Thomas Watson
The Ten Commandments
File 13
(... continued from file 12)

2.5 The Fifth Commandment 
    'Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long 
upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.' Exod 20: 12. 
    Having done with the first table, I am next to speak of the 
duties of the second table. The commandments may be likened to 
Jacob's ladder: the first table respects God, and is the top of the 
ladder that reaches to heaven; the second respects superiors and 
inferiors, and is the foot of the ladder that rests on the earth. By 
the first table, we walk religiously towards God; by the second, we 
walk religiously towards man. He cannot be good in the first table 
that is bad in the second. 'Honour thy father and thy mother.' In 
this we have a command, 'honour thy father and thy mother;' and, 
second, a reason for it, 'That thy days may be long in the land.' 
The command will chiefly be considered here, 'Honour thy father.' 
    I. Father is of different kinds; as the political, the ancient, 
the spiritual, the domestic, and the natural. 
    [1] The political father, the magistrate. He is the father of 
his country; he is to be an encourager of virtue, a punisher of 
vice, and a father to the widow and orphan. Such a father was Job. 
'I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not, I 
searched out.' Job 29: 16. As magistrates are fathers, so especially 
the king, who is the head of magistrates, is a political father; he 
is placed as the sun among the lesser stars. The Scripture calls 
kings, 'fathers.' 'Kings shall be thy nursing fathers.' Isa 49: 23. 
They are to train up their subjects in piety, by good edicts and 
examples; and nurse them up in peace and plenty. Such nursing 
fathers were David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Constantine, and Theodosius. 
It is well for a people to have such nursing fathers, whose breasts 
milk comfort to their children. These fathers are to be honoured, 
for - 
    (1) Their place deserves honour. God has set these political 
fathers to preserve order and harmony in a nation, and to prevent 
those state convulsions which otherwise might ensue. When 'there was 
no king in Israel, every man did that which was right in his own 
eyes.' Judges 17: 6. It is a wonder that locusts have no king, yet 
they go forth by bands. 
    (2) God has promoted kings, that they may promote justice. As 
they have a sword in their hand, to signify their power; so they 
have a sceptre, an emblem of justice. It is said of the Emperor 
Marcus Aurelius, that he allotted one hour of the day to hear the 
complaints of those who were oppressed. Kings place judges as 
cherubim about the throne, for distribution of justice. These 
political fathers are to be honoured. 'Honour the king.' 1 Pet 2: 
17. This honour is to be shown by a civil respect to their persons, 
and a cheerful submission to their laws; so far as they agree and 
run parallel with God's law. Kings are to be prayed for, which is a 
part of the honour we give them. 'I exhort that supplications, 
prayers, intercessions, be made for kings, that we may lead a quiet, 
peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.' I Tim 2: 1. We are to 
pray for kings, that God would honour them to be blessings; that 
under them we may enjoy the gospel of peace, and the peace of the 
gospel. How happy was the reign of Numa Pompilius, when swords were 
beaten into ploughshares, and bees made hives of the soldiers' 
    [2] There is the grave ancient father, who is venerable for old 
age; whose grey hairs are resembled to the white flowers of the 
almond-tree. Eccl 12: 5. There are fathers for seniority, on whose 
wrinkled brows, and in the furrows of whose cheeks is pictured the 
map of old age. These fathers are to be honoured. 'Thou shalt rise 
up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man. Lev 
19: 32. Especially those are to be honoured who are fathers not only 
for their seniority, but for their piety; whose souls are 
flourishing when their bodies are decaying. It is a blessed sight to 
see springs of grace in the autumn of old age; to see men stooping 
towards the grave, yet going up the hill of God; to see them lose 
their colour, yet keep their savour. They whose silver hairs are 
crowned with righteousness, are worthy of double honour; they are to 
be honoured, not only as pieces of antiquity, but as patterns of 
virtue. If you see an old man fearing God, whose grace shines 
brightest when the sun of his life is setting, O honour him as a 
father, by reverencing and imitating him. 
    [3] There are spiritual fathers, as pastors and ministers. 
These are instruments of the new birth. 'Though ye have ten thousand 
instructors, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I 
have begotten you through the gospel.' 1 Cor 4: 15. The spiritual 
fathers are to be honoured in respect of their office. Whatever 
their persons are, their office is honourable; they are the 
messengers of the Lord of Hosts. Mal 2: 7. They represent no less 
than God himself. 'Now then we are ambassadors for Christ.' 2 Cor 5: 
20. Jesus Christ was of this calling; he had his mission and 
sanction from heaven, and this crowns the ministerial calling with 
honour. John 8: 18. 
    These spiritual fathers are to be honoured 'for their work's 
sake.' They come, like the dove, with an olive branch in the mouth; 
they preach glad tidings of peace; their work is 'to save souls.' 
