Imatges de pÓgina
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Remove this connecting link, and society falls into the utmost confusion; let it be preserved inviolate, and order and happiness are secured to man. It bears upon it the impression of its author's hand, for it is distinguished by the grand features of all his works-simplicity and efficiency; so simple, that all can understand it, and conform to it; and so efficient, that it enters into all the circumstances of life, and controuls and regulates them.

The duties arising out of the relation of the family may be comprehended under the following classification,-those of husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant, brothers and sisters, and fellow-servants. These we shall briefly review in their order.

I. Husband and wife. A comprehensive summary of the duties arising out of this relation, will be found in Eph. v. 22. 33. Similar views of these are given also in Col. iii. 18, 19; and in 1 Pet. iii. 1. 7. In all these passages the primary duty of the husband is represented to be love. It is compared to that love which Christ bears to his church, and which a man bears to himself. And the wisdom requiring this duty, in the first instance, must at once be obvious. For let love dwell in the husband's bosom, and it will secure every conjugal duty, and it forms that very temper on which the happiness and wellbeing of his wife are dependant. It will prevent suspicious thoughts, harsh expressions, and unfaithful conduct, while it will lead to attention, protection, respect, and all the expressions of tenderness. It is with great propriety that this is made the dominant principle of the husband, for thus his superiority in strength ceases to be formidable to his weaker companion, and is converted into her shield and defence. He, therefore, who enters into the marriage contract where love has not been conceived for her whom he makes his wife, defiles this ordinance, and undertakes a series of the most responsible duties without the first essential qualification for discharging them. Again, the primary duty of the wife is represented to be submission. This, like love in the husband, leavens the mind with a disposition to all the duties required of her. It prevents jealousy, reviling, and self-seeking, while it produces a cheerful concurrence in the views of her husband, and a hearty acquiescence in all the ways of promoting his temporal and spiritual interests. Thus the husband and wife become one-one in heart, and purpose, and interest, and a foundation is laid for the most pure and permanent happiness that can be expected upon earth.

II. Parent and child. The duty of parents towards their children may be expressed in a single sentence, "to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." They are committed to them by God, to train them for him. With this view it is their first duty to instruct them; and where the child is ignorant of his duty to God and man, the parent will be held responsible for it. The language of God to Israel is universally binding, "these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." Deut. vi. 6, 7. It is required of parents, also, that they shall correct their children. They are committed to them in the character of sinners, and much will discover itself in them requiring to be restrained, and reproved, and chastised. Theirs is the employment of the gardener, pruning away the luxuriant growth, subduing the wildness of nature, and training to order and usefulness. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beatest him with the rod he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." Prov. xxii. 15; xxiii. 13, 14. Nothing, indeed, should satisfy parents short of the conversion of their children. They should seek to be their parents in the same sense in which Paul was the parent of Timothy; that is, the means, by his faithful instructions, of his new birth unto righteousness. It is an awful thought for parents, that they may have given birth to children, to be eternally miserable through their neglect. And it is a most animating consideration, that they may have brought into the world immortal beings, who shall dwell for ever in the presence and enjoyment of God. Parents, therefore, should adopt for their motto the language of the apostle, "my little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you." Gal. iv. 19. Nor should they consider their labour done even when their children have been converted. It remains, that they carefully study their edificution. Much of the usefulness and happiness of the young convert depends on the guidance under which he is placed at the important and interesting crisis of his conversion. If his views are well-directed, a foundation may be laid of much rational and scriptural enjoyment; whereas, should his views continue dark, or, in some respects, become erroneous, he will, in the

same measure, be deprived of peace. And should his plans of doing good be well-advised, he may be extensively and permanently useful, while, if he is betrayed into extravagance or mistake, he may become not merely useless, but noxious. Let parents, therefore, carefully cherish and train the good seed sown in the hearts of their children by the Spirit of God. In a word, it is the duty of parents to do for their children all they can, to make them comfortable and useful in time, and conduct them to honour and blessedness in eternity!

