It is right according to nature, that those who have so long cared for children and nourished them, should be obeyed by them, and it is right also according to the will of God. It is right for the house, which cannot else be kept in order; and right for the children themselves, who will never be happy till they have learned to obey. Yet observe there is a limit—children are to obey “in the Lord,” that is to say, so far as the commands of parents are not opposed to the laws of God.
It has been observed that God frequently prospers those who have shewn a dutiful attention to their parents; at any rate, such children are in the right way, and we all know that the way of duty is the way of safety and happiness. On the other hand, unkindness to parents has often been remarkably punished in this life. Nothing shortens life like rebellion against parents. Absalom is a prominent instance of this general rule. Moreover, this sin is a dreadful sign of a graceless nature. He who does not love and honour his father and mother whom he hath seen, certainly does not love the Lord whom he hath not seen.
Undue harshness, and irritating severity are here forbidden, but holy discipline and religious training are commanded. Wise fathers will take note of this verse; it is not addressed to mothers, because they seldom, if ever, err on the side of severity. Fathers must not be ill-humoured and morose to their sons and daughters, nor must they exact from them more service than they can render, nor ridicule them, nor shew partiality to one above another, nor stint them in necessaries, for this is to provoke them to anger.
or with diffident anxiety and self-distrust
Those who need looking after are but poor servants. True Christians care more for God’s eye than their master’s or mistress’s observation, and they do their duty as well alone as they would with all eyes upon them. It is a mean thing to be diligent only when one is watched; it is a vice only fit for slaves.
Beautifully does George Herbert put it—
“All may of thee partake
Nothing can be so mean
Which with this tincture (for thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.
A servant with this cause
Makes drudgery divine
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws
Makes that and th’ action fine.”
Masters are not to use a continual faultfinding and threatening tone, but to act towards servants as Jesus, their Master, has acted towards them.
The Apostle does not speak against the various distinctions of society, but he would have us act rightly in them. May our household always be a happy one, because each one seeks the happiness of the rest, and does so by keeping his own place, and behaving towards others in the spirit of love.
Happy the home where Jesus’ name
Is sweet to every ear;
Where children early lisp his fame,
And parents hold him dear.
Lord, let us in this home agree,
That thou alone shalt reign,
For those who love and worship thee,
In joyous peace remain.