AUTHORITY means the right to command; to command is to exact obedience,

and obedience is submission of one's will to that of another, will is a

faculty that adores its own independence, is ambitious of rule and

dominion, and can hardly bear to serve. It is made free, and may not

bend; it is proud, and hates to bend; some will add, it is the dominant

faculty in man, and therefore should not bend.

Every man
for himself; we are born free; all men are equal, and no one

has the right to impose his will upon another; we are directly

responsible to God, and "go-betweens" are repudiated by the common

sense of mankind,--this is good Protestant theory and it is most

convenient and acceptable to the unregenerate heart of man. We

naturally like that kind of talk; it appeals to us instinctively. It is

a theory that possesses many merits besides that of being true in a

sense in which only one takes it out of fifty who advocate it.

But these advocates are careful--and the reason of their solicitude is

anything but clear--to keep within the religious lines, and they never

dare to carry their theory into the domain of political society; their

hard common sense forbids. And they are likewise careful to prevent

their children from practicing the doctrine within the realm of

paternal authority, that is, if they have any children. Society calls

it anarchy, and parents call it "unnatural cussedness;" in religion it

is "freedom of the children of God!"

If there is authority, there must be obedience; if one has the right to

command, there arises in others the correlative duty and obligation to

submit. There is no question of how this will suit us; it simply does

not, and will not, suit us; it is hard, painful and humiliating, but it

is a fact, and that is sufficient.

Likewise, it is a fact that if authority was ever given by God to man,

it was given to the parent; all men, Protestants and anarchists alike,

admit this. The social being and the religious being may reject and

repudiate all law, but the child is subject to its parents, it must

obey. Failing in this, it sins.

Disobedience is always a sin, if it is disobedience, that is, a refusal

to submit in things that are just, to the express command of paternal

authority. The sin may be slight or grievous, the quality of its malice

depending on the character of the refusal, of the things commanded and

of the command itself. In order that the offense may be mortal, the

refusal must be deliberate, containing an element of contempt, as all

malicious disobedience does. The command must be express, peremptory,

absolute. And nothing must be commanded done that may not reasonably be

accomplished or is not within the sphere of parental jurisdiction or is

contrary to the law of God.

An order that is unreasonable or unlawful is invalid. Not only it may,

but it should be, disregarded. It is not sufficient for a parent,

wishing to oblige under pain of grievous sin, that he ask a thing done,

that he express his mind on the matter; he must order it and leave no

room to doubt that he means what he says. There may be disobedience

without this peremptoriness of command, but it cannot be a serious

fault. It is well also to make certain allowance for the levity and

thoughtlessness of youth, especially in matters whose importance is

beyond their comprehension.

It is generally admitted that parental authority, exercised in things

that concern good morals and the salvation of the soul, can scarcely

ever be ignored without mortal offending. This means that besides the

sin committed--if the prohibition touches matters of sin--there is a

sin specifically different and a grievous one, of disobedience; by

reason of the parental prohibition, there are two sins, instead of one.

This should be remembered by those who, against the express command of

their parents, frequent bad companions, remain on the street at night,

neglect their religious duty, etc.

Parents have nothing to say in the choice their children make of a

state in life, that is, they may suggest, but must not coerce. This is

a matter that depends on personal tastes and the inner voicings of the

spirit; having come to the age of manhood or womanhood, the party

interested knows best what walk of life will make him or her happy and

salvation easier. It is therefore for them to choose, and their choice

must be respected. In this they are not bound to obey the will of their

parents, and if disinclined to do so, should not.