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  • WORKS OF ARMINIUS - ON THE FIFTH COMMAND IN THE DECALOGUE


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    DISPUTATION LXXVIII

    ON THE FIFTH COMMAND IN THE DECALOGUE

    I. This precept is the first of the second table. It contains the precept itself, and the promise attached to it. The end of the precept is, that a certain order should exist among men, according to which some are superiors and others inferiors, and which consists in the mutual performance of the duties of commanding and obeying that are necessary for the defense of society.

    II. The precept prescribes an act, and adds an object to which that act must be performed. The act is contained in the word "honour;" the object in these words: "thy father and thy mother." From this, it appears, according to the nature of relations, that this law is prescribed to all those who are relatively opposed to father and mother [as are sons and daughters].

    III. The word "honour" is not appropriately employed to signify eminence; for honour is the reward of excellence, and its performance is a sign of recognition; and this word comprehends, either in the wide compass of its signification, all the duties which are due from an inferior to a superior; or, as an end, it comprehends all things necessary to the rendering of such honour.

    IV. Three things principally are contained in this word:

         (1.) That reverence be shown to the persons of our parents.

         (2.) That obedience be performed to their commands.

         (3.) That gratitude be evinced, in conferring on them all things necessary to the preservation of the present life, with respect to the dignity of their persons and of their office.

    V. Reverence consists both in the performance of those acts which contain, [on our part] a confession of their pre- eminence and of our submission under them, and in the endurance of their faults and manners, in a connivance at them, in a modest concealment of them, and in kind excuses for them.

    VI. Obedience lies in the prompt and free performance of those things which they prescribe, and in the omission of those which they prohibit. This obedience must be performed not only "for wrath," or the fear of punishment, but also "for conscience' sake," and this, not so much that we may obey them, as God himself, whose vicegerents they are.

    VII. Gratitude, which contains the conferring of things necessary for them to the uses of life according to their dignity, ought to extend itself not only to the time when they discharge this duty, but likewise through the whole life -- though it may happen that, through old age or some other cause, they are rendered unfit to discharge the parental office.

    VIII. The duties of superiors are analogous to those of inferiors -- that they conduct themselves with moderation, seriousness, and decorum, in the whole of their life, public as well as private -- that they observe justice and equity in issuing their commands, and that, in requiring gratitude, they do not transgress the bounds of moderation. But these points will be more particularly discussed in the disputation on the magistracy.

    IX. The object is enunciated in the words "father," and "mother," in which, likewise, are comprehended all those who are placed above us in human society, whether it be political, ecclesiastical, scholastic or domestic society -- whether in the time of peace or in that of war -- whether such persons discharge the duties of an ordinary or an extraordinary office, or whether they be invested with this power either constantly, or only for a season, however short.

    X. But all these persons in authority are, in this commandment, fitly, and not without just cause, expressed under the name of "parents," which is an endearing and delightful appellation, and most appropriate both to signify the feeling which it is right for superiors to indulge towards inferiors, and most efficaciously to effect a persuasion in inferiors of the equity of performing their duty towards their superiors. It may be added that the first association among men is that of domestic society, and from this follow the rest by the increase of mankind.

    XI. Superiors lose no degree of this eminence by any sin, or by any corruption of their own; therefore, this duty of honour, reverence, obedience and gratitude must be performed to superiors, even when they are evil, and abusing their power; provided caution be used that the interest of God be always the more powerful with us, and lest, while that which is Caesar's is given to Caesar, that which belongs to God, be taken from him, or be not given.

    XII. To this, must necessarily be subjoined another threefold caution --

            (l.) That no one commit an error in judgment, by which he persuades himself this or that belongs to God, and not to Caesar.

         (2.) That he discern correctly between that which he is commanded to do or to tolerate; and, if he must do it, whether or not it be an act about a thing or object which is subject to his power.

         (3.) That under the name of liberty, no one arrogate to himself the right of a superior, of not obeying in this thing or that, or the power of rising against his superior, either for the purpose of taking away his life, or only his rule and dominion.

    XIII. The promise which is added to this precept is contained in the following words: "that thy days maybe long upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee" in which are promised, (1,) to the Jewish believers who perform this precept, length of days in the land of Canaan; (2,) and also to the gentile believers who perform this command, the duration of the present life; (3,) typically, to such persons are promised the eternal or heavenly life, of which the land of Canaan was a type.

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