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ishment came. His authority was absolute and supreme. But now, the very first trait in our national character that is noticed by the stranger who arrives on our shores, is the universal prevalence of filial disobedience. Account for the fact as we will, it cannot be denied that the race of worldly-minded fathers and mothers is alarmingly on the increase. Hence the multitude of children who bring their parents to shame! and bring down their gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.
We need a reform in the education of the family.
This turning over the child entirely to the secular teacher for six days in the week, and to the sabbath-school teacher on the seventh, is as common as it is pernicious. If the education of the child and the character of the man, stand in almost the same relation as cause and effect, and if it be a true maxim, that domestic education can never be safely supplanted by any other, it is high time for us to see how far these principles are lost sight of!
We need a reform in the spirit of the family.
"Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the North! where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?" What with the "evil eye" of him who hasteth to be rich, which to such a lamentable extent has taken the place of the eye of faith? what with the abounding iniquity that prevails, by which the love of many has been made "to wax cold;" what with the tenth wave of our material progress, overwhelming for the time being every thing like similar progress in spiritual affairsit certainly is the fact, that the spirit of the family is much more frequently that of the world, than of Christ. Hence multitudes of the children of the church have already "gone into captivity before the enemy;" and if this spirit be not changed, they will be speedily followed by multitudes more.
We need a reform in the literature of the family.
Of the twelve millions of volumes annually sent forth from the American press, 66 ONE SIXTH part are NOVELS and TALES, while the proportion of fictitious to solid reading in France, is only one-sixteenth!" Books are now read by those pretending to be modest, whose every page should make their faces crimson with shame, and under the poor pretence of classic taste and the cultivation of the fine arts, pictures and engravings are found upon our parlor tables that would have better adorned the walls of Sodom and Gomorrah. Let any parent gather the dream books from under the pillow, the novels from the secret drawer, and he will know something of the shame of Jacob when he found the "strange gods" that had been collected in his household. If any where, the work of family reform should commence speedily, surely it is here!
Above all, we need a reform in the religion of the family. If there are any two laws of the kingdom plainer than these, we know not what they are; first, that the children of those who
have believing parents are those who are ordinarily made the subjects of converting grace; secondly, that these are for the most part converted during the period of youth. If they are not brought in in their youth, the fearful probability is that they will never be brought in at all. "Every man in religion is really, what he is relatively," said Philip Henry, himself a model in this respect, than which perhaps we could select none better. And Richard Baxter used to think, "that if family religion was fully discharged, the preaching of the word would not long remain the general instrument of conversion." With the history of Kidderminster before us, who will dare to say that he was mistaken?
Family reform may be difficult: we frankly admit that of all others it is the most so; but then on whom shall we lay the blame except ourselves? Doubtless it was difficult to Jacob. Not readily, not without remonstrances, were the idols parted with not without regret were the earrings burried under the oak, by the other part of the family. But it was done, nevertheless: Jacob with all his imperfections of character, was still a true child of God, and this was the unerring test-that when duty was fairly set before him, he did not dare to do otherwise than obey! And now behold the result! "And they journeyed, and the terror of God was upon the cities round about, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob." So true is the word of the Lord.
Them that honor me I will honor." If the religion of the closet, like" the ointment of the right hand that bewrayeth itself," is "rewarded openly;" much more so is family religion. To use a familiar illustration, you might as well expect to have light and water in your dwellings, without making the proper connection with the pipes in the street, leading from the reservoirs, as to expect that the religion of the church will do good to your families without the religion of home. The family is a divine institution as well as the church. To merge the one in the other is popery, and infidelity, and heathenism. Only when the family is regarded as the nursery of the church, do we observe the true order of things as appointed by God himself. Never shall we make the house of God a "Bethel;" never shall we make our own houses worthy of the name, as tabernacles of Jacob, until we put forth a strong and prayerful effort, and take away "the strange gods" that are among us! Then may we hear the watch-word, "Arise and go to Bethel!" nor hear that call in vain!
THE DUTY OF CHILDREN TO HONOR THEIR PARENTS.
"Honor thy Father and thy Mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."-EXODUS XX. 12.
THE Apostle Paul has called our attention to the fact that this is the first of the Ten Commandments with a promise attached to it; and he urges the fact of the promise as the reason why children should be careful to obey it. The promise is a long life. Is it not remarkable, is it not worthy of the attention of all children, that such a promise is attached to this commandment? Does it not show that God places a high value on obedience to parents, and that even children are under his government; their actions noticed, their obedience rewarded, and their disobedience punished? Nor should children ever forget the circumstances in which this commandment was at first given. It was first given on that wonderful day when God came down on Mount Sinai, amid thousands of angels-amid clouds and fire and smoke, and the voice of mighty thunderings, to give his people Israel a law, by which all their thoughts, words, and actions, were to be governed. This may serve to impress our minds with the solemnity and importance of this commandment-" Honor thy father and thy mother."
