by Glenn Conjurske
Far be it from me to write anything which would encourage a spirit of disobedience, or recommend disobedience as a usual practice. I am generally accused of making too much of authority, not too little. Still there are many in this day whose doctrine of authority is so extreme as to really call for an answer. Most of the teachers of these extreme doctrines are very inconsistent. They stand for implicit and universal obedience to parents, or to husbands, or to civil authorities, but rarely to all authority, or to authority as such, so that we sometimes meet with the anomaly of people standing for implicit obedience to authority in the home, or in the state, who will recognize no authority at all in the church.
All authority comes down from God, and God commands obedience. He explicitly commands obedience to parents, to husbands, to masters, to the powers that be in the state, and to them that have the rule in the church. But we absolutely deny that he commands implicit or universal obedience to any of these, or to any man whatsoever. The principle which limits our obedience to human authorities is, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” This principle is clearly stated in the New Testament (Acts 5:29), and abundantly exemplified in the Old Testament, in such cases as Daniel, his three companions, and the Hebrew midwives in Egypt. These all disobeyed the authorities, and all with the evident blessing of God. Of the midwives we read, “Therefore
—-[because they disobeyed the command of the king] —-God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.” (Ex. 1:20-21). The Lord so far owned the disobedience of Daniel and of his three companions as to miraculously deliver the one from the mouths of the lions, and the others from the burning fiery furnace.
Yet we observe that these examples give no excuse for usual or habitual disobedience, nor to any disobedience whatsoever in matters which do not affect the conscience. Daniel was so far obedient to the authorities above him that his enemies could find nothing against him, and only succeeded in condemning him by creating a new law on purpose to ensnare him. To accomplish this nefarious purpose they must leave what was Caesar’s, and invade what was God’s
—-for they knew they would find nothing against him, except it concerned the law of his God.
And here lies the crux of the matter. In all those things which God has left indifferent, we ought to obey the authorities which he has placed above us, but in all those matters in which God has spoken, whether by precept or principle, either to require or to forbid, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” If a parent, a ruler, or a husband requires us to wear black or white dresses, or forbids us to wear blue or green ones, we ought to obey, but if he requires us to wear them tight, or short, or otherwise immodest, we ought to disobey. No man has the right to require us to do wrong, and we have no right to obey any such requirement.
But we observe that there are different sorts of requirements. If any man requires us to do what God forbids, the case is perfectly plain. We must obey God, and disobey the authority. On the other hand, if we are forbidden to do what God requires, the case may not be so plain, for God may not require us to do it on every occasion, or in every place. If we are forbidden to preach the gospel at all, the case is plain, but if we are only forbidden to preach it in certain places
—-in a city street, or in a city park —-the case is not so plain, so long as we might preach the gospel elsewhere. God himself forbade his apostles to preach the gospel in Asia on a certain occasion. If a husband forbids his wife to attend the meetings of the saints at all, the case is plain. If he only forbids her to attend a certain meeting, the case is not so plain, yet we think she would be justified in disobeying him, for she ought by all means to render to God what is God’s, and if the meeting which he disallows is the one where she has found the blessing of God upon her soul, it may be a matter of rendering to God what is God’s for her to continue there. To forsake a spiritual church, where she has learned to expect the blessing of God upon her soul and upon her children, in order to submit to a husband who will have her attend a lukewarm and unspiritual church, may in reality be unfaithfulness to God. I have known a number of cases in which a spouse has said, “I will go with you if you go to this church, but I will not go to that one” —- invariably preferring the lukewarm and worldly over the zealous and spiritual —-and I have known spouses to submit to this, but I have never known the blessing of God to follow.
I am about to relate a number of cases of domestic disobedience which were owned and blessed of God, and some of these consisted precisely of disobedience to a prohibition to attend a certain meeting, where the word of God was faithfully preached. The blessing of God followed in the most signal fashion in a number of those cases.
The disobedience of an Indian Methodist wife is briefly related by another Indian convert, a Methodist preacher to his own people. “John Sunday informed us of a certain Indian, who was so much opposed to the meetings, that he confined his wife and children to one of the islands, to prevent her attending them. But this poor woman was so anxious to obey God in attendance on worship, that she was in the habit of fording the river every night, and carrying her children on her back. Her husband was afterwards converted.”
The Baptist evangelist Jabez Swan relates several cases of wives who disobeyed their husbands. “A wife came to the church to apply for membership, whose husband said if she was baptized he would roast her when she got home; and he got his wood and commenced heating the oven before she left. She came to me for advice as to what she should do. I advised her by all means to obey the Lord, and if her husband should kill her, the Devil was sure of him, and he would never then trouble her more, for she would find rest in heaven. She promptly obeyed the Lord, and when she got home the oven fire had all burned out, and her husband lay prostrate on the floor crying to God for mercy.