Other callings have only to do with men's bodies or estates, but the 
minister's calling is employed about the souls of men. Their work is 
to redeem spiritual captives, and turn men 'from the power of Satan 
unto God.' Acts 26: 18. Their work is 'to enlighten them who sit in 
the region of darkness,' and make them 'shine as stars in the 
kingdom of heaven.' These spiritual fathers are to be 'honoured for 
their work's sake;' and this honour is to be shown three ways: - 
    (1) By giving them respect. 'Know them which labour among you 
and are over you in the Lord, and esteem them very highly in love 
for their work's sake.' 1 Thess 5: 12, 13. I confess the scandalous 
lives of some ministers have been a great reproach, and have made 
the 'offering of the Lord to be abhorred' in some places of the 
land. The leper in the law was to have his lip covered; so such as 
are angels by office, but lepers in their lives, ought to have their 
lips covered, and to be silenced. But though some deserve 'no 
honour', yet such as are faithful, and make it their work to bring 
souls to Christ, are to be reverenced as spiritual fathers. Obadiah 
honoured the prophet Elijah. 1 Kings 18: 7. Why did God reckon the 
tribe of Levi for the first-born, Num 3: 13; why did he appoint that 
the prince should ask counsel of God by the priest, Num 27: 21; why 
did the Lord show, by that miracle of Aaron's rod flourishing, that 
he had chosen the tribe of 'Levi to minister before him,' Num 17; 
why does Christ call his apostles 'the lights of the world'; why 
does he say to all his ministers, 'Lo, I am with you to the end of 
the world;' but because he would have these spiritual fathers 
reverenced? In ancient times the Egyptians chose their kings out of 
their priests. They are far from showing this respect and honour to 
their spiritual fathers who have slight thoughts of such as have the 
charge of the sanctuary, and do minister before the Lord. 'Know 
them,' says the apostle, 'which labour among you.' Many can be 
content to know their ministers in their infirmities, and are glad 
when they have anything against them, but do not know them in the 
apostle's sense, so as to give them 'double honour.' Surely, were it 
not for the ministry, you would not be a vineyard but a desert. Were 
it not for the ministry, you would be destitute of the two seals of 
the covenant, baptism and the Lord's Supper; you would be infidels; 
'for faith comes by hearing; and how shall they hear without a 
preacher?' Rom 10:14 
    (2) Honour these spiritual fathers, by becoming advocates for 
them, and wiping off those slanders and calumnies which are unjustly 
cast upon them. 1 Tim 5: 19. Constantine was a great honourer of the 
ministry; he vindicated them; he would not read the envious 
accusations brought against them, but burnt them. Do the ministers 
open their mouths to God for you in prayer, and will not you open 
your mouths in their behalf? Surely, if they labour to preserve you 
from hell, you should preserve them from slander; if they labour to 
save your souls, you ought to save their credit. 
    (3) Honour them by conforming to their doctrine. The greatest 
honour you can put upon your spiritual fathers, is to believe and 
obey their doctrine. He is an honourer of the ministry who is not 
only a hearer, but a follower of the word. As disobedience 
reproaches the ministry, so obedience honours it. The apostle calls 
the Thessalonians his crown. 'What is our crown of rejoicing? are 
not ye?' 1 Thess 2: 19. A thriving people are a minister's crown. 
When there is a metamorphosis, a change wrought; when people come to 
the word proud, but go away humble; when they come earthly, but they 
go away heavenly; when they come, as Naaman to Jordan, lepers, but 
they go away healed; then the ministry is honoured. 'Need we, as 
some others, epistles of commendation?' 2 Cor 3: 1. Though other 
ministers might need letters of commendation, yet Paul needed none; 
for, when men heard of the obedience wrought in these Corinthians by 
Paul's preaching, it would be a sufficient certificate that God had 
blessed his labours. The Corinthians were a sufficient honour to 
him; they were his letters-testimonial. You cannot honour your 
spiritual fathers more, than by thriving under their ministry, and 
living upon the sermons which they preach. 
    [4] There is the domestic father, that is, the master. He is 
paterfamilias, 'the father of the family'; therefore Naaman's 
servants called their master, father. 2 Kings 5: 13. The centurion 
calls his servant, son. Matt 8: 6. (Greek.) The servant is to honour 
his master, as the father of the family. Though the master be not so 
qualified as he should be, yet the servant must not neglect his 
duty, but show some kind of honour to him. 
    (1) In obeying his master in licitis et honestis, 'in things 
that are lawful and honest.' 'Servants, be subject to your masters; 
not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.' 1 Pet 2: 
18. God has nowhere given a charter of exemption to free you from 
your duty. You cannot disobey your earthly master but you disobey 
your master in heaven. Think not that birth, or high parts, no, nor 
even grace, will exempt you from obedience to your master. To obey 
him is an ordinance of God; and an apostle says, 'They that resist 
the ordinance, shall receive to themselves damnation.' Rom 13: 2. 
