« ÖncekiDevam »
we cannot do better than say that he is one who fears and serves and obeys God. When a man surrenders himself, and offers up his whole self, in spirit, in soul, in body,-in will, in mind, and in act,—to that great and good God Who made and redeemed him, he may truly be called a religious man. Self-will, self-worship, self-pleasing, self-seeking are neither man's good nor man's goodness, but are man's curse and man's sin. In as far as a man narrows his view, and centres all his thoughts upon that little object which he calls himself, in so far he is miserable, and in so far he is wicked. To be happy and to be good a man must take a wide view, and must go forth beyond himself and his own interests, into the great world of human society, and into the vast universe which God has made, and, looking for God everywhere and in everything, must make God his end. Self-denial, selfforgetfulness, self-renunciation, love for others in all its manifold variety of form, and not love for self in anything, is man's business and man's proper good. The good of man is found in submission and subjection to the good of others and to the will of God.
Nothing is more certain than this. The whole religious history of man proves it. What was the test of Adam and Eve in Paradise ? Obedience. “Ye shall not eat.” What was the nature of Adam's sin ? Disobedience. “ Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” What was the sin of those whom the flood destroyed ? It was resistance of the Holy Spirit. They strove and rebelled against God. What was the righteousness of Noah? “Noah was a just man and perfect, . . . and Noah walked with God;" that is, he did God's will. What was the sin of those who
built Babel? They were rebels against the power and authority of God. What was Abraham's perfection ? “Thou hast obeyed my voice.” Wherein was Joseph's strength against temptation ?
- How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God ?” He could not disobey God. Why were Moses and Aaron shut out from Canaan ? Because they rebelled. “Ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin." Why was Korah swallowed in the earthquake? Because he rebelled against Divine authority. What was the crying sin of Israel throughout their whole history? Wilfulness. They promised at Sinai saying, “All that He hath said we will do, and be obedient.” But their whole history is a series of rebellions against God. “Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you," is the character which Moses gave them. “Rebellious children,” “a rebellious people,” people of “a revolting and rebellious heart," "a rebellious nation," "a rebellious house, ” are the titles by which their own prophets described their conduct at different stages in their career. And rebellion against God, rising to its greatest height in the murder of His own Son Whom He sent to save them and reclaim them to obedience, was the crowning sin which drove them out of their own city and condemned them to a life of wandering over a homeless earth. Disobedience, wilful, stubborn disobedience to God was the damning stain upon the Jewish character. And what was the righteousness of Him by Whom the world was saved? It was obedience, perfect obedience. “Lo I come to do Thy will,” were the words in which prophecy foretold His coming. My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me and to finish His work,” was His own
description of the purpose which He lived to accomplish. For the sake of obedience He was circumcised. For the sake of obedience He was baptized by John. “Though He were a Son yet learned He obedience," is the reason for the sufferings which He bore in meek submission to that perfect will. « Obedient unto death,” is the expression which displays the limit to which obedience was carried, and the secret of that moral victory which gives life to His atoning sacrifice. The perfection of our Lord consisted in the completeness of His obedience. He had no self-will. His will agreed entirely with the will of His Father. What His Father willed He willed also. “Not My will but Thine be done,” was the spirit of His whole conduct from the day that He came to earth till He returned again to Heaven. By the sacrifice of His soul in patient obedience, and by the sacrifice of His body in a cursed death He took away sin, and brought in righteousness. And the result of all was, that as by the disobedience of Adam many were made sinners, so by the obedience of Christ
many were made righteous. The world fell by disobedience. The world was restored by obedience. And all who would be saved must find their safety in copying the same righteousness. We are chosen, as St. Peter says, “through sanctification of the Spirit to obedience.” The gospel “is made known to all nations for the obedience of faith ;" we are to bring “ every thought into the obedience of Christ;" we must “obey the truth,” and “the gospel;" so St. Paul teaches. We must bridle the tongue and do works of mercy if we would follow St. James' precept. A faith which saves is a faith which goes on unto obedience.
Every page of Scripture enforces this great truth that the life and happiness of man is found in obedience. “ If thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments," is the spirit of the whole book. The law of God is life, and all good men love it. To them it is not a tyrant whom they dread, but a friend whom they delight to imitate. Their “ delight is in the law of the Lord." Their language is, “Lord what love have I unto Thy law, all the day long is my study in it.” “Thy testimonies have I claimed as my heritage for ever; and why? They are the
very joy of my heart.” To learn the will of God and to do it is their business and their happiness. To do their duty to God and to their neighbour, not as a mere task which conscience sets them, but as the pleasure to which love calls, and the supreme satisfaction of a renewed nature, is the effort and the longing of their lives. They know nothing better than obedience to God. They see no other way to happiness than the way of obedience. They long for that better time when obedience will be perfect. They look forward by hope to that glorified condition when the love of self will be utterly extinguished, and bliss will be found in a perfect service of their fellow-men, and an angelical swiftness to perform the will of God.
Obedience, then, is man's perfection and man's final end.
II. And from this it follows that all religious service must be animated by a spirit of obedience. The sin of Saul which the text condemns was this: he thought that he could please God by an act of religious ceremonial at the very time that he was breaking God's express command. That is to say, he thought that religion was one thing and morality another,-that his own state of mind had nothing to do with his service of God,—that to do right actions was not a matter of much importance so long as he offered in a regular and formal way the proper and appointed sacrifices,-that worship was one thing and conduct something quite distinct and separate from worship. The fact is that Saul cared nothing either for sacrifice or holiness. He looked upon the first as an empty form, and on the second as an unreal fiction. Saul had just that sort of respect for religion which men have when they think that they are bound to show a certain regard to it, as a thing which is generally esteemed and reverenced; but he had no real faith in it, insight into its true character, and he did not see that it was so connected with a man's life and conduct that right action was an essential part of right religion, and that religious service would help and enable a man to act well.
But this Samuel taught him, and taught us too. Religion is not a matter of mere forms, but of forms done in a proper spirit and a living way. God has no delight in mere burnt offerings and sacrifices, or in mere rites and ceremonies, done in any manner and in a thoughtless, careless spirit.
And observe, the Jew was taught this as well as the Christian, though the lesson was one which it was hard for him to learn. The gift of the Spirit has shown more clearly than before that the essence of religion is to be looked for, not in the outward form, but in the inward spirit of holiness. But traces of the same truth are everywhere found in the law and in the prophets. That is the doctrine of Samuel in these words which he spoke to Saul. That is the doctrine of the Psalmist when he declares in one