« AnteriorContinua »
accompanied him into the camp and the cabi- | consists essentially in supplication and praise. net, into the closet and the family circle; and It cannot, therefore, be reasonably denied, his example is particularly worthy of our that the family which habitually neglects these notice, because it is that of a man who did duties disowns the profession and authority not consider himself in any degree exempted of religion ; it allows of a radical defect from the most sacred obligations of domestic in its economy, which admits of no excuse life by the many duties of his public and ele- and no compensation; and where prayer is vated station. Let us, then, take occasion not a mere form, it will usually be followed from it to make some remarks upon the im- up by such other arrangements as, under the portance of religion in the family. And we Divine blessing, are best fitted to secure the do not intend by this expression the tacit grand objects of the little society. They who acknowledgment of it by the members of a are invested with authority will be concerned household; but we refer to the profession to tread in the steps of the patriarch Abraham, of Christianity, and the maintenance of its who “ commanded” his children and houseauthority in their proper relation to one hold after him, that they should “keep the another. Each family is a small community way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment distinct from every other, and placed by before him.” In short, a religious family is Divine appointment under one head. It a sanctuary for God; it is, in a manner, a must, as such, possess a certain character little church, where the authority of Christ is with respect to religion. It may be, that acknowledged and upheld by those who are the domestic abode is not the haunt of dissi- placed at its head; it is a house, which, like pation, ignorance, and vice; it may be, that that of Joshua, is professedly devoted to the immorality, or whatever might be supposed service of the Lord; a domestic temple, with to lead to its practice, is discountenanced by the altar and priest, the sacrifice and the inits inmates, and that a commendable regard cense of praise. Its members will not neglect is paid to the public ordinances of God. the duties of this life; but they will pursue There may be much of social affection and them under the influence of Christian principle, tenderness felt and seen in their intercourse and in connexion with the higher objects of with each other; much that is really generous, their fellowship. lovely, and of good report, in the estimation But instead of enlarging upon the duties of the world : nor may there be wanting of domestic religion, our principal design, at those who know the truth, and feel its vital present, is to offer some remarks upon its power. Thus far it is unquestionably well. vast importance ; nor do we even here intend But no family can properly be called Chris- to urge those general arguments and consitian or religious whose members do not wor- derations of duty, which reason itself teaches, ship God in their associate and domestic and which revelation most impressively encapacity. If all the churches throughout forces, by doctrine, precept, and example ; our land were demolished, and there were but our aim will be to point out the great no public homage paid to the Creator, we advantages which family-religion cannot fail might, it is very true, worship him as indi- to secure, and thus shall we attempt to reviduals, or in the more private relations of commend it on the broad and tangible ground life ; but should we be a religious people? of its practical importance. Certainly not; for we should disown the I. We observe, then, in the first place, Ruler of the world in our proper character that doinestic religion tends evidently to as a nation; and supposing such a melan- promote the temporal welfare of families. choly state of things to continue, we might The truth of this remark will be doubted by justly expect the awful execution of the Di- none who are acquainted with the principles vine judgments upon us. So it is with respect of the Gospel, and with their actual operato domestic religion; and it, moreover, sup- tion. The prosperity of every family consiposes that there is such a system set on foot, dered as the result of human conduct) deand carried out into practice; that there is pends upon the right spirit and practice of its such an arrangement of the internal economy members. In the natural course of things, and discipline of the household as is fitted to it is to be looked for only as the reward of promote ihe spiritual welfare of its members, virtuous and well-directed industry; it is conand give to God the glory which he claims sequent upon harmony and order, sobriety from them as a community.
