« הקודםהמשך »
Whilst then, those, who are liberal and charitable, have the eyes of their understanding ENLIGHTENED to pursue all other christian virtues (Ephes. 1 ver. 18): those who are corrupted by a love of money have their understanding DARKENED and so become aliens from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them. Ephes. 4 ver. 18.)
But some may be ready to say, because I am poor I am under no temptation to covetousness; and having no money to spare for alms, I have no opportunity for exercising that christian benevolence, which consists in relieving the temporal and spiritual wants of others. It is, however, a very great mistake to suppose that the poor are necessarily exempt from cherishing selfishness and covetousness because they do not possess money and extensive property; and on the other hand it is an equally great mistake to suppose that they possess no opportunity for performing works of mercy, charity, and benevolence, because they possess little or none of this world's goods. Even the being merciful, which consists of helping those in distress, may be performed by the poor as well as by the rich; for if the poor have no money to give a neighbour when oppressed by sickness or by need, there are few without the means of doing something if they have the disposition, and we know that if the disposition be there the small value of the gift does not prevent its being accepted by God, for even a cup of cold water given to a disciple in the name of a disciple shall in no case lose its reward.
The poor may fall a prey to selfishness, covetousness, and a too eager grasping after the good things of this life as well as the rich; and therefore have need to be on their guard against those vices. And on the other hand they can do what they can towards the relief of a sick and afflicted neighbour; and even if the assistance imparted be but like the poor widow's mite, if it be given from a spirit of christian piety and compassion, it will oftentimes be an offering more acceptable to God, than the costly gifts of the rich who only give of their superfluity and abund
Let all ranks and orders of men therefore diligently cultivate a benevolent, an unselfish, and a generous spirit; and if many amongst us have not the means of redeeming a poor captive from prison, of clothing the naked with a garment, of supplying the wants of the sick, and of giving food to the hungry; if what help we can afford is afforded with a cheerful and willing mind unto the least of Christ's brethren we have His own Blessed Words to assure us that He will consider it as done unto Himself.
If persons really would shew mercy according to the golden rule whatsover ye would that men should do unto you do ye cven so unto them; and if they really would place themselves in imagination in the condition of those who are any ways afflicted or distressed in mind, body, or estate, and then exercise active benevolence accordingly, we should then see what real christianity is. Hence the vast importance of the subject treated of in this Essay, and the reason for the length to which it has been extended. Indeed if we fail here our rcligion is utterly worthless.
ESSAY THE FIFTEENTH.
• Honour thy father and thy mother.”—Exodus 20 ver. 12.
WHEN we consider how much the conduct of children in after life depends upon their rendering a strict and habitual obedience to this command; and that if they fail or refuse to do so, they generally turn out bad and rebellious subjects, bad masters or servants, and bad members of society; we shall be ready to allow that it is scarcely possible to attach too much weight to this most important subject.
When it said Honour thy father and thy mother, we are doubtless to understand that it is the duty of children to love, obey, and succour their parents.
I. And first it is their duty to love them. The voice of natural instinct teaches this, and therefore at the same time proclaims the perfect adaptation of the moral law to the actual condition of man. This will appear plain to all who will consider how children express love for their parents long before they have arrived at an age, when reason or conscience teaches them it is their duty so to do: and this love is no doubt called forth in the minds of children, by the many acts of kindness and attention which they receive from their parents. When, moreover, children have come to a riper age so that they know right from wrong; then the voice of conscience from within calls upon them to love their parents. For when children come to an age when they are able to consider and reflect upon the unremitting kindness and attention of their parents during the helplessness of childhood, and when they further reflect that without such kindness and attention they must have perished; why then, not only the voice of natural instinct but the voice of conscience also will be found to unite with that command of the moral law now under consideration, by urging upon them the justice and equity of requiting the toil and labour of their parents on their behalf by an unfeigned love towards them; and particularly when it is considered that if parents do secure the love and affection of their children they regard themselves abundantly repaid for all the toil they have sustained on their behalf. II. But when children really do love their parents, that love will always be shewn by outward actions; and the first outward action which filial love will produce, is an uniform obedience to parents in all things lawful and honest.
