Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.…
I. First, allow me to direct your attention to THE NATURE OF PARENTAL CLAIMS.
1. In the first place, then, parental claims require implicit; obedience so long as the child is dependent on the parent.
2. Secondly, parental claims require affectionate and reverential deference in every period of life.
3. In the third place, parental claims extend to support in times of weakness, sickness, and old age.
II. In the second place, then, let us consider THE AUTHORITY BY WHICH THESE CLAIMS ARE ENFORCED.
1. First, they are enforced by the decisions of the moral law. You know that one of the most prominent and oft-repeated of the ancient commandments delivered by Moses to the Jewish nation, was this, "Honour thy father and thy mother."
2. Secondly, this duty is enforced by the principles and precepts of the New Testament dispensation. Thus, when the Saviour came, the record concerning Him was that He "went down and was subject to His parents."
3. In the third place, iris enforced by the nature and claims of human society. Society is but an aggregate of individuals, and men are just what they are at home.
4. In the fourth place, it is enforced by the important connection which this duty has with the formation of individual character. Any individual who has been remarkable as an excellent son, will become a good father, a good husband, a good friend, a good member of society, in whatever place he may be found.
5. In the last place, it is enforced by the strongest commands of gratitude.
III. Allow me, then, in the third place, to notice SOME OF THOSE RESTRICTIONS BY WHICH THESE CLAIMS ARE LIMITED.
1. First, then, they are modified by the claims of religion. The gospel in every respect is supreme. Our allegiance to the Deity is higher and of more importance than our allegiance to any and all the forms of domestic and social life.
2. In the second place, it is restricted by the laws of society of which the individual may be a member, and by the principles of unchanging morals, every individual feels that society at large is of much more importance, and therefore has a greater claim, than the domestic circle. Consequently, if a law in itself right or necessary for social existence shall enjoin anything, parental authority shall not countervail it.
3. In the third place, their claims are marked and modified by the usages and constitutions of society. All our domestic arrangements partake, to a greater or less extent, of the nature of law. In many countries you know children are, or have been, regarded as the property of their parents. So long as the parent survives, it is impossible for them to hold property of any kind, or to command the services, excepting subordinate and secondary, of any agent. It has been impossible that they should devote themselves to this or that enterprise, except at the suggestion and determination of the parent's will. In fact they are slaves - complete slaves; body, soul, and spirit regarded as the goods and chattels of the parent. We feel that this runs counter to the everlasting law; that it is not right that slavery in any form should exist; and consequently we should not feel ourselves bound essentially on such a principle as that, merely on its own account, if there were no other supervening law to enforce duty under those circumstances upon us. In the East, for example, and among the Jews, till a young man attained thirty years of age, this parental control was most complete; it extended to such physical chastisement as the parent should demand, while it was regarded as the highest crime to resist or oppose that chastisement, however condign, afflictive, or humiliating it might be. Under such circumstances as these, we feel our feelings would revolt.
4. In the last place, these claims are modified by individual character and conduct. I do not mean to say that improper conduct on the part of the parent essentially vitiates, much less destroys, the claims which the parent has for obedience and reverence. But I do mean to say that there is a law of nature which acting invariably will, if it does not destroy, greatly modify those claims, in the responses with which they shall be met. If the conscience is not controlled, if the understanding is not convinced, the very moment such is the case the claims of the individual are to a great extent modified. Now, it is just so in the domestic circle. If your example shall be contrary to righteousness and truth, two things will follow: first, your authority will be vitiated, because all true obedience, such as is connected with affection and reverence, must be secured, in greater or less measure, by the action of moral influence; but a corrupt father cannot exercise such influence, and consequently full and true obedience cannot by him be secured. The external form may remain, but the inward life and power must be wanting. A second thing will ensue; example speaks louder than words: there will be two authorities, two commandments. Further: if your commands shall be unduly severe - if they shall be, moreover, manifestly intended to secure exclusively your own interest - if they shall savour of selfishness in every utterance and in every demand, you may secure obedience, perhaps, but you cannot secure love.
Parallel VersesKJV: Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.