The duty of children to their parents is commonly expressed in the Scriptures in one word, obedience. This obedience is required to be universal. "Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord." Col. iii. 20. The only limit to this command is, " in the Lord." And the meaning is obvious, that filial piety should bow to parental authority in all things not contrary to the will of God. If a demand should unhappily be made, contrary to the demand of God, the lesser authority must give way to the greater, and God must be obeyed rather than man. This obedience is enforced by the most solemn sanctions of threatening and promise. There is no sin against which there are more awful denunciations than filial disobedience. Prov. xxx. 17. Nor is there any to which a greater reward is annexed. Exod. xx. 12. And this feature of the fifth commandment is specially noticed by the Apostle Paul, "honour thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayst live long on the earth." Eph. vi. 2, 3. Blessings temporal and spiritual are alike the result of filial obedience. And how comprehensive is this duty. It includes respect, love, submission, and, where it is needed and can be given, support, while it forbids whatever can detract from the authority, or happiness, or well-being of the parent. It is by such duties as these that parent and child are bound to one another.

III. Master and servant. In some respects, the duties of this relation are the same as those of parent and child, but they have their peculiar modifications, and are treated of separately and distinctly in the word of God. The master is, for the time, brought into the capacity of a father towards his servant, and should feel the responsibility of extending to him a parent's tenderness and care, while the servant is placed in the relation of a child, and should render to his master the honour of a parent. The duties of the master are briefly expressed thus: "Masters, give unto your servants that which is

Just and equal, knowing that ye also have a master in heaven." Col. iv. I. Justice is the primary virtue here, and this is to be exercised in not expecting more of a servant than is reasonable-not imposing an undue measure of labour-not exposing to hardship of body or uneasiness of mind, but considerately entering into his circumstances, studying his comfort, and seeking to promote his interests: all this to be done under an abiding sense of his own accountability to God. The duties of the servant, on the other hand, correspond to these. They are thus expressed-"Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service as menpleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God." Col. iii. 22. Faithfulness is the characteristic of a good servant; this grace manifesting itself in a sincere devotedness to the interests of his master; and influenced, not so much by a regard to his superintendence and favour, as to those of him who is the inspector and judge of both. In few things, perhaps, does the degeneracy of the present age appear more than in the neglect of the duties arising out of the relation of master and servant. Oppression prevails, to an alarming extent, on the part of the masters; while insubordination is awfully prevalent among servants. The principle of the master seems to be to exact the most he can of his dependant; while this is met by a determination, on the part of the servant, to evade every duty in his power. In this observation there is a reference, not merely to domestic servants, but to apprentices, operatives, and all the varied classes of dependencies produced by the extraordinary and forced state of society in these times. In primitive times the servant was regarded and treated as a member of the family; but of late years, a broad line of separation has been too generally drawn between them, and he has been made to feel himself an outcast and a slave. Great reformation is needed in this particular. Extensive opportunities of doing good are afforded in the present arrangements of society, in which so many persons are brought under the influence of one; and if masters only felt their accountability to seek the temporal and spiritual interests of their dependants, they might enjoy, to a great extent, the luxury of doing good. In doing so, they best consult their own interests. Let the master instruct his servants, and they learn their duty to him-let him protect them, and they will become his protectors in turn-let him treat them with tenderness, and they will be bound affectionately to him-in consulting their interests, he consults his own-in doing good to them, he does good to him

self. Thus God has made our duty our interest, in discharging with faithfulness the duties of this relation.

IV. Brothers and sisters. This is a very endearing relation. They have lain in the same womb-been watched over with the same eye-slept in the same bosom-and cherished with the same love. The duty becoming such relation, and arising out of it, is unity-they should be one. This unity should appear in habitual agreement with one another. This supposes the absence of envy, hatred, and emulation, and is essential to domestic peace, for, in the language of inspiration, "Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work." Brothers and sisters should remember the advice of Joseph to his brethren: "See that ye fall. not out by the way." They should consider their interests to be one. A three-fold cord is not easily broken; and so where brethren are united, there is strength. How did Jacob and Esau weaken one another's hands by reckoning their interests separately; whereas, had they been united, and each contented with the blessing God intended for him, they might have lived for their mutual comfort and support. By love they would have served one another. There is nothing more distressing than to see divisions among those whom nature has so closely allied. But although nature has made them so, it will not keep them so. Grace must unite them by its bonds, or they will not live for one another. This is an additional reason to what has already been advanced, why parents should seek the conversion of their children. And should this great work be effected in any of them, how diligently should that one labour to see the same change effected in all the rest. As soon as Andrew became acquainted with Christ, he immediately sought his brother Peter, and brought him unto him. So should it ever be. Nothing would so much contribute to their common good. They would find the meaning and force of that beautiful psalm, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments; as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore."

V. Fellow servants. These have their lot, in the providence of God, cast together for a season, and they are bound to one another by many mutual duties. They should live together in peace, being careful that the comfort of a family

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