Obrazy na stronie

nishes, and which are never so delightful as when we are most devoted to them. O how much do those lose, who are destitute of this relish! Like the lost spirits, they loathe what is right; their meat and drink is mischief; and the result of all their toils is increasing disappointment and misery.

2. It is evident that this is a species of enjoyment for the securing of which it is WORTH WHILE, AS WELL AS NECESSARY, TO TAKE UNWEARIED AND CONSTANT PAINS. If domestic happiness be so rich in itself; so extensive in its influence; so vital to the best interests of our children; and so important in its consequences both to the Church and the State ;-then, surely, that man is a wretched calculator who is not willing to take pains; to deny himself; to watch day and night; and to labor without ceasing for its attainment. Like most of those things in our world which are really precious, it cannot be reached or maintained without much attention, vigilance and effort. But it is richly worth them all. In all our well-directed labor in this field, there is "great reward."


3. How MUCH REASON HAVE THOSE WHO ARE FAVORED WITH A GOOD DEGREE OF DOMESTIC HAPPINESS TO REJOICE AND BE THANKFUL!-Highly favored of God! You enjoy a treasure. Prize it highly; improve it carefully; guard with the utmost care against every thing that may mar or diminish it; and pray without ceasing that it may be maintained unimpaired. You may part with a large portion of your outward wealth, or with those honors among men which you esteem so highly-without suffering any important privation. But if you lose your domestic comfort, you will be poor indeed! This ought to be watched with the utmost vigilance, and scarcely any earthly sacrifice that can be made, is too great as the price of its maintenance.

4. Finally; important as domestic happiness is to ALL the children of men ; -to the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the bond and the free-it is evident, from the foregoing statement, that THERE ARE SOME TO WHOM IT IS OF PECULIAR IMPORTANCE, AND WHO, OF COURSE, OUGHT TO LABOR AFTER THIS BLESSING WITH PECULIAR CARE. They are those whose station in society renders their conduct most conspicuous, and their example most influential;—such as ministers of the Gospel; public men of all classes; the wealthy; the learned; and, in short, all who occupy elevated places among men; and whose habits, whether they will or not, cannot fail of being noticed and spoken of by multitudes. Such is the language of Scripture; and such are the plain dictates of reason. O how peculiarly guilty, then, are those who, while they undertake to instruct and rule others, and to furnish models for those around them, are unskilful, unamiable, revolting, and perhaps reckless, in the management of their own families; and have so little government of their own spirits, and so little of the faculty of making their households orderly and happy, that they are constantly surrounded with ruffled tempers, and revolting disorders! Surely such ought to "consider their ways;" to form, in the strength of God, new resolutions; and to labor without ceasing, for rectifying their mistakes, and for the attainment of a blessing which we have seen to be invested with such inestimable value. Whatever toil or sacrifices others may undergo to reach and secure the blessing in question, they ought to be willing to make tenfold greater sacrifices for this end. These, surely, ought to take PECULIAR PAINS So to rule their own households, as that their tabernacles may be in peace, -as ever they would wish to adorn the station in which God has placed them, and to be made instrumental in promoting extensively the Divine glory, and the benefit of their generation. God grant that they may be thus wise for His sake in whom all the families of the earth are blessed! Amen!

[ocr errors]



JOB V, 24-Thy tabernacle shall be in peace.

AN attempt was made, in the preceding discourse, to unfold the IMPORTANCE of domestic happiness. We have seen that its relations and its value are incalculable; that its importance is deep and vital to ourselves, to our children, to the church of God, and to the community at large; that all have a deep interest in securing and maintaining it; and that those who undervalue and neglect it are among the most infatuated of mortals.

But another inquiry arises, no less interesting and practical-HoW SHALL WE ATTAIN THIS BLESSING? What are the most effectual means of securing domestic happiness? To the consideration and answer of this question let us now direct our serious attention.

