Honor thy father and thy mother.—Exodus xx. 12.
If any man come to me, and hate not his father,
and mother, and wife, and children,
and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also,
he cannot be my disciple.—Luke xiv. 26.
OUR blessed Lord said the truth shall make you free, and in the new state of things, gradually acquiring new and more real power amongst mankind, this saving power of truth is being more and more fully acknowledged. Let us have truth is the yearning cry of multitudes of earnest hearts. Truth, not opinions, not decrees of despotism, but truth, clearly seen and understood, truth from the Word of God; that will make us free.
During ages past, long antecedent to the feudal times, mankind became, unhappily, divided into two great classes; despotic, cruel governors, and crushed-down and enslaved populations. After Roman times this state of things was modified to a considerable extent, and what we call the feudal system was introduced, in which mankind were divided and ruled by classifications of a very ramified and varied kind. Strong minds ruled weaker ones. There was an entire servitude of the general mass, some under one ruler and some under another. But the Divine Mercy now is evidently moving in the sublime steps of His order and providence to introduce a freer and grander state of things. Mankind have gradually acquired the discipline which through past ages required the drilling of despotic power, and are becoming ready for that broader reception of heavenly blessings which comes with freedom, for that richer heritage of mans glorious and immortal lot, in which each man stands up in the inherent sense of his God-given privileges, feels himself a man, and works out that glorious law of the Divine Savior, If the truth shall make ye free, ye shall be free indeed.
The grandest source of all true government is the sublime truth that is given to as in the Word of God. It is the counsel of God. In studying His Word we confer with the All-Wise. We seek to realize all that God has promised in days gone by, The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, and None shall hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord. We venture to hope for the fulfillment of what the Savior uttered, The time cometh when I shall show you plainly of the Father. I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. He has taught that the sublime scene which is mentioned in Rev. xix. should be brought about. St. Johns says, as the representation of what should occur in the Church hereafter, I beheld the heavens opened, and lo! a white horse, and he that sat upon him and many crowns, his vesture was dipped in blood, and he had on his thigh a name written that no man knew but he himself, and his name is called the WORD OF GOD. It is the Divine revelation of the time that would come, in which man should understand the Word of God as what it really is, the fountain of wisdom to angels and men, the fountain of wise thought, of pure and glorious sentiment, the fountain which even in heaven itself is never exhausted, Thy Word, O Lord, is for ever settled in the heavens. The Word shall teach men that one great thing is required of them by their Heavenly Father and Savior which is, that they should indeed become men. This can only be effected by instructing their minds; by opening their understandings; by penetrating through the seemings of earth to the realities of heaven; by determining that the Divine Wisdom shall be their law; by asking, what does the Word of the Lord teach me, and all men? and when this is ascertained to do it. Thus may we indeed know that one is our Father who is in heaven, and all of us are brethren. Thus will be realized that glorious prophecy, Is that day there shall be one? king over ALL THE EARTH,–that glorious Sovereign who is TRUTH ITSELF, the way, the truth, and the life.
In that day there shall be one Lord. He who is King of kings, and Lord of lords.
To this end it is requisite not only that we should feel assured that God has spoken to men, that we should have no doubt that He who has provided its leaf for the lowliest worm has not forgotten His food to the immortal soul; that He who has given the laws of its being to the poorest insect that lives, has not so forgotten His Fatherhood, has not so forgotten His glorious name of Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, as to have given no counsel to man. It is not unusual at this day to hear it asked, has God in very deed given any word, has He really spoken to man? This is equivalent to saying, has God left His gloriously-gifted children orphans in the world, not knowing whither they are going, or how to tread the path that leads to life and happiness?
Our object in these discourses is to remove difficulties out of the way of sincere minds, and to assist them intelligently to perceive that God has given His Word. In the beginning was the Word. The counsel of the Eternal is the very center of all things. The very first outgoing from Infinite Love was Infinite Wisdom. In the beginning was the Word. That Word, the loving Word incarnated, came down to man. That WORD in the book form, has been given for human understanding, enlightenment, and happiness. This glorious Volume, the Bible, is the Word adapted to all the varied states of human minds, and to quicken them. My words, said the Lord, they are spirit and they are life.
