The Ten Commandments
by Thomas Watson
The FIFTH Commandment
"Honor your father and your mother: that your days
may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you." Exodus 20:12
Having done with the first table of the law, I am next to
speak of the duties of the second table. The ten commandments may be likened
to Jacob's ladder: the first table respects God, and is the top of
the ladder which reaches to heaven; the second respects men, and is
the foot of the ladder that rests on the earth. By the first table, we walk
piously towards God; by the second, we walk religiously towards man. He
cannot be good in the first table—who is bad in the second.
"Honor your father and your mother." In this we have a
command, "honor your father and your mother;" and, second, a reason for it,
"That your days may be long in the land."
I. The COMMAND will chiefly be considered here, "Honor
FATHER is of different kinds; as the political,
the ancient, the spiritual, the domestic, and the natural.
 The POLITICAL father, the magistrate. He
is the father of his country. He is to be an encourager of virtue, a
punisher of vice, and a father to the widow and orphan. Such a father was
Job. "I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not, I searched
out." Job 29:16. As magistrates are fathers, so especially the king, who is
the head of magistrates, is a political father; he is placed as the sun
among the lesser stars. The Scripture calls kings, "fathers." "Kings shall
be your nursing fathers." Isa 49:23. They are to train up their subjects in
piety, by good edicts and examples; and nurse them up in peace
and pienty. Such nursing fathers were David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Constantine,
and Theodosius. It is well for a people to have such nursing fathers, whose
breasts milk comfort to their children. These fathers are to be honored,
(1) Their place deserves honor. God has set
these political fathers to preserve order and harmony in a nation, and to
prevent those state convulsions which otherwise might ensue. When "there was
no king in Israel, every man did that which was right in his own eyes."
Judges 17:6. It is a wonder that locusts have no king—yet they go forth by
(2) God has promoted kings, that they may promote
justice. As they have a sword in their hand, to signify
their power; so they have a scepter, an emblem of justice. It is said
of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, that he allotted one hour each day to hear
the complaints of those who were oppressed. Kings place judges about the
throne, for distribution of justice. These political fathers are to be
honored. "Honor the king." 1 Pet 2:17. This honor is to be shown by a civil
respect to their persons, and a cheerful submission to their laws; so
far as they agree and run parallel with God's law. Kings are to be prayed
for, which is a part of the honor we give them. "I urge, then, first of
all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for
everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and
quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." 1 Tim 2:1-2. We are to pray for
kings, that God would honor them to be blessings; that under them we may
enjoy the gospel of peace, and the peace of the gospel. How happy was the
reign of Numa Pompilius, when swords were beaten into ploughshares, and bees
made hives of the soldiers' helmets!
 There is the grave ANCIENT father, who is
venerable for old age; whose grey hairs are resembled to the white flowers
of the almond-tree. Eccl 12:5. There are fathers for seniority, on
whose wrinkled brows, and in the furrows of whose cheeks is pictured the map
of old age. These fathers are to be honored. "You shall rise up before the
hoary head, and honor the face of the old man." Lev 19:32. Especially those
are to be honored, who are fathers not only for their seniority—but
for their piety; whose souls are flourishing when their
bodies are decaying. It is a blessed sight to see springs of grace in
the winter of old age; to see men stooping towards the grave—yet
going up the hill of God; to see them lose their color—yet keep their savor.
Those whose silver hairs are crowned with righteousness, are worthy of
double honor; they are to be honored, not only as pieces of antiquity—but as
patterns of virtue. If you see an old man fearing God, whose grace
shines brightest when the sun of his life is setting—O honor him as a
father, by reverencing and imitating him.
 There are SPIRITUAL fathers, as pastors
and ministers. These are instruments of the new birth. "Though you have ten
thousand instructors—yet have you not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I
have begotten you through the gospel." 1 Cor 4:15. The spiritual fathers are
to be honored, in respect of their office. Whatever their persons
are, their office is honorable; they are the messengers of the
Lord Almighty. Mal 2:7. They represent no less than God himself. "Now then,
we are ambassadors for Christ." 2 Cor 5:20. Jesus Christ was of this
calling; he had his mission and sanction from heaven, and this crowns the
ministerial vocation with honor. John 8:18.
These spiritual fathers are to be honored "for their
work's sake." They come, like the dove, with an olive branch of peace in the
mouth; they preach glad tidings of peace; their work is "to save souls."
Other vocations have only to do with men's bodies or estates—but the
minister's vocation is employed about the souls of men. Their work is to
redeem spiritual captives, and turn men "from the power of Satan unto God."
