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OF THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT.
Exod. xx. 12.-Honour thy father and thy mother : that thy
days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
ITE come now to the second table of the law, which
teacheth us our duty to man, i. e. to ourselves and others. There are two parts of religion, piety towards God, comprehending our duty to God, immediately delivered in the four first commandments; righteousness, our duty to our neighbour, delivered in the last six. As God has set the four first commands to maintain his own worship and honour in the world; so he has covered man with the last six. The fifth command is a fence for him in his station, whatever it is; the sixth guards his life; the seventh is a fence to his chastity; the eighth, to his goods; the ninth, to his name; and the tenth, to all that is his. Over these hedges no man must break, under the pain of the Lawgiver's displeasure.
Religion must run through the whole course of our conversation, and mix itself with all our actions, those that respect men ! as well as those that respect God immediately. Therefore in vain do they pretend to religion, that make no conscience of their duty to men. Religion makes not a man only a good man but a good neighbour. And it is observable, that these duties are ordinarily made the trying point to professors of religion. And if ye have got any good of the late solemn occasion, ye will not only love God more, but love your neighbour more; not only grow in du. ties of piety towards God, but of righteousness to men, giving every one their due, Micah. vi. 6, 7, 8. Zech. viii. 16, 17. Matth. xix. 18, 19. Rom. xiii. 8, 9, 10.
In this passage there is a command, Honour thy father and thy mother; and the reason of it, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. In the command two things are to be considered.
1. The object, father and mother. By these are meant not
ir duty to more to religion, that ediately.
only our natural parents, but also all superiors, superiors in age, 1 Tim. v. 1, 2; such as are superior to us in gifts or grace, Gen. iv. 20, and xlv. 8; but especially such as are by God's ordinance over us in authority, whether in the family, as husbands, 2 Sam. xii. 3; masters, 2 Kings v. 13; in the church, as ministers and other church-officers, 2 Kings ii. 12. or in the state, as magistrates, supreme or subordinate, Isa. xlix. 23. These are more directly meant by father and mother who are to be honoured.
These are the objects of this command expressed. The
objects implied are, f the la
(1.) All inferiors; that is, not only children, but the younger, the weaker in gifts and grace, wives, servants, people, subjects. That these are also the objects of this command, is clear, if ye consider, that their superiors are called fathers and mothers to them in the command, and conse« quently it binds them to be as fathers unto them,
2. All equals; that is, brethren, sisters, friends, neighbours, and all amongst whom there is little difference as to age, gifts, grace, place, or dignity. That the command respects these also, is clear if we consider, that Christ sums up the whole second table in that general, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Therefore our neighbour in the general must be the object of this command, as well as of the rest of the second table.
2. The duty, Honour, All these must be honoured by their relatives. Giving of honour does not imply the superiority of the person honoured; God himself will honour those that honour him; and all men must be honoured by us, whether they be our superiors, inferiors, or equals, 1 Pet. ii. 17. God has put some excellency of his in every person, for which they are to be honoured. The titles of father, husband, teacher, and ruler, are honourable, for they are God's titles. The station wherein God has set every one, though interiors or equ:.is, is honourable ; for they shine, most beautifully that shine in their own sphere. And there is no person on whom God has not bestowed something of his own, for which that person is to be honoured even by his superiors; esteemed inwardly in the heart, which is to be yented by a respectful outward carriage to them.
For the further opening of these words, take notice,
42. the sbe the
relative duties, is the first of the second table. In which the wisdom of God is to be adored, this command having a general influence on all the rest, so that we cannot transgress the rest but we transgress this in the first place. And it is worthy of observation, that such as bring themselves to an ill end, by murder, adultery theft, &c. ordinarily pitch on disobedience to their parents as the inlet to all these, Prov. xxx. 17.
2. That as the fourth commandment is particularly directed to superiors, so this is to inferiors; particularly because subjection and submission is that which goes worst down with the proud hearts of the children of men; and therefore God doth the more expressly require it.
3. That superiors are styled fathers and mothers. And that is, (1.) To teach superiors their duty towards their inferiors, that they owe them such tenderness and kindness as parents to their own children. Num. xi. 12. (2.) To make inferiors the more cheerfully and willingly to give due honour to them, 1 Cor. iv. 14, 15.
