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Deuteronomy 5:16 - The Decalogue The Basis Of The Covenant, The Essence Of The Whole Law, And The Condition Of Life And

The fifth commandment. Honor due to parents; or, the religion of home life.

Many are the passages in the Word of God which speak of or refer to the duty of children to their parents; e . g . Exodus 21:15 , Exodus 21:17 ; Le Exodus 19:3 ; Exodus 20:9 ; Deuteronomy 21:18-21 ; Deuteronomy 27:16 ; Psalms 78:5-8 ; Proverbs 10:1 ; Proverbs 13:1 ; Proverbs 20:20 ; Proverbs 23:22 ; Proverbs 30:17 ; Jeremiah 35:18 ; Ezekiel 22:7 ; Matthew 15:4 9; Colossians 3:20 . It is worthy of careful noting, that when God would launch forth into the world a new national life, he lays great stress on the recognition of and regard to family sacredness . At the outset of the redemption from Egypt, family life was specially hallowed (cf. Exodus 12:24-27 ; Exodus 13:8 , Exodus 13:9 ). The covenant of circumcision handed down from Abraham was to be observed. Children were to be scaled as the Lord's, and brought up in his fear. That is here assumed. ]t was the understood law. And now, when a moral code for the nation and for the world for all time is to be laid down, the very next precept to those relating immediately to the honor due to God himself, is this—"Honor thy father and thy mother." Not, indeed, that they were to render them a blind obedience, for see Ezekiel 20:18 , Ezekiel 20:19 . If the parents were bad, the best honor the children can render them is to become better than they were. So that we may note, once for all, in passing, that the commandment recognizes it as incumbent on parents to see that their lives and rules are such as their children can honor, and that their precepts accord with those of the Father of spirits. Throughout our homiletic application of this fifth commandment, we shall assume this to be the case. It is, indeed, understood by many, that this command is to be regarded not only as requiring obedience in the family, but "as requiring the preserving the honor and performing the duties belonging to every one, in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals;" and as forbidding "the neglecting of or doing anything against the honor and duty which belongeth to every one, in their several places and relations." Doubtless this is so. But there is quite as much as we can compass in the brief space afforded us, in the specific duty named in the text. Let us—


1. During the earlier stages of life, while needing the fostering care and sheltering love of the home, implicit obedience is a child's first duty. We not only say that it is next to his duty to God, but that it is a part of it . The parent's precepts may be distasteful, even rigid, but if they are right, it is the child's part implicitly to obey.

2. Honoring parents is the form which obedience will take when the child is growing up towards manhood. No wise parent would think of directing a lad of sixteen as closely as he would a child of six years; at the same time, though the father may give him more liberty, it may not be either wise or right on the son's part to take all the liberty which is given. At that age his own sense of honor and right ought to be sufficiently strong to guide him; and respect and reverence for his parents will create a loyal regard to their wishes when once they are known, and will lead him to deny himself a great deal that might be gratifying to him, rather than cause pain to or cross the wishes of those to whom he owes his life. Rude words to a parent, "answering again," disputing his rule in the house, will be utterly out of the question where a youth wishes to live in the fear of God.

3. Supporting them may become a duty. There will come a time, if the parents are spared to see their children grow up in life, when they will lean on the children, rather than the children on them. If the children are worthy, they will let their parents lean on them, and will show them that they can be as faithful to their parents in their weakness, as the parents when in their strength were to them.

4. Becoming an honor to them is another way of honoring them, i . e . by living so that they can feel proud of what their children are , quite apart from what they do. If a father car say, "My son never gave me an uneasy thought about him," that is such a testimony as a son might well wish him to be able to bear.

5. By guarding very jealously the sacredness and purity of England's family life, the commandment may be obeyed. We may honor our parents by honoring that holy marriage tie which made them what they were to us.

6. By guarding and handing down to others the holy faith in which they have trained us ( Psalms 78:1-8 ; 1 Chronicles 28:9 ). We may well desire to honor them by taking on our lips that dear Name which gladdened them in life and sustained them in death.

7. There is another way of honoring parents which we would there were no occasion to name. But there is a drift clearly to be discerned in some directions of English life, which makes a warning imperative (see Matthew 15:1-9 ). The Jewish rabbis put their Church and their rabbinical rules between a child and his parents. Modern (so-called) priests are doing the same now. Hence this rule: Honor your parents by refusing to let any priest edge his way in between you and them. In Divine institutions, the priest is nowhere compared with the parent. And under the Christian economy he has no right to be. He is humanity's pest and plague. "Honor thy father and thy mother," and never allow a priest to tamper with the sacredness of home!


1. Here let us set in the front a reason given by Paul in Ephesians 6:1 , "It is right ( δικαιον )." There is another word which is usually translated "right," viz. εὐθυς , which is the equivalent of "straightforward." But the word here used is "just." Obedience to parents is simply a piece of bare justice. For, consider how much we owe them. When we first came into being their care and watchfulness guarded and supplied us long ere we knew aught. They thought us, perhaps, something wonderful , when no one else thought anything of the kind, save in the reverse sense. Ought not all this to be repaid?

2. It is well-pleasing to the Lord. He has in this "set us an example, that we should follow his steps."

3. There is a specific promise made to the obedient and loyal, as such , "That it may go well with thee," etc. In the culture of home obedience will be found a strong safeguard of character. Vicious excesses will not exhaust. Insubordination and recklessness will not blight life's prospects. Hence coet . par . such a life, being the purest and happiest, will also be the longest.

4. Such home virtue is a contribution of no mean value to the stability of a state. The reference of Moses is to the weal of the nation as well as to that of the home. The downfall of Israel's glory is attributed to two evils: neglect of Sabbaths, and making light of father and mother. No nation can prosper without purity in the home.

5. Such virtue brings great joy. "A wise son maketh a glad father." There is joyousness on both sides. This is the beauty with which God's blessing makes the plants of virtue to bloom. It is like the fragrance exhaling from a bed of violets quietly blossoming in a shady lane.

6. The neglect of this will ensure many unavailing regrets on both sides in after life. "A foolish son is the heaviness of his mother." Many an undutiful son, when laying his parents' remains in the grave, would give all he has if he could but call them back, if he could atone for his sin, or could cancel the past. Disobedience treasures up sorrow. God may and will forgive the sin, when repented of, but the penitent will never forgive himself; he will often moan out, "Thou makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth!"

7. The curse of God will rest on those who are loose and disloyal at home. Richard Knill so regarded this fifth commandment, that he would not even go out as a missionary without his mother's consent. He said, " I know that God never smiles on a boy that breaks his mother ' s heart ." (See Proverbs 30:17 .) And who does not know how often it is proved true, "With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again"? Jacob deceived his father, and his sons deceived him. Can any observant man reach middle life without having had oft to make such notes as these: "A" honored his parents, and honor has attended him. "B" dishonored his parents, and his lamp has gone out in darkness? Though the judgment has not yet come, yet there is a judging process of God's providence continually at work.

8. The observance of this rule is the best possible preparation for serving our generation according to the will of God. He who is a blessing in the home will never be a curse out of it! The habits of self-restraint, of courtesy, of respect to superiors, well learnt and practiced at home, will not be thrown off when outside its walls. Men learn to command well by first obeying well. Even Christ's own preparation for active service was found in filial obedience at home; and he is not only our perfect example, who shows us what to do, he is also our omnipotent Savior, who will give us strength to do it. Be it ours to repent not only of sin in general, but of the sin of disobedience to parents. Let us ask his forgiveness as well as theirs, if the latter is yet possible. Let us implore his renewing grace that we may henceforth keep this and every command, not only because it is written in the Book, but because the love of it is graven on our hearts. It will be no small addition to the joy of retrospect, if, as we afterwards look back on our home life, we can think of it as one of filial loyalty on one side and of parental delight on the other!

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