Before entering on the specific design of this discourse, which is to show what it is to honor father and mother, and to insist on the duty of children towards their parents, it may be proper to make a few remarks on the commandment itself. And, First,
This Commandment is not intended solely for those who are commonly called children. It is generally supposed to be intended for such, and for such only. But it is a mistake. For, as you well know, it was announced in the presence of all Israel, and like all the other nine commandments, it was intended for the heart and conscience, and outward obedience of every Israelite without exception. It was intended for the old as well as the young. Many of the people who stood around the Mount and heard the voice of God uttering this law, had parents buried in Egypt. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the parents of the whole nation, lay in Hebron, in the land of promise, to which they were then going. But what of that? Though these venerable and holy men had for many long years slumbered in the dust, their children were still under the most solemn obligations to honor them. If you ask how, we answer, they could honor their memories, they could steadfastly remember their instructions, and follow their example, in the worship and service of Jehovah, the true God; they could keep
themselves separate from the polluted Canaanites of the land in which they were about to dwell; they could conscientiously maintain the faith in which their parents had lived and died; and thus doing, they would both glorify God and honor their parents though now no longer among the living. Hence this is a commandment as truly for the old as the young-during all the days of their life. It might with all propriety be chosen as the text of a sermon addressed to elders, senators, and men of gray hairs and venerable character, with as much propriety as any text whatever. The commandment itself is binding on all men, of all ranks and conditions as long as they live.
A second remark is that this commandment is given in favor of all parents. This is a remarkable fact. All parents are not such in character as to render them worthy of honor; but, notwithstanding, there is no exception here made. Some parents are profane; some are prayerless; some intemperate; some fearfully wicked; some have no fear of God before their eyes; and some openly refuse all reverence towards his commandments. They disregard the Bible, the Sabbath, and the Sanctuary; they neglect all religious duties; they set at nought all the terrors of the judgment, and neither pray for their own souls nor the souls of their children. Many parents are cruel to their children and treat them with hardly any parental affection. And yet when God speaks to all children touching their feelings and conduct towards their parents, he makes no exception. What he says to one, he says to all: "Honor thy Father and thy Mother." He thus throws the shield of his protection over all parents, whatever may be their character. How solemn is the position of a parent! with what dignity God invests it in the eyes of all men! A child may not dishonor a cruel and wicked parent, without incurring the displeasure of God!
A third remark, very obvious, is, that here is a commandment for all children. It is indeed for both old and young; but the young especially for all that are old enough to understand it; for the children of the rich and the poor; the children of slaves, and the children of the greatest of earthly kings; children in christian, and children in heathen lands. God sends forth his commandment to them all; he addresses them all in the same terms, with the same angust authority, making over to them the same divine promise. Whether born of a prince or of a peasantin the palaces of nobles, or in the humble cottage of the poorin christian or in pagan lands, if children obey this holy precept, they will obtain the blessing and rejoice in the favor of God. This conducts us therefore to the first grand division of our discourse:
I. What is it to honor parents? In answer to this question, we say, 1. To honor parents is to obey them in all that is right, when they require it. Said a young man, to one who was at the
moment enticing him away into the paths of sin and shame: "I promised my mother, before I came to New York, that I would read the Bible, worship God on the Sabbath day in the church, keep out of bad company, and never go to the theatre; and I intend to keep my promise." Here was honor to a parent, which we most earnestly commend to all youth, when they leave home for the city, if it be for only one week. If you go only for a day, into any great city, act on the principles of that pure-hearted young man. Avoid the ten thousand snares there laid for the immortal souls of the unwary. Come not within the first eddies of the whirlpool of perdition which Satan has there created. Stand aloof from the theatre, the gilded saloon, the midnight haunts of the impure and debauched. Keep your soul with all diligence. Honor your parents by conduct without reproach, and a reward will follow close upon your obedience, for God himself is pledged to bestow it. We say,
2. To honor parents is to do what is right, whether they require it or not. Parents cannot have foresight to command everything that is right. They cannot follow their children every night into their closets, and tell them that prayer is right. They cannot follow them everywhere on the Sabbath, and tell them to keep that sacred day holy. They cannot be present in every place where their children are tempted to do evil, and tell them not to engage in it. But children can always do what is right; they can always keep the commandments of God; they can be truthful; they can be kind; they can govern their tongues and their tempers; they can refrain from all vice; they can keep the Sabbath holy; they can avoid all profanity; they can pray; they can read the Bible and act according to its principles, and so doing, they will do just what their parents will delight to see them do; their parents will feel honored in their conduct; and the world looking on will say, "These children are an honor to their parents. It is a strange, yet well ascertained fact, that the upright, conscientious and pious conduct of a child is universally and at once regarded as reflecting honor on its parent. Probably it is because of the strong and infallible impression that the influence and example of the parent must in some way have produced that conduct. But certain it is, that if a child conducts himself nobly, the honor redounds at once to his parent as something in which he has an important share. We say,
3. To honor their parents, children must have respect to their feelings in reference to the choice of companions or of a profession. Youth are very prone to choose companions and even professions for life, without so much as even considering the feelings of their father and mother. This is all wrong. Parents feel such conduct very keenly, because it is disrespectful to them in the highest degree-and pours bitterness into their souls. It proves that their child has no regard for their feelings-no reverence for their