by Boudreaux, Florentin, 1821-1894
Chapter IV. Obedience.
THE fair garden into which we have been admitted has now displayed before us two of its admirable and most salutary plants : humility and meekness. These are the two sentinel shrubs, lowly but most beautiful, placed near the entrance of the sacred region ; their heavenly freshness and their enrapturing loveliness make us forget the earthly and perishable beauties which may have hitherto captivated our hearts, whilst the divine efficacy of their fruit heals the wounds which we may have brought along from the battle-fields of the world, and gives us strength to continue our delightful wanderings in this mysteriously and unspeakably blissful Paradise. When, therefore, we have tasted of that sweetly bitter fruit, when we have learned to he meek and humble of heart, we may step forward without fear, and plunge into the sacred groves, lose ourselves in the bewildering labyrinths, wander amid the Varied flowers and be inebriated with their unearthly fragrances. The air is loaded with the odours of heaven. The branches of the trees bend down with the fruits of Paradise, and seem to reach them to us and invite us to pluck them as we pass. We advance with a cautious, reverential step, for, we feel that we are treading on sacred soil, and as if, at every turn in the meandering pathway, we might meet, face to face, the Divine Presence whose abode we know is in this garden of delights. The next rich ornament of the Paradise of God, or, to drop the allegory, the next virtue of the Sacred Heart which we are to consider, is Obedience. This virtue is allied to humility, and so closely allied, that the one can- not exist without the other. He who is not humble, will never be obedient ; and he who is truly obedient must be humble. Here we already begin to see how true it is that humility is the foundation of virtue ; that we must learn that virtue well before we can proceed in our study of the Sacred Heart.
Obedience, according to St. Thomas, is a moral virtue which makes our will prompt to do the will of another in whom, as our superior, we acknowledge the authority of God. The Angelic Doctor declares it to be the highest, the most precious of all the moral virtues, because it offers to God the highest and best gifts of our nature. It is a most necessary virtue too ; since, without it, there can be no peace or happiness, no spiritual life or progress ; just as in the physical world, there would be, first, a total stagnation, and speedily a total wreck, if the inferior bodies, influences or forces were not obedient to those which are above them. There is order in nature, there is teeming life ; and there is happiness in the abodes of men. The spring produces its blossoms, the harvest its abundance of food and enjoyment. The shades of night wrap the wearied labourer in sleep to restore his strength ; the glorious sunrise awakens the husbandman to his toil, the birds to their warblings, the whole earth to fresh vigour and increase of life. Because the laws remain undisturbed which regulate the movements of the heavens and the rotation of the earth; each body or globe holds the post assigned to it and pursues its appointed path in the immensity of space, subject and subordinate to the one immediately above it, and all of them wisely submissive to one supreme mover, and gracefully cir- cling around one common centre.
Let but one of the countless portions of the system leave its orbit for a single moment; let the subordination of the lower spheres to the higher be disturbed for one instant; and there will be a crash, a ruin, which will reduce the bright creation into a chaos in which all order and beauty, all life and happiness will be forever destroyed. The Author of this natural order which preserves the material world, is also the author of a moral order among His rational and spiritual creatures, and the one is, in many ways, an image of the other necessity of subordination in nature shows the same necessity in man: the ruin, which would inevitably result from a violation of order in nature, indicates the sad effects of a similar disorder in the soul of man, and proves the necessity of obedience to the authority vested, by the decree of God, in those whom He has made superior to others.
The Apostle tells us that “there is no power but from God ; he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God ; and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation.” (Rom. xiii.) The principle then on which obedience rests, the source of its binding force on man’s conscience, is the sovereignty of God, a sovereignty which belongs to Him by nature, by creation, by preservation; a sovereignty which He cannot abdicate, and to which all creatures must inevitably do homage, whether they will it or not. He therefore who refuses obedience to an authority derived from God, is a rebel to the inalienable sovereignty of God; he rises, Satan-like, against his liege Lord ; he arms himself against the King of Heaven and madly proposes to dethrone God. This is strong language, but it is merely putting in other words what our Lord Himself said: “He that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth Him that sent me.” (Luke x.)