« PreviousContinue »
preservation of us, is a real good, which deserves to be repaid with all the love we can show. It is this which supplies all the wants of helpless infancy, secures from all the hazards of heedless childhood, of giddy and unthinking youth. It is this that informs the mind and regulates the manners, that trains up the reason, that exercises the memory, that instructs us to argue and understand such things as by our years we are capable of, and takes care to educate and fit us for greater concerns. It is this that brings us first to God in baptism, and keeps us afterwards in the ways of goodness and religion, by instilling into us wise and virtuous principles ; by reminding us constantly of our several duties, encouraging us in good by favors and rewards, and reclaiming us from evil by reproofs and corrections. These, and a thousand more, are the ways which parents take to make their children happy, besides those endless and innumerable labors, watchings, and solicitations, which consume their whole life, to make a handsome provision for them of the good things of this life. So that whatever benefits can be the grounds and foundation of love in children, the care and love of parents abundantly afford them; and, therefore, they are obliged to take the remembrance of these frequently into consideration, in order to stir them up to love their parents, who have done so great things for them; who next, under God, are not only the authors of their being, but of their well being likewise, and present happiness.
Another duty which children owe to their parents is respect; that is, all external honor and civility, whether in words or actions, by virtue of which they are obliged to be submissive in their behaviour, and mannerly and dutiful in their speeches and answers to them, to say things honorable and commendable of them, to pry as little into their failings and infirmities as they themselves can, and to extenuate and conceal them as much as possible from others. And for this there is so much reason and decency in nature, that it shocks us to hear one reproach his parents with vices and infirmities, though what he says be true, unless it be done with great concern and tenderness, with grief and pity ; but when it is done with contempt and pleasure in telling, we cannot help abhorring such impiety; for the hearts of all men go along with Noah for laying punishment upon Ham for his unnatural and profane derision, and love the memory of those sons who would not themselves see, nor suffer their own senses to be witnesses of, the miscarriages of their father.
For if they miliarity, by hence and reset is some
That, therefore, children may discharge this part of their duty the better, and in every gesture, word, and action, show all due honor and respect to their parents, as it is partly in their parents' power to effect, so it should be their care and concern to promote it. And to this purpose, they must be careful how they live and behave in the sight of their children ; for if they make themselves vile and cheap in their eyes by too much familiarity, by light and indiscreet carriage, they will in vain expect the reverence and respect that is due to their character. The foundation of respect is some supposed excellence and worth, and in consequence of this, some kind of superiority ; but when parents either admit their children to an equality, or make them privy to their follies and indiscretions, they do in effect invite contempt. And, therefore, all due care should be taken, that the domestic differences, and idle and unseemly quarrels and debates, and silly and unkind words and actions, that too frequently pass between parents, should be concealed from children.
The third branch of a child's duty is obedience. This will vary greatly at different times of life; but it should never cease. It must be absolute and implicit during childhood. It can admit of very few exceptions in youth. It will ever be general in manhood; even when a son or daughter is of age to judge for himself, he ought to perceive clear and strong reasons before he takes upon him to go against his parents' directions and admonitions ; before he be able to judge for himself, which is not so soon as many young persons imagine they are able, no excuse can be sufficient. And there is one of the strongest possible reasons for our showing great deference to a parent's pleasure, and that is, that we are sure, which we can never be on following any other person's counsel, that it is meant for our good. A child ought to reason thus with himself; “I have received every proof imaginable of their affection and good will, nor can I suspect the least design they can have upon me, unless it be to do me good, and prevent me from falling into any miscarriage, which I find affects them rather more than it does myself. They have made me their pride, happiness, and glory. They have placed all their content and satisfaction in my welfare, and therefore I cannot but believe that their counsels and commands are the best that, considering circumstances, they can give, and the safest for me to follow. If children, I say, would but reason thus with themselves, and at the same time reflect upon the ties and obligations they have to be obedient to their parents, the reason
d; even v to perceivainst his par for himself,
ableness, the pleasure, and the security of being so, the approbation of all good people, and the blessing of God going along with it, they would soon bring themselves to a ready disposition of obedience even though there were some things not so agreeable to their own desires, in what their parents might enjoin.
There is one duty more included under the word. honor;' and that is the support and maintenance of our parents, or our administering to them in their wants and weaknesses. For considering the care and pains which our father, and the sleepless nights and homely offices which our mother, underwent for us, how tender they both were of us in our infancy, when we were incapable of helping ourselves, how liberal of their substance to give us an education and settle us in a station of life, to the utmost of their abilities; we cannot but think it incumbent on us to requite their care, and make them a suitable return, when either poverty, which is a heavy load and requires our support, or old age, which is a second childhood and requires our attention, comes upon them.
