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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


Of the Fifth Commandment.

Q. 63. Which is the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment is, [Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.]

Q. 64. What is required in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honour, and performing the duties belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.

Q. 65. What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of or doing any thing against the honour and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations.

Q. 66. What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is, a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment.


Q. 1. What relatives are directly and more especially concerned in this fifth commandment?
A. All superiors and inferiors are concerned in it; especially, (1.) Political fathers and their children; that is, kings and subjects; Mark 11:10. Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, &c. (2.) Spiritual fathers, and their children; that is, ministers, and their people; 1 Corinthians 4:15. For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers, for in Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the gospel. (3.) Natural parents, and their children; Ephesians 6:1. Children, obey your parents in the Lord. (4.) All civil superiors and inferiors, as husbands and wives, masters and servants; Ephesians 5:22. Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord. And Ephesians 6:5. Servants be obedient to them that are your masters, according to the flesh, &c.

Q. 2. What is the duty of political, fathers, or magistrates, to their political children, or subjects?
A. It is to rule and govern the people over whom God hath set them with wisdom; 2 Chronicles 1:10. Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people. Justice; 2 Chronicles 19:5-7. And he set judges in the land, throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city. And he said to the judges, take heed what ye do; for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment. Wherefore now, let the fear of the Lord be upon you, take heed, and do it, &c. And piety; 2 Samuel 23:3. He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. Carefully providing for their souls in every place of their dominion; 2 Chronicles 17:9. And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people. And for their common outward peace and safety; 2 Chronicles 17:12. And Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly, and he built in Judah castles and cities of store.

Q. 3. What are the duties of subjects to their rulers?
A. It is to pray for them; 1 Timothy 2:1-2. I exhort therefore, that first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in authority, &c. To honour them; 1 Peter 2:17. Fear God, honour the king. To obey their just laws; Romans 13:1. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, &c. And to pay them the tribute that is due to them; Romans 13:7. Render therefore to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, &c

Q. 4. What are the duties of ministers to their people?
A. Their duty is, (1.) To feed their flock constantly with wholesome food; 2 Timothy 4:2. Preach the word, be instant in season, and out of season; rebuke, reprove, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine. (2.) To be full of bowels of tender affection to them; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. (3.) To pray for them, Ephesians 1:15-16. Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. (4.) To watch over them; 1 Peter 5:2. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, &c. And, (5.) To walk as an example of godliness before them; Titus 2:7. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works, &c. All which duties require their residence among them; 1 Peter 5:2. Feed the flock of God which is among you, &c.

Q. 5. What are the people’s duties towards their ministers?
A. Their duty is, (1.) To esteem and love them dearly for their work’s sake; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. (2.) To attend on the word preached by them, as the word of God; 1 Thessalonians 2:13. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God. (3.) To pray for them, and the success of their labours; Hebrews 13:18. Pray for us, &c. (4.) Not to receive light and malicious reports against them; 1 Timothy 5:19. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. (5.) To make a competent and comfortable provision for them; Galatians 6:6. Let him that is taught in the word, communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

Q. 6. What are the duties of natural parents to their children?
A. It is their duty, (1.) To he tenderly, but not fondly affectionate to, and tender over them; Isaiah 49:15. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? (2.) To educate them for God; Ephesians 6:4. And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (8.) To restrain their sins by correction; Proverbs 29:15. The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. (4.) To provide for their livelihood; 1 Timothy 5:8. But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. (5.) To pray daily for them; Job 1:5. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morn, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts: Thus did Job continually. (6.) To encourage them with endearing language in the way of godliness; Proverbs 31:2-3. The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. What, my son? and what the son of my womb? and what the son of my vows? Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.

Q. 7. What are the duties of children to parents?
A. Their duty is, (1) To obey them only in the Lord; Ephesians 4:1. Children, obey your parents in the Lord. (2.) To reverence and honour them; Leviticus 19:3. Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father, &c. (3.) To submit to their reproofs and corrections; Hebrews 12:9. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence. (4.) To provide for them, if they be poor and needy, and we have ability; Genesis 47:12. And Joseph nourished his father and his brethren, and all his father’s household, with bread, according to their families.

Q. 8. What shall children do when parents abuse their authority, by forbidding duty, or commanding sin?
A. In such cases children are to obey God, rather than their parents; Acts 4:19. But Peter and John answered, and said unto them, whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you, more than unto God, judge ye. But yet to manage their refusals of obedience with all meekness and humility.

Q. 9. What is the first duty of husbands to their wives?
A. The first duty, on which all other duties depend, is cohabitation with them; 1 Peter 3:7. Likewise ye husbands, dwell with them, according to knowledge, &c. And nothing can make this duty void, but a lawful divorce for adultery; Matthew 5:31-32. But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery, &c.

Q. 10. What is the husband’s second duty to his wife?
A. True and hearty love to soul and body; Ephesians 5:25. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. Evidencing itself in careful provision for them; 1 Corinthians 7:33. But he that is married, careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife. But especially to their souls, in winning them to Christ; 1 Corinthians 7:16. Or, how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? And building them up in Christ; 1 Peter 3:7. Likewise ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered.

Q. 11. What are the duties of wives to their husbands?
A. It is their duty. (1.) to be in subjection to their own husbands; Ephesians 5:22-23. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord: For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. (2.) To reverence them; Ephesians 5:33. And the wife see that she reverence her husband. (3.) To express their reverence in suitable words and actions; 1 Peter 3:6. Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord, &c. (4.) To be faithful to them; Proverbs 31:12. She will do him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. (5.) To adorn their relation with meekness, and quietness of spirit; 1 Peter 3:4. But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

Q. 12. What are the duties of servants to their masters?
A. It is their duty, (1.) To be faithful in all things committed to their charge; Titus 2:10. Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity, &c. (2.) To honour them in all respectful words and carriages; 1 Timothy 6:1. Let as many servants as are under the yoke, count their own masters worthy of all honour, &c. (5.) To bear patiently their rebukes; 1 Peter 2:18-19. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thank-worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

Q. 13. What is the first duty of masters to their servants?
A. The first duty is to rule over them with gentleness, and not with terror and rigour; Ephesians 6:9. And ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: Knowing that your Master also is in heaven, neither is there respect of persons with him.

Q. 14. What is the second duty of masters to their servants?
A. To pay them their wages fully, and without delay; Deuteronomy 24:14-15. Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates. At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it, for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it; lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee, And to provide food for them convenient; Proverbs 27:27. And thou shalt have goat’s milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for maintenance for thy maidens.

Q. 15. What is the third duty of masters to their servants?
A. The third and principal duty is, to engage them as much as in them lies, to the ways of God, and duties of religion, as Abraham did; Genesis 18:19. For I know him, that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, &c. And Joshua, Joshua 24:15. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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