THOUGH precepts to children are not of so much force as to them of riper age, because of their natural incapacity, and their childish passions and pleasures which bear down their weak degree of reason; yet somewhat is to be said to them, because that measure of reason which they have is to be exercised, and by exercise to be improved: and because even those of riper years, while they have parents, must know and do their duty to them; and because God useth to bless even children as they perform their duties.
Direct. I. Be sure that you dearly love your parents; delight to be in their company; be not like those unnatural children, that love the company of their idle play-fellows better than their parents, and had rather be abroad about their sports, than in their parents’ sight. Remember that you have your being from them, and come out of their loins: remember what sorrow you have cost them, and what care they are at for your education and provision; and remember how tenderly they have loved you, and what grief it will be to their hearts if you miscarry, and how much your happiness will make them glad: remember what love you owe them both by nature and in justice, for all their love to you, and all that they have done for you: they take your happiness or misery to be one of the greatest parts of the happiness or misery of their own lives. Deprive them not then of their happiness, by depriving yourselves of your own; make not their lives miserable, by undoing yourselves. Though they chide you, and restrain you, and correct you, do not therefore abate your love to them. For this is their duty, which God requireth of them, and they do it for your good. It is a sign of a wicked child, that loveth his parents the less because they correct him, and will not let him have his own will. Yea, though your parents have many faults themselves, yet you must love them as your parents still.
Direct. II. Honour your parents both in your thoughts, and speeches, and behaviour. Think not dishonourably or contemptuously of them in your hearts. Speak not dishonourably, rudely, unreverently, or saucily, either to them or of them. Behave not yourselves rudely and unreverently before them. Yea, though your parents be never so poor in the world, or weak of understanding, yea, though they were ungodly, you must honour them notwithstanding all this; though you cannot honour them as rich, or wise, or godly, you must honour them as your parents. Remember that the fifth commandment hath a special promise of temporal blessing; “Honour thy father and mother that thy days may be long in the land,” &c. And consequently the dishonourers of parents have a special curse even in this life: and the justice of God is ordinarily seen in the execution of it; the despisers and dishonourers of their parents seldom prosper in the world. There are five sorts of sinners that God useth to overtake with vengeance even in this life.
- Perjured persons and false witnesses.
- Sacrilegious persons. And,
- The abusers and dishonourers of their parents.
Remember the curse on Ham, Gen. 9:22, 25. It is a fearful thing to see and hear how some ill-bred ungodly children will. talk contemptuously and rudely, to their parents, and wrangle and contend with them, and contradict them, and speak to them as if they were their equals: (and it is commonly long of the parents themselves that breed them to it:) and at last they will grow even to abuse and vilify them. Read Prov. 30:17, “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.”
Direct. III. Obey your parents in all things (which God forbiddeth not). Remember that as nature hath made you unfit to govern yourselves, so God in nature hath mercifully provided governors for you. Here I shall first tell you what obedience is, and then tell you why you must be thus obedient.
I. To obey your parents is to do that which they command you, and forbear that which they forbid you, because it is their will you should (to so. You must,
- Have in your minds a desire to please them, and be glad when you can please them, and sorry when you offend them; and then,
- You must not set your wit or your will against theirs, but readily obey their commands, without unwillingness, murmuring, or disputing: though you think your own way is best, and your own desires are but reasonable, yet your own wit and will must be subjected unto theirs, or else how do you obey them?
II. And for the reasons of your obedience;
- Consider it is the will of God that it should be so, and he hath made them as his officers to govern you; and in disobeying them, you disobey him. Read Eph. 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right. Honour thy father and mother, (which is the first commandment with promise,) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayst live long on the earth.” Col. 3:20, “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord.” Prov. 23:22, “Hearken to thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.” Prov. 13:1, “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction.” Prov. 1:8, 9, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother; for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”
- Consider also, that your parents’ government is necessary to your own good; and it is a government of love: as your bodies would have perished, if your parents or some others had not taken care for You, when you could not help yourselves; so your minds would be untaught and ignorant, even like to brutes, if you had not others to teach and govern you. Nature teacheth the chickens to follow the hen, and all things when they are young, to be led and guided by their dams; or else what would become of them?
- Consider also, that they must be accountable to God for you; and if they leave you to yourselves, it may be their destruction as well as Yours, as the sad example of Eli telleth you. Rebel not therefore against those that God by nature and Scripture hath set over you; though the fifth commandment require obedience to princes, and masters, and pastors, and other superiors, yet it nameth your father and mother only, because they are the first of all your governors, to whom by nature you are most obliged.
But perhaps you will say, that though little children must be ruled by their parents, yet you are grown up to riper age, and are wise enough to rule yourselves. I answer, God doth not think so; or else he would riot have set governors over you. And are you wiser than be? It is but few in the world that are wise enough to rule themselves; else God would not have set princes, and magistrates, and pastors, and teachers over them, as he hath done. The servants of the family are as old as you, and yet are unfit to be rulers of themselves. God loveth you better than to leave you masterless, as knowing that youth is rash and unexperienced.
Quest. But how long are children under the command and government of their parents?
Answ. There are several acts and degrees of parents’ government, according to the several ends and uses of it. Some acts of their government are but to teach you to go and speak, and some to teach you your labour and calling, and some to teach you good manners, and the fear of God, or the knowledge of the Scriptures, and some are to settle you in such a course of living, in which you shall need their nearer oversight no more. When any one of these ends are fully attained, and you have all that your parents’ government can help you to, then you are past that part of their government. But still you owe them, not only love, and honour, and reverence; but obedience also in all things in which they are still appointed for your help and guidance: even when you are married from them, though you have a propriety in your own estates, and they have not so strict a charge of you as before; yet if they command you your duty to God or them, you are still obliged to obey them.
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