Flavel, Fountain of Life, File 31.
( ...continued from File 30)
Sermon 31. The second excellent Word of Christ upon the Cross, 
John 19:27 
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! 
We now pass to the consideration of the second memorable and 
instructive word of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, contained 
in this scripture. Wherein he has left us an excellent pattern for 
the discharge of our relative duties. It may be well said, the 
gospel makes the best husbands and wives, the best parents and 
children, the best masters and servants in the world; seeing it 
furnishes them with the most excellent precepts, and proposes the 
best patterns. Here we have the pattern of Jesus Christ presented to 
all gracious children for their imitation, teaching them how to 
acquit themselves towards their parents, according to the laws of 
nature and grace. Christ was not only subject and obedient to his 
parents whilst he lived, but manifested his tender care even whilst 
he hanged in the torments of death upon the cross. "Then saith he to 
the disciple, Behold thy mother." 
    The words contain an affectionate recommendation of his 
distressed mother to the care of a dear disciple, a bosom friend; 
wherein let us consider the design, manner, and season of this 
    First, The design and end of it, which, doubtless, was to 
manifest his tender respect and care for his mother, who was now in 
a most distressed comfortless state. For now was Simeon's prophecy 
Luke 2: 35. fulfilled, in the trouble and anguish that filled her 
soul, yea, a sword also shall pierce through thine own soul, that 
the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Her soul was pierced 
for him, both as she was his mother, and as she was a mystical 
member of him, her head, her Lord: and therefore he commends her to 
the beloved disciple that lay in his bosom, saying, "Behold thy 
mother," i. e. let her be to thee as thine own mother. Let thy love 
to me be now manifested in thy tender care for her. 
    Secondly, The manner of his recommending her, is both 
affectionate and mutual. It was very affectionate and moving, 
Behold, thy mother, q. d. John, I am now dying, leaving all human 
society and relations, and entering into a new state, where neither 
the duties of natural relations are exercised, nor the pleasures and 
comforts of them enjoyed. It is a state of dominion over angels and 
men, not of subjection and obedience; this I now leave to thee. Upon 
thee do I devolve both the honour and duty of being in my stead and 
room to her, as to all dear and tender care over her. 
    John, "Behold thy mother;" and as it is affectionate, so it is 
mutual, ver. 26. And to his mother he said, "Woman, behold thy son;" 
not mother, but woman, intimating not only the change of state and 
conditions with him, but also the request he was making for her to 
the disciple with whom she was to live, as a mother with a son. 
    And all this he designs as a pattern to others. 
    Thirdly, The season or time when his care for his mother so 
eminently manifested itself, was when his departure was at hand, and 
he could no longer be a comfort to her, by his bodily presence; yea, 
his love and care then manifested themselves, when he was full of 
anguish to the very brim, both in his soul and body; Yet all this 
makes him not in the least unmindful of so dear a relation. Hence 
the doctrinal note is, 
    Doct. That Christ's tender care of his mother, even in the time 
    of his greatest distress; is an excellent pattern for all 
    gracious children to the end of the world. 
    "There are three great foundations, or bonds of relations, on 
which all family government depends." Husbands and wives, parents 
and children, masters and servants. The Lord has planted in the 
souls of men, affections suitable to these relations, and to his 
people he has given grace to regulate those affections, appointed 
duties to exercise those graces, and seasons to discharge those 
duties. So that, as in the motion of a wheel every spoke takes its 
turn, and bears its stress; in like manner, in the whole round of a 
Christian's conversation, every affection, grace, and duty, at one 
season or other, comes to be exercised. 
    But yet grace has not so far prevailed in the sanctification of 
any man's affections, but that there will be excesses or defects in 
the exercise of them towards our relations; yea, and in this the 
most eminent saints have been eminently defective. But the pattern I 
set before you this day, is a perfect pattern. As the church finds 
him the best of husbands, so to his parents he was the best of sons; 
"and being the best, and most perfect, is therefore the rule and 
measure of all others." Christ knew how those corruptions we draw 
from our parents are returned in their bitter fruits upon them 
again, to the wounding of their very hearts; and therefore it 
pleased him to commend obedience and love to parents, in his own 
example to us. 
    It was anciently a proverb among the heathen, in sole Sparta, 
expedite senescere. It is good to be an old man, or women, only in 
Sparta. The ground of it was the strict laws that were among the 
Spartans, to punish the rebellions and disobedience of children to 
their aged parents. And shall it not be good to be an old father and 
mother in England, where the gospel of Christ is preached, and such 
an argument as this now set before you urge; an argument which the 
Heathen world was never acquainted with? Shall parents here be 
forced to complain with the eagle in the fable, that they are 
smitten to the heart, by an arrow winged with their own feathers? 
