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engagements, are fixed and systematically observed; and where all the members are expected to yield a prompt and steady compliance with the prescribed order ;-in such a family, we seldom fail to find the reign of peace, quietness and comfort. This regularity itself is one of the essential elements of social enjoyment. But, on the contrary, a disorderly family; a family without system; a family of which every member is a law to himself;-though it have all the external advantages that wealth and splendor can give, must be miserable in spite of them all.
VII. The last means of securing domestic happiness which I shall mention, and that which may be said to embrace all the rest, is, THE REIGN OF PURE and undefiled RELIGION. All the means which have been hitherto mentioned may be in a good degree possessed, and yet if Religion be absent, there is no security that the tabernacle will be in peace. A venerable divine of the last age was accustomed to say-" A family without Religion, is like a house without a roof, exposed to every storm." Never was there a more correct and weighty maxim. Where the principles of genuine piety have no place, domestic affection, amiable tempers, prudence, mutual respect, and the strictest order may all be maintained, and yet all be in vain; for they may all vanish in a day; and even while they last, there are important sources of domestic enjoyment over which they can exercise no effectual control. There are exigencies in domestic history in which they are all utterly unavailing. In a word, the means before described are all highly important as auxiliaries; but none of them, nor even all of them combined, furnish the essential element of the blessing which we seek. This is to be found only in the religion of the Gospel ;-that religion which does not merely cherish devout sentiments toward God as our Creator and Benefactor; but also cordially rejoices in "redemption through the blood of Christ, even the forgivness of sins according to the riches of his grace;" which binds the disciples of Christ to one another as one body, and all to their God and Saviour, by the ties of redeeming love; and which constrains all who feel its power to "live not unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again.' This is that "godliness which is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
That real religion has a tendency to sweeten the tempers of those who embrace it—that its native spirit is a spirit of love, order, benevolence, patience, forbearance and charity ;-and, of consequence, that its native effect, wherever it really reigns, is to render husbands and wives more affectionate and harmonious; children more dutiful to their parents, and more united among themselves; and servants more faithful aud diligent, is acknowledged by all who believe that religion is a reality. If this be so, it follows, that the more genuine religion there is in families, the more reason have we to hope that peace and happiness will be found in their dwellings.
Nothing has so powerful a tendency to refine and strengthen domestic attachments as real religion. The ties of grace are the purest and the strongest on this side of heaven. And where to the bonds of natural affection these are added, the union becomes endearing and precious in the highest degree. They do more than all other things put together to cement family attachments, to promote family enjoyments, to constrain its members to "put away all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor and evil speaking, and to be kindly affectioned one to another, in honor preferring one another." Where grace dwells and reigns in the domestic circle, love is augmented; trials are sanctified temporal enjoyments are doubled; temporal sufferings are softened; and the members of the household are led on with united hands and hearts toward the kingdom of heaven. Yes, there can be no doubt that the reign of grace under any roof, affords a more certain pledge of domestic comfort, than the most diligent study of all the rules, counsels and laws that human wisdom ever formed.
A religious family will, of course, be a family of PRAYER, both secret and social. Every occupied apartment may be expected to be a closet of devotion; and every morning and evening to witness the praises and supplications of the assembled household. How strong the tendency of such habits to cement affection; to inspire mutual confidence; to diffuse a hallowed conscientiousness over all domestic intercourse; to prevent heart-burnings and strife; and, in a word, to banish every thing adapted to mar the individual and social enjoy. ment of the family! Surely those who daily and sincerely bow together before their common Father, unitedly confessing their sins, and unitedly imploring all needed mercy, will be far more likely to dwell together in peace, than those who never recognize this most tender and most interesting of all relations.
Religion in itself, has a direct tendency to draw down the blessing of God upon a family. It constitutes an affectionate relation with Him. "The tabernacle of the righteous," says the wise man, "shall flourish." And again, "He blesseth the habitation of the just." And how happy is that family which is the object of Jehovah's blessing! Whether they have much or little, it is sanctified. Whether prosperity or adversity attends them, it is ordered in covenant love, The presence of their covenant God is with them. His protecting providence is over them. He causeth his angels to encamp round about their dwelling; their "walls are continually before him."
