The Law of God, as Contained in the Ten
Commandments, Explained and Enforced

By William S. Plumer, 1864

The Fifth Commandment

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Exodus 20:12

In Deut. 5:16, this commandment is given thus: "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you." The substance of this command is also given in the opposite form in the chapter next following that which contains the moral law. "He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death." Exodus 21:17. Again: "Everyone that curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death: he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him." Levit. 20:9. Jesus Christ unites these two forms of the commandment, when he explains it and rescues it from the glosses of the scribes and Pharisees. Matt. 15:4-6. The apostle thus refers to this commandment: "Honor your father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth." Eph. 6:2, 3. When he says this "is the first commandment," the meaning probably is, it is the first commandment of the second table, or that it is the first commandment that has a particular promise annexed to it; for there is a general promise of a very comprehensive nature annexed to the second commandment.

The general design of this precept is to regulate our conduct in the several vocations of life. The foundation of all the social relations is that of husband and wife. But this subject will naturally come up, when we consider the seventh commandment, and is for the present passed over. The next relation is that of parent and child. The word father is used in the Scriptures to express the relation between God and his creatures. He is the Father of spirits. We are his offspring. Heb. 12:9; Acts 17:28, 29. In him we live, and move, and have our being. God is our Father in a sense higher than is any other being. And as in the first table, God fitly provides for due honor to himself, it is by an easy transition that he provides for due honor to our parents.

Stowell: "In the care and interest, the tenderness and authority of the parent, we behold a faint image of the superintendence, compassion, and government of God." Some have misconstrued the teachings of our Savior, when he taught us to "call no man father." The whole passage reads thus: "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:8-12. From this it is evident that what our Savior forbade was assuming dominion over the faith of others, or allowing others to assume dominion over our faith.

The word father may be taken in several senses:

1. As the teacher or inventor of any art. Jabal was the father of such as dwell in tents; and Jubal the father of all such as handle the harp or organ. Gen. 4:20, 21.

2. Sometimes it is a mere term of civil respect, as when Naaman's servants said, "My father," etc. 2 Kings 5:13.

3. Again, it designates people who are our superiors in age, or experience. "The elders entreat as fathers, and the elder women as mothers." 1 Tim. 5:1, 2.

4. Again, it is the title of a wise and influential counselor. Joseph says, "God has made me, father to Pharaoh." Gen. 45:8.

5. It describes the relation between converts and those honored of God as the means of their salvation. Paul says, "Though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." 1 Cor. 4:15.

6. A respectful term for a religious teacher. Thus Elisha addressed Elijah, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof." 2 Kings 2:12.

7. A respectful title given in many nations to the chief magistrate. There was a line of kings in Philistia, called Abimelech, which word signifies, The King, my Father. For many centuries the king of France was styled Sire, etc.; and

8. The fathers of our flesh, Heb. 12:9; the instruments of our earthly existence.

In the fifth commandment, the father being the head of the wife is named first. But that no slight was thereby intended to be put upon the female parent is evident from other Scriptures. "Each of you must show respect for your mother and father... for I, the LORD, am your God." Lev. 19:3. No child, however great or good, ever repaid a mother's love, a mother's care, and a mother's sorrow, manifested during all the trials of child-bearing, and child-rearing, and child-caring. Hare: "For a mother's heart is not like the heart of an animal, which, when its young have ceased to suck, drops them out of its memory. The human heart is of more lasting stuff... The mother, the good mother at least, will go on caring for her children, long, long after they have become men and women. Let them be men and women to others: to her they will always be children." Let us then consider,

1. The Duties of Parents to Children.

1. One duty of parents to children is suitably to provide for them when young and helpless. Nature teaches this duty. God's word enjoins it. Matt. 7:9, 10; 2 Cor. 12:14; 1 Tim. 5:8.

2. Another duty is to protect them. They are feeble. They are liable to wrong and injury. Reason suggests that the strong defend the weak.

