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2.5 The Fifth Commandment

‘Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.’ Exod 20: 12.

Having done with the first table, I am next to speak of the duties of the second table. The commandments may be likened to Jacob’s ladder: the first table respects God, and is the top of the ladder that reaches to heaven; the second respects superiors and inferiors, and is the foot of the ladder that rests on the earth. By the first table, we walk religiously towards God; by the second, we walk religiously towards man. He cannot be good in the first table that is bad in the second. ‘Honour thy father and thy mother.’ In this we have a command, ‘honour thy father and thy mother;’ and, second, a reason for it, ‘That thy days may be long in the land.’ The command will chiefly be considered here, ‘Honour thy father.’

I. Father is of different kinds; as the political, the ancient, the spiritual, the domestic, and the natural.

[1] The political father, the magistrate. He is the father of his country; he is to be an encourager of virtue, a punisher of vice, and a father to the widow and orphan. Such a father was Job. ‘I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not, I searched out.’ Job 29: 16. As magistrates are fathers, so especially the king, who is the head of magistrates, is a political father; he is placed as the sun among the lesser stars. The Scripture calls kings, ‘fathers.’ ‘Kings shall be thy nursing fathers.’ Isa 49: 23. They are to train up their subjects in piety, by good edicts and examples; and nurse them up in peace and plenty. Such nursing fathers were David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Constantine, and Theodosius. It is well for a people to have such nursing fathers, whose breasts milk comfort to their children. These fathers are to be honoured, for —

(1) Their place deserves honour. God has set these political fathers to preserve order and harmony in a nation, and to prevent those state convulsions which otherwise might ensue. When ‘there was no king in Israel, every man did that which was right in his own eyes.’ Judges 17: 6. It is a wonder that locusts have no king, yet they go forth by bands.

(2) God has promoted kings, that they may promote justice. As they have a sword in their hand, to signify their power; so they have a sceptre, an emblem of justice. It is said of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, that he allotted one hour of the day to hear the complaints of those who were oppressed. Kings place judges as cherubim about the throne, for distribution of justice. These political fathers are to be honoured. ‘Honour the king.’ 1 Pet 2: 17. This honour is to be shown by a civil respect to their persons, and a cheerful submission to their laws; so far as they agree and run parallel with God’s law. Kings are to be prayed for, which is a part of the honour we give them. ‘I exhort that supplications, prayers, intercessions, be made for kings, that we may lead a quiet, peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.’ 1 Tim 2: 1. We are to pray for kings, that God would honour them to be blessings; that under them we may enjoy the gospel of peace, and the peace of the gospel. How happy was the reign of Numa Pompilius, when swords were beaten into ploughshares, and bees made hives of the soldiers’ helmets!

[2] There is the grave ancient father, who is venerable for old age; whose grey hairs are resembled to the white flowers of the almond-tree. Eccl 12: 5. There are fathers for seniority, on whose wrinkled brows, and in the furrows of whose cheeks is pictured the map of old age. These fathers are to be honoured. ‘Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man. Lev 19: 32. Especially those are to be honoured who are fathers not only for their seniority, but for their piety; whose souls are flourishing when their bodies are decaying. It is a blessed sight to see springs of grace in the autumn of old age; to see men stooping towards the grave, yet going up the hill of God; to see them lose their colour, yet keep their savour. They whose silver hairs are crowned with righteousness, are worthy of double honour; they are to be honoured, not only as pieces of antiquity, but as patterns of virtue. If you see an old man fearing God, whose grace shines brightest when the sun of his life is setting, O honour him as a father, by reverencing and imitating him.

[3] There are spiritual fathers, as pastors and ministers. These are instruments of the new birth. ‘Though ye have ten thousand instructors, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.’ 1 Cor 4: 15. The spiritual fathers are to be honoured in respect of their office. Whatever their persons are, their office is honourable; they are the messengers of the Lord of Hosts. Mal 2: 7. They represent no less than God himself. ‘Now then we are ambassadors for Christ.’ 2 Cor 5: 20. Jesus Christ was of this calling; he had his mission and sanction from heaven, and this crowns the ministerial calling with honour. John 8: 18.

