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termine on these things which relate to their person and condition. And if they may, yet this should always be done with true obedience, and the honour due to parents, which compels them to forego a cloistered life.
4. We must obey God rather than men ; But God requires a perfect life in all things in general, Matt. xix., and in particular, by internal inspiration he calls certain persons : therefore if parents oppose, they are not to be listened to.
Answer, Bellarmin plainly dotes, who binds perfection to a cloister and a hood. We place the perfection of a Christian life in faith and charity, not in ceremonies or monastic rules. And we say with Gerson, That religious performances, are improperly and abusively, and perhaps arrogantly called a state of perfection. We therefore answer to the argument, That all Christians ought to aim at spiritual perfection, neither must parents be listened to, if they endeavour to hinder the progress of their children in faith and charity : but if they direct their children to continue under their control, to remain with them at home, to obey them in domestic duties, I affirm that lawful commands of this kind cannot be contemned without the violation of the Divine command, and the work of perfection is more excellent to obey parents in the fear of God, than to subject themselves to monastic traditions.
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We have treated of the obedience of children. Now lest parents should suppose that they might do any thing they pleased by the power vested in them over their children, the Apostle would also advise even them not to abuse this their authority. And this verse consists of two parts : the former contains a prohibition; the latter, the cause of the prohibition.
Fathers, provoke not your children] By this prohibition he would restrain the paternal power within its limits : And here let us consider the act prohibited and the persons. Provocation is prohibited: Now this provocation arises from a manifold abuse of paternal power.
1. , If it shall have denied or withdrawn from children those things which are rightly due to them, such, for instance, as food, clothing, and education corresponding with the rank and means of their father. And this, indeed, is so heavy a sin, that the Apostle did not fear to declare, that he who should not provide for his own, had denied the faith, and was worse than an infidel, 1 Tim. v. 8. But neither (which is often the case) must there be sin on the other side : which they commit, who spoil their children by more dainty food, more splendid clothing, and a better education than is needful. And our age truly is more in danger from this evil, than from too much severity towards children. * That remark of Quintilian, lib. i. cap. 2, is well suited for us. I wish we ourselves did not ruin the manners of our children. We spoil then immediately in their infancy by delicacies. That soft education which we call indulgence, destroys all the vigour both of mind and body. What will he not do when come to man's estate, who has crawled in purple in his childhood. He cannot yet utler his first words, and is already a connoisseur in colours; he already insists upon a purple dress. We form their palate before that the mouth is formed, &c.
* What would Davenant have thought and said in the present day?
2. Children are provoked, if parents endeavour to load them with impious and unjust commands. That was impious of Saul when he commanded Jonathan to seize and bring David his friend, guiltless of any crime, that he might be put to death, 1 Sam. xx. 31. Hence we read, vers. 34, that Jonathan was inflamed with grief and anger. That was likewise impious of Herodias, who ordered her daughter (to whom Herod had promised to give whatever she might ask) to ask the head of John the Baptist, Matt. xiv. 8. But we do not read that this dancing daughter was offended at the impious command of her mother, because she equalled her mother in impiety: if she had had any piety, she would have grieved at it. But again, I call that an unjust command, if a father, impelled by no necessity, should endeavour by his authority to compel his son to servile deeds, and unworthy of a free man. For the condition of children is one thing, that of slaves another. Among children, a father holds not a tyrannical, but a kingly rule; Therefore he ought to use their labour as a good king uses the labour of citizens, not as a master abuses the labour of servants. This Aristotle himself has noted, Polit. i. 7: and viii. 2.
3. It pertains to this provocation, when parents being seized with anger, rashly revile and wound their children when they do not deserve it, with contumelious and unbecoming language. For contumely has a certain sting, which it is very difficult for even prudent persons to endure. Saul also provoked his son Jonathan with this kind of injury, 1 Sam. xx. 30, where he breaks forth in these words, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness ? What could be said more bitter to provoke a son than that in order to reproach him he even reviles his own wife as a common prostitute ?
4. Children are provoked, when parents, out of wantonness and fury, beat and chastise them with unjust or immoderate stripes and punishments. I call that unjust chastisement, for which there is not a legitimate cause. Thus Saul even wished to strike his son with a javelin, for no other reason than that he had taken upon himself the defence of David, who was absent and innocent, 1 Sam. xx. 33, Wherefore Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, vers. 34. But chastisement is immoderate, when the severity of punishment exceeds the weight of the crime. Therefore it is provided for by Divine authority, that those who have authority over others, should not act with arbitrary cruelty towards criminals. If the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number of stripes, &c. Deut. xxv. 2, 3. And thus we have briefly demonstrated from what causes the provocation prohibited arises.
Corollaries. 1. Parental rule is not absolute, or unlimited; but must be conformed to nature and reason, and above all, to the Divine law.
2. It is proper to govern children with gravity and prudence : but it is not proper to exasperate them by bitterness and cruelty. For they are more likely to be kept within the bounds of duty by liberality and forbearance, than by fear and tyranny. Fear does not keep a person long in the path of duty, says Cicero.
3. Although it is not lawful to provoke and exasperate children, yet it is proper to instruct them, to chide them mildly, and to chastise them. That what is not expressly laid down in this place, is yet to be understood, is gathered from Ephes. vi. 4, Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurlure and admonition of the Lord. For instruction and chastiseinent of offending children falls under the Divine command, and it makes for the advantage of those who are corrected. Prov. xxiii. 13, 14.
Hitherto we have considered the act prohibited. Now
let us examine in one or two words, what relates to the consideration of the persons.
Two persons are here marked out: he, or they to whom this interdict is given of not using provocation ; those are fathers : and they concerning whom, or on whose behalf it is given; and these are the children of those fathers.
First, we must observe in this personal designation why the Apostle should not have retained a word which he used in the foregoing verse, when he gave the precept concerning the obedience of children: for there he speaks of parents, that is, of father and mother conjointly; here, he speaks of father alone. He seems to do this, because children often offend in defect of obedience towards their mothers; therefore when he prescribes concerning obedience, it was very necessary to include mothers : but mothers seldom offend towards their children by too much severity; therefore it was sufficient to have fathers alone restrained by this interdict. For too much indulgence is the sin of mothers, not cruelty, which scarcely happens in a father, unless he is void of all paternal affection.
Secondly, it is proper to observe that argument which is implied in the term father. For when he says, Fathers, provoke not, it is as if he had said, Do not what ought to be most foreign from the person and office of a father. The very name father, bespeaks clemency and mildness. Hence that saying of the poet,
He was gentle, as a Father. And here earthly fathers have before them for their imitation an example of their heavenly Father, who is never so wrath against his children, but he is mindful of his paternal clemency, as it is in Psalm 1xxxix. 31, &c. If they break my statutes and keep not my commandments, Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes ; Nevertheless my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail, &c.
Thirdly, we must also notice that argument which is implied under these words, your children. For what else is this, than as if he had said, Afflict not your flesh, your blood, your bowels, your own selves, by any injury. .For