And here, let none imagine that this blessing will come, as a matter of course, to all who desire it. Multitudes, in forming matrimonial connections, and in looking forward to the commencement of domestic life, dream of a happy family, as an object to be confidently expected. And provided they can begin their conjugal union with certain circumstances of outward comfort-such as a well-furnished dwelling, and a handsome equipage-they fondly believe that all will be well; that felicity in this new relation can scarcely fail of being secured. Alas! how often are expectations of this kind totally disappointed! How few families can with truth be called REALLY HAPPY! We see households, every day, in which wealth, rank, public honors, intellectual culture, and every external advantage that can well be imagined, are possessed; and yet no domestic happiness enjoyed. On the contrary, they evidently look for happiness abroad, and most of their intercourse at home seems to be marked by indifference, and weariness, if not by revolting discord and strife. The truth is, we are fallen, depraved creatures. We are compassed about with infirmities and passions which, unless some powerful corrective be applied, will, of course, make us proud, selfish, fretful, easily provoked, and, in short, generate all those evil tempers and habits which cannot fail of tarnishing the beauty, and diminishing, if not destroying, the comfort of domestic intercourse. This kind of happiness, then, is so far from being a blessing which, in given circumstances of external advantage, is secured as a matter of course, that we may rather say as experience teaches, that large possessions are unfriendly to it; the pursuit and the glare of public honors are hostile to its enjoyment; in a word, the more our feelings, plans, and interests, are absorbed in the great and the gay world, the less we shall be likely to enjoy of the blessing under consideration. Like every other valuable attainment in this world, it cannot be reached without close attention, assiduity, self-denial, self-government, and unwearied application to him who alone can make means and efforts effectual. But let us inquire, a little more in detail, what are the BEST MEANS of attaining this inestimable blessing. And,


I. First, if we desire to secure domestic happiness, WE MUST MAKE A HIGH The family, like the heart, is liable every day to go wrong, and will assuredly go wrong, unless it be guarded with the utmost vigilance. Such are the infirmities

and sinfulness of our nature, that the social machine will never work well when left to itself. We cannot safely intermit our watchful care of it for a single hour. And this watchfulness must extend to every member of the household, from the head to the youngest child and domestic; to every interest of the household, great and small, temporal and spiritual; to every minute duty and comfort of the household; obviating threatened evils before they come into existence, and securing important advantages which, without vigilance, would be lost. And, after all, this watchfulness must be conducted under the deep impression that it will be ineffectual without the Divine blessing. That blessing is indispensable to the accomplishment of any good, in this or any other field of duty. Unless the Lord keep the family, they labor in vain that watch over it. To unwearied watchfulness, therefore, unceasing prayer is to be added; and prayer prompted by that humble, weighty, solemn sense of the importance of the blessing sought, which gives earnestness and perseverance to importunity. It is evidently, then, no idle or easy matter to preside over a family, as it becomes a Christian man or woman to do. And none are so likely to succeed as those who address themselves to the work with a deep impression at once of its great importance, its unspeakable arduousness, and the absolute need of help from on high at every step. He who imagines that the blessing of which we speak is easily obtained, and that he can secure it by his own wisdom and strength, will assuredly be disappointed.

II. We cannot expect the reign of domestic happiness in any household,


And by domestic affection, I do not mean merely, or even chiefly, that transient feeling which is founded on personal beauty, or external graces; but that fixed, cordial, moral attachment, which is founded on the perception of moral excellence in its object, and which is made up of mutual respect, esteem, tender friendship, and endearing confidence. Without the prevalence of this unfeigned affection, there cannot be solid domestic happiness. It would almost_require a constant course of miracles to maintain the one without the other. But where this attachment reigns among the various members of a family, it can scarcely fail to produce that habitual gentleness and kindness of deportment, and those numberless benevolent attentions, which always promote the personal comfort of those who practice them, as well as of those toward whom they are exercised; and bind together by ties of the strongest earthly kind. If it be desired, then, to attain and establish domestic happiness on a firm basis, LET LOVE BE WITHOUT DISSIMULATION." Let the tenderest mutual affection be cultivated by all the members of the family. Let the utmost care be taken to guard against every thing adapted to impair its strength, or suspend its exercise. "Love suffereth long, and is kind; love is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, beareth all things, believeth all things. Love covereth a multitude of sins." "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox, and hatred therewith."


