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II. Again; the importance of domestic happiness appears from the consideration, that IT IS A BLESSING EQUALLY ATTAINABLE BY ALL CLASSES OF Persons, AND WHICH MAY BE ENJOYED, NOT OCCASIONALLY ONLY, BUT EVERY DAY THAT WE LIVE. Some of those attainments which we most covet, and which enter in no small degree, into the elements of personal comfort, can be reached only by a select few of our race. The pleasures arising from the pursuit of literature and science: the gratification, such as it is, which flows from stations of honor and profit, among men ; and even those transient and turbid enjoyments which are gained by frequenting the circles of gaiety and fashion, can be enjoyed only by a small portion of mankind, and not even by them without many interruptions. But the happiness arising from a well-ordered and affectionate domestic circle, may be enjoyed by all classes of the children of men; in all situations of life; at all seasons: nay, it may be said to be most rich, sweet, and productive, when separated from the false pleasures of an ensnaring world, and left to its own resources. Of many other enjoyments we may be deprived by the caprice or the malignity of those around us. But those which the bosom of a happy family furnishes, the world can "neither give nor take away." In short, we may say of the pleasures flowing from domestic love and peace, as the inspired Apostle speaks on another subject-"Say not in thine heart, who shall ascend into heaven, to bring down this blessing from above? or who shall descend into the deep, to bring it up from beneath?" The blessing of heaven, indeed, creates it, and enables thee to enjoy it; but when possessed, "it is nigh thee, even in thine heart," and in thy dwelling, always, day and night, at hand, and ever ready to afford rich perennial refreshment.
It is an old remark, that human happiness is much less dependent on great but infrequent events, which produce a powerful impulse on the mind, than on the ordinary and perpetually recurring incidents which enter into our daily habits and enjoyments. The former have been compared to the periodical inundations of a mighty river, which once a year pours down fatness and plenty upon the country on its borders :—while the latter may be likened to the gentle showers, and the silent dew of heaven, which descend at all seasons, return after short intervals, and kindly nourish every herb of the field.
Surely, then, it is a dictate of true wisdom highly to prize that calm and unostentatious but rich enjoyment which domestic peace and love are adapted to secure, and to guard with the utmost care against its derangement or diminu tion. We may prepare artificial and highly sapid forms of diet, which will gratify in the occasional use; but they are by no means fit to be made the habitual sustenance of life. The simple and solid aliment which nourishes, without undue stimulation, will be preferred by every wise man for his daily food. The exhilerating gas which the chemist manufactures, may excite without essential injury, if it be sparingly and seldom employed. But nothing is so pleasant or salubrious for daily respiration as the atmosphere which God has made, and on which our organs perpetually feast without derangement or weariness. So it is with domestic happiness. It is the daily food of life; simple, solid, ever new, ever delightful, never cloying, but rather growing in hallowed relish from day to day. "What enjoyment is there in all the pageantry of state, in all the gratifications of sense, in all the delirious joys of giddy dissipa tion, once to be compared with this? O pleasures, cheaply purchased, placidly enjoyed; ever rising; ever disclosing new riches; never languid, never remorseful; why are ye so seldom adequately prized, and by so few pursued with com. plete success?"
III. The inestimable importance of domestic happiness may be further demonstrated BY THE MULTIPLIED AND WIDE SPREADING MISCHIEFS WHICH
DAILY RESULT FROM ITS ABSENCE.
If the mere privation of present comfort were the only evil resulting from domestic discord and strife, the mischief, though serious indeed, to each individual, would not be so deep and vital we often witness. But this, in a multitude of
cases, is but a small part of the evil. In how many melancholy instances have domestic feuds and alienation, driven husbands from their homes to the haunts of vice; tempted wives to violate their plighted allegiance; impelled children to take refuge among strangers from the miseries of their parental abode; and betrayed all into habits as degrading and destructive as they were criminal!