3. Another duty generally confessed is to secure to them an education suitable to their talents and circumstances; that they may not enter upon the offices of life wholly unprepared for their stations, and thus find themselves most awkwardly situated. The secular education of children is in many ways important. This includes godly manners, 1 Pet. 3:8, industry, Proverbs 31:27, and humility of deportment, Proverbs 14:3.

4. But their pious and moral training is of so great value as that ruin, temporal and eternal, is likely to follow the neglect of it. In teaching, the matter and manner both claim attention. He, who takes heed what, but not how he teaches; or how but not what he teaches--does at the most but half his duty. Teach truth, and not its semblance, fiction. Teach truth, and not its opposite, error. Teach the truths God has taught you. Teach the whole word of God. The law is holy, just, and good. The promises are many, sweet, and faithful. The doctrines are true, sublime, and purifying. The threatenings are wise, righteous, and solemn. The examples are striking, various, and instructive. The encouragements are great, necessary, and seasonable. The invitations are kind, sincere, and persuasive. Omit nothing, abate nothing, add nothing. God's word is perfect.

He who made the Bible, made the mind of your child, and knew perfectly what would be best for it. Teach things in the proportion in which God has taught them. If God is just and holy, he is also good and merciful. If he forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin, he will also by no means clear the guilty. If his wrath is dreadful, his love is infinite. If he is a Savior, he is also a Judge. If he is a Sovereign, he is also a Father. If he pardons, it is not because sin is not infinitely hateful to him. Give clear ideas of the covenant of works, and the covenant of grace. Show how they differ. Never confound works and grace. Let Mount Sinai and Mount Calvary be set over against each other. Sinai without Calvary will fill the mind with terrors. Calvary without Sinai will breed contempt of mercy. The angels, who never sinned, are accepted for their works. "Do and live," is a law that suits them well. But eternal justice will smite to death the sinner who seeks acceptance by his own merits. He is a thief and a robber. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified."

Give to the person, teaching, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, offices, and glory of Christ the place assigned them in Scripture. He is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, light, life, prophet, priest, king, shepherd, surety, sacrifice, advocate. We are complete in him. He is all, and in all. He is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. Draw from the Bible the duties you inculcate, and the motives you urge. If you would repress self-will, stubbornness, immodesty, impatience, idleness, pride, deceit, selfishness, bigotry, cruelty, profaneness, or any vice; show that God forbids it. Always take sides with God against the sins and vices of even your own child. Explain the nature and urge the necessity of submission, patience, industry, humility, sobriety, moderation, truth, candor, honesty, justice, kindness, charity, faith, hope, repentance, fidelity, benevolence, respect for superiors, and reverence for God's name, word, worship, and ordinances. Take not the duty from the Bible, and the motives from Chesterfield, Rochefaucault, Seneca, or Plato. Present scriptural motives to an upright and virtuous life.

Think not to be wise above what is written: but try to be wise, and to make your children wise up to what is written. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable." Mix it not up with dreams and fancies, and loose opinions. "What is the chaff to the wheat?"

In teaching, great diligence is essential. So says God: "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:6-9. "Be instant in season, out of season." The holy Sabbath, sickness or death in your family or neighborhood, a narrow escape from some great evil, a time of drought or of plenty, any event that excites notice, even the common incidents of life, furnish fit occasions for dropping the precious seeds of truth in the heart. Occasional remarks are no less impressive than stated instructions. They are often more pithy, and more easily remembered.

Take not too much for granted. Children are feeble and heedless. A little at a time, and often repeated, is the great secret of successful teaching. "Line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, precept upon precept," is the scriptural method. Though you may halve taught a lesson twenty times, it is not certain that it has been perfectly learned. Avail yourself of the love of narrative, so common in children. God has revealed much of his will in this way. The stories and parables of Scripture are not only admirable for their plainness and simplicity, but they enforce truth with unsurpassed power. Almost every principle of religion and morals is thus illustrated and enforced in the word of God. A good teacher must be gentle and patient. It is hardly worse not to speak divine truth at all, than not to speak it in love. Teach the same lesson a hundred times. Upbraid not a child for its dullness. Be like Jesus, who said: "Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart." Terror produces agitation, and thus precludes the power of learning.

