The privileges, duties, and obligations which devolve upon both children and parents according to the Fourth Commandment must be the subject of constant instruction and admonition, lest the will of God, as expressed by the apostle in various passages of his letters, be disregarded. It must always be kept in mind that all parents are the representatives of God with reference to their children, and that children are precious gifts of God entrusted to the parents. If these facts are kept in mind at all times, the question of obedience and respect toward the parents will regulate itself.

In early childhood, while the children are still dependent upon the parents for care, nurture, instruction, and training, nature itself, not to speak of the Fourth Commandment, teaches that absolute obedience on the part of the children, within the limitations of Acts 5, 29; Eph. 6, 4; Col. 3, 21, must be required. A command given by either parent during the period of early childhood must be given immediate and unquestioning attention on the part of the children. If either the father or the mother permit disobedience, unwillingness, stubbornness, and other sinful manifestations to gain the ascendancy at this time, fondly and fatuously hoping, meanwhile, that the children will change for the better when they have reached the age of reason and discretion, such a parent is undermining his own position and paving the way for misery and heartaches in the future. The words of the Lord, Eph. 6, 1-3; Col. 3, 20, and elsewhere, are too plain and emphatic to be disregarded with impunity.

But where such continuous training in obedience has been the rule in childhood, where the children have learned to be subject to their parents “in the Lord,” where the spirit of love, wrought by the Lord of love, lives in their hearts, there Christian parents will be able to use proper wisdom in building upon this foundation during the youth of their sons and daughters. It is at this time that the young people are being trained for their calling, for their life-work; it is at this time that the mental faculties and abilities will be developed. Wise parents, during this period, although still insisting upon unquestioning obedience, will consider it a matter of the proper training for their children to discuss matters pertaining to their interests with their growing boys and girls, to permit them, with all respect, to submit arguments for and against a certain matter. The age of adolescence is the critical age in the life of the children, both as to their mental and physical development, and an unreasonable absoluteness in demands, in the tyrannical enforcement of petty matters, may estrange the hearts of the children forever.

A still different stage is reached when the children are no longer dependent upon the parents, when they have taken a position, entered upon the calling for which the education and training of the parents, under God’s guidance, has fitted them. It is then that the children, so far as affairs of this world are concerned, are independent of the parents. The parents have dismissed them from their immediate authority, and no longer have a right to interfere with the children’s work or profession. The state has then been reached which is referred to in Heb. 12, 9. 10, where the inspired writer evidently speaks of the past. Adult children should and must stand on their own feet, act on their own responsibility.

At the same time, however, the Fourth Commandment remains in force for even adult children. They are, indeed, not bound to their parents in absolute obedience, excepting inasmuch as they are obliged to observe the rules of the household, if they are still living at home. But they are still under the command to give all honor to their parents as the representatives of God and thus in a position of honor and respect. There is no limit to the words: “That it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long on the earth,” Eph. 6, 3, and to the command: “Hearken unto thy father that begot thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old,” Prov. 23, 22. Wise children will therefore also take great care to seek the counsel and advice of the parents in all matters of importance. Whether the parents have had the same educational advantages as the children or not, it remains that their wider experience enables them to offset the stormy effervescence of youth with the calmness of mature counsel. This may include yielding to the impetuosity of the children in matters indifferent and permitting them to gain experience by making mistakes. If this relation is observed between parents and children, there is no reason why they should not grow together more closely as the years go by, and thus the word be fulfilled in their case: “Children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children are their fathers,” Prov. 17, 6. Then it will be self-evident also that children make every effort to requite their parents, for that is well-pleasing to God, 1 Tim. 5, 4.

But there is one more point which demands separate treatment in our days. According to Holy Writ, the giving of children in marriage is clearly the prerogative of the parents. If young people, therefore, enter upon a betrothal, give their promise of marriage to each other, without the explicit or implicit consent of their parents, they are transgressing the Fourth Commandment. On the other hand, the authority of the parents with regard to the marriage of their children is not absolute. They neither have the right to force their child into a marriage against his or her will, nor have they the right to withhold their consent to a marriage without sufficient and valid reasons. If the objection of parents, in the final analysis, is equivalent to a total prohibition of marriage, it violates the word of Scripture, 1 Cor. 7, 2. Where there is a feeling of love, honor, and respect, on the one hand, and of love, kindness, and consideration on the other, the problems connected with this important step should be solved without too much difficulty. Under the rule of the Spirit of Christ and the law of love, Christians will find a satisfactory solution of every problem that presents itself. 8)