In discoursing from this subject I shall shew,
I. I am to shew, what is required in this command. According to our Catechism, it requires the preserving the honour, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations; as superiors, inferiors, or equals.'
In speaking to this I shall,
1. Take notice of God's appointment of several places and relations.
2. Consider the necessity of the performance of relative duties in general.
3. Shew the duties of the particular relations wherein we severally stand.
FIRST, I am to take notice of God's appointment of several places and relations. Observe, that a difference of places and relations amongst the children of men is of divine appointment. All are not alike. Some God will have to be I tabla. superiors, others inferiors, others equals ; yea, the same Emmans persons superiors in respect of some, and inferiors in respect
of others. This command supposeth this, as the eighth doth rat name a propriety of goods. God is a God of order, not of confu.
sion: so that the levelling design is levelled against the diing the
vine will. It serves,
1. To manifest the sovereignty of God that invests one Et to all
man more than another with dominion and honour, though all are of one blood; takes one piece of clay and sets it on a throne, and sets another piece of the same on a dunghill. He himself is the King of the world, and the fountain of
honour. Adren do
2. To beautify the world, God, who has made the natural
body of man not all one lump, but consisting of several memand me
bers, some more, some less honourable, for the beauty of the whole, has so shewed his wisdom in the political body. ·
3. It is necessary in this state of sin, especially for the 121 preserving of the world, which, without rules and govern. Erm ent in families, churches, and states, would be like a ship
without a pilot amongst dangerous rocks.
Use. Let every one then be content with his place assign
ed him by the Divine Providence. Are worse than your. ende selves set above you? God has done it ; say you Amen to
your own post. And do the duty of your place and relation; and that will be your greatest honour. The moon shining by night is very beautiful, but in the day there is little beauty with her. As little is there in those who, for. saking their own place and the duties thereof, thrust them. selves into that of another, and act without their proper spheres.
SECONDLY, Let us consider the necessity of performance of relative duties in general. Observe that the conscientious performance of relative duties is a necessary piece of true religion. The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honour, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their seyeral places and relations. True religion consists of faith and holiness; and true holiness is made up of personal and relative holiness. Do not think that religion has no concern in thy domestic and civil affairs. All of us are in some relations, husbands, wives, children,
servants, neighbours. Each of these has its own train of duen is ties. Be thou master, seryant, &c. here are thy instructions VOL. II.
sent down from heaven, how to carry in thy place and rela. tion. Thou wilt say, Who is concerned how I carry to my relations? I tell you, God is concerned, and he will require it. His commands are like a man's shadow; wherever he goes, they follow him. The necessity thereof is apparent.
1. The conscientious performance of relative duties is decessary in respect of the command of God. The command for them is the first cominand of the second table. God, who hath placed us in these relations, binds us by his sovereign authority to perforin the duties of the same. The same stamp of divine authority is on these commands, that is upon the command to pray, &c. And he will not sit with our overlooking our duty. . 2. It is necessary to evidence us to be Christians indeed, no man can justly pretend to be a new creature, that does not make conscience of relative duties, 2 Cor. v. 17. Saving grace goes through all relations, like leaven in a lump, and sets men right in them. It makes the man not only a good man, but a good neighbour, husband, servant, &c. the woman a good neighbour, wife, servant, &c. For, : (1.) Relative duties are an integral part of true godliness; they are a part of the new man, Eph. iv. 24, 25. A body that wants a leg or an arm is no complete body; and a man that wants relative holiness is no complete Christian, no evangelically-complete Christian, 2 Pet. 1, 7,9. . (2.) Relative holiness is an essential part of true godliness; it cannot be without it, more than the body can live without the soul, 2 Pet. i. 7, 9. Shew me thy faith by thy works,' says the apostle ; and so may we say, Shew me thy personal holiness by thy relative holiness, Eph. v. 9. • (3.) Relative duties are the great trying points of the work of Christianity, which, if any thing, will try what metal people are of.' A man is that really which he is re Jatively. If there be any dirt on the hand, it will readily be found on the joints. And if there be any defect in the professor of religion, search for it in his relations, and it will readily be found in one or all of them. The pride of men's hearts makes them often very difficult; superiors, through their pride of heart, are apt to tyrannise; inferiors, through theirs, think themselves as good, and cannot comport with subjection. Every man naturally loves to be master, and seeks himself; hence there is no dutifulness to equals.
(3.) Relathy relative , may we.