Page images

maintenance of the doctrine of passive obedience. It is not meant to assert that it is a duty to submit to anything seriously prejudicial even to temporal welfare or convenience, when it can be avoided consistently with higher duties. Firm remonstrance and calm well-tempered opposition are inconsistent with no rational or scriptural precept of obedience, and they are perfectly reconcilable with a constant exercise of the spirit of obedience. It cannot, indeed, be doubted that the maintenance of a perfectly respectful and goodhumoured tone throughout firm remonstrances and opposition requires a more vivid consciousness of a subordinate position and of the duty of submission to authority than many instances of sullen and unwilling obedience. And those who remonstrate the most firmly, and oppose the most steadily, will be those who will submit with the best grace, because with the most enlightened sense of duty, when

remonstrance and opposition have botn failed and obedience becomes inevitable.

There are doubtless cases when the limits of earthly obedience cease, even without supposing its interference with the authority of God's law; but these cases are so rare that the possibility of their occurrence needs only to be alluded to. Those who walk steadily and conscientiously in the path of ordinary obedience have good reason to hope that they will be spared the ordeal of such difficult positions; and if they should ever be called to them, the best preparation for a decision in conformity with God's will, must be the constant and habitual exercise of their spirit in the duty of submission. For thus when the duty comes before them in any uncommon or startling form, they have only the extra difficulty of its peculiarity to encounter; none of the mists of prejudice arising from an indulged spirit of insubordination, will cloud their intel

lect or disturb the clear-sightedness of their judgment and their conscience: "Darkness will be made light before them, and crooked things straight."*

Laying aside the consideration of such cases as the above, and still further of all such cases where permanent harm and inconvenience may result from a nevertheless inevitable disobedience, let us fix our attention more profitably on the ordinary cases of common life in which we may be able to discover that the sin of self-will constitutes the burden of the daily cross.

Social life affords constant opportunities for the voluntary sacrifice of one's own will, of one's tastes, one's comforts, one's habits. These concessions will often be readily made in conformity with the dictates of good sense alone. When the temper is good, it is much easier to yield to others in all trifling matters, than to

*Isaiah, xlii. 16.

disturb the general peace by insisting even on one's own just claims. The sensible and the good-humoured will therefore be the readiest to sacrifice their own will for the public good. But this is no test of the existence of the spirit of obedience, because here the sacrifice is voluntary. It is keenly felt that no one has a right to ask it, that it exhibits a certain degree of magnanimity, and the feelings of selfwill may be strengthened rather than otherwise by such acts of self-sacrifice, as they will assuredly be most likely to be performed by those whose strong characters have a predominance of self-will.

But let the same course of conduct which was cheerfully, because voluntarily adopted, be peremptorily called for by some one in authority over us, and here is a true test of the existence of the principle of obedience. Here comes the daily cross to the self-willed. The time, or the labour, or the comfort, or

the social intercourse which would have been readily sacrificed for love's sake, perhaps even for peace' sake, will not be cheerfully surrendered, perhaps not surrendered at all, for duty's sake. The manner of the claim is probably painful, wounding to your vanity, or wounding to your self-respect, or it may show a total want of consideration for your feelings, for your convenience, for your temporal advantage. This is a cross certainly, a severe cross, but "take it up" patiently, conscientiously, believingly take it up as appointed for you by the hand of God, though coming through the hands of man; then the pain, the bitterness, will vanish, and you will welcome, in cheerful faith, the opportunity of learning obedience by the things which you suffer.

But the duty of obedience is very imperfectly performed, when it is confined to the outward act alone, when an exaggerated view is taken of the selfishness,

« PreviousContinue »