The Fountain of Life
The Fountain of Life opened up: or, a display
of Christ in his essential and mediatorial glory
by John Flavel
The second excellent Word of Christ upon the Cross
"Then he said to the disciple, Behold your mother!" John
We now pass to the consideration of the second memorable
and instructive word of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, contained in
this scripture. Wherein he has left us an excellent pattern for the
discharge of our relative duties. It may be well said, the gospel makes the
best husbands and wives, the best parents and children, the best masters and
servants in the world; seeing it furnishes them with the most excellent
precepts, and proposes the best patterns. Here we have the pattern of Jesus
Christ presented to all gracious children for their imitation, teaching them
how to acquit themselves towards their parents, according to the laws of
nature and grace. Christ was not only subject and obedient to his parents
while he lived, but manifested his tender care even while he hanged in the
torments of death upon the cross. "Then says he to the disciple, Behold your
The words contain an affectionate recommendation of his
distressed mother to the care of a dear disciple, a bosom friend; wherein
let us consider the design, manner, and season of this recommendation.
First, The design and end of it, which, doubtless, was to
manifest his tender respect and care for his mother, who was now in a most
distressed comfortless state. For now was Simeon's prophecy Luke 2:35.
fulfilled, in the trouble and anguish that filled her soul, yes, a sword
also shall pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts
may be revealed. Her soul was pierced for him, both as she was his mother,
and as she was a mystical member of him, her head, her Lord: and therefore
he commends her to the beloved disciple that lay in his bosom, saying,
"Behold your mother," That is, let her be to you as your own mother. Let
your love to me be now manifested in your tender care for her.
Secondly, The manner of his recommending her, is both
affectionate and mutual. It was very affectionate and moving, Behold, your
motheróJohn, I am now dying, leaving all human society and relations, and
entering into a new state, where neither the duties of natural relations are
exercised, nor the pleasures and comforts of them enjoyed. It is a state of
dominion over angels and men, not of subjection and obedience; this I now
leave to you. Upon you do I devolve both the honor and duty of being in my
stead and room to her, as to all dear and tender care over her.
John, "Behold your mother;" and as it is affectionate, so
it is mutual, ver. 26. And to his mother he said, "Woman, behold your son;"
not mother, but woman, intimating not only the change of state and
conditions with him, but also the request he was making for her to the
disciple with whom she was to live, as a mother with a son.
And all this he designs as a pattern to others.
Thirdly, The season or time when his care for his mother
so eminently manifested itself, was when his departure was at hand, and he
could no longer be a comfort to her, by his bodily presence; yes, his love
and care then manifested themselves, when he was full of anguish to the very
brim, both in his soul and body; Yet all this makes him not in the least
unmindful of so dear a relation. Hence the doctrinal note is,
DOCTRINE. That Christ's tender care of his mother, even
in the time of his greatest distress; is an excellent pattern for all
gracious children to the end of the world.
"There are three great foundations, or bonds of
relations, on which all family government depends." Husbands and wives,
parents and children, masters and servants. The Lord has planted in the
souls of men, affections suitable to these relations, and to his people he
has given grace to regulate those affections, appointed duties to exercise
those graces, and seasons to discharge those duties. So that, as in the
motion of a wheel every spoke takes its turn, and bears its stress; in like
manner, in the whole round of a Christian's conversation, every affection,
grace, and duty, at one season or other, comes to be exercised.
But yet grace has not so far prevailed in the
sanctification of any man's affections, but that there will be excesses or
defects in the exercise of them towards our relations; yes, and in this the
most eminent saints have been eminently defective. But the pattern I set
before you this day, is a perfect pattern. As the church finds him the best
of husbands, so to his parents he was the best of sons; "and being the best,
and most perfect, is therefore the rule and measure of all others." Christ
knew how those corruptions we draw from our parents are returned in 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 to us.
It was anciently a proverb among the heathen, in sole
Sparta, expedite senescere. It is good to be an old man, or women, only in
Sparta. The ground of it was the strict laws that were among the Spartans,
to punish the rebellions and disobedience of children to their aged parents.
And shall it not be good to be an old father and mother in England, where
the gospel of Christ is preached, and such an argument as this now set
before you urge; an argument which the Heathen world was never acquainted
with? Shall parents here be forced to complain with the eagle in the fable,
that they are smitten to the heart, by an arrow winged with their own
feathers? Or, as a tree cleft in pieces by the wedges that were made of its
own body? God forbid.
To prevent such sad occasions of complaints as these, I
desire all that sustain the relation of children, into whose hands
providence shall cast this discourse, seriously to ponder this example of
Christ, proposed for their imitation in this point. Wherein we shall first
consider what duties belong to the relation of children: secondly, how
Christ's example enforces those duties, and then suitably apply it.