    (2) The servant's honouring his master, is seen in being 
diligent in his service. Apelles painted a servant with his hands 
full of tools, as an emblem of diligence. The loitering servant is a 
kind of thief, who, though he does not steal his master's goods, 
steals the time which he should have employed in his master's 
service. The slothful servant is called a 'wicked servant.' Matt 25: 
    (3) The servant is to honour his master by being faithful. 'Who 
then is a faithful and wise servant?' Matt 24: 45. Faithfulness is 
the chief thing in a servant. Faithfulness in a servant is seen in 
six things: [1] In tenaciousness; in concealing the secrets the 
master has intrusted you with. If those secrets are not sins, you 
ought not to betray them. What is whispered in your ear you are not 
to publish on the house-top. Servants who do this are spies. Who 
would keep a glass that is cracked? Who would keep a servant that 
has a crack in his brain, and cannot keep a secret? [2] Faithfulness 
in a servant is seen in designing the master's advantage. A faithful 
servant esteems his master's goods as his own. Such a servant had 
Abraham; who, when his master sent him to transact business for him, 
was as careful about it, as if it had been his own. 'O Lord God of 
my master Abraham, I pray thee send me good speed this day, and show 
kindness unto my master Abraham.' Gen 24: 12. Doubtless Abraham's 
servant was as glad he had got a wife for his master's son, as if he 
had got a wife for himself. [3] Faithfulness in a servant is seen in 
standing up for the honour of his master. When he hears him spoken 
against, he vindicates him. As the master is careful of the 
servant's body, so the servant should be careful of the master's 
name. When the master is unjustly reproached the servant cannot be 
excused if he be possessed with a dumb devil. [4] Faithfulness is, 
when a servant is true to his word. He dares not tell a lie, but 
will speak the truth, though it be against himself. A lie doubles 
the sin. 'He that telleth lies, shall not tarry in my sight.' Psa 
101: 7. A liar is near akin to the devil. John 8: 44. And who would 
let any of the devil's kindred live with him? The lie that Gehazi 
told his master Elisha, entailed leprosy on Gehazi and his seed for 
ever. 2 Kings 5: 27. In a faithful servant, the tongue is the true 
index of the heart. [5] Faithfulness is, when a servant is against 
impropriation. He dares not convert his master's goods to his own 
use. 'Not purloining.' Tit 2: 10. What a servant filches from his 
master, is damnable gain. He who enriches himself by stealing from 
his master, stuffs his pillow with thorns, on which his head will 
lie very uneasy when he comes to die. [6] Faithfulness consists in 
preserving the master's person, if unjustly in danger. Banister 
betrayed his master the Duke of Buckingham, in King Richard the 
Third's reign; and the judgements of God fell upon the traitorous 
servant. His eldest son became mad; his daughter, of a singular 
beauty, was suddenly struck with leprosy; his younger son was 
drowned, and he himself was arraigned, and would have been executed, 
had he not been saved by his clergy. That servant who is not true to 
his master, will never be true to God or his own soul. 
    (4) The servant is to honour his master, by serving him, as 
with love, so with silence, that is, without repining, and without 
replying. 'Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, 
not answering again.' Tit 2: 9. In the Greek, 'not giving cross 
answers.' Some servants who are slow at work, are quick at speech; 
and instead of being sorry for a fault, provoke by unbecoming 
language. Were the heart more humble, the tongue would be more 
silent. The apostle's words are, 'not answering again.' To those 
servants who honour their masters, or family-fathers, by submission, 
diligence, faithfulness, love, and humble silence, great 
encouragement is given. 'Servants, obey in all things your masters 
according to the flesh, not with eye-service, knowing that of the 
Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve 
the Lord Christ.' Col 3: 22, 24. In serving your masters, you serve 
Christ, and he will not let you lose your labour; ye shall receive 
the 'reward of the inheritance.' From serving on earth, you shall be 
taken up to reign in heaven, and shall sit with Christ upon his 
throne. Rev 3: 21. 
    Having shown how servants are to honour their masters, I shall 
next show how masters are to conduct themselves towards their 
servants, so as to be honoured by them. 
    In general, masters must remember that they have a master in 
heaven, who will call them to account. 'Knowing that your Master 
also is in heaven.' Eph 6: 9. More particularly: - 
    (1) Masters must take care to provide for their servants. As 
they appoint them work, so they must give them their meat in due 
season. Luke 17: 7. They should see that the food be wholesome and 
sufficient. It is most unworthy of some governors of families, to 
lay out so much upon their own back, as to pinch their servants' 
    (2) Masters should encourage their servants in their work, by 
commending them when they do well. Though a master is to tell a 
servant of his faults, yet he is not always to beat on one string, 
but sometimes to take notice of that which is praiseworthy. This 
makes a servant more cheerful in his work, and gains the master the 
love from his servant. 
    (3) Masters must not overburden their servants, but proportion 
their work to their strength. They must not lay too much load on 
their servants, to make them faint under it. Christianity teaches 
    (4) Masters must seek the spiritual good of their servants. 
