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As to the reasonableness and justice of this duty, can any one doubt it, who thinks what a child is? Look at a baby, and see what a poor helpless thing it is. Consider how entirely it depends on its parents for food and warmth and clothing, and indeed for every thing. It could not live a day, but for their care and kindness. Think of the trouble and anxiety, the careful days and wakeful nights, which an infant costs its mother by its sicknesses. There is all the rearing of them, especially when they are delicate. What plant from the Indies is so difficult to rear, or needs such constant care and watching, as a delicate, sickly child? Think of the wear and tear in the mother's heart,-I have often seen it, during that rearing. It is not the child-bearing, so much as the child-rearing,-it is the watching the cradle with patient eye day after day for hours together, it is the care and fear and anxiety and weariness while nursing children through their illnesses, that drives the colour from a mother's cheek, and makes it pale and wan before its time. Children! children! what do you not owe to your mothers, whose hearts you have thus sorely tried, and who have sacrificed so much of their strength for you, that you might live and grow up and be strong! It is true, we can none of us remember the pains and anxiety, which we must all have cost
our mothers in our infancy. But we may give a good guess, by observing the care and pains they bestow on our younger brothers and sisters. Whatever pains and anxieties these may cost our mother, we may be sure that we in our infancy must have cost her nearly the same. Therefore I would have every one of you, boys and girls, that now hear me, when you see your mothers nursing a baby, and watching over it,-I would have you say to yourselves: "So must she have nursed me; so must she have watched over me: I must have needed all this looking after: I must have put her to all this trouble: I must have been treated with all this tenderness." If you would think in this way of what your mothers must have done for you, you could not help feeling what a debt of thankfulness and love you owe them. It is the only return you can make to your parents, for all they have done for you during your infancy, for all that they are still doing and feeling for you during your childhood, yea, and for years after. For a mother's heart is not like the heart of an animal, which, when its young have ceased to suck, drops them out of its memory. The human heart is of more lasting stuff. The impressions which God makes, when he writes on it with the pen of nature, if the heart is of the right kind, last for ever. The mother, the good mother at
least, will go on caring for her children long after they have become men and women. Let them be
men and women to others; to her they will always be children. When her sons and daughters marry, you will see her grow young again for joy; and she will take to nursing and loving and looking after their children, almost as if they were her own. So strong and lasting is a mother's love, that, while other animals drive their young away, as soon as they can feed themselves, the love of human parents descends and prolongs itself even to their offspring's offspring.
But this is only the outward and visible sign, and is next to nothing when compared to the inward feelings. Their fears, their wishes, their prayers for your soul's welfare, their eagerness to mark every hopeful sign of godliness and goodness in you, the delight they take in thinking and speaking of every little token of kindness and affection that you may shew them,- these are the true and touching proofs how imperishable a mother's love is: and in return for that love, so long as they are in this world, you will owe them, and should rejoice to pay them, a still increasing debt of duty and gratitude and affection. For this is the only payment they ask for, in return for all their tenderness and care and anxiety in watching over you. They only want love for love; a love of course
suitable to the difference which God has placed between you. For you must never forget that you are the child, and she the parent: you received life from her, and she gave life to you, and carried you in her arms, and fed you from her own breasts. Therefore your love must be not love merely, but dutiful love, such as it befits a child to cherish for its parent, a love shewing itself in acts of gentleness and respect and kindness, and above all, till you are quite grown up, in the strictest and readiest obedience.
I have spoken only of the debt which children owe to their mother; but you will easily understand that there must be a like debt owing to the father also. The commandment says, "Honour thy father and thy mother," putting the father first. For he is the head of his family; he supports it by his labour; he rules the house: "therefore to him, as the master and the head, who provides for and supplies the wants of all, the fullest love and respect and obedience are plainly due.
Children, you see, are not only bound to love their parents, but likewise to obey them, and that, not from constraint, nor from the fear of blows, but readily and willingly and cheerfully. The obedience paid from the fear of stripes is the obedience of a mule, not of a son. What I should desire to see paid to parents throughout the land,
is that perfect, that entire and willing obedience, which belongs to Christian sons, that is, to sons who take Jesus for their example. Even he, the Son of God, the King of glory, the Saviour of the world, was subject during his childhood and youth to his earthly parents. Surely then it must be right and fitting for earthly children to obey theirs. I am aware, this strict and ready obedience, which does every thing it is bid, as soon as it is bid, without asking why or wherefore, this unquestioning obedience, I am aware, is rather out of date. But God's words are still true, and God's commandments are still good and reasonable, whatever the world, which is at enmity with God, may think or say. For look at the mind of a child, and see whether that, as well as its body, is not poor and weak and helpless. What does a child know? What can a child know, save what its parents teach it? Its parents for a time stand in the place of God to it as such, it must believe them and obey them, and not only during the years of early childhood, but long after. For, as the baby is ignorant of what belongs to babyhood, so is the boy ignorant of what belongs to boyhood, and the youth too is ignorant of what belongs to his age. There is the same difference between a father and son, a mother and daughter, as between a person who knows a road, and one who does not.