First, Let us examine what duties pertain to the relation
of children, and they are as truly, as commonly branched out into the
First, Fear and reverence are due from children to their
parents, by the express command of God, Lev. 19:3. You shall fear every man
his mother and his father. The Holy Spirit purposely inverts the order, and
puts the mother first, because she, by reason of her blandishments, and fond
indulgence, is most subject to the irreverence and contempt of children. God
has clothed parents with his authority. They are entrusted by God with them,
and are accountable to him for the souls and bodies of their children; and
he expects that you reverence them, although, in respect of outward estate,
or honor, you 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 scepter,
when his mother came to speak with him for Adonijah, he rose up to meet her,
and bowed himself to her, and caused a seat to be set up for the king's
mother, and set her upon his right hand, 2 Kings 2:19.
Secondly, 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 that
injunction, to deny both for Christ's sake, Mat. 10:37. The bonds of nature
are strong and direct between parents and children. What is the child but a
piece of the parent wrapped up in another skin? O 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.
Thirdly, Obedience to their commands is due to them, by
the Lord's strict and special command, Eph. 6:1. "Children obey your parents
in the Lord, for this is right; honor your father and your mother, which is
the first commandment with promise." Filial obedience is not only founded
upon the positive law of God, but also upon the law of nature; for though
the subjection of children to parents is due to them by natural right;
therefore, says the apostle, this is right, (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 such things as they require you to do in the Lord's authority. In
things consonant to that divine and holy will, to which they, as well as you
must be subject; and therein you must obey them. Yes, even the wickedness of
a parent exempts not from obedience, where his command is not so. Nor, on
the other side, must the holiness of a parent sway you, where his commands
and God's are opposite. In the former case, the Canonists have determined,
"that the command must be distinguished from the person." In the latter, it
is a good rule, "My parents must be loved, but my God must be preferred."
Yield yourselves, therefore, cheerfully to obey all that
which they lawfully enjoin, and take heed of that black character fixed on
the Heathens who know not God, be not found upon you, "disobedience to
parents," Rom. 1:30. Remember, your disobedience to their just commands
rises higher, much higher, than an affront to their personal authority; it
is disobedience to God himself, whose commands second, and strengthen theirs
Fourthly, Submission to their discipline and rebukes, is
also your duty, Heb. 12:9. "We had fathers of our own flesh that corrected
us, and we gave them reverence." Parents ought not to abuse their authority.
"Cruelty in them is a great sin, wrath and rebellion in a child against his
parents, is monstrous." It is storied of Elian, that having been abroad, at
his return, his father asked him what he had learned since he went from him;
he answered, you will know shortly; I have learned to bear your anger
quietly, and submit to what you please to inflict. Two considerations should
especially mold others into the like frame, especially to their godly
parents. The end for which, and the manner in which they manifest their
anger to their children. Their end 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: to feel their hand than his. They know, if you
fall into the hands of the living God, you will be handled in another
And for the manner in which they rebuke and chasten, it
is with grief in their hearts, and tears in their eyes. Alas! it is no
delight to them to cross, vex, or afflict you. Were it not mere conscience
of their duty to God, and tender love to your souls, they would neither
chide nor smite: and when they do, how do they afflict themselves in
afflicting you! When their faces are full of anger, their affections are
full of compassion for you; and you have no more reason to blame them for
what they do, than if they cry out and violently snatch at you, when they
see you ready to fall from the top of a rock.
Fifthly, faithfulness to all their interests is due so
them, by the natural and positive law of God. What in you lies, you are
bound to promote, not to waste and scatter their substance: to assist, not
to defraud them. Whoever robbeth his father or mother, and says, it is no
transgression, the same is a companion of a destroyer, Prov. 28:24. This,
says one, as far excels your wronging another, as parricide is a greater
crime than man-slaughter, or as Reuben's incest was beyond common
fornication. God never meant you should grow up about your parents, as
suckers about a tree, to impoverish the root. But for a child, out of
covetousness after what his parents have, secretly to wish their death, is a
sin so monstrous, as should not be once named, much less found among persons
professing Christianity. To desire their death, from whom you had your life,
is unnatural wickedness: to dispose of their goods, much more of yourselves,
without their consent, is (ordinarily) the greatest injustice to them.
Children are obliged to defend the estate and persons of their parents, with
the hazard of their own. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are
children of the youth. Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them.
They shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemy in the gates.
Sixthly, And more especially, requital of all that love,
care, and pains they have been at for you, is your duty so far as God
enables you, and those things are requitable, 1 Tim. 5:4. "Let them learn to
show piety at home, and requite their parents." The word is "antipelargein",
and signifies to play the stork, to imitate that creature of whom it is
said, that the young do tenderly feed the old ones, when they are no longer
able to fly abroad and provide for themselves. Hence those that want
affections of natural affection to their relations, are said to be "asogmoi",
Rom. 1:30. worse than storks. Oh, it is a shame that birds and beasts should
show more tenderness to their dams than children to their parents.
