THE DUTIES OF YOUTH. BY THE RIGHT REV. HARVEY GOODWIN, D. D., BISHOP OF CARLISLE.
Preached before the University of Oxford.
Exodus xx. 12. " Honor thy father and thy mother."
The eighty-second Canon of 1603 ordains that the ten commandments be set up on the east end of every church and chapel, where the people may best see and read the same. It is a wise, well-intentioned Canon, probably adapted to the wants of the period in which it was enacted. In our own days of cheap Bibles and cheap prayer-books, possessed, and, it may be hoped, read by all sorts and conditions of men, the Canon has somewhat fallen into desuetude, as was perhaps likely to happen.
But there is a rule in the Book of Common Prayer which has not fallen into desuetude, and which gives in the English Church and her teaching a peculiar emphasis to the ten commandments. In the Communion office these commandments are rehearsed by the priest and people kneeling ; they are rehearsed one by one, and after each the people are taught *to pray that God would "have mercy upon them and incline their hearts to keep the law " which their ears have heard. A very edifying method of listening to laws, specially to laws to which can be rightly applied the introductory language of the Priest, "God spake these words and said."
It would be in accordance with the critical spirit of our times to exam-
ine the laws of Moses, with reference to the claim which they may have to be regarded as a complete code of morals. Certainly, if taken in the letter they cannot be so regarded; we have the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself for giving to each literal precept a broad spiritual expansion. Murder is to include hatred without cause, adultery the lustful look, and so forth: the commands written shortly on stone are to be written in full on the fleshly tablets of the heart; and yet even so I do not
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know that the ten laws of Moses can be regarded as exhaustive or as comprehending the whole department of morals. The criticism, which has been made, may be a true one, that while they deal with our duty towards our neighbor they omit the consideration of our duty towards ourselves. Be it so. I do not know that Moses himself would have regarded the code as complete; though it may possibly be argued that the foundation principle of all morals is to be found in the ten commands, and that he who would devise a complete scheme cannot do better than take his stand upon them. Without arguing this point, however, let me ask you to consider for one moment what a grand piece of legislation, for its own special purpose, the code of Moses was. It was a code, not devised for a people like ourselves, in the extremest condition of civilization, and in all the contrast of luxury and misery which civilization, as we call it, brings in its train; but it was a code delivered to a horde of emancipated slaves,
living the simplest and rudest of lives in tents. And the two tables of stone were the first lesson-book of this ignorant people. The law which Moses gave was to be the charter of the liberties, the written constitution, of the newly-formed nation; the whole future of a people which was to leaven the world, was to be developed out of those ten commandments. And regarded thus we may say that they asserted such principles as these — (1) the unity, the omnipotence, the spiritual being of God; (2) the principles of the family, as involved in those words which I have taken for a text; (3) the rights of man, as hedged round by the commands which forbid murder, and theft, and adultery, and false witness; (4) the government of the will, the control of the passions, the command of self, as implied by the comprehensive precept not even to desire that which is not our own.
Now, I think that any one who will duly consider the matter will come to the conclusion that the principles which I have enunciated, and which undeniably lie at the root of the ten commandments, were just the principles which were necessary in the regeneration of the tribes whom Moses led out of Egypt ; and it is for many reasons desirable so to regard them. The fitness of the commandments for their immediate purpose may explain some of their peculiarities, and may also help us to appreciate the wisdom which dictated them ; but the teaching of Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church alike attest to us that we should take a deeper and more comprehensive view. Christ came not to
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destroy but to fulfil. God spake by Moses ; He spake more clearly and more fully by Jesus Christ. The ten commandments are not repeated, their principles are immutable and eternal ; the Church of England acts wisely in not permitting them to be thrust into a corner, or to be lost in dust and forgetfulness ; but in pressing them week by week in the most solemn manner upon the hearts and consciences of her children. He is the wisest worshipper who most earnestly takes up the prayer, ' ' Lord, have mercy upon us, and write all these Thy laws in our hearts, we beseech Thee."
