THE JOY OF OBEDIENCE
I remember reading once somewhere this sentence, "Perfect obedience would be
perfect happiness, if only we had perfect confidence in the power we were
obeying." I remember being struck with the saying, as the revelation of a
possible, although hitherto undreamed-of way of happiness; and often
afterwards, through all the lawlessness and wilfulness of my life, did that
saying recur to me as the vision of a rest, and yet of a possible development,
that would soothe and at the same time satisfy all my yearnings.
Need I say that this rest has been revealed to me now, not as a vision, but as
a reality; and that I have seen in the Lord Jesus, the Master to whom we may
all yield up our implicit obedience, and, taking His yoke upon us, may find our
You little know, dear hesitating soul, of the
joy you are missing. The Master has revealed Himself to you, and is calling for
your complete surrender, and you shrink and hesitate. A measure of surrender
you are willing to make, and think indeed it is fit and proper you should. But
an utter abandonment, without any reserves, seems to you too much to be asked
for. You are afraid of it. It involves too much, you think, and is too great a
task. To be measurably obedient you desire; to be perfectly obedient appalls
And then, too, you see other souls who seem able
to walk with easy consciences, in a far wider path than that which appears to
be marked out for you, and you ask yourself why this need be. It seems strange,
and perhaps hard to you, that you must do what they need not, and must leave
undone what they have liberty to do.
Ah! dear Christian, this very difference between
you is your privilege, though you do not yet know it. Your Lord says, "He that
hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that
loveth Me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest
Myself to him." You have His commandments; those you envy, have them not. You
know the mind of your Lord about many things, in which, as yet, they are
walking in darkness. Is not this a privilege? Is it a cause for regret that
your soul is brought into such near and intimate relations with your Master,
that He is able to tell you things which those who are further off may not
know? Do you not realize what a tender degree of intimacy is implied in
There are many relations in life which require
from the different parties only very moderate degrees of devotion. We may have
really pleasant friendships with one another, and yet spend a large part of our
lives in separate interests, and widely differing pursuits. When together, we
may greatly enjoy one another's society, and find many congenial points; but
separation is not any especial distress to us, and other and more intimate
friendships do not interfere. There is not enough love between us, to give us
either the right or the desire to enter into and share one another's most
private affairs. A certain degree of reserve and distance is the suitable
thing, we feel. But there are other relations in life where all this is
changed. The friendship becomes love. The two hearts give themselves to one
another, to be no longer two but one. A union of souls takes place, which makes
all that belongs to one the property of the other. Separate interests and
separate paths in life are no longer possible. Things which were lawful before
become unlawful now, because of the nearness of the tie that binds. The reserve
and distance suitable to mere friendship becomes fatal in love. Love gives all,
and must have all in return. The wishes of one become binding obligations to
the other, and the deepest desire of each heart is, that it may know every
secret wish or longing of the other, in order that it may fly on the wings of
the wind to gratify it.
Do such as these chafe under this yoke which love
imposes? Do they envy the cool, calm, reasonable friendships they see around
them, and regret the nearness into which their souls are brought to their
beloved one, because of the obligations it creates? Do they not rather glory in
these very obligations, and inwardly pity, with a tender yet exulting joy, the
poor far-off ones who dare not come so near? Is not every fresh revelation of
the mind of one another a fresh delight and privilege, and is any path found
hard which their love compels them to travel?
Ah! dear souls, if you have ever known this even
for a few hours in any earthly relation; if you have ever loved a fellow human
being enough to find sacrifice and service on their behalf a joy; if a
whole-souled abandonment of your will to the will of another has ever gleamed
across you as a blessed and longed-for privilege, or as a sweet and precious
reality, then, by all the tender longing love of your heavenly Master, would I
entreat you to let it be so towards God!
He loves you with more than the love of
friendship. As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so does He rejoice over
you, and nothing but a full surrender will satisfy Him. He has given you all,
and He asks for all in return. The slightest reserve will grieve Him to the
heart. He spared not Himself, and how can you spare yourself? For your sake He
poured out in a lavish abandonment all that He had, and for His sake you must
pour out all that you have without stint or measure.