When home is attractive it will seldom be deserted :—but if it be uncomfortable, it is an instinct of nature to fly for relief to some other society. And if there be no reign of moral and religious principle, recourse will probably be had to society of a corrupt character. Many a husband and father once orderly and respectable, has been tempted, by the absence of comfort in his own dwelling, to resort for pleasure to the tippling club,-to the gambling table, or to the haunts of licentiousness—until he has made total shipwreck of his reputation, and of all standing in society; and perhaps made beggars of his wife and children. Had he found at his own fire-side that smile of affection which wins and attaches the heart; that spirit of kindness and accommodation which delights in conferring happiness; that neatness, attention and order which are so essential to family comfort, he might have been regular and respectable still. But, finding little or nothing of all this, in that domestic circle to which he was bound in duty, he was gradually but fatally estranged from it; and tempted to seek in other society, and sometimes among the basest and vilest of his species, that enjoyment which he found not in company with the wife of his bosom, and their common offspring. Yes, if we could look into the dwelling of many a degraded and ruined husband, we should see "DOMESTIC INFELICITY" inscribed in large and legible characters upon every page of his history, and upon every broken door and pillar of his wretched habitation!
In like manner, who can tell how many of the instances of coldness-of alienated affection-of illicit attachment-of conjugal infidelity—and of final wandering from a once happy home,-on the part of wives-are to be traced to DOMESTIC MISERY as their baleful source? There was a time, perhaps, when they enjoyed, in a good degree, the comfort arising from the love and the kind attention of their husbands. But this comfort was gradually withdrawn. Habits of vice entered to pollute and destroy. The diminished affection; the stern looks; the harsh tones; and finally, it may be, the habitual tyranny and brutality of their companions, made the conjugal bond a burden; rendered their domestic interviews scenes of sullen dislike, if not of ferocious violence; until they were tem ed to look to others for kindness and protection; and to abandon their children and their home in pursuit of unhallowed attachments. Many a wife, whose sin and shame have torn in pieces and scattered once happy families, might, humanly speaking, have been saved from this ruin, and all its concomitant and consequent mischiefs, if their home had been made to them, what it ought to have been, the abode of respect, kindness and love.
But this is not all. The effects of domestic infelicity on the spirit and course of children are often marked and melancholy. There are no human means so effectual in binding children to their parents, and to one another, in bonds of the tenderest affection, as MAKING THEIR HOME PLEASANT. When parents walk before their children, not only in purity and order, but with uniform kindness and love; when they instruct with affection, exhort with tenderness, reprove without asperity or harshness, and continually strive, while they are faithful to the best interests of their offspring, to employ all the means in their power to render the parental roof a precious refuge, a pleasant abode, a scene of comfort and endearment :-and when brothers and sisters of the same family, while they vie with each other in showing affectionate duty to their parents, are devoted to the comfort of one another: when a spirit of harmony, of mutual concession, and even of sacrifice, for the happiness of each, reigns among them all,-continually prompting every one to exhibit an amiable, accommodating deportment, to abound in kind offices, and carefully to avoid
every thing adapted to wound or repel :-in such a family, children will find themselves happy in their parents, and happy in one another. They will prefer the domestic circle to any other. They will leave their father's house with reluctance; will cast a wishful eye towards it, wherever they may sojourn or settle; and eagerly return to it as to a delightful centre of hallowed affection, whenever they are favored with an opportunity.
But reverse the picture. Suppose a circle of children to be members of a family in which discord and strife habitually reign. Suppose the parents to be austere, harsh, tyranical; repelling each other with mutual reproaches, and manifesting to all under their roof the most revolting despotism. Will such a family be apt to conciliate and attract the youthful mind? Will not sons be disposed to escape from it as speedily, and return to as seldom as possible? Can they venerate-to say nothing of love-can they venerate parents whom they are compelled daily to associate with such scenes? Can home present itself to their minds invested with any of those attractions which win and fix the heart? Will not daughters, when their paternal home is uncomfortable, be ready to make almost any exchange which promises relief; and sometimes, perhaps, in pursuit of this relief, take steps fatal to their peace, and perhaps even to their character, while they live? Alas! it cannot be doubted,-after making every reasonable allowance for the fact, that children, in family disagreements, are much more frequently culpable than parents;-still it cannot be doubted, that the melancholy aberrations of multitudes of young people of both sexes; once amiable and promising; their early abandonment of the parental roof; their false steps; their criminal connections; their blasted hopes; and their final destruction for both worlds, may be distinctly traced to that domestic unhappiness, which rendered home distressing, and tempted them to believe that almost any change would be for the better. These, yes, these, are the disastrous trophies of domestic discord and strife! It is thus that the FAMILY, which ought to be a nursery for the Church and for heaven; and which, when it bears any thing like the cha racter which it ought to bear, affords a lively foretaste of the purity, the harmony, and the love of that blessed world;―becomes a nursery of evil principles, and evil habits, and conspires with the great adversary of God and man, to degrade human honor, and to blast the brightest prospects of human feli city.
