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ces of the law written upon them, to bind upon the forehead, as also upon the hands, they were too literal. It is observable, however, that among the Jews and most other nations, the
usages of domestic piety have been much more common than among ourselves. In the earliest periods of the history of most nations, the master of a family, and the ruler of a people, almost invariably fulfilled the office of a priest, by offering libations and sacrifices. Among Christian nations, in former times, there have been many indications of the same character ; - private oratories, or places of prayer, sacred images, with frequent homages to them, in every dwelling, and many other visible tokens of its dedication to religion, and to God. It would be most grateful to believe, if we could lawfully do so, that while the direct indications of domestic devotion have been declining in modern times, those which are indirect and more unequivocal have been increasing. We know that indirect manifestations of character are often the most decisive and unquestionable. We often see, for instance, the spirit of covetousness or of ambition, spreading itself through a family, and so thoroughly imbibed and so fully acted on, that it is frequently most obvious, when least ostentatious, — most evident,
when least intended to be manifest. If any one prefers thus to exhibit his religion in his family, we will take him at his own proposition ;- let us see it thus exhibited, as the ruling principle. It will not always show itself by indirect disclosures; it will carry visible rules and regulations in its train, as every governing principle does. What, for instance, does the ambitious man do for his child ? He sets him tasks, he labors to arouse him to emulation, he talks with him often, directly, and feelingly on the point, which he has at heart. What interest does he show in his dependents ? He endeavours to train them to his purposes; he instils his lessons into their memories; he teaches them distinctly the part they have to act; he strives by every means to kindle and inflame their zeal. Thus let the pious man act for the great cause of religion, not doing barely what is set down for him, or what will appease his conscience, but doing all that he can do or devise, in furtherance of so precious and momentous an interest. His family, his children, the beings for whom he is bound as their superior to care, the cherished and beloved, have no other such interest' at stake as this. Honors may thicken upon them, wealth may lavish upon them its treasures, but the
time is hasting to them when all earthly accumulation and aggrandizement shall be as nothing in their eyes; when affiliction, sickness, death shall come, and they shall thank him more for one hour's timely instruction, for one word of religious tenderness spoken to them in some former and well remembered hour, than for all the gifts that the fortune or fame of his house can bestow upon them. O then, when the eye of affection fixes its last, earnest gaze upon any one of us, it will not be wealth or splendor, to which it shall turn; it will not be the evidences of worldly prosperity that shall pass before it; it will not be those images which have been set up in our households, to pride or the love of display; but it will be our prayers, upon which the eye of memory shall linger; it will be the sacred page spread before our family ; it will be the seasons of pious communing together; it will be the teaching and the tender voice of parental love and authority, that guideth to heaven.
There is another mode of avowal, on which, if our readers will bear with us, we wish to offer some remarks. We are not willing entirely to pass over the subject of conversation, and the duty of taking a stand for religion in the intercourse of society and friendship; in that sphere of life where we spend so many hours, and exert so powerful an influence. Society, conversation, speech, is not yet consecrated to religion and to God, as it ought to be; and there is probably a weaker sense of obligation, in this respect, than in most others.
Yet nothing, perhaps, more distinctly marks a man, or makes a more distinct impression with regard to his character, than his conversation. This, therefore, is, in the very nature of things, one of the most important modes of religious profession, or avowal. We may partake of the communion; we may read the Scriptures in our families; we may make formal prayers, with great earnestness; and yet, if we never say any thing of religion, the avowal is incomplete. Our formal acts of acknowledgment, indeed, may be before the world, and so far is well; but without the testimony of hearty and habitual conversation, our acquaintances and friends can never feel that the interests of religion have possession of our minds, as other great interests have. They may say of any one, He is a professor; he prays; he is a serious man’; but they will never feel to the very heart, that he is a Christian. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.' It
speaketh so in other things; and it must speak so in religion, to give satisfactory assurance of the principle within.
Let it not be said, as if that were any thing contrary to the view now stated, that actions speak louder than words.' Actions fulfill the profession of our lips. Actions are not avowal, but the accomplishment of our vows. We mean, of course, the ordinary actions of a virtuous, holy life. There are certain specific and formal acts, such as that of celebrating the Lord's Supper and that of domestic devotion, which are of the nature of avowal. Such, also, are a very constant attendance at church, and a decided part taken in all good religious enterprises. They serve, to some extent, to point out a man, as interested in religion. But the ordinary tenor of his life to show, whether he is so interested, not whether he professes to be. It is the proof, not the pledge. And however important and indispensable it is as proof, this is not the point now before us. The subject, with which we are now engaged, is that lesser, but still very important subject, the pledge.