Acts 26:18. Their work is "to enlighten those who sit in the region of
darkness," and make them "shine as stars in the kingdom of heaven." These
spiritual fathers are to be "honored for their work's sake;" and this honor
is to be shown three ways:
(1) By giving them respect. "Know those who
labor among you and are over you in the Lord, and esteem them very
highly in love for their work's sake." 1 Thess 5:12, 13. I confess the
scandalous lives of some ministers have been a great reproach, and have made
the "offering of the Lord to be abhorred" in some places of the land. The
leper in the law was to have his lip covered; so such as are angels by
office—but lepers in their lives, ought to have their lips
covered, and to be silenced. But though some deserve "no honor"—yet such as
are faithful, and make it their work to bring souls to Christ, are to be
reverenced as spiritual fathers. Obadiah honored the prophet Elijah. 1 Kings
18:7. Why did God appoint that the prince should ask counsel of God by the
priest, Num 27:21; why did the Lord show, by that miracle of Aaron's
rod flourishing, that he had chosen the tribe of "Levi to minister before
him," Num 17; why does Christ call his apostles "the lights of the world";
why does he say to all his ministers, "Lo, I am with you to the end of the
world;" but because he would have these spiritual fathers reverenced?
In ancient times the Egyptians chose their kings out of
their priests. They are far from showing this respect and honor to their
spiritual fathers, who have slight thoughts of such as have the charge of
the sanctuary, and minister before the Lord. "Know them," says the apostle,
"who labor among you." Many can be content to know their ministers in
their infirmities, and are glad when they have anything against them—but do
not know them in the apostle's sense, so as to give them "double honor."
Surely, were it not for the ministry, you would not be a vineyard—but a
desert! Were it not for the ministry, you would be destitute of the two
seals of the covenant, baptism and the Lord's Supper; you would be infidels;
"for faith comes by hearing; and how shall they hear without a preacher?"
(2) Honor these spiritual fathers, by becoming advocates
for them, and wiping off those slanders and calumnies which are
unjustly cast upon them. 1 Tim 5:19. Constantine was a great honorer of the
ministry; he vindicated them; he would not read the envious accusations
brought against them—but burnt them. Do the ministers open their mouths to
God for you in prayer, and will not you open your mouths in their behalf?
Surely, if they labor to preserve you from hell, you should preserve them
from slander! If they labor to save your souls, you ought to save their
(3) Honor them by conforming to their doctrine.
The greatest honor you can put upon your spiritual fathers, is to
believe and obey their doctrine. He is an honorer of the
ministry, who is not only a hearer—but a follower of the Word. As
disobedience reproaches the ministry, so obedience honors it. The apostle
calls the Thessalonians his crown. "What is our crown of rejoicing? Is it
not you?" 1 Thess 2:19. A thriving people are a minister's crown. When there
is a metamorphosis, a change wrought; when people come to the Word proud—but
go away humble; when they come earthly—but they go away heavenly; when they
come, as Naaman to Jordan, lepers—but they go away healed; then the ministry
is honored. "Do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation?" 2 Cor
3:1. Though other ministers might need letters of commendation—yet Paul
needed none; for, when men heard of the obedience wrought in these
Corinthians by Paul's preaching, it would be a sufficient certificate that
God had blessed his labors. The Corinthians were a sufficient honor to him;
they were his testimonial letters. You cannot honor your spiritual
fathers more, than by thriving under their ministry, and living upon the
sermons which they preach.
 There is the DOMESTIC father, that is, the master.
He is "the father of the family"; therefore Naaman's servants
called their master, father. 2 Kings 5:13. The centurion calls his
servant, son. Matt 8:6. (Greek.) The servant is to honor his master,
as the father of the family. Though the master is not so qualified as he
should be—yet the servant must not neglect his duty—but show some kind of
honor to him.
(1) In OBEYING his master, "in things which
are lawful and honest." "Servants, be subject to your masters; not only to
the good and gentle—but also to the froward." 1 Pet 2:18. God has nowhere
given a charter of exemption to free you from your duty. You cannot disobey
your earthly master—but you are disobeying your master in heaven.
Think not that birth, or great abilities, no, nor even grace, will exempt
you from obedience to your master. To obey him is an ordinance of God; and
an apostle says, "Those who resist the ordinance, shall receive to
themselves damnation." Rom 13:2.
