The parent is the divinely constituted HEAD AND LORD of his family. The authority which he possesses is not usurped, but is delegated to him by the source of all authority. It belongs to the station which he occupies, and to which he has been called by the providence of God. He is invested with certain legislative and executive prerogatives. He has committed to his supervision a most interesting and important charge; and to God, the Judge of all, he must one day render an account of his stewardship. Nor is he left without ample instruction as to his duties, and the manner in which he should discharge them. The Scriptures are a safe and sufficient guide in this matter. The inspired volume should be the man of his counsel. It abounds with precept and example, bearing directly on the subject of parental duty and responsibility.
These duties and responsibilities are weighty and solemn. An adequate conception of their magnitude, might make even an angel tremble to assume them. Parents, remotely and instrumentally, control the nations of the earth, by forming and directing public sentiment and feeling. They wield the sceptre of authority, though visibly held by the hands of a few. They enact and execute the laws, by training the minds and habits of those who become lawgivers and judges. And they, humanly speaking, decide the character and destiny of their respective generations, both for this world and the next. How stupendous the power, how awful the responsibilities of parents!
The parent is a sovereign in his family. His word is law to his household. The apostle Paul enjoins, ‘children, obey your parents in the Lord.’ Eph. 6:1. The decalogue enjoins, ‘Honour thy father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise. Servants are exhorted to be obedient to their masters according to the flesh. Eph. 6:5. God said of Abraham, ‘I know him, that he will COMMAND his children and his household after him.’ Gen. 18:19. Here is the existence of rightful authority, and a command to render it due obedience. No human authority can interfere with, nor contravene that of a parent over his family. The civil arm reaches beyond its legitimate sphere, when it presumes to obtrude its power into the domestic circle. Even the most absolute monarch is compelled to respect the family authority: for ‘no king can be secure on his throne, where no subject is safe in his house.’
But although there can be no appeal to human authority, from the due administration of parental government, yet the head of a family is not the ultimate lord, with underived authority. His power is delegated to him by the Founder of the domestic society. And should he presume to contravene the primary obligations of religious duty, which are imposed on his children and servants by their Creator, he would usurp an authority with which he has never been invested. This would be treason against the Most High, and rebellion against the Supreme Head of all families. While children are commanded to ‘obey their parents,’ it is nevertheless added, ‘in the Lord.’ Eph. 6:1.
This delegation and restriction of power, should ever be remembered by parents, and never be forgotten by their children. While the parent, therefore, acts within his prescribed sphere, obedience to his commands, is obedience to God. This circumstance imparts to parental authority a moral influence, which no usurped power can ever exert over the minds of children and servants. A child should be made distinctly to understand the source whence his parents derive their authority to command, direct, and control him. This knowledge will beget in his mind a reverence for that authority, which will most commonly secure a willing and habitual obedience. It brings to his mind the influence of higher motives, than can possibly be derived from mere human authority, or natural connexion. He looks upon obedience as a religious duty, and not as a forced submission to the caprice and tyranny of parents. And he regards his obligation to obey, not as imposed by human authority, or by the mere relation which he sustains to his parents, but as flowing from the express command of God.