[ocr errors]

III. THE HABITUAL GOVERNMENT OF THE TEMPER in the several members of the family, is essential to domestic happiness. In every family, occurrences will arise to try the temper. In this depraved world, where we all have our failings, we ought to expect this, and to make all our calculations, and set a guard over our spirits, accordingly. He who unites himself in marriage with a beloved object, ought to remember, that, as he is a sinful being himself, so she whom he takes to be the companion of his life, is also a sinful being; and if they have children, they will find, that "that which is born of the flesh is flesh;"—that the same corrupt nature of which they partake is transmitted to their offspring. Every household, then, is a little band of sinners,—and even if they all be pious, still they are but partially sanctified. The remains of indwelling sin still exist, and it will be well if they be not manifested every hour. In circumstances of this kind, "it is impossible but that offences will come." That is, it is morally impossible but that something should occur,

almost every day, adapted to jar the feelings, to wound, to incommode, in a word, to call for the exercise of forbearance and forgiveness. Now when any thing is said or done, either by mistake, by carelessness, or by sudden temptation, that tends to give offence, or to produce irritation,-unless it be met by a spirit of forbearance and self-government; unless there be such a curb placed on the temper as will guard against irritation, and prompt to that "soft answer which turneth away wrath," there must ensue heart-burnings, hard thoughts, and a state of feeling wholly inconsistent with domestic harmony and love.

There is a class of evil qualities which piety ought to cure, but which it is not always found in fact to cure to the extent which is desirable. He whose natural temper is churlish, fretful or irritable, will be apt to betray more or less of this temper, even after the grace of God has "transformed him by the renewing of his mind." But there are many, alas! of this unhappy temper, whom the grace of God has never transformed. What is to be done when such a temper is found either in the head, or in any of the members of a family? With such an one it will be impossible to dwell with comfort, without a very large measure of forbearance and meekness. Such a temper is in danger, every hour, of extinguishing affection, and of enkindling strife :-and where it is met and repelled by a similar temper, how is it possible that harmony and love should dwell under that roof? Such a family must be the abode of discord, of mutual reproaches, and of habitual misery.

On the other hand, a sweet and amiable natural temper has a tendency to cover a thousand failings, to impart a thousand comforts, and to spread delight wherever it appears. Enter the abode where such a temper reigns. How pleasant the intercourse! How gentle and cheerful the conversation! How mild and conciliatory every look, tone and gesture! No revolting vociferation, no discordant sounds, no harsh upbraidings, no unkind words grate upon your ears. All is soft, placid and harmonious. If there be occasion to correct error, it is done in the spirit of love. The questions and replies, the requests and commands,-yea, the very reproofs are marked with gentleness and affection. Happy the family where such a spirit reigns among all its members! And just so far as it is wanting or interrupted, domestic happiness will suffer a corresponding suspension or destruction.

It is obvious that this regulation of the temper is peculiarly important in those who PRESIDE OVER FAMILIES. It cannot, indeed, be deemed a small matter in the youngest and most humble member. For any single member of a family, by the indulgence of a wayward temper, may destroy its peace. But when a turbulent, harsh, fretful temper is indulged by either parent, or by both, the evil lies deeper than if such a temper were manifested by younger members of the household. It must pervade the mansion, and mar all its comforts. Besides, what probability is there that children will learn to curb and regulate their tempers, when their parents set before them so miserable an example? Will not the source of mischief be likely to be propagated and extended? Whereas if parents carefully and conscientiously govern their own tempers, and faithfully repress every ebullition of an opposite character, in every member of their households, peace may be expected to reign in those "tabernacles.' One of the most fruitful sources of domestic misery is banished.

