Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

THE

CHRISTIAN PARLOR MAGAZINE.

JUNE, 1844.

HAGAR IN THE WILDERNESS.

(SEE PLATE.)

DEEP is the desolation in the heart of Hagar. Sent away by the father of her child, she is an outcast, without home, or shelter, or friend. In her wanderings she has carried with her a crushed spirit—a heart heavier in its sadness than the burden on her shoulder. Can we tell how high had been her hopes, or how fondly she had anticipated for her son the inheritance of Abraham's wealth, and what was more, that all the promises, not unknown to her, would center in him? But a child of Sarah's had come between her and her hopes.

If it was wrong, it was yet but too natural when Hagar found herself a mother, and her mistress in the wane of life, and yet childless, that her heart should be elated, and that pride should

usurp the place of humility. And with envyings on one side and consciousness of advantage on the other, it is not strange that between the childless mistress and the motherservant there should be jarring discord. That child was not to Sarah what she thought it might be when she voluntarily gave her maid as a wife to her husband. She now felt that her own importance was lessened and that of her servant increased, and she murmured at a result from which she had looked for satisfaction. And now when Isaac is born and Sarah is herself the mother of the promised seed, a rivalry springs up with its bitter fruits, and the father finds himself compelled to banish his elder son with his mother from his dwelling. But God, in counselling the father of the faithful

to submit to this necessity with cheerfulness, is kinder than the now elated wise.

We cannot follow Hagar in her wanderings Her tears—her wearisome steps--her communings with her own spirit and with her son, as they trod alone the desert, have found no place on record; yet fancy may well paint them to the mind. The mother-her own famishing state forgotten -thinks only of her son. She has no hopeprobably no wish to live, but she cannot endure to see that son die-to die of want which she has no power to relieve. Perhaps she heard him murmur, in his feverish dreams—" water -mother, give me drink.” She has retired from a scene which her nature cannot endure. Mark her! her desolate, broken heart speaks in that countenance. The sorrows of a mother are painted there. The deep anguish of soul is written in that face.

But Hagar, thou art not forsaken-there is an eye resting on thee before which all the future lies open. A well of water in this desert close at hand, invites thee to slake thy thirst -go dip from it and cool the lips of the boy.

In looking on Hagar here, to human view just ready to perish, it is interesting to compare the promises and prophecies with what is now the history of the past, or present reality. Before the birth of this child the angel of the Lord had said to her, “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude, thou shalt bear a son, and shalt call

VOL. I. NO. II.

was:

his name Ishmael, because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man ; his “hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him.” And when Abraham prayed with a father's heart, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!" the gracious answer

“ And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee; behold I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.” In her despondency these promises had failed to assure her of needed help. She had “cast the child under one of the shrubs, and sat her down over against him, a good way off, as it were a bow shot; for she said, “ let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him and lifted up her voice and wept.” But again a kind voice comes to her from Heaven in words of encouragement and assurance, “what aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thy hand; for I will make him a great nation.These promises are sure.

In this day we read their fulfilment on the page of history. For nearly four thousand years the descendants of this elder son of Abraham have been wild men, “ their hands against every man, and every man's hand against them.” In that wilderness where the mother and son wandered and were just ready to perish, yet dwell the untamed, unsubdued children of Ishmael. Mahomet claimed his descent from this wild man.

A large part of Arabia, more especially Arabia Petrea, has been their home. On these barren sands they have multiplied into millions, and from these, some twelve hundred years since, they issued forth in hordes fierce and terrible, sweeping with their armies half the then known world. The hosts of Asia and Africa, and of Europe, have quailed before them. The twelve tribes of Ja. cob have been scattered among the nations of the earth, and no narrow spot of the globe now owns their rule. But the twelve tribes of Ishmael, unchanged in character or habits, are still in the land of their progenitor. The attempts of the most powerful monarchs, and the efforts of generals accustomed elsewhere only to victory, to bring them into subjection, have been abortive. The Bedouins, descendants of Ishmael, still roam in all their wildness.

