The Fifth Commandment

The Fifth Commandment

Sam knew all the Ten Commandments. He could recite them without missing a word. But there was one commandment he tried very hard to forget. That was the Fifth Commandment, which says, "Honor your father and your mother."

Sam's father was poor. His father was a book peddler. And Sam was ashamed of his father's poverty and of his life as a book peddler.

Now Sam lived in England about two hundred years ago. On market days Sam's father would pack his books into a wheelbarrow and wheel them along the road. The wheel went squeak, squeak, squeak until the father came to the public square of the town of Lichfield. Here, as the crowds of people passed by, he would stand and shout, "Read a good book. Buy a fine book. Take home a book to read. Please buy a book today."

One day Sam's father fell sick. He could not move off the bed. He called his son, Sam, to him and said, "Sam, my lad, I'm too sick to go about peddling my books today. Will you please push my wheelbarrow and books and stand with them in the public square? Stand there in your father's place, will you, my son, and ask people to buy a book?"

"I don't want to," pouted Sam.

"But we need the money, my boy, to buy bread and meat to eat and wood to keep us warm," said the father.

"I don't care what happens," said Sam angrily. "I won't do it," and he went out and slammed the door with a hateful bang. He was ashamed to let any of his schoolmates know that his father was a poor peddler.

Very soon after that Sam's father died.

The years went by and Sam grew to be a brilliant and famous man. He wrote books and edited the first great English dictionary. Everywhere in England, people bowed low before the great Doctor Samuel Johnson.

But try as he would, Dr. Johnson could never forget that Fifth Commandment, "Honor your father and your mother," and the sad way he had broken that commandment when he was a boy.

Then one rainy day everyone in the public square of the town of Lichfield was surprised to see a man standing out in the rain beside a wheelbarrow. He was the now world-famous Dr. Samuel Johnson. On the very spot where his father used to stand as a book peddler, Dr. Johnson now stood very solemnly, with his head uncovered to the rain, his hat in hand, bowing low to say by this very act that he wished to acknowledge his wrong.

The people gathered about to watch the famous man. He stood there for over an hour while the rain pelted down upon him. Then he spoke to the crowd. He told them how once, more than fifty years ago, he had dishonored his father and broken the fifth of God's great Commandments. Filled with shame and remorse, Dr. Johnson now stood there in repentance to pay a public tribute to his noble father.

And as the people looked closer they saw that Dr. Samuel Johnson's face was not only wet with the rain, but that his cheeks were wet with the scalding tears of bitter remorse. And the people loved him because a famous man had been willing to admit publicly his sin, and had done what he could to show how much he still loved and honored his father.

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