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a child is something of the father, as Aquinas says, Qu. disp. de pecc. orig. art. 8; and by the authority of Aristotle, his own beloved. It is therefore against the inclination of nature itself, that a father should aim to wound and provoke his own children, whom it behoves him to love and cherish.
But neither must we omit that this consideration of the persons ought also to incline the children themselves to patience and equanimity, when harshly and cruelly treated : for the cruelty of the father towards his child is a heavy sin, but the wrath and fury of a child towards his father is excessively monstrous. Hence Cicero, in his oration for Cluentius, said, that children should not only conceal the injuries of their parents, but bear them with equanimity. And thus far we have explained the prohibition itself: Now let us consider the cause of the prohibition.
Lest they be discouraged, or lest they become faint-hearted.] The cause of the prohibition is derived from the disadvantage of provocation. And its great disadvantage is shewn: for when children are treated in this manner by parents, for the most part they fall under discouragement.
This discouragement, aduuia, comprises three evils: 1. That heaviness and sadness of mind into which that cruelty of their parents is wont to plunge their children, especially pious children. Hence oftentines diseases spring, and sometimes their premature death. For as a moth hurteth a garment, and a worm, wood; so does sadness the heart, Prov. xxv. 20. Therefore, parents must strenuously guard against this disadvantage, lest they should seem to have begotten children only for the purpose of having persons on whom they might inflict torment. And that paternal goodness of God is to be imitated, who would have obedience shewn to himself from his children with alacrity and joy, not with sorrow and distress : The same disposition ought to prevail in earthly parents.
2. This discouragement comprises that dejection and stupidity of mind, which makes them fearful, and unfit to enter upon any work. For children are terrified by the cruelty of their parents, and finding that themselves and
all their duties are disagreeable and hateful to them, at length they are cast down in mind, they venture to try or attempt nothing, but they become inactive and torpid. And parents should especially beware not to sink their children to this : for children are as the hands and arms with which the old age of parents should be defended; they are the feet and legs whereby they must be sustained. Therefore as any one would deservedly be accounted mad, who should occasion such numbness to his legs and arms by any narcotic medicament, that they might become in a manner useless to him : so are those parents to be accounted not far from insane, who by their severity and cruelty, so beat and render their children stupid, that they can neither be of any help to their parents nor themselves.
3. This discouragement brings in its train (especially in those who are not of a very good disposition) a certain desperate contumacy. For when they perceive that all hope of pleasing is done away, they also on the other hand cast off all hope of pleasing; yea, sometimes assume to themselves a boldness in displeasing, and a wantonness of provoking their parents. This, indeed, is the height of impiety in a child; but yet the father must beware not to occasion this impiety by his cruelty. For repeated cruelty does not whet the minds of children to perform their duties, but recals and withdraws them from it. And thus much of the duty of parents.
Vers. 22, 23. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the
flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but in sin
gleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and
not unto men.
The duties of wives and husbands, of children and parents, have been explained: There remain these of servants and masters; which being explained, nothing will be wanting that pertains to domestic instruction. He begins with servants. As to what pertains then to these, the Apostle does three things : 1. He gives a precept of obedience; 2. He teaches the mode of obeying; 3. He adds certain stimuli, or incentives to obedience, vers. 24, 25.
In the first place the precept is to be explained, which is contained in these words,
1. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh.] The occasion of this precept seems to spring from the circumstance, that servants converted to Christianity, thought themselves to be exempt from the yoke of servitude. Which opinion, full of error, the devil without doubt instilled into the minds of men, that thence he might render the Christian religion odious among the heathen, as a disturber of order. This error perhaps had some colour; If masters embraced the Christian religion together with their servants, it was unjust that they should still hold them as slaves whom they were bound to account as brethren: if Masters still adhered to paganism, when their servants were converted, it seemed much more unjust that he who had been delivered and redeemed from the power of the devil, should nevertheless remain in bondage to a pagan man, who himself remained a slave to the devil. These things seemed to bave an air of probability; but notwithstanding, the Apostle gives a contrary precept; in which every word hath its weight to demonstrate the equity and even the necessity of the precept.
Servants. He addresses Christians, and yet he still calls them servants ; Aouros.] This word does not denote such domestics as we now employ; who are in reality free and free-born, although they serve others for hire: but it denotes such as the ancients used; who were either taken in war or bought, and on that account were wholly in the power of their masters.
Concerning the foundation of this servitude, whether it be just or violent, I shall not contend: yet it appears to have been allowed and established by the law of Nations. Hence Aristotle asserts, Polit. i. 3, that servants of this kind were nothing else than όργανα έμψυχα, certain animated instruments of their masters. And even among the sacred writers these servants are reckoned among the goods and possessions of their masters, Job. i. 3; and the servant is called in Exod. xxi. 21, the money of his master. The Apostle therefore shews by this very name, that they were bound to obedience : and on that account he adds his command,
Servants, obey in all things.] This precept was proposed in these same words to children, vers. 20, and, as it was then said, involved two things ; humility in receiving the commands of another, and alacrity in executing the same : for these two are intimated under this one word ÚT AMOVEIV. But what he adds, in all things, that is to be restricted to things lawful and honest, and those which regard the duty of servants : for if a master shall order his servant to do any thing which is either contrary to piety or foreign from the duty of a servant, he is not bound to obey; because his master ought not to command such things. Rightly, therefore, has Jerome put in this exception, IN ALL THINGS; namely, says he, in which the lord of the flesh does not command contrary to the Lord of the spirit. Therefore, the Apostle does not include impious and unlawful obedience, when he enjoins them to obey in all things, but he forbids
divided and arbitrary obedience according to the will of servants themselves.
Your masters according to the flesh.] This title also, equally as the preceding one of servants, shews the equity of the precept. For as the epithet servant admonishes of the performance of obedience to another, so the name miaster points out the obedience due from him to that other. But that addition according to the flesh, signifies that this lordship or power of man over man, is only temporal, and in things external and temporal, but does not extend to the soul and the conscience. This difference of Divine and human authority Christ observed in Matt. x. 28, Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul : but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Instructions. 1. The Christian religion does not subvert political order; nay, it does not deprive Heathen masters of their legitimate authority over Christian servants. Therefore the Anabaptists err, who think all authority to be opposed to Evangelical liberty, even of Christians over Christians.* The Papists err, who would have it that the authority of kings over their subjects is dissolved by heresy; for if notwithstanding paganism, a master remained a master of Christians according to the flesh, then a king also will remain the king of his subjects. · 2. The Christian religion frees from the yoke of human servitude that which is the best and most excellent thing in man, namely, the spirit and the conscience. See Gal. v. I. They therefore err who would rule the minds and consciences of men by virtue of any superiority and human lordship; for they are masters according to the flesh, not according to the spirit. They also err who believe or obey doctrines or commands of superiors in spiritual things pertaining to salvation, not thinking or seeking from God whether or not they proceed from their own in
• This was a doctrine peculiar to the Anabaptists at the period of the Reformation. Translr.