These spiritual fathers are to be honoured ‘for their work’s sake.’ They come, like the dove, with an olive branch in the mouth; they preach glad tidings of peace; their work is ‘to save souls.’ Other callings have only to do with men’s bodies or estates, but the minister’s calling is employed about the souls of men. Their work is to redeem spiritual captives, and turn men ‘from the power of Satan unto God.’ Acts 26: 18. Their work is ‘to enlighten them who sit in the region of darkness,’ and make them ‘shine as stars in the kingdom of heaven.’ These spiritual fathers are to be ‘honoured for their work’s sake;’ and this honour is to be shown three ways: —

(1) By giving them respect. ‘Know them which labour among you and are over you in the Lord, and esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.’ 1 Thess 5: 12, 13. I confess the scandalous lives of some ministers have been a great reproach, and have made the ‘offering of the Lord to be abhorred’ in some places of the land. The leper in the law was to have his lip covered; so such as are angels by office, but lepers in their lives, ought to have their lips covered, and to be silenced. But though some deserve ‘no honour’, yet such as are faithful, and make it their work to bring souls to Christ, are to be reverenced as spiritual fathers. Obadiah honoured the prophet Elijah. 1 Kings 18: 7. Why did God reckon the tribe of Levi for the first-born, Num 3: 13; why did he appoint that the prince should ask counsel of God by the priest, Num 27: 21; why did the Lord show, by that miracle of Aaron’s rod flourishing, that he had chosen the tribe of ‘Levi to minister before him,’ Num 17; why does Christ call his apostles ‘the lights of the world’; why does he say to all his ministers, ‘Lo, I am with you to the end of the world;’ but because he would have these spiritual fathers reverenced? In ancient times the Egyptians chose their kings out of their priests. They are far from showing this respect and honour to their spiritual fathers who have slight thoughts of such as have the charge of the sanctuary, and do minister before the Lord. ‘Know them,’ says the apostle, ‘which labour among you.’ Many can be content to know their ministers in their infirmities, and are glad when they have anything against them, but do not know them in the apostle’s sense, so as to give them ‘double honour.’ Surely, were it not for the ministry, you would not be a vineyard but a desert. Were it not for the ministry, you would be destitute of the two seals of the covenant, baptism and the Lord’s Supper; you would be infidels; ‘for faith comes by hearing; and how shall they hear without a preacher?’ Rom 10: 14.

(2) Honour these spiritual fathers, by becoming advocates for them, and wiping off those slanders and calumnies which are unjustly cast upon them. 1 Tim 5: 19. Constantine was a great honourer of the ministry; he vindicated them; he would not read the envious accusations brought against them, but burnt them. Do the ministers open their mouths to God for you in prayer, and will not you open your mouths in their behalf? Surely, if they labour to preserve you from hell, you should preserve them from slander; if they labour to save your souls, you ought to save their credit.

(3) Honour them by conforming to their doctrine. The greatest honour you can put upon your spiritual fathers, is to believe and obey their doctrine. He is an honourer of the ministry who is not only a hearer, but a follower of the word. As disobedience reproaches the ministry, so obedience honours it. The apostle calls the Thessalonians his crown. ‘What is our crown of rejoicing? are not ye?’ 1 Thess 2: 19. A thriving people are a minister’s crown. When there is a metamorphosis, a change wrought; when people come to the word proud, but go away humble; when they come earthly, but they go away heavenly; when they come, as Naaman to Jordan, lepers, but they go away healed; then the ministry is honoured. ‘Need we, as some others, epistles of commendation?’ 2 Cor 3: 1. Though other ministers might need letters of commendation, yet Paul needed none; for, when men heard of the obedience wrought in these Corinthians by Paul’s preaching, it would be a sufficient certificate that God had blessed his labours. The Corinthians were a sufficient honour to him; they were his letters-testimonial. You cannot honour your spiritual fathers more, than by thriving under their ministry, and living upon the sermons which they preach.

[4] There is the domestic father, that is, the master. He is paterfamilias, ‘the father of the family’; therefore Naaman’s servants called their master, father. 2 Kings 5: 13. The centurion calls his servant, son. Matt 8: 6. (Greek.) The servant is to honour his master, as the father of the family. Though the master be not so qualified as he should be, yet the servant must not neglect his duty, but show some kind of honour to him.

(1) In obeying his master in licitis et honestis, ‘in things that are lawful and honest.’ ‘Servants, be subject to your masters; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.’ 1 Pet 2: 18. God has nowhere given a charter of exemption to free you from your duty. You cannot disobey your earthly master but you disobey your master in heaven. Think not that birth, or high parts, no, nor even grace, will exempt you from obedience to your master. To obey him is an ordinance of God; and an apostle says, ‘They that resist the ordinance, shall receive to themselves damnation.’ Rom 13: 2.