(2) The servant's honoring his master, is seen in being
DILIGENT in his service. Apelles painted a servant with his
hands full of tools—as an emblem of diligence. The loitering servant is
a kind of thief, who, though he does not steal his master's goods,
steals the time which he should have employed in his master's
service. The slothful servant is called a "wicked servant."
(3) The servant is to honor his master by being FAITHFUL.
"Who then is a faithful and wise servant?" Matt 24:45.
Faithfulness is the chief thing in a servant. Faithfulness in a servant is
seen in six things:
 In concealing the secrets the master has entrusted
you with. If those secrets are not sins, you ought not to betray them. What
is whispered in your ear, you are not to publish on the house-top.
Servants who do this are spies. Who would keep a glass that is
cracked? Who would keep a servant that has a crack in his brain, and
cannot keep a secret?
 Faithfulness in a servant is seen in designing the
master's advantage. A faithful servant esteems his master's goods as his
own. Such a servant had Abraham; who, when his master sent him to transact
business for him, was as careful about it, as if it had been his own. "O
Lord, God of my master," he prayed. "Give me success and show kindness to my
master, Abraham. Help me to accomplish the purpose of my journey." Gen
24:12. Doubtless Abraham's servant was as glad that he had got a wife for
his master's son—as if he had got a wife for himself!
 Faithfulness in a servant is seen in standing up for
the honor of his master. When he hears him spoken against, he vindicates
him. As the master is careful of the servant's body, so the servant
should be careful of the master's name. When the master is unjustly
reproached, the servant cannot be excused if he is possessed with a dumb
 Faithfulness is, when a servant is true to his word.
He dares not tell a lie—but will speak the truth, though it is against
himself. A lie doubles the sin. "I will not allow deceivers to serve
me, and liars will not be allowed to enter my presence." Psalm 101:7. A liar
is near akin to the devil. "For you are the children of your father the
Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from
the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When
he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the
father of lies." John 8:44. Who would let any of the devil's kindred live
with him! The lie that Gehazi told his master Elisha, entailed leprosy on
Gehazi and his seed forever. 2 Kings 5:27. In a faithful servant—the
tongue is the true index of the heart.
 Faithfulness is, when a servant is against mis-appropriation.
He dares not convert his master's goods to his own use. "Not purloining."
Tit 2:10. What a servant filches from his master—is damnable gain! He who
enriches himself by stealing from his master, stuffs his pillow with thorns,
on which his head will lie very uneasy when he comes to die.
 Faithfulness consists in preserving the master's
person, if unjustly in danger. Banister betrayed his master the Duke of
Buckingham, and the judgments of God fell upon the traitorous servant. His
eldest son became mad; his daughter, a striking beauty, was suddenly struck
with leprosy; his younger son was drowned, and he himself was arraigned.
That servant who is not true to his master—will never be true to God or his
(4) The servant is to honor his master, by serving him,
as with love, so with silence, that is, without arguing and repining.
"Exhort servants to be subject to their masters in everything, to try
to please them, not to talk back to them." Tit 2:9. In the Greek, "not
giving cross answers." Some servants who are slow at work, are quick
at speech. And instead of being sorry for a fault, provoke their
masters by unfitting language. Were the heart more humble—the tongue
would be more silent. The apostle's words are, "not talking back to
To those servants who honor their masters, or
family-fathers, by submission, diligence, faithfulness, love, and humble
silence—great encouragement is given. "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in
everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their
favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you
do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,
since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a
reward! It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Colossians 3:22-24. In
serving your masters, you serve Christ, and he will not let you lose your
labor. From serving on earth, you shall be taken up to reign in
heaven, and shall sit with Christ upon his throne. Rev 3:21.
Having shown how servants are to honor their masters, I
shall next show how MASTERS are to conduct
themselves towards their servants, so as to be honored by them.
In general, masters must remember that they have a master
in heaven, who will call them to account. "Knowing that your Master also is
in heaven." Eph 6:9. More particularly—
(1) Masters must take care to provide for their servants.
As they appoint them work, so they must give them their food in due season.
Luke 17:7. They should see that the food is wholesome and sufficient. It is
most unworthy of some governors of families, to lay out so much upon their
own back, as to pinch their servants' bellies.
(2) Masters should encourage their servants in their
work, by commending them when they do well. Though a master is to
tell a servant of his faults—yet he is not always to pluck on one string—but
sometimes to take notice of that which is praiseworthy. This makes a servant
more cheerful in his work, and gains the master the love from his servant.