They must be seraphim to kindle their love to religion; they must be 
monitors to put them in mind of their souls; they must bring them to 
the pool of the sanctuary, to wait till the angel stir the waters. 
John 5: 4. They must seek God for them, that their servants may be 
his servants; and must allow them time convenient for secret 
devotion. Some are cruel to the souls of their servants; they expect 
them to do the work about the house, but abridge them of the time 
they should employ in working out their salvation. 
    (5) Masters should be mild and gentle in their behaviour 
towards servants. 'Forbearing threatening.' Eph. 6: 9. 'Thou shalt 
not rule over him with rigour, but shalt fear thy God.' Lev 25: 43. 
It requires wisdom in a master to know how to keep up his authority, 
and yet avoid austerity. We have a good copy to write after our 
Master in heaven, who is 'slow to anger, and of great mercy.' Psa 
145: 8. Some masters are so harsh and implacable that they are 
enough to spoil a good servant. 
    (6) Be very exact and punctual in the agreements you make with 
your servants. Do not prevaricate; keep not back any of their wages; 
nor deal deceitfully with them, as Laban did with Jacob, changing 
his wages. Gen 31: 7. Falseness in promise is as bad as false 
    (7) Be careful of your servants, not only in health, but in 
sickness. If they have become sick while in your service, use what 
means you can for their recovery; and be not like the Amalekite, who 
forsook his servant when he was sick; but be as the good centurion, 
who kept his sick servant, and sought to Christ for a cure. 1 Sam 
30: 13; Matt 8: 6. If you have a beast that falls sick, you will not 
turn it off, but have it looked to, and pay for its cure; and will 
you be kinder to your horses than to your servants? Thus should 
masters carry themselves prudently and piously, that they may gain 
honour from their servants, and may give up their accounts to God 
with joy. 
    [S] The natural father, the father of the flesh. Heb 12: 9. 
Honour thy natural father. This is so necessary a duty, that Philo 
the Jew placed the fifth commandment in the first table, as though 
we had not performed our whole duty to God till we had paid this 
debt of honour to our natural parents. Children are the vineyard of 
the parent's planting, and honour done to the parent is some of the 
fruit of the vineyard. 
    II. Children are to show honour to their parents, 
    {I] By a reverential esteem of their persons. They must 'give 
them a civil veneration.' Therefore, when the apostle speaks of 
fathers of our bodies, he speaks also of 'giving them reverence.' 
Heb 12: 9. This veneration or reverence must be shown: - 
    (1) Inwardly, by fear mixed with love. 'Ye shall fear every man 
his mother and his father.' Lev 19: 3. In the commandment the father 
is named first, but here the mother is first named. Partly to put 
honour upon the mother, because, by reason of many weaknesses 
incident to her sex, she is apt to be more slighted by children. And 
partly because the mother endures more for the child. 
    (2) Reverence must be shown to parents outwardly, both in word 
and gesture. 
    In word: and that either in speaking to parents, or speaking of 
them. In speaking of parents, children must speak respectfully. 'Ask 
on, my mother,' said king Solomon to his mother Bathsheba. 1 Kings 
2: 20. In speaking of parents, children must speak honourably. They 
ought to speak well of them, if they deserve well. 'Her children 
arise up, and call her blessed' (Prov 31: 28); and, in case a parent 
betrays weakness and indiscretion, the child should make the best of 
it, and, by wise apologies, cover his parent's nakedness. 
    In gesture. Children are to show reverence to their parents by 
submissive behaviour, by uncovering the head, and bending the knee. 
Joseph, though a great prince, and his father had grown poor, bowed 
to him, and behaved himself as humbly as if his father had been the 
prince, and he the poor man. Gen 46: 29. King Solomon, when his 
mother came to him, 'rose off his throne, and bowed himself unto 
her.' 1 Kings 2: 19. Among the Lacedemonians, if a child had carried 
himself arrogantly or saucily to his father, it was lawful for the 
father to appoint whom he would to be his heir. Oh, how many 
children are far from thus giving reverence to their parents! They 
despise their parents; they carry themselves with such pride and 
neglect towards them, that they are a shame to religion, and bring 
their parents' grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. 'Cursed be he 
that setteth light by his father or his mother.' Deut 27: 16. If all 
that set light by their parents are cursed, how many children in our 
age are under a curse! If such as are disrespectful to parents live 
to have children, their own children will be thorns in their sides, 
and God will make them read their sins in their punishment. 
    [2] The second way of showing honour to parents is by careful 
obedience. 'Children, obey your parents in all things.' Col 3: 20. 
Our Lord Christ herein set a pattern to children. He was subject to 
his parents. Luke 2: 51. He to whom angels were subject was subject 
to his parents. This obedience to parents is shown three ways: - 
    (1) In hearkening to their counsel, 'Hear the instruction of 
thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.' Prov 1: 8. 