Yet I think it is obvious that there is much in the present condition of things, in the intellectual and moral tendencies of our own and other countries, which seems to throw doubt upon the wisdom of the Church, and to represent these who ask, on their knees, for grace to keep God's commandments as persons out of date — survivals, not of fitness, but of weakness and superstition. The basis of the ten commandments is ' ' God spake these words and said." If there be no God, as some seem to say, or if He be unknowable, as others tell us, or if God be merely a synonym for nature, then it is difficult to see how there can be any such thing as a commandment which it is binding upon the conscience to obey; and certainly the speculations concerning the being of God, of which the air is, and has for a long time been full, appear to me to have the practical tendency of weakening the sacred character of law, which it is the duty of
men, as men, to obey. Agnosticism, Positivism, Materialism, Atheism, can scarcely be restrained within the bonds of pure philosophy. The original speculator may possibly be able to do this ; he may destroy a creed to his own satisfaction, with as little emotion as he would point out the error of some new mathematical investigation ; but this sublime placidity cannot be perpetuated amongst those who adopt his views. To them the destruction of a creed maybe the extinction of spiritual life and hope, and the assurance that there is no such God as He who spake by Moses, and who spake again by Jesus Christ, will probably lead to the obliteration of the second table of commandments as well as of the first. The love of our brother may vanish with the love of God ; indeed, it may be a more tempting thing to say, ' ' There is no such person as my neighbor, " than to say, " There is no God " ; for the love of God may easily be frittered away, so as to mean little or nothing, while the love of our neighbor entails very practical duties which it is more difficult to forget. And certainly, it has
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come about that the willness and looseness of speculation and the audacity of assertion concerning God, which have characterized recent years, have been coincident with, if they have not begotten, loose and audacious views and assertions concerning human rights and duties. That property is robbery has, as we all know, been asserted in plain terms, which abolishes one of the commandments ; and some current speculations which do not
go the whole length of abolition approximate to it. There is not a little in the revelations of the Divorce Court to show that another commandment is not regarded as it should be ; and, altogether, the keeping of commandments as commandments, the theory of human life according to which man is placed in a world of temptation to try and prove him, and to see whether he will keep God's commandments or no — this theory of human life, which is assured by that assumed in Scriptures, that which is affirmed and illuminated by the minister of Jesus Christ, that which accords with the highest conception of man's origin and destiny, is less esteemed than it ought to be, less current, I fear, than once it was.
Let me, however, contract my remarks concerning the ten commandments to those limits which seem to be imposed by the few words which I have taken for a text. I have been led to make some general observations concerning laws, and especially concerning the laws which Moses gave to Israel in the wilderness; but, in reality, my intention has been to speak chiefly and specially concerning that one remarkable law which we know as the fifth commandment.
When I had to consider upon what subject I should speak in this University pulpit to-day, it was somehow borne in upon me — I know not how — that I should say something concerning the honor due, according to the law of God, from children to their parents. Any one who has preached before a University, as I have from time to time during about forty years, must, I think, feel with ever deepening conviction that of the remarkable and exceptionable congregation which assembles in a Univer-
sity church, it is the young men — the under graduates — who have the chief claim upon his thoughts and his care. Especially in this Term — which, I suppose, is still in Oxford, as it still is in Cambridge, emphatically the Freshman's Term — there is a mass of impressible material brought for the first time under university and college influences, which any man might regard it as the height of his ambition to influence, or, rather, to help to bring under the influence of the spirit of God; and,
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thank God! I have known of cases in which words that a Freshman has heard from the University pulpit have affected his whole subsequent life. I scarcely dare hope that any such results should fall from words spoken here to-day — the result is so great, so unspeakable. Yet I think it can scarcely be without profit to some of you that you should be able to say in future days that one of the first lessons which you heard from the pulpit of St. Mary's, Oxford, was that you should honor your fathers and your mothers. I wish I could impress upon you anything like my own sense of the depth and importance and far-stretching comprehensiveness of this simple old-fashioned precept. I have spoken of it incidentally as involving the principle of family, and as containing, therefore, just one of those elements of elevation and improvement which were necessary in order to transform a horde of emancipated slaves into a noble nation of freemen; but the family principle is wider and deeper than this. It is God's own
principle; it is just that which makes men to be men and not beasts. It is one of the direct charters of God-given humanity; it is so strong and sacred that neither time nor space can destroy it. It ought to show its strength and its vitality by exhibiting itself as an active governing power when a young man is away from his father and mother in his college rooms, and when he can forget them, or can be ashamed of them, if he pleases so to do.