(2) The servant’s honouring his master, is seen in being diligent in his service. Apelles painted a servant with his hands full of tools, as an emblem of diligence. The loitering servant is a kind of thief, who, though he does not steal his master’s goods, steals the time which he should have employed in his master’s service. The slothful servant is called a ‘wicked servant.’ Matt 25: 26.

(3) The servant is to honour his master by being faithful. ‘Who then is a faithful and wise servant?’ Matt 24: 45. Faithfulness is the chief thing in a servant. Faithfulness in a servant is seen in six things: [1] In tenaciousness; in concealing the secrets the master has intrusted you with. If those secrets are not sins, you ought not to betray them. What is whispered in your ear you are not to publish on the house-top. Servants who do this are spies. Who would keep a glass that is cracked? Who would keep a servant that has a crack in his brain, and cannot keep a secret? [2] Faithfulness in a servant is seen in designing the master’s advantage. A faithful servant esteems his master’s goods as his own. Such a servant had Abraham; who, when his master sent him to transact business for him, was as careful about it, as if it had been his own. ‘O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham.’ Gen 24: 12. Doubtless Abraham’s servant was as glad he had got a wife for his master’s son, as if he had got a wife for himself. [3] Faithfulness in a servant is seen in standing up for the honour of his master. When he hears him spoken against, he vindicates him. As the master is careful of the servant’s body, so the servant should be careful of the master’s name. When the master is unjustly reproached the servant cannot be excused if he be possessed with a dumb devil. [4] Faithfulness is, when a servant is true to his word. He dares not tell a lie, but will speak the truth, though it be against himself. A lie doubles the sin. ‘He that telleth lies, shall not tarry in my sight.’ Psa 101: 7. A liar is near akin to the devil. John 8: 44. And who would let any of the devil’s kindred live with him? The lie that Gehazi told his master Elisha, entailed leprosy on Gehazi and his seed for ever. 2 Kings 5: 27. In a faithful servant, the tongue is the true index of the heart. [5] Faithfulness is, when a servant is against impropriation. He dares not convert his master’s goods to his own use. ‘Not purloining.’ Tit 2: 10. What a servant filches from his master, is damnable gain. He who enriches himself by stealing from his master, stuffs his pillow with thorns, on which his head will lie very uneasy when he comes to die. [6] Faithfulness consists in preserving the master’s person, if unjustly in danger. Banister betrayed his master the Duke of Buckingham, in King Richard the Third’s reign; and the judgements of God fell upon the traitorous servant. His eldest son became mad; his daughter, of a singular beauty, was suddenly struck with leprosy; his younger son was drowned, and he himself was arraigned, and would have been executed, had he not been saved by his clergy. That servant who is not true to his master, will never be true to God or his own soul.

(4) The servant is to honour his master, by serving him, as with love, so with silence, that is, without repining, and without replying. ‘Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, not answering again.’ Tit 2: 9. In the Greek, ‘not giving cross answers.’ Some servants who are slow at work, are quick at speech; and instead of being sorry for a fault, provoke by unbecoming language. Were the heart more humble, the tongue would be more silent. The apostle’s words are, ‘not answering again.’ To those servants who honour their masters, or family-fathers, by submission, diligence, faithfulness, love, and humble silence, great encouragement is given. ‘Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ.’ Col 3: 22, 24. In serving your masters, you serve Christ, and he will not let you lose your labour; ye shall receive the ‘reward of the inheritance.’ From serving on earth, you shall be taken up to reign in heaven, and shall sit with Christ upon his throne. Rev 3: 21.

Having shown how servants are to honour their masters, I shall next show how masters are to conduct themselves towards their servants, so as to be honoured by them.

In general, masters must remember that they have a master in heaven, who will call them to account. ‘Knowing that your Master also is in heaven.’ Eph 6: 9. More particularly: —

(1) Masters must take care to provide for their servants. As they appoint them work, so they must give them their meat in due season. Luke 17: 7. They should see that the food be wholesome and sufficient. It is most unworthy of some governors of families, to lay out so much upon their own back, as to pinch their servants’ bellies.

(2) Masters should encourage their servants in their work, by commending them when they do well. Though a master is to tell a servant of his faults, yet he is not always to beat on one string, but sometimes to take notice of that which is praiseworthy. This makes a servant more cheerful in his work, and gains the master the love from his servant.

