Page images


there that the thorn and the briar, to use the elegant simile of the prophet, or the myrtle and the fir tree, are reared, which are in future time, to be the ornament and defence, or the deformity and misery of the land.

But has the domestic constitution a reference only to the present world and its perishable interests? By no

All God's arrangments for man, view him, and are chiefly intended for him, in his relation to eternity. The eye of Deity is upon that immortality to which he has destined the human race. “Every family has, in fact, a sacred character belonging to it, which may indeed, be forgotten or disdained; but the family is constituted, and ought, therefore, to be conducted with the prospect of the rising generation following that which precedes it,not only to the grave,but to eternity."* Every member of every household is an immortal creature; every one that leaves the circle by death, goes into an eternity of torment or of bliss. Now since all the institutes of God look to another world as their chief and ultimate reference, surely, surely, that institute which is the most powerful of all, in the formation of character, must be considered as set up with a special intention to prepare the subjects of it for “glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life.”

No one judges aright of this household compact, nor can any be in a capacity rightly to perform its duties, who does not consider this double relation which it bears to the state and to the church, and who does not view it as a preparatory system, for training up the good citizen and the real christian. And for these objects, how great is the power which it really possesses : how considerable is the mutual influence of husbands and wives, in moulding each others taste, or modifying each others dispositions ; of parents, in forming the character of their children and servants ; and of brothers and sisters, in stimulating and guiding each others pursuits. The power of other constitutions is remote, occasional, and feeble ; but this is close, constant and mighty. With other systems, the character is only casually brought into contact ; but this always touches us. We live, and move, and have our being in the very centre of it. So powerful is the influence of this association

* Anderson.

on its members, that it has preserved them by the blessing of God, in the possession of piety and morality, in times and places of the greatest corruption of manners. “On what vantage ground does the conscientious christian parent here stand! The springs of public and social life may be greatly corrupted; the nation in which he dwells may degenerate into licentiousness, into idolatry, or into the most daring infidelity. Retiring then to this sacred inclosure, he may entrench himself, and there, lifting up a standard for God, either wait the approach of better days, or leave a few behind him, on whom the best blessings of those days will certainly descend. Though the heavens be shut up and there be no dew, the little enclosure which he cultivates,like the fleece of Gideon, will discover evident marks of the divine favor. It actually seems as though in the wide scene,where the vices of the age, may, and can reign triumphant, this were some secure and sacred retreat, into which they cannot, dare not enter.1*

It must be evident, however, that the great ends of the domestic economy cannot be kept in view, nor the moral power of it displayed, unless the heads of it rightly understand their duty, and have a disposition properly to perform it. They must be christians in reality, or no christian government can be maintained. Where religion is wanting as the basis of their union, these happy fruits of it cannot be expected. The inferior and secondary object may be accomplished in the absence of parental piety, though neither so certainly, nor so effectually ; but as to the more sublime and

permanent end of the family constitution, which connects its members with the church of God on earth, and the company of the redeemed in heaven, this cannot be looked for, where the father and the mother are destitute of true religion. Oh, how many interesting households are to be found, where all the mere social virtues are cultivated with assiduity, where the domestic charities all flourish, and public excellence is cherished, but which, on account of the want of vital godliness, are still losing the highest end of their union, and carrying on no preparatory course of education for the skies, and are destined to be swept away with the wreck of nation's that know not God, and the wicked who shall be turned into hell. Alas, alas! that from such sweet scenes, such lovely retreats of connubial love and domestic peace, to which learning, science, wealth, elegance, have been admitted, religion should be excluded ; and that while many wise and interesting guests are continually welcomed to the house, He only should be refused, who blessed the little family of Bethany ; who, wherever he goes, carries salvation in his train, and gives immortality to the joys which would otherwise perish forever.

* Mr. Anderson in support and illustration of this beautiful sentiment, bring forward the families of the Kenites, and the Rechabites, whose history he traces, and shews it to be like a pure and vigorous stream, urging its course through a turbid lake, with the waters of which it refuses to blend, and maintaining its owo characteristic, amidst surrounding impurity.