(3) Masters must not overburden their servants—but
proportion their work to their strength. They must not lay too
much load on their servants, to make them faint under it. Christianity
(4) Masters must seek the spiritual good of their
servants. They must be seraphim to kindle their love to religion;
they must be monitors to put them in mind of their souls; they must bring
them to the pool of the sanctuary, to wait until the angel stir the waters.
John 5:4. They must seek God for them, that their servants may be
God's servants; and must allow them time convenient for secret devotion.
Some are cruel to the souls of their servants; they expect them to do the
work about the house—but abridge them of the time they should employ in
working out their salvation.
(5) Masters should be mild and gentle in their behavior
towards servants. "Forbearing threatening." Eph. 6:9. "You shall
not rule over him with rigor—but shall fear your God." Lev 25:43. It
requires wisdom in a master to know how to keep up his authority, and yet
avoid austerity. We have a good copy to write after our Master in heaven,
who is "slow to anger, and of great mercy." Psalm 145:8. Some masters are so
harsh and implacable, that they are enough to ruin a good servant.
(6) Be very exact and punctual in the agreements you make
with your servants. Do not prevaricate; keep not back any of
their wages; nor deal deceitfully with them, as Laban did with Jacob,
changing his wages. Gen 31:7. Falseness in promise is as bad as false
(7) Be careful of your servants, not only in health—but
in sickness. If they have become sick while in your service, use
what means you can for their recovery; and be not like the Amalekite, who
forsook his servant when he was sick; but be as the good centurion, who kept
his sick servant, and sought to Christ for a cure. 1 Sam 30:13; Matt 8:6. If
you have an animal which falls sick, you will not turn it out—but have it
looked to, and pay for its cure; and will you be kinder to your horses than
to your servants?
Thus should masters carry themselves prudently and
piously, that they may gain honor from their servants, and may give up their
accounts to God with joy.
 The NATURAL father, the father of the flesh.
Heb 12:9. Honor your natural father. This is so necessary a duty, that Philo
the Jew placed the fifth commandment in the first table, as though we had
not performed our whole duty to God until we had paid this debt of honor to
our natural parents. Children are the vineyard of the parent's planting, and
honor done to the parent is some of the fruit of the vineyard.
II. Children are to show honor to their parents.
 Children are to show honor to their parents, by a
reverential esteem of their persons. They must "give them a civil
veneration." Therefore, when the apostle speaks of fathers of our bodies, he
speaks also of "giving them reverence." Heb 12:9. This veneration or
reverence must be shown:
(1) Inwardly, by fear mixed with love. "You shall fear
every man his mother and his father." Lev 19:3. In the commandment the
father is named first—but here the mother is first named. Partly to put
honor upon the mother, because, by reason of many weaknesses incident to her
gender, she is apt to be more slighted by children. And partly because the
mother endures more for the child.
(2) Reverence must be shown to parents outwardly, both in
word and gesture.
In word: and that either in speaking to parents, or
speaking of them. In speaking of parents, children must speak
respectfully. In speaking of parents, children must speak honorably.
They ought to speak well of them, if they deserve well. "Her children arise
up, and call her blessed" (Prov 31:28); and, in case a parent betrays
weakness and indiscretion, the child should make the best of it, and, by
wise apologies, cover his parent's nakedness.
In gesture. Children are to show reverence to their
parents by submissive behavior, by uncovering the head, and bending the
knee. Joseph, though a great prince, and his father had grown poor, bowed to
him, and behaved himself as humbly as if his father had been the prince, and
he the poor man. Gen 46:29. King Solomon, when his mother came to him, "rose
off his throne, and bowed himself unto her." 1 Kings 2:19. Among the
Lacedemonians, if a child had carried himself arrogantly or saucily to his
father, it was lawful for the father to appoint whom he would to be his
heir. Oh, how many children are far from thus giving reverence to their
parents! They despise their parents; they carry themselves with such pride
and neglect towards them, that they are a shame to religion, and bring their
parents' grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. "Cursed be he who sets light
by his father or his mother." Deut 27:16. If all who set light by their
parents are cursed, how many children in our age are under a curse! If such
as are disrespectful to parents live to have children, their own children
will be thorns in their sides—and God will make them read their sins in
 Children are to show honor to their parents, by
careful obedience. "Children, obey your parents in all things."