In proposing that this pledge or expression of religious feeling should be freely and frankly given in conversation, would not recommend what often passes under the name, and is considered as bearing the peculiar character of religious conversation. There is a talking upon religion with preciseness and formality, with reluctance and constraint, with artificial solemnity or sadness, which is the avowal in fact, not of religious feeling, but of the want of it. We would ask no expression from any one of what does not exist in him. But where it does exist, where there is a true and heartfelt interest in this great subject, then, we would say, let the lips declare what the heart feels. The wonderful faculty of speech was designed to express the thoughts within ; and surely it ought not to withhold its testimony from those sentiments and affections that are due to the great Giver. Because thy loving-kindness is better than life,' says the Psalmist, “my lips shall praise thee.'
But how may this avowal be properly given in conversation? It may be given in the intimacy and confidence of friendship. We
We may say to our friends more, perhaps, than it would be proper to say to the world at large. We may press to them, not only the deep interest we feel in the subject, but our fears, also, our anxieties, our difficulties. We
may unfold to them, whatever is peculiar in the state of our minds. We may speak of our peculiar temptations, of the sins that most easily beset us, of the passions, or of the circumstances, that threaten our moral welfare. Men speak thus freely to one another of the affairs of business. They lay open their difficulties, and ask counsel of those in whom they can confide. Why should they not use the same freedom, and obtain the same aid, in the religious concerns of the mind? The difficulties are as great, surely, and the exigencies are as critical, as they are in business. And they would often be relieved, simply by disclosure, and by the affectionate sympathy and the friendly communication that would follow. Why should not this be done, we repeat. Why should not they whose friendship, but for religion, would be only like the breath that utters it, a transient emotion, a kindling warmth, soon to be lost in the region of cold and eternal oblivion, why should they not speak of that in which they trust to be friends for ever? Why should not they, who are travelling together the path to heaven, sometimes refer in their discourse to the bright and boundless prospect before them? Why, if any thing is to be common between kindred minds, should not religion be common in their mutual recognition, and familiar in their friendly conversation ? And yet, in some minds even of considerable religious sensibility, religion is the one and only subject, of which they never speak even to their most intimate friends! The lips, though touched as with a coal from the altar' of their secret meditations, are sealed in a strange and almost superstitious silence !
In the next place, there is frequent occasion for a reference to the most exalted principles of religion, in the ordinary intercourse of life. Common conversation is to a very great extent worldly, - worldly, we mean, not merely in its topics, but in its principles, and more worldly too, than the feelings of many, who engage in it, can justify; and yet they seldom have the moral courage, perhaps, to do justice to their own misgivings. The feeling, it may be, is strong within a man, that he cannot agree with the tone of conversation that is passing in this or that company with which he is present; but the feeling that is so worthy to be expressed, is stifled in false shame, instead of being put forward in the shape of a manly and ingenuous testimony. The character of the absent, for instance, may be discussed in a manner and spirit that are felt to be
and yet no one, perhaps, checks the course of unkind criticism or slanderous insinuation, by saying that it is wrong.
Of the thousands of passing events and circumstances, that furnish the topics of ordinary conversation, there are few that may not be made the subjects of moral discrimination ; there are few, in regard to which there is not a right and a wrong, a wrong to be condemned without fear or favor, and a right to be contended for, in the same spirit. The testimony of honest and conscientious minds is not yet lifted as high as it ought to be, against mercantile fraud and disingenuity, against selfish cunning and cruel oppression in business. There is much that passes in the world as the way of the world, which deserves and greatly needs, for its reform, the most serious reprobation. The excessive coveting of property, the constant violation of promises in business, the unconscionable expedients often resorted to by clients in litigations, amounting in too many instances to the actual subornation of perjury, the universal leaning to self in every project and plan, — all this is apt to be lightly spoken of for the worst of all reasons, that of its commonness and prevalence. A searching and reproving eye must be fixed upon these and all other gross moral evils, a decided voice must be raised against them, if they are ever to be corrected. Let men, let good men, speak for this cause of truth and righteousness, if they would ever speak for any thing. Let them know that no practices can long stand against a strong moral feeling in the community, if that feeling can once be put in array against them. Let them know that sin is emboldened, is almost kept in countenance, by their worldly laxity, acquiescence, indifference, or timidity. Let us have stronger and more decided words spoken for the good, and against the evil ; the words of lofty and uncompromising rebuke against the wrong, or the more powerful words of a deep, desolate sorrow for it. Let us, also, sometimes hear men say, amidst the din and strife of this world's care, and labor, and business, — let them say to ears that will not mistake it, “These things are not the chief good; the things of this world are passing away from us like the images of a dream; let us not set our hearts upon them, let us not sacrifice one monition of conscience, one breathing of pure and pious affection for all earthly goods ; in heaven let our treasures be, and let our hearts be there also.'
There is one further view to be taken of this topic, and that is,