Love makes obedience easy.--T. Watson

The education of the will is the object of our existence.--Emerson

To learn obeying is the fundamental art of governing.--Carlyle

True obedience neither procrastinates nor questions.--Francis Quarles

If thou wouldst be obeyed as a father, be obedient as a son.

--William Penn
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By obedience is meant submission to authority, and to proper restraint

and control. It is the doing of that which we are told to do; and the

refraining from that which is forbidden. At its very best it may be

defined as the habit of yielding willingly to command or restraint.

As observation forms the first step in the culture of the mind, so

obedience forms the first step in the building of the character. It is

as important to the life as is the foundation to the house. Thomas

Carlyle has well said that "Obedience is our universal duty and destiny,

wherein whosoever will not bend must break." It is impossible to escape

from it altogether, and it is therefore wise to learn to obey as early

in life as possible.

It does not take very long for a child to learn that it cannot do

everything that it would like to do. The wishes of others must be

regarded. These wishes spring from a knowledge of what is best.

Children, with their limited experiences, cannot always foresee the

consequences of their doings. For their own good they must not be

allowed to do anything that would result in harm to themselves or to

others. Some one must oversee and direct them until they can act

intelligently. Obedience is one of the principal laws of the family. The

harmony and peace of the entire household depend upon it.

True obedience does not argue nor dispute; neither does it delay nor

murmur. It goes directly to work to fulfil the commands laid upon us, or

to refrain from doing that which is forbidden. "Sir," said the Duke of

Wellington to an officer of engineers, who urged the impossibility of

executing his orders, "I did not ask your opinion. I gave you my orders,

and I expect them to be obeyed."

A story is told of a great captain, who, after a battle, was talking

over the events of the day with his officers. He asked them who had done

the best that day. Some spoke of one man who had fought very bravely,

and some of another. "No," said he, "you are all mistaken. The best man

in the field to-day was a soldier, who was just lifting his arm to

strike an enemy, but when he heard the trumpet sound a retreat, checked

himself, and dropped his arm without striking a blow. That perfect and

ready obedience to the will of his general, is the noblest thing that

has been done to-day."

The instant obedience of the child is as beautiful and as important as

that of the soldier. The unhesitating obedience which springs from a

loving confidence is beautifully illustrated in the following incident:

A switchman in Prussia was stationed at the junction of two lines of

railroad. His hand was on the lever for a train that was approaching.

The engine was within a few seconds of reaching his signal box when, on

turning his head, the switchman saw his little boy playing on the line

of rails over which the train was to pass. "Lie down!" he shouted to the

child; but, he himself, remained at his post. The train passed safely on

its way. The father rushed forward, expecting to take up a corpse; but

what was his joy on finding that the boy had obeyed his order so

promptly that the whole train had passed over him without injury. The

next day the king sent for the man and attached to his breast the medal

for civil courage.

A cheerful obedience is one of the strongest proofs of love. "Love is to

obedience like wings to the bird, or sails to the ship. It is the agency

that carries it forward to success. When love cools, obedience slackens;

and nothing is worthy of the name of love that leads to disobedience."

We remember the anecdote of a Roman commander, who forbade an engagement

with the enemy, and the first transgressor was his own son. He accepted

the challenge of the leader of the other host, slew and disrobed him,

and then in triumph carried the spoils to his father's tent. But the

Roman father refused to recognize the instinct which prompted this, as

deserving the name of love.

Many of the restraints laid upon us result from the love of those in

authority. If we were permitted to pursue our own inclinations, our

health might be destroyed, our minds run to waste, and we should be apt

to grow up slothful and selfish; a trouble to others and burdensome to

ourselves. It is far easier to obey our parents and friends when we

recall that we have experienced their goodness long enough to know that

they wish to make us happy, even when their commands seem most severe.

Let us, therefore, show our appreciation of their goodness by doing

cheerfully what they require.