Col 3:20. Our Lord Jesus herein set a pattern to children. He was subject to
his parents. Luke 2:51. He to whom angels were subject—was subject to his
parents. This obedience to parents is shown three ways:
(1) In hearkening to their counsel, "Hear the instruction
of your father, and forsake not the law of your mother." Prov 1:8. Parents
are, as it were, in the place of God; if they would teach you the fear of
the Lord, you must listen to their words as oracles, and not be as the deaf
adder to stop your ears. Eli's sons hearkened not to the voice of their
father—but were called "sons of Belial." 1 Sam 2:12, 25. And as children
must hearken to the counsel of their parents in spiritual matters, so in
affairs which relate to this life as in the choice of a vocation, and in
case of entering into marriage. Jacob would not dispose of himself in
marriage, though he was forty years old, without the advice and consent of
his parents. Gen 28:1, 2. Children are, as it were, the parents' proper
goods and possession, and it is great injustice in a child to give herself
away without the parents' permission. If parents should indeed counsel a
child to match with one that is impious or Popish, I think the case is
plain, and many of the learned are of opinion that here the child may have a
negative voice, and is not obliged to be ruled by the parent. Children are
to "marry in the Lord;" not, therefore, with impious people, for that is not
to marry in the Lord. 1 Cor 7:39.
(2) Obedience to parents is shown in complying with their
commands. A child should be the parents' echo; when the father speaks, the
child should echo back obedience. The Rechabites were forbidden by their
father to drink wine; and they obeyed him, and were commended for it. Jer
35:14. Children must obey their parents in all things. Col 3:20. In things
against the grain, to which they have most reluctance, they must obey their
parents. Esau would obey his father, when he commanded him to fetch him
venison, because it is probable he took pleasure in hunting; but refused to
obey him in a matter of greater concernment, in the choice of a wife. But
though children must obey their parents "in all things," yet "it is with the
limitation of things just and honest." "Obey in the Lord," that is, so
far as the commands of parents agree with God's commands. Eph 6:1. If
they command against God, they lose their right of being obeyed, and in this
case we must unchild ourselves.
 Honor is to be shown to parents in relieving their
needs. Joseph nourished his father in his old age. Gen 47:12. It
is but paying a just debt. Parents brought up children when they were young,
and children ought to nourish their parents when they are old. The young
storks, by an instinct of nature, bring food to the old ones when, by reason
of age, they are not able to fly. Pliny calls it "a law of the storks." The
memory of Aeneas was honored for carrying his aged father out of Troy when
it was on fire. I have read of a daughter, whose father being condemned to
be starved to death, who gave him in his prison suck with her own breasts;
which, being known to the governors, procured his freedom. Such children, or
monsters shall I say, are to blame who are ashamed of their parents
when they are old and fallen into decay; and when they ask for bread give
them a stone. When houses are shut up, we say the plague is there; when
children's hearts are shut up against their parents, the plague is there.
Our blessed Savior took great care for his mother. When on the cross, he
charged his disciple John to take her home to him as his mother, and see
that she lacked nothing. John 19:26, 27.
III. The reasons why children should honor their parents
 It is a solemn command of God, "Honor your
father," etc. As God's Word is the rule, so his will must be the reason of
 They deserve honor, in respect of the great love and
affection which they bear to their children; and the evidence of
that love both in their care and cost. Their care in bringing up their
children is a sign their hearts are full of love to them. Parents often take
more care of their children than for themselves. They take care of them when
they are tender, lest, like young fruit, they should be nipped in the bud.
As children grow older, the care of parents grows greater. They are afraid
of their children falling when young, and of worse than falls when they are
older. Their love is evidenced by their cost. 2 Cor 12:14. They lay up and
they lay out for their children; and are not like the raven or ostrich,
which are cruel to their young. Job 39:16. Parents sometimes impoverish
themselves to enrich their children. Children never can equal a parent's
love, for parents are the instruments of life to their children, and
children cannot be so to their parents.
 To honor parents is well pleasing to the Lord.
Col 3:20. As it is joyful to parents, so it is pleasing to the Lord.
Children! is it not your duty to please God? In honoring and obeying your
parents, you please God as well as when you repent and believe. And that you
may see how well it pleases God, he bestows a reward upon it. "That
your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you." Jacob
would not let the angel go until he had blessed him; and God would not part
with this commandment until he had blessed it.
