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JACOB BLESSING THE SONS OF JOSEPH.
THE wintry day of age would be indeed bleak and cheerless, if no nope from the future shed its rays on the darkening scene. But the good man, his duties on earth just ending, looking back on a life in which at every step he sees the guiding hand of a wise Providence, and looking forward to the future on earth for his children, and to the brighter realities on which he himself is now ready to enter, may well feel a holy inspiration breathing in his soul.
The life of Jacob had been an eventful one; and now, full of years, chastened at times by affliction, but largely experienced in blessings, he is ready to be gathered to his fathers. Joseph, the cherished son of the loved Rachel, long lost to a father's eye, has been restored to his embrace. Late a shepherd boy, exposed in the fields of Shechem to beasts of prey, and in Dothan to the heartless envyings of his brethren, he is now the prime minister of the greatest monarch, and the first prince in the most splendid court of the world. He has left the halls of royalty to receive for himself and sons the last blessing of a shepherd father. But that father, of what a nation the sire! In his seed what blessings to the human race!
Age has benumbed the limbs and taken vision from the eye of the old man, but his mind is lighted up with the visions of the future, and ages, with their tide of events, pass before him as a present reality. Blind to outward things, he yet sees down the long vista of time the things that shall be. In the past he sees the good providence of God ever surrounding him, though often trials had been in his path and afflictions had pressed him down with crushing weight. Well may he say to the beloved son, "I had not thought to see thy face," for during
the long period of twenty years or more he had counted him among the dead; but now, having nourished his father for seventeen years in the land of Egypt, his son comes to present his own offspring before their grandfather.
What must have been the impressions of these youths? They were the sons of a prince before whom the princes of a proud empire did homage -above their father Pharaoh only claimed preference. A royal court had been their birthplace, and amid its splendors they had spent the days of their childhood, and perhaps they gaze with wonder on the rude dwelling-place of the shepherd patriarch. But when the old man is raised up in his bed and calls them to his side, there is, perhaps, in their hearts an awe which, before Pharaoh on his throne, they had never felt. Here is no song or dance-no voice of mirth or revelry. It is the chamber of death. They feel that there is something more than a monarch's power or dignity. The reverend locks, the sightless eyes of one who had seen almost a century and a half of life, the solemn voice coming as from the unseen world, must have fixed their impress deep on the hearts of the youths, and indelibly engraved on their memory the words of Jacob. His hands are laid on their heads as with deepened pathos he invokes on them the blessing of the God of his fathers. "GOD, BEFORE WHOM MY FATHERS, ABRAHAM AND ISAAC, DID WALK, THE GOD WHO FED ME ALL MY LIFE LONG TO THIS DAY, THE ANGEL WHO HATH REDEEMED ME FROM ALL EVIL, BLESS THE LADS; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."
WHEN We reflect on the high rank assigned to distinguished conversational powers, as a means of influence, usefulness, and amusement; upon the various impressive admonitions given us in Holy Scripture as to the right use of the tongue, and upon the opportunities afforded by the domestic circle for the employment of speech in its most valuable offices of communicating pleasure and instruction, we know of no topic more worthy of an early place in the Christian Parlor Magazine than that of Domestic Religious Conversation.
It will be acknowledged by all who are conversant with the domestic society of this country, that there is room for great improvement, and that the real use of conversation is by no means sufficiently appreciated. Free and familiar conversation has some peculiar advantages over the work of solitary reading, over the formal lecture and epistolary correspondence. It is especially capable of bringing the results of these into the service of mutual improvement for any given circle, having an animation and often unwonted brilliancy from the play of different minds upon the same subject, and affording to the best instructed the advantage of knowing the state of mind in those who are yet in the early stages of intellectual progress.
Hence, in all enlightened nations, men of gifted minds have sought for conversational circles, where they might gain a fresh impulse, by having their own acquisitions called into immediate use, or their susceptibilities quickened by the pungent and brilliant exertions of others. In Athens the most renowned philosophers delighted in these social meetings, and female genius was invited to share in the enjoyment. The conversational circles of Paris became renowned over all Europe for their deep and thrilling interest, and there also the influence of woman was powerful, although often most sadly perverted. All who are familiar with the literature of England, are aware how much her distinguished scholars, as Johnson, Sheridan and others, delighted in those literary clubs where they met to give and receive a kind of excitement as relaxation from severer studies.