We have made these preliminary observations that we may all feel the end that in had in view in our treatment of these spiritual paradoxes. We wish to help, if possible, earnest souls to clearer vision. If there be any here who have had their minds dimmed by the difficulties presented in these apparent contradictions in the Sacred Volume, we would aid such minds to see that those apparent obscurities are not only provocative to enquiry, but they are depths of a Divine Wisdom, which when truly understood will magnify the Word in their esteem. In the perplexities which arise in nature, science finds them difficult to understand at first, till she gets to the hidden law that runs underneath.
When we fully understand what that is, we see that the, apparent darkness is only the provocative to deeper understanding, and to a grander revelation of Divine things than we should otherwise have attained.
Let us now turn to what seems to be not only a contradiction, but a strange, contradiction too, is the apparent contrast in the texts before us. Firstly we have, Honor thy father and thy mother, and secondly, If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also he cannot be my disciple.
The first law is one, of course, to which all will be delighted to respond. The wisdom of the institution by Divine Providence of that beautiful arrangement of the human family, which leads to the command, Honor thy father and thy mother is manifest. Everyone will confess at once its beauty, and a good mother. It is a grand thing to have a noble ancestry that has acquired virtue after virtue, just like the possessions of the earth are acquired or multiplied by generation after generation. We are the children of a long line of goodly parents, dotted, no doubt, with inglorious and corrupt ones too, yet still each human being comes into a splendid heritage. Britons are especially blessed in this respect. We inherit the possessions of freedom. The blessings we have received from our ancestors are a noble instance of this law. Guarded as our hand has been century after century, it now contains the comforts and advantages of a vast heritage, of art, literature, and well-being, which no good, no wise man will undervalue or despise. The intention of the Most High evidently is, that each child upon earth should have its father and mother and home.
Father, mother, and home, are the representatives to each immortal being of God the Infinite Father, of the Church the sublime mother, and heaven our lasting home. The Eternal Father, the Lord, who is the parent of all good, the Provider of every mercy for soul and body, the One who has become to us a Father for ever, the spring of progress, the source of blessing, the eternal origin of further and further progress and advancement, this Glorious Father, this Everlasting Father commits to each parent of a child, as soon as the baby is born, the noble position of standing to that child, as He stands to the universe.
This is the very meaning of providing us with a father.
If there be a father before me who has not thought before of this great law in this respect, allow me most earnestly to bring, it under his attention now. You are expected by the Lord to be His representative to your little one. You are expected to be to your child what the Lord is to you, to angels, and to all men. Father is God’s most glorious title. He very often expresses Himself by two names to us. The Apostles, and the great men of old looked to Him and spoke of Him as Our God and Father. He is God to the whole universe, the eternal power, for that is what the word God expresses in the original language. To all creation He is God the Omnipotent. But only to immortal man is He Father. Only to immortal man does He give the capability of understanding Him as Father; only in immortal man does He implant the capacity which can look up to Him as the all-perfect creation, My Father made it all. How should my heart go up in love to Him, and bless Him, that He is not simply all infinite architect, an infinite engineer, an infinite mover of all the wheels of the universe, but that He is my Father; a Being that wishes me to love Him because He wishes to bless me. The only way He can bless me is by helping me to feel to Him as my Heavenly Father, as the Father of all that is great and good. Loving Him for the mercies that I enjoy, from the sleep that recruits my body, the food that supplies my table, the strength that enables me to do my duty, for all the graces of soul and body, I ought to bless Him for these His gifts.