Paul calls this, the first commandment with promise. Eph
6:2. The second commandment has a general promise to mercy; but this is the
first commandment that has a particular promise made to it. Long life is
mentioned as a blessing. "You shall see your children's children." Psalm
128:6. It was a great favor of God to Moses that, though he was a hundred
and twenty years old, he needed no spectacles: "His eye was not dim, nor his
natural force abated." Deut 34:7. God threatened it as a curse to Eli, that
there should not be an old man in his family. 1 Sam 2:31. Since the flood,
life is much abbreviated and cut short: to some the womb is their tomb;
others exchange their cradle for their grave; others die in the flower of
their youth; death serves its warrant every day upon one or other. Now, when
death lies in ambush continually for us, if God satisfies us with long life,
saying (as in Psalm 91:16), "With long life will I satisfy him;" it is to be
esteemed a blessing. It is a blessing when God gives a long time to repent,
and a long time to do service, and a long time to enjoy the comforts of
relations. Upon whom is this blessing of long life entailed—but obedient
children? "Honor your father, that your days may be long."
Nothing sooner shortens life, than disobedience to
parents. Absalom was a disobedient son, who sought to deprive his father of
his life and crown; and he did not live out half his days. The mule he rode
upon, being weary of such a burden, left him hanging in the oak between
heaven and earth, so as not fit to tread upon the one, or to enter into the
other. Obedience to parents spins out the life. Nor does obedience to
parents lengthen life only—but sweetens it. To live long, and
not to have a foot of land, is a misery; but obedience to parents settles
land of inheritance upon the child. "Have you but one blessing, O my
father," said Esau. Behold, God has more blessings for an obedient child
than one; not only shall he have a long life—but a fruitful land: and not
only shall he have land—but land given in love, "the land which the Lord
your God gives you." You shall have your land not only with God's leave—but
with his love. All these are powerful arguments to make children
honor and obey their parents.
Use one. If we are to honor our fathers on
earth, much more our Father in heaven. "If then I am a father,
where is my honor?" Mal 1:6. A father is but the instrument of conveying
life—but God is the original cause of our being. "For it is he who has made
us, and not we ourselves." Psalm 100:3. Honor and adoration is a pearl which
belongs to the crown of heaven only.
(1) We show honor to our heavenly Father by obeying him.
Thus Christ honored his Father. "I came down from heaven, not to
do my own will—but the will of him who sent me." John 6:38. This he calls
honoring God. "I do always those things which please him." "I honor my
Father." John 8:29, 49. The wise men not only bowed the knee to Christ—but
presented him with "gold and myrrh." Matt 2:11. So we must not only bow the
knee, give God adoration—but bring him presents, give him golden obedience.
(2) We show honor to our heavenly Father by advocating
his cause, and standing up for his truth in an adulterous
generation. That son honors his father who stands up in his defense, and
vindicates him when he is calumniated and reproached. Do they honor God who
are ashamed of him? "Many believed on him—but did not confess him." John
12:42. They are bastard-sons, who are ashamed to own their heavenly Father.
Such as are born of God, are steeled with courage for his truth; they are
like the rock, which no waves can break; like the adamant, which no sword
(3) We show honor to our heavenly Father by ascribing the
honor of all we do to him. "I labored more abundantly than they
all—yet not I—but the grace of God which was with me." 1 Cor 15: l0. If a
Christian has any assistance in duty, any strength against corruption—he
rears up a pillar and writes upon it, "Hitherto has the Lord helped me." As
when Joab had fought against Rabbah, and had likely to have taken it, sent
for king David, that he might carry away the honor of the victory. Just so,
when a child of God has any conquest over Satan, he gives all the honor to
God. 2 Sam 12:27, 28. Hypocrites, whose lamp is fed with the oil of
vain-glory, while they do any eminent service to God, seek to honor
themselves; and so their very serving him is dishonoring him.
(4) We show honor to our heavenly Father by celebrating
his praise. "Let my mouth be filled with your praise, and with
your honor all the day." Psalm 71:8. "Blessing and honor and glory and
power, be unto him who sits upon the throne." Rev 5:13. Blessing God is
honoring God. It lifts him up in the eyes of others, and spreads his fame
and renown in the world. In this manner the angels, the choristers of
heaven, are now honoring God; they trumpet forth his praise. In prayer—we
act like saints; in praise—we act like angels.
(5) We show honor to our heavenly Father, by suffering
dishonor, yes, death for his sake. Paul did bear in his body the
"marks of the Lord Jesus." Gal 6:17. As they were the marks of honor to him,
so they were trophies of honor to the gospel. The honor which comes to God,
is not by bringing the outward pomp and glory to him, which we do to kings;
but it comes in another way, by the suffering of his people, by which they
let the world see what a good God they serve, and how they love him, and
will fight under his banner to the death.