If there be the least truth in these statements, can we need further argu. ments to convince us of the inestimable importance of domestic happiness?— Every head of a family has the deepest interest in this subject, for his own temporal comfort, and that of her with whom, by the tenderest of all earthly connections, he has become "one flesh;" for his own spiritual peace and growth, which of course, can never prevail amidst discord and mutual alienation; for his children, whose preparation for living, and whose destiny in life, depend more on the character of that domestic circle in which they receive their youthful impressions than tongue can tell; in a word, for all those considerations which ought to affect the heart of a Christian and a man. He who does not see that upon the character of that domestic society over which he presides, are suspended temporal and eternal interests of incalculable extent; and that its maintenance in a happy state is worthy of all the vigilance, all the self-denial, all the unceasing labor, and all the fervent prayers, which he can bring to its aid, must be indeed blind to scenes of daily occurrence around him; scenes which must awaken the sympathies of every thinking man.
IV. Further, the great importance of domestic happiness appears from ITS
ESSENTIAL AND UNAVOIDABLE INFLUENCE ON THE CHURCH OF GOD.
The family has been called "the nursery of the Church." And, truly, in all the extent of what is implied in this figurative language, it is really the case. What the family is in itself, its members will generally be found to be in relation to the house of God. In fact, every Christian family is a little "Church" within itself. We have the authority of Holy Scripture for this
language. (Colossians iv, 15. Philemon 2.) And as the character of any aggregate body is necessarily formed by the character of its parts, so the visible Church of Christ will never fail to be such as are the families that compose it. If peace, order and love reign in every dwelling, or in a majority of them, peace, order and love will reign in the Church. But if domestic heart-burnings, and feuds, and strife, and alienation prevail, then just in proportion to the degree in which they prevail, will lukewarmness, indifference to the truth, heartless ordinances, "evil surmisings, and corrupt disputings," prevail in the house of God, marring, as a matter of course, all its spiritual beauty and undermining, or rather destroying every element of its edification.
We sometimes see professors of religion who, if we were to judge of them by the language of their social prayers, or by the character of their public services and efforts, we should judge to be eminently zealous and devoted Christians. But when we follow them to the bosom of their families, how sad the disappointment! "Of the carbuncie," says an eloquent writer, "it is remarked, that it looks on fire, but when touched, it is as cold as other stones. There are persons who soon rectify our mistakes concerning them, by our intercourse with them. They will not endure close inspection. Their piety is rather official than personal. It consists in certain exercises and appearances, which are resigned with the occasions that require them. In company, they are the merry companions, the temporising associates; in the house, the cruel husbands, the negligent fathers, the tyrannical masters.'
We need not inquire what must be the unavoidable effects of such examples on the great interests of religion and the church of God. They are too obvious to be mistaken, and too injurious and melancholy to be easily measured. What will men of the world say, when they enter such families, and witness such examples? Will they not be naturally led to conclude, either that religion is a fable, or that most of its professors are hypocrites; and thus, on either supposition, draw most unfavorable conclusions concerning the church of God? What will be the influence of such families on the children who make a part of them? Will they think favorably of religion, when they find their parents, while professing to be under its governing influence, manifesting so unlovely a spirit? Who can doubt that one great reason why so many of the ghildren of professing parents stand aloof from the church, and are finally found mong its opposers and contemners, is that they saw so little in the domestic example which they daily witnessed, which was adapted to raise religion in their estimation?
Here is a consideration, then, which addresses itself to every principle of attachment to the Redeemer's kingdom. O ye who are called to preside over families! behold the top-stone of the fabric of your obligation! If your households are the abode of piety, order, harmony, and love, besides promoting your own personal and social comfort; besides promoting the temporal and eternal welfare of your children; you are recommending religion to those around you, and building up the church of God. You are letting a light shine before men which cannot fail of warming and animating the friends of Zion as far as its influence extends, and of frequently leading others to "glorify your Father in heaven."