Oh, be generous in your self-surrender! Meet His
measureless devotion for you, with a measureless devotion to Him. Be glad and
eager to throw yourself headlong into His dear arms, and to hand over the reins
of government to Him. Whatever there is of you, let Him have it all. Give up
forever everything that is separate from Him. Consent to resign from this time
forward all liberty of choice; and glory in the blessed nearness of union which
makes this enthusiasm of devotedness not only possible but necessary. Have you
never longed to lavish your love and attentions upon someone far off from you
in position or circumstances, with whom you were not intimate enough for any
closer approach? Have you not felt a capacity for self-surrender and
devotedness, that has seemed to burn within you like a fire, and yet had no
object upon which it dared to lavish itself? Have not your hands been full of
alabaster boxes of ointment, very precious, which you have never been near
enough to any heart to pour out? If, then, you are hearing the sweet voice of
your Lord calling you into a place of nearness to Himself, which will require a
separation from all else, and which will make this enthusiasm of devotedness
not only possible, but necessary will you shrink or hesitate? Will you think it
hard that He reveals to you more of His mind than He does to others, and that
He will not allow you to be happy in anything which separates you from Himself?
Do you want to go where He cannot go with you, or to have pursuits which He
No! no, a thousand times, no! You will spring out
to meet His dear will with an eager joy. Even His slightest wish will become a
binding law to you, which it would fairly break your heart to disobey. You will
glory in the very narrowness of the path He marks out for you, and will pity
with an infinite pity the poor far-off ones who have missed this precious joy.
The obligations of love will be to you its sweetest privileges; and the right
you have acquired to lavish the uttermost abandonment of all that you have upon
your Lord, will seem to lift you into a region of unspeakable glory. The
perfect happiness of perfect obedience will dawn upon your soul, and you will
begin to know something of what Jesus meant when He said, "I delight to do thy
will, O my God."
And do you think the joy in this will be all on
your side? Has the Lord no joy in those who have thus surrendered themselves to
Him, and who love to obey Him? Ah, my friends, we are not fit to speak of this
but surely the Scriptures reveal to us glimpses of the delight, the
satisfaction, the joy our Lord has in us, that ravish the soul with their
marvellous suggestions of blessedness. That we should need Him, is easy to
comprehend; that He should need us, seems incomprehensible. That our desire
should be towards Him, is a matter of course; but that His desire should be
towards us, passes the bounds of human belief. And yet, over and over He says
it, and what can we do but believe Him? He has made our hearts capable of this
supreme, overmastering affection, and has offered Himself as the object of it.
It is infinitely precious to Him, and He says, "He that loveth me shall be
loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
Continually at every heart He is knocking, and asking to be taken in as the
supreme object of love. "Wilt thou have me," He says to the believer, "to be
thy Beloved? Wilt thou follow me into suffering and loneliness, and endure
hardness for my sake, and ask for no reward but my smile of approval, and my
word of praise? Wilt thou throw thyself with an utter abandonment into my will?
Wilt thou give up to me the absolute control of thyself and all that thou art?
Wilt thou be content with pleasing me and me only? May I have my way with thee
in all things? Wilt thou come into so close a union with me as to make a
separation from the world necessary? Wilt thou accept me for thy only Lord, and
leave all others, to cleave only unto Me?"
In a thousand ways He makes this offer of oneness
with Himself to every believer. But all do not say "Yes," to Him. Other loves
and other interests seem to them too precious to be cast aside. They do not
miss of Heaven because of this. But they miss an unspeakable joy.
