That Large Charter

I am not promoting or endorsing Ezekiel Hopkins as a true Christian when I quote from his commentary on the Decalogue.

“See that large charter, which God hath given unto parents: Col. iii. 20: ‘Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.’

Our obedience to them may be considered either as active or passive; and we are obliged by God’s command to yield them both: active obedience, in whatsoever is not contrary to the will and law of God; passive, in whatsoever they impose upon us that is so” (Ezekiel Hopkins; underlining mine).

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the phrase “active and passive obedience” applied to the obedience of children to their parents.  Hopkins says children are to “passively” obey their parents in impositions that are “contrary to the will and law of God.” Would not “passive” obedience to the parents’ contrary-to-the-law imposition, be a sin? Is Hopkins saying that children are to “passively” sin against God’s law? Does the command to honor your father and mother include “passively” disobeying God’s commands in other areas?

Hopkins continues:

“And therefore we are to obey our parents in whatsoever honest calling and employment they will set us. David, though destined to a kingdom, is yet by his father Jesse appointed to keep the sheep: 1 Sam. xvi. 11.

We ought not till at last we are emancipated and set free by their consent to enter into wedlock without their knowledge or against their consent: for we find the holy fathers have still taken the care of the disposal of their children in this affair; and the Apostle (1 Cor. vii. 36, 37) declares that it is in the parents’ power either to marry their children or to keep them in a single estate: but yet no question so as that children have still a negative vote, and ought not to be forced against their own will and consent” (Ezekiel Hopkins).

Of primary importance is what God says in His Word about disciplining and admonishing children in the Lord.  The history and theology of child-rearing among those who professed adherence to the Bible is instructive, certainly.  The history may also provide our adversaries an opportunity to fling an equal weight and measure of mud at ALL who claim to take Biblical child-rearing seriously.


“Yea, so far doth the authority of a parent extend, that it reacheth also to the very garb and apparel of their children; who ought to conform themselves therein according to their allowance and direction: Gen. xxxvii.3.

But if parents shall abuse their authority by commanding what is sinful, and what God hath contravened by his law and command; yet children are not hereby disobliged from obedience: but only directed to choose the passive part of it; and to bear their wrath and choler, yea, and their punishments too, with all patience and submission” (Ezekiel Hopkins; underlining mine).

There it is again — the “passive obedience” to what “God hath contravened by his law and command.”  Except that Hopkins words it a bit differently this time. Hopkins directs the child “to choose the passive part of [the command which is sinful.]”  What could choosing to obey the “passive part” of a sinful command possibly mean?

Hopkins, again:

“For as the Apostle speaks (Heb. xii. 10) they oftentimes chasten us after their own pleasure; and yet we are to give them reverence. We ought to bear with their infirmities whether they be natural or vicious; and endeavour to hide and cover them from others: and therefore we read what a curse was laid upon Ham for disclosing the nakedness of his father (Gen. ix. 25); and indeed it is a cursed thing to expose the nakedness and weakness of our parents to the scorn and derision of others” (Ezekiel Hopkins).

Hebrews 12:9-11:

“Furthermore, indeed we have had fathers of our flesh [as] correctors and we respected [them]. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and we shall live? For they truly disciplined [us] for a few days according to the thing seeming good to them; but He for [our] profit, [in order for us] to partake of His holiness. And all discipline for the present indeed does not seem to be joyous, but grievous; but afterward it gives back peaceable fruit of righteousness to the ones having been exercised by it” (Hebrews 12:9-11; underlining mine).

There are some who do not respect the fathers of their flesh at all, but rather who regurgitate and spew the poison of antilogia (cf. Hebrews 12:3) into his face.

Please note how the Biblical author juxtaposes the imperfect discipline of the earthly father (“seeming good to them”) with the perfect discipline of the Father of spiritual children (“but He for our profit…to partake of His holiness”).