Parents are, as it were, in the room of God; if they would teach you 
the fear of the Lord, you must listen to their words as oracles, and 
not be as the deaf adder to stop your ears. Eli's sons hearkened not 
to the voice of their father, but were called 'sons of Belial.' 1 
Sam 2: 12, 25. And as children must hearken to the counsel of their 
parents in spiritual matters, so in affairs which relate to this 
life as in the choice of a calling, and in case of entering into 
marriage. Jacob would not dispose of himself in marriage, though he 
was forty years old, without the advice and consent of his parents. 
Gen 28: 1,2. Children are, as it were, the parents' proper goods and 
possession, and it is great injustice in a child to give herself 
away without the parents' leave. If parents should indeed counsel a 
child to match with one that is irreligious or Popish, I think the 
case is plain, and many of the learned are of opinion that here the 
child may have a negative voice, and is not obliged to be ruled by 
the parent. Children are to 'marry in the Lord;' not, therefore, 
with persons irreligious, for that is not to marry in the Lord. 1 
Cor 7: 39. 
    (2) Obedience to parents is shown in complying with their 
commands. A child should be the parents' echo; when the father 
speaks, the child should echo back obedience. The Rechabites were 
forbidden by their father to drink wine; and they obeyed him, and 
were commended for it. Jer 35: 14. Children must obey their parents 
in all things. Col 3: 20. In things against the grain, to which they 
have most reluctance, they must obey their parents. Esau would obey 
his father, when he commanded him to fetch him venison, because it 
is probable he took pleasure in hunting; but refused to obey him in 
a matter of greater concernment, in the choice of a wife. But though 
children must obey their parents 'in all things,' yet restringitur 
ad licita et honesta; 'it is with the limitation of things just and 
honest.' 'Obey in the Lord,' that is, so far as the commands of 
parents agree with God's commands. Eph 6: 1. If they command against 
God, they lose their right of being obeyed, and in this case we must 
unchild ourselves. 
    [3] Honour is to be shown to parents in relieving their wants. 
Joseph cherished his father in his old age. Gen 47: 12. It is but 
paying a just debt. Parents brought up children when they were 
young, and children ought to nourish their parents when they are 
old. The young storks, by an instinct of nature, bring meat to the 
old ones when, by reason of age, they are not able to fly. Pliny 
calls it Lex pelargica [a law of the storks]. The memory of Aeneas 
was honoured for carrying his aged father out of Troy when it was on 
fire. I have read of a daughter, whose father being condemned to be 
starved to death, who gave him in his prison suck with her own 
breasts; which, being known to the governors, procured his freedom. 
Such children, or monsters shall I say, are to blame who are ashamed 
of their parents when they are old and fallen into decay; and when 
they ask for bread give them a stone. When houses are shut up, we 
say the plague is there; when children's hearts are shut up against 
their parents, the plague is there. Our blessed Saviour took great 
care for his mother. When on the cross, he charged his disciple John 
to take her home to him as his mother, and see that she wanted 
nothing. John 19: 26, 27. 
    III. The reasons why children should honour their parents are: 
    [1] It is a solemn command of God, 'Honour thy father,' &c. As 
God's word is the rule, so his will must be the reason of our 
    [2] They deserve honour in respect of the great love and 
affection which they bear to their children; and the evidence of 
that love both in their care and cost. Their care in bringing up 
their children is a sign their hearts are full of love to them. 
Parents often take more care of their children than for themselves. 
They take care of them when they are tender, lest, like wall fruit, 
they should be nipped in the bud. As children grow older, the care 
of parents grows greater. They are afraid of their children falling 
when young, and of worse than falls when they are older. Their love 
is evidenced by their cost. 2 Cor 12: 14. They lay up and they lay 
out for their children; and are not like the raven or ostrich, which 
are cruel to their young. Job 39: 16. Parents sometimes impoverish 
themselves to enrich their children. Children never can equal a 
parent's love, for parents are the instruments of life to their 
children, and children cannot be so to their parents. 
    [3] To honour parents is well pleasing to the Lord. Col 3: 20. 
As it is joyful to parents, so it is pleasing to the Lord. Children! 
is it not your duty to please God? In honouring and obeying your 
parents, you please God as well as when you repent and believe. And 
that you may see how well it pleases God, he bestows a reward upon 
it. 'That thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God 
giveth thee.' Jacob would not let the angel go till he had blessed 
him; and God would not part with this commandment till he had 
blessed it. Paul calls this the first commandment with promise. Eph 
6: 2. The second commandment has a general promise to mercy; but 
this is the first commandment that has a particular promise made to 
it. Long life is mentioned as a blessing. 'Thou shalt see thy 
children's children.' Psa 128: 6. It was a great favour of God to 
Moses that, though he was a hundred and twenty years old, he needed 
no spectacles: 'His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.' 