IV. If we desire to cherish and secure domestic happiness, it is important that all domestic intercourse be MARKED BY HABITUAL AND MUTUAL RESPECTFULNESS. Amidst the intimacy and familiarity in which members of the same household live with each other, they are extremely apt to lose sight of that constant manifestation of respect which can never be abandoned without harm. In the presence of strangers, indeed, the most rough, and even brutal, generally maintain some degree of respectfulness in their domestic intercourse. The harsh tone, the rude address, the reproachful epithet, are seldom indulged in public, but by the most vulgar. But thousands who are awed and restrained

by the presence of others, in public, when they come to the privacy of home, feel free to indulge in all the revolting tones, and even language, of insolence and contempt. Few things are more fatal to domestic peace than this. Those who have no sincere respect for each other cannot live together in comfort.-And those who cultivate this respect, will always discover it in their deportment.

It is scarcely necessary to say, that in making these remarks, there is no intention to recommend, between members of the same family, in private, that system of formal and studied politeness which is practiced in circles of ceremony and fashion. But it is intended to be said, that, amidst all the freedom of the most secluded fire-side, every thing, either in language or in manner, indicating the least want of respect, ought to be carefully avoided. All coarse forms of speech; all undignified epithets and modes of address; every thing approaching the rude, the uncivil, the satirical, the contemptuous; every thing, in short, in speech or behaviour adapted to wound feelings, or to sport with feelings, must be carefully avoided in the intercourse of those who wish to live under the same roof in comfort. On the contrary, there ought ever to be the most conscientious care to manifest the tenderest love, by the most delicate mutual regard to each other's wishes and feelings, and the most respectful mode of address and treatment in every thing. A palpable and especially a frequent failure here, will often do more to wound and to alienate, than the most open act of hostility. An unfriendly act may be forgiven; but who can be reconciled to undisguised sneer, and habitual contempt ?

V. HABITUAL PRUDENCE is another important means of securing domestic happiness. Prudence is practical wisdom. Without this, no society, from a family to a nation, can continue a day in comfort. Even domestic affection, and amiable tempers, cannot prove effectual where childishness and indiscretion reign. It is the part of prudence, in domestic management, to lay wise plans for duty and comfort; to foresee threatened evils, and guard against them; to consider and adjust circumstances; to study peculiar tempers and talents, and to accommodate our treatment to them; to avoid all embarrassing movements and connections; to make all due allowance for each other's dispositions and infirmities; and, in a word, to look through the whole machinery of the household, from day to day, and to see that all its parts be kept in such repair and order as to secure their happy operation. To do this requires prudence; that is, much close attention, and practical discretion. Not great talents; which are not always found adapted to this result; but sobriety of mind, calm discernment, and sound wisdom. And, of course, where the presiding head of a familly is strikingly destitute of this wisdom, domestic peace and comfort cannot be expected to prevail. It is as true of families as the prophet represents it to be of nations, that their situation is woful indeed when "babes rule over them.'


VI. Another important means of attaining domestic happiness, is, A CLOSE


AFFAIRS. "Let all things be done decently and in order," is the express command of the great Father and Founder of families. Without order there can be no permanent peace or comfort Where "there is confusion," there is apt to be "every evil work." In all societies there are various duties to be performed. Every member has his department of service; and upon the proper attention of each to his own department, depends not only the prosperity of the whole, but also the comfort of each individual. So it is in families. There must be system and regularity in our tabernacles, if we would desire them to be at peace. Every member of the household must know his own station, and perform his own duty. When domestic affairs are thus conducted there will be tranquility and comfort. Order begets neatness, neatness comfort, and comfort love. Examine the interior of a family in which times, seasons and appropriate departments of duty are constantly regarded; in which the hours for rising and retiring to rest, for meals, for domestic devotion, and other stated

« PoprzedniaDalej »