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know, at least do you consider, That by the divine appointment their Will is a Law to you? Have you ever considered the extent of that obedience to your parents which God requires ? Children, obey your parents in all things. No exception, but of things unlawful. Have you practised your duty in this extent? Did you ever so much as intend it ?
7. Deal faithfully with your own souls. Is your conscience now clear in this matter? Do you do nothing which you know to be contrary to the will either of your father or mother? Do you never do any thing, (though ever so much inclined to it,) which he or she forbids ! Do you abstain from every thing which they dislike, as far as you can in conscience ? On the other hand, are you careful to do, whatever a parent bids? Do you study and contrive how to please them? To make their lives as easy and pleasant as you can? Whoever you are that add this to your general care to please God in all things, Blessed art thou of the Lord! “Thy days shall be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.'
8. But as for you who are little concerned about this matter, who do not make it a point of conscience, to obey your parents in all things, but sometimes obey them, as it happens, and sometimes not, who frequently do what they forbid or disapprove, and neglect what they bid you
do: şuppoşe you awake out of sleep, that you begin to feel yourself a sinner, and begin to cry to God for mercy, is it any wonder that you find no answer, while you are under the guilt of unrepented sin? How can you expect mercy from God till you obey your parents ? But suppose you have, by an uncommon miracle of mercy, tasted of the pardoning love of God, can it be expected, although you hunger and thirst after righteousness, after the perfect love of God, that you should ever attain it, ever be satisfied therewith, while you live in outward sin, in the wilful transgression of a known law of God, in disobedience to your parents? Is it not rather a wonder, that he has not withdrawn his Holy Spirit from you? That he still cong tinues to strive with you, though you continually grieve his Spirit? O grieve him no more: By the grace of God obey them in all things from this moment! As soon as you come home, as soon as you set foot within the door, begin an entirely new course : look upon your father and mother with new eyes : see them as representing your Father which is in heaven: and let it be your constant endeavour, study, and desire to please, to help, and to obey them in all things. Behave not barely as their child, but as their servant for Christ's sake. O how will you then love one another! In a manner unknown before. God will bless you to them, and them to you: all around will feel that God is with you of a truth. Many shall see it and praise God: and the fruit of it shall remain when both you and they are lodged in Abraham's Bosom.
ON OBEDIENCE TO PASTORS.
HEBREWS XIII. 17,
“ Obey them that have the Rule over you, and submit your
selves : for they watch over your Souls, as they that shall give Account, that they may do this with Joy, and not with Grief; for that is unprofitable for you.”
1. EXCEEDINGLY few, not only among nominal Christians, but among truly religious men, have any clear conception of the important Doctrine, which is here delivered by the Apostle. Very many scarcely think of it, and hardly know that there is any such direction in the Bible., And the greater part of those who know it is there, and imagine they follow it, do not understand it, but lean too much either to the right hand or to the left, to one extreme or the other. It is well known to what an extravagant height the Romanists in general carry this direction. Many of them believe an implicit faith is due to the doctrines delivered by those that rule over them, and that implicit obedience ought to be paid, to whatever commands they give: and not much less has been insisted on, by several eminent men of the Church of England. Although it is true that the generality of Protestants are apt to run to the other extreme: allowing their Pastors no authority at all, but making them both the creatures and the servants of their congregations. And very many there are of our own Church who agree with them herein: supposing the Pastors to be altogether dependent upon the people; who, in their judgment, have a right to direct, as well as to choose their Ministers.
2. But is it not possible, to find a medium between these two extremes ? Is there any necessity for us to run, either into one or into the other? If we set human laws out of the question, and simply attend to the Oracles of God, we may certainly discover a middle path in this important matter. In order thereto, let us carefully examine the words of the Apostle above recited. Let us consider,
I. Who are the Persons mentioned in the Text, they that rule over us?
II. Who are they whom the Apostle directs, to obey and submit themselves to them ?
III. What is the meaning of this Direction? In what sense are they to obey and submit themselves 2-1 shall then endeavour to make a suitable Application of the whole.
1. 1. Consider we, first, who are the Persons mentioned in the text, they that huve the rule over you? I do not conceive that the words of the Apostle are properly translated; because this translation makes the sentence little better than tautology. If they rule over you, you are certainly ruled by them : so that according to this translation, you are only enjoined to do what you do already: to obey those whom you do obey. Now there is another meaning of the Greek word, which seems abundantly more proper: it means to guide, as well as to rule. And thus, it seems, it should be taken here. The direction, then, when applied to our spiritual guides, is plain and pertinent.
2. This interpretation seems to be confirmed by the seventh verse; which fixes the meaning of this. “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God.” The Apostle here shews, by the latter clause of the sentence, whom he meant in the former. Those that were over them were the same persons who spake unto them the word of God: that is, they
were their Pastors, those who guided and fed this part of the flock of Christ.
3. But by whom are these Guides to be appointed? And what are they supposed to do, in order to be entitled to the Obedience which is here prescribed ?
Volumes upon volumes have been written on that knotty question, By whom are Guides of Souls to be appointed.2 I do not intend here, to enter at all, into the dispute concerning Church-Government: neither to debate, whether it be advantageous or prejudicial to the interest of true religion, that the Church and State should be blended together, as they have been ever since the time of Constantine, in every part of the Roman Empire, where Christianity has been received. Waving all these points, (which may find employment enough for men that abound in leisure,) by them that guide you, I mean, them that do it, if not by, your choice, at least by your consent: them that you willingly accept of to be your guides in the way to Heaven.
4. But what are they supposed to do, in order to entitle them to the Obedience here prescribed ?
They are supposed to go before the flock, (as is the man, ner of the Eastern Shepherds to this day,) and to guide them in all the ways of truth and holiness: they are to 6 nourish them with the Words of eternal Life,” to feed them with the pure milk of the Word :" applying it continually for Doctrine, teaching them all the essential doctrines contained therein : for Reproof, warning them if they turn aside from the way to the right hand or to the left : for Correction, shewing them how to amend what is amiss, and guiding them back into the way of peace: and for Instruction in Righteousness, training them up to outward holiness, 6 until they come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
5. They are supposed to “ watch over your souls, as those that shall give Account.” As those that shall give Account! How unspeakably solemn, and awful are those words ! May God write them upon the heart of every guide of souls !