The Fourth Commandment
Call no man your father on the earth, for one is your Father, who is in heaven.
TCR 305. In the natural sense, which is that of the letter, “to honor thy father and thy mother” means to honor parents, to be obedient to them, to be devoted to them, and to return thanks to them for the benefits they confer.... They provide food and clothing for their children, and so introduce them into the world that they may act in it as civil and moral persons; and they introduce them also into heaven by means of the precepts of religion, thus providing both for their temporal prosperity and their eternal happiness. Parents do all this from a love which they have from the Lord, in whose place they act.
In a relative sense it means that if parents are dead, guardians should be honored by their wards. In a broader sense, to honor the king and magistrates is meant by this commandment, since these provide for all in general the necessities which parents provide in particular. In the broadest sense this commandment means that men should love their country, since it supports and protects them. Therefore it is called “the fatherland” from father. But honor to country, king, and magistrates must be rendered by parents, and by them be implanted in their children.
TCR 306. In the spiritual sense, “to honor father and mother” means to reverence and love God and the church. In this sense God, who is the father of all, is meant by “father” and the church by “mother.” In the heavens little children and the angels know no other father and no other mother, since they are there born anew of the Lord through the church. Therefore the Lord says: “Call no man your father on the earth; for one is your Father, who is in the heavens” (Matt. 23:9). This was said with reference to children and angels in heaven, and not of children and men on earth. The Lord teaches the same thing in the common prayer of the Christian churches, “Our Father, who art in the heavens, hallowed be Thy name.” In the spiritual sense, “mother” means the church, because as a mother on earth nourishes her children with natural food, so the church nourishes her children with spiritual food....
TCR 307. In the celestial sense, “father” means our Lord Jesus Christ, and “mother” is the communion of saints, which means the Lord’s church spread throughout the whole world.... That “mother” in this sense means the Lord’s church, is evident from the following passages:
I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband (Apoc. 21:2) ....
That “the New Jerusalem” means the New Church which the Lord is at this day establishing, may be seen in Apocalypse Revealed, nos. 880, 881. This church, and not the preceding, is the wife and the mother in this sense....
TCR 308. It must be kept in mind that a Divine-heavenly sphere of love continually goes forth from the Lord toward all who embrace the doctrine of His church, who are obedient to Him, as children are to their father and mother in the world, who devote themselves to Him, and who wish to be fed, that is, instructed by Him. From this heavenly sphere a natural sphere arises, which is one of love towards infants and children. This is a most universal sphere, affecting not only men, but also birds and beasts and even snakes; and not just animate things but also inanimate things. But so that the Lord might do His work on these even as on spiritual things, He created a sun to be in the natural world like a father, the earth being like a mother. For the sun is like a common father and the earth like a common mother, from the marriage of which all the vegetation that adorns the surface of the earth is produced. From the influx of that heavenly sphere into the natural world... it happens that many kinds of plants turn... their faces to the sun during the day, and turn them away when the sun sets. It is from this also that there are flowers that open at the rising of the sun and close at his setting. It is from this also that the songbirds sing sweetly at the early dawn, and likewise after they have been fed by their mother earth. Thus all these things honor their father and mother. They all bear testimony that in the natural world the Lord provides through the sun and the earth all necessities both for animate and inanimate things....
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection
- TCR 305 provides a short checklist for parental responsibilities. How are we doing as a society?
- Parents act in place of the Lord for their children; a child’s first idea of the Lord comes from looking up to his or her parents. What are some implications of this awesome responsibility?
- How do we implant in our children and set a good example of honor to our country, king (president) and magistrates, at times when we believe our country or leaders are pursuing unwise policies?
- How does the church nourish her children with spiritual food?
- What do you suppose is meant by “the communion of saints,” the Lord’s church spread throughout the world? How do we honor this spiritual mother? (See TCR 416.) Does this mean honoring all who acknowledge the Lord and keep His commandments, living in charity? What if they do not know the Lord but do worship one God?
- TCR 308 speaks of how the flowers and birds testify that the Lord provides for all necessities in the natural world, through the sun and the earth. It’s good to remember, when we see or hear such “testimony,” that the Lord is also providing all of our necessities.