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or provoked the unkind returns, of those whom nature taught hin only to love? Never has the gospel been received as it was un der the preaching of John, where such scenes were not realized With families, as with individuals, “all things become new. Nor does it merely remove the impediments of sin to the natura flow of the domestic affections. It changes their nature, and ex alts their aims. There are families, in which, by the restraining and softening influence which the gospel throws upon society, the natural affections are happily sustained. Between parents and their children, there is a most tender union; and the domestic scene is one of great harmony and delight. But, in respect to those who love only this world, their mutual affections are directed merely to its objects,--to the means of temporal subsistence and comfort; or, if these are abundant, to elegance, fashion, amusement, or other gratifications,—all" as the flower of the grass.” Suppose the father of such a family to foresee the end, and to be convinced of the sin,-10 tremble at the prospect, and, deeply penitent, to receive the forgiving love of God. He does not now love bis children the less, but more : and how changed are the nature and the grounds of his love! He loves them now, not as mere innocent pratllers, made to gratify a father's fondness or a father's pride; but as heirs of immortality, and accountable subjects of the government of God; joined especially to him, that he may join them to the Lord who bought them. How he longs and prays for their conversion! How solicitous he is, to acquit bimself as a faithful steward over them! How melting are his affections! And how jealous he is, lest, dutiful as they may be to him, they forget their divine Father and Redeemer! Now, first it is, that parental affection takes the form and assumes the energy of holy principle. That reluctance which he had felt at the thoughts of addressing them on their higher concerns, is gone. From the fullness of bis heart, he “talks with them, as he sits in the house, or walks by the way.” Now, the main obstacle to maintaining the worship of God in his family, is removed. He has the spirit of prayer; and the utterance is only the expression of his familiar sentiments and feelings. Now, he commands his children and his household after him :" not passionately, not capriciously, not inconsistently ; but reasonably, kindly, steadily, with "the wisdom of the just, -with the patience and the firmness, the tenderness and the authority, the milder virtues and the stronger; which, in their due barmony, only the sense of religious obligation, and the love of Christ, can impart. Now, too, the sabbath is remembered and kept holy by his family; "his sons and his daughters, bis manservants and maid-servants, the stranger within his gates, and his very cattle,” know the sacred hours ; those hours are filled up with their appropriate duties, and their influence is felt throughout the
week. Profane and irreligious visitants withdraw, and such as are “ of the household of faith," take their place. Corrupt books, and corrupt communications, give place for the instructive and the pure. To glorify God and do good, is the main end of the domestic economy. It cannot be denied, that such is the tendency, and such, in different degrees, is the effect, when the hearts of the fathers are turned to the Lord : and when in this manner they are turned to the children, in the way of seeking first the kingdom of God, and of due attention to those parental duties which have this for their object; the hearts of the children will also be turned to the fathers,—in the way of filial reverence and affection, in the way of earnest attention and cheerful submission, and finally, in the way of evangelical faith and love. All scripture and all experience warrant the hope, sooner or later, of their blessed union.
Such is the order of reform which God has appointed; and we have no cause for wonder, if, in departing therefrom, our efforts disappoint us.
" When nations are to perish in their sins,
"Tis in the church the leprosy begins.” But how does the leprosy begin in the church? The church has an important connection with families; and it is in the bosom of these, that the spots first appear. No sooner does the heart of a father begin to turn away from God, -as there is a fatal tendency even in the renewed heart to do, -than the consequence is felt in bis family: and on the other hand, let the pulse of spiritual life beat full and even there, it is impossible that disease should possess the heart of the church. Civil liberty, is the watch-word of the day; as though forms of government were the essential means of weal or woe to the world. True liberty cannot be too highly prized; but what could a tyrant do, to enslave a nation made up of “well-instructed, well-ordered, well-governed families," to send forth those perennial streams, whose confluence forms the majestic flow of national sentiment and national power? And what is liberty, but an empty name, or the worst of tyrannies, where a single generation comes up with depraved feelings, nursed in the lap of self-indulgence, without the fear of God, without the restraint of law, without the habit of subordination ? Education is the confidence of many;
as though that, free and universal, would regenerate the world. Education, in the proper sense of the word, -the education of the heart, as well as of the head,-is indeed the means which God has appointed. But education, dissevered from religion, does but give play and energy to the human powers, under
the control of depraved passions, for purposes of destruction ; and for the education of the heart, there is no school like that which God has founded,—the domestic school, under the tuition of
a father and a mother, who know and fear his name.
