There is a great crowd of subjects which clamour for your attention, but only a comparatively small proportion of them are worth serious consideration and pursuit. It is perhaps difficult to discriminate between the useful and the beautiful without a guide, but scripture never fails to help those who earnestly consult its pages to find wisdom. The apostle Paul for instance in a comprehensive passage found in Philippians 4:8, which I need not now quote, gives useful directions for choosing suitable subjects for thought and emulation.
I am however anxious on this occasion to suggest a practical topic for your careful attention. And I think you will agree with me that a reminder of the great importance of cultivating parental respect will not be out of place although you may imagine that the remarks are elementary. But simple and obvious matters are in many cases the ones that most frequently are neglected. Some persons for example are most assiduous in making a brave show in the front garden, while they forget to keep the back garden tidy.
Throughout scripture, regard for parents is inculcated, not as an irksome and unpleasant duty, but as a happy and beautiful trait of character. In spite of this authoritative teaching, its value as a virtue is not appreciated nowadays so much as it should be, and I fear that even some of my young friends may withhold the full measure of respect, not to say reverence, due to the parents "of their flesh."
In making your next arrangements for personal and private Bible study, I suggest therefore that it would repay you to select this as your subject, and collect and arrange the various Biblical references to the relations between parents and children. I think that the large number of precepts and historical examples which you will assemble in consequence will surprise you. The search will take you some time; but could you be better employed?
I should like by way introduction to this study to quote a beautiful passage from the Proverbs of Solomon: —
"My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother; for they shall be an ornament [or, a chaplet] of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck." (Prov. 1:8, 9.)
Observe how obedience to a father's instructions and to a mother's counsel are in this text likened to a beautiful action which would stand out as promiently in the son's life as a jewelled diadem would upon his head.
Whatever may be the popular opinion, filial subjection is not regarded in the scriptures as one of the minor or negligible virtues. It is not compared to a jewel worn obscurely, which might easily pass unnoticed. It will shine out, conspicuous in the character, like the great crown of gold on the head of Mordecai when he traversed the streets of Shushan in state, or the gold chain of office which Pharaoh put about the neck of Joseph as grand vizier.
Filial subjection is set out in our great Exemplar. How many moral beauties are seen in the Lord Jesus! He was perfect in all His life on earth, and, among His myriad excellences, we are permitted to behold this ornament of grace about His head.
Little is known to us of our Lord's quiet life in that remote village of Galilee where He was brought up. The inspired biographies contain no more than a brief sentence or two concerning the early days. But we do read this of our Lord: "And He went down with them [Joseph and Mary] and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them" (Luke 2:51). Herein the Lord Jesus magnified the law of Moses, and particularly that commandment, notable because of the reward promised to those who fulfil it: "Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee."
The blessed Lord Jesus claimed no exemption from the filial obligations of all mankind. Though He were the Eternal Son, He learned obedience in this relationship as also in others. Accordingly, length of days and years of life, yea, "the power of an endless life," were granted to Him throughout the manifold glories of His millennial kingdom.
Many were the unrecorded moral perfections exhibited by our Lord in the days of His youth in the privacy of the carpenter's household at Nazareth. But this ornament of grace about His head was not, like so many other of His excellences during that period, hidden from the eyes of men at large.
The record of His subjection to Joseph and Mary to which I have just referred, is found in Holy Writ that all the world may admire and emulate the filial virtue displayed in the Man Christ Jesus. Let therefore every son and daughter reading these lines esteem their parents very highly that they too may wear this diadem of grace.
Recently the eyes of a mighty Empire were focussed upon an august mourner following with downcast mien the remains of his royal mother through the snow from St. James's Palace to Westminster Abbey. Weeping women and sad-eyed men who, either in fact or imagination, saw the central figure at the state funeral of the Queen-mother, regarded him not in his dignity and majesty as the mighty Potentate of those wide-spread dominions upon which it is the proud boast of the British patriot that the sun never sets. On that occasion, the deepest sympathies of the king's loyal subjects went out to their sovereign as to a grief-stricken son, sore wounded by the loss of one whom he had known in the tender intimacies, which the world beholding him in his sorrow never shared, of a gracious and wise and loving mother.
Nevertheless, to eyes that looked beneath the external splendours of that imposing State spectacle, the King and Emperor on hot day was not decorated with his imperial crown of sovereignty, but rather with the simple filial duty which Solomon, the wisest of kings, long ago described as an ornament of grace about the head and chains about the neck. It is said that from his youth, His Majesty the King has not forsaken the "law of his mother," which was to read a chapter out of the Bible daily. He venerated this maternal counsel, esteeming it to be the counsel of God to him. And the promise he made to her as a son, he has kept with scrupulous fidelity.
I hope that my dear young friends will take heed to this injunction which occupies such a prominent position in the divine teaching of holy scripture. I have quoted a sample text on the subject from the Old Testament. Let me in conclusion quote another from the New, showing that filial obedience is "right," and also "well-pleasing unto the Lord."
"Children obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right. Honour thy father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise) that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth." "Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord." (Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20).