WE have done with the three commandments that refer directly to God.

The second Table of the Law contains seven precepts that concern

themselves with our relations to God, indirectly, through the creature;

they treat of our duties and obligations toward the neighbor. As God

may be honored, so He may be dishonored, through the works of His hand;

one may offend as effectively by disregard for the law that binds us to

s creatures as for that which binds us to the Creator Himself.

Since parents are those of God's creatures that stand nearest to us,

the Fourth Commandment immediately orders us to honor them as the

authors of our being and the representatives of divine authority, and

it prescribes the homage we owe them in their capacity of parents. But

that which applies to fathers and mothers, applies in a certain degree

to all who have any right or authority to command; consequently, this

law also regulates the duties of superiors and inferiors in general to

one another.

The honor we owe to our parents consists in four things: respect for

their dignity, love for their beneficence, obedience to their authority

and assistance in their needs. Whoever fails in one of these

requirements, breaks the law, offends God and sins. His sin may be

mortal, if the quality of the offense and the malice of the offender be

such as to constitute I serious breach of the law.

'Tis the great fault of our age to underrate parental dignity. In the

easy-going world, preference is given to profligate celibacy over

honorable wedlock; marriage itself is degraded to the level of a purely

natural contract, its bond has lost its character of indissolubility

and its obligations are shirked to meet the demands of fashion and

convenience. When parents, unworthy ones, do not appreciate their own

dignity, how will others, their children, appreciate it? And parenthood

will never be esteemed while its true nature and sanctity are ignored

and contemned; there is no dignity where the idea of God is excluded.

After God had created man, He left him to work out his destiny in a

natural way; and immediately man assumed towards his offspring the

relation that God first held towards himself--he assumed the

prerogatives of paternity and of authority. All paternity belongs to

God, and to Him alone; yet man is delegated to that lofty, quasi-divine

function. God alone can create; yet so near does the parental office

approach to the power of creation that we call it pro-creation.

Tis true, this privilege man holds in common with the rest of animated

nature, but with this difference: that the fruit of his loins is a

child of God, with an immortal soul, an heir to heaven where its

destiny is to glorify the Eternal during all eternity. And thus, man,

in his function of parent, is as far differentiated from the rest of

animal nature as the act by which God created man is superior to all

His other creative acts.

If the tempter, when working out his plan for the fall of our first

parents, had simply and unconditionally said: "Ye shall be as gods,"

his utterance would have in it more truth than he intended, for the

mantle of parenthood that was soon to fall upon them made them like

unto God. The children that romped around them, looked up to them even,

almost, as they were accustomed to look up to the Creator. And little

the wonder, since to their parents they owed their very existence.

As depositaries of authority, there is no human station, however

exalted, comparable to theirs. Children are not merely subjects, they

belong to their parents. Church and State, under God, may see to it

that that authority is not abused; but within the bounds of right, they

are held to respect it; and their acts that go contrary to the exercise

of parental authority are, by the fact of such opposition, null and

void. Before the State or Church, the family was; its natural rights

transcend theirs, and this bowing, as it were, of all constituted human

authority before the dominion of parents is evidence enough of their


"God could not be everywhere, therefore he made parents--fathers and

mothers"--that is how the pagans used to put it. However theologically

unsound this proposition may appear, it is a beautiful attempt at a

great truth, viz., that parents towards us stand in God's stead. In

consequence of this eminent dignity that is theirs, they deserve our

respect. They not only deserve it, but God so ordains it.