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VOLUME VII.-NUMBER II.
Art. I.-THE DOMESTIC CONSTITUTION.
Book for Parents. The Genius and Design of the Domestic Constitution, with its untransferable obligations and peculiar adtuntayes. By CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON. From the Edinburgh edition. Boston, 1834. i2mo. pp. 420.
In the year 1693, the Protestant dissenting ministers of London agreed to urge upon their congregations, at one and the same time, a more general and serious observance of the duties of family religion. To this well-designed concert, the world is indebted for six valuable sermons of John Howe, preached to his congregation on that occasion. In these discourses are combined the greater part of the most cogent arguments and appeals on the subject, and more particularly concerning family worship,—that have come to our knowledge. In the conclusion of the third sermon, are the following striking thoughts. “The great thing which will either facilitate or obstruct a general compliance with the mind of God in this matter, will be, the consideration that men shall have of their families: that is, whether they will consider them as constitutions for this world, or for the world to come. If you can but
with yourselves, under which of these notions to look upon your families ; accordingly your compliance with the mind of God, in this matter, will either be facile or difficult. It is true, we are to have a very distinct consideration of the nature of societies, from the ends of them. There are societies, that, in their design, and consequently in their nature, are purely civil ; **** nations, towns, and the like. **** There are those that are purely sacred, as churches: the very end and design upon which they are collected, is, worship and religion. But now, families are the elements of both these sorts of societies: **** therefore, both these must meet, in a family, religion, and civil and secular business. Persons are elements of families; families are the elements of which VOL. VII.
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both churches and kingdoms, or commonwealths, are composed and made up. And as the one sort of these is purely civil, the other purely sacred ; that which is elementary unto both, must be both. And therefore now, when any come to turn this matter in their thoughts, 'I am the head of a family ; but what sort of society is my family ? Is it made purely for this world, or for the world to come?" sure, where the consideration of both worlds meets, the other world should be superior and uppermost, and therefore all things inust be measured then with subserviency and reference to that." These thoughts appear to have been the germ of Mr. Anderson's excellent treatise ; and, indeed, throughout the work, he has drawn largely from the rich treasures of Howe. We mean only, that he seems to have studied the writings of Howe, and to have wrought them into his own habits of thought. The use which he has made of them, is legitimate and proper,such as we wish was more common than it is,—and we mention it, as an example of the influence which a great and good man, in one age, has, in forming the character of another. We are pleased, in reading such a work as James' Family Monitor, to find the starting thought in the previous publication of Mr. Anderson ; and in reading the latter, to trace the original conception back to another century, in the sermons of Howe : and if we had a complete history of ages past, we might, perhaps, trace the stream still farther back, through holy men, up to the fountain of wisdom, in the inspiration of the apostles. Thus flows “the river, the streams whereof make glad the city of our God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.”
Some years since, in reading the extracts from Mr. Anderson, in the Family Monitor, we wished to find the original ; and we now welcome its re-publication in this country. We entirely agree with the lamented Wisner, in his introductory notice of the work, that “it is a very able discussion of a most important subject; nowhere else, so far as we know, treated in the same radical and thorough manner.” We have many excellent books, exhibiting, in detail, the obligations and duties of the family relations; and this is one of the encouraging signs of the times: but, together with these, is needed an exhibition of the principles on which these obligations and duties rest, and by which they are enforced. To supply this, is the design of Mr. A's treatise. It is divided into two parts. The first exhibits the constitution of the domestic circle,the connection between its different branches,--the general laws by which they are to be governed, in relation to each other,--the peculiar sanctions of those laws,—the moral power of this constitution, and the danger and vanity of substituting other expedients in its place. The second part treats of the untransferable obligations and peculiar advantages of the domestic constitution, -obedience
and success, contrasted with negligence and ruin,--causes of failure,-means of recovery,manner of procedure,-domestic government,-domestic devotion, and domestic education, as distinguished from purchased tuition.
In commending this volume to our readers, we shall take the opportunity of suggesting our own thoughts on the subject. Its vital importance and general application will, we believe, justify the extension of our remarks, somewhat beyond our ordinary limits. It has had too small a place in the leading journals of the day, and we think, also, in addresses from the pulpit. Much is written and said, concerning the constitutions of states and nations. But the constitution of those domestic societies which are the elements of states and nations, and on the well-ordering of which their prosperity depends, has been, comparatively, overlooked. How few, of all those whom God has placed over these little societies, have ever seriously turned in their minds, thoughts like these?" Here I am, at the head of a family : but what sort of a society is my family? Who constituted it, and for what end? By what laws is it to be governed? On whom lies the responsibility of governing it accordingly? And what are to be the consequences of its being thus regulated or not ?" Yet, what questions have a higher practical importance than these? If that man cannot be a good member of civil society, who knows nothing of its fundamental laws; how can he be a good member, and more especially, a good ruler, of a family, who is ignorant of the main end and leading principles of the domestic constitution ? If he mistakes the end, how shall he aspire to it? If he is ignorant of the means, what wonder if his hopes are turned into confusion? But to proceed :
1. The nature of this domestic constitution. It is divinely appointed. God is its author. He ordained it for man in Eden. When he created man male and female, he said, “ Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh.” The very terms of this declaration show, that it was ordained directly, not for Adam and Eve, but for their posterity ; the former not having bad father or mother. Accordingly, our Savior says expressly of every lawfully married pair, “What, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” This relation is the basis of a family. Hence spring the relation of parents and children, of brothers and sisters, and all the other relations of the domestic circle. In no other way can they lawfully exist. And with these are naturally connected the adventitious relation of master and servant. Since then that relation, on which all other family relations depend, is a divine institution, the family itself is such. Like the church, it is a sacred society. Both these are distinguished from all other societies in the world, in respect to their divine original, each peculiar in its character, and subservient to the perfection of the other,—both simple in their structure, and together forming the imperishable basis of human happiness and hope ; easily accommodating themselves to every changing form of society around them, in every country and age, and themselves dependent on none.