The greater portion of the world has been the scene of changes so entire as to blot out nations with their characteristics, kingdoms with their dynasties, and to introduce new inhabitants, new

governments, and new laws and customs in place of what had been. The descendants of Ishmael, with some other Arabian tribes, can alone trace back their origin through nearly forty centuries to progenitors who dwelt where they now dwell, and with no breach in the continuance of their possession. No other people can so fully establish a prescriptive right to their country, or claim for their customs the stamp of so remote an antiquity. In the days of Jacob the Ishmaelites traversed the desert on camels, bearing the rich merchandize of “ spicery, balm and myrrh.” After more than thirty-five hundred years they are still found in the same pursuits, even the bearers of their merchandize, the patient camel, descended perhaps from the same beasts which Joseph in his unnatural bondage was forced to accompany into Egypt.

What intercourse may have been between Ishmael and his brother Isaac, after this separation, we are not informed. When their father died they united in burying him. Their pursuits were probably so different as not to bring them into collision, and Ishmael, in love of that wild life to which his descendants still cling, may have cheerfully yielded up to his younger brother the wealth of their common father.

Probably the best-indeed the only specimen of life and manners as they existed in ine early ages of the post-diluvian world, are now found among the descendants of Ishmael. Time has only swept away one generation, to place in its stead another, identical in everything, except personal being

Now Hagar, as described in holy writ—thy despairing sorrow told in the unadorned language of nature—thou art as palpable to our imagination as thy image in the picture to the eye. Thou didst live in a time when God held intercourse with his creatures, and when angels were sent to speak in audible voice to human ears. Thou thinkest thyself and son ready to perish, notwithstanding the promises of Him who cannot lie. We see thee, desolate as thou lookest, the fountain head of a mighty stream flowing on in unbroken current for thousands of years. But a day shall come when the fierceness of thy children shall cease—when the delusions of Mahomet shall be broken in their charm-when the sheick with his clan shall gather around the simple minister of Jesus, and the Bedouin shall cease from his plunderings to listen to the words of gospel truth, and instead of the war shout, shall be sung the joy. ful song of the world's redemption.

[merged small][ocr errors]

It is natural and creditable to men to regard with a degree of veneration the institutions, monuments and usages of ancient time. That man is not to be envied or trusted who is unconscious of a sentiment of reverence towards the dim and hoary Past—towards the fathers of empire, the founders of government, the lawgivers of mankind. If this remark be just in relation to things and institutions human in their attributes and origin, much more must it apply to an institution whose origin is coeval with the commencement of man's history, and whose founder is God. Such an institution is the Family; the most ancient, venerable, permanent and universal of all the forms of society--commencing with man's history, and ending not until he is no longer a dweller upon earth. The family institution was prior to every other social form. It is not a creation of government, a product of legislation. It is not the offspring but the parent of states and of civil authorities; and it has been the wisdom of states in all ages to regard the family constitution with reverence. “ The common law itself,” says Lord Bacon, * which is the best bound of our wisdom, doth often prefer the prerogative of the father to the prerogative of the king.” Fathers were before kings, and the patriarchal staff before the sceptre of royalty, and the simple majesty of parental rule before the oldest thrones. Kingly and imperial sway are mere ephemera in comparison with the family; the first rude domestic tent of palm leaves ever spread by the Euphrates, was the emblem of a power more enduring and perFading than that of the Cæsars, more majestic than imperial Rome; to be known and honored from the rising to the setting sun, and till the last parent and child of the race pass in the wreck of matter and the downfall of the stars.

No earthly association was ever known comparable to this. We are struck with its permanency. The ocean changes its boundaries often --this never. The history of civil and political forms is a history of changes rapidly succeeding each other in an endless progress—but the Family Form, as if designed to be a similitude of the government of its great author, has survived the decay of the proudest kingdoms, and sustains itself among men of all nations and climes, and whatever changes may yet take place in earthly governments, and whatever the form that shall ultimately prevail, the perma

nence of the family is guaranteed to the end of time.

The moral power of such an institution as the Family cannot but be great. It is organized with a view to efficiency, by the God of Wisdom himself, and whether its influence be good, or through perversion bad, in the nature of the case it must be prodigiously great. There are, say, three millions of families in the United States. Now what would be the impression of statesmen if they knew that there existed within the limits of these States, three millions of small societies, each efficiently organized, its members compacted together by ties of the most inviolable nature; if, too, they had already taken possession of the country, -and were educating our rulers from the lowest to the highest, and training our officers of church and state of every grade? Who would not apprehend the worst consequences from the wrong exercise of their influence; and hail as vitally propitious to the interests of the nation and the world the discreet and wise management of each and every of this vast array of societies? Such are the families of the land and such their sway. The soil is theirs—the power is all theirs—the living, thinking, acting population, the men under authority, and the men in authority, are all theirs—they are the proprietors and lords paramount of the territory and mind and body of the nation.

is hardly possible, therefore, to overrate the importance of throwing light and the saving influence of God's Spirit and grace into the families of our country and the world, that a right direction and impulse may be given to their amazing power over the character and the temporal and eternal destiny of mankind. Oh, if our families were but baptized with the baptism of eternal love, the predicted and prayed for day of glory would be already here.