The Lord enriches me with His mercies because He is my father, and I am His child. He intends me to be happy as His son or daughter on earth, and then to be His angel-child, and to be immeasurably happy, everlastingly happy in heaven. Well, our parents on earth have to initiate each little child into this sublime affection, to help the child to feel that there is a hand that is always administering to its good, that there is a Providence that is always caring for it, and always has ready what is wanted, that there is a face above the heavens which smiles upon it in love, that there is one who cares for each of His children, and strives to develop in it the faculties of being good and doing good.
The earthly parent ought to be the Lord’s representative to the child, and to initiate it into the greatest of all great principles, and of all good things. By the love of its earthly father, which it daily learns, it would be aided to love its Heavenly Father, the supreme God, who from that love can bless it both in time and in eternity. For this purpose, than, is the, command given Honor thy father. Our earthly father is placed before us with these grand duties and these great possibilities, and then the Lord says to every child, honor this representative of myself. Respect this father, who stands in my place to you. Let him be to you what I am, and you be to him what he should be to me. Honor thy father and thy mother, with the reason which we have, I trust, seen for the Divine arrangement, involves two classes of responsibilities;–those which regard our earthly father and mother, and those which regard our Heavenly Father and Mother. The same law is equally applicable to both. Honor as children your earthly father and mother. And as you look up in riper years of intelligence and wisdom, then honor your Heavenly Father and Mother.
The Church is a nursing mother. Very often the Church upon earth has not worthily carried out this intention of the Divine Being. In old and bad times when people were for over churlish upon others, the Church upon earth was a harsh and cruel mother. But the intention of the Lord in founding His Church, His Divine design is, that angels in heaven and the Church upon earth should be, as it were, a nursing mother to all the young, to teach them how to walk; that is to say, how to live. The ministers and members of the church should be kindly, genial at all times to instruct the young, to give them a hint when they are going astray, and help them on in the right way. The angels ever do their part, being ministering spirits they help within, and thus do the hallowed word of the grand mother, enabling us to honor with a true heart and earnest love our spiritual Father and Mother. Then the Lord will prolong our days, He says. How long do you think? Why He makes them everlasting. Thy days (thy states of good) shall be prolonged upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Your Heavenly Father and Mother will be your Father and Mother while eternity rolls on. Hence the Divine command is one that is applicable both to earth and heaven.
Literally, those who obey this command will have good health, and live long on earth, as a rule. As a law, belonging to the land of Israel, it was especially and literally true, that he who honored his father and mother would live in that land longer than he who dishonored them. In certain circumstances if a son carried his dishonor to certain lengths it was the, law that he should be put to death. A man who cursed his father and mother was punished with death itself.
In the spiritual sense days signify states, for states in the soul pass like days. Those who love the Lord and His Church, supremely, have their happy days prolonged, for they carry them with them as inner days–ever-recurring states of light, of joy, and peace, and then they are prolonged for ages and ages in heaven.
We have spoken of the two universal applications of the Divine words before us; supremely to our Heavenly Father and Mother; and secondarily, to our human father and mother. There is it third for which the other two exist. This is, that each mind should be so trained and regenerated, that the Lord and the Church within one soul, should be a father and mother there of holy affections and wise thoughts, forming a family within. Love to the Lord, derived from the Lord, should be the father in the soul; and the affection for truth the mother of holy sentiments and holy feelings in each heart and mind. When the soul has become so far matured that it has outgrown the necessity for guidance by the human father and mother, it has a father and mother within, which it can still honor and reverence. The arrangements of each mind are like the arrangements of a family. There are governing principles and subordinate ones. The wish is father to the thought, said one of our poets. The child is father of the man, said another. There is a similar relationship between the higher and inner powers of the soul and the subordinate powers, as between father and mother, and sons and daughters. There are, indeed, many generations of sentiments and thoughts in the same mind. Each mind is a little kingdom. Every person may indeed say with Sir Walter Raleigh,
My mind to me a kingdom is.