This conversational power each head of a Christian family should labor to develope and exercise, for the benefit of the little community
where he is appointed to preside. The more these faculties are thus cultivated, the stronger will our domestic attachments become, and therefore, as such domestic institutions multiply, the more solid and pure will be the happiness of our country. It should, therefore, be the determination of every American citizen, to make his home the centre of his enjoyments, and to fill the minds of his family with the spirit of mutual improvement.
It is not our object in this article to enter upon a discussion of the means by which domestic conversation in general may be improved so as to become a rich source of enjoyment (although that were a theme worthy of a volume): but we desire to speak a few words to those Christian parents who are solicitous for the highest good of their children on the duty and the privilege of religious conversation in the domestic circle.
We do not include in our design the regular communication of religious instruction in domestic worship, or at stated seasons of catechetical instruction-duties which are of vast importance-nor that personal spiritual inquiry and admonition which every faithful parent must prosecute with the individuals of his household from time to time; but we refer simply to the ordinary familiar conversation of the family when we sit around the table, and especially when we are confined to the sitting room by a rainy day; or gather round the fire on a winter's evening; or recline on the piazza at summer twilight; or under the shade-tree at summer noon. We wish to excite a sense of the great capacities which will be found in religious conversation for moral and intellectual improvement.
Religious conversation is not confined, as many seem to imagine, to a few gloomy reflections on the brevity of life, and a few simple maxims, however fundamental and important. It takes in a wide range of facts, and of thought, in which there is room for all the intellectual powers to expatiate.
The subject of Natural Religion alone is almost inexhaustible. The human mind early comprehends the relation of cause and effect, discerns the evidence of existing design, and argues perfection in the Maker from the variety, extent, and magnitude of the things which are
male. Beginning, then, with this original faculty, and first supplying it with a few most obvious facts by which the being and attributes of God are evinced, the parent may have at his command for gradual confirmation and moral impression, whatever his knowledge of the human system, so full of wonders,--or of the animal system in general, fraught with similar wonders innumerable,-or of the vegetable world in all its variety of loveliness, verdure, utility and beauty, or of the mineral kingdom with its vastness and roughness, as well as its elegance, polish and brilliancy,-or of the astronomical system with all its array of numbers and magnitudes, of distances and revolutions, overwhelming and inconceivably glorious, may be able to supply. From year to year as knowledge increases,—as new facts in Botany, Mineralogy, Geography, Geology or Astronomy, are disclosed, he may make them subjects of repeated conversation, and deduce from them the proof of infinite wisdom and power. Then there is the great law of right engraven on every man's conscience;-and there is conscience, itself a theme well worthy of study; and there is that expectation of a world of retribution, which dwells even in the savage breast; and there are all those convictions of sinfulness which every man has by nature, and out of all of these the necessity of a Divine Revelation.
But when we come to the Holy Scriptures themselves, how the range of great topics enlarges. First, arise to view the FACTS OF REVELATION; the creation of the world; the atonement, and the day of final judgment; the apostasy; the flood, and the resettlement of the earth; the destruction of the cities of the plain; the calling of Abraham; the history of Egypt, Nineveh, Babylon and Tyre. The history of the Jews, the wonderful people of the wonderful covenant; the story of their kings and prophets; the biography of their patriarchs and saints; the advent of the promised Messiah; his life, death, and resurrection; the first wonders of the new dispensation; the labors, sufferings and miracles of the apostles; the rejecon of Christ by the Jews, and of the Jews by the avenging Providence of God;-all these, with an innumerable variety of interesting facts intervening and filling up the outline, constitute a rich and beautiful field of animated conversation.