The will is supported, strengthened, and perfected by obedience. There

are many who suppose that real strength of will is secured by giving it

free play. But we really weaken it in that way. Obedience to a

reasonable law is a source of moral strength and power. Obedience is not

weakness bowing to strength, but is rather submission to an authority

whose claims are already admitted. If a man is royal when he rules over

nature, and yet more royal when he rules his brother man, is he not most

royal when he so rules himself as to do the right even when it is


A man who had declared his aversion for what he called the dry facts of

political economy, was found one day knitting his brows over a book on

that subject. When a friend expressed surprise, the man replied: "I am

playing the schoolmaster with myself. I am reading this because I

dislike it."

Difficulties are often really helpful. They enlarge our experience and

incite us to do our best. "The head of Hercules," says Ruskin, "was

always represented as covered with a lion's skin, with the claws joining

under the chin, to show that when we had conquered our misfortunes they

became a help to us."

One of the greatest hindrances to obedience is a false pride. The

thought of living under the will and direction of another is exceedingly

unpleasant, and where such a pride bears rule in the heart, a cheerful

obedience is almost an impossibility. We often fail to obey simply

because we are unwilling to acknowledge ourselves in the wrong.

Obedience is also hindered by ignorance. One of our commonest errors is

that which teaches that authority is always pleasant, and submission

always painful. The actual experiences of life prove that the place of

command is usually a position of great anxiety, while the place of

obedience is generally one of ease and freedom from care.

Indolence also opposes obedience. In our selfish love of ease we allow

duties to go undone until the habit of disobedience becomes almost

unnoticeable; but when we find ourselves compelled to resist it, we then

discover that to break away from its power is one of the hardest tasks

we can be called upon to perform.


A very striking example of prompt and unquestioning obedience is

furnished us in that famous "Charge of the Light Brigade" at Balaclava,

during the Crimean War, of which you have all doubtless heard. A series

of engagements between the Russians on the one side, and the English and

their allies on the other side, took place near this little town, on

October 25, 1854. The Russians were for a time victorious, and at last

threatened the English port of Balaclava itself. The attack was diverted

by a brilliant charge of the Heavy Brigade, led by General Scarlett.

Then, through a misunderstanding of the orders of Lord Raglan, the

commander-in-chief, Lord Cardigan was directed to charge the Russian

artillery at the northern extremity of the Balaclava valley with the

Light Brigade, then under his command.

Lord Cardigan was an exceedingly unpopular officer, and greatly disliked

by all his men, But no sooner was the order given than, with a battery

in front of them, and one on either side, the Light Brigade hewed its

way past these deadly engines of war and routed the enemy's cavalry. Of

the six hundred and seventy horsemen who made the charge, only one

hundred and ninety-eight returned. As an act of war it was madness. In

the opinion of the most competent judges there was no good end to be

gained by it. But as an act of soldierly obedience it was sublime. The

deed has been immortalized by the poet Tennyson in the following verses:


Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!

Charge for the guns!" he said:

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.


"Forward, the Light Brigade!"

Was there a man dismay'd?

Not tho' the soldier knew

Some one had blunder'd:

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die:

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon in front of them

Volley'd and thunder'd;

Storm'd at with shot and shell

Boldly they rode and well,

Into the jaws of Death,

Into the mouth of Hell

Rode the six hundred.


Flash'd all their sabers bare,

Flash'd as they turn'd in air

Sabring the gunners there,

Charging an army, while

All the world wonder'd:

Plunged in the battery-smoke,

Right thro' the line they broke;

Cossack and Russian

Reel'd from the saber-stroke

Shattered and sunder'd.

Then they rode back, but not

Not the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon behind them

Volley'd and thunder'd;

Storm'd at with shot and shell,

While horse and hero fell,

They that had fought so well

Came thro' the jaws of Death

Back from the mouth of Hell,

All that was left of them,

Left of six hundred.


When can their glory fade?

O the wild charge they made!

All the world wonder'd.

Honor the charge they made!

Honor the Light Brigade,

Noble six hundred!

[Footnote: For the story of the Crimean War, consult "Encyclopedia

Britannica", Vol. VIII., p. 366; also Vol. XVII., pp. 228 and 486.]