Page images
PDF
EPUB

more than meat, and the body than raiment.” (Luke xii. 23.) For if some may like to dwell in tents, and live many days in the land where they are strangers, (Jer. xxxv. 7,) others would rather prolong their days perhaps in the patrimony or site which God has given them: but the way to either enjoyment will be the same, to wit, by honouring father and mother-for one thing. From which it may appear, that patriotism is not such an home keeping property as some may imagine; seeing it consists in a veneration for the memory and maxims of our parents and progenitors, more than the charm of one's residence or birth place which is fitter for oysters. And that, namely the genuine spirit of patriotism, is what makes it such an advantage to be born naturally of Christian parents, of parents who are born spiritually, like ourselves, of the Word of life, the Great, Eternal Word. “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man-as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever." (Pet. I. i. 24, 25.)

2. Therefore in the fifth commandment, “ Honour thy father and mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,” the Deity does not seem to propose a different reward in effect, if it do a further duty, from that which he commended in the Rechabites, as before intimated. For he who “ laid the foundations of the earth," with the whole train of causes and consequences affecting it from first to last in one piece or design, must certainly know what was likely to be the consequence of a man's honouring his father and mother in every stage of life. He knows the attention that such honouring must beget in young men to the advice of the older and more experienced; which is a good foundation for long life and prosperity for them through their own efforts, beside the encouragement and support of the advisers who may be likely to bestow these sometimes with their advice when it seems to be well taken: and he knows

the satisfaction that an habitual honouring of those who have gone before us is likely to yield in the decline of life, when we are going after them; but not the faster for such satisfaction : on the contrary, he who has so ordered it must know, that every sort of reasonable satisfaction will contribute with other effects of this duty to the reward of long life, or stability upon earth; and not only of a long life, but happy. For

3. I suppose, that in promising the reward of long life to the duty of filial obedience, our heavenly Father did not mean that it should be either bad or indifferent for us at the same time, but that it should be more good. He will not have any good deed or sentiment go unrewarded, any more than any evil; and therefore, that it may not, has ordained that virtue should bear its own present reward; so that a man may be paid at once for it, and before he has time to degenerate. For a more particular example of this kind I may also mention,

4. The delightful sense of gratitude: which, while it acts as a powerful motive to filial duty, is also one that helps powerfully to reward its performance in the degree it deserves, endearing as well as prolonging for us our life upon earth by binding us to those who have been its authors and benefactors under Providence. They say, Hope is a sweetener of human life: and so it is, no doubt: but I prefer for my own part the more uncommon spice of gratitude*. And without saying aught of rewards, when we consider what our father and mother must have done and suffered for us before we could arrive at the maturity we enjoy, or might have enjoyed if we had done no worse for ourselves, it would seem as if no other mo

• Without meaning to be uncharitable, I doubt whether in this degenerate age young people honour their father and mother sometimes for benefits received so much as for the sake of more, that they might be en. abled to prolong a wretched and superfluous existence upon earth entirely by their means, if they should be weak enough to allow it, and have no more sense of the duty they owe to their children as well as themselves, than to do so.

tive beside gratitude could be required, to make a man honour his father and mother as long as either they might live to be honoured, or he to honour them: but other motives there are, and all few enough; which when they happen to be effectual may concur to improve the reward of long life promised to filial duty: for example,

5. As we honour our parents we may expect to be ho. noured by our children. For if they be not witnesses of our living tribute, as it is not the lot of every one to mix with his father and grandfathers in life--they must be of our honouring them dead, when we mention their names with fond reverence, as we cannot help doing while we honour their memory.

6. To those who believe in remote causes by the operation of One above it may also occur, that whether our own children or any other person's children shall honour us as we honour our father and mother,- for the children of men are lighter than vanity : the children of men are deceitful upon the weights: they are altogether lighter than vanity itself,” (Ps. lxii. 9,) there still is One above who will be sure to honour us in the end. Of which we have a proof not only in the reward of the Rechabites particularly, but also in his decreeing, as afore said, length of days generally to this duty, and placing it at the very top of all human duties or obligations. For,

7. It has been observed to the honour of the fifth commandment, that it is not only the first with promise, but also stands first among the human or moral sort; and it contains at the same time the only positive and therefore only cognizable part among these, as the preceding fourth of hallowing the sabbath day does among the religious or divine. If we do not honour our father and mother, it may be without its being known; so it may if we do not commit murder, adultery, thest, perjury or any other crime proceeding from covetousness and concupiscence: if a man observe all these prohibitions or negative duties, it must be unknown to every one but God, who therefore only can honour the man for it as he deserves: but if a man do honour God by observing his sabbaths, and the father who begat him by studying his will and his comfort, that man's piety toward both will be obvious to other men, and entitle him to their esteem and confidence, if it do not also to their gratitude for the example that he sets them in these high respects. The longer men live together, the better they may know each other: and hence, to shew the farther extent and importance of this reward

8. The effect of individuals living long in the land which is either given to them as settlers, or lent to them as wanderers by the Lord their God will be that of a general increase and great political prosperity; each one lending again to other a portion of the advantages lent to him by God, for the sake of old acquaintance, as well as for Christ's sake, God's motive for lending to us. So beside its private or single importance, we may reckon on the public and accumulating richness of the reward of honouring father and mother in its benefit to the commonwealth. Where a people is knit together in the bond of pure fellowship, through the common remembrance of one ancestry and a prevailing habit of filial duty, the land being thereby kept in a good moral state, those sweeping invasions before alluded to will become as difficult as needless, and very little bloodshedding be required even in a judicial way for temporal ends.

9. But the great beauty and excellence of this reward consists in its spiritual effect as speaking better things than the blood of Abel, (Heb. xii. 24,) or of any other victim of human ambition, by the blood of sprinkling which the apostle mentions as commemorated by Moses in his feast of the passover. (Ib.) For “when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled

with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood : and WITHOUT SHEDDING OF BLOOD IS NO REMISSION.” (Ib. ix. 19, &c.) Whereupon,

10. Finally, it may be said that honouring father and mother will be the way, not only to live long in any land wherein we may settle or wander upon earth,- be it eastward or westward, in barrenness or in plenty; but it will powerfully help with other duties to procure us, through the only merit of our blessed Redeemer and his precious bloodshedding of one for all, a place or orbit in the heavenly paradise. And what farther reward or inducement need I mention to those who have any sense of duty in other respects for that of honouring their father and mother? It is not the most showy part of a good life certainly; there are many more outward and ostensible. Diligence in our calling, whereby we take ourselves off from a late and unworthy dependence on father and mother, and are also enabled to honour them if necessary with something more than words: a meek and peaceable behaviour, being another way to prolong our days upon earth with a similar blessing from Heaven: (Matt. v. 5:) chastity, honesty, truth-those beautiful gifts; with fidelity, which is the honour of superiors; and honouring all men more or less, which rests on self-esteem and is conducive to the same all these with many more that I could mention are excellent properties, and make in general a greater show than this inward, as well as domestic and consequently more retired duty ; but never a one among them will rank higher, if so high as this of hoNOURING FATHER AND MOTHER at last. To conclude, therefore, with some remarks,

3. On the Practice of this important duty equally respecting both father and mother, as equal benefactors of the subject," and as being heirs together of the grace of life;" I observe hereupon, that

1. In the first place we should honour both, that is

« PreviousContinue »