Will you bear with me while I mention a few ways in which, as it seems to me, a young man at Oxford may honor his father and his mother ?
A man honors his father when he devotes himself honestly to the studies of the place. The same studies do not suit all, and all men have not the same abilities; but I presume that no one is sent here except under the persuasion that there is some amount of good, improvable material in him. Now, every young man is bound to do his best in the way of selfimprovement. He is bound to do this even on selfish principles. He will be very sorry ten years hence if he has not done so; but I should like to place effort at self-improvement upon the high and happy and holy ground of honor due to parents, a requiting of love by loving industry, a feeling that this will please those who, on their part, have done and loved so much. To loaf about in smoking and in idleness is a breach of the fifth commandment, as well as being bad in itself.
Then, again, a man honors his father by habits of care and frugality. Sometimes, to my knowledge, there are cases of men living in easy luxury
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at Oxford or Cambridge while their parents are stinting themselves at home in order that their son may have a University career. This is shameful; in fact, it is dishonest. It may also be said to offend against the eighth commandment as well as against the fifth. But, putting such cases as these out of view, a young man, whatever his circumstances may be, is put upon his trial here in the expenditure of money, as well as in other things. Nothing is easier in a university town than to spend more than you have ; or, if there be any difficulty, those mischievous moneylenders who ply their cruel trade with such constancy and activity will soon get rid of it. Ay, and there are men who through their whole subsequent lives suffer the smart of youthful university extravagance. But I am not now looking forward to the future ; it is the present with which I am concerned — a present which is watched from a distance by father and mother, watched with that intense earnestness and anxiety and love which fathers' and mother' hearts make possible ; and I say concerning this, that carelessness about money is cruelty to parents.
Once more, the young man's supreme duty of keeping his body in soberness, temperance, and chastity may be rightly regarded in the light of honor paid to father and mother. The keenest wound which can be inflicted on a father's heart comes from this side. A son honors his
parents when he keeps himself pure, when he strives against temptation, when he prays for help against sensual sin. But especially I would ask you to regard the duty and the blessedness of purity in the light of honor done to a mother. He most truly and completely honors his mother who honors womanhood ; he honors womanhood who shrinks from profaning a sister by an impure look, or word, or deed; he honors his mother who avoids like poison anything which, if known to her, might bring a blush to her cheek or cause a pang to her heart.
Viewed in this way, I think that the words, "Honor thy father and thy mother," are about as good a motto as any young man could hang up in his rooms or (if he would not like to make them so conspicuous) as he could carry about in his breast. And one chief point in the argument is this, that the father and mother are, by hypothesis, absent. It is not the behavior in the presence of parents, not the conduct at home in the midst of the family, which is in question; but the sacred influence of those who are far away and only present in thought and in prayer. Which consideration leads me to remind you that a young man at college has those who,
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as his present guardians, are said to be in loco parentis, and who, as much perhaps, may claim a share in the results of the fifth commandment. The Church Catechism, as you will remember, with what may perhaps be
thought a boldness of interpretation, teaches the catechumen to say that in the ten commandments he learns amongst other things " to order himself lowly and reverently towards all his betters "; and I conceive that a reference must here be intended to the precept which bids us to honor our parents. Some little time ago there was a controversy in one of our Northern newspapers concerning these words of the Catechism. It was contended with some warmth, that one person was not better than another, and that any reference to "betters "was contrary to the great and sacred principle of human equality. This view was in its turn opposed; but it was forgotten on both, sides that the Catechism is a manual of instruction for persons of twelve, thirteen or fourteen years of age; and it certainly seems not hard to admit, without trenching upon the delicate question of human equality, that persons of such an age may speak without loss of self-respect of "betters," to whom it is right that they should "order themselves lowly and reverently." May I stretch the limit of age so far as to make it include young men at college? And may I suggest that it is a wise and justifiable extension of the fifth commandment if we make it include tutors, heads of colleges, and all others in authority ? These are in the parents' place; they ought as such to have something of a parent's honor. I saw in The Times, a few days ago, the death of my old college tutor. Fifty years had not wiped out the remembrance of his fatherly kindness to me. If ever one man loved and honored another I loved and honored him. The fact is, that honor to parents is only the principal and most important application of a general principle, which is abundantly recognized by all teachers in the school of Jesus Christ. An Apostle says, in the broadest manner possible, "Honor all men"; and again, "In lowliness of
