For God said: 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'
I. TRADITION COMES FROM AN INEXPERIENCED ANTIQUITY. The Pharisees and scribes showed reverence for it because it descended from the elders; but these elders were only men. It is common to attach the greatest weight to the oldest opinion. Yet it is not correct to look for wisdom in antiquity; because, as Bacon reminds us, we are the ancients, and they who lived before us belonged to the childhood of the race. Under the Divine education of man wisdom should be growing with the ages. We look back with amazement on a multitude of fantastic notions cherished by our forefathers which have become ridiculous in our eyes. There is one thought, however, to be set off against this. Ideas that have stood the test of time win a certain guarantee of their solidity in comparison with raw notions suddenly springing from the imagination of a new thinker. But that is only the case when those ideas are being constantly tested by experience and criticism; and it does not apply after tradition has become petrified and has attained the rank of a venerated idol
II. TRADITION IS MARKED BY HUMAN IMPERFECTION. The enemies of Christ greeted the elders with reverence; but our Lord replied by calling attention to a greater authority. They had honoured the elders, but they had dishonoured God. The tradition of the elders may deserve some reverence, but it cannot be compared with the commandment of God. Yet it was being preferred to that commandment. Tradition sometimes claims to be of Divine origin, handed down in the Church from the time of the apostles in a line of authorized teachers. If its claim could be proved, of course it would have an apostolic authority; but even then how could it be of superior value to the immediate utterances of the apostles recorded in the Scriptures? We have no warrant for believing, as the Gnostics taught, that an esoteric teaching of supreme importance has been thus handed down. The extravagant pretensions of Romanism, founded on the authority of tradition, which the Council of Trent declared to be of equal value with that of Scripture, warn us against the danger of trusting similar claims again.
III. TRADITION MAY BECOME AN EXCUSE FOR UNFAITHFULNESS TO DIVINE REVELATION. Thus it was with the Jews. The revelation they treated with contempt was that of the moral law. Parental claims were eluded on the plea of traditional usages. Nothing short of horrible hypocrisy was here practised. The plea that what was due to a needy parent could not be given because it had been already consecrated to God was quite false, inasmuch as the pretended consecration did not prevent the unnatural son from enjoying it himself. Thus tradition was a means of relaxing moral claims. The tendency to trust in tradition in the Christian Church has been sometimes associated with a casuistical treatment of simple obligations. The reason of this seems to be that while God's commandments are "exceeding broad" (Psalm 119:96), man's additions to them are dreadfully narrow. Thus tradition slides down to petty contrivances, and wastes its resources in miserable scruples. Christ would warn us to escape from the lowering and narrowing influence of this system of man's invention, by turning to the large, living, eternal, spiritual truth of the kingdom as he has revealed it to us. - W.F.A.
Honour thy father and mother.I. WHAT IS IT TO HONOUR PARENTS? TO obey them in all that is right, when they require it. To do what is right whether they require it or not. To respect their feelings in reference to the choice of companions or of a profession. To act on all occasions so as not to make their parents ashamed of their conduct.
II. INSIST ON THE DUTY WHICH THIS COMMANDMENT ENJOINS ON CHILDREN. By so doing they will obtain the blessing of God, secure peace of conscience, etc. God requires it — the highest and most solemn of all considerations.
(D. Dobie.)I. THE COMMAND. Honour comprises filial love, reverence and esteem, obedience and submission, succour and help.
II. THE OBLIGATION. Natural, social, Divine.
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