Deut 34: 7. God threatened it as a curse to Eli, that there should 
not be an old man in his family. 1 Sam 2: 31. Since the flood, life 
is much abbreviated and cut short: to some the womb is their tomb; 
others exchange their cradle for their grave; others die in the 
flower of their age; death serves its warrant every day upon one or 
other. Now, when death lies in ambush continually for us, if God 
satisfies us with long life, saying (as in Psa 91: 16), 'With long 
life will I satisfy him;' it is to be esteemed a blessing. It is a 
blessing when God gives a long time to repent, and a long time to do 
service, and a long time to enjoy the comforts of relations. Upon 
whom is this blessing of long life entailed, but obedient children? 
'Honour thy father, that thy days may be long.' Nothing sooner 
shortens life than disobedience to parents. Absalom was a 
disobedient son, who sought to deprive his father of his life and 
crown; and he did not live out half his days. The mule he rode upon, 
being weary of such a burden, left him hanging in the oak betwixt 
heaven and earth, so as not fit to tread upon the one, or to enter 
into the other. Obedience to parents spins out the life. Nor does 
obedience to parents lengthen life only, but sweetens it. To live 
long, and not to have a foot of land, is a misery; but obedience to 
parents settles land of inheritance upon the child. 'Hast thou but 
one blessing, O my father,' said Esau. Behold, God has more 
blessings for an obedient child than one; not only shall he have a 
long life, but a fruitful land: and not only shall he have land, but 
land given in love, 'the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.' 
Thou shalt have thy land not only with God's leave, but with his 
love. All these are powerful arguments to make children honour and 
obey their parents. 
    Use one. If we are to honour our fathers on earth, much more 
our Father in heaven. 'If then I be a father, where is mine honour?' 
Mal 1: 6. A father is but the instrument of conveying life, but God 
is the original cause of our being. 'For it is he that has made us, 
and not we ourselves.' Psa 100: 3. Honour and adoration is a pearl 
which belongs to the crown of heaven only. 
    (1) We show honour to our heavenly Father by obeying him. Thus 
Christ honoured his Father. 'I came down from heaven, not to do mine 
own will, but the will of him that sent me.' John 6: 38. This he 
calls honouring God. 'I do always those things which please him.' 'I 
honour my Father.' John 8: 29, 49. The wise men not only bowed the 
knee to Christ, but presented him with 'gold and myrrh.' Matt 2: 11. 
So we must not only bow the knee, give God adoration, but bring him 
presents, give him golden obedience. 
    (2) We show honour to our heavenly Father by advocating his 
cause, and standing up for his truth in an adulterous generation. 
That son honours his father who stands up in his defence, and 
vindicates him when he is calumniated and reproached. Do they honour 
God who are ashamed of him? 'Many believed on him, but did not 
confess him.' John 12: 42. They are bastard-sons who are ashamed to 
own their heavenly Father. Such as are born of God, are steeled with 
courage for his truth; they are like the rock, which no waves can 
break; like the adamant, which no sword can cut. Basil was a 
champion for truth in the time of the emperor Valens; and 
Athanasius, when the world was Arian, appeared for God. 
    (3) We show honour to our heavenly Father by ascribing the 
honour of all we do to him. 'I laboured more abundantly than they 
all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.' 1 Cor 15: 
l0. If a Christian has any assistance in duty, any strength against 
corruption, he rears up a pillar and writes upon it, 'Hitherto has 
the Lord helped me.' As when Joab had fought against Rabbah, and had 
like to have taken it, sent for king David, that he might carry away 
the honour of the victory; so when a child of God has any conquest 
over Satan, he give all the honour to God. 2 Sam 12: 27, 28. 
Hypocrites, whose lamp is fed with the oil of vain glory, while they 
do any eminent service to God, seek to honour themselves; and so 
their very serving him is dishonouring him. 
    (4) We show honour to our heavenly Father by celebrating his 
praise. 'Let my mouth be filled with thy praise, and with thy honour 
all the day.' Psa 71: 8. 'Blessing and honour and glory and power, 
be unto him that sitteth upon the throne.' Rev 5: 13. Blessing God 
is honouring God. It lifts him up in the eyes of others, and spreads 
his fame and renown in the world. In this manner the angels, the 
choristers of heaven, are now honouring God; they trumpet forth his 
praise. In prayer, we act like saints, in praise like angels. 
    (5) We show honour to our heavenly Father, by suffering 
dishonour, yea, death for his sake. Paul did bear in his body the 
'marks of the Lord Jesus.' Gal 6: 17. As they were the marks of 
honour to him, so they were trophies of honour to the gospel. The 
honour which comes to God, is not by bringing the outward pomp and 
glory to him, which we do to kings; but it comes in another way, by 
the suffering of his people, by which they let the world see what a 
good God they serve, and how they love him, and will fight under his 
banner to the death. 