and diligence, discretion and integrity, in the Now amongst the means of grace requisite affairs of life. We do not, indeed, mean to for these purposes, a bigh rank must of course say, that these habits will always ensure the be assigned to the stated worship of Him temporal welfare of a family; for in a world who fixeth the bounds of our habitations, and like this, their beneficial tendency may be who expects to be suitably acknowledged in checked and counteracted by a variety of all the relations of life. The worship of God unforeseen circumstances. The providence of God may permit many exceptions to the and the good of his fellow-creatures, he is as general rule; and that for the wisest reason, certainly in the path of religious duty in the to secure the ends of his gracious discipline. counting-house or the exchange, as in the But what we unhesitatingly affirm is, that closet or the temple. He is required to let the habits which true religion creates and the light of his holy example shine before maintains are closely connected with the tem- men ; and to be diligent in business, as well poral prosperity of families, as well as of in- as fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. The dividuals and nations. This is so evident true Christian is, in short, " the highest style from the nature of the case, no less than from of man." The principles of his religion ought universal experience, that it requires no illus- to make him (as, if duly acted upon, they tration or argument to make it matter of con- certainly will make him) a wiser and a better viction. The religion of Christ is friendly to man in all the walks of social life, whether all the virtues and practical habits which go he is called to act in the capacity of a merto promote the welfare of man in his indi- chant or a labourer, husband or parent, master vidual capacity, and in all his social relations. or servant. Godliness has the promise of It enjoins the conscientious discharge of all this life, as well as that which is to come. the duties we owe to our fellow-creatures ; What are the qualities and conditions upon it enforces them by the most powerful mo- which, under the Divine blessing, in general tives. While it teaches those who are in- depends the prosperity of a family in the vested with domestic authority to be them- world? What are the means by which even selves examples of all virtue and godliness, they who bave perhaps little regard for reand encourages their diligent efforts by the ligion ordinarily attain to secular power, reassurance of the Divine benediction ; it so- spectability, and wealth? They are, industry, lemnly requires children to be obedient to prudence, integrity, temperance, united effort, their parents in all things, and servants to and the like. But these, as we have said, be faithful to the interests of their employers. are the virtues which religion enjoins and And will the authority of the parent or the most effectually secures. If you suppose the master lose aught of its force ? Must not its fear of God to be banished from any family weight be very greatly increased, when it is where it is the controlling principle, is it to backed by the efficient aids and sanctions of be imagined that its members would be better religion?' It is unquestionable. The care disposed towards each other, and more exemof the soul, or a conscientious zeal for God, plary in the discharge of their social duties? is, indeed, not unfrequently represented as Impossible. What is it that so often disturbs something in itself opposed to the diligent the peace of families? What is it that turns and efficient pursuit of worldly affairs ; nor the sanctuary of home into the theatre of can it be denied, that this unfounded impres- strife and passion? What is it that sows sion does sometimes receive support from the amongst its inmates the seeds of discord ; conduct of those professing Christians who that so often brings upon them the manifold may allow the more direct claims of religion evils of disgrace, disease, poverty, and wretchto interfere with the duties of their secular edness ?-ihe want of religion. avocations. But our obligations are not in II. But, further ; family-religion is recomreality opposed; and the impression in question mended by the substantial support and comarises from the too common habit of looking fort it affords in all seasons of domestic trial upon the service of God as consisting chiefly, and affliction. Every household has not only if not entirely, in the exercises of devotion. certain duties of a social and secular nature There are multitudes who evidently seem to discharge, but a course of trial to undergo, to regard it as something which is wholly which calls for patience and resignation to detached from the ordinary details of life, or the will of God. Its members are placed by at least which has little to do with them. the wise Disposer of all events in a state of But what, in fact, is religion when it is con- discipline, which (as it may be often painful) fined to the sanctuary or Sabbath, cut off from requires the seasonable aids and consolations those larger portions of times and spheres of of religion. We need not descant upon those action, which are given for active duty ? It afflictions of domestic life, which so often turn is, in such a case, manifestly nothing but the abode of joy into the scene of heart-renda service of delusion and hypocrisy. True ing sorrow.