“Another wife, a most genial loving christian, informed her husband of her intention to be baptized. This so provoked his wrath that his soul
—-what he had left —-for he was a drunkard —-seemed like an uncapped volcano, and poured out wrath like cinders and smoke from hell. When the storm had partially subsided, she in a calm tone said, ‘Daniel, I love you as well as I ever did, but shall be baptized to-day, and when I am baptized, if you do not wish me to return home, I will go home with father; he will be to meeting with the family carriage.’ This unexpected coolness and determination disarmed the tiger, and he went out and waited upon her to the water, like a gentleman, as he once was, before rum had honey-combed his heart and eaten out his manhood.
“Another case where a wife wished to follow Christ in the ordinance of baptism, the husband said, ‘I never was drunk, but if you go, I will go to the tavern and get drunk, if there is whisky enough to make me so.’ He put his horses, with the crack of the whip, for the tavern; but, before arriving, he walked his team. On arriving he drank no whisky. The wife returned from church happy. He returned from the tavern with the pains of hell hold of him. Night came on; the family retired. His head seemed as if heated from the fires of the pit. He arose, called on his wife to pray for him, found mercy, and united with the same church.”
Another remarkable case of a wife whose husband threatened to roast her in the oven is related by John Fletcher. “One Sunday, when I had done reading prayers at Madeley, I went up into the pulpit, intending to preach a sermon, which I had prepared for that purpose. But my mind was so confused, that I could not recollect either my text or any part of my sermon. I was afraid I should be obliged to come down without saying any thing. But having recollected myself a little, I thought I would say something on the First Lesson, which was the third chapter of Daniel, containing the account of the three children cast into the fiery furnace: I found in doing it such an extraordinary assistance from God, and such a peculiar enlargement of heart, that I supposed there must be some peculiar cause of it. I therefore desired, if any of the congregation found any thing particular, they would acquaint me with it in the ensuing week.
“In consequence of this, the Wednesday after, a woman came, and gave me the following account:
—-‘I have been for some time much concerned about my soul. I have attended the church at all opportunities, and have spent much time in private prayer. At this my husband (who is a butcher) has been exceedingly enraged, and threatened me severely what he would do, if I did not leave off going to John Fletcher’s church; yea, if I dared to go any more to any religious meetings whatsoever. When I told him I could not in conscience refrain from going at least to our parish church, he grew quite outrageous, and swore dreadfully, if I went any more, he would cut my throat as soon as I came home. This made me cry mightily to God, that he would support me in the trying hour. And though I did not feel any great degree of comfort, yet having a sure confidence in God, I determined to go on in my duty, and leave the event to him. Last Sunday, after many struggles with the devil and my own heart, I came down stairs ready for church. My husband asked me, whether I was resolved to go thither. I told him, I was. Well then, said he, I shall not (as I intended) cut your throat; but I will heat the oven, and throw you into it the moment you come home. Notwithstanding this threatening, which he enforced with many bitter oaths, I went to church, praying all the way that God would strengthen me to suffer whatever might befall me. While you was speaking of the three children whom Nebuchadnezzar cast into the burning fiery furnace, I found it all belonged to me, and God applied every word to my heart. And when the sermon was ended, I thought, if I had a thousand lives, I could lay them all down for God. I felt my whole soul so filled with his love, that I hastened home, fully determined to give myself to whatsoever God pleased; nothing doubting, but that either he would take me to heaven, if he suffered me to be burned to death, or that he would some way deliver me, even as he did his three servants that trusted in him. When I got almost to our own door, I saw the flames issuing out of the mouth of the oven. And I expected nothing else, but that I should be thrown into it immediately. I felt my heart rejoice, that if it were so, the will of the Lord would be done. I opened the door, and, to my utter astonishment, saw my husband upon his knees, wrestling with God in prayer for the forgiveness of his sins. He caught me in his arms, earnestly begged my pardon, and has continued diligently seeking God ever since.’ I now know why my sermon was taken from me; namely, that God might thus magnify his mercy.”
In this account I beg the reader to observe the very signal blessing of God which attended this woman’s disobedience, first in his providence, in securing that the appointed scripture for the day should contain the account of the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace, and next in the undoubted manifestation of his hand in the preacher’s great confusion of mind and the forgetting of his sermon, and further in the evident work of his Spirit in giving to Mr. Fletcher such singular and extraordinary unction on that occasion, and finally, in the further work of his Spirit in subduing the obdurate heart of the woman’s husband.