    God is 'worthy of honour.' 'Thou art clothed with honour and 
majesty.' Psa 104: 1: What are all his attributes but glorious beams 
shining from this sun? He deserves more honour than men or angels 
can give him. 'I will call on the Lord who is worthy to be praised.' 
2 Sam 22: 4. He is worthy of honour. We often confer honour upon 
those that do not deserve it. To many noble persons, who are sordid 
and vicious, we give titles of honour: they do not deserve honour; 
but God is worthy of honour. 'Blessed be thy glorious name, which is 
exalted above all blessing and praise.' Neh 9: 5. He is above all 
the acclamations and triumphs of the archangels. O then, let every 
true child of God honour his heavenly Father! Though the wicked 
dishonour him by their flagitous lives, let not his own children 
dishonour him. Sins in them are worse than in others. A fault in a 
stranger is not so much taken notice of as in a child. A spot in 
black cloth is not so much observed, but a spot in scarlet attracts 
every one's eye; so a sin in the wicked is not so much wondered at, 
it is a spot in black; but a sin in a child of God is a spot in 
scarlet, which is more visible, and brings odium and dishonour upon 
the gospel. The sins of God's own children go nearer to his heart. 
'When the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of 
his sons and of his daughters.' Deut 32: 19. O forbear doing 
anything that may reflect dishonour upon God. Will you disgrace your 
heavenly Father? Let not God complain of the provocations of his 
sons and daughters; let him not cry out, 'I have nourished and 
brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.' Isa 1: 2. 
    Use two. Does God command us to honour father and mother? Then 
let children put this great duty in practice; be living commentaries 
upon this commandment. Honour and reverence your parents; not only 
obey their commands, but submit to their rebukes. You cannot honour 
your Father in heaven unless you honour your earthly parents. To 
deny obedience to parents, entails God's judgements upon children. 
'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 
eagle shall eat it.' Prov 30: 17. Eli's two disobedient sons were 
slain. 1 Sam 4: 2: God made a law that the 'rebellious son should be 
stoned;' the same death the blasphemer had. Lev 24: 14. 'If a man 
have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of 
his father, or the voice of his mother; then shall his father and 
his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his 
city, and all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that 
he die.' Deut 21: 18, 19, 21. A father having once complained, 
'Never had a father a worse son than I have;' 'Yes,' said the son, 
'my grandfather had.' This was a prodigy of impudence hardly to be 
paralleled. Manlius, when grown old and poor, had a son very rich, 
of whom he desired some food, but the son denied him relief, yea, 
disowned him from being his father, and sent him away with 
reproachful language. The poor old father let fall tears in grief. 
But God, to revenge the disobedience, struck the unnatural son with 
madness, of which he could never be cured. Disobedient children 
stand in a place where all God's arrows fly. 
    Use three. Let parents so act that they may gain honour from 
their children. 
    How should parents so act towards their children as to be 
honoured and reverenced by them? 
    (1) Be careful to bring them up in the fear and nurture of the 
Lord. 'Bring them up in the admonition of the Lord.' Eph 6: 4. You 
conveyed the plague of sin to them, therefore endeavour to get them 
healed and sanctified. Augustine says that his mother, Monica, 
travailed more for his spiritual birth than his natural. Timothy's 
mother instructed him from a child. 2 Tim 3: 15. She not only gave 
him her breast-milk, but 'the sincere milk of the word.' Season your 
children with good principles betides, that they may, with Obadiah, 
fear the Lord from their youth. 1 Kings 18: 12. When parents 
instruct not their children, they seldom prove blessings. God often 
punishes the carelessness of parents with undutifulness in their 
children. It is not enough that in baptism your child is dedicated 
to God, but it must be educated for him. Children are young plants 
which you must be continually watering with good instruction. 'Train 
up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not 
depart from it.' Prov 22: 6. The more your children fear God, the 
more they will honour you. 
    (2) If you would have your children honour you, keep up 
parental authority: be kind, but do not spoil them. If you let them 
get too much ahead, they will condemn you instead of honouring you. 
The rod of discipline must not be withheld. 'Thou shalt beat him 
with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.' Prov 23: 14. A child 
indulged and humoured in wickedness, will be a thorn in the parent's 
eye. David spoiled Adonijah. 'His father had not displeased him at 
any time, in saying, Why hast thou done so?' 1 Kings 1: 6, 7, 9. 
Afterwards he became a grief of heart to his father, and was false 
to the crown. Keep up your authority, and you keep up your honour. 
    (3) Provide for your children what is fitting, both in their 
minority and when they come to maturity. 'The children ought not to 
lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.' 2 Cor 12: 
14. They are your own flesh and, as the apostle says, 'No man ever 
yet hated his own flesh.' Eph 5: 29. The parents' bountifulness will 
cause dutifulness in the child. If you pour water into a pump, the 
pump will send water again out freely; so, if parents pour in 
something of their estate to their children, children worthy of the 
name will pour out obedience again to their parents. 