1. The voice of natural instinct teaches this obedience. For children naturally feel their dependance upon parents; and therefore are called upon to submit on the principle that the inferior will is naturally placed under the guidance and direction of the superior will. 2. The voice of nature also calls for this obedience, even if there were no higher ground for the moral command than expediency. For reason suggests that the experience of mature age is fit and proper to rule and guide ; whilst the inexperience of youth renders that period of life utterly unfit for such a purpose. 3. The voice of conscience, which independently of the expediency of the duty, tells the child that obedience to his parents is just and right; teaches him at the same time that it is the highest injustice to give pain by disobedience and rebellion to those who deserve so well at our hands. St. Paul teaches the rectitude of this obedience in the words Children obey your parents in the Lord FOR THIS IS RIGHT. (Ephes. 6 ver. 1.) III. The same love which urges children to obey, will also urge them to succour their parents should they ever stand in need of assistance. This St. Paul teaches when he says that children are to learn first to shev piety at home, and requite their parents ; for that is good and acceptable before God. (1 Tim. 5 ver. 4.) Our Blessed Saviour's severe reprehension of the Jews for evading obedience to this command so far as relates to the affording assistance lo parents, clearly shews that it is a wicked and abominable deed in the sight of God to neglect this part of our duty to our parents on the plea of serving God. For after all God stands in no need of our gifts. His words are, the gold and silver are mine; and so are the cattle upon a thousand hills. The words of our Blessed Lord shew plainly that succour is included in the word honour; and that the church is fully justified in the interpretation of this command which she has given in the catechism. See St. Mark 7 ver. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14: although the command speaks only of the duties of children to parents; yet the reciprocal duties of parents towards their children are clearly implied.
Indeed when we consider how very much the conduct of children depends upon that of their parents; we shall clearly see the great importance of this part of the subject.
Thus if the character of the parents be harsh and severe, it will almost always produce a dissembling, disingenuous, and insincere disposition in the children : on the other hand—if, as is more commonly the case, the parents are too indulgent towards their children, in that case also parents are not unfrequently the means of ruining the dispositions of their children. They give a premium to disobedience by their indulgence; and their children grow up upruly, self-willed, and oftentimes quite incorrigible; and thus parents not only bring down upon themselves and their children much misery, but also incur the displeasure of The Most High, who severely punished Eli for this error- -whose only fault seems to have been (for in other respects he was an holy and good man) that his sons made themselves vile and he restrained them not. In order therefore to guard against too great severity on the one hand, and too much indulgence on the other, parents should continually bear in mind the admonition of St. Paul, and ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephes. 6 ver. 4. And that of King Solomon in the words Train up a child in the way
he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov. 22 ver. 6.)
How faithfully the Church of England has taught how a child should be trained up, and how clearly she has pointed out the way in which he ought to go; will appear not only from the perfect summary of duty both towards God and towards man, which is contained in the catechism; but also from the address which the minister is directed to make to the Godfathers and Godmothers in the office for public baptism.
They are there admonished that
“ It is their parts and duties chiefly to provide that the infant may learn the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments in var tongue, and all other things, which a Christian ought to know and beiiere to Lis souls health and that the child may be virtuously brought up to lead a godly and a christian life ; remembering always that Baptismn doth represent unto us our profession ; which is to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto Him ; that as He died and rose again for us so should we who are baptized, die from sin and rise again unto righteousness ; continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living."
On the whole subject, seeing that parents are invested by the Almighty with such great influence over their children, not only by God's written word, but also by the instincts of nature, and the dictates of conscience; how very careful ought all parents to be in training their children up to lead a godly and a christian life. And although this object may be in some degree promoted by seeing that their children receive christian instruction, yet it cannot be denied that the principal means of effecting this great object is the good example of their parents.
When it is considered how much children look up to their parents, and how readily they follow their customs and imbibe their habits, implicitly and without argument ; how can we avoid lamenting that so few parents should be sufficiently holy and good themselves, as not fearfully to lead their children astray by their own deviation from the precepts of a godly and a christian life. Let all parents then continually remember what a very great responsibility attaches to them; and consider how fearful will be their punishment, if through their bad example, their children are found to go wrong.
