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behave yourselves towards them in the most respectful and dutiful manner; and speak of them with all pollible honour and reverence. But some thick by honouring our parents is meant providing for their comfortable support, when advanced in life, and incapable of sublisting themselves: this, however, is most certainly included in the phrase. “Make the “ latter part of their days as easy and happy to them “ as you can.”
The duties thus enjoined on children to their parents the apostle enforces by various confiderations.
The first he mentions is their fiiness. “ Obey your “ parents in the Lord: for this is right." It is juft, (dixxuov), it is fit and reasonable in itself, what the light of nature teaches, and all nations and ages have acknowledged to be expedient. It is most decent and becoming to obey and reverence those, to whom under God we are indebted for our existence. It is on the grounds of equity and gratitude moft naturally - to be expected, that we should make every return in our power to those who have shewn us all imaginable care and kindness. And a due regard to their instructions and authority, will in its consequences be greatly beneficial to us; as they are far better able on many accounts to direct and govern us, especially in our minority, than we are ourselves:
The next arguinent is taken from the express will of God, signified in the fifth commandment. This is one of those precepts of the inoral law which the great God so solemnly pronounced on Mount Sinai, and which he writ with his own finger on the tables of stone. With an audible voice he said, Honour thy fa. ther and thy mother, and it is his pleasure that that
voice should be heard through all the world, and to the end of time. Wherefore, children are to obey their parents in the Lord, that is, in obedience to the authority of the great God.
Here the apostle, as he passes on, observes, that this is the first commandment, with promise. From hence the church of Rome would infinuate, that the second commandment, which is so directly opposed to their doctrine and practice of worshipping images, is not obligatory under the gospel. “ For, say they, that commandment hath a promise annexed to it; but the apostle tells us, this is the first with promise ; wherefore he hereby plainly annihilates that.” But the reply is extremely natural. The promise added to the second commandment, (which indeed is rather an affertion than a promise) is no other than a general de. claration of God's merciful disposition to all who love him and keep his commandments, and evidently relates to the whole law. Whereas the precept of which the apostle is here speaking, is the first and on. ly one that hath a promise annexed to it, peculiar to itself.-It should here also be observed, that the language of the text establishes the authority of the de. calogue or moral law, with respect to us Chriftians as well as the Jews, teaching us not only that we should make it the rule of our lives, but that we may and ought to be influenced in our obedience, by a regard to the blessings it promises. And in respect to the precept before us, the apostle evidently meant by styl. ing it, the first commandment with promise, to draw an argument from thence, to persuade children to a dutiful behaviour towards their parents. This, as if he had said, is a duty of the greatest consequence, the
ground work of all other social duties, and therefore diflinguished from the rest by a particular mark of the divine favour.
And what is the promise, thus held up to the view of children? It is this~" Honour thy father and mo. 66 ther, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest vi live long on the earth.” In Exodus it is expreffed somewhat differently, “that thy days may be long “ upon the land which the Lord thy God givetli " thee *.” And in Deuteronomy thus, “ that thy “ days may be prolonged, and that it may go well 6 with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God gi“ veth thee 7." The sense, however, is fully convey. ed in the text, excepting the promised land's not being particularly mentioned. This omission, fome sup. pose, was owing to a wish, to preclude all occasion of countenancing a vain confidence, which at that time prevailed much among the Jews, that they should not be dispossessed of their country t. But as this epistle was written to the Ephesian church, which consisted of Gentile as well as Jewish converts, it should rather feem the omislion, which does not affect the spirit of the promise, was with a view to accommodate it to Christians in general. Now the plain import of it is this, that those who, in obedience to the divine autho. rity, pay due respect to their parents, will be likely to enjoy worldly prosperity and long life. I say, likely, because the promise is so worded as to convey an idea of the direct tendency of dutifulness in children, to promote their temporal welfare, which we shall largely shew hereafter is the case. But, considered as a positive promise, it was remarkably fulfilled in regard
... nes Lim, of * Exod. xx. 1 2. f Deut. y. 16. See Whitby in loc.
of the Jews. And, however temporal rewards and punishments are not now dispensed in the manner they were among that people, who subsisted under a peculiar form of government, yet there are not a few in. stances of dutiful children, who have been difiinguished by the smiles of Providence; and it is true of them all, in regard of their best interests, that acting thus in the fear of God, it is well with them in this life, and shall be well with them for ever in the life to come.—Thus the apostle enforces this great duty by the law of nature, the express command of God, and the many advantages that attend the right discharge of it.— The text thus explained, we proceed more particularly to consider,
First, The various offices required of children to. wards their parents, and,
SECONDLY, Their obligations to these duties.
First, As to the duties which children owe to their parents.
These we shall class under the three heads of Obe. dience-Reverence and Support. Obedience I mention first, because the main expressions of it, especially in the absolute and unlimited sense of the word, are required of children in the early part of life : Reverence next, because that ripens and improves with reafon: and Support last of all, because the tender offices meant by this term, are to be rendered parents in the decline of life, and are, with good reason, understood to be included, as was observed just now, in the word honour.
I. Obedience. The duties comprehended in this idea, we shall consider in reference to matters---civil
--and religious, keeping in our eye, as we pass or, the different ages, capacities, and circumstances of children.
1. As to civil matters.
In this description, we include what relates to food, dress, company, amusements, deportment, learning, discipline, and every thing else which the morals of children are conversant about. The will of the pa. rent, in regard of all these matters, under the restric. tions which will be hereafter mentioned, should be dutifully complied withi.
In the earliest stage of life, obedience is the result of instinct not reasoning. Caft, as infants are, in this helpless flate upon the care of others, they are under a necessity of submitting. But when they begin to acquire ftrength, and to become capable of resisting, they should, upon the general idea of filial duty, obey. For though they may not be able, clearly to compre, hend the fitness of what is required of them, they nay yet have sense enough to perceive, that the age, authority, and affection of their parents, give them a right to demand fubmifiion and obedience. And for children possessing this idea, to dispute the point with them, in any matter insisted on, is to offend against the decision of their own reason. Their reason teaching them submission, their language no doubt should be, “My father knows better than I, what is right to be done in this case, and therefore I ought to comply; I will comply.”
Hence, if we may be allowed to digress a moment, appears the importance of taking pains with children, at this early age, to impress their minds with the general obligations of filial obedience. Parents should