(3) Masters must not overburden their servants, but proportion their work to their strength. They must not lay too much load on their servants, to make them faint under it. Christianity teaches compassion.

(4) Masters must seek the spiritual good of their servants. They must be seraphim to kindle their love to religion; they must be monitors to put them in mind of their souls; they must bring them to the pool of the sanctuary, to wait till the angel stir the waters. John 5: 4. They must seek God for them, that their servants may be his servants; and must allow them time convenient for secret devotion. Some are cruel to the souls of their servants; they expect them to do the work about the house, but abridge them of the time they should employ in working out their salvation.

(5) Masters should be mild and gentle in their behaviour towards servants. ‘Forbearing threatening.’ Eph. 6: 9. ‘Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour, but shalt fear thy God.’ Lev 25: 43. It requires wisdom in a master to know how to keep up his authority, and yet avoid austerity. We have a good copy to write after our Master in heaven, who is ‘slow to anger, and of great mercy.’ Psa 145: 8. Some masters are so harsh and implacable that they are enough to spoil a good servant.

(6) Be very exact and punctual in the agreements you make with your servants. Do not prevaricate; keep not back any of their wages; nor deal deceitfully with them, as Laban did with Jacob, changing his wages. Gen 31: 7. Falseness in promise is as bad as false weights.

(7) Be careful of your servants, not only in health, but in sickness. If they have become sick while in your service, use what means you can for their recovery; and be not like the Amalekite, who forsook his servant when he was sick; but be as the good centurion, who kept his sick servant, and sought to Christ for a cure. 1 Sam 30: 13; Matt 8: 6. If you have a beast that falls sick, you will not turn it off, but have it looked to, and pay for its cure; and will you be kinder to your horses than to your servants? Thus should masters carry themselves prudently and piously, that they may gain honour from their servants, and may give up their accounts to God with joy.

[S] The natural father, the father of the flesh. Heb 12: 9. Honour thy natural father. This is so necessary a duty, that Philo the Jew placed the fifth commandment in the first table, as though we had not performed our whole duty to God till we had paid this debt of honour to our natural parents. Children are the vineyard of the parent’s planting, and honour done to the parent is some of the fruit of the vineyard.

II. Children are to show honour to their parents,

{I] By a reverential esteem of their persons. They must ‘give them a civil veneration.’ Therefore, when the apostle speaks of fathers of our bodies, he speaks also of ‘giving them reverence.’ Heb 12: 9. This veneration or reverence must be shown: —

(1) Inwardly, by fear mixed with love. ‘Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father.’ Lev 19: 3. In the commandment the father is named first, but here the mother is first named. Partly to put honour upon the mother, because, by reason of many weaknesses incident to her sex, she is apt to be more slighted by children. And partly because the mother endures more for the child.

(2) Reverence must be shown to parents outwardly, both in word and gesture.

In word: and that either in speaking to parents, or speaking of them. In speaking of parents, children must speak respectfully. ‘Ask on, my mother,’ said king Solomon to his mother Bathsheba. 1 Kings 2: 20. In speaking of parents, children must speak honourably. They ought to speak well of them, if they deserve well. ‘Her children arise up, and call her blessed’ (Prov 31: 28); and, in case a parent betrays weakness and indiscretion, the child should make the best of it, and, by wise apologies, cover his parent’s nakedness.

In gesture. Children are to show reverence to their parents by submissive behaviour, by uncovering the head, and bending the knee. Joseph, though a great prince, and his father had grown poor, bowed to him, and behaved himself as humbly as if his father had been the prince, and he the poor man. Gen 46: 29. King Solomon, when his mother came to him, ‘rose off his throne, and bowed himself unto her.’ 1 Kings 2: 19. Among the Lacedemonians, if a child had carried himself arrogantly or saucily to his father, it was lawful for the father to appoint whom he would to be his heir. Oh, how many children are far from thus giving reverence to their parents! They despise their parents; they carry themselves with such pride and neglect towards them, that they are a shame to religion, and bring their parents’ grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. ‘Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother.’ Deut 27: 16. If all that set light by their parents are cursed, how many children in our age are under a curse! If such as are disrespectful to parents live to have children, their own children will be thorns in their sides, and God will make them read their sins in their punishment.