    (4) When your children are grown up, put them to some lawful 
calling, wherein they may serve their generation. It is good to 
consult the natural genius and inclination of a child, for forced 
callings do as ill, sometimes, as forced matches. To let a child be 
out of a calling, is to expose him to temptation. Melanchthon says, 
Odium balneum diaboli [Idleness is the devil's pleasure resort]. A 
child out of a calling is like fallow ground; and what can you 
expect should grow up but weeds of disobedience. 
    (5) Act lovingly to your children. In all your counsels and 
commands let them read love. Love will command honour; and how can a 
parent but love the child who is his living picture, nay, part of 
himself. The child is the father in the second edition. 
    (6) Act prudently towards your children. It is a great point of 
prudence in a parent not to provoke his children to wrath. 'Fathers, 
provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.' Col 
3: 21. 
    How may a parent provoke his children to wrath? 
    (1) By giving them opprobrious terms. 'Thou son of the perverse 
rebellious woman,' said Saul to his son Jonathan. 1 Sam 20: 30. Some 
parents use imprecations and curses to their children, which provoke 
them to wrath. Would you have God bless your children, and do you 
curse them? 
    (2) Parents provoke children to wrath when they strike them 
without a cause, or when the correction exceeds the fault. This is 
to be a tyrant rather than a father. Saul cast a javelin at his son 
to smite him, and his son was provoked to anger. 'So Jonathan arose 
from the table in fierce anger.' I Sam 20: 33, 34. In filium pater 
obtinet non tyrannicum imperium, set basilicum [A father exercises a 
kingly power over his son, not that of a tyrant]. Davenant. 
    (3) When parents deny their children what is absolutely 
needful. Some have thus provoked their children: they have stinted 
them, and kept them so short, that they have forced them upon 
indirect courses, and made them put forth their hands to iniquity. 
    (4) When parents act partially towards their children, showing 
more kindness to one than to another. Though a parent may have a 
greater love to one child, yet discretion should lead him not to 
show more love to one than to another. Jacob showed more love to 
Joseph than to all his other children, which provoked the envy of 
his brethren. 'Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, 
and when his brethren saw that, they hated him, and could not speak 
peaceably to him.' Gen 37: 3, 4. 
    (5) When a parent does anything which is sordid and unworthy, 
which casts disgrace upon himself and his family, as to defraud or 
take a false oath, it provokes the child to wrath. As the child 
should honour his father, so the father should not dishonour the 
    (6) When parents lay commands upon their children which they 
cannot perform without wronging their consciences. Saul commanded 
his son Jonathan to bring David to him. 'Fetch him to me, for he 
shall surely die.' I Sam 20: 31. Jonathan could not do this with a 
good conscience; but was provoked to anger. 'Jonathan arose from the 
table in fierce anger.' I Sam 20: 34. The reason why parents should 
show their prudence in not provoking their children to wrath, is 
this: 'Lest they be discouraged.' Col 3: 21. This word 'discouraged' 
implies three things. Grief. The parent's provoking the child, the 
child so takes it to heart, that it causes premature death. 
Despondency. The parents' austerity dispirits the child, and makes 
it unfit for service; like members of the body stupefied, which are 
unfit for work. Contumacy and refractoriness. The child being 
provoked by the cruel and unnatural carriage of the parent, grows 
desperate, and often studies to irritate and vex his parents; which, 
though it be evil in the child, yet the parent is accessory to it, 
as being the occasion of it. 
    (7) If you would have honour from your children, pray much for 
them. Not only lay up a portion for them, but lay up a stock of 
prayer for them. Monica prayed much for her son Augustine; and it 
was said, it was impossible that a son of so many prayers and tears 
should perish. Pray that your children may be preserved from the 
contagion of the times; pray that as your children bear your images 
in their faces, they may bear God's image in their hearts; pray that 
they may be instruments and vessels of glory. One fruit of prayer 
may be, that the child will honour a praying parent. 
    (8) Encourage that which you see good and commendable in your 
children. Virtus laudata crescit [Goodness increases when praised]. 
Commending that which is good in your children makes them more in 
love with virtuous actions; and is like the watering of plants, 
which makes them grow more. Some parents discourage the good they 
see in their children, and so nip virtue in the bud, and help to 
damn their children's souls. They have their children's curses. 
    (9) If you would have honour from your children, set them a 
good example. It makes children despise parents, when the parents 
live in contradiction to their own precepts; when they bid their 
children be sober, and yet they themselves get drunk; or bid their 
children fear God, and are themselves loose in their lives. Oh if 
you would have your children honour you, teach them by a holy 
example. A father is a looking-glass, which the child often dresses 
himself by; let the glass be clear and not spotted. Parents should 
observe great decorum in their whole conduct, lest they give 
occasion to their children to say to them, as Plato's servant, 'My 
master has made a book against rash anger, but he himself is 
passionate;' or, as a son once said to his father, 'If I have done 
evil, I have learned it of you.'

Watson, The Ten Commandments
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