Or, as a tree cleft in pieces by the wedges that were made of its 
own body? God forbid. 
    To prevent such sad occasions of complaints as these, I desire 
all that sustain the relation of children, into whose hands 
providence shall cast this discourse, seriously to ponder this 
example of Christ, proposed for their imitation in this point. 
Wherein we shall first consider what duties belong to the relation 
of children: secondly, how Christ's example enforces those duties, 
and then suitably apply it. 
    First, Let us examine what duties pertain to the relation of 
children, and they are as truly, as commonly branched out into the 
following particulars. 
    First, Fear and reverence are due from children to their 
parents, by the express command of God, Lev. 19: 3. Ye shall fear 
every man his mother and his father. The Holy Ghost purposely 
inverts the order, and puts the mother first, because she, by reason 
of her blandishments, and fond indulgence, is most subject to the 
irreverence and contempt of children. God has clothed parents with 
his authority. They are intrusted by God with them, and are 
accountable to him for the souls and bodies of their children; and 
he expects that you reverence them, although, in respect of outward 
estate, or honour, you be never so much above them. Joseph, though 
Lord of Egypt, bowed down before his aged father, with his face to 
the earth, Gen. 48: 12. Solomon, the most magnificent and glorious 
king that ever swayed a sceptre, when his mother came to speak with 
him for Adonijah, he rose up to meet her, and bowed himself to her, 
and caused a seat to be set up for the king's mother, and set her 
upon his right hand, 2 Kings 2: 19. 
    Secondly, Dear and tender love is due from children to their 
parents: and to show how strong and dear that love ought to be, it 
is joined with the love you have for your own lives; as it appears 
in that injunction, to deny both for Christ's sake, Mat. 10: 37. The 
bonds of nature are strong and direct betwixt parents and children. 
What is the child but a piece of the parent wrapped up in another 
skin? O the care, the cost, the pity, the tenderness, the pains, the 
fears they have expressed for you. It is worse than Heathenish 
ingratitude, not to return love for love. This filial love is not 
only in itself a duty, but should be the root or spring of all your 
duties to them. 
    Thirdly, Obedience to their commands is due to them, by the 
Lord's strict and special command, Eph. 6: 1. "Children obey your 
parents in the Lord, for this is right; honour thy father and thy 
mother, which is the first commandment with promise." Filial 
obedience is not only founded upon the positive law of God, but also 
upon the law of nature; for though the subjection of children to 
parents is due to them by natural right; therefore, saith the 
apostle, this is right, (i.e.) right both according to natural and 
positive law. However, this subjection and obedience is not absolute 
and universal. God has not divested himself of his own authority, to 
clothe a parent with it. Your obedience to them must be in the 
Lord," i.e. in such things as they require you to do in the Lord's 
authority. In things consonant to that divine and holy will, to 
which they, as well as you must be subject; and therein you must 
obey them. Yea, even the wickedness of a parent exempts not from 
obedience, where his command is not so. Nor, on the other side, must 
the holiness of a parent sway you, where his commands and God's are 
opposite. In the former case, the Canonists have determined, "that 
the command must be distinguished from the person." In the latter, 
it is a good rule, "My parents must be loved, but my God must be 
    Yield yourselves, therefore, cheerfully to obey all that which 
they lawfully enjoin, and take heed of that black character fixed on 
the Heathens who know not God, be not found upon you, "disobedience 
to parents," Rom. 1: 30. Remember, your disobedience to their just 
commands rises higher, much higher, than an affront to their 
personal authority; it is disobedience to God himself, whose 
commands second, and strengthen theirs upon you. 
    Fourthly, Submission to their discipline and rebukes, is also 
your duty, Heb. 12: 9. "We had fathers of our own flesh that 
corrected us, and we gave them reverence." Parents ought not to 
abuse their authority. "Cruelty in them is a great sin, wrath and 
rebellion in a child against his parents, is monstrous." It is 
storied of Elian, that having been abroad, at his return, his father 
asked him what he had learned since he went from him; he answered, 
you will know shortly; I have learned to bear your anger quietly, 
and submit to what you please to inflict. Two considerations should 
especially mould others into the like frame, especially to their 
godly parents. The end for which, and the manner in which they 
manifest their anger to their children. Their end is to save your 
souls from hell. They judge it better for you to hear the voice of 
their anger, than the terrible voice of the wrath of God: to feel 
their hand than his. They know, if you fall into the hands of the 
living God, you will be handled in another manner. 
