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their bitter fruits upon them again, to the wounding of their very hearts; and therefore it pleased him to commend obedience and love to parents, in his own example.
It was anciently a proverb among the heathen, it is good to be an old man, or woman, only in Sparta. The ground of it was the strict laws among the Spartans to punish the rebellion and disobedience of children to their aged parents. And shall it not be good to be an old father and mother in this land, where the Gospel of Christ is preached, and such an argument as this now set before you urged; an argument which the heathen world never heard ?
Let all that sustain the relation of children seriously ponder this example of Christ proposed for their imitation, in which we will consider what duties belong to the relation of children, and how they are enforced by Christ's example.
1. The duties pertaining to the relation of children.
1. Fear and reverence are due from children to their parents, by the express command of God: "Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father.” Lev. 19: 3. God has clothed parents with his authority. He has entrusted to them the care of the souls and bodies of their children; and he expects that children reverence them, although in respect of outward estate, or honor, they be never so much above them. Joseph, though lord of Egypt, bowed down before his aged father, with his face to the earth. Gen. 48 : 12. Solomon, the most magnificent and glorious king that ever swayed a sceptre, when his mother came to speak with him for Adonijah, rose up to meet her, bowed himself to her, and set her upon his right hand. 2 Kings, 2 : 19.
2. Dear and tender love is due from children to their parents: and to show how strong and dear that love ought to be, it is joined with the love you have for your own lives; as it appears in the injunction, to deny
both for Christ's sake. Matt. 10 : 37. The bonds of nature are strong and direct between parents and children. Oh the care, the cost, the pity, the tenderness, the pains, the fears they have expressed for you. It is worse than heathenish ingratitude not to return love for love. This filial love is not only in itself a duty, but should be the root or spring of all your duties to them.
3. Obedience is due them, by the Lord's strict and special command : " Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right; honor thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with promise.” Eph. 6:1. Filial obedience is not only founded upon the positive law of God, but also upon the law of nature :
This is right,” says the apostle, that is, right both according to natural and positive law. However, this subjection and obedience is not absolute and universal. God has not divested himself of his own authority, to clothe a parent with it. Your obedience to them must be " in the Lord,” that is, in things consonant to that Divine and holy will, to which they, as well as you, must be subject. Yea, even the wickedness of a parent exempts not from obedience, where his command is proper, Nor, on the other hand, must the holiness of a parent sway you, where his commands and God's are opposite. Yield yourselves, therefore, cheerfully to obey all which they lawfully enjoin, and take heed that the sin fixed on heathen who know not God, be not found upon you, "disobedience to parents." Rom. 1:30. Remember, your disobedience to their just commands rises much higher than an affront to their personal authority ; it is disobedience to God himself, whose commands second and strengthen theirs upon you.
4. Submission to their discipline and rebukes, is also. your duty: "We had fathers of our own flesh that corrected us, and we gave them reverence.” Heb. 12:9. Parents ought not to abuse their authority. "Oruelty
in them is a great sin ; wrath and rebellion in a child against his parents is monstrous.” Two considerations should not fail bring children into a submissive frame, especially to godly parents. Their aim is to save your souls from hell. They judge it better for you to hear the voice of their anger, than the terrible voice of the wrath of God. And when they rebuke and chasten, it is with grief in their hearts, and tears in their eyes. It is no delight to them to cross, vex, or afflict you. But for their duty to God, and tender love to your souls, they would neither rebuke nor chasten: and when they do, how do they afflict themselves in afflicting you !
5. Faithfulness to all their interests is due to them, by the natural and positive law of God. As far as in you lies, you are bound to promote, not to waste and scatter their substance; to assist, not defraud them. " Whoso robbeth his father or mother, and saith, it is no transgression, the same is a companion of a destroyer.” Prov. 28:24. To dispose of their goods, much more of yourselves, without their consent, is ordinarily the greatest injustice to them.
6. And more especially, the requital of all their love, care, and pains for you, is your duty so far as God enables you : "Let them learn to show piety at home, and requite their parents." 1 Tim. 5:4. It is a saying frequent among the Jews, " A child should rather labor at the mill than suffer his parents to want.” And to the same effect is that other saying, "Your parents must be supplied by you if you have it; if not, you ought to beg for them, rather than see them perish.” It was both the comfort and honor of Joseph, that God made him an instrument of so much succor and comfort to his aged father and distressed family. Gen. 47: 13. And you are also to know, that what you do for them, is not alms, or charity ; it is but requiting them, which-is justice, not charity. And it can never be a full requital. Indeed the apostle tells us, 2 Cor. 12:14, that parents lay up for their children, and not children for their parents; and so they ought. But surely if Providence impoverish them, and bless you, an honorable maintenance is their due. Even Christ himself took care for his mother.
II. Consider how the example of our Lord, who was so subject to them in his life, Luke, 2:51, and so careful to provide at his death, enforces all those duties upon children, especially upon gracious children.
1. His example in this has the force and power of law, yea, a law of love, or a law lovingly constraining you to an imitation of him. If Christ himself condescends to be your pattern, if God is pleased to take relations like yours, and go before you in the discharge of relative duties; Oh, how are you obliged to imitate him, and tread in all his footsteps ! This was by him intended as a pattern, to facilitate and direct your duties.
2. He will call you to account in judgment how you have answered the pattern of obedience and tender care he set before you in the days of his flesh. What will the disobedient plead in that day? He that heard the groans of an afflicted father or mother, will now come to reckon with the disobedient child for them; and the glorious example of Christ's own obedience, and his tenderness to his relations, will, in that day, condemn and aggravate, silence and shame such wretched children as shall stand guilty before his bar.
INFERENCE 1. Has Jesus Christ given such a pattern of obedience and tenderness to parents? Then there can be nothing of Christ in stubborn, rebellious children. The children of disobedience cannot be the children of God. If Divine Providence directs this to the hands of any that are so, my heart's desire and prayer for them is, that the Lord will manifest to them their sinfulness, while they consider the following inquiries :
Have you not been guilty of slighting your parents by irreverent words or conduct ? To such I commend the consideration of Prov. 30:17, which, methinks, should be to them as the hand-writing that appeared upon the wall to Belshazzar : " The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.” That is, they shall be brought to an untimely end, and the birds of the air shall eat that eye that, but for the parent it despised, had never seen the light. It may be you are vigorous and young, they decayed and wrinkled with age : but, saith the Holy Ghost, " Despise not thy mother when she is old.” Prov. 23:22. It may be you are rich, they poor; own, and honor them in their poverty, and despise them not.
God will requite it with his hand if
do. Have you not been disobedient to the commands of parents ? A son of Belial is a child of wrath, if God give not repentance to life. Is not this the awful brand set upon the heathen? Rom. 1:30. Wo to him that makes a father or mother complain, as the tree in the fable, that they are cleft asunder with the wedges that are cut out of their own bodies.
Have you not risen up rebelliously against, and hated your parents for chastening you, that they might save your soul from hell? What is this but to resist an ordinance of God for your good ? and, in rebelling against them, to rebel against the Lord ? Well, if they do not, God will take the rod into his own hand, and him you shall not resist.
Have you not been unjust to your parents, and defrauded them ? first, helped to make them poor, and then despised them because they were poor. Oh, horrid wickedness! What a complicated evil is this! Thou art, in the language of Scripture, a companion with de