[2] The second way of showing honour to parents is by careful obedience. ‘Children, obey your parents in all things.’ Col 3: 20. Our Lord Christ herein set a pattern to children. He was subject to his parents. Luke 2: 51. He to whom angels were subject was subject to his parents. This obedience to parents is shown three ways: —

(1) In hearkening to their counsel, ‘Hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.’ Prov 1: 8. Parents are, as it were, in the room of God; if they would teach you the fear of the Lord, you must listen to their words as oracles, and not be as the deaf adder to stop your ears. Eli’s sons hearkened not to the voice of their father, but were called ‘sons of Belial.’ 1 Sam 2: 12, 25. And as children must hearken to the counsel of their parents in spiritual matters, so in affairs which relate to this life as in the choice of a calling, and in case of entering into marriage. Jacob would not dispose of himself in marriage, though he was forty years old, without the advice and consent of his parents. Gen 28: 1, 2. Children are, as it were, the parents’ proper goods and possession, and it is great injustice in a child to give herself away without the parents’ leave. If parents should indeed counsel a child to match with one that is irreligious or Popish, I think the case is plain, and many of the learned are of opinion that here the child may have a negative voice, and is not obliged to be ruled by the parent. Children are to ‘marry in the Lord;’ not, therefore, with persons irreligious, for that is not to marry in the Lord. 1 Cor 7: 39.

(2) Obedience to parents is shown in complying with their commands. A child should be the parents’ echo; when the father speaks, the child should echo back obedience. The Rechabites were forbidden by their father to drink wine; and they obeyed him, and were commended for it. Jer 35: 14. Children must obey their parents in all things. Col 3: 20. In things against the grain, to which they have most reluctance, they must obey their parents. Esau would obey his father, when he commanded him to fetch him venison, because it is probable he took pleasure in hunting; but refused to obey him in a matter of greater concernment, in the choice of a wife. But though children must obey their parents ‘in all things,’ yet restringitur ad licita et honesta; ‘it is with the limitation of things just and honest.’ ‘Obey in the Lord,’ that is, so far as the commands of parents agree with God’s commands. Eph 6: 1. If they command against God, they lose their right of being obeyed, and in this case we must unchild ourselves.

[3] Honour is to be shown to parents in relieving their wants. Joseph cherished his father in his old age. Gen 47: 12. It is but paying a just debt. Parents brought up children when they were young, and children ought to nourish their parents when they are old. The young storks, by an instinct of nature, bring meat to the old ones when, by reason of age, they are not able to fly. Pliny calls it Lex pelargica [a law of the storks]. The memory of Aeneas was honoured for carrying his aged father out of Troy when it was on fire. I have read of a daughter, whose father being condemned to be starved to death, who gave him in his prison suck with her own breasts; which, being known to the governors, procured his freedom. Such children, or monsters shall I say, are to blame who are ashamed of their parents when they are old and fallen into decay; and when they ask for bread give them a stone. When houses are shut up, we say the plague is there; when children’s hearts are shut up against their parents, the plague is there. Our blessed Saviour took great care for his mother. When on the cross, he charged his disciple John to take her home to him as his mother, and see that she wanted nothing. John 19: 26, 27.

III. The reasons why children should honour their parents are: —

[1] It is a solemn command of God, ‘Honour thy father,’ &c. As God’s word is the rule, so his will must be the reason of our obedience.

[2] They deserve honour in respect of the great love and affection which they bear to their children; and the evidence of that love both in their care and cost. Their care in bringing up their children is a sign their hearts are full of love to them. Parents often take more care of their children than for themselves. They take care of them when they are tender, lest, like wall fruit, they should be nipped in the bud. As children grow older, the care of parents grows greater. They are afraid of their children falling when young, and of worse than falls when they are older. Their love is evidenced by their cost. 2 Cor 12: 14. They lay up and they lay out for their children; and are not like the raven or ostrich, which are cruel to their young. Job 39: 16. Parents sometimes impoverish themselves to enrich their children. Children never can equal a parent’s love, for parents are the instruments of life to their children, and children cannot be so to their parents.

