1625
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Brides Ornaments: Meditat. II. Of Obedience.

The Brides Ornaments, viz. Five Meditiations, Morall and Divine. [Books III and IV.]

Robert Aylett


Robert Aylett, distinguished member of Doctors Commons, describes the system of subordination to authority made necessary by original sin.



When first th' Almighty by his only Word,
Had fashion'd all within the Firmament:
He made Man last, to be their King and Lord,
That he to him might be obedient:
But Man not with this Monarchy content,
Devide his homage to omnipotence;
And having but one small Commandement,
Transgressed it by Disobedience:
The easier the Command, the greater the Offence.

This all the Sonnes of Adam do derive
From him, and call it guilt Originall,
Which by th' Eternall Law did us deprive
Of all Gods Benefits, and did enthrall
To endlesse Bondage, till Christ for this Fall,
The price of his most precious bloud did pay,
Which us recovers from Sins actuall,
And by obeying Gods whole Law, doth stay
His wrath, And merits Heav'n for all that him obay.

For as by first mans Disobedience
On all men cometh Death and Condemnation;
So by the seconds true Obedience,
We have eternall Life and sure Salvation:
Thus Disobedience, by derivation
From Adam, bringeth endlesse wretchednesse,
And true Obedience by imputation
Convay's from Christ eternall Happinesse;
So by the first comes sin, by second Righteousness.

The glorious robe of perfect Righteousnesse,
Which they that are obedient only weare,
To cover that foule shame and wickednesse,
Which Adams disobedience layed bare:
Ah! let a disobedient sinner dare,
The aid of the Obedient Lamb desire,
My Will and Actions, Tongue and Heart to square,
In due proportion to his heav'nly squire,
Whilst I of true Obedience praises doe enquire.

Devoutest Lady! Handmaid to the Queene
Of heav'nly Love, And so in duty bound,
That shee's alway's prest and ready seene,
To doe what thing soever she propound:
Her heart, words, will and deeds all one are found,
Serving for Love, and not for Feare or Gaine,
No Subject merits better to be crown'd;
For who can best obay, he best can raigne,
And she is shortly sure, eternall Crownes to gaine.

If I may square Her by the Rules of Art,
I her define to be our Wills subjection
To Him, that ought to rule both will and heart,
And by his will dispose our best affection:
The rule of Reason may be our direction,
How our Superiours Statutes we obay;
But when the Lord commands, there's no election
Nor doubting, what we ought to doe or say,
Gods will's the rule of Right, which none may disobey.

Here in two Branches, I might her divide,
Obedience first to God, and secondly
To our Superiours, that on earth abide,
But all is but to one Authority:
For there's no power or preccdency,
But that which highest power doth ordaine;
Who therefore doth resist mans Soveraignty
Gods ordinance resisteth, and againe
Who duely it obay's, Gods Statutes doth maintaine.

Thus must our hearts, ears, hands, be all attent
His Word and Will in all things to obey,
Who over us hath lawful Regiment,
Which is one God, eternall, blest for aye;
Whose servants all we are, And therefore may
Not chuse a Lord, or Master whom we will,
Nor serve two Masters, lest we disobay
The one, when we the others mind fullfill,
For that which pleaseth one, doth crosse the others will.

Thus our Obedience is only due
To him, that all did for his service make;
And 'tis a firm position sound and true;
God only for himselfe; But for his sake
All that from him Authoritie doe take
We truly and sincerely ought obey:
Or else our bounden dutie we forsake,
As those which do their Princes disobey,
When they their lawfull Officers commands gainsay.

For this whole world is like a family,
In all things well and justly ordered;
Where God hath the supreame authority,
And Rulers theirs from him delivered,
By which they doe command as in his stead;
Who then to them are disobedient,
They may be said to disobey the Head:
For whilst they rightly use their government,
We ought them to obey in things indifferent.

Indeed all ought regard the Supreme Will,
As first commanding cause, and end of all;
Which all that Being have, ought to fullfill,
From which as all things rise, so all must fall;
Here therefore first, we into mind will call,
To whom that will commands us to obay,
For in obeying their commands we shall
Obey that Supreme Will: This is the way
To make Gods will the Cause, of all we do or say.

To Him; we must be subject, first of all,
To whom all Power in Heav'n and Earth is lent;
The Son of God begotten, naturall,
Next to his Ministers which he hath sent:
Apostles, Pastors, Doctors, here are meant;
Which by his Word doe teach their Masters Will,
And rule his Church, by godly Government,
And those which heare these, his commands fullfill,
And those which them despise, despise his heav'nly Will.

