Obedience and Patience

By Henry Tuke (1755-1814)

When the mind is impressed with the belief of the power and goodness of God, and brought under the influence of that love and fear which we owe to Him, obedience to the manifestations of His will becomes the necessary result of this impression and influence. Simple obedience to the Divine will is an indispensable obligation: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Fear and love are motives which are essential to true obedience. Under the law, it was commanded: “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve Him.” “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep His charge, and His statutes, and his judgments, and His commandments always.” “Ye shall observe to do as the Lord your god hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand, or to the left; that ye may live, and that it may be well with you.” “thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: Obey my voice , and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.”

In the new testament, the importance of obedience to the Divine will and commands is very strongly enforced. Our blessed Redeemer manifested how little he sought the praise of men, and how much he desired the glory of His Father, and the real good of mankind, when he gave this salutary caution to his hearers: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord! Lord! shall enter the kingdom; but he that doeth the will of my father who is in heaven.” Again, He saith: ‘Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” And it was the observation of his beloved disciple , “he that doeth the will of God, abideth forever.”

Besides the particular instructions given by the apostles of Christ, the general duty of obedience, or keeping the Divine commands, is thus enforced: “Not the hearers of the law are just before god, but the doers of the law shall be justified. be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. he that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar; and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him, verily, is the love of God perfected.” When we consider these various testimonies to the importance of the practical part of religion; in which is necessarily involved a belief of its doctrines, because these are likewise Divine commands; we shall see the propriety of that conclusion, to which Solomon, after all his researches, was brought: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Intimately connected with obedience, is the duty of patience; by which is understood the bearing with fortitude of mind and resignation to the Divine will, whatever is permitted to befall us in this probationary state of existence. Obedience and patience, or to do and suffer the whole will of God, may be said to comprehend the whole of these duties which religion and virtue require. Patience, therefore, holds an important place among the duties of a Christian. His life is aptly compared to a state of warfare, in which he has not only much to do, but much to bear. He must, in common with other men, submit to many privations and trials, and sometimes his faith will subject him to more, for which, however, it affords ample compensation. But as this compensation is not always immediate, we are called upon by our faith, our hope, and our love to the Lord, without whose providential attention, we are told, not a hair of our heads falleth to the ground, to bear with holy resignation, whatever He permits to befall us; and, in conformity to those excellent examples which are transmitted to us in the Holy Writ, to say, when suffering and trials are our lot, “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” “Not my will but Thine be done.”

When our lord was apprising his disciples of the afflictions which would befall them, he gave them this seasonable exhortation: “In your patience possess ye your souls;” which we afterwards find, when their Lord’s predictions were verified, they had so attended to His instructions as to be able to say: “We glory in tribulations; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of god is shed abroad in our hearts, by the holy Ghost, which is given unto us. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day; for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” The author of the epistle to the Hebrews gives the following instructive exhortations on this subject: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. We have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they, verily, for a few days chastened us, for their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening, for the present, seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

The apostle James, among other exhortations to the duty of patience, gives the following: ‘take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”

As affliction is more or less the lot of humanity, it is of the utmost importance that we endeavour to have our minds fortified by patience, which may be called the stronghold of faith and virtue. To this end, it may be beneficial to us to consider, how much we enjoy, or may enjoy, and of how little we are worthy. Humility is the groundwork of patience. It gives light to the mind and strength to the heart. Says Solomon, “But if thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.” The humble, resigned mind knows that all things shall work together for good; and in times of affliction is enabled to say with the prophet: “Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the God of my salvation.”