The family is by its constitution and ends essentially a religious organization. Its origin is from God. He designed it as the seminary, not only for the nurture of our physical nature through infancy and weakness, but much more for the inculcation and beautiful growth of those sentiments and principles, which prepare us for the service of God and mankind, in all the offices of love and duty, of patriotism, humanity, religion, and form the character which heaven, through grace in Christ, can admit to its everlasting man

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

sions. This is the

proper scope
and purpose

of the Family Institution, and no adequate substitute for its agency exists on earth. How beautifully and by what a sweet process, is the education of the heart and its affections, conducted in the bosom of a judicious and holy family, through infancy, childhood and youth! A presence and a power are there hallowing all they touch, felt in the depths of the soul in the visitings of strange joys, in the ethereal dreamings of hope, in the balmy air of love and fond tendernesses, in the soft and holy light that falls from heaven on the family altar, the patriarchal priest, the big old Bible, and the mother's eye so mild and saint-like. What wonder that in all life's changes, roam where we may, and in whatever circumstances, the Christian home of our childhood is remembered with religious yearnings ; the green sward, the brook, the cottage, bathed in mellow light, never fade from the past, and thither back from our most distant wanderings, we repeat the gladly made pilgrimage to that “ Palestine and Mecca of the mind;" and often amidst the strises of the world and the vaultings of ambition, we are both reproached and soothed with the hope, that on the spot where our infancy uttered its first innocent lisp, our old age may disburthen itself of sin and care, and slumber as sweetly as we then did upon our mother's bosom! We say

there is no substitute on earth for the family influence on the moral training of the heart. Men in their self-sufficient wisdom have tried it, with what results let history declare. Sparta tried it, substituting the state for the parent, aud she reared a commonwealth of brutes. It has been tried repeatedly in a system of divorces for convenience sake. The consequences alike in ancient Rome and modern France, were fearful. Perhaps the most inpressive example of the mischievons tendency of renouncing the Family Constitution and the domestic influence, is supplied by the history of the Romish Clergy. The Church of Rome pronounced marriage a sacrament, yet imposed perpetual celibacy upon her priesthool, and this whole order of men were thus excluded from the humanizing influence of family relations. They were forbidden to be husbands and fathers; they were denied the sacred moulding influence of Home, and they became incarnate fiends in the temper of their minds. The sun never looked upon men so berest of every attribute and sympathy of humanity. Estranged utterly and without remedy from every sentiment of kindness and

compassion, they outstripped in diabolical and cold-blooded cruelty, in intense and unrelenting ferocity, all the world ever dreamed of in its most barbarous ages. They became, says an eminent living author, in every sense, immediate and figurative, the sons and ministers of hell, and their fierce malignity and bitter hate as exhibited in their persecutions, scathed and withered every inch of earth they ever touched. The cruelties of Nero were tender mercies compared with theirs.

The fiercest pagan persecution was infinitely preferable to the mildest popish. Who would not have fled from the office of the holy inquisition, and taken refuge upon the pagan rack, or among the wild beasts of the Roman theatre ? How shall we account for the unbounded and atrocious ferocity of these men-for they were men, and once drew life from maternal bosoms. The answer which chiefly explains it is—they had ejected themselves as a body from the humanizing influence of the domestic organization-its soft and gracious sway reached not to them, waked not, nurtured not the natural affections in them. In the language of the writer just referred to,

they had no kindly relatierships, no natural cares, no mild hopes,—they were not social, not domestic. They were not husbands, fathers, friends, neighbors, or citizens; they had no fireside, no home,”—and they became demons Such is the inevitable consequence of invading the order of Providence by forbidding marriage The Institution of the Family cannot he thus set aside without dire and monstrous results. It was ordained to fit men for usefulness, for kindness, for deeds of generous benevolence, love, and mercy, and no substitute for it can be found. As the process by which the fruits of the earth are brought forward from the bud and blossom to finished ripeness and beauty, by which is imparted the inimitable and living blush, the fragrant odor, the perfect flavor, can be carried on only by nature, by laws of assimilation, affinity, and thousand-fold eliminations, above all counterfeiting art of chemist, painter, and sculptor, so the process of forming, training, ripening the heart, can be achieved only by the thousand-fold influence of the Family Institution. All the philosophers and artists in the world cannot make a peach-all the schools and governments in the world cannot make a MAN, and put a warm and gentle heart into his bosom. Alas! how many stupid attempts to do it have been made and failed. Train vines on the north side of an iceberg, moisten their roots with Dead Sea water, and expect juices

www 37

THE FAMILY INSTITUTION.