Between the members of a family, this constitution provides, that there be a peculiar and most intimate union. This union is founded in the frame-work of our being, that its ends may not be entirely prevented by depravity. But it is also sanctioned by divine authority; and so appeals, for its preservation and perfection, to our moral nature,-our conscience, our reason, and our voluntary affections. The conjugal union, formed, as it is, or always should be, by attachments founded in our nature, is also a subject of divine command. “They twain shall be one flesh," is a moral law; nor was it possible to use stronger language. Such shall be their union, in affection, in counsel, in influence, in action, that they shall be, as it were, one person : and nothing shall ever divide them, but that which separates the soul from the body, and even the component parts of the body from each other. The scriptures, too, attach peculiar sacredness to this union, by their constant reference to it, as a symbol of the union of Christ and the church. Who, that has ever felt the love of Christ, or bowed in subjection to his authority, can be insensible, for instance, to the appeal of Paul to the Ephesians, chap. v. 22—31 ? What language could throw a higher sanctity over this connection, invest it with greater honor, or more closely bind its cords ? So too, as to the union of parents and children, there is no heart so savage, or so depraved, as not to feel its claim.
What though man is born the most helpless and dependent of all living? In the first hours of his existence, is when a few indistinct or unmeaning cries are his only language, he exercises an authority irresistible over hearts, of the very existence of which he is ignorant and unconscious ;” nor will the infant wait long before he advances in his claims and in his influence. A few weeks only will pass away, when the smile, and the shedding of tears, emotions peculiar to his species, will bind the two parties together, by ties which seem to say, that duties of no common order are involved in this connection.' p. 47,
Here is the immediate impress of the Author of our nature; and here also, since we are not merely creatures of nature, but subjects of law, revelation comes in, and by its solemn mandates and touching appeals, sanctions this union. The mutual sympathy and affection of brothers and sisters too, formed and strengthened by their common relationship to those from whom they have sprung; by their being the common objects of their affections and
solicitude ; their growing up together under a common roof; and their daily interchange in all the cares of life and love,” need only to be mentioned, to be understood. How well the voice of revelation harmonizes with the voice of nature in respect to these, is also familiar to the mind. Nor is the union which is formed by the mutual dependence and reciprocal offices of master and servant, and of children and servants, as fellow-members of the same family, of an ordinary kind, or so regarded in the scriptures.-Such, according to the appointment of God, is the domestic society,—a society which has not its like in any other, under the whole heaven,—one iu interest, and one in heart,-joined by natural ties strong as death, and these enforced and directed by the laws and sanctions of the moral government of God. Thus is the whole earth divided, after their families and according to their names, transient indeed, in respect to their individual existence, but successively giving being to others, and destined thus to do, " blessing and being blessed,” till the last heir of glory shall have come home to God.
Of these societies, respectively, the parents are the responsible head. In no society can there be union, order, and co-operation, without rule. Least of all can there be, in a family, whose members are rising up successively, without knowledge or experience, and subject to irregular appetites and depraved passions. The authority to control them, the voice of nature assigns to parents ; and in this allotment, the voice of revelation concurs. thority belongs to them conjointly,—to the father ultimately, in case of a difference of judgment or choice,-yet in all other cases to both equally, as those whom God has made one. They are clothed with his authority; and a wanton violation of it, he counts rebellion against himself. Within their respective circles, it is exclusive. Except in the case of manifest outrage, no magistrate, no prince, no earthly power, has the right to interfere. Their house is their sanctuary, where they are to reign, amenable only to God. It is therefore absolute. To their children, their will is law,- the rule of duty,—the standard of right. It is so, we mean, while their children are incompetent to decide for themselves what is right; and afterwards, except when their commands manifestly contravene the divine will. Though they enjoin what would not otherwise be duty, their injunction, in these circumstances, makes it duty. Though they enjoin what is improper and unreasonable, yet, if it be not sinful, it becomes, by their authority, rally obligatory: and even though it is such, as in ordinary cases would be sinful, to their children, who cannot know directly the will of God, it is duty. “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is right.” But for their use of so extensive a power, they are responsible to Him who gave it. It lays them under a corres