mind, let each esteem other better than himself. " There is no crouching and cringing and tuft-hunting in such precepts as these, or the conduct which they enjoin. It is only the manly expression of a mind which knows its own poverty and infirmity better than any one else can know it. I spoke of the language of the Catechism as adapted to the young; but the language of the Apostle admits of no such limitation, and, indeed anyone who has looked into his own heart Will have found there more evil than he dare believe of his brother, and so each may honestly think his brother
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to be better than himself. Therefore, I should be disposed to press upon you humility, and the disposition to regard others as your betters, as worthy of men, still more of young men, chiefly of those who are soldiers of Christ, and have been signed with the sign of His Cross. Indeed, a university is the last place in which men should be ashamed to think others better than themselves. In a university, men find their level. Whether it be in the schools or in the boats, competition is the order of the day. Stern fact proves day by day, that all men are not equal; that one is much stronger, much cleverer, much more cultivated than another; and the open and manly competition of university studies and university sports, teaches us without grudging, and without any mean, selfish spirit of envy or jealousy, to give honor to those who we feel and know are better than ourselves.
He who accepts the teaching of the New Testament, who recognizes the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, and who, therefore, desires to follow the example of Him who condescended to exhibit a human life of filial love, will have no difficulty in acknowledging the supreme character of the command to honor father and mother. May I suggest to you that the Divine authority of the command seems to find its demonstration in this, that the honor due to parents is a distinctly human conception ? There is nothing like it, so far as I know, among the beasts. Parental affection has its type in the instinct which attaches a mother to her young; but I know of nothing in the lower creation which in the least resembles the honor paid by a child to a parent. Nor can you put the duty upon anything like the basis of a mathematical demonstration. It seems incapable of proof that the mere imparting of life constitutes a claim to honor and respect; and doubtless there are cases in which the transmitted curse of an evil life seems to wipe out all claim to honor and love. There are cases in which (according to the proverb used by the children of Israel to Ezekiel) "the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." But the human heart feels the necessity of returning love for love, and the love of the child developes easily with the honor and respect of more advanced years; and when love and duty are formulated by a definite law, whether by Moses in the Old Testament, or by Christ and His Apostles in the New, the human judgment yields assent with- all the strength of positive conviction.
Conversely, and lastly, from the conception of love due to father and
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mother we rise (as it seems to me) to the conception of the love due to God. The command not to make any image to represent God, not to bow down to such image and worship it, not to swear falsely by God's name, contains a more or less perfect summary of duty ; but it seems to me to fall far short of the impressive injunctions to love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength. Yet this is the first and great commandment. How shall we reach it ? By what heavenly process shall we melt the cold, hard law which forbids idolatry, into the sweet, gentle principle of heart-worship and love ? I believe that in this respect the first commandment is much indebted to the second, which is like unto it: " Honor thy father." We know what that means, and, from the conception of human fatherhood,
Men may rise on stepping-stones Of their dead selves to higher things.
And so, when God condescends to call Himself our Father, the clouds which conceal Him from our sight seem to break and vanish, and we feel that we can love and honor Him, not merely acknowledge Him, and refuse to accept others besides Him; not merely fear Him, as one too powerful to be safely set at naught ; not merely philosophize about Him,
and try to express His Infinite Being in some scientific formula of human words. No ; but love Him as a father ought to be loved — with all our hearts, and souls, and strength ; trust Him as a father who knows our wants and infirmities, and is willing to supply and strengthen them ; open our hearts to Him in prayer, saying, 'Our Father, who art in heaven"; above all, recognize Him as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in Him, and through His mediation, has adopted us in the highest condition of sonship, and made us heirs with Him of eternal life. "Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Where is that land? It is not here; it is the land which is very far off. But we shall one day see it ; we shall one day possess it; and then, in the presence of God, and in the fulness of the sonship with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we may hope to know completely what the honor due to a father means.
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