Let it also be remembered that there are various domestic trials under which nothing but religion can afford a sustaining power. When the loss of property reduces the affluent to poverty; when the loss of honors brings down the pride of a household once elevated among men; or when the "king of terrors" enters the domestic circle, and bears away one after another of its beloved members; what consolation can human wisdom bring? Let the history of its powerless wailings give the answer. But visit, in the hour of its calamity, a family in which "pure and undefiled religion" reigns. How calm, how peaceful, how resigned under the stroke! What meekness, what Christian dignity, what joyful confidence in God, amidst all the pressure of his dealings! "Here is the patience of the saints!" Here is the precious privilege of those who "keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus!"
Such is the vital importance of religion to domestic happiness. There can be no adequate substitute for it. Accordingly, in what families are we most apt to see animosity, strife, disorder, and every evil work? In what families do we most frequently witness the authority of parents trampled under foot; and the disobedience and profligacy of children bringing grief and shame? In what families are we most frequently called to contemplate jealousies, hatred, jarrings, and wretchedness? Are they not met with, for the most part in those families in which religion does not reign; where the worship of God is not maintained; where his blessing is seldom, if ever, asked; and where, if there be "the form of godliness," its genuine "power" is unknown?
It is not asserted, indeed, that no families destitute of religion, are comparatively happy; or that none of those families over which professors of religion preside, can be called disorderly and miserable. There may, undoubtedly, be strong natural affection, and many amiable qualities, where there is no piety. But it is meant be asserted, on one hand, that where there is no religion in a family, that family is destitute of the surest and the richest means of domes tic comfort; nay, that the most important ends for which domestic society was instituted, cannot be attained at all;-and, on the other hand, that where a family reputed pious, is a stranger to domestic happiness, we must suppose, either that the profession is a vain pretence, or that, though sincere, it is counterbalanced by defects adapted to nullify its best influence. To doubt this, would be to doubt whether the religion of Jesus Christ is a religion of love and purity. To doubt this, is to doubt whether the native fruits of the Holy Spirit of Christ are "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, and temperance;" and to doubt whether, where these reign, there will be found, of course, the most solid individual and social enjoyment.
The view which has been taken of this subject suggests a variety of reflec tions, which are worthy of our serious regard.
1. The first reflection is, that ALL THE MEANS WHICH ARE NECESSARY FOR SECURING AND EXTENDING DOMESTIC HAPPINESS, ARE EQUALLY CONDUCIVE TO INDIVIDUAL ENJOYMENT. In many of our efforts to obtain worldly comfort, we are compelled to make great sacrifices; in other words, to endure much painful privation for a time, that we may ultimately secure advantages which more than counterbalance it. And to do this in a multitude of cases, is called, and justly called, real wisdom. But in the case before us, no such sacrifice is required. That is, all the principal means which we are called upon to use for the promotion of domestic comfort, are precisely those means which are most condusive to our own individual happiness. Reckon them up in order, as they have been enumerated and recommended;-The cultivation of DOMESTIC AFFECTION; the government of the TEMPER;-UNIFORM RESPECTFULNESS ;-habitual PRUDENCE ;—REGULARITY and ORDER in conduct;—and pure and undefiled RELIGION:-Can any one doubt that the more we possess of all these, the more personally happy we shall be, irrespective of the comfort of our families? We may say, then, to every head, and to every member of a family-"Thou art inexcusable, O man!" O woman! for wherein thou failest of cultivating all these, it is not merely of domestic peace that thou art making a sacrifice; thou deprivest thyself of personal enjoyment; thou "wrongest thine own soul;" thou art an infatuated traitor to thine own present comfort!
