Imágenes de páginas

into the Fates. The doom of society would be sealed. It is of vital interest to the State and the church that woman should exert her magical influence only in that sphere which God has assigned her, and in which she may wear the crown and wield the sceptre of a queen.

"There woman reigns, the mother, daughter, wife;
Strews with fresh flowers the narrow way of life;
Around her knees domestic virtues meet,
And fireside pleasures gambol at her feet."

There is also the principle of monogamy, the law by which marriage is legitimated only between one man and one woman, an ordinance enforced alike by God the Creator and God the Redeemer. Vital as its observance is to the peace and harmony of the family, it is of no less importance to the purity of the church and the welfare of the State. It is a matter for thanksgiving that no church and no Christian government theoretically tolerates the evil of polygamy. But its existence as a fact among the American people is a blot upon their civilization. It is at once a fret and a shame to the age. There is further the principle of the perpetuity, under limitations, of the marriage bond. That bond is designed to be, and ought to be, perpetual; but it is liable to dissolution by reason of sin. When it has been wickedly disrupted, the question arises in regard to the legitimacy of divorce. There are two vicious extremes into which human legislation actually runs the one of legalizing divorce upon insufficient grounds, that is, grounds not warranted by the Divine Lawgiver; the other, of permitting it upon. no grounds. God, in His word, recognizes one and but one ground of divorce-the dissolution of the bond of

marriage, and specifies two ways in which that may occur; first, infidelity to the marriage covenant; and, secondly, causeless, wilful and irremediable desertion. Those States, therefore, which grant divorce upon other grounds than these are looser than the divine law, and those which refuse it upon these grounds are stricter than it. In either case, mischief must be the result. Would that legislators had the grace to regard themselves as neither wiser nor more merciful nor more careful of morality than God Himself!

II. I pass on now to the consideration of the special and practical aspects of the family as a separate religious organism.

Let us, first, contemplate the family as an Institute of Instruction.

It is not necessary to spend time in discussing the question of the natural obligation resting upon parents to teach their children. Whether they do or do not address themselves formally and methodically to the discharge of this parental function they are, from the nature of the case, teachers, and teachers exerting a prodigious influence upon their children. The school is one of nature's construction, and not a product of conventional arrangement. The pupils are born into it, have no vacations, and never leave it until they arrive at an age when they are prepared to become teachers in a similar school with similar students. The near and tender relations involved, the almost god-like authority of the parent, the assimilating disposition of the child causing it with sponge-like facility to absorb the influence of teh daily words, and acts and life of the influence of the daily words, and acts and life of the father and mother, all these considerations show that the family is necessarily a potent institute of in

struction. This is obvious. But the duty resting upon the parent in a stricter and more formal sense to teach his children will also be generally conceded. As, however, in consequence of our weakness and imperfection we are liable to the neglect of even admitted duties, let us look at some of the reasons which bind us to the conscientious performance of this obligation.

The Scriptures are not silent in regard to this primal duty of religion. There can be no doubt that the first family which existed on earth was a school of religious indoctrination. The narrative in Genesis confirms the antecedent probabilities in the case. The pious Abel conformed his practice to the evangelical instructions of his parents when he offered in his worship an animal as significant of his faith in the Lamb of God, who should, in accordance with the purpose of redemption, render himself a propitiatory sacrifice for sin; and his wicked brother sinned against the gospel delivered to him by the same instructions, when he furnished the first and leading instance of will-worship in his infidel presentation of a bloodless offering. Through the Patriarchal dispensation believing parents handed down to their children, generation by generation, the first glorious promise of redemption; and even when the professed people of God had lapsed into an almost universal apostasy from the truth, there remained one family in which the torch was still kept burning that was kindled at the altar of Adam and Eve. The same sacred light shed its rays in the ark when shut in by God's hand, and when borne upward by the swelling waters of a mighty deluge, with the corpses of a drowned world floating around it and heaved up against its sides. That family school, thus miraculously preserved, became the distributing centre

of gospel truth to a new world, alas, so soon by the force of corruption to repeat the crime of its predecessor, and in the face of its doom to plunge into an idolatrous apostasy from God! Yet here and there in that desert of defection the truth of the gospel maintained its supremacy in some family seminary. The venerable patriarch of Uz taught his children the scheme of salvation in which all his personal hopes were grounded. Abraham, when called of God to be the founder of the church under new sanctions, became an exemplar of fidelity in the duty of parental instruction. By express and solemn statute, the Mosaic code constituted every family in Israel a school of religious training. "Only take heed to thyself and keep thy soul diligently lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them, thy sons and thy sons' sons." "And 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." The illustrious captain who led the host of Israel across Jordan into the promised land, said in his last, affecting address to his countrymen: "Choose you this day whom we will serve. . . . As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

The royal Psalmist declared that he would "walk within his house with a perfect heart," implying tha he would in his family both inculcate by precept and exemplify in his conduct the principles of the religion he professed. His son, the wisest of men, who well knew, from his own experience, the benefits of family tuition and the disastrous effects of its neglect, fur

nishes the salutary admonition: "Train up a child in the way he should go," and appends the promise that “when he is old he will not depart from it;" intimating that the habits engendered in the young by faithful parental instruction may ordinarily be expected to bear corresponding fruits in maturer life. The same great man, speaking by the Holy Ghost, also charmingly counsels the young: "My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life." The evangelic prophet records "the writing of Hezekiah, king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness," in which the restored monarch says: "The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day; the father to the children shall make known thy truth," as though he esteemed it one of the chief offices for which his life was prolonged to impress upon his children the ways of the Lord. It is worthy of notice that the last of the prophets, in the very closing words of the Old Testament Scriptures emphasizes the discharge or neglect of parental and filial obligations and the consent or disagreement of parents and children in supporting the true religion, as conditioning God's blessing or His curse: "Behold, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.' The practice of the pious in training their


« AnteriorContinuar »