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
sense 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 support 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 in the
way of an alms, or common charity. For the apostle says, it is but your
requiting them, and that 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,
sure, if providence blast them, and bless you, an honorable maintenance is
their due. Even Christ himself took care for his mother.
Secondly, You have had a brief account of the duties of
this relation; next, let us consider how Christ's example, 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. And this it does two ways, both as it has the obliging power of a
law; and as he himself will one day sit in judgement to take an account how
we have imitated him in these things.
First, Christ's example in this has the force and power
of a law, yes, a law of love, or a law lovingly constraining you to an
imitation of him. If Christ himself will be your pattern, if God will be
pleased to take relations like yours, and go before you in the discharge of
relative duties; Oh, how much are you obliged to imitate him, and tread in
all his footsteps! This was by him intended as a precedent, or pattern, to
facilitate and direct your duties.
Secondly, He will come to take an account 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 to, anti tenderness of his relations, will, in that day,
condemn and aggravate, silence and shame such wretched children as shall
stands guilty before his bar.
INFERENCE 1. Has Jesus Christ given such a famous pattern
of obedience and tenderness to parents? Then there can be nothing of Christ
in stubborn, rebellious, and careless children, that regard not the good or
comfort of their parents. The children of disobedience cannot be the
children of God. If providence directs this to the hands of any that are so,
my heart's desire and prayer for them is, that the Lord would search their
souls by it, and discover their evils to them, while they shall read the
First Query, Have you not been guilty of slighting your
parents by irreverent words or carriages; the old man or woman? To such I
commend the consideration of that scripture, Prov. 30:17, which, methinks,
should be to them as the hand-writing that appeared upon the plaister of the
wall to Belshazzar. "The eye that mocketh 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." That is, they shall be brought to an untimely end, and
the birds of the air shall eat that eye, that had never seen but for that
parent that was despised by it.
It may be you are vigorous and young, they decayed and
wrinkled with ages: but, says the Holy Spirit, "Despise not your mother when
she is old," Prov. 23:22. Or when she is wrinkled, as the Hebrew signifies.
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 you do.
Second Query, Have you not been disobedient to the
commands of parents? a son of Belial is a son of wrath, if God give not
repentance to life. Is not this the black brand set upon the Heathens, Rom.
1:30. Have not many repented this upon a ladder, with a halter about their
necks? Woe 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
Third Query, Have you not risen up rebelliously against,
and hated your parents for chastening your bodies, to save your souls from
hell? Some children (says one) will not take that from a parent, which
beasts, yes, and savage beasts too, bears and lions, will take from their
keepers. 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.
Fourth Query, Have you not been unjust to your parents,
ant defrauded them? first, help to make them poor, and then despise them
because they are poor. O horrid wickedness! What a complicated evil is this!
You are, in the language of the scripture, a companion with destroyers, Prov.
28:24. This is the worst of theft, in God's account. You may think you make
bold with them, but how bold do you make with conscience, and the command of
Fifth Query, Are you not, or have you not been ungrateful
to parents? Leaving then to shift for themselves, in those straits you have
helped to bring them into. O consider it, children, this is an evil which
God will surely avenge, except you repent. that! to be hardened against your
own flesh; to be cruel to your own parents, that with so much tenderness fed
you, when else you had perished! I remember Luther gives us a story of one,
(and oh that it might be a warning to all that hear it), who had made over
all that he had to his son, reserving only a maintenance for himself; at
last his son despised him, and grudged him the very meat he eat; and one day
the father coming in, when the son and his wife were at dinner upon a goose,
they shuffled the meat under the table; but see the remarkable vengeance of
God upon this ungracious, unnatural son: the goose was turned into a
monstrous toad, which seized upon this vile wretch, and killed him. If any
one of you be guilty of these evils, to humble you for them, and reclaim you
from them, I desire these six considerations may be laid to heart.
First, That the effects of your obedience, or
disobedience will stick upon you and yours to many generations. If you be
obedient children in the Lord, both you and yours may reap the fruits of
that your obedience, in multitudes of sweet mercies, for many generations.
So runs the promise, Eph. 6:22. "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." You know what an eye of favor God cast upon the
Recabites for this, Jer. 35:8. from the 14th to the 20th verse: and as his
blessings are, by promise, entailed on the obedient, so his curse upon the
disobedient, Prov. 20:20. "Whoever curseth his father or his mother, his
lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness;" that is the lamp of his life
quenched by death, yes, say others, and his soul also by the blackness of
darkness in hell.