God is "worthy of honor." "You are clothed with honor and
majesty." Psalm 104:1: What are all his attributes, but glorious beams
shining from this sun? He deserves more honor than men or angels can give
him. "I will call on the Lord who is worthy to be praised." 2 Sam 22:4. He
is worthy of honor. We often confer honor upon those who do not deserve it.
To many noble people, who are sordid and wicked, we give titles of honor:
they do not deserve honor; but God is worthy of honor. "Blessed be your
glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise." Neh 9:5. He
is above all the acclamations and triumphs of the archangels. O then, let
every true child of God honor his heavenly Father!
Though the wicked dishonor him by their flagitous lives,
let not his own children dishonor him. Sins in them are worse than in
others. A fault in a stranger is not so much taken notice of, as in a child.
A spot in black cloth is not so much observed—but a spot in white linen,
attracts everyone's eye; so a sin in the wicked is not so much wondered at,
it is a spot in black; but a sin in a child of God is a spot in white linen,
which is more visible, and brings odium and dishonor upon the gospel. The
sins of God's own children go nearer to his heart. "When the Lord saw it, he
abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons and of his daughters."
Deut 32:19. O forbear doing anything that may reflect dishonor upon God.
Will you disgrace your heavenly Father? Let not God complain of the
provocations of his sons and daughters; let him not cry out, "I have
nourished and brought up children—and they have rebelled against me!" Isa
Use two. Does God command us to honor father
and mother? Then let children put this great duty in practice; be living
commentaries upon this commandment. Honor and reverence your parents; not
only obey their commands—but submit to their rebukes. You cannot honor your
Father in heaven—unless you honor your earthly parents. To deny obedience to
parents, entails God's judgments upon children. "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 eagle shall eat it." Prov 30:17. Eli's two disobedient
sons were slain. 1 Sam 4:2: God made a law that the "rebellious son should
be stoned;" the same death the blasphemer had. Lev 24:14. "If a man has a
stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father, or
the voice of his mother; then shall his father and his mother lay hold on
him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and all the men of his
city shall stone him with stones, that he die." Deut 21:18, 19, 21.
A father having once complained, "Never had a father a
worse son than I have!" "Yes," said the son, "my grandfather had." This was
a prodigy of impudence hardly to be paralleled. Manlius, when grown old and
poor, had a very rich son, of whom he asked some food—but the son denied him
relief, yes, disowned him from being his father, and sent him away with
reproachful language. The poor old father let fall tears in grief. But God,
to revenge the disobedience, struck the unnatural son with madness, of which
he could never be cured. Disobedient children stand in a place where all
God's arrows fly!
Use three. Let parents so act, that
they may gain honor from their children.
How should parents so act towards their children as to be
honored and reverenced by them?
(1) Be careful to bring them up in the fear and nurture
of the Lord. "Bring them up in the admonition of the Lord." Eph
6:4. You conveyed the plague of sin to them, therefore endeavor to get them
healed and sanctified. Augustine says that his mother, Monica, travailed
more for his spiritual birth, than his natural birth. Timothy's mother
instructed him from a child. 2 Tim 3:15. She not only gave him her
breast-milk—but "the sincere milk of the Word." Season your children with
good principles early, that they may, with Obadiah, fear the Lord from their
youth. 1 Kings 18:12. When parents do not instruct their children, they
seldom prove blessings. God often punishes the carelessness of parents, with
undutifulness in their children. It is not enough that in baptism your child
is dedicated to God—but it must be educated for him. Children are
young plants which you must be continually watering with good instruction.
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not
depart from it." Prov 22:6. The more your children fear God, the more they
will honor you.
(2) If you would have your children honor you, keep up
parental authority. Be kind—but do not spoil them. If you do not
discipline them, they will despise you, instead of honoring
you. The rod of discipline must not be withheld. "You shall beat him with
the rod, and deliver his soul from hell." Prov 23:14. A child indulged and
humored in wickedness, will be a thorn in the parent's eye. David spoiled
Adonijah. "His father had not displeased him at any time, in saying, Why
have you done so?" 1 Kings 1:6, 7, 9. Afterwards he became a grief of heart
to his father, and was false to the crown. Keep up your authority,
and you keep up your honor.
(3) Provide for your children what is fitting,
both in their minority and when they come to maturity. "The children ought
not to lay up for the parents—but the parents for the children." 2 Cor
12:14. They are your own flesh and, as the apostle says, "No man ever yet
hated his own flesh." Eph 5:29. The parents' bountifulness will cause
dutifulness in the child. If you pour water into a pump, the pump will send
water again out freely; so, if parents pour in something of their estate to
their children, children worthy of the name will pour out obedience again to
(4) When your children are grown up, put them to some
lawful vocation, wherein they may serve their generation. It is
good to consult the natural genius and inclination of a child, for forced
vocations do as ill, sometimes, as forced matches. To let a child be out of
a vocation, is to expose him to temptation. Melanchthon says, "Idleness is
the devil's pleasure resort." A child out of a vocation is like fallow
ground; and what can you expect should grow up but weeds of disobedience.