2. It is an obvious reflection, from what has been said, that, if we desire to derive all those benefits from religion in our families which it is adapted to produce, IT MUST BE CONSTANTLY KEPT IN VIEW, AND MADE A PROMINENT OBJECT, IN ALL OUR DOMESTIC AFFAIRS. One reason why religion is not more influential in securing family comfort, doubtless is, that it is too little, or too unhappily, brought into view; that it is not presented with either sufficient constancy, or sufficient attraction to the several members of our households. Some parents and heads of families, indeed, in attempting to reach this object, have sought it unskilfully. They have endeavored always to make Religion the most prominent thing in their intercourse with the members of their households; but they have presented it under an aspect of such rigor and severity, and in all their deportment, have indulged in so much of the austere and forbidding, that they have repelled rather than conciliated those around them who were not pious. This is unhappy. It is presenting rather a caricature of religion than its real character. Can we wonder that the children of such families often grow up with an aversion to religion; nay, that they are sometimes the most reckless and impious members of the community. But a much more common fault, even among heads of families who appear to be truly pious, is, that their religion is not kept sufficiently in view, either in their spirit, or in their treatment of their children and domestics. If children see that religion makes but a small figure in the daily example of their parents, and that while they recommend it in words, they manifest but little of its spirit in their temper and conduct; they will be apt to receive injury rather than profit by such an exhibition. Or, if their parents, however serious and exemplary in their outward deportment, seldom mention the subject of religion to them, and do not appear to feel that habitual and weighty sense of its importance in their plans and measures with regard to their children which it obviously requires-who can expect the influence, in this case, to be of a salutary kind? If we desire religion to exert its benign and appropriate power in our families, it must shine forth in something of its appropriate character. It must be seen, as mild, amiable and attractive. It must be seen, to be reasonable and lovely, as well as firm, steady and unyielding, It must show itself in the sweetness of reward, as well as in the solemnity of punishment. In short, let children and servants see that this is the grand principle which governs in private as well as in public; in refusing as well as in granting their requests; in selecting the places of their education; in choosing their associ
ates; in every plan and measure without exception. Then will Religion occupy its proper place; for if it be ANY THING it is EVERY THING. Then will it appear "THE ONE THING NEEDFUL." Then will it be likely to make a daily and salutary impression. Then, and not till then, may it be said to REIGN in a family; and then may we hope that it will, in some good degree bind all the members together as "one body, and every one members one of another."
3. Another reflection suggested by what has been said, and of no small importance, is this-HOW EASY IS IT FOR A SINGLE UNHAPPY MEMBER OF A FAMILY TO DESTROY ITS PEACE! As the humblest individual who fears God, sent by his good providence into a family, even of heathenish impiety, may prove a rich blessing to it, so remarkably exemplified in the influence of the little Hebrew maid in the family of Naaman the Syrian; so a single corrupt member received even into a family in the main pious, may prove a source of mischief deep, lasting and deplorable. Often has the peace of a family been destroyed by one such member. Nor is it difficult to conceive how an unprincipled domestic of either sex, or a vicious inmate of a family in any station, may be secretly deceiving, ensnaring and leading to ruin other members or inmates, before the evil is even suspected. He who allows such an individual to remain under his roof for a single week or day after detecting his character, is infatuated, and unfaithful to the most precious interests of his family. It is evident, then, that heads of families, if they desire to secure domestic happiness, ought to exercise peculiar vigilance with regard to this point. Let them consent to incur serious temporary inconvenience rather than introduce such domestics or inmates into their households. If they cannot have sincere piety in all, let them at least require pure morals. Especially let them receive none under their respective roofs who refuse to conform to the religious order of their families. Such was the resolution of the inspired Psalmist. "He that worketh deceit," says he, "shall not dwell in my house. He that telleth lies, shall not tarry in my sight."
4. Finally; we are led to reflect, from all that has been said, HOW LITTLE REASON WE HAVE TO BE SURPRISED THAT MANY FAMILIES, RESPECTABLE, AFFLUENT, AND PLACED UNDER MANY OUTWARD ADVANTAGES, ENJOY SO LITTLE REAL HAPPINESS. The reasons are various; but any one of them is quite sufficient to account for the fact. In some, domestic affection is wanting; in others, domestic order; in a third class, the proper regulation of the temper, and the maintenance of mutual respectfulness are scarcely at all regarded; while a still larger portion have no RELIGION to guide, soften and cement them amidst the trials of life. Would it not be strange indeed, if happiness were found in such tabernacles? O ye who desire to invite and retain this blessing under your roofs, but have hitherto failed of realizing your desire,-try the means which have been suggested. Fairly and in good faith make the experiment. And, remembering the weakness and imperfection of all human efforts, "pray without ceasing" to the God of all grace that you may be inspired with wisdom and guided with strength in reference to this great interest; that your houses may be "temples for the Holy Ghost to dwell in ;" that the hearts of all the members of your households may be "knit together in love;" and that, after mingling in all the endearments of the domestic relation here below, you may not be mournfully separated through eternity; but that you may all be prepared by grace to be members of that blessed family above, into which no discord or strife, no sickness or death shall ever enter; but in which perfect harmony and perfect love shall reign without interruption and without end. Amen!
FROM THE PRESIDENT OF YALE COLLEGE.
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