Upon the whole, parents, in respect to their children, do bear the signal stamp and image of God bimself, not only as he is their maker, but as he is their preserver and benefactor; and, therefore, we may observe, that as the duties to other men are termed kindnesses, or charity, or courtesies, or liberality, &c. those towards parents in every language are entitled piety; which implies something peculiarly divine in the object of them, and denotes that the offences of children in this respect are greatly increased ; that to slight our parents is more than unkindness; to refuse them support is more than uncharitableness; to be unmannerly towards them is more than discourtesy ; and in their necessities not to be liberal is more sordid than avarice, nay, is high impiety and flagitiousness against Heaven. For 6 he that forsaketh his father is a blasphemer; and he that angereth his mother is cursed of God; but he that honoreth his father shall have long life. These words of holy writ bring us to the nature of that encouragement which God has annexed to the performance of our duty towards our parents ; that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.'
Now it is evident that this promise was peculiar to the children of Israel, from being limited to the land of Canaan, which they only were to inhabit; and therefore it cannot from hence be concluded, either that obedient children shall always inherit long life, or that they who arrive at old age have therefore been obedient children; since every day's experience shows the contrary. But the encouragement which children have from hence is this ; that if long life be most convenient for them, all circumstances considered, they may expect it; but if it will not prove a blessing, as of itself it seldom does, then is not God unfaithful to his promise, if the best and most obedient children are translated betimes into that better and heavenly country, of which the land of promise was but a poor type or shadow. And therefore we find the son of Sirach exhorting to honor and observe parents, from motives of a higher consideration than what are given to the Jews. “My son, help thy father in his age, and grieve him not as long as he liveth; and if his understanding fail, have patience and despise him not, when thou art in thy full strength; for the relieving of thy father will not be forgotten; in the days of thy affliction it shall be remembered.'
Servants, be obedient unto them that are your masters according to the flesh,
with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart as unto Christ; not with eyeservice as menpleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will, doing service as to the Lord and not to men; knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
These words are a lesson to servants, from no other than the apostle Paul. It was his custom, at the conclusion of his epistles, to add short practical precepts and rules of behaviour, adapted to the various understandings of the persons to whom he wrote. So in this and the preceding, which are the last two chapters of the epistle to the Ephesians, the apostle sets forth the duties of husbands and wives, and children and parents; and in the words I have read to you, of servants and masters. Now, that in which this lesson exceeds all others, is the religion that it carries with it; and this religion respects both the motives upon which servants ought to act towards their masters, and the rule by which they should regulate themselves.
Another instructer, a mere human teacher, would have had servants be faithful and diligent in their calling, that they might please and satisfy their masters; because, he would have said, that is the way of recommending one's self, that is the way of bettering our condition, and of keeping a good situation if we have one; that is the way of obtaining and preserving a good name and a good character, upon which our livelihood and our success in the world depend. He who has nothing to trust to but his hands and labor, must recommend himself to an employment by industry, honesty, care, and sobriety. These qualities will constantly be sought for in servants; and qualities contrary to these, laziness, carelessness, dishonesty, and drunkenness, will as constantly be avoided by all who need them. Therefore, a prudent counsellor would suggest, if you have a view to pass your time creditably in your situation, and to have your service sought after ; if you would maintain yourself and your family with decency, and have a maintenance always to trust to ; secure to yourself by the regularity of your behaviour, as well as by the diligence, skilfulness, and activity of your service, the approbation of those who employ you, and of the neighbourhood in which you live; that will always do, and nothing else will.
A merely human teacher, of experience in the world, would probably tell a servant all this, and it is all true. But what says the apostle? A divine monitor like St Paul puts the matter on a different foundation. He inculcates far higher views; • Do,' says he, the will of God from the heart, with good wil doing service as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free,' In which words three things are imported; First, that servants are to look up, not to the person who employs them, but to God as their master, • Doing service as to the Lord and not to man.' Secondy; that it is in truth God, and not man, that sets them their work and their task; 'Do the will of God.' Thirdly; they are to look to God, and not to man, for the reward of their faithful service ; · Knowing this, that whatever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.'
First; the words of the text import this; if God is, so far, the proper master of all servants, then it is he, and not man, who has assigned them their works and their tasks. The foundation of the contract is, that the different lots and conditions of human life are all appointed by God, and that each man's calling and destination is that which God has fixed for him.
shing any. be bong hat servand as th