Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

age 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 judge for himself, he ought to perceive clear and strong reasons before he take 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 rea. sonableness, 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 “honour;" 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 himself, 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 “ He that forsaketh his father is a blasphemer; and he that angereth his mother is cursed of God: but he that honoureth 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 honour 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."

XXXI.

THE DUTIES OF SERVANTS.

EPHESIANS VI. 5-8.

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 eye-service as men-pleasers, 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 which 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 re

« ForrigeFortsæt »