The best and most prosperous wisdom is at variance, indeed, with all avarice, family is, we all know, liable to those disapinjustice, and corroding care. It teaches us pointments, losses, and sorrows, which are to do all things decently, and in order. But common to society in every form. The ediit is practical as well as contemplative. It fice may seem to stand on a solid foundation; directs us to honour God in the lawful ser- and it may be the plentiful storehouse of all vice of the world ; and when a man acts from such earthly things as can contribute to the a conscientious regard to the Divine glory, comfort or happiness of its inmates. It may
enjoy a cloudless sky; and the whole aspect | Divine blessing, amongst the most efficient of its external circumstances may appear means of promoting the cause of truth and serene or fascinating to the eye : but within godliness. The service of God is the grand that family are the seeds of sin, sorrow, and object for which human beings are united death. The cloud of adversity may gather together under the domestic constitution, and unheeded in the distant horizon of its pro- endued with the mighty power of the social spects ; the storm may unexpectedly arise- affections. you
look for the final end in the tempest set in ; and the scene of worldly any thing short of this, it must be something enchantment may be speedily turned into one limited merely to the objects of a transitory of gloom and lamentation. Now the trials life, and falling therefore immeasurably short of a family closely united in affection and of all that relates immediately to the interest much reciprocal enjoyment, are of all others of sinful and immortal creatures. What, the most distressing and acute; for there the apart from this, is wealth or honour, authostrong and tenderest sympathies of humanity rity, power, or any other earthly advantages, are to be found ; and, in proportion to their which a family may secure to itself? They force, must they become alike the source of rank at best amongst the fleeting possessions exquisite pain or pleasure. How pitiable, of a day; and, by their perversion or abuse, then, in seasons of deep distress, is an at. become the occasion of threatened and awful tached family destitute of the comforts and condemnation in the life to come. The power alleviations which religion imparts to the emanating from the intimacies and affections disquieted mind and wounded heart! When of domestic life, is a talent of unspeakable the domestic habitation is invaded by sorrow value. It brings the deepest responsibility, and care; when its unsuspecting inmates are and it can only be turned to a good account perhaps suddenly called to endure the pain in the service of God. Now the great imful reverses of life, and to exchange ease portance of family-worship, in reference to or affluence for circumstances of embarrass- the grand designs of the domestic constitument or poverty; when they are doomed tion, must be evident under whatever aspect to see their confidence betrayed, or their you consider the subject. fondest hopes blasted; when death comes, 1. If you contemplate it in reference to those like an armed man upon them, and tears who are entrusted with household authority, asunder the bonds of nature and affection ; it must manifestly be of great advantage to when the desire of their eyes is taken away them in the discharge of their sacred duties. at a stroke, and they are called to mourn The parent and the master are, as such, acover the remains of those who were in a countable to the Judge of all for the manner manner parts of themselves, -0, what is in which they act in regard to the precious there under such visitations that can effec- means of usefulness placed at their disposal. tually bear up the drooping spirit, and miti- The souls of their children and domestics are gate the anguish of the heart? Nothing, we entrusted to their care. They are laid under unhesitatingly answer, but religion. And if a solemn obligation to do all that in them they have learned to regard this as their lies to promote the spiritual welfare of their chief concern, they will discern in the se- charge. But the worship of God, the recogverest trials the hand of their heavenly nition of his authority, the supplication of his Father ; while each extends towards the blessing in the stated exercises of domestic rest the exercise of a sacred sympathy, they devotion, cannot fail greatly to assist them will lean together upon the mighty arm of in the performance of their duties. It must God. Turning from the shallow and uncer- operate as a salutary restraint upon their own tain streams of earthly enjoyment, they will spirit and practice; it must tend to keep alive repair to the Fountain of all blessedness. The a due sense of their responsibility to inspire voice of prayer with the melody of praise them with a well-founded confidence in the will be heard in their righteous tabernacle; particular care of Providence,-and, above all, and the eye of faith will be turned towards to bring down upon their efforts the especial that better country, where holy friends, after blessing of God; it must tend to infuse the a short season of separation, will be reunited spirit of religion into all their domestic transin the bonds of a perfect and blissful immor-actions—to cement and sanctify the bonds tality. It is thus that the members of a of social union, as well as to maintain that family, in which true religion hath found a consistency of character, — that becoming exsanctuary, are prepared in the time of trouble ample, without which other means will be in to weep as though they wept not, and to general of little avail. receive the severest trials as the expressions 2. The worship and fear of God in families of infinite love.