When true principle is in the heart, and a regard for sound wisdom in the mind, they engender a family of mental sons daughters, formed of holy sentiments, and there is a happy household there. This is the third kind of fatherhood and motherhood–a little generation in ones own spirit. Every good act and word helps the outbirth of the holy brotherhood within; a little family of goodness and truth, and principles which proceed from both. Such a mind forms a little heaven, crowded with hopes and joys, a seraphic generation. There is a small likeness of the grand heaven,the glorious home where the Lord reigns, the sublimest household of the universe, the sacred home of the true and the good.
But in this third class of fatherhood land motherhood, the family in each breast, there often occurs a failure. When the human father and mother have not been diligent in doing their duty thoughtfully, lovingly, and well, the child is left to its hereditary selfishness, uncared for, unprovided for. He finds society teeming with examples of self-love, self-seeking, and falsehood, which rather pamper than check the seeds of pride, and opposition to the Divine Will. He grows up with a habit of neglecting the law of God, and caring nothing about the principles that constitute true heavenly work.
With fallen man exists the universal tendency in our nature to have the lower part of the human mind governed by infernal principles. Self is the head of the family. And this father it is which is brought before us prominently in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus came into the world really to undo the evil which had arise from mans fall and degeneracy. Hence, taking the Jewish nation as a specimen of the worst depravity in the world, He took the Jewish nature, and combated sin there. He came down to the very lowest of mankind, and conquered sin in its most debased state, in order that having conquered it there, he might conquer it everywhere. He did conquer sin in every condition. It was of this ruling selfishness of theirs, the lord said, Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.–John viii., 44. This is the father that we have in view in our second text. It was this father of whom the Lord spake when he said, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
It was not the orderly Father, not the Divine Father, it was the disorderly and infernal father, the father of all those wicked schemes by which they sought to destroy even virtue itself. There is an infernal family formed in the human heart when it is in its unregenerated state, and of this family self-love is the father, self-derived intelligence is the mother. Self-love desires to dominate over everybody in the world, the conceit of mans own cleverness is its help-meet. And from this lust and this folly, fancied to be wisdom, are born a brood of evil thoughts and feelings, words and actions, a family of sin. They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity.–Job xv., 35. They hatch mischief, and weave the spiders web.–Isa. Lix., 5. The unregenerate mind filled with this impure family is what the pilgrim for heaven must leave. Hence it is written, Thou shalt leave thine own kindred and thy fathers house, so shall the Lord greatly desire thy beauty. He is thy Lord and worship thou him.–Ps. xlv. 13. Every man who wishes to receive a new nature from his Heavenly Father, and thus be built up for heaven, must leave his natural state; he must leave his hereditary evils and falsities; he must leave his own kindred and his fathers house. King David, in an advanced period of his age, referred to the same sort of father and mother when he said, When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.–Psalm xxvii. He was a full grown man at the time, and could have suffered no particular calamity even if his father Jesse had been dead or had forsaken him. When these impure and vicious principles which have been father and mother of our words and works forsake us, the Lord will take us up.
But, many a harassed soul will say, they wont forsake us; they adhere to, and wear, and vex us, and we cannot be rid of them, though we abominate them. Turn your mind from them and follow the Lord. A very important lesson upon this subject is given by our Lord in a passage quite as mysterious as the one before us, and to be made clear only by a similar law. A young man who felt moved to follow Him, said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. The Savior replied, Follow me, let the dead bury their dead.–Matt. viii., 22. The dead father is self-love renounced and rejected. To bury this father is to remove him from sight, to forget him.
The wish expressed by the young man is often the weary wish of the novitiate Christian with his leading sin. But the Lord knows best the times and seasons.
While the presence of evil is borne impatiently, and we lack submission to the Divine Wisdom, we must still be troubled by it. We are tortured with temptation. Again, and again, and again, the hated evil is there. We struggle against it. We would fain cut it out of us. We pray and fret. It is of no avail. Do right and let it alone. Let the dead bury their dead. The devil, said Luther, is a proud spirit. While he keeps your attention he will stay. Care nothing for him. Take no notice of him, and he will go away. So with all evil spirits. Turn from them and their devices, and they will depart. Let the dead bury their dead. Dead souls will take their dead spheres, and bury them and themselves, in their own abysses, out of sight.
