ON HONOUR THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER, &c.
Consider first, that next to the precepts that enforce those most essential duties which we owe to God himself, follows the commandment of honouring our parents, as well corporal as spiritual, under God, and all such as have from God a power over us, whether in church or state. This, says the apostle, (Eph. vi. 2,) is the first commandment with a promise that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest be long-lived upon earth. Nothing could be more agreeable to nature, to reason, and to religion, than this divine precept. And we find by many instances how much God takes to heart our strict observance of it, and how severely he punishes, even in this life, the transgressors, as well by ordering in the law such as are notoriously guilty in this kind to be put to death without mercy, as by the many dreadful judgments he often inflicts upon them. Christians, what is your comportment to your parents, & c.? Is it dutiful or undutiful? O never flatter yourselves with the expectation of God’s blessing either in this world or the next if you are undutiful.
Consider 2ndly, what this honour means which the law of God requires from children to their parents For it does not merely consist in cringing and ceremony, but it implies a sincere love, joined with respect and reverence; a ready obedience to their orders, where they no ways clash with the holy will and law of God; and a perpetual disposition to afford them or procure for them all proper assistance, as well in their corporal as in their spiritual necessities: insomuch that our Lord will not allow of any gifts made to himself or to his temple to the prejudice of that honour and support which we owe to our parents, Matt. xv. 3, 4, 5, 6. Christians, give ear to the admonitions of the Holy Ghost by the wise man, Ecclus. iii., and learn from him what your duty is to your parents, and what the reward of your compliance with that duty. ‘Honour thy father in word and work, and in all patience that a blessing may come upon thee from him, and his blessing may remain in the latter end. The father’s blessing establisheth the houses of the children, but the mother’s curse rooteth up the foundation. Son, support the old age of thy father, and grieve him not in his life; and if his understanding fail have patience with him, and despise him not, when thou art in thy strength – and in justice thou shalt be built up, and in the day of affliction thou shalt be remembered, and thy sins shall melt away as the ice in the fair warm weather.’ And again, ‘He that honoureth his father shall have joy in his own children, and in the day of his prayer he shall be heard. He that honoureth his father shall enjoy a long life,’ & c. He that feareth the Lord honoureth his parents, and will serve them as his masters, that brought him into the world.
Consider 3rdly, what the duty is, on the other hand, of parents with regard to their children; and so in proportion of other superiors with regard to them that are committed to their charge. For their obligation is greater than many apprehend, and their own eternal welfare, as well as that of their children or subjects, absolutely depends upon their discharge of it. It is true, they are not to neglect the care of their temporal well-being as far as is consistent with the safety of their souls; but they must take much more to heart their everlasting salvation: and therefore, from their very childhood they must give them an early knowledge of their Christian duty, and instill into their tender minds the fear and love of God; they must accustom them to prayer, and must teach them how to pray; they must make them sensible of the necessity of their breaking their own will, of their curbing their passions, and denying themselves, if they would be happy either here or hereafter. In a word, they must remove far from them all the occasions of sin, and procure them all the helps they can to establish them in Christian piety. O how easy it would be for parents to bring up saints for heaven if they would be diligent in putting all this in practice! But alas! how many rather train up their children for hell by abandoning them from their childhood to their own corrupt inclinations, and inspiring them with the maxims of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Conclude to discharge thyself diligently of thy respective duty, whether of a child or of a parent, of a subject or of a superior, according to the station in which God has placed thee. Pass not over this matter too slightly in the examination of thy conscience, as too many do, who flatter themselves with a false security, whilst they live and die in the neglect of these great relative duties.