Another case of a wife’s disobedience is related by Thomas Ware. “During my labours on this district, I formed an acquaintance with some of the most devoted, holy, zealous, and faithful people I ever knew. Some of them had been called to pass through fiery trials; and their steadfastness was proverbial. A sister Jones, of Mecklenburg, was a remarkable instance of this. She was a person of superior gifts as well as grace; and her courage and perseverance in the service of the Lord constrained all who knew her to acknowledge her deep sincerity.
“Her husband cherished the most bitter and inveterate prejudice against the Methodists; and, being naturally a man of violent passions and a most ungovernable temper, he, by his threats, deterred her, for a time, from joining them. Nor did he stop here, but positively forbade her going to hear them. Soon after this, Mr. Easter, a man remarkably owned of God, and a favourite preacher of Mrs. Jones, was to preach in the neighbourhood. Mrs. Jones told her husband she believed it to be a duty which she owed to God and herself to go and hear Mr. Easter, and begged his permission. But he refused. She then said, she should be compelled, from a sense of obligation to a higher power, to disobey his command. At this, he became enraged, and, in his fury, swore, if she did, he would charge his gun and shoot her when she returned. But this tremendous threat did not deter her. During preaching she was remarkably blessed and strengthened; and, on her return, met her infuriated husband at the door, with his gun in his hand. She accosted him mildly, and said, ‘My dear, if you take my life, you must obtain leave of my heavenly Spouse;’ and thus saying, approached him and took the deadly weapon out of his hand, without meeting with any resistance.
“This virulent temper God in due time softened and subdued, so that the tiger became a lamb. When on my way to my first quarterly meeting in Mecklenburg in this district, I called on Mr. Jones, and had the whole history of this transaction from the parties themselves, who, now united with one heart in the service of God, accompanied me to the meeting.”
Another wife disobeyed her husband under the threat of a whipping, and was actually whipped for it, with what results the following account will tell. “Not many miles from the camp-ground there lived an ungodly man, whose wife, though not a professor of religion, having heard of the meeting, was desirous to attend. She had never been to a camp meeting before, and her desire to attend, like that which actuates too many others, was simply to gratify her curiosity. It was with some considerable difficulty that she could get her husband’s consent, for even backwoods wives in that day were accustomed to look up to their husbands for advice. She finally succeeded, however, as women generally do when they take the right course, in overcoming her husband’s opposition. He agreed to stay home and mind the children while she would be absent, but commanded her to come home by the middle of the afternoon, on pain of getting a whipping. The poor woman, with the brutal threat resting over her head, arrived upon the ground at an early hour. Scarcely had she got within the circle of tents and taken her seat in the congregation, till she began to feel sad at heart. A wonderful power had taken hold of her mind. Her thoughts were carried back to the days of her youth; her early religious thoughts were awakened; tears began to flow, as her children and husband passed rapidly but vividly before her; her sins rose up in frightful, hideous forms to her excited imagination and conscience; and tears and sobs gave place to groans and cries for mercy. She soon became an object of attention, and prayers from many a sympathizing heart went up to God in her behalf. She had already remained beyond the time allotted her by her husband, but her heart was too much burdened to think of returning. She could bear reproach, and scorn, and scourging, but a wounded conscience was insupportable. Through the entire day she continued to plead for mercy, and when the shades of night were gathering around, and forest and tent were lighted up with the watch fires, and the voices of praise and prayer were swelling out in anthems and supplications to the God of heaven, she embraced the cross with all the fervor of her soul, and her burden, like that of Christian’s in Bunyan’s Pilgrim, rolled away from her and was lost in the tomb of forgetfulness. It was then that she passed from darkness to light, and from the bondage of Satan to the liberty of the children of God.
“That night was spent in rejoicing, and when the morning came, with a glad heart and free, she started home to meet her enraged and cruel husband. She was always amiable, but she met him that morning with a smile and a sweetness that only grace can spread over the features. With meekness and humility she told him of the cause of her detention, and concluded by a simple narration of what God had done for her soul. This, however, as is usually the case, only enraged him the more, and taking his wagon whip he beat her most severely. This she could have borne without religion, for it was nothing when compared with the lashes of a guilty conscience; but now that her soul was full of the love of God, with a martyr spirit she could have borne the torture or the stake, in the name and for the sake of Jesus. From that hour the iron entered his soul only to be extracted by an omnipotent Hand. He raged like a maniac, and swore that he would take vengeance in firing the encampment that night.