Nor can anything be more undesirable than to have biblical instruction associated in the mind of a child with moroseness and harshness. The human heart is sufficiently opposed to the truth of God without our strengthening it by roughness or severity. Do not be easily discouraged. Persevere. He has seen but little of mankind, who has not witnessed the sad failures of the precocious, and the final success of the slow. "Long patience" is even more essential to the teacher than to the farmer. Let both parents heartily unite in this work. King Lemuel has given us the prophecy that his mother taught him. Proverbs 31. Enter with spirit and zeal on the work of instruction. Put off all languor and sloth. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might." A lifeless formalism is as truly mischievous at the fireside--as in the pulpit.

To your own efforts add those of well-selected pious teachers, both during the week and on the Sabbath. Every school, even every Sabbath-school, is not well taught. Exercise your best judgment in the choice of teachers. Know what books your children read. The world is deluged with books which abound in error. Guard the minds of your children against a fondness for novel-reading. It has ruined thousands. Hopkins: "The instruction of children must not be technical and critical, but familiar and obvious; teaching them such fundamental truths and principles of Christian doctrine, as are of absolute necessity to be known, and in such a manner as may be most suitable to their capacity and discretion."

5. Another duty of parents to their children is that of governing them. The elements of good family government are strength, justice, wisdom, uniformity, and love. Act not the tyrant, yet be master or mistress of your own house. In your superior years, place, experience, and vigor, God has given you all that is necessary for making your government strong. Let it be a government, and not mere counsel. But let its provisions and administration be just. A child can feel injustice as soon and as keenly as a man. Impose no impossible tasks. Take into account all the weaknesses of childhood. In governing your children make a difference, not from partiality, but from a proper estimate of their various capacities, years, dispositions, and temptations. The varieties of character even in the same family are often surprising. Yet be uniform. Be not lax today and rigid tomorrow. Have settled principles, and let your children know them. Yet beware of making too many laws. They will not only ensnare your children, but destroy your government. Children may be governed too much. Do not expect perfection. In all you do, be guided by enlightened and pure affection. Never chide, nor correct in anger. If you cannot rule your own spirit, you may break the spirit of your child, but you cannot establish a wholesome government over him.

That we are bound to use authority is manifest from many parts of Scripture. Of Abraham, God says: "I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." Behold the dreadful end of the sons of Eli, and be warned. He was a godly man, hated sin even in his own children, and reproved it, saying: "It is no good thing I hear of you, my sons." But he used not authority, as their father and as the high-priest, to require reformation. Follow not so dangerous an example.

With reproof God has united the rod. When it is necessary, use it. It commonly is necessary in cases of willful and deliberate disobedience. "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." Hopkins: "The rod is to be used early, before age and spirit have hardened them against the fear or smart of correction. The wise man has told us, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." Proverbs 13:24; see also Proverbs 23:13, 14. Never use the rod to gratify a feeling of anger, nor without being sure that it is deserved. I have somewhere read the following story, which well illustrates the matter.

Two coaches, belonging to opposite lines, left the same place at the same hour every day for London. Both drivers had orders to make the distance in the shortest time possible. One driver mounted the box, with whip in hand, was excited, spoke angrily to his horses, and alternately relaxed and jerked the reins, at the same time using his whip freely. In a few miles his horses gave signs of distress, and before he reached London some of his team were broken down. The other driver coolly took his seat, spoke gently to his horses, held a steady rein all the time, and seldom even cracked his whip. He was often hindmost for a few miles, but while the horses of the other team were in a foam, hardly a hair of his horses was moist. The last few miles, his team not being jaded, he took the lead, and seldom even distressed a horse. The reason of the difference was, not that one driver had a better team than the other; but one was a better driver than the other. One held a steady rein, and never used the whip unless it was necessary. The other constantly used the whip, fretted his team, and wasted both their spirit and strength. Who has not seen this precise difference in the government of families? The first driver would have done as well, perhaps better, without a whip. And many a family would not have been in a worse state, if a rod had never been in it.

