1 Peter 2:17
Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
First, the duty, what it is, and then how that duty is either extended or limited in regard of the object. The duties are honour and love. The first, by opening the duty, and what we are to do. The next, by inquiring into the obligation, and why we are so to do. The last, by examining our performance, and whether we do therein as we ought to do or no. And first of the former precept, Honour all men. Honour, properly, is an acknowledgment or testification of some excellency in the person honoured, by some reverence or observance answerable thereunto. Thus we honour God above all as being transcendently excellent, and thus we honour our parents, our princes, our betters, or superiors in any kind. The word honour in this place imports all that esteem or regard, be it more or less, which is due to any man in respect of his place, person, or condition, according to the eminency, merit, or exigency of any of them respectively, together with the willing performance of such just and charitable offices upon all emergent occasions as in proportion to any of the said respects can be reasonably expected. In which sense it is a possible thing for us to honour, not only our superiors that are over us or above us, but our equals too that are in the same rank with us, yea, even our inferiors also that are below us or under us. And in this latitude you shall find the word honour sometimes used in the Scriptures, though not so frequently as in the proper signification. You have one example of it in the seventh verse of the next chapter, where St. Peter enjoineth husbands to give honour to the wife as to the weaker vessel. It was far from his meaning doubtless that the husband should honour the wife with the honour properly so called, that of reverence or subjection, for that were to invert the right order of things and to pervert God's ordinance. In like manner we are to understand the word honour here in the text, in such a notion as may include all those fitting respects which are to be given to equals and inferiors also, which is a kind of honour too but more improperly so called. And then it falleth in, all one with that of St. Paul (Romans 13:7). "Render therefore to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour." Now we see in the meaning of the words both what duty we are to perform and to whom. It may next be demanded upon what tie we stand thus bound to honour all men? I answer — there lieth a three-fold tie upon us, to wit, of justice, of equity, of religion. A tie of justice first, whose most proper office it is to give to every one that which of right appertaineth to him. It is a thing not unworthy the observing that all those words which usually signify honour in the three learned languages do either primarily signify or else are derived from such words as do withal signify either a price or a weight. Now by the rules of commutative justice the price of every commodity ought to be according to the true worth of it. A false weight is abominable, and so is every one that tradeth with it; and certainly that man maketh use of a false beam that setteth light by his brother whom he ought to honour. The next tie is that of equity. "Whatsoever you would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets." We care not how much honour cometh to ourselves from others, how little goeth from ourselves to others. Let every man therefore in God's name take to himself that portion of honour and respect that is due to him, and good luck may he have with his honour. Provided always that he be withal sure of these two things first, that he take no more than his due, for this is but just; and then, that he be as willing to give as to take, for that is but equal. He that doth otherwise is partial and unreasonable. And thus we are tied in equity to honour all men. There is yet a third tie, that of religion, in respect of that image of God, which is to be found in man. All honour is in regard of some excellency or other, and there is in man no excellency at all of and from himself, but all the excellency that is in him is such only as God hath been pleased to put upon him. And that excellency is two fold — natural and personal. The natural excellency is that whereby man excelleth other creatures. Personal that whereby one man excelleth another. Of the natural first which ariseth from the image of God stamped upon man in his creation. Besides this natural, God hath put upon man a personal excellency which is an effect of His Providence in the government of the world, as the former was of His power in the creation of it. And here first beginneth the difference that is between one man and another. We have seen hitherto both the duty and obligation of it. What are we to perform, and why? We come now to examine a little how it is performed among us. Slackly and untowardly enough no doubt as all other duties are. Are there not some first, who are so far from honouring all men as the text requireth that they honour no man at all, at least, not as they ought to do? No, not their known superiors? But how much less then their equals or inferiors? There are others, secondly, that may perhaps be persuaded to yield some honour to their betters (that may be but reason) but that they should be bound to honour those that are not so good men as themselves, or at the most but such like as themselves are they see no great reason for that. But there is no remedy; St. Peter here telleth them that must be done too. There is a third sort that corrupt a good text with an ill gloss as thus. The magistrate shall have his tribute, the minister his tithe, and so every other man his due honour, if so be he carry himself worthily and as he ought to do in his place, and so as to deserve it. In good time! But I pray you then, first, who must judge of his carriage and whether he deserve such honour, yea or no? But, secondly, how durst thou distinguish where the law distinguishes not? Where God commandeth He looketh to be answered with obedience, and dost thou think to come off with subtleties and distinctions? Least of all, thirdly, with such a gloss as the apostle hath already precluded by his own comment in the next verse, where he biddeth servants to be subject to their masters, not only to the good and gentle but to the froward also, and such as would be ready to buffet them when they had done no fault. Such masters sure could challenge no great honour from their servants. But tell me, fourthly, in good earnest, dost thou believe that another man's neglect of his duty can discharge thee from the obligation of thine? Lastly, when thou sayest thou wilt honour him according to his place if he deserve it, dost thou not observe that thou art still unjust by thy own confession? For where place and merit concur there is a double honour due (1 Timothy 5:17). There is one honour due to the place and another to merit.
Parallel VersesKJV: Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.