ON THE VIRTUE OF OBEDIENCE
Consider first, that obedience is a virtue which teaches us readily to embrace and diligently to put in execution whatever is commanded us, either immediately by God himself, or by our lawful superiors, who have their authority from God, and whom he wills and commands us to submit to as to himself, and to obey for his sake, 1 Peter ii. 13. This virtue, like humility, her mother, is the special favourite of heaven, as God has abundantly declared, by preferring on many occasions our obedience before all other sacrifices we can offer him. ‘Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims,’ said Samuel to Saul, 1 Sam. xv. 22, 23, ‘and not rather that his voice should be obeyed? For obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken rather than to offer the fat of rams; because it is like the sin of witchcraft to rebel, and like the crime of idolatry to refuse to obey,’ viz., inasmuch as disobedience gives away from God and makes over to his enemy the best offering our poor stock can afford – that is, our will: now, our will he chiefly calls for, and whatsoever else we give him it is all nothing as long as we refuse to give him our will by obedience. The sacrifice of our hearts he calls for, and not for that of our flocks, or of any other things we can give him, without obedience.
Consider 2ndly, how precious in the sight of God this virtue of obedience must be, since he singled it out amongst all virtues, to be the proper exercise of our first parents, immediately upon their creation in the earthly paradise; that by the acts of it they might acknowledge their dependence on their creator, show their inviolable fidelity to him, and merit, by their perseverance in obedience, an eternal union with him. The happiness or misery, both of them and of all their posterity, that is of all mankind, both for time and eternity, was to be determined by their obedience or disobedience. But O the dismal train of evils they have entailed upon us all, by withdrawing their necks from the sweet yoke of obedience! – evils that must have been without remedy for eternity, had not the obedience of the second Adam stept in to cancel the disobedience of the first Adam: according to that of the apostle, Rom. v. 19, ‘As by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many shall be made just.’ The disobedience of the first parents of our flesh involved us all in sin; the obedience of the true parent of our spirit has purchased all mercy, grace, and salvation for our souls. But all this good purchased for us by the obedience to him, who because ‘the cause of eternal salvation to all that obey him,’ Heb. v. 9.
Consider 3rdly, that all such as have pleased God from the beginning, have all been eminent in the virtue of obedience. This joined with faith made Abraham the favourite of God, and procured for him that all generations should be blessed in his seed. This was the virtue of all the patriarchs and prophets, and of all the saints of God. ‘Rather to die than not to obey,’ was the general maxim of all the saints. But the great pattern of obedience was the Saint of saints, whose whole life, from the first instant of his conception till his expiring upon the cross, was one continued exercise of the most consummate obedience. All the thoughts, words, and actions of his mortal life were the fruits of obedience: they were all levelled at doing his Father’s will and obeying his commandments. ‘I came down from heaven,’ says he, John vi. 38, ‘not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work,’ John iv. 34. ‘I seek not my own will, but the will of him that sent me,’ John v. 30. ‘I lay down my life of myself, and I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father,’ John x. 18. ‘I have not spoken of myself, but the Father who sent me, he gave me commandment what I should say, and what I should speak,’ & c., John xii. 49. ‘He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,’ Philip. ii. 8, that we might enter into the like sentiments of perpetual obedience and humility, (verse 5). and shall not this great example of the Son of God himself, inspire us with an ardent desire of living and dying in the arms of obedience?
Conclude if thou desirest to please God, to offer him continually the sacrifice of thy heart, will, and liberty, by perfect obedience to God himself, for his own sake, ‘and to every human creature for God’s sake,’ 1 Pet. ii. 13, that is, to all that have authority from God over thee, whether in church or in state. In obeying them, thou obeyest God, Luke x. 16; in resisting them, thou ‘resistest the ordinance of God to thy own damnation,’ Rom. xiii. 2.