Family government is always a failure when it does not secure prompt obedience and sincere affection from the child to the parent. Parents should be agreed in the government of their children. If they do not support each other's authority, it must fall. A divided house cannot stand. Nor should they permit grand-parents, aunts, or any person whatever to weaken their authority. Hare: "I am aware, this strict and ready obedience, which does everything it is told, as soon as it is told, without asking why—this unquestioning obedience, I am aware, is rather out of date. But God's words are still true, and God's commandments are still good and reasonable, whatever the world, which is at enmity with God, may think or say.... There is the same difference between a father and son, a mother and daughter, as between a person who knows a road and one who does not."

"Hear, O children, the instruction of a father; for I give you good doctrine;" "Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings, for I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you run, you shall not stumble," Proverbs 4:1,10,11,12. How different would have been the history of Rehoboam, had he duly obeyed this counsel of his father Solomon.

There is a race of people said still to be found on the earth in thrift and honor, who are mentioned in history more than 2500 years ago, upon whom a blessing was then pronounced by the Almighty in these words: "This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.' therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Jonadab son of Recab will never fail to have a man to serve me.'" Jer. 35:18, 19.

"Train up a child in the way he should go," Hare: "Train him up in obedience to his parents, while a child, in order that he may be less unwilling to obey his heavenly Father when he becomes a man. 'It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.' (Lam. 3:27.) But what yoke? First, The yoke of obedience; Secondly, The yoke of self-denial; Thirdly, The yoke of the cross, which is the sign and token of humility."

But beware of so conducting the government of children as to dishearten them. "You fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, lest they be discouraged," Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21. David set a noble example of encouragement to his son, 1 Chron. 28:20. Let the parent allure as well as command.

6. Parents should so walk before their children as that they may safely follow in their footsteps. Set a good example in all things. "Tinder is not more apt to take fire, nor wax the impression of the seal, than the young are to follow example." If your child may in his heart say: "Physician, heal yourself," your influence for good in that matter is at an end, at least until you reform. He who delivers good precepts, sows good seed. He who adds good example, ploughs in that seed. Children are the most imitative creatures in the world. The different species of ape excite the laughter of fools by their powers of mimicry, but children excite the admiration of wise men by their powers of imitation. Quintilian rightly says that babysitters should not have a bad accent. The reason is that children will soon acquire it. And Dr. Watts well says, "It is far less difficult to learn than to unlearn."

In his Ode to the Romans, Horace says: "Brave men are made by brave men." Nor, is there any other way of making men brave. Precept, eloquence, and poetry cannot do it. Cowards breed cowards. The same is true of all the virtues and vices.

The power of good examples above bare precepts is threefold; first, they most clearly show what the duty is; then, they prove that it is practical; and lastly, they awaken a more lively desire to perform it, by arousing the imitative principle of our nature.

I have known two men, by precept and authority, without example, to try to restrain their sons from intemperance and profanity. They both failed. I have known many a parent, whose precepts were few, and whose use of the rod was sparing, to raise a family to virtue and honor chiefly by a blameless example. It is as true of parents as of preachers, that a bad example will destroy the good which might be expected from sound instruction. "Do as I say and not as I do," is a sentence which converts the best teaching into poison, and dreadfully hardens the heart. Precepts give the theory, but example instils principle. Words impart notions, but example carries conviction. One plain man, of blameless life and good sense, will more enforce the obligations of true piety than a hundred orators with godless lives. A heathen once gave as a reason for his guarded behavior in the presence of the young, "I reverence a child." If you deceive your child, break your promises to him, or practice any sin before him, you cannot fail to teach him to do the same. "In everything he followed the example of his father Joash." 2 Kings 14:3

7. But as he who sows is nothing, and he who waters is nothing, even though he be a tender and judicious parent, we should always look to God in humble prayer for his blessing. "Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, watching thereunto with all perseverance." "Pray without ceasing." Pray in the house of God, in your family, in your closet, in your daily walks. Ask others to pray for you and your children. This should not be a mere formal, but an earnest request. You need special wisdom and grace to preserve you from error, and sin, and folly. The heart of your child is corrupt, and all your teaching and example will be lost without God's blessing. You cannot change the heart, renew the will, or wash away the sins of your child. God alone can impart to him a love of the truth, or give him repentance. You may use your best endeavors, but all will be in vain without God's Spirit. Sails are necessary, but a thousand yards of canvas will not carry forward a vessel, unless the wind blows. Be fervent in your supplications.