(5) Act lovingly to your children. In all your
counsels and commands, let them read love. Love will command honor; and how
can a parent but love the child who is his living picture, nay, part of
himself. The child is the father, in the second edition.
(6) Act prudently towards your children. It is
a great point of prudence in a parent not to provoke his children to wrath.
"Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." Col
How may a parent provoke his children to wrath?
(1) By giving them opprobrious
terms. "You son of the perverse rebellious woman," said Saul to
his son Jonathan. 1 Sam 20:30. Some parents use imprecations and curses to
their children, which provoke them to wrath. Would you have God bless your
children, and do you curse them?
(2) Parents provoke children to
wrath when they strike them without a cause, or when the correction exceeds
the fault. This is to be a tyrant, rather than a
father! Saul cast a javelin at his son to smite him, and his son was
provoked to anger. "So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger." 1 Sam
20:33, 34. "A father exercises a kingly power over his son, not that
of a tyrant." Davenant.
(3) When parents deny their
children what is absolutely needful. Some have thus provoked
their children: they have stinted them, and kept them so short, that they
have forced them upon indirect courses, and made them put forth their hands
(4) When parents act partially
towards their children, showing more kindness to one than to another.
Though a parent may have a greater love to one child—yet
discretion should lead him not to show more love to one than to
another. Jacob showed more love to Joseph than to all his other children,
which provoked the envy of his brethren. "Now Israel loved Joseph more than
all his children, and when his brethren saw that, they hated him, and could
not speak peaceably to him." Gen 37:3, 4.
(5) When a parent does anything
which is sordid and unworthy, which casts disgrace upon himself and his family,
as to defraud or take a false oath—it provokes the child to wrath. As the
child should honor his father, so the father should not dishonor the child.
(6) When parents lay commands
upon their children which they cannot perform without wronging their
consciences. Saul commanded his son Jonathan to bring David to
him. "Fetch him to me, for he shall surely die." 1 Sam 20:31. Jonathan could
not do this with a good conscience; but was provoked to anger. "Jonathan
arose from the table in fierce anger." 1 Sam 20:34.
The reason why parents should show their prudence in not
provoking their children to wrath, is this: "Lest they be discouraged." Col
3:21. This word "discouraged" implies three things.
Grief. The parent's provoking the child, the child so
takes it to heart, that it causes premature death.
Despondency. The parents' austerity dispirits the child,
and makes it unfit for service; like members of the body stupefied, which
are unfit for work.
Rebelliousness. The child being provoked by the cruel and
unnatural behavior of the parent, grows desperate, and often studies to
irritate and vex his parents; which, though it is evil in the child—yet the
parent is accessory to it, as being the occasion of it.
(7) If you would have honor from
your children, pray much for them. Not only lay up a portion for
them—but lay up a stock of prayer for them. Monica prayed much for her son
Augustine; and it was said, "it was impossible that a son of so many prayers
and tears should perish." Pray that your children may be preserved from the
contagion of the times; pray that as your children bear your images in their
faces, they may bear God's image in their hearts; pray that they may be
instruments and vessels of glory. One fruit of prayer may be, that the child
will honor a praying parent.
(8) Encourage that which you see
good and commendable in your children. "Goodness increases when
praised." Commending that which is good in your children makes them more in
love with virtuous actions; and is like the watering of plants, which makes
them grow more. Some parents discourage the good they see in their children,
and so nip virtue in the bud, and help to damn their children's souls. They
have their children's curses.
(9) If you would have honor from
your children, set them a good example. It makes children despise
parents, when the parents live in contradiction to their own precepts; when
they bid their children be sober, and yet they themselves get drunk; or bid
their children fear God, and are themselves loose in their lives. Oh if you
would have your children honor you, teach them by a holy example! A
father is a looking-glass, which the child often dresses himself by; let the
glass be clear and not spotted. Parents should observe great decorum in
their whole conduct, lest they give occasion to their children to say to
them, as Plato's servant, "My master has made a book against rash anger—but
he himself is an angry man!" Or, as a son once said to his father, "If I
have done evil—I have learned it from you!"