“ Begin with the children,” say many : “if parents will not be reformed, the only way is to begin with the children. The best way of reaching the parents, is, through the hearts of the children ; and, at all events, beginning with them, you plant a right seed, and in due time, will have a reformed community.” We echo the sentiment,-begin with the children ; but we add, if their parents will not do this, others, as to any important and general effect, cannot. It is vain to contend against nature.
While a child remains in the daily and nightly possession of a parent, it will ordinarily receive from the parent its moral stamp; and to take it away,--with whatever good effect this may be done in individual cases,-to take away the children of a nation, a state, a town, from their parents, would be to break the entire fabric of society, and invade the constitution of things which the God of nature has established. The sabbath-school, wonderful as has been and will be its results, in concurrence with parental faithfulness, could not proceed without it. Where should we find a company of enlightened, patient, tender-hearted and faithful teachers, except anong the fathers and mothers whose hearts are turned to the Lord, or the sons and daughters trained under their care? When we have provided the teachers, how few are the children that we can draw, as regular and constant attendants, from families where the gospel is renounced! And when we have brought them together, how little impression of truth can we make upon minds, with selfwill unsubdued, and with prepossessions and habits, nurtured, six days of the seven, by intercourse with infidel parents and corrupt associates ! The temperance reform, glorious and surprising as has been its march, has accomplished its great things, by turning the hearts of the fathers, under the application of christian principles; else, indeed, before this, the land had been smitten, past recovery, with a curse : and if the hearts of all the fathers in the land would have been turned, then had we soon been rid of, perhaps, the deadliest scourge that sin has made. But, where the fathers will not turn, unless perchance there is a wise mother there," that buildeth the house,” how almost sure are the children to tread in their steps ! It is in the simple constitution of families, regulated by his word, that God has provided for the elementary and efficacious principles of all that pertains to the best interests of man ; and no human expedients, however promising or well-intended, can safely be admitted as substitutes. It is for the fathers and mothers of any given period to decide, what their country, the church, and the world, shall be. It is most directly and effectually through them, that the gospel is the indispensable means of happiness to mankind. To our readers, then, we would say, in conclusion, If
recover or sustain the tone of piety in a church or a nation, aini directly at the conversion, and the persevering, fervent, active piety, of the fathers. We are in po danger of doing too much directly for the children ; but we may be in danger of turning away, presumptuously or despondingly, from the fathers. Amidst the frequent prayers that are offered for the conversion of the children, how few are heard for the conversion of the fathers ! Amidst the varied means which are used for the conversion of the children, how few direct, earnest and persevering applications are made, for this purpose, to the fathers ! And among all the deliberations and plans that are going on for reform, how sew are those which have for their object, the ordering of professedly christian families, with distinct and paramount aim at the high ends of their divine constitution ! With Mr. Anderson we say :
Suppose now, if you will, that parents have even generally neglected their duty in a town—in a city—in a nation,—then to this statute, taken from the moral law itself, must we have immediate recourse, if we desire to arrest the plague, and restore the tone of society. It is for the legate of the skies, and for every judicious christian, to lay the ax to the root of the tree. It is for them to look to the parents, all corrupt and abandoned though they be. Their hearts must be turned, and then will these hearts turn to their children. Not that the children are to be forgotten by such: oh, no—in no wise; but let the parents, as to conversion, be regarded, not with a hopeless or unbelieving eye,- let them be primarily regarded. Let us not be told of their corrupt, and formed, and confirmed habits, and let no christian's heart fail him here. We tread in the footsteps of the word of God, and follow the order marked out to us by Heaven. “He shall,”—yes, and John did, