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which God has given them. If they would do so faithfully and heartily, these six commandments of the second table would stand us instead of all those acts of parliament, which shew what labour and skill are needed for man to keep his neighbour from doing wrong, and how, in spite of punishment upon punishment, new crimes are ever sprouting up. But men will not be good and happy in the way which God has pointed out to them. They will seek out bypaths of happiness for themselves, by oppressing, and by cheating and robbing one neighbour of his property, another of his wife, a third of his good name. Therefore human laws are perforce called in, to frighten men, if possible, from those evil ways, which else they persist in following. Alas! is it always to be thus? Are thy commandments, O Lord, always to be made the sport of wicked and ungodly men? Hasten, we beseech thee, that time, when all the words of thy prophets shall be fulfilled, when all thy commandments shall be kept in spirit and in truth, when they shall neither hurt nor destroy in all thy holy mountain, and when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of thee, as the waters cover the sea. Amen.
EPHESIANS Vi. 1, 2.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right. Honour your father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise.
IN my last sermon, I tried to shew you would be the misery of a people that should set the commandments at defiance, and what happiness on the other hand would attend a people that was careful to observe them in all their spiritual extent. I did this, for the sake of drawing your thoughts to the great goodness of Almighty God, in binding us over to our happiness, by commanding us to follow and keep a course, which leads straight to our good as social beings; to provide for which good is the object of the second
table. As the first table shews us our duty to God, in order that God may bless us, so the second table shews us our duty toward our neighbour, in order that we may be blessings to each other, and may lend our aid to each other's welfare, or at least may not hurt and injure one another, and may be kept from destroying or troubling the happiness which God may have given to our neighbour. So that in the commandments of the second table, God has given us the materials for a goodly building, in which we may all live together peaceably and safely. I say safely: because in these commandments God has given us safety,-not only for our lives, but also for the chastity of our wives, without which there can be no comfort; for our property, whether small or great; and lastly for our characters, protecting them from false swearers and evil-speakers. Whoever is protected in these four main points,-whoever is duly defended in his life, in his family, in his possessions, and in his character, has every safeguard which laws or governors can bestow. Such is the goodly edifice which God has raised for his people, an edifice provided with safety for every thing that men most love and value. The property of every one, the life of every one, the domestic comforts of every one, and the good name of every one, from the king on his throne to
the labourer in his cottage, have all their special place assigned to them in this goodly edifice, or mansion of God's law.
Now what is the first story of this goodly mansion? What is the first commandment, which God laid down for the others to rise and spring from? what is the first material of social happiness which God has given to his people? The first material of all, that God prepared for us, when providing for our social happiness, the first thing he made a law about, was the obedience of children to their parents. The commandment which ordains that children should honour their father and mother, holds the first place in the second table. It comes even before that commandment which protects our lives, by forbidding murder. The dutiful obedience of children then is thus declared by God to be the foundation of all social happiness, and of every social virtue. It is the first and chief thing to be looked to, as being the likeliest root for the others to grow from. Therefore did God place the fifth commandment at the head of the second table; to teach us that this duty is the head and source of all the other social duties.
The behaviour of a child to its parents then is no such trifle as too many perverse children, and too many foolish parents, are prone to fancy it. How
often do we hear mothers saying, "It is only the poor child's way; it is a little pettish and fractious at times: but it means no harm by it. To be sure it does not mind me quite so well as it ought to do; but children will be children." So the child goes on uncorrected, and grows up disobedient and undutiful. That is, he grows up with habits and dispositions of heart and mind so evil, that God has classed them with the very worst crimes, with false swearing, and theft, and adultery, and even with murder. If undutifulness in children had been a mere trifle, would God have put it into this black list? We may be certain therefore, that there is more evil in it than meets the eye. Either it must be worse
in itself, or it must be mischievous, than we suspect: or at least the contrary virtue, the virtue of obedience, must be more excellent and important. Indeed it requires no very deep search into the matter, to find two prime qualities in this duty of children to obey their parents,-first, the reasonableness and justice of the thing in itself, and secondly, its use in forming the character of the child. These, if I mistake not, are two of the qualities which make obedience to parents of so much value and importance, that God has even vouchsafed to win us to it by marking it with a peculiar blessing.
more dangerous, or more