Scudder: The Fifth Commandment

Scudder: The Fifth Commandment

From The Christian’s Daily Walk.  Headings are not the author’s.

Exodus 20:12

The sum of the second table of the law

The second table concerns duties of love and righteousness towards man, the performance whereof tends immediately to the good of man; but mediately [indirectly] to the proof of his being truly religious, and to the glory of God.

God made man not to be alone, nor to be only for himself; therefore, for the greater good of mankind, he has endued men with a variety of gifts and degrees of place, with some excelling others, both in family, church, and commonwealth.  Yet, as each [person] is excellent in his gift and place, [it follows] that even the meanest [is] made worthy of respect from the greatest, because of his usefulness for the common good. Even the least member of a natural [human] body is truly useful, and to be respected as well, [even] though not so much as the most honourable.

Now when each member in the body politic acknowledges the several gifts and mutual use of one another, according to their place, then there is a sweet harmony in the society of man, and there is a sure foundation laid of all [the] good offices of love between man and man.

The sum of the fifth commandment

Wherefore, in the first place, God, in the fifth commandment, provides that the order which he had set amongst men, should inviolably be observed.  The commandment requires all inferiors, under the name of “children”, to honour [all] their superiors; that is, to acknowledge that dignity and excellency which is in them, showing it in giving due respect unto their persons and names; implying that all superiors should walk worthy of honour, and that they should mutually shew good respect to their inferiors, seeking their good, as well as their own. Concerning this fifth commandment, think thus:

Duties to equals and all alike

  • Do I live in a lawful calling? [Is there something sinful in how I earn my living?]
  • Have I walked worthy [of] my general calling of Christianity, and discharged my particular calling, and employed the gifts which God gave me, for the good of the society [and] of man [generally], in family, church, or commonwealth?
  • Have I honoured all men, for that [since] they were made after the image of God [before the fall], and have yet some remains thereof [after the fall]; [who] are capable of having it renewed, if it be not renewed already; and because they are or may be useful for the common good of man; using them with all courteousness and kind respect (excepting when, and wherein, they have made themselves vile by open wickedness, and so that it will not stand with the glory of God, the good of others, or of themselves, or with the discharge of my place, to show them countenance)?
  • Have I showed my due respect to others in [while] praying to God, and, as there has been cause, in giving Him thanks for them?
  • Have I conceived the best [opinion] (that in charity I might) of others?
  • And by love, have I endeavoured, according to my place, to cure their grosser evils, and to cover their infirmities?
  • And have I, to [the limits of] my power, promoted my neighbour’s good name and reputation, and have I been contented, nay, desirous, that he should be esteemed as well, nay, better than myself?
  • And have I, both in his lifetime and after his death, given him the honour of common humanity, as in common civilities at least, and in comely burial, so far as any way it [i.e., those responsibilities] did belong to me, and in maintaining [in repairing] his injured reputation?

Duties as a superior

  • Have I, being superior to others in gifts of any kind (as learning, wit, wealth, strength, etc.) employed those gifts to the honour of God and the good of man?
  • As I am beyond others in years, am I superior to them in gravity, good counsel, and good example?
  • As I am above others in authority, do I acknowledge that it is not originally in me, but derived to me from God, and have I held it and used it for him?
  • Have I been keeping within the due limits [of my governance], with wisdom and moderation?
  • Have I been procuring the good of their bodies and souls, so far as lay in me?
  • Have I been commanding only things lawful and convenient; encouraging them in well-doing, by commendation and rewards?
  • Have I been preventing evil as much as I could, and restraining it in them by seasonable and due reproofs, according to the quality of the offence, and of the person, when fairer means would not prevail as I am an equal?
  • Have I esteemed others better than myself, and striven in honour to prefer them?

Duties as an inferior

  • As I am below others in gifts and age, have I, in word and gesture, showed them due reverence and thankfully made use of their good parts and experiences?
  • As I am under authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth, have I submitted myself to all my governors, reverencing their persons, obeying readily all [of] those their lawful commandments, which are within the compass of their authority to enjoin me?
  • Have I received their instructions, and borne patiently and fruitfully their reproofs and corrections? Or do I live without a lawful calling? or idly or unprofitably in it?
  • Have I buried or abused my talent and place, to the hurt rather than the good of myself and others?
  • Have I been high-minded, esteeming better of myself than there was cause, seeking after the vain applause of men?
  • Have I despised others? Yea, those who were good, yea, [even] my superiors? Have I shown this by my irreverent gestures, and by my speeches to them and of them?
  • Have I, some way or other, detracted from, and diminished the credit of others, or, at least, envied their due estimation?


  • As I am a superior, have I carried myself insolently, lightly, or dissolutely?
  • As I am under authority, have I carried myself stubbornly and undutifully?