Let parents remember that as to the tender years of their offspring they seemed to be placed in a similar relation towards their children, as that in which the Almighty stands towards all the creatures of His hand; and therefore, if in all their actions parents do not endeavour to be themselves followers of God as dear children by conducting themselves towards their children, as God our Heavenly Father acts towards His creatures, who are all in one sense His children; they not only bring themselves to destruction both of body and soul, but also are the means of leading their children to follow in their steps.
The relation of parents to children is one of the most holy and sacred that can possibly be imagined, as will plainly appear to all who consider that that relation is so often employed in scripture to pourtray the relation between God and His creatures; as when it is said Have we not all one Father? hath not one God created us? and elsewhere Like as a father pitieth his children so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him; and In Him we live and move and have our being. And here it may be necessary before proceeding further to reply to the following important question, Is there no limit to be assigned to the obedience of inferiors to superiors, whether of children to parents, subjects to rulers, people to spiritual pastors, and servants to masters? The answer to this enquiry is--The just limits of all obedience to our fellow creatures are assigned by St. Paul when he says Children obey your parents IN THE LORD. By the words IN TIIE LORD we arrive at a safe and unerring rule for our guidance, since we lvaru from them that it is the bounden duty of inferiors to obey their lawful superiors in every command which is not contrary to the law of God. Let this rule be but fairly and honestly applied, and it will be found to meet every case of obedience of an inferior to a superior. If any thing is commanded contrary to the law of God then we are bound to obey God rather than man. Thus when Nebuchadnezzar commanded the three Jews to worship the golden image, if the command had not been expressly contrary to the command of Go:l it would have been their duty to obey the king. As, however, it was expressly contrary to that command of the moral law by which we are forbidden to fall down and worship the graven image; it became their duty to refuse to obey the king's commandment.
So when the Apostles were commanded to teach no more in the name of the Lord Jesus, they were justified in refusing because had they complied they would have disobeyed that command of their God and Saviour in which He had expressly directed them to go and teach all nations. Hence their language was whether we ought to obey men rather than God, judge ye. The following striking words of Bishop Jeremy Taylor will be found to place the whole question of obedience of an inferior to a superior in the true light. He says, there is very great peace and immunity from sin in resigning our wills up to the command of others ; for provided our duty to God is secured, their commands are war. rants to us in all things else.
The following quotations from Hooker's Life, afford such beautiful examples of a loving and dutiful child on the one hand, and of parents and an instructor of youth faithfully fulfilling their duty on the other, that on both accounts they will be apt illustrations of the preceding remarks.
“ This meekness and conjuncture of knowledge, with modesty in his conversation, being observed by his schoolmaster, caused him to persuade his parents (who intended him for an apprentice) to continue him at school, till he could find out some means, by persuading his rich uncle, or some other charitable person, to ease them of part of their care and charge ; assuring them that their son was so enriched with the blessings of natured and grace, that God seemed to single him out as a special instrument of His glory.
“ And the good man told them also, that he would double his diligence in instructing him, and would neither expect or receive any other reward, than the content of so hopeful and happy an employment.
“ This was not unwelcome news, and especially to his mother, to whom he was a dutiful and dear child; and all parties were so pleased with the proposal, that it was resolved so it should be.
“ And in the mean time his parents and master laid a foundation for his future happiness, by instilling into his soul the seeds of piety, those conscientious principles of loving and fearing God, of an early belief, that He knows the very secrets of our souls ; that He punisheth our vices, and rewards our innocence; that we should be free from hypocrisy, and appear to man what we are to God, because first or last the crafty man is catched in his own snare. These seeds of piety were so seasonably planted, and so continually watered with the daily dew of God's Blessed Spirit, that his infant virtues grew daily into such holy habits, as did make him grow daily into more and more favour both with God and man! which with the great learning that he did after attain to, hath made Richard Hooker honoured in this, and will continue to be so to succeeding generations.”— Walton's Life of Hooker.
“ About this time of his age he fell into a dangerous illness, which lasted two months; all which time his mother, having notice of it, did in her hourly prayers as earnestly beg his life of God, as Monica, the mother of St. Augustine did, that he