As Kings, which with great Honour doe convay
Princes Ambassadours, it doe intend
Unto their Lords, So we our Lord obay
When we obey the Legates he doth send:
The second Power is that which God doth lend
To Kings and Princes, for to delegate
Judges, to punish those which doe offend,
And to maintaine the Life, Peace, and estate
Of ev'ry member, that maintains the Bodies state;

To this all Subjects owe Obedience;
The third obedience is, which wife doth owe
Unto her Head, who due Benevolence
For Dutie, ought unto his Wife to show:
For as the Church, so ought the Wife to know
Her due Subjection unto her Head,
And as our Christ directs his Church below:
So wives must be by husbands ordered,
But this of wives is better known then practised.

So is th' obedience, which Children owe
Unto their Parents, by Commandement
And promise, they shall long, and good day's know,
If they to them will be obedient.
The fifth and last is Masters Government,
And Servants Duty which they should them beare,
Which ought to be with single true intent,
Not for eye-service, wages, or for feare;
But as they would obey ev'n Christ their Master deare.

Thus ought we to obey these five degrees
Set over us: Because we so obay
The highest Power, And if their just decrees
We slight, that highest Power we disobey:
Far wide then disobedient spirits stray,
Which by Religion, would all reverence
Exclude, due unto Magistrates, and say
They unto no man owe obedience,
A false excuse of Schisme and all unreverence.

Obedience preserveth Unity,
And helpeth to this great worlds conservation,
As Heav'ns and Earth do by due Obsequy
Obey their glorious Makers Ordination;
Behold how all things in this worlds Creation,
Doe by their Makers order stand or move;
Earth keepes her center for mans preservation,
The Heav'ns turne all in motion round above,
Without Obedience one would out another shove.

And thus we may Obedience observe,
To hold our members in due motion ay,
Whilst one doth to another member serve,
And all unto the Spirit doe obey,
The Soule of man, which doth by reason sway
Ev'n all the members, to their preservation,
And if the least of them doe disobay,
Shee either seeks their better reformation,
Or one endangers all, to endlesse condemnation,

For whilst man here doth on the earth remain,
Sin and corruption in his Body dwell:
Seeking therein as Lord and King to raigne,
But Grace doth strive by force them to expell:
If bondslaves we our selves to Sin do sell,
And give our members here Lusts to obay,
We yeeld unto such Lusts as leade to Hell;
But if that Grace our Soule aright doth sway,
Then all the members follow Her the narrow way.

Remove this Vertue of Obedience
From Soule or Body, Subject, City, Towne,
Or from the Creatures wanting life and sense,
And all unto Confusion tumble downe:
The Tower of Babel might to Heav'n have growne,
Had all obay'd with mutuall diligence:
But suddainly we see it overthrowne,
When to obay they want intelligence,
For without understanding no Obedience.

As to maintaine Heav'ns perfect unity,
All to one supreame Trinity obay;
So all that have with it Affinitie,
Subject themselves to that one God for ay:
No wonder if those that him disobay,
To many Errours, Schismes, and Sects doe fall,
For one true Unity they doe gainsay,
When they resist his Ordinances shall,
And disobey Gods Word, that here dircteth all.

Me thinkes my Muse could here her selfe transcend,
By musing of th' obedience above,
Which from the Sonne to Father doth ascend,
And Angells, who obeying Feare and Love.
Alas what can th' eternall power move!
Obedience of poore wretches to require,
But us to joyne to Christ our Head in Love,
As he is joy'nd to God in due desire,
Unto no other end Obedience doth aspire.

For as when in a wild and fruitlesse stocke
We doe some noble impe inoculate;
The fruit erst base and wild, like to the Blocke,
Is made as goodly, fair, and delicate
As Tree which first this imp did generate:
So the least imp of Christs Obedience,
In us ingraft, doth us regenerate;
And make us beare fruit of like excellence,
As lively tree, from which it first had influence.

For all that from stocke of first Adam come,
Bear those sowre fruits of Disobedience;
But all, that do ingraft againe become
In second Adams true Obedience,
Bring forth sweet fruits, like lively tree, from whence
They have received first their sap to spring;
Sweet living Vine! whose sacred influence,
Us makes obedient to our Lord and King,
Ah! who the praises of thy noble fruit can sing?

