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Remedies against Disobedience, and Means to endear our Obedience; by way of consideration.

1. Consider, that all authority descends from God, and our superiors bear the image of the Divine power, which God imprints on them as on an image of clay, or a coin upon a less perfect metal, which whoso defaces shall not be answerable for the loss or spoil of the materials, but the defacing the king’s image; and in the same measure will God require it at our hands, if we despise his authority, upon whomsoever he hath imprinted it.

He that despiseth you, despiseth me. And Dathan and Abiram were said to be ‘gathered together against the Lord.’ And this was St. Paul’s argument for our obedience: ‘The powers that be are ordained of God.’

2. There is very great peace and immunity from sin in resigning our wills up to the command of others; for provided that our duty to God be secured, their commands are warrants to us in all things else; and the case of conscience is determined, if the command be evident and pressing: and it is certain, the action that is but indifferent and without reward, if done only upon our own choice, is an act of duty and of religion, and rewardable by the grace and favour of God, if done in obedience to the command of our superiors. For since naturally we desire what is forbidden us, (and sometimes there is no other evil in the thing but that it is forbidden us,) God hath in grace enjoined and proportionably accepts obedience, as being directly opposed to the former irregularity; and it is acceptable, although there be no other good in the thing that is commanded us but that it is commanded.

3. By obedience we are made a society and a republic, and distinguished from herds of beasts, and heaps of flies, who do what they list, and are incapable of laws, and obey none; and therefore are killed and destroyed, though never punished, and they never can have a reward.

4. By obedience we are rendered capable of all the blessings of government, signified by St. Paul in these words: “He is the minister of God to thee for good;”157157Rom. xiii. 4. and by St. Peter in these: “Governors are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers and for the praise of them that do well.”1581581 Pet. ii. 14. And he that ever felt, or saw or can understand, the miseries of confusion in public affairs, or amazement in a heap off side, tumultuous, and indefinite thoughts, may from thence judge of the admirable effects of order, and the beauty of government. What health is to the body, and peace is to the spirit, that is government to the societies of men; the greatest blessing which they can reveive in that temporal capacity.

5. No man shall ever be fit to govern others that knows not first how to obey. For if the spirit of a subject be rebellious, in a prince it will be tyrannical and intolerable; and of so ill example, that as it will encourage the disobedience of others, so it will render it unreasonable for him to exact of others what in the like case he refuses to pay.

6. There is no sin in the world which God hath punished with so great severity and high detestation as this of disobedience. For the crime of idolatry God sent the sword amongst his people; but it was never heard that the earth opened and swallowed up any but rebels against their prince.

7. Obedience is better than the particular actions of religion; and he serves God better that follows his prince in lawful services than he that refuses his command upon pretence he must go say his prayers. But rebellion is compared to that sin which of all sin seems the most unnatural and damned impiety, — ‘ Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.’

8. Obedience is a complicated act of virtue, and many graces are exercised in one act of obedience. It is an act of humility, of mortification and self denial, of charity to God, of care of the public, of order and charity to ourselves and all our society, and a great instance of a victory over the most refractory and unruly passions.

9. To be a subject is a greater temporal felicity than to be a king: for all eminent governors according to their height, have a great burden, huge care, infinite business, little rest, innumerable fears; and all that he enjoys above another is, that he does enjoy the things of the world with others go at his single command, it is also certain he must suffer inconveniences at the needs and disturbances of all his people; and the evils of one man and of one family are not enough for him to bear, unless also he be almost crushed with the evils of mankind. He, therefore, is an ungrateful person that will press the scales down with a voluntary load, and, by disobedience, put more thorns into the crown or mitre of his superior. Much better is the advice of St. Paul; “Obey them that have the rule over you, as they that must give an account for your souls, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for (besides that it is unpleasant to them) it is unprofitable for you.”

10. The angels are ministering spirits, and perpetually execute the will and commandment of God: and all the wise men and all the good men of the world are obedient to their governors; and the eternal Son of God esteemed it his ‘meat and drink to do the will of his Father,’ and for his obedience alone obtained the greatest glory: and no man ever came to perfection but by obedience; and thousands of saints have chosen such institutions and manners of living, in which they might not choose their own work, nor follow their own will, nor please themselves, but be accountable to others, and subject to discipline, and obedient to command; as knowing this to be the highway of the cross, the way that the King of sufferings and humility did choose, and so became the King of glory.

11. No man ever perished who followed first the will of God, and then the will of his superiors; but thousands have been damned merely for following their own will, and relying upon their own judgments, and choosing their own work, and doing their own fancies. For if we begin with ourselves, whatsoever seems good in our eyes is most commonly displeasing in the eyes of God.

12. The sin of rebellion, though it be a spiritual sin, and imitable by devils, yet it is of that disorder, unreasonableness, and impossibility, amongst intelligent spirits, that they never murmured or mutinied in their lower stations against their superiors. Nay, the good angels of an inferior order durst not revile a devil of a higher order. This consideration, which I reckon to be most pressing in the discourses of reason, and obliging next to the necessity of a Diving precept, we learn from St. Jude, viii.9, ‘Likewise also these filthy dreamers despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. And yet Michael the archangel, when, contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation.’

But because our superiors rule by their example, by their word or law, and by the rod, therefore in proportion there are several degrees and parts of obedience — several excellencies and degrees towards perfection.

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