Next, come arrayed before us the DOCTRINES of REVELATION. Man's dark apostasy and deep depravity; the holy law of God, with its perfect precept and righteous penalty; the media
tion of the Son of God, with its power of salvation; the efficacious grace of God's most blessed Spirit, and all the truths which bind all these together, and make one perfect system. These are capable of affording the purest pleasure, and of exciting the deepest interest when made the themes of free domestic discussion. Such family circles we have seen, where, not excited by any small sectarianism, but fired with wonder and delight in view of these great fundamental truths, the strongest emotions were awakened, and the human mind trained to great moral and intellectual vigor.
But who can describe the variety and importance of these topics of conversation, growing out of the PRACTICAL DUTIES ENJOINED IN THE BIBLE?
To enumerate and classify them; to investigate their nature; to show the necessity, the propriety, and the importance of them; to make them stand out clearly before the understanding, and thus to bring them home to the conscience and the heart; to teach their loveliness by daily practical illustrations; to avail ourselves of biographical notices where they have been exhibited; to illustrate the baseness and ingratitude of all wrong doings; to unfold the motives by which they are enforced from the doctrines of the cross; to inculcate the love of holiness because its nature is love, and exhibit the con. sequences of obedience and disobedience in this world, and the world to come;-to accomplish all this, will require continual effort for successive years, and demand our attention when we go out and when we come in; when we rise up, and when we sit down; by the fireside, and at the table; in the shop, or in the field, and by the way. By making these practical duties the themes of daily conversation, we shall keep them immediately before the mind as principles of action, and succeed in bringing them into existence in our own domestic circle.
Besides the topics already mentioned, a great variety will be found in that periodical intelligence of the progress of the Redeemer's kingdom which is supplied by the religious press. Indeed, we may include the whole progress of the race as developed in authentic history, its progress as disclosed in the Bible, and its present condition as it is described in the intelligence of the day. There cannot be a better sign of a liberal and well cultivated mind, than this ability to converse on the affairs of mankind with accuracy and ease, in respect to the relation which the present sustains to the past and the future.
But for this purpose our families must be supplied with means of information. We need a few histories of established character; we need some well-digested Chronological system; we need a number of maps both ancient and modern, in order to fill our minds with a true idea of the world we live in; and we need some journals of intelligence, which shall give us a correct view of events as they are continually occurring. These helps should be mutually used in a family, and be made the subject of conversation, and thus we shall find them suggesting continually important thoughts, giving a new interest to life, and sometimes leading us to the wonders of natural religion, sometimes to the greater wonders of revealed.
In view of the topics which we have described as be onging to the sphere of religious conversation, we think every one must be struck with their number, importance and variety. There is no necessity that conversation should become uninteresting because we have nothing to say; on the other hand, we must not be deterred because there is so much. Sufficient is it for the day if by introducing some of these topics, you have engaged a whole circle in animated conversation, enlarged the sphere of thought, broken up a dull monotony, and awakened humane and devout affections.
If to-morrow comes, it will bring you another topic, and awaken its appropriate interest. The disposition and habit recommended in these remarks, would lead any member of a family to encourage the spirit of inquiry. How often is it the case, that if one asks a question in a family circle, he is met with an unpleasant repulse by some short answer, or by some peevish expression? All this is wrong. On the other hand, such inquiries should be met with attention and kindness. If they show ignorance, it should be enlightened; if they show knowledge, it should be encouraged; if they lead on to other inquiries, and to still more important topics,
they should be followed. All our readers will allow that this is the way to make our domestic circles intelligent and happy.
It is no objection to these views, that in order to carry them out perfectly, some care, discipline and preparation will be required. For what object can these qualities be more legitimately exercised, than for the comfort and improvement of a man's own home? There are his earliest and his primary obligations. Home is his first sphere of action. There he is bornthere he dies-there his memory is cherished when he is dead, and there are his dearest and sweetest enjoyments when living. Shall we prefer to shine in the gay party, and neglect our own circles at our own fireside? Shall we seek our enjoyment at a convivial club, while the enjoyments of love-the heart's strongest love, are disregarded? Shall we awaken our energies, and put on our best appearance, to amuse or interest a stranger, and shall we make no effort to give instruction, amusement and life to those whose interests in all important respects are most intimately connected with our own? When, moreover, we consider the importance of the themes themselves-important as preparing our children for usefulness in this life, and for happiness hereafter-when we remember that they respect the most grand, beautiful, and earnest realities in the universe, shall we suffer the gathering at the table, the fireside, and the family altar to be a merely dull and lifeless routine, or shall we endeavor to hail it as a means of training us for still more ennobling society hereafter? He that will begin, and then continue only continue this system of home conversation, will find that both he and his family will
"Grow wiser and better as life wears away;" while for that life which will never wear away, they will confirm their fitness, and increase their qualifications.
