Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.…
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In the preceding paragraph the apostle had treated of the relative duties of husbands and wives; here he directs attention to the relative duties of parents and children.
I. THE DUTY OF CHILDREN. The words lead us to consider the nature and reason of the obligation which children owe to their parents.
1. The nature. The duty is:
(1) "Obedience." "Children, obey your parents." This duty has its limitation. When, for example, the command is impracticable, it is not binding. When the parent makes demands surpassing the child's capacity, he is a tyrant, and the child is free from the obligation. Or when the command is morally wrong, when it clashes with the rights of conscience and the claims of God, obedience to it is no duty, but would be a sin. The duty is obedience rendered in a Christian spirit. "In the Lord." Any conduct towards parents, mankind in general, or to the great God, that is not inspired with love to Christ, has no virtue in it. All acts to be acceptable to God must be done in the name and spirit of his blessed Son.
(2) "Honor." "Honor thy father and mother." That is, reverence them. This implies, of court, that they are honor-worthy. It is, alas! often the duty of children to abhor and despise the character of their parents, because of its falsehood, intemperance, profligacy, and crime. Paul supposes parents to be what their relation to their children and God demands - pure, generous, and noble. Such parents are to be honored. Not to honor them is to dishonor God.
2. The reason. What is the reason for this obedience and reverence?
(1) Because it is right. "For this is right." Nature teaches the rectitude of it. There is implanted in every child's mind the feeling that he is bound to obey and reverence his parents. This feeling of obligation in some form or other is universal. The Bible teaches the rectitude of it. It was engraven by the finger of God on the tables of stone; it was inculcated in the teaching and exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ.
(2) Because it is expedient. "That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." A happy and a long life depends upon it. Children who are regardless of their filial duties will be regardless of all others, and rendered liable to fall into those habits of depravity which will render their life a misery, and cut short their days on the earth.
II. THE DUTY OF PARENTS. The duty of parents is here set forth in two forms, negatively and positively.
1. Negatively. "Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath." The temper of a child is of transcendent moment; it is that which determines his character and destiny. To act upon that temper in its opening years so as to fret and sour it is to do an incalculable mischief. Against this evil it is the duty of parents strenuously to guard. Petty interferences, trivial prohibitions, incessant chidings, and an irritable spirit, are the things in parental conduct which "provoke children to wrath."
2. Positively. "But bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Train their faculties, bring out their latent powers, teach them to think with accuracy, to love with purity, to act with adroitness and promptitude. Do this by admonishing them "in the Lord." Let the lessons of instruction and warning be drawn from the existence, the life, the character, and the teachings of the Lord. The child's faculties cannot be developed apart from God. Secular education is a contradiction in terms; it is as great a solecism as a sunless vegetation. Let parents look well to the minds of their children. The farmer who neglects the culture of his fields will soon have his acres overrun with thorns and briars and noxious weeds; and the parent who neglects the culture of his child will soon discover evils far more hideous and disastrous. The following from the quaint pen of smart old Fuller will be read with interest and profit on the subject: - "The good parent. He showeth them, in his own practice, what to follow and imitate; and, in others, what to shun and avoid. For though ' the words of the wise be as nails fastened by the masters of the assemblies' (Ecclesiastes 12:11), yet, sure their examples are the hammer to drive them in, to take the deeper hold. A father that whipped his son for swearing, and swore himself whilst he whipped him, did more harm by his example than good by his correction. He doth not welcome and embrace the first essays of sin in his children. Weeds are counted herbs in the beginning of spring: nettles are put in pottage, and salads are made of elder buds. Thus fond fathers like the oaths and wanton talk of their little children, and please themselves to hear them displease God. But our wise parent both instructs his children in piety and with correction blasts the first buds of profaneness in them. He that will not use the rod on his child, his child shall be used as a rod on him. He allows his children maintenance according to their quality. Otherwise it will make them base, acquaint them with bad company and shocking tricks; and it makes them surfeit the sooner when they come to their estates. It is observed of camels, that having traveled long without water through sandy deserts, implentur, cum bibendi est occasio, et in praeteritum et infuturum ('when they find an opportunity they fill themselves both for the past and the future'); and so these thirsty heirs soak it when they come to their means, who, whilst their fathers were living might not touch the top of their money, and think they shall never feel the bottom of it when they are dead. In choosing a profession, he is directed by his child's disposition, whose inclination is the strongest indenture to bind him to a trade. But when they set Abel to till the ground, and send Cain to keep sheep; Jacob to hunt, and Esau to live in tents; drive some to school, and others from it; they commit a violence on nature, and it will thrive accordingly. Yet he burnouts not his child when he makes an unworthy choice beneath himself, or rather for ease than use, pleasure than profit. If his son proves wild, he doth not cast him off so far but he marks the place where he lights. With the mother of Moses, he doth not suffer his son so to sink or swim but he leaves one to stand afar off to watch what will become of him (Exodus 2:4). He is careful, while quenched his luxury, not withal to put out his life; the rather, because their souls who have broken and run out in their youth have proved the more healthful for it afterwards. He moves him to marriage rather by argument drawn from his good than his own authority. It is a style too princely for a parent herein to 'will and command;' but, sure, he may will and desire. Affections, like the conscience, are rather to be led than drawn; and it is to be feared, they that marry where they do not love, will love where they do not marry. He doth not give away his loaf to his children and then come to them for a piece of bread. He holds the reins (though loosely) in his own hands; and keeps, to reward duty and punish undutifulness. Yet, on good occasion, for his children's advancement, he will depart from part of his means. Base is their nature who will not have their branches lopped till their body be felled; and will let go none of their goods, as if it presaged their speedy death; whereas it doth not follow that he that puts off his cloak must presently go to bed. On his death-bed he bequeaths his blessing to all his children. Nor rejoiceth he so much to leave them great portions as honestly obtained. Only money well and lawfully gotten is good and lawful money. And if he leaves his children young, he principally nominates God to be their guardian; and, next to him, is careful to appoint provident overseers. The good child. He reverenceth the person of his parent, the old, poor, and froward. As his parent bore with him when a child, he bears with his parent if twice a child; nor doth his dignity above him cancel his duty unto him. When Sir Thomas More was Lord Chancellor of England, and Sir John his father one of the judges of the King's Bench, he would in Westminster fall beg his blessing of him on his knees. He observes his lawful commands, and practiseth his precepts with all obedience. I cannot, therefore, excuse St. Barbara from undutifulness, and occasioning her own death. The matter this: her father, being a pagan, commanded his workmen, building his house, to make two windows in a room. Barbara, knowing her father's pleasure; in his absence enjoined them to make three, that, seeing them, she might the better contemplate the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Methinks two windows might as well have raised her meditations, and the light arising from both would as properly have minded her of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son. Her father, enraged at his return, thus came to the knowledge of her religion, and accused her to the magistrate, which cost her her life. Having practiced, then, himself, he entails his parents' precepts on his posterity. Therefore such instructions are by Solomon (Proverbs 1:9) compared to frontlets and chains (not to a suit of clothes, which serves but one, and quickly wears out, or out of fashion), which have in them a real lasting worth, and are bequeathed as legacies to another age. The same counsels observed, are chains to grace, which, neglected, prove halters to strangle undutiful children. He is a stork to his parent, and feeds him in his old age. Not only if his father hath been a pelican, but though he hath been an ostrich unto him, and neglected him in his youth. He confines him not a long way off to a short pension, forfeited if he comes in his presence, but shows piety at home, and learns as St. Paul saith (1 Timothy 5:4) to requite his parent. And yet the debt (I mean only the principal, not counting the interest) cannot fully be paid. And therefore he compounds with his father, to accept in good worth his utmost endeavor. Such a child God commonly rewards with long life in this world. If he chance to die young, yet he lives long that lives well; and time misspent is not lived, but lost. Besides, God is better than his promise, if he takes him a long lease, and gives him a freehold of better value. As for disobedient children: if preserved from the gallows, they are reserved for the rack, to be tortured by their own posterity. One complained that never father had so undutiful a son as he had. 'Yes,' said his son, with less grace than truth, 'my grandfather had.' I conclude this subject with the example of a pagan's, which will shame most Christians. Pomponius Atticus, making the funeral oration at the death of his mother, did protest that, living with her three score and seven years, he was never reconciled to her, se nuncquam matre in gratiam rediisse, because there never happened betwixt them the least jar which needed reconciliation." - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.