“Night came, and this inhuman fiend started out under its cover to execute his fearful threat. When he arrived upon the ground the Indian brethren were engaged in a most glorious work. The groans of the penitent, and the shouts of praise of the converted, were mingled together, and the sound of the many voices was like the roar of the distant sea. While this sound waked the songs of heaven, it was a ‘dreadful sound’ to that ungodly man, and carried, like the sound in the Assyrian camp, terror to his heart. He drew near. There was terror in his face and wildness in his eye as the watch-fire gleamed upon him, but his heart had lost its courage, and his arm its nerve. As he gazed upon the scene, like Belshazzar, in the court of Babylon, in sight of the mysterious characters of fire, which blazed out upon him, his knees trembled, his heart quaked, and he fell prostrate upon the ground, crying for mercy. He was picked up by an athletic Indian, who fully understood the nature of his condition, and carried him into the circle. No sooner was the sturdy Saul prostrate before the Indians, than a volley of prayer went up in his behalf that almost rent the heavens. He was a prisoner, captured by one the scouts of Immanuel’s army, but he was wounded and dying. His captor bent down closely with his ear, to listen to his dying groans, and would say to him in Indian, ‘by and by.”’There lay the prostrate sinner pleading for mercy. The Indians stood by him, and sang and prayed till long after the noon of night. It was a desperate struggle, and seemed doubtful whether there was mercy for such a bold blasphemer and cruel persecutor. But just before day, when the stars began to fade in the light of the gray streaks of morning, God’s mercy came, the long agony was over, and the blasphemer and persecutor was changed into a child of God; the heir of hell was made an heir of heaven. To the astonishment of all, after his first bursts of praise were over, he related his cruel conduct to his wife, and his intention, as a matter of revenge, of setting the encampment on fire. Some one present interpreted his confession and experience to the Indians. When he was through, the noble-hearted Mononcue stepped up to him, and taking him by the hand said, ‘Now, my white brother, God converted your wife, and you whipped her for it, and God has converted you. Go home and tell her what God has done for your soul, and let her take the same whip, if she desires so to do, and whip you in return. It is good that God has converted you both. Go in peace, and sin no more.”’
The disobedience of the two sons of a German was thus related at a Methodist love feast by the man himself. “Mine dear bredren, I want to tell you some mine experience. When de Metodists first came into dese parts, I tot I was doing bery well; for mine wife and I had two sons, Ned and Jim; and we had a good farm dat Neddy and I could work bery well, so I let Jim go out to work about fourteen miles off from home. But de Metodists come into our parts, and Neddy went to dare meeting, and he got converted, and I tot we should be all undone; so I told Ned he must not go to dese Metodists meetings, for so much praying and so much going to meeting would ruin us all. But Neddy said, ‘O fader, I must serve de Lord and save my soul.’ But, I said, you must do de work too. So I gave him a hard stint on the day of dere meeting; but he work so hard dat he got his stint done, and went to de meeting after all. While I set on mine stoop and smoked mine pipe, I see him go over de hill to de Metodist meeting, and I said to my wife, Elizabet, we shall be undone, for our Ned will go to dese meetings; and she said, ‘What can we do?’ Well, I said, den I will stint him harder; and so I did several times when de meeting come. But Neddy worked hard, and sometimes he got some boys to help him, so dat he would go off to de meeting while I set on my stoop and smoked mine pipe. I could see Ned go over de hill. I said one day, O mine Got, what can I do
—-dis boy will go to dese meetings, after all I can do? So when Ned come home I said, Ned, you must leave off going to dese meetings, or I will send for Jim to come home, and turn you away. But Neddy said, ‘O fader, I must serve de Lord and save my soul.’ Well, den, I will send for Jim; so I sent for Jim; and when he come home, den I heard he had been to de Metodist meeting where he had lived, and he was converted too. And Ned and Jim both said, ‘O fader, we must serve de Lord and save our souls.’ But I said to mine wife, Dese Metodists must be wrong; da will undo us all, for da have got Ned and Jim both; I wish you would go to dare meeting, and you can see what is wrong; but Ned and Jim can’t see it. So de next meeting day de old woman went wid Ned and Jim; but I set on mine stoop, and smoked mine pipe. But I said to mine self, I guess dese Metodists have got dar match to git de old woman, and she will see what’s wrong. So I smoked mine pipe, and looked to see dem come back. By and by I see dem coming; and when da come near I see de tears run down mine wife’s face. Den I said, O mine Got, da have got de old woman too. I tot I am undone; for da have got Ned, and Jim, and de old woman. And when da come on de stoop mine wife said, ‘O we must not speak against dis people, for da are de people of Got.’ But I said noting, for I had not been to any of de meetings, so I was in great trouble. But in a few days after I heard dat dare was a Presbyterian missionary going to preach a little ways off; so I tot I would go, for I tot it would not hurt anybody to go to his meeting; and I went wid Ned, and Jim, and mine wife, and he preached; but dere was noting done till after de meeting was over, and den dere was two young men in de toder room dat sung and prayed so good as anybody; and da prayed for dar old fader too. Any many cried, and I tot da prayed bery well. After dis I was going out of de door to go home, and a woman said to me, ‘Mr. —- —-–, you must be a happy man to have two such young men as dem dat prayed.’ I said, Was that Ned and Jim? She said, ‘Yes.’ O, I felt so mad to tink dey had prayed for me, and exposed me before all de people. But I said noting, but went home, and I went right to bed. But now my mind was more troubled dan ever before, for I began to tink how wicked I was to stint poor Neddy so hard, and try to hinder him from saving his soul —-but I said noting, and mine wife said noting; so I tried to go to sleep; but as soon as I shut mine eyes I could see Neddy going over de hill to go to his meeting, after he had done his hard stint, so tired and weary. Den I felt worse and worse; and by and by I groaned out, and mine wife axt me ‘what’s de matter?’ I said, I believe I am dying. She said, ‘Shall I call up Ned and Jim?’ I said, Yes. And Jim come to de bed and said, ‘O fader, what is de matter?’ I said, I believe I am dying. And he said, ‘Fader, shall I pray for you?’ I said, O yes, and Neddy too. And glory be to Got, I believe he heard prayer; for tough I felt mine sins like a mountain load to sink me down to hell, I cried, O Got, have mercy on me, a poor sinner; and by and by I feel someting run all over me, and split mine heart all to pieces, and I felt so humble and so loving dat I rejoice and praise Got; and now I am resolved to serve Got wit Ned, and Jim, and mine wife, and dese Metodists.”
Observe, the boy was obedient and dutiful, and submitted without a murmur to the hard stint which was unrighteously laid upon him. Still, he must go to the meetings, against his father’s will and command.
We continue with the account of the disobedience of an obedient daughter. Her father was a prominent man, a member of the legislature, and a determined and outspoken infidel. Her mother was likewise an infidel, and this, their only child, was nurtured on infidel books and religiously kept from all religion. In her father’s absence, however, and without her mother’s knowledge, she went to a Methodist meeting, where “the heart of the young girl was broken up, and she wept aloud.”
“When the meeting was ended she returned home; but so deeply was she affected by what she had heard that it was impossible for her to conceal her feelings from her mother, who, in a stern voice, asked her where she had been, almost as soon as she entered the sitting-room. On being informed that she had been to meeting, she became very much excited, and said, in an angry tone, ‘If you go again those ignorant fanatics will ruin you forever; and if it comes to your father’s ears that you have been to a Methodist meeting, he will banish you from the house; besides, you ought to know better. The instructions you have received should guard you against all such improprieties, and I hope hereafter I shall never hear of your being at such a place.”
‘Night came, and with it came the hour for meeting. Now commenced a conflict in the mind of the daughter. She had never disobeyed her mother, nor did she ever feel disposed to act contrary to her wishes in any respect; but her heart longed for the place of prayer, and she felt strongly drawn to it by a secret, invisible agency she could not resist. ‘Shall I,’ she said to herself, ‘disobey my mother, and incur the displeasure of my faither, and perhaps banishment from home? But the preacher said that “the Savior of the world declared that ‘whosoever loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whosoever will not forsake father and mother for my sake and the Gospel’s, shall not enter heaven.”’ I will forsake all for Christ.’ The crisis had come; the gate was passed; and her joyous destiny was sealed forever. She left her home and went to meeting. An inviting sermon was preached, at the close of which seekers of religion were invited to kneel at the mourner’s bench, and pray for pardon. No sooner was the invitation given than she pressed her way through the crowd, and fell upon the bench, crying for mercy. Her full heart now poured forth its griefs in sobs and fervent prayers. … There, at that mourner’s bench, she struggled in agonizing prayer for two hours. … At length the last hymn was rolling up from swelling hearts and tuneful voices to heaven. The last stanza was reached, … and as the last strain sounded in the ear of the penitent, she gently threw back her head, and opened her calm blue eyes, yet sparkling with tears; but they were the tears that told of sins forgiven. She had emerged from the darkness, and the light of heaven was beaming upon her happy countenance, and an unearthly radiance gleamed like a glory on her brow. If before she was beautiful, now that she was adorned with heavenly grace one might think she could claim kindred with the skies. She arose, and embraced in her arms the sisters who had prayed with her, and pointed her to the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world. She had passed the noon of many a night in scenes of guilty mirth and revelry, where she was the foremost of the band, the fairest of the fair; but never did such joy and gladness come to her soul as she experienced on that occasion. She returned home, feeling now that she could gladly bear any thing for the sake of her Lord and Master. When she arrived she related to her mother what had occurred, and exclaimed, ‘O, how precious is the Savior!’ She would have embraced her mother in her arms; but she repulsed her and reproached her, telling her that if she did not cease her nonsense she would drive her away from the house, and that she had disgraced the family and ruined herself forever. She retired to her room, and spent the remainder of the night in prayer and praise to God.