V. Only one more consideration will here be urged, and that is, that THE
MORE GENERAL AND PERFECT DOMESTIC HAPPINESS IS, THE MORE PURE, HARMO-
Communities are made up of families. And as the whole is equal to all its parts, in the science of numbers and quantity; so it is equally plain that, in the department of morals, the whole body will ever be found to bear the character which is generally born by its component parts. Of course, irreligious and disorderly families; families in which discord, strife, and hatred reign, will generally be found nurseries for training up the ignorant, the profane, the
JAY's Life of Winter, part II. chap. 3.
reckless, and the profligate. It is certain that all the disorders and crimes which disturb civil society, grow out of habits which are fatal to domestic happiness, and are the natural fruits of domestic infelicity. The intemperance, the profaneness, the fraud, the violence, and all the forms of profligacy, which are daily producing so much distress in the state, are precisely those habits which produce the great mass of domestic misery. Of course, when family government, order, and peace are generally maintained, there is just so much done toward the prevention of public crimes, and, consequently, just so much contributed to the promotion of happiness in the whole community. And, on the contrary, where they are neglected, the native fruit of the neglect is the raising up citizens, and the formation of habits, altogether unfriendly to the purity, order, and strength of civil society. Yes, from wretched, disorderly families, spring those youth, who ultimately afflict the land with violations of the laws, fill our penitentiaries with convicts, and consign to the gallows those who are unfit to live.
If any doubt this, let them turn their eyes, for a moment, to those parts of the world, in which the retirement, the union, and the affection of domestic life, are but little cultivated;-where parents and children generally find their enjoyment, not at home, but in public; not in the hallowed endearments of the domestic circle, but in the never-ending varieties of fashionable dissipation. What is the state of society in those countries? Is it moral? Is it happy? No, never. There, conjugal indifference, alienation, and unfaithfulness, reign with a fearful sway. There, the family in a great measure loses its proper character. There, the filial affection and duty of children are comparatively unknown, or little regarded. There, of course, the influence of domestic ties is swallowed up in the heartlessness of separate pleasures. And there, as a natural consequence, every species of disorderly and selfish gratification is proportionably prevalent. In a word, show me a country in which domestic society is little esteemed, and little sought after as a source of enjoyment; and I will show you a country in which all the bands of social order are deplorably lax; in which dissipation, profligacy, and crime, are pre-eminently prevalent; and in which those whose taste is formed on scriptural principles, can never be happy.
It is plain, then, that every PATRIOT, as well as every MORALIST, and every CHRISTIAN, ought to prize domestic happiness as a most important matter, in which the State, as well as the Church has a deep interest; as a matter which lies at the very foundation of all social order; as a precious attainment, on which are suspended the intellectual, moral, and spiritual welfare of our children, and the real comfort of every form of human society, to an extent which nothing but the most ample experience can fully appreciate.
From the view which has been taken of this subject, we may see,
1. In the first place, THE PERFECT INFATUATION OF THOSE WHO UNDER
VALUE THE HAPPINESS OF THE DOMESTIC CIRCLE, AND ARE CONSTANTLY SEEKING
ENJOYMENT ELSEWHERE. There are those to whom this character belongs. They have little conception of the comforts of retirement and home. Whenever they think of pleasure, it is always in connection with something abroad; -the gay company;-the circle of fashion and splendor;-the haunt of riot and dissipation; the convivial table;-the midnight party and song ;-these, if not some still more criminal in their character-are the scenes in which a large portion of mankind seek their happiness. In domestic pleasures, pure and rich, and solid as they are, they find no enjoyment. They consider these as fitted only for the weak, the demure, the spiritless. For themselves a higher walk, as they would express it-of enjoyment is marked out than the tame and insipid pleasures of the nursery, and the domestic fireside. Never was there greater infatuation! Such persons are "seeking the living among the dead." They will never find real enjoyment until their taste is rectified; until they can relish those calm and pure gratifications which a sanctified home fur