You, however, are not one of these. From the very
first your soul has cried out eagerly and gladly to all His offers, "Yes, Lord;
yes!" You are more than ready to pour out upon Him all your richest treasures
of love and devotedness. You have brought to Him an enthusiasm of
self-surrender that perhaps may disturb and distress the more prudent and
moderate Christians around you. Your love makes necessary a separation from the
world, which a lower love cannot even conceive of. Sacrifices and services are
possible and sweet to you, which could not come into the grasp of a more
half-hearted devotedness. The life upon which you have entered gives you the
right to a lavish outpouring of your all upon your beloved One. Services, of
which more distant souls know nothing, become now your sweetest privilege. Your
Lord claims from you, because of your union with Him, far more than He claims
of them. What to them is lawful, love has made unlawful for you. To you He can
make known His secrets, and to you He looks for an instant response to every
requirement of His love.
Oh, it is wonderful! the glorious, unspeakable
privilege upon which you have entered! How little it will matter to you if men
shall hate you, or shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach
you and cast out your name as evil for His dear sake! You may well "rejoice in
that day and leap for joy"; for behold your reward is great in Heaven, and if
you are a partaker of His suffering, you shall be also of His glory.
In you He is seeing of the travail of His soul,
and is satisfied. Your love and devotedness are His precious reward for all He
has done for you. It is unspeakably sweet to Him. Do not be afraid then to let
yourself go in a heart-whole devotedness to your Lord, that can brook no
reserves. Others may not approve, but He will, and that is enough. Do not stint
or measure your obedience or your service. Let your heart and your hand be as
free to serve Him, as His heart and His hand were to serve you. Let Him have
all there is of you, body, soul, and spirit, time, talents, voice, everything.
Lay your whole life open before Him that He may control it. Say to Him each
day, "Lord, how shall I regulate this day so as to please Thee? Where shall I
go? what shall I do? whom shall I visit? what shall I say?" Give your intellect
up into His control and say, "Lord, tell me how to think so as to please Thee?"
Give Him your reading, your pursuits, your friendships, and say, "Lord, give me
the insight to judge concerning all these things with Thy wisdom." Do not let
there be a day nor an hour in which you are not intelligently doing His will,
and following Him wholly. And this personal service to Him will give a halo to
your life, and gild the most monotonous existence with a heavenly glow.
Have you ever grieved that the romance of youth
is so soon lost in the hard realities of the world? Bring God thus into your
life and into all its details, and a far grander enthusiasm will thrill your
soul than the brightest days of youth could ever know, and nothing will seem
hard or stern again. The meanest life will be glorified by this. Often, as I
have watched a poor woman at her wash-tub, and have thought of all the
disheartening accessories of such a life, and have been tempted to wonder why
such lives need to be, there has come over me, with a thrill of joy, the
recollection of this possible glorification of it, and I have said to myself,
Even this life, lived in Christ, and with Christ, following Him whithersoever
He may lead, would be filled with an enthusiasm that would make every hour of
it glorious. And I have gone on my way comforted to know that God's most
wondrous blessings thus lie in the way of the poorest and the meanest lives.
"For," says our Lord Himself, "whosoever," whether they be rich or poor, old or
young, bond or free, "whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my
brother, and my sister, and my mother."
Pause a moment over these simple yet amazing
words. His brother, and sister, and mother! What would we not have given to
have been one of these! Oh, let me entreat of you, beloved Christian, to come,
taste and see for yourself how good the Lord is, and what wonderful things He
has in store for those who "keep His commandments, and who do those things that
are pleasing in His sight."
"And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken
diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all His
commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee
on high, above all nations of the earth; and all these blessings shall come on
thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy
"Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed
shalt thou be in the field.
"Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the
fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and
the flocks of thy sheep.
"Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.
"Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and
blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.
"The Lord shall cause thine enemies that shall
rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face; they shall come out against
thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.
"The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in
thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and He shall
bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
"The Lord shall establish thee an holy people
unto Himself, as He hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments
of the Lord thy God, and walk in His ways.
"And all people of the earth shall see that thou
art called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of thee.
"And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods,
in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, in the fruit of thy
ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee.
"And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not
the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that
thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee
this day, to observe and to do them."
For the Israelites this was outward and temporal,
for us it is inward and spiritual; and, as such, infinitely more glorious. May
our surrendered wills leap out to embrace it in all its fulness!