“Soon it was noised abroad that the infidel’s daughter was converted; and some of his friends, supposing, doubtless, that they would render him great service, wrote to him on the subject, giving him the most absurd and ridiculous accounts of her exercises while at the mourner’s bench, and after she was converted. When Mr. P. received this intelligence he was greatly enraged, and swore that he would banish his daughter from his house, and she should be entirely disinherited and disowned. All this moved not the converted daughter; for she realized the truth of the Divine declaration, ‘When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.’ The day was at length fixed for his return home, and Eliza
—-for that was the daughter’s name —-placed herself at the window to watch his arrival. In the afternoon he was seen approaching on horseback, and Eliza hastened out to the gate to meet her father. When, with a pale, sweet countenance, she stepped up to her father to embrace and kiss him, he rudely seized her by the arm, and, with his horsewhip, whipped her out of the gate, telling her to begone, and, with many curses, forbidding her return. Sadly she went weeping down the lane; but she thought of what her Savior had suffered for her, and her heart was staid up under the mighty load which oppressed it. …
“Not far from her father’s residence lived a pious Methodist
—-a poor widow —-and she was apprised of the state of things at the house of Mr. P. When she saw Eliza coming to her house one evening, she was not at a loss to conjecture the cause. The poor widow gave her a cordial reception, and spoke to her words of kindness and comfort. Eliza asked permission to go into the little room, and be allowed to remain there undisturbed. No sooner was she alone than she fell upon her knees, and commenced pouring out her soul to God in prayer for her wicked father and mother.
“But we must return to her father. As he gazed after Eliza, who went sobbing down the lane, it seemed as though a thousand fiends of darkness had taken possession of his soul. He went to the house, and met his wife; but she was equally wretched, having witnessed what was done. He sat down. They spoke not, except in monosyllables. The supper-hour arrived, but he refused to eat, though he had been riding all day. Now and then a groan would escape his lips. He went to his library, and turned over his books and papers; but it was in a hurried manner, and with a vacant look. At length he retired to his chamber, but not to rest. Sleep had forsaken his eyelids, and if he did close them, the sweet, angel face of his banished Eliza would send daggers to his soul. Thus he spent a sleepless night. Next day he wandered about over the farm, and through the woods, like one seeking, with the greatest anxiety, for something that was lost. It was evident to all that there was something resting upon his mind that greatly troubled him. The cause of that trouble, his proud infidel heart would not allow him to disclose, even if the human heart were disposed to lift the vail from the secret sanctuary of its bitterness. Unable to find rest he again sought his chamber; but, alas! his anguish increased, and he began to see the shallowness of his infidelity, and also its dark, horrid nature, in that it could prompt him to drive his lovely, and otherwise obedient daughter from his house, simply because she had become a Christian. From that moment he was a changed man
—-not that he was converted; but from a hard, impenitent sinner he was brought to relent and pray. There he prayed for hours; but not one ray of hope penetrated his darkness. His abused and banished Eliza would rise before him, and his convictions increased, till he raved like the demoniac among the tombs of Gadara. It seemed as if he would not be able much longer to support the mountain weight that was crushing him; for the sorrows of hell got hold upon him, and he anticipated the pain of the second death. Flying from his room, he called his servant-boy, and ordering him to saddle Eliza’s horse and mount another, he directed him to go to every house in the neighborhood in quest of his daughter, and if he found her to bring her home. Seeing that his orders were immediately obeyed, he returned to his chamber; but the load that pressed upon his heart was removed, and the anguish that drank up his spirits was gone. He was comforted, but not converted. The raging deep was calmed, but the sun shone not upon its dark waters. He walked out into the garden, and there, beneath Eliza’s favorite bower, he kneeled down, and again lifted up his heart and commended himself to God. Scarcely had his knees touched the ground till the Sun of righteousness arose, with healing in its beams, upon him, and pervading all the great deep of his mind, lighted it up with the peace and calm of heaven.