must directly tend to restrain the evil tendIII. Family-religion is, moreover, power- encies of those who are placed under authofully recommended as ranking, under the rity, and to promote most effectually their eye
spiritual welfare. Every household which | by furnishing means, and setting on foot imduly recognises the authority of the supreme portant institutions for the instruction and Parent in the stated exercises of devotion, training of the young. But the best efforts is a most important school for the acquisition of society will never supply the place of the of the best principles and habits. In conse- endeavours which parents and guardians are quence of the closeness and constancy of the able to make under the domestic roof, for the intercourse subsisting amongst its members, purpose of bringing up their charge in the there is a mighty influence at work for good nurture and admonition of the Lord. With or evil, the full amount of which it is impos- them is entrusted a most powerful influence, sible to estimate. The remark of course which gives to the young their first impresholds generally true; but its importance must sions, and which afterwards may be employed be especially seen in reference to the young most effectually to help forward, or to coun. and rising generation. The education of a teract other means for their welfare. It is child comprehends much more than the term therefore to the prayers, the example, and the is usually' supposed to denote. It includes, efforts of parents and guardians within the not merely the exercise of intellectual and circles of private life, that the Church must, secular discipline, but the whole process which in a great measure, look for the maintenance forms his moral and religious character. It and diffusion of religion in the world. begins with the first thoughts which arise in Happy, then, thrice happy is the family his mind, with the first affections of his heart, which is animated by the spirit of devotion, with the first notices of conscience; and if and regulated by the principles of Christhe power of example, backed by close and tianity! In a world of sin and sorrow it constant association, is, generally speaking, presents a scene most refreshing to the great, often beyond calculation, what a mighty a home of peace and blessedness-a garden influence must it exert in the earlier periods of the Lord, where the trees of righteousness of life! The immense importance of family- are seen to grow and blossom with the fruit religion in this respect is too evident to re- of immortality. It is a sacred asylum from quire illustration or proof. Deep and inde- the turmoils and sorrows of the world, a lible are the good impressions which, under tabernacle of the Most High, and a nursery the blessing of God, are usually made upon for that better region where the soul will find the infantile mind by the hallowed example unbounded scope for its best affections, and of a parent seen to act as the priest of the realise the satisfactions of perfect friendship. domestic temple, and to walk before his house But, on the other hand, melancholy is the in the fear of the Lord. It is no human an- aspect of the present subject towards every thority that has said, “ Train up a child in household that is not walking in the fear of the way he should
and when he is old he the Lord. In common with all other famiwill not depart from it.” The best efforts of lies, it contains within itself the principle of the parent, indeed, are not always crowned dissolution. The last enemy is gradually with success. A variety of unfavourable cir- undermining the earthy foundation of that cumstances may interpose and thwart his social fabric, and will ere long reduce it to endeavours. But we believe, that cases of dust. The husband will soon be separated failure are few in comparison with the in- from the wife, the parent from the child, the stances which verify the words of the wise brother from the sister, and the master from
The counsels, prayers, and virtues of the servant; and while death consigns their Christian parents are never obliterated from bodies one after another to the grave, he the memory of their offspring in more ad- will transmit their spirits into other spheres vanced life; and by reviving the salutary of existence. What, then, is a family, or any impressions of youth, they no doubt fre- other association of human beings, which is quently become the means of reclaiming the not sanctified by religious principle, without wanderer from the paths of crror and misery. the common and imperishable bond of faith
3. These remarks will suflice, moreover, in Him who is “the resurrection and the to shew the vast importance of family-reli- | life ?”-it is, at best, no more than a frail and gion in relation to the general interests of perishable structure. Being cemented only Christianity. It is to education conducted by earthy materials, and standing on a founon religious principles, that the world, under dation of sand, the coming tide and tempest the Divine blessing, will always be principally threaten to sweep it away, and to leave not a indebted for whatever it shall possess of gen- wreck behind, on which the heart will be able uine wisdom and goodness. But how ineffi- to repose. In short, every human compact cient must all education be, which is not car- will be dissolved, and nothing will remain but ried on with the co-operation of individuals the elements of bappiness or misery which in the circles of domestic life! The friends will arise out of its moral character or reof religion may do much for this great cause, lation to an eternal world! Considerations