It did advance that holy Prophets quill,
When He in volume of the Book did find,
Written, that thou shouldst Gods whole Law fullfill,
Whereto thou wert with all thine heart inclin'd;
And when the time was come thereto assign'd,
Thou wert obedient to all Gods will,
Performing it with all thine heart and mind,
Ev'n till the Jewes thee on the Crosse did kill,
When thou resistedst not, though they thy bloud did spill,

Obodient Lamb! this was the sacrifice,
The offering God did for sin require;
Thus we must offer up to God, likewise
Our Soules and Body's with like zealous fire
To dye, if not in deed, yet in desire:
Quick, holy, acceptable Offering,
To pacifie Gods Justice and his Rre,
Is when to him obedient hearts we bring
And crucifie those Lusts, which from our Flesh do spring.

As from the boundlesse Ocean doe run
All streams which doe returne into the Maine,
So from one paterne of Obedience come
All ours, and thither doth returne again;
The Lamb that was from worlds beginning slaine
Gave the first blow to Disobedience,
Which Isaack imitates when he is laine,
On Altar to be sacrificed thence,
Whom truly Abram offer'd by Obedience.

This was that quiet savour God did smell,
When offring one of each cleane bird and beast,
The good old Noah pleas'd the Lord so well;
Obedience was the Seasoning to the feast:
What made the Lord Sauls sacrifice detest?
But that he did his Word then disobey,
When he did spare of Amalec the best,
To offer up: But therein did obay
His own corrupt inventions, not what God did say.

Better then Sacrifice is to obay,
And then the fat of Rams to give good eare,
Happy though we do all the world gaine say,
If we obay our Lord and Master deare:
But ah! whilst we remaine as Pilgrims here,
Flesh, World, and Devil daily us perswade
To follow Pleasures vaine, and to forbear
Obedience to the Lord which us hath made,
Whose Statutes to obey should be our only trade.

Oh Sacrifice of Fools! with tongue to pray,
But harbour no obedience in thine heart;
Who dost in word professe God to obay,
But by thy workes dost all his Laws pervert:
Behold! it is not without just desert
That Beasts to thee are disobedient,
When thou to God a faithlesse rebell art,
To whom obey Sun, Moon, Stars, Firmament,
Nor Sea against his will invades the Continent.

Whilst I about, this sinfull Body beare,
Lusts and corruptions will therein remaine;
Yet never let them so much domineere
As here of Grace, the mastery to gaine:
For if I suffer Sinne in me to raigne,
That all my members will to sinne obay,
That sin whereof Saint Paul doth so complaine,
Oh! who me from the same deliver may!
It is not I, but sin that Christ doth disobey.

If that the Judge by his Authoritie,
Injoyn me to performe or speake a thing,
Against the will of Soveraigne Majestie,
Here my Deniall no Offence doth bring;
And if I be commanded by the King,
To doe against his will that is above,
I here no Rebell am, though suffering:
For I were better Crosse and Prison prove,
Then in Gehenna fry, from whence is no remove.

And as in all humane societies,
The meaner Power the greater doth obay,
Till to the Peramount it doth arise,
Which Power all inferiour powers sway:
So in this Power Spirituall we may,
Behold like order for Obedience,
The Peramount is Gods high Power ay;
For though we doe Powers reverence,
Yet to the highest we have alway's reference.

What more unjust, then looke to be obay'd
By our inferiours, and to disobay
Those God hath plac'd above us for our aid?
Ah how, Thy will be done may we here pray,
As Angells doe the same in Heav'n for ay:
Which we so often crosse by doing ill,
More often then are minutes in a day
Oh let my Heart be ready to fullfill!
Mine Heart be ready Lord! to learn and doe thy Will.

Ready in all things lawfull to obay
Superiours all, to doe things just and right,
To love my Neighbour; for mine enemy's pray,
Grace to embrace, and with Corruptions fight,
To cast off earthly things, and to delight
Wholly in God, and heav'nly contemplation;
To worke by day, to watch and pray by night,
To learn of Christ, Meeknesse, Humiliation,
With trembling and with Feare to worke out my Salvation.

Since I must be obedient to the end,
How should I end to beg Obedience?
Obedience, which to Liberty doth tend,
And us restores unto that excellence
Which Adam lost by Disobedience.
Let others glory in their mightie traine,
And large command of many Continents;
By Meeknesse and Obedience I shall gaine,
With Meek obedient Lamb in Heav'n for aye to raigne.

[pp. 65-74]