“For twenty-four hours, without eating or sleeping, Eliza remained in that widow’s room, engaged in earnest supplication for her father. The pious mother in Israel, in looking out of her window, as the day was drawing to a close, saw the servant coming with two horses, and she ran immediately into the little room, exclaiming, ‘Eliza, arise, your father has sent for you. I see John coming with your horse and saddle.’ The happy child arose, and burst out in rapturous exclamations of praise to God for his goodness and mercy in touching her father’s heart. She was soon in her saddle, and the faithful charger bore her fleetly to her home as if proud of his burden. When in sight of home she saw her weeping father, standing at the same gate from whence, on the evening before, he had driven her a fugitive abroad. She sprang from her horse into his arms, and embracing his child with a love he never experienced before, he exclaimed, ‘My angel of mercy, I give you my heart and my hand to travel with you to the heavenly inheritance.’ It was a happy family; for the mother was soon converted, and joined with the father and daughter in the service of God, and they all continued faithful disciples of Christ till they were called from the Church militant to the Church triumphant in heaven.”
We conclude our examples of domestic disobedience with the following account of the disobedience of a slave. Cuff, the slave, was converted, and was a regular preacher in the little Methodist chapel on his pious master’s plantation. His master died, however, and Cuff passed into the hands of a son, who at length sold him. The buyer “was by profession an infidel, and carefully avoided going to any religious meetings, though his wife, previous to her marriage, had often attended, and had listened with unusual interest to the eloquent negro. Having gone round and inspected the slaves, as was customary among buyers, he was struck most favorably with the appearance of Cuff, and believing he would suit him, he began to question his master in regard to his good and bad qualities. The young master informed the infidel that Cuff was the most honest and upright negro he ever knew, and he could only think of one fault which he had that might make him objectionable to the purchaser, and that was, that ‘he would pray and go to meeting.”
”Ah,’ said the infidel, ‘is that all you have against him? I can soon whip that out of him.”
‘He made the purchase and took him home. Cuff, with a sad heart, left the old homestead, and his brethren, and the little chapel, where he had enjoyed so much religious comfort. When he had performed the duties of the day enjoined by his new master, he started out to seek a place for private prayer. Adjoining the garden was a nursery, and it being a secluded spot, he retired amid the thicket of young trees with which it was filled, and there alone he kneeled and poured out his burdened spirit to God. While engaged in his devotions his young mistress, who was walking in the garden, overheard him, and, drawing nigh to listen, she soon recognized the eloquent voice that had thrilled her at the Woodland Chapel. She was chained to the spot, as the low and melancholy tones of the supplicant were breathed into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth; and when, with fervor, he prayed for the blessing of God to come down upon his new master and mistress, the unsealed fountain of her heart poured forth its tears.
“On the ensuing Sabbath Cuff went to meeting, and also at night, but returned so as to be ready for duty early on Monday morning. He was not aware of the infidel character of his master, though, from what he had seen and heard during the short time he had been with him, he knew that he was a stranger to grace. Knowing, also, that there are many irreligious people, who, nevertheless, have a great respect for religion and its institutions, when Cuff was asked the next morning by his master where he had been, he said, ‘I have been to meetin; and, bless de Lord, it was a good time, massa.”
”Cuff,’ said the master, in a gruff, angry voice, ‘you must quit praying; I will have none of it about the place.”
”Massa, I do any thing you tell me dat I can do; but I can’t quit praying. My Massa in heaven command me to pray.”
”But you shall quit it, and promise to do so or I will whip you.”
”I can not do one nor the other, massa.”
”Follow me, then, you obstinate negro,’ said the master, greatly excited, ‘and we shall see whose authority is to be obeyed in this matter.”
‘The slave was led out, and, after being stripped of the few tattered garments that covered his person, he was tied to a tree in the yard. With a rawhide the master inflicted twenty-five strokes upon his bare back. The master then said, ‘Now, Cuff, will you quit praying?”
”No, massa,’ was the reply, ‘I will pray to Jesus as long as I live.”
‘He then gave the negro twenty-five more lashes, and the blood ran down to the ground. At the close of this horrid scene in the brutal tragedy, the master exclaimed, ‘You will quit now, won’t you?”
‘Meekly as his divine Master bore the cruel scourge before him, he replied, ‘No, my massa, I will pray to my blessed God while I live.”
‘This so enraged the infuriate fiend, that he flew at him with all the rage of a tiger thirsting for blood, and plying the bloody weapon with all his remaining strength, he stopped not till he was obliged to give over from sheer exhaustion.
“’Will you stop your praying now, you infernal nigger, you?”
‘The same meek voice replied, ‘No, massa, you may kill me, but while I live I must pray.”
”Then you shall be whipped this much every time you pray or go to meeting.”
‘He was untied, ordered to put on his clothes, and go about his work. When out of sight and hearing of his master, he sang, in a low and plaintive tone,
‘My suffering time will soon be o’er,
Then shall I sigh and weep no more;
My ransomed soul shall soar away
To sing God’s praise in endless day.’
