We said in the last Lecture that the example of the Rechabites is brought forward, not for the purpose of commending their obedience, as though it were some great virtue, but only that the Prophet might reprove the Jews for rendering less honor to the living God, than the Rechabites did to their dead father. And, doubtless, this comparison must have exhibited the Jews as acting very disgracefully, for they could not be induced to render obedience, though they had before their eyes the Rechabites as an example. We have also said, that Jenadab did not forbid his posterity to drink wine, to sow fields, and to plant vineyards, in order to set up something new in God's worship; but that he did so, because he deemed it good for his posterity thus to sojourn in the land, so that they might not become attached to their possessions, and that amidst various changes they might be less anxious, and be prepared, as it were, to move elsewhere. We have hence shewn that the Papists ignorantly pervert this passage in order to support their tyrannical laws, in which they pretend to include the spiritual worship of God, and by which they also distress miserable souls; for there is no likeness nor affinity between the command of Jenadab and those laws which are introduced for the purpose of establishing the spiritual worship of God.
For it was not primarily the object of Jonadab's precept to demand from his posterity an abstinence from wine as a necessary thing, but it had a regard to what was quite different. Now, what is commanded for another end, as it is not necessary, so it is not opposed to the word of God; for their liberty of conscience is not taken away: nor was it Jonadab's design to claim for himself the right and authority of God, as though he were a spiritual lawgiver; but his precept only referred to what was civil or social. It hence appears how unlike was his command to the tyrannical laws by which liberty is destroyed under the Papacy. Were it allowable to speak jocosely, we might say, that it is a wonder that the Papists make so much of this example, which yet none of them follow; for though the monks have among them rigid and severe laws, as to eating and drinking, yet the most holy among them have never observed them; and there has not been a Carthusian or a Celestian, who submitted to the obligation of abstaining from wine. If then this virtue of the Rechabites pleases them so much, why do they not discontinue the use of wine? But this I have not said seriously.
With regard to the subject itself, the solution is certain and easy, -- that the Rechabites are not commended as though they had obeyed their father as God, but that they obediently received what their father had commanded them, because it was only a civil precept: he therefore had in view an ulterior object; and he did not require abstinence from wine and other things for its own sake. And Paul, even by one sentence, has settled this controversy; for when he exhorts children to obey their parents, he modifies his exhortation by saying,
|In the Lord.| (Ephesians 6:1)
We then see that Paul commands children to obey their parents, not in everything, or without limitation, but so that God, who is the Sovereign and the only Father of all, may still retain his authority, and that earthly parents may not claim for themselves so much authority as to ascend the throne of God, as though they were lawgivers to souls. Let us now proceed --