Volume 8, Issue 4: The Puritan Eye
Virtues of Honor
Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711)
The Virtues to Which Superiors Are Enjoined
The virtues of superiors toward subordinates are:
First, to maintain the station in which God has placed each person, to preserve respect in all dignity, and to adorn this station. "When I went out to the gate . . . the young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up" (Job 29:7-8).
Secondly, tender love must be manifested in all their governing, so that it will become manifest that all is executed in a good-natured and loving manner toward the subordinates.
Thirdly, there must be a good example toward others who are in a superior position in order to teach subordinates how they must conduct themselves toward their superiors, so that one may be able to say: "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).
Fourthly, there must be a concern for the well-being of one's subordinates in regard to soul and body, knowing that the superiors are there for the subordinates. The king is there for his subjects, the minister for the congregation, the school teacher for the children, and the master craftsman for the laborers. The subordinates also exist, however, for the benefit of the superiors, thereby upholding them in their station, which in turn is to the benefit of the subordinates. "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith" (1 Tim. 5:8); "children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children" (2 Cor. 12:14).
Fifthly, the subordinates must be instructed, exhorted, rebuked, and if necessary, be punished in order to mend their ways and preserve them. "Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4); "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Prov. 13:24).
Sixthly, the weaknesses of subordinates must be overlooked and patiently endured; the heart may not be withdrawn from them for this reason. "I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him" (Mal. 3:17).
The Virtues Enjoined of Subordinates
The virtues of subordinates to superiors are the following:
First, they must be honored. This includes:
(1) Having respect for superiors as having been placed over them by God. "Esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake" (1 Th. 5:13).
(2) Subjection to them as being subject to God. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God" (Rom. 13:1).
(3) The obligation of paying homage to them in words and gestures, doing so either by bowing, the uncovering of one's head, or in a different manner--all according to the custom of the land.
Secondly, they must be loved--not only as fellow men, but also relative to that relationship. Even if the person is not lovable and behaves himself unworthy of either love or esteem, he must nevertheless be loved in that relationship as having been placed over us. It is the ordinance of God to love them--it pleases God, and it is also very beneficial.
Thirdly, there must be faithfulness in maintaining the relationship to the superior in all that this relationship mandates.
(1) As much as possible, we as subordinates must preserve their belongings and give diligence that they be not wasted due to our carelessness.
(2) We must render every service which this relationship toward the superior requires. "Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity" (Titus 2:10).
(3) We must support our superiors according to our ability or as far as the relationship obligates us to do so. "But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents" (1 Tim. 5:4). David did this (1 Sam. 22:3), as well as the Lord Jesus (John 19:26).
(4) We must promote the honor of our superiors, and not tolerate their being despised.
Fourthly, we must obey them; that is, comply with their orders and diligently execute them. "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother" (Prov. 1:8); "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh" (Col. 3:22). This is not only true when their government is gentle and good-natured (as it ought to be), but also when they are froward and cruel. If superiors commit evil, they are accountable. The subordinate must, however, be obedient--not only because this is right and desirable, but also because the superior demands this, his injunction being regulative for the subordinate. "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward" (1 Pet. 2:18). There is only the following exception: If they command what is contrary to God's law, one may not obey them. Then the direction of Peter is in force: "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye" (Acts 4:19).
Fifthly, we must have patience with their weaknesses. They are people, and for the most part are without grace. They give offense, live ungodly lives, and do not behave themselves well toward subordinates. We must pity them for this and pray for them. The latter is particularly true of those who fear the Lord. "Despise not thy mother when she is old" (Prov. 23:22). To mock with them is the work of Ham (Gen. 9:22, 25).