”While this cruel scene was transpiring, the young mistress was looking through the window weeping, and when S. M
—- —- came into the house, she said, ‘My dear husband, why did you whip that poor negro so, just for praying? I am sure there can be no harm in that.”
”Silence,’ shouted the enraged husband; ‘not another word on the subject, or I will give you as much as I gave him.”
‘All that day S. M
—- —- raved like a madman, cursing the negro and all his race, and cursing God for having created them. Night came. He retired to his chamber, and fell upon his couch to rest. In vain he courted sleep, if for nothing else than to shut out the horrid visions of his tempest-tossed mind. He turned from side to side with unutterable groanings. Just before day he exclaimed, ‘I feel that I shall be damned! O, God, have mercy on me!’ He then said to his wife —-the first word he had spoken to her since his threat —-‘Is there any one about the house that can or will pray for me?”
”None,’ said she, ‘that I know of but the poor negro you whipped yesterday.”
”O, I am sure he will not, he can not pray for me!”
”Yes,’ said the weeping wife, ‘I think he will.”
”Then, for God’s sake, send some one to call him!’
A servant was soon dispatched; and when Cuff heard that his master wanted him, expecting a renewal of the scenes of yesterday
—-for he had been praying all night —-he went from his low, dingy cabin into the chamber of his master. What was his astonishment, when he entered, to find his master prostrate on the floor, crying for mercy!
“’O,’ said he, at sight of his injured slave, ‘will you, can you pray for me? I feel that I shall be damned before morning unless God have mercy upon me.”
”Yes, massa, I bless God, I have been praying for you and mistress all the night.”
‘He then fell upon his knees, beside his prostrate master and kneeling wife, and, with a fervor and a faith that opened heaven, he wrestled hard with God for the guilty man. Thus he continued in prayer and exhortation, pointing the guilty to the guiltless one, till morning light, when God, in mercy, stooped to answer prayer, and set the dark, sin-chained soul of the infidel at liberty, and wrote a pardon on his heart. Soon as the love of God was shed abroad in the master’s soul, he embraced his servant in his arms, exclaiming, ‘Cuff, my dear brother in Christ, from this moment you are a free man.”
‘Great was the joy and rejoicing in that house on that day. The wife had also found the pearl of great price, and now one in Christ, as they were before one in flesh, their souls were dissolved in the bliss of heaven. The slave was freed, and employed by his master as chaplain at a good salary, and Cuff went every-where among his scattered brethren preaching the word. The master himself became a zealous and successful minister of the Gospel, and lived many years to preach that Jesus whose name he had blasphemed, and whose disciple he had scourged.”
Now it will be observed that in every one of the above cases the disobedience to domestic authority was followed by the blessing of God, and in some cases the very signal blessing of God. We realize that this in itself is no proof of the doctrine, for we may prove most anything by examples. Yet in this case our examples serve to confirm the undoubted doctrine of the Bible, while they exactly corroborate the examples of Scripture itself.
But they do more. They also abundantly illustrate some obvious facts of human nature. The disobedience of these persons to these particular commands was proof positive of the depth and sincerity of their commitment to truth and righteousness, and such examples of commitment will tell with those who are indifferent or opposed. Such devotedness makes an impression which is not easily shaken off.
But more. These examples also afford abundant illustration of what Charles Wesley used to call Satan casting out Satan. The very rigor and severity of the commands and punishments doled out by some of these authorities was enough to cause them to relent. The devil might use such rigor without a qualm, but this is generally too much for human nature to bear. The most abandoned of tyrants, who have thrust the last vestige of what is most happily called humanity from their breasts, might use such severity with all the hardness of the devil himself, but most men cannot. The disobedience to such commands, then, in the face of such severity, is the surest way to turn the tables
—-to soften the heart of the persecutor, to shame him for his atrocities, and to bring him to his knees before God. It will be observed that in almost all of the cases related above, the persecutor was not only subdued, but converted, and that immediately.
On the other hand, a tame submission to such commands will have no such effect, but quite the reverse, and is perhaps the surest way on earth to confirm the persecutor in his ungodliness. But this is not all, and perhaps not the worst of it. Those who tamely submit to such commands are in fact rendering to man what belongs to God
—-choosing to obey man rather than God —-though it may be under the mistaken notion that God requires this of them, or that in so obeying man they are in fact obeying God. If this be their case, though most mistakes have consequences, they may not suffer so much in their own souls as those who submit to such commands merely for convenience or advantage. It will be a wonder if these do not lose their souls in the process. We could relate examples of this also.