Imágenes de páginas

countless fragments. "To injure the family by bringing its claims into doubt, by diminishing its purity, or weakening its authority, is to do an injury to society in general. Law, order, the state, intellectual improvement, morals, every thing, would fall with the family. And it would so, because the family is of God; and nothing which is of God can be shaken out of its position, or be lost, without causing the most disastrous results."*

In nearly all examples of distinguished men in church or state, the influence of the Family upon their characters in early life is quite apparent. Tracing back these influences to their origin at the domestic altar, we are constrained to attach paramount importance to this divine institution. It is said that Alfred the Great owed his intellectual distinction and true greatness to a single incident in the family when he was about twelve years of age- a parent's offer of a manuscript of Saxon poetry to any one who would commit it to memory. The excellent and talented Cecil said. "I detect myself, to this day, in laying down maxims in my family, which I took up at three or four years of age, before I could possibly know the reason of them." The reason of Baxter's singular devotion to the work in which he acquired such eminence was, that, in the family, his mind was early directed to the historical portions of the Bible. To influences within the family domain, history ascribes much that is great, or good, in the character of Lord Bacon, Johnson, Edwards, Newton, Buchannan, Dwight and many others.

AS ARE FAMILIES, SO IS SOCIETY. This proposition needs no extended proof. A community or state is a collection of families, possessing such a moral and intellectual character as the families possess. If each family is thoroughly christian, the community or state which they constitute will be equally christian. Were every citizen to give heed to his

* Upham.

personal duties and responsibilities, and faithfully discharge them, the community would be disturbed by no deeds of lawless violence. And if every family were a model in purity and intelligence, the state would be a model in all that pertains to civil polity. If each member of a church should set a watch over his own heart, and see to it that one heart is pure, the whole church would be cared for and preserved pure, in the care of each for himself. So, if each family should “observe to do" all that the Lord has commanded in order to promote its peace and prosperity, aiming to present one pure, christian family, the church and state would be full of "whatsoever is lovely and of good report." Hence, the important relation which the Family sustains to all other institutions, inferior only to the church of God. As another has said, "it antedates and underlies all other organisms, is the oldest human society, the mother and nurse of the church, the strong foundation on which rest the state and civil society, and the teacher and model of government."

Consider more particularly the RELATION OF THE FAMILY TO THE STATE. Says John Angell James, "Well instructed, well ordered, and well governed families, are the springs, which from their retirements, send forth the tributary streams that make up, by their confluence, the majestic flow of national greatness and prosperity; nor can any state be prosperous, where family order and subordination are generally neglected; nor otherwise than prosperous, whatever be its political forms, where these are generally maintained. It is certainly under the wise instruction and the impartial sceptre of a father, and within the little family circle that the son becomes a good citizen; it is by the fireside and upon the family hearth, that loyalty and patriotism, and every public virtue grows; as it is in disordered families, that factious demagogues, and turbulent rebels, and tyrannical oppressors, are trained up to be their neighbor's torment, or their country's

scourge. It is there that the "thorn and the brier," 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." These words are proved truthful by reference to the present condition of society, and to the records of past history. Ancient Greece and Rome placed the highest renown on the forum and the battle-field in the career of the senator and the soldier. And it was their boast, as we learn from the classic writers of antiquity, that sons were nobly trained in the family for the service of their country. The studious were encouraged to aspire after the fame of the scholar and orator, and the ardent and fearless to win the laurels that wreathe the brow of the warrior. The Grecian and Roman both entertained false notions of human glory, and were impelled by a wicked ambition in their efforts to win it, but the fact to which reference is had clearly proves the important relation which the family holds to the state. And did space permit, the annals of Greece and Rome might furnish illustrious examples of statesmen and generals, reared in the quiet family with special reference to the offices which they afterwards filled with honor.

[ocr errors]

The Family is a state in minature, of which the father is king. It contains all the elements of the body politic, developed and developing. There are the future artizens and agriculturists who will wield the utensils, the 'statesmen and rulers who will hold the destinies, and the ministers and conservators of truth who will watch the altars of our land. There is every passion, and hope, and feeling which ever kindled in the bosom of humanity, existing, indeed, in embryo, but fast growing into vigorous and manly exercise for a nation's weal or wo. When John Adams was engaged in the instruction of youth, in the city of Worcester, in the year 1756, he said, "that it awakened in his heart peculiar interest to regard his school as the world in mina

ture that before him were the land's future presidents, governors, legislators, divines and counsellors. He had only to imagine, what might prove true, that this one was a prospective ruler, and that one a legislator, and the other a minister, in order to stimulate him to that course of effort without which youth for those respective spheres would be lost." His remarks would have been equally true if he had spoken them of the Family. The following is an illustration of this truth. In the year 1782 there were born in four families, residing in three different states, four distinguished American statesmen, viz. : Daniel Webster, John

C. Calhoun, Lewis Cass, and Martin Van Buren. Then, those families were undistinguished from the great multitude of tamilies around them. Yet, as we now regard the influence which those gifted statesmen have exerted in the councilhalls of the nation, we learn that those families sustained a very important relation to our government. Within them were prospective legislators and statesmen, daily receiving impressions to fit or unfit them for the important trust to which they were unconsciously advancing. Could those parents have been gifted with a prophet's ken to discern the public career of those whom they were disciplining, perhaps, with too careless hand, it would have rolled upon them an overwhelming burden of responsibility. They would have had a most impressive view of the relation they sustained to the national government. And what family can say positively, that it may not hold a relation to it of equal impor- ' tance !

Not less important is the relation of the family to the state in respect to evil. To send abroad unprincipled and irresponsible agents to trample upon human laws, and set at defiance civil authorities, is a very undesirable relation to sustain. The eye may now rest upon the wretched victims of vice and crime, whose lives are more than a perpetual nuisance to society, a dreadful blight and curse upon its

dearest interests, living to peril the peace and purity of the world, to spread the elements of discord earth-wide, and to introduce the reign of anarchy and moral death. To be the occasion of sending one such pest into society may well attach a fearful obligation to the household bond. To hazard thus, by proxy, the peace and prosperity of the Commonwealth, and corrupt the morals of communities by an irresponsible progeny, is an issue from which every noble and patriotic parent desires to be delivered.

The stability of government resides in the virtue of the people. A territory stretching from sea to sea, a fertil soil, and exhaustless mines of gold and silver, do not make a people prosperous. Proud and populous cities, wise and prudential statutes, mighty armies and navies triumphing on land and ocean, do not ensure a permanent government. Nor, even, can education, and the spirit of true liberty, alone, sustain a nation, and transmit its institutions unimpaired to posterity. This is done, if done at all, by the tried virtue of the people. Good citizens, and not wealth, power, or political organizations, give stability to government. Parties may organize, education and politics combine, and every possible intellectual, political and secular agency cooperate for the success and glory of a nation, but its days of prosperity are numbered if there be not a goodly share of virtue in the hearts of the people. So speaks reason and observation. So speaks the past. So speaks the present. There is but one voice, and one experience, and one illustration upon this subject. History declares in the rise and progress, the decline and fall of governments, that their stability resides in the virtue of the people.

But when, where, and how are good citizens made? Are they made after the adult character is formed? By no means. What kind of citizens they shall be is determined before they attain to manhood. While under parental discipline it is decided whether they will be loyal or not. Here, if ever,

« AnteriorContinuar »