Monica, the mother of Augustine, said she "had greater travail and pain that her son might be born again, than that he might be born." God answered her prayers, and that too, at a time when he seemed to be utterly lost. John Newton tells of a mother of eleven pious children, who being asked how she came to be so much blessed, said, "I never took one of them into my arms to give it nourishment, that I did not pray that I might never nurse a child for the devil." It is as true now as in any former age of the world, that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." Never despair of the salvation of a child. While there is life, there is hope. Wrestle with God like Jacob, and you shall prevail like Israel. Never, by unbelief, deliver over a child to sin, and to the wrath of God. Pray on. Hope on. For the encouragement of all who are charged with the religious education of the young, let these, promises of the covenant of peace be well considered: "I will be a God to you and to your seed after you." "The promise is to you and to your children." "Allow little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God." "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." More precious promises could not be made. Believe them. Plead them before God.

Richard Baxter has said, that if pious education, family worship, parental instruction, and a holy example were properly regarded by parents, even the preaching of the gospel would not be the most common means of conversion. The best encouragement to effort is found in the hope of success. In this case that hope is well-founded. God's word and providence both prove it. The great mass of the pious now on earth is made up of those who from childhood have been taught the ways of God.

Many foolish things have no doubt been said concerning the religious impressions of children. Yet there have been many well-authenticated cases of early piety. Our children cannot too soon begin to live to the glory of God. He who is old enough to sin against God, is old enough to love God. Whether your children shall be early or late converted, yet if they shall obtain salvation at all, they will be kings and priests unto God forever and ever. Does a sweeter hope ever visit the parental mind than that of standing before God in the last day, and saying: "Behold, I and the children, whom the Lord has given me!" "A whole family in heaven" will forever be matter of greater wonder and louder praise, than can be found in all the works disclosed by microscopes and telescopes in the boundless dominions of God. But if you neglect the pious education of your children, dreadful will be the consequences. "A child left to himself brings his mother to shame."

Parental love is often blind and foolish,

"A parent's heart may prove a snare;
The child she loves so well,
Her hand may lead with gentlest care,
Down the smooth road to hell."

Trust not your heart. Trust God's word. Give not place to evil tempers and ways in yourself or your child. It is not many years since a young lady thus addressed her parents: "You have been the unhappy instruments of my being. You fostered me in pride, and led me in the paths of sin. You never once warned me of my danger, and now it is too late. In a few hours you will have to cover me with earth, but remember, while you are casting earth upon my body, my soul will be in hell--and yourselves the miserable cause!" If you would escape the scourges of a guilty conscience, the reproaches of a lost child, and the rebukes of an angry God, do your duty to your children. Only when the heart of the fathers is turned to their children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, may we hope that God will not come and smite the earth with a curse. As a town without walls, as a house without a roof, as a garden without a hedge, and as sheep without a shepherd, so is a family, whose thoughts and affairs are not molded by the fear and love of God.

2. The duties of CHILDREN to parents.

These are many, weighty and of great importance. They are summed up in the word HONOR. This word is well chosen. It contains the sum of the duty here required. The same word is found in Proverbs 3:9. "Honor the Lord with your substance, etc." It is often rendered glorify. Isaiah 24:15. "Glorify the Lord, etc." God himself uses the word in 1 Sam. 2:30. "Those who honor me, will I honor." Dwight: "The word honor is chosen with supreme felicity; as being suffciently comprehensive, and sufficiently definite, to express with as much exactness as can easily be compassed, all the several branches of duty which parents can equitably demand of their children." Poole: "The word honor does not only note the respect, love, and obedience we owe them, but also support and maintenance, as appears from Matt. 15:4-6, and from a like signification of that word, 1 Tim. 5:3, 17.