[3] To honour parents is well pleasing to the Lord. Col 3: 20. As it is joyful to parents, so it is pleasing to the Lord. Children! is it not your duty to please God? In honouring and obeying your parents, you please God as well as when you repent and believe. And that you may see how well it pleases God, he bestows a reward upon it. ‘That thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.’ Jacob would not let the angel go till he had blessed him; and God would not part with this commandment till he had blessed it. Paul calls this the first commandment with promise. Eph 6: 2. The second commandment has a general promise to mercy; but this is the first commandment that has a particular promise made to it. Long life is mentioned as a blessing. ‘Thou shalt see thy children’s children.’ Psa 128: 6. It was a great favour of God to Moses that, though he was a hundred and twenty years old, he needed no spectacles: ‘His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.’ Deut 34: 7. God threatened it as a curse to Eli, that there should not be an old man in his family. 1 Sam 2: 31. Since the flood, life is much abbreviated and cut short: to some the womb is their tomb; others exchange their cradle for their grave; others die in the flower of their age; death serves its warrant every day upon one or other. Now, when death lies in ambush continually for us, if God satisfies us with long life, saying (as in Psa 91: 16), ‘With long life will I satisfy him;’ it is to be esteemed a blessing. It is a blessing when God gives a long time to repent, and a long time to do service, and a long time to enjoy the comforts of relations. Upon whom is this blessing of long life entailed, but obedient children? ‘Honour thy father, that thy days may be long.’ Nothing sooner shortens life than disobedience to parents. Absalom was a disobedient son, who sought to deprive his father of his life and crown; and he did not live out half his days. The mule he rode upon, being weary of such a burden, left him hanging in the oak betwixt heaven and earth, so as not fit to tread upon the one, or to enter into the other. Obedience to parents spins out the life. Nor does obedience to parents lengthen life only, but sweetens it. To live long, and not to have a foot of land, is a misery; but obedience to parents settles land of inheritance upon the child. ‘Hast thou but one blessing, O my father,’ said Esau. Behold, God has more blessings for an obedient child than one; not only shall he have a long life, but a fruitful land: and not only shall he have land, but land given in love, ‘the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.’ Thou shalt have thy land not only with God’s leave, but with his love. All these are powerful arguments to make children honour and obey their parents.

Use one. If we are to honour our fathers on earth, much more our Father in heaven. ‘If then I be a father, where is mine honour?’ Mal 1: 6. A father is but the instrument of conveying life, but God is the original cause of our being. ‘For it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves.’ Psa 100: 3. Honour and adoration is a pearl which belongs to the crown of heaven only.

(1) We show honour to our heavenly Father by obeying him. Thus Christ honoured his Father. ‘I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.’ John 6: 38. This he calls honouring God. ‘I do always those things which please him.’ ‘I honour my Father.’ John 8: 29, 49. The wise men not only bowed the knee to Christ, but presented him with ‘gold and myrrh.’ Matt 2: 11. So we must not only bow the knee, give God adoration, but bring him presents, give him golden obedience.

(2) We show honour to our heavenly Father by advocating his cause, and standing up for his truth in an adulterous generation. That son honours his father who stands up in his defence, and vindicates him when he is calumniated and reproached. Do they honour God who are ashamed of him? ‘Many believed on him, but did not confess him.’ John 12: 42. They are bastard-sons who are ashamed to own their heavenly Father. Such as are born of God, are steeled with courage for his truth; they are like the rock, which no waves can break; like the adamant, which no sword can cut. Basil was a champion for truth in the time of the emperor Valens; and Athanasius, when the world was Arian, appeared for God.

(3) We show honour to our heavenly Father by ascribing the honour of all we do to him. ‘I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.’ 1 Cor 15: l0. If a Christian has any assistance in duty, any strength against corruption, he rears up a pillar and writes upon it, ‘Hitherto has the Lord helped me.’ As when Joab had fought against Rabbah, and had like to have taken it, sent for king David, that he might carry away the honour of the victory; so when a child of God has any conquest over Satan, he give all the honour to God. 2 Sam 12: 27, 28. Hypocrites, whose lamp is fed with the oil of vain glory, while they do any eminent service to God, seek to honour themselves; and so their very serving him is dishonouring him.

(4) We show honour to our heavenly Father by celebrating his praise. ‘Let my mouth be filled with thy praise, and with thy honour all the day.’ Psa 71: 8. ‘Blessing and honour and glory and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne.’ Rev 5: 13. Blessing God is honouring God. It lifts him up in the eyes of others, and spreads his fame and renown in the world. In this manner the angels, the choristers of heaven, are now honouring God; they trumpet forth his praise. In prayer, we act like saints, in praise like angels.

(5) We show honour to our heavenly Father, by suffering dishonour, yea, death for his sake. Paul did bear in his body the ‘marks of the Lord Jesus.’ Gal 6: 17. As they were the marks of honour to him, so they were trophies of honour to the gospel. The honour which comes to God, is not by bringing the outward pomp and glory to him, which we do to kings; but it comes in another way, by the suffering of his people, by which they let the world see what a good God they serve, and how they love him, and will fight under his banner to the death.