such as these should surely make those who tions, and in the salvation of your souls. If are entrusted with household authority zeal- these parents are neglected, you will suffer ous for the maintenance of domestic religion. immense loss, which will never admit of being The families over which Providence has placed wholly repaired. Seek, then, the Lord in the you are vineyards consigned to your especial morning of life, for precious is the season of
There lies, for the most part, your youth. It is the spring of your existence on chief responsibility-there are your principal earth--the time which will determine the spheres of usefulness-there the spots which, character of every subsequent period -- the according to the nature of the seed sown, will golden opportunity for the acquisition of all yield an abundant harvest of joy or sorrow. useful knowledge, all virtuous habits, and all if any, then, have hitherto neglected to imi- Christian graces. Look, then, well to yourtate the example of David, who returned from selves, and see whether there be the promise his public duties to bless his household, con- of future respectability, peace, and usefulness sider for a moment that you are chargeable in the world; and if no seed is sown in the with great unfaithfulness to your trust, and spring, what becomes of the harvest? When that you have reason to fear the wrath God there are no vernal blossoms, who expects has threatened to pour out upon the families autumnal fruit? May you, then, be faithful which call not upon his name." Live no longer to yourselves, and finally inherit eternal life. in the disregard of a duty so reasonable, pleasant, and profitable. The excuses which are commonly offered for the neglect of it will RELIGIOUS DESTITUTION OF THE not bear examination. They are usually the
COUNTRY. pleas of ignorance, unbelief, and ungodliness. From an agricultural, we have become, in a great But domestic devotion, to be effectual, must
measure, a commercial and manufacturing people. In be followed up by a consistent course of many districts villages have swelled into towns, and spirit and practice. Parents are bound to
towns into mighty cities. The population of several exercise their authority with firmness tem- counties has increased with a rapidity unexampled pered with affection, and to make on all re- probably in the history of the world, certainly without quisite occasions a decided stand in favour of parallel in any long-settled and civilised country. In virtue and religion, holding in remembrance Lancashire, which, in the year 1700, contained 166,000 the awful judgments brought of old upon souls, there are now 1,336,854. The population, thereEli and his house, because his sons made fore, has been multiplied more than eight times. In themselves vile, and he restrained them not. the West Riding of Yorkshire again, in parts of Staf
In conclusion, we would exhort those who fordshire, Warwickshire, and several other counties, enjoy the inestimable advantages of parental the process has been and is proceeding with no less and religious discipline, to remember their rapidity. The metropolis, too, has wholly changed its great responsibility to God, and to consider character within the same period. The cities of Lonwell how much depends upon the improve. don and Westminster, it is well known, at no distant ment of their privileges. We beseech you to period were separated by fields and gardens, and conreflect upon the reasonableness and vast im
nected chiefly by the Thames. The population swarmed portance of dutiful and affectionate respect
about the great marts of commerce, on the north bank towards your natural and divinely appointed subdivided, now abandoned chiefly to warehouses and
of the river, in parishes astonishingly numerous and guardians. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
offices. A little to the west of Temple Bar were the Honour thy
pleasant gardens and houses of the nobility, extending father and thy mother, which is the first com
along the Strand of the river, then no crowded street; mandment with promise ; that it may be well
and in many respects answering to those which may with thee, and that thou mayest live long on
now be seen in the neighbourhood of Brentford and the earth." Forget not to implore the bless
Twickenham. And this is the space which now teems ing of God upon them and yourselves. Take
with immortal beings, and which we have neglected to heed, lest by the disregard of your baptismal subdivide into new ecclesiastical districts as occasion vows, you should bring heavy condemnation
arose, and as ancient example, and indeed the principle upon yourselves. Do all, I pray you, that
of the parochial system, required. And now the overlies in your power to encourage the labours grown parishes, which on every side surround the city and fulfil the most sacred desires of those of London, witness by their rural names against the who are your best and dearest friends on remissness of a generation, which in so many cases has earth, who regard you with a depth and ten- left under the care of a single pastor a district, which, derness of solicitude which it is impossible when sprinkled with villas and cottages, gave him full for you fully to conceive; who from day to occupation, and in which every cellar and garret is day, and from year to year, are making the now the abode of families, whose numbers, by pregreatest sacrifices for your welfare, and who, cluding all attempt at due pastoral superintendence, all the while, look for their richest recom
• From "The Parochial System." Prize-essay. By the Rev. pense in the returns of your grateful affec
Henry W. Wilberforce, M.A. 2d edit. Rivingtons, 1839.