1. One duty of children to parents is sincere, strong, unwavering love. To be "without natural affection" makes either parent or child a monster of depravity. Romans 1:31. What a beautiful instance of filial love we have in Joseph, even when he was well-advanced in years. His venerable parent was coming to him; indeed had arrived in Goshen. "And Joseph madle ready his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while." Gen. 46:29. Love is no less the fulfilling of the fifth commandment than of any other.

2. Another duty of children to parents is to give them filial fear. Heb. 12:9. This is not inconsistent with love. Because the child is affectionate, he is devoted. Because he is filled with respect, he is free from unbecoming familiarity. There is no substitute for this kind of filial regard. Mal. 1:6; Proverbs 31:28. This kind of reverence Solomon manifested to his mother. 1 Kings 2:19. It was a good resolution of Jonathan Edwards of Northampton, "Never to allow the least measure of any fretting or uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved, To suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye, and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family." This is quite in accordance with holy Scripture. "He that curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death;" "He that curses his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness;" "The eye that mocks at his father, and despises to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it." Exodus 21:17, Proverbs 20:20, 30:17.

With what great delight does a rightly ordered mind review the account of the reverence with which Joseph treated Jacob, when he went to see that venerable man. Joseph was then actually the wisest and most powerful man on earth; and yet when he approached his father, "he bowed himself with his face to the earth." Gen. 47:12. Where parents are wrong and show vile tempers, the speech of their children towards them should be mild and gentle, even in using the language of remonstrance. Thus said Jonathan to Saul; "Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; for he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine." 1 Sam. 19:4, 5. This reverence to parents should be sincere, uniform, profound. It should not indeed be servile, nor tormenting; but it should be full of sweet submission and of humble disposition. However worthless or wicked a parent may be, this duty still binds. One natural effect of reverence is submission. If parents are bound to give instruction, children are bound to receive it. "My son, hear the instruction of your father and forsake not the law of your mother."

3. Out of love and fear naturally grows obedience, which should be prompt, cheerful and universal, unless the parent requires the child to do something wicked. "My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not the law of your mother: bind them continually upon your heart, and tie them about your neck." Proverbs 6:20, 22. See also, Proverbs 13:1, and 23:22. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Eph. 6:1. "Children, obey your parents, in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord." Col. 3:20. No expectation of future eminence, no consciousness of present superiority in attainments can exempt us from this obligation. Two examples of Scripture delightfully settle this question. One is that of David, who after displaying amazing prowess, was yet entirely submissive to the authority of Jesse. I Sam. 16:11. The other is that of the Blessed Master himself, of whom we have this short but comprehensive record; that "he went down with his father and mother, and came to Nazareth, and was subject into them." Luke 2:51.

Let all children who are tempted to disobedience, or even to the slightest disrespect to either parent, remember the case of Canaan. Gen. 9:25. It is true that the kind of obedience due to parents differs according to the age of the child. At first, it is implicit, and rests entirely upon the authority of the parent. Young children must obey without reserve or examination. As children advance in years, it is reasonable that they should understand the grounds of many things required of them. In due time, by the law of their nature and of Scripture, ordinarily God sets them also in families, when it is agreeable to the divine will that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7. Yet there can never come a time when the child may cease to honor the parent, in every way expressing love and esteem, and especially by yielding to all his reasonable commands. There have been cases and may be again, where parents require of their children to lie, to steal, to commit trespass and even to murder. In all such cases, children may not obey, because it is directly counter to the supreme will of God.

4. Another duty of children is to contribute as circumstances demand, and as their parents require, to their temporal support and comfort. The law on this subject is explicit. "If a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God." 1 Tim. 5:4. See also Ruth 4:15. Indeed that alarming statement in 1 Tim. 5:8, (If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,) is brought out to enforce the duty of lineal and collateral descendants to provide for their helpless or dependent relatives. In nothing did those corrupt creatures, the Scribes and Pharisees, more grossly misinterpret God's will than in regard to the fifth commandment.