Secondly, Though other sins do, this sin seldom escapes
exemplary punishment, even in this world. Our English history tells us of a
yeoman in Leicestershire, who had made over all he had to his son, to prefer
him in marriage, reserving only a bare maintenance at his son's table:
afterward, upon some discontent, the son bid his father get out of his
house. The next day Mr. Goodman, the minister of the parish, meeting the
young man walking about his ground, asked him, How he did? He answered, very
well; but before the minister was gone far from him, his affections fell
out, which he carried in his hands, got to his house, sent for Mr. Goodman,
bitterly bewailed his sin against his father, and so died. And Dr. Taylor,
in his great exemplar, tells us of another, that, upon discontent with his
father, wished the house might be on fire, if ever he came any more into his
father's house: afterwards, coming, in, it was fired indeed, and this wicked
son only consumed. I could multiply instances of this nature, (for indeed
that righteous judgement of God has multiplied them,) but this only for a
Thirdly, Heathens will rise up in judgement against you,
and condemn you. They never had such precepts nor precedents as you, and yet
some of the better natured Heathens would rather chosen death, than to do as
you do. You remember the story of Croesus' dumb son, whose dear affections
could make him speak when he saw Croesus in danger; though he never spoke
before, yet then he could cry out, "O do not kill my father!" But what speak
I of Heathens! the stork in the heavens, yes, the beasts of the earth, will
condemn the disobedience of children.
Fourthly, These are sins inconsistent with the true fear
of God, in whoever they are found. That a man is indeed, which he is in his
family, and among his relations. He that is a bad child can never be a good
Christian. Either bring testimonies of your godliness from your relations,
or it may be well suspected to be no better than counterfeit. Never talk of
your obedience to God, while your disobedience to the just commands of your
parents gives you the lie.
Fifthly, A parting time is coming when death will break
up the family, and when that time comes, oh! how bitter will the remembrance
of these things be! when you shall see a father or a mother lying by the
wall, what a cut will it be to remember your miscarriages and evils! They
are gone out of your reach, you cannot now, if you would, give them any
satisfaction for what you have done against them; but, oh, how bitter will
the remembrance of these things be at such a time! Surely, this will be more
unsupportable to you than their death, if the Lord open your eyes, and give
you repentance; and if not, then,
Sixthly, What a terrible thing will it be, to have a
father or mother come in as witnesses against you at Christ's bar? As well
as they loved you, and as dear as you were to them in this world, they must
give evidence against you then. Now, what a fearful thing is it for you but
to imagine your parents to come before the Lord, and say, Lord, I have given
this child many hundred reproofs for sin; I have counseled, persuaded, and
used all means to reclaim him, but in vain; he was a child of disobedience,
nothing could work upon him: what think you of this?
INFERENCE. 2. Have you such a pattern of obedience, and
tender love to parents? Then, children, imitate your pattern, as it becomes
Christians, and take Christ for your example. Whatever your parents be, see
that you carry it towards them becoming such as profess Christ
First, If your parents be godly, O beware of grieving
them by any unbecoming carriage. Are you a Christian indeed? you will then
reckon yourself obliged in a double bond, both of grace and nature, to them:
O what a mercy would some children esteem it, if they had parents fearing
the Lord, as you have!
Secondly, If they be carnal, walk circumspectly, in the
most precise and punctual discharge of your duties, for how know you, O
child, but hereby you may win your parents? Would you but humbly, and
seriously entreat, and persuade them to mind the ways of holiness, speaking
to them at fit seasons, with all imaginable humility and reverence,
insinuating your advice to duties, or trouble for their evils, rather by
relating some pertinent history, or proposing some excellent example,
leaving, their own conscience to draw the conclusion, and make application,
than to do it yourselves; it is possible they may ponder your words in their
hearts, as Mary did Christ's, Luke 2:49, 51. And would you but back all this
with your earnest cries to heaven for them, and your own daily example, that
they may have nothing from yourselves to retort upon you; and thus wait with
patience for the desired effect: O what blessed instruments might you be of
their everlasting good!
INFERENCE. 3. To conclude, Let those that have such
children as fear the Lord, and endeavor to imitate Christ in those duties,
account them a singular treasure and heritage from the Lord, and give them
all due encouragement to their duties.
How many have no children at all, but are as a dry tree!
and how many have such as are worse than none? The very reproach and heart
breaking of their parents, that bring down their hoary heads with sorrow to
If God have given you the blessing of godly children, you
can never be sufficiently sensible of, or thankful for such a favor. O that
ever God should honor you to bring forth children for heaven! what a comfort
must this be to you, whatever other troubles you meet with abroad, when you
come home among godly relations, that are careful to sweeten your own family
to you by their obedience! especially, what a comfort is it, when you come
to die, that you leave them within the covenant, entitled to Christ, and so
need not be anxious how it shall be with them when you are gone? Take heed
of discouraging or damping such children from whom so much glory is like to
rise to God, and so much comfort to yourselves. Thus let Christ's pattern be
improved, who went before you in such eminent holiness, in all his
relations, and left you an example that you should follow his steps!