    And for the manner in which they rebuke and chasten, it is with 
grief in their hearts, and tears in their eyes. Alas! it is no 
delight to them to cross, vex, or afflict you. Were it not mere 
conscience of their duty to God, and tender love to your souls, they 
would neither chide nor smite: and when they do, how do they afflict 
themselves in afflicting you! When their faces are full of anger, 
their bowels are full of compassion for you; and you have no more 
reason to blame them for what they do, than if they cry out and 
violently snatch at you, when they see you ready to fall from the 
top of a rock. 
    Fifthly, faithfulness to all their interests is due so them, by 
the natural and positive law of God. What in you lies, you are bound 
to promote, not to waste and scatter their substance: to assist, not 
to defraud them. Whoso robbeth his father or mother, and saith, it 
is no transgression, the same is a companion of a destroyer, Prov. 
28: 24. This, saith one, as far excels your wronging another, as 
parricide is a greater crime than man-slaughter, or as Reuben's 
incest was beyond common fornication. God never meant you should 
grow up about your parents, as suckers about a tree, to impoverish 
the root. But for a child, out of covetousness after what his 
parents have, secretly to wish their death, is a sin so monstrous, 
as should not be once named, much less found among persons 
professing Christianity. To desire their death, from whom you had 
your life, is unnatural wickedness: to dispose of their goods, much 
more of yourselves, without their consent, is (ordinarily) the 
greatest injustice to them. Children are obliged to defend the 
estate and persons of their parents, with the hazard of their own. 
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the 
youth. Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them. They shall 
not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemy in the gates. 
Psal. 127: 5. 
    Sixthly, And more especially, requital of all that love, care, 
and pains they have been at for you, is your duty so far as God 
enables you, and those things are requitable, 1 Tim. 5: 4. "Let them 
learn to show piety at home, and requite their parents." The word is 
"antipelargein", and signifies to play the stork, to imitate that 
creature of whom it is said, that the young do tenderly feed the old 
ones, when they are no longer able to fly abroad and provide for 
themselves. Hence those that want bowels of natural affection to 
their relations, are said to be "asogmoi", Rom. 1: 30. worse than 
storks. Oh, it is a shame that birds and beasts should show more 
tenderness to their dams than children to their parents. 
    It is a saying frequent among the Jews, "A child should rather 
labour at the mill than suffer his parents to want." And to the same 
sense is that other saying, "Your parents must be supplied by you if 
you have it; if not, you ought to beg for them, rather than see them 
perish." It was both the comfort and honour of Joseph, that God made 
him an instrument of so much succour and comfort to his aged father 
and distressed family, Gen. 47: 13. And you are also to know, that 
what you do for them, is not in the way of an alms, or common 
charity. For the apostle saith, it is but your requiting them, and 
that is justice, not charity. And it can never be a full requital. 
Indeed the apostle tells us, 2 Cor. 12: 14. That parents lay up for 
their children, and not children for their parents, and so they 
ought; but, sure, if providence blast them, and bless you, an 
honourable maintenance is their due. Even Christ himself took care 
for his mother. 
    Secondly, You have had a brief account of the duties of this 
relation; next, let us consider how Christ's example, who was so 
subject to them in his life, Luke 2: 51. and so careful to provide 
at his death, enforces all those duties upon children, especially 
upon gracious children. And this it does two ways, both as it has 
the obliging power of a law; and as he himself will one day sit in 
judgement to take an account how we have imitated him in these 
    First, Christ's example in this has the force and power of a 
law, yea, a law of love, or a law lovingly constraining you to an 
imitation of him. If Christ himself will be your pattern, if God 
will be pleased to take relations like yours, and go before you in 
the discharge of relative duties; Oh, how much are you obliged to 
imitate him, and tread in all his footsteps! This was by him 
intended as a precedent, or pattern, to facilitate and direct your 
    Secondly, He will come to take an account how you have answered 
the pattern of obedience, and tender care he set before you in the 
days of his flesh. What wilt the disobedient plead in that day? He 
that heard the groans of an afflicted father or mother, will now 
come to reckon with the disobedient child for them; and, the 
glorious example of Christ's own obedience to, anti tenderness of 
his relations, will, in that day, condemn and aggravate, silence and 
shame such wretched children as shall stands guilty before his bar. 