When our Lord was in the midst of His disciples on one occasion, some came to them in the house and said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without and seek thee. The Lord replied, Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? A question that appears very strange unless we consider it from the point of view to which we are endeavoring to lead you this evening. The Savior then added, Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven the same is my mother, and sister, and brother. When the Lord is born in the soul, the affection for Divine Truth is His mother, admiration for His wisdom is His sister, and charity is His brother. Those inner relationships are most profound and instructive. When Peter was avowing his determination to follow the Redeemer even to death, his Master said, Whosoever shall follow me is the regeneration, and shall forsake father, and mother, and household, and sisters, and brethren, yea, and his own life also, he shall have a hundred fold in this life. Certainly a man cannot have a hundred literal fathers instead one, a hundred mothers instead of one mother, or a hundred times more of houses and lands, which he must have if we confined our view of the Divine words to their letter. But, if we understand their spiritual bearing and know that the family without represents the family within, we learn that when we quit a wicked state we leave the inward father and mother,–the evil and false thought, and the whole family of sin.
The Lord gives us instead abundant inner virtues, filling the soul with a whole generation of hopes and joys and peace. Now, may we not look again at our latter test, If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Some think they might alter the test a little, and suppose that hating means loving less. This is a very dubious way of treating the Word of God. Far better to turn to the Divine rule of the spiritual sense. Bear in mind the Saviors teaching, My words they are spirit, and they are life. Let us apply it in the present case, and how grand an opening there is! When a man is unregenerate, his mind is a house in which selfishness is the leading principle, the father of all his thoughts. The mother is the love of his own cleverness, his various schemes are sons and daughters. He who has self-love for a father and self-conceit for a mother has also a terrible family. To this the Lord refers when He says, I am not come to bring peace on earth, but a sword. The sword of His truth is needed to cut right into that infernal household, and cast it out, root and branch. It was the sword of truth, the two-edged sword that came out of His mouth says St. John. It was this that He came to send, to destroy, not to save such a family as that, of which it is said, None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth, they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. They hatch cockatrice eggs, and weave the spiders web; he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.–Isaiah lix., 4, 5. It is concerning these, then, that the Lord says, If a man does not hate his father and mother, if he does not abhor his selfish will, and selfish fancy, if he does not really hate them, (it is not love them less; here is no room for courtesy and policy) the really religious man must hate this father and mother, he must abhor himself and his worldly schemes, and all their brothers, mid sisters, and begin a new life. Life is the Scripture word for love; heavenly life is heavenly love. The life of the selfish man has been one of selfish love, if he does not hate this, his own life, along with the whole of that infernal family, he cannot be the Lord’s disciple. Say not yon must say a prayer and believe something just before you die, and believe something they tell you to believe, and you will be all right.
Nothing of the kind. This is the old mother we mentioned, an old scheme to help you to go on sinning. It is change of nature that is wanted, and it is a great thing to do. Selfish things we must hate, father, mother, and the whole stream of selfish thoughts we must abhor. It will be hard for us to do; but let us take up our cross. Cross yourselves with the Divine Truth, never mind crosses on your necks, or garments, but let the cross come into your heart by crossing all your high tempers, and putting them down, pride and selfish vanities, never mind how the conflict pains you, it will end, in a little time, is triumph. When you take up the cross do not drag it along, but take it up saying, This is my Lord’s will, this is what I ought to do to be an angel, and I will do it, and you will find this cross, as you work on, will begin first to have a crown on the top, and then there will gradually appear a rove here and a rose there, and in a little time the whole cross will dissolve into roses, and form a bower of bliss. Ultimately, the Lord will say to us, For he that hath wrought us for this self same thing is God, when he welcomes us to our eternal home, Come and be my disciple for ever and ever.
Author: Jonathan Bayley—Scripture Paradoxes -Their True Explanation (1868)