God is ‘worthy of honour.’ ‘Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.’ Psa 104: 1: What are all his attributes but glorious beams shining from this sun? He deserves more honour than men or angels can give him. ‘I will call on the Lord who is worthy to be praised.’ 2 Sam 22: 4. He is worthy of honour. We often confer honour upon those that do not deserve it. To many noble persons, who are sordid and vicious, we give titles of honour: they do not deserve honour; but God is worthy of honour. ‘Blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.’ Neh 9: 5. He is above all the acclamations and triumphs of the archangels. O then, let every true child of God honour his heavenly Father! Though the wicked dishonour him by their flagitous lives, let not his own children dishonour him. Sins in them are worse than in others. A fault in a stranger is not so much taken notice of as in a child. A spot in black cloth is not so much observed, but a spot in scarlet attracts every one’s eye; so a sin in the wicked is not so much wondered at, it is a spot in black; but a sin in a child of God is a spot in scarlet, which is more visible, and brings odium and dishonour upon the gospel. The sins of God’s own children go nearer to his heart. ‘When the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons and of his daughters.’ Deut 32: 19. O forbear doing anything that may reflect dishonour upon God. Will you disgrace your heavenly Father? Let not God complain of the provocations of his sons and daughters; let him not cry out, ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.’ Isa 1: 2.

Use two. Does God command us to honour father and mother? Then let children put this great duty in practice; be living commentaries upon this commandment. Honour and reverence your parents; not only obey their commands, but submit to their rebukes. You cannot honour your Father in heaven unless you honour your earthly parents. To deny obedience to parents, entails God’s judgements upon children. ‘The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagle shall eat it.’ Prov 30: 17. Eli’s two disobedient sons were slain. 1 Sam 4: 2: God made a law that the ‘rebellious son should be stoned;’ the same death the blasphemer had. Lev 24: 14. ‘If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother; then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.’ Deut 21: 18, 19, 21. A father having once complained, ‘Never had a father a worse son than I have;’ ‘Yes,’ said the son, ‘my grandfather had.’ This was a prodigy of impudence hardly to be paralleled. Manlius, when grown old and poor, had a son very rich, of whom he desired some food, but the son denied him relief, yea, disowned him from being his father, and sent him away with reproachful language. The poor old father let fall tears in grief. But God, to revenge the disobedience, struck the unnatural son with madness, of which he could never be cured. Disobedient children stand in a place where all God’s arrows fly.

Use three. Let parents so act that they may gain honour from their children.

How should parents so act towards their children as to be honoured and reverenced by them?

(1) Be careful to bring them up in the fear and nurture of the Lord. ‘Bring them up in the admonition of the Lord.’ Eph 6: 4. You conveyed the plague of sin to them, therefore endeavour to get them healed and sanctified. Augustine says that his mother, Monica, travailed more for his spiritual birth than his natural. Timothy’s mother instructed him from a child. 2 Tim 3: 15. She not only gave him her breast-milk, but ‘the sincere milk of the word.’ Season your children with good principles betides, that they may, with Obadiah, fear the Lord from their youth. 1 Kings 18: 12. When parents instruct not their children, they seldom prove blessings. God often punishes the carelessness of parents with undutifulness in their children. It is not enough that in baptism your child is dedicated to God, but it must be educated for him. Children are young plants which you must be continually watering with good instruction. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.’ Prov 22: 6. The more your children fear God, the more they will honour you.

(2) If you would have your children honour you, keep up parental authority: be kind, but do not spoil them. If you let them get too much ahead, they will condemn you instead of honouring you. The rod of discipline must not be withheld. ‘Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.’ Prov 23: 14. A child indulged and humoured in wickedness, will be a thorn in the parent’s eye. David spoiled Adonijah. ‘His father had not displeased him at any time, in saying, Why hast thou done so?’ 1 Kings 1: 6, 7, 9. Afterwards he became a grief of heart to his father, and was false to the crown. Keep up your authority, and you keep up your honour.

(3) Provide for your children what is fitting, both in their minority and when they come to maturity. ‘The children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.’ 2 Cor 12: 14. They are your own flesh and, as the apostle says, ‘No man ever yet hated his own flesh.’ Eph 5: 29. The parents’ bountifulness will cause dutifulness in the child. If you pour water into a pump, the pump will send water again out freely; so, if parents pour in something of their estate to their children, children worthy of the name will pour out obedience again to their parents.