    Inference 1. Has Jesus Christ given such a famous pattern of 
obedience and tenderness to parents? Then there can be nothing of 
Christ in stubborn, rebellious, and careless children, that regard 
not the good or comfort of their parents. The children of 
disobedience cannot be the children of God. If providence directs 
this to the hands of any that are so, my heart's desire and prayer 
for them is, that the Lord would search their souls by it, and 
discover their evils to them, whilst they shall read the following 
    First Query, Have you not been guilty of slighting your parents 
by irreverent words or carriages; the old man or woman? To such I 
commend the consideration of that scripture, Prov. 30:17, which, 
methinks, should be to them as the hand-writing that appeared upon 
the plaister of the wall to Belshazzar. "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." That is, they 
shall be brought to an untimely end, and the birds of the air shall 
eat that eye, that had never seen but for that parent that was 
despised by it. 
    It may be you are vigorous and young, they decayed and wrinkled 
with ages: but, saith the Holy Ghost, "Despise not thy mother when 
she is old," Prov. 23: 22. Or when she is wrinkled, as the Hebrew 
signifies. It may be you are rich, they poor; own, and honour them 
in their poverty, and despise them not. God will requite it with his 
hand if you do. 
    Second Query, Have you not been disobedient to the commands of 
parents? a son of Belial is a son of wrath, if God give not 
repentance to life. Is not this the black brand set upon the 
Heathens, Rom. 1: 30. Have not many repented this upon a ladder, 
with a halter about their necks? Wo to him that makes a father or 
mother complain, as the tree in the fable, that they are cleft 
asunder with the wedges that are cut out of their own bodies. 
    Third Query, Have you not risen up rebelliously against, and 
hated your parents for chastening your bodies, to save your souls 
from hell? Some children (saith one) will not take that from a 
parent, which beasts, yea, and savage beasts too, bears and lions, 
will take from their keepers. What is this but to resist an 
ordinance of God for your good? and, in rebelling against them, to 
rebel against the Lord? Well, if they do not, God will take the rod 
into his own hand, and him you shall not resist. 
    Fourth Query, Have you not been unjust to your parents, ant 
defrauded them? first, help to make them poor, and then despise them 
because they are poor. O horrid wickedness! What a complicated evil 
is this! Thou art, in the language of the scripture, a companion 
with destroyers, Prov. 28: 24. This is the worst of theft, in God's 
account. You may think you make bold with them, but how bold do you 
make with conscience, and the command of God? 
    Fifth Query, Are you not, or have you not been ungrateful to 
parents? Leaving then to shift for themselves, in those straits you 
have helped to bring them into. O consider it, children, this is an 
evil which God will surely avenge, except ye repent. that! to be 
hardened against thine own flesh; to be cruel to thine own parents, 
that with so much tenderness fed thee, when else thou had perished! 
I remember Luther gives us a story of one, (and oh that it might be 
a warning to all that hear it), who had made over all that he had to 
his son, reserving only a maintenance for himself; at last his son 
despised him, and grudged him the very meat he eat; and one day the 
father coming in, when the son and his wife were at dinner upon a 
goose, they shuffled the meat under the table; but see the 
remarkable vengeance of God upon this ungracious, unnatural son: the 
goose was turned into a monstrous toad, which seized upon this vile 
wretch, and killed him. If any one of you be guilty of these evils, 
to humble you for them, and reclaim you from them, I desire these 
six considerations may be laid to heart. 
    First, That the effects of your obedience, or disobedience will 
stick upon you and yours to many generations. If you be obedient 
children in the Lord, both you and yours may reap the fruits of that 
your obedience, in multitudes of sweet mercies, for many 
generations. So runs the promise, Eph. 6: 22. "Honour thy father and 
mother, which is the first commandment with promise, that it may be 
well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." You know 
what an eye of favour God cast upon the Recabites for this, Jer. 35: 
8. from the 14th to the 20th verse: and as his blessings are, by 
promise, entailed on the obedient, so his curse upon the 
disobedient, Prov. 20: 20. "Whoso curseth his father or his mother, 
his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness;" i.e. the lamp of his 
life quenched by death, yea, say others, and his soul also by the 
blackness of darkness in hell. 
    Secondly, Though other sins do, this sin seldom escapes 
exemplary punishment, even in this world. Our English history tells 
us of a yeoman in Leicestershire, who had made over all he had to 
his son, to prefer him in marriage, reserving only a bare 
maintenance at his son's table: afterward, upon some discontent, the 
son bid his father get out of his house. The next day Mr. Goodman, 
the minister of the parish, meeting the young man walking about his 
ground, asked him, How he did? He answered, very well; but before 
the minister was gone far from him, his bowels fell out, which he 
carried in his hands, got to his house, sent for Mr. Goodman, 
bitterly bewailed his sin against his father, and so died. And Dr. 
Taylor, in his great exemplar, tells us of another, that, upon 
discontent with his father, wished the house might be on fire, if 
ever he came any more into his father's house: afterwards, coming, 
in, it was fired indeed, and this wicked son only consumed. I could 
multiply instances of this nature, (for indeed that righteous 
judgement of God has multiplied them,) but this only for a taste. 
    Thirdly, Heathens will rise up in judgement against you, and 
condemn you. They never had such precepts nor precedents as you, and 
yet some of the better natured Heathens would rather chosen death, 
than to do as you do. You remember the story of Croesus' dumb son, 
whose dear affections could make him speak when he saw Croesus in 
danger; though he never spake before, yet then he could cry out, "O 
do not kill my father!" But what speak I of Heathens! the stork in 
the heavens, yea, the beasts of the earth, will condemn the 
disobedience of children. 
    Fourthly, These are sins inconsistent with the true fear of 
God, in whomsoever they are found. That a man is indeed, which he is 
in his family, and among his relations. He that is a bad child can 
never be a good Christian. Either bring testimonies of your 
godliness from your relations, or it may be well suspected to be no 
better than counterfeit. Never talk of your obedience to God, whilst 
your disobedience to the just commands of your parents gives you the 
    Fifthly, A parting time is coming when death will break up the 
family, and when that time comes, oh! how bitter will the 
remembrance of these things be! when you shall see a father or a 
mother lying by the wall, what a cut will it be to remember your 
miscarriages and evils! They are gone out of your reach, you cannot 
now, if you would, give them any satisfaction for what you have done 
against them; but, oh, how bitter will the remembrance of these 
things be at such a time! Surely, this will be more unsupportable to 
you than their death, if the Lord open your eyes, and give you 
repentance; and if not, then, 
    Sixthly, What a terrible thing will it be, to have a father or 
mother come in as witnesses against you at Christ's bar? As well as 
they loved you, and as dear as you were to them in this world, they 
must give evidence against you then. Now, what a fearful thing is it 
for you but to imagine your parents to come before the Lord, and 
say, Lord, I have given this child many hundred reproofs for sin; I 
have counselled, persuaded, and used all means to reclaim him, but 
in vain; he was a child of disobedience, nothing could work upon 
him: what think you of this? 
    Inf. 2. Have you such a pattern of obedience, and tender love 
to parents? Then, children, imitate your pattern, as it becomes 
Christians, and take Christ for your example. Whatsoever your 
parents be, see that you carry it towards them becoming such as 
profess Christ 
    First, If your parents be godly, O beware of grieving them by 
any unbecoming carriage. Art thou a Christian indeed? thou wilt then 
reckon thyself obliged in a double bond, both of grace and nature, 
to them: O what a mercy would some children esteem it, if they had 
parents fearing the Lord, as you have! 
    Secondly, If they be carnal, walk circumspectly, in the most 
precise and punctual discharge of your duties, for how knowest thou, 
O child, but hereby thou mayest win thy parents? Wouldst thou but 
humbly, and seriously entreat, and persuade them to mind the ways of 
holiness, speaking to them at fit seasons, with all imaginable 
humility and reverence, insinuating your advice to duties, or 
trouble for their evils, rather by relating some pertinent history, 
or proposing some excellent example, leaving, their own conscience 
to draw the conclusion, and make application, than to do it 
yourselves; it is possible they may ponder your words in their 
hearts, as Mary did Christ's, Luke 2: 49, 51. And would you but back 
all this with your earnest cries to heaven for them, and your own 
daily example, that they may have nothing from yourselves to retort 
upon you; and thus wait with patience for the desired effect: O what 
blessed instruments might you be of their everlasting good! 
    Inf. 3. To conclude, Let those that have such children as fear 
the Lord, and endeavour to imitate Christ in those duties, account 
them a singular treasure and heritage from the Lord, and give them 
all due encouragement to their duties. 
    How many have no children at all, but are as a dry tree! and 
how many have such as are worse than none? The very reproach and 
heart breaking of their parents, that bring down their hoary heads 
with sorrow to the grave. 
    If God have given you the blessing of godly children, you can 
never be sufficiently sensible of, or thankful for such a favour. O 
that ever God should honour you to bring forth children for heaven! 
what a comfort must this be to you, whatever other troubles you meet 
with abroad, when you come home among godly relations, that are 
careful to sweeten your own family to you by their obedience! 
especially, what a comfort is it, when you come to die, that you 
leave them within the covenant, entitled to Christ, and so need not 
be anxious how it shall be with them when you are gone? Take heed of 
discouraging or damping such children from whom so much glory is 
like to rise to God, and so much comfort to yourselves. Thus let 
Christ's pattern be improved, who went before you in such eminent 
holiness, in all his relations, and left you an example that you 
should follow his steps. 

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