Our Savior said to them, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites!" Matthew 15:3-7. The tradition of these false teachers seems to have been in almost all respects wrong. They appear to have held that a sacrifice offered in the temple was of such great value as to relieve children from the duty of showing piety at home; and that if we would say of anything, it was devoted to religious uses, that cut off all claim of parents to assistance. But all this was mere hypocrisy. Joseph set a good example in this respect. Gen. 47:12. Our Lord himself in the agony of crucifixion did not fail to show filial piety to his aged mother, now probably a widow. John 19:27.

It is also especially obligatory upon children well to consider and closely to follow the right counsel and worthy example of their parents. It is mentioned to the everlasting honor of Jehoshaphat that "The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel." 2 Chronicles 17:3-4. Let us now consider,

3. The PROMISE Annexed.

Although the promise annexed to this commandment has reference more or less to the right performance of all relative duties, yet it has special application to dutiful children. It is in these words: "that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you." In Deut. 5:16, it is, "that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you in the land which the Lord your God gives you." It is either to this latter form of the promise, or to the Septuagint translation of Exodus 20:12, or to both of them, that Paul alludes in citing this promise in Eph. 6:3. The literal rendering of the Hebrew is, that they may prolong your days, or cause your days to be prolonged. If we follow this rendering, then the meaning is either that the commandments when rightly observed will prolong the days of dutiful children; or that their father and mother whom they honor will by their prayers, and protection, and example, be the means of lengthening their lives. So Diodati: "That they (the parents) may be instruments, and a means of it, by their blessing, and that this good may befall you from God for their sakes." Poole: "That your days may be long--that your parents may prolong your days, or the days of your life, instrumentally, by their prayers made to God for you, and by their blessing in my name conferred upon you." What then is the meaning of this promise?

Ridgley says, "there are three things which tend to make a long life happy.

1. Experience of growth in grace, in proportion to our advance in age, according to that promise, 'They shall bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.' Psalm 92:14.

2. When we retain our natural abilities, and that strength and vigor of mind, which we have formerly had. This some are deprived of, through the infirmities of age; whereby they may be said to outlive themselves. It was a peculiar blessing, which God granted to Moses; concerning whom it is said, that he was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; and yet his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. Deut. 34:7.

3. Old age is a blessing, when our usefulness to others, in our day and generation, is continued. Thus Joshua died an old man; but it was a peculiar blessing that he was useful to the end. Josh. 24:25, 29."

Matthew Henry: "Those who, in conscience towards God, keep this and the rest of God's commandments, may be sure that it shall be well with them, and that they shall live as long on earth as Infinite Wisdom sees good for them, and that what they may seem to be cut short of on earth shall be abundantly made up in eternal life, the heavenly Canaan which God will give them."

Doddridge: "These words express the peculiar care of the divine providence for the continuance and comfort of the lives of those who should observe this precept, the benefit of which those children might generally expect, who were dutiful to their parents."

Scott: "The annexed promise of long life to obedient children, might have a peculiar reference to the covenant of Israel; yet careful observers of mankind have noted its remarkable fulfillment in other nations. Subordination in the family and community tends to personal and public felicity; and the dislike, which the human heart bears to submission, renders it proper to enforce it by motives of every kind."

Calvin: "The meaning is, Honor your father and your mother, that through the space of a long life, you may enjoy the possession of the land, which will be to you a testimony of my favor." "The hoary-head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness." Proverbs 16:31. Compare Lev. 19:32; 1 John 2:13.

It is evident from the interpretation of this promise given in providence that it is of a general, and not of a universal nature. The land of Canaan was a type of the heavenly blessing. "God has linked our duty and our interest together, so as there is no separating of them." The author wishes here to record his testimony. During a life neither short nor uneventful, he has mingled much with mankind. In that time he has seen many children forego their own gratification and apparent interest for the sake of parents, not always amiable, sometimes intemperate. Yet he has in no case seen such children losers in the end. A blessing has followed them.