bland and nectarean as from fruits mellowed beneath Italian skies. Train man's heart elsewbere than amid the select and sacred influences and associations of Home, and with equal reason expect from it the gentle and generous beating of humanity. There are no springs of love where there are no gushings of household memories.

The family institution, we hardly need say, derives its principal charm and power, as an elucational agent, and as a source of happiness, from the presence and influence of religion. This is a truth not at all impaired by the fact that many families are found making no pretens ons to religion, and yet enjoying a considerable share of social happiness and respectability in the world. So far as happiness springs from natural affection and refined morality, they may attain it-but still it is owing to the influence of religion pervading a community that morality and natural affection are not as nearly extin. guished there as among the heathen. Religion exerting its influence directly or indirectly, is in fact the source of all the order, harmony, and propriety which distinguish the families of a Christian from those of a heathen land; and in exact proportion as the power of the religious influence is increased in families will be the increase of their blessedness and usefulness. Of the particular mode in which religion tends to this result we only observe generally that it does it by linking the family on earth to the family in heaven; by securing the friendship of Gol; by quickening and sanctifying the social atfections, by causing the domestic circle to dwell together in unity and love, and predis. posing each heart to the fulfilment of the whole detail of home's sweet charities and gentle offices of love and kindness. And it deserves to be remembered that domestic happiness, the peace and loveliness of the family, are greatly dependent upon the prompt and right fulfilment of these small offices. It has been well remark. ed by a philosophical observer that the misery of human life is made up of large masses, each separated from the other by certain intervals. One year the death of a child; years after, a failure in trade; after another longer or shorter interval, a daughter may have married unhappily; in all but the singularly unfortunate the integral parts that compose the sum total of the unhappiness of a man's life are easily counted and distinctly remembered. The happiness of life, the happiness of the family especially, on the contrary, is made up of minute fractions, the Little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss, a

smile, a kind look, a geate word, a heartfelt compliment in the disguise of playsul raillery, these, and the countless other little kindnesses of genial feelings, make a perpetual summer in the household where they prevail. And if there be a spot on earth which angels might long to visit, and where they might fondly linger, it is the loving Christian family, where parents and children, husband and wise, brothers and sisters, bound together in the blessed compact of love, and moving in harmonious spheres of duty and affection, fulfil the holy and beautiful purposes of the Family Institution.

The task which the Christian Parlor Magazine has undertaken is one of delightful yet solemn responsibility. To visit the domestic circle and firesides of our country; to furnish aliment to the mind, and force and freshness to the graceful charities of domestic life; to inspire cheerfulness without levity; to develope the treasures of the heart's deep affections without beguiling the fancy or corrupting the imagination, is an aim worthy of the ablest pens and the loftiest ambition, and a consciousness of success will be a sweet reward.

We conclude this paper by urging upon all the members of the family the importance of each contributing to the ends of its organization. In every important respect the well-being of all social forms depends upon the same principles. The causes of prosperity or destruction which operate in a nation, conduct to the same result in a family. The prudence and economy, the justice and moderation, the intelligence and piety which advance the one exalt the other ; the luxury, licentiousness, pride, ignorance, unkindness, discord and impiety, which are ruinous to the one are fatal to the other, with this important difference, that mischief operates much more slowly upon national than upon family character and happiness. But still the God who rules the nations of the earth, rules its families also, and the same great principles of government are applied in both cases.

Internal discord has been one of the most comion and fatal causes of national destruction. And no more potent mischief can invade the family. Love is the golden chain that binds the family group, and the only one that can bind it permanently and firmly. Let discord, suspicion, unkindness or alienation enter there, and the garden of its hopes and joys is blasted. Hence, parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, masters and servants, should individually and collectively seek to realize the benevolent designs of the

« AnteriorContinuar »