσσειν. Od, A, 488.