Precious, indeed, are the joys of a happy family ; but oh, how fleet! How soon must the circle be broken up, how suddenly may it be! What scenes of delight, resembling gay visions of fairy bliss, have all been unexpectedly wrapt in shadow and gloom, by misfortune, by sickness, by death. The last enemy has entered the paradise, and by expelling one of its tenants, has embittered the scene to the rest ; the ravages of death have been in some cases followed by the desolations of poverty, and they who once dwelt together in the happy enclosure, have been separated and scattered to meet no more. But religion, true religion, if it be possessed, will gather them together again, after this destruction of their earthly ties, and conduct them to another paradise, into which no calamity shall enter, and from which, no joy shall ever depart.

Happy then would it be, for all who stand related by these household ties, if the bonds of nature were hallowed and rendered permanent by those of divine grace. To found our union on any basis which does not contain religion in its formation, is to erect it on a quicksand, and to expose it to the fury of a thousand billows, each of which may overturn the fabric of our comfort in a moment : but to rest it upon religion, is to found it upon a rock, where we shall individually still find a refuge, when the nearest and dearest relations are swept away by the tide of dissolution.

[ocr errors]

It is a pleasing reflection, that the domestic constitution depends not for its existence, its laws, its right administration, or its rich advantages, either upon family possessions, or the forms of national policy. It may live and flourish in all its tender charities, and all its sweet felicities, and all its moral power, in the cottage as well as in the mansion ; under the shadow of liberty, and even under the scorching heat of tyranny. Like the church of which it is in some respects the emblem, it accommodates itself to every changing form of surrounding society, to every nation and to every age. Forming with the church the only two institutions ever set up by God, as to their frame work ; like its kindred institute, it remains amidst the ruins of the fall, the lapse of ages, and the changes of human affairs, the monument of what has been, the standing prediction of what shall be. Tyrants that crush the liberties of a state, cannot destroy the constitution of a family : and even persecutors that silence the preacher, and scatter the congregation, cannot hush the voice of parental instruction, or extinguish parental influence. Religion, hunted and driven by human power from the place of public concourse, would still find a retreat, as it often has done under such circumstances, in the household of faith ; and there would keep alive upon the family altar, that holy fire, with which the sacrifices of the temple, under happier auspices, shall be offered. Neither families nor the church of the redeemed, shall ever be entirely lost, whatever changes the world may yet have to pass through: “but blessing and being blest, will of themselves alone one day introduce the millennium."*

To all, therefore, who are united in the bonds of this relationship, I offer the consideration of these pages ; which prescribe duties, and present advantages, belonging alike to all. Domestic happiness, in many respects, resembles the manna which was granted to the Israelites in the wilderness ; like that precious food, it is the gift of God which cometh down from heaven; it is not to be purchased with money; it is dispensed alike to the rich and to the poor, and accommodates itself to ov

* See Anderson and Dwight.


ery taste ; it is given with an abundance that meets the wants of all who desire it ; to be obtained, it must be religiously sought in God's own way of bestowing it; and is granted to man as a refreshment during his pilgrimage through this wilderness, to the celestial Canaan.

MARRIAGE IS THE FOUNDATION OF THE DOMESTIC CONSTITUTION : this, says the apostle,“ is honorable in all ;' and he has condemned, as a doctrine of devils,' the opinions of those by whom it is forbidden. It is an institute of God, was established in Eden, was honored by the personal attendance of Christ, and furnished an occasion for the first of that splendid series of miracles, by which he proved himself to be the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world. But there is another mark of distinction put upon it by the Holy Ghost, where it is said, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Eph. v. 32. Many commentators,

am aware,

consider the term mystery as having no allusion to the nuptial tie, but as applying exclusively to the union of Christ and the church. If this be the case, it seems difficult to account for the introduction of this union at all, or to explain what bearing it has upon the subject in hand. Besides, the two-fold reference to the mediatorial undertaking of Christ, which is made by the apostle, when he enforces the duties of husband and wife, seems to confirm the opinion, that he represents the conjugal union, as a type or symbol of the close and endearing relation in which the church stands to its divine Redeemer. Nothing can throw a higher sanctity over this conexion, nor invest it with greater honor, than such a view of it. Distinguishing, as it does, man from brutes ; providing not only for the continuance, but for the comfort of our 'species ; containing at once, the source of human happiness, and of all those virtuous emotions and generous sensibilities, which refine and adorn the character of man, it can never as a general subject be guarded with too much solicitous vigilance, nor be contracted, in particular instances, with too much prudence and care.

In proportion to the importance of the connexion itself, must be a right view and a due performance of the obligations arising out of it.



« PreviousContinue »