(4) When your children are grown up, put them to some lawful calling, wherein they may serve their generation. It is good to consult the natural genius and inclination of a child, for forced callings do as ill, sometimes, as forced matches. To let a child be out of a calling, is to expose him to temptation. Melanchthon says, Odium balneum diaboli [Idleness is the devil’s pleasure resort]. A child out of a calling is like fallow ground; and what can you expect should grow up but weeds of disobedience.

(5) Act lovingly to your children. In all your counsels and commands let them read love. Love will command honour; and how can a parent but love the child who is his living picture, nay, part of himself. The child is the father in the second edition.

(6) Act prudently towards your children. It is a great point of prudence in a parent not to provoke his children to wrath. ‘Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.’ Col 3: 21.

How may a parent provoke his children to wrath?

(1) By giving them opprobrious terms. ‘Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman,’ said Saul to his son Jonathan. 1 Sam 20: 30. Some parents use imprecations and curses to their children, which provoke them to wrath. Would you have God bless your children, and do you curse them?

(2) Parents provoke children to wrath when they strike them without a cause, or when the correction exceeds the fault. This is to be a tyrant rather than a father. Saul cast a javelin at his son to smite him, and his son was provoked to anger. ‘So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger.’ 1 Sam 20: 33, 34. In filium pater obtinet non tyrannicum imperium, set basilicum [A father exercises a kingly power over his son, not that of a tyrant]. Davenant.

(3) When parents deny their children what is absolutely needful. Some have thus provoked their children: they have stinted them, and kept them so short, that they have forced them upon indirect courses, and made them put forth their hands to iniquity.

(4) When parents act partially towards their children, showing more kindness to one than to another. Though a parent may have a greater love to one child, yet discretion should lead him not to show more love to one than to another. Jacob showed more love to Joseph than to all his other children, which provoked the envy of his brethren. ‘Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, and when his brethren saw that, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.’ Gen 37: 3, 4.

(5) When a parent does anything which is sordid and unworthy, which casts disgrace upon himself and his family, as to defraud or take a false oath, it provokes the child to wrath. As the child should honour his father, so the father should not dishonour the child.

(6) When parents lay commands upon their children which they cannot perform without wronging their consciences. Saul commanded his son Jonathan to bring David to him. ‘Fetch him to me, for he shall surely die.’ 1 Sam 20: 31. Jonathan could not do this with a good conscience; but was provoked to anger. ‘Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger.’ 1 Sam 20: 34. The reason why parents should show their prudence in not provoking their children to wrath, is this: ‘Lest they be discouraged.’ Col 3: 21. This word ‘discouraged’ implies three things. Grief. The parent’s provoking the child, the child so takes it to heart, that it causes premature death. Despondency. The parents’ austerity dispirits the child, and makes it unfit for service; like members of the body stupefied, which are unfit for work. Contumacy and refractoriness. The child being provoked by the cruel and unnatural carriage of the parent, grows desperate, and often studies to irritate and vex his parents; which, though it be evil in the child, yet the parent is accessory to it, as being the occasion of it.

(7) If you would have honour from your children, pray much for them. Not only lay up a portion for them, but lay up a stock of prayer for them. Monica prayed much for her son Augustine; and it was said, it was impossible that a son of so many prayers and tears should perish. Pray that your children may be preserved from the contagion of the times; pray that as your children bear your images in their faces, they may bear God’s image in their hearts; pray that they may be instruments and vessels of glory. One fruit of prayer may be, that the child will honour a praying parent.

(8) Encourage that which you see good and commendable in your children. Virtus laudata crescit [Goodness increases when praised]. Commending that which is good in your children makes them more in love with virtuous actions; and is like the watering of plants, which makes them grow more. Some parents discourage the good they see in their children, and so nip virtue in the bud, and help to damn their children’s souls. They have their children’s curses.

(9) If you would have honour from your children, set them a good example. It makes children despise parents, when the parents live in contradiction to their own precepts; when they bid their children be sober, and yet they themselves get drunk; or bid their children fear God, and are themselves loose in their lives. Oh if you would have your children honour you, teach them by a holy example. A father is a looking-glass, which the child often dresses himself by; let the glass be clear and not spotted. Parents should observe great decorum in their whole conduct, lest they give occasion to their children to say to them, as Plato’s servant, ‘My master has made a book against rash anger, but he himself is passionate;’ or, as a son once said to his father, ‘If I have done evil, I have learned it of you.’

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