THE FAMILY CIRCLE.
THERE is nothing in this world which is so venerable, as the character of parents; nothing so intimate and endearing, as the relation of husband and wife; nothing so tender as that of
children; nothing so lovely as those of brothers and sisters. The little circle is made one by a single interest, and by a singular union of affections. PRES. DWIGHT.
A MONSTER FATHER.
BY A TRAVELER.
A HARSH, a horrid name; but if he does not deserve it, the reader may find a milder and apply it.
A few days ago I took my seat in the cars on the rail-road. A gentleman of great wealth and widely known through the state, came in, and met a friend whom he evidently had not seen for some weeks. His friend congratulated him on having returned from a journey, and, in answer to an inquiry, the gentleman proceeded to state the object of his trip to the South, and the success with which he had met. I will give his remarks, very much in his own language; and I have no scruples of propriety on the subject, as the remarks were made before the cars started, when there was entire stillness, and in such a tone of voice that they were heard, as they were designed to be, by all in the vicinity of the speaker. It is only just that I should add, that an occasional oath, with which his conversation was garnished, is omitted. He said :
"I was determined not to stop till I found a school where there was no religion. I wanted to send my son to a school where the Clergy were not allowed to come near the pupils, and where they could be taught what they go to school to learn, without being plagued for ever with a set of lazy priests hanging around and interfering with everybody's business but their own. I had hard work to find such a place, but did at last, away in the heart of Virginia. There I found a school, and there is not a church within seventeen miles of it, and they never have a minister near the premises. That is the place for me, and I left my son there; and when he is fitted for college, I mean to send him to the University of Virginia, and there's no religion there."
This is the substance of the remarks made by the gentleman. He repeated many of these views again and again, and expressed, in the most unqualified manner, his utter and bitter contempt of religion, and especially of religious ministers.
He was the first man from whom I ever heard the wish, that his children might grow up without religious principle. I have seen wicked men, and heard them profanely and vilely denounce the Bible and its blessed doctrines; but
never did I hear of a father who had travelled four or five hundred miles to shut up his own son where the influence of that Bible could not find its way to that child's heart. And as I looked at him, there was certainly in his appearance, after these gross and shocking avowals, inore of the MONSTER than the father or man. I hardly knew whether to despise or pity him: if it were ignorance, he was to be pitied; but I knew it was not, and therefore it was necessary to suppress the strong emotions of loathing which his remarks awakened.
The temptation was strong to hand him Daniel Webster's speech (I had it in my hand) on the Girard will case, in which the great statesman and orator so nobly and eloquently vindicated the American clergy against the dead man's constructive calumny. And what a contrast was here, between the masterly argument of the first intellect in the country, defending the Christian religion as indispensable to the formation of a complete American citizen, and the puerile declamations of this father, who would search the land over to find a Girard prison, in which to immure the immortal mind of his own son!
And then I thought of the boy-the child of such a father-sent away for such a purpose, and to such a school. The father thinks his son is safe from the reach and power of religious truth! Is he? Perhaps, indeed, no Sabbath shines on that secluded school, and no gospel sheds its hallowed influence on the youthful heart. But who can shut the young heart up where God cannot reach and melt it? Who will hinder the soul from finding God in every leaf that stirs, and every star that rolls? The boy has heard of him who made him, and of one who died to redeem him; and away from home and friends, perhaps away from a mother who prays for him, he will hear the voice of God in the melody of nature's voices, as above and around him all speak their Great Creator's praise. He will hear the voice of God when conscience whispers to his soul, and tells him of sin and a hereafter. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will visit him there, and in the very place where, of all others, his wicked father thought it most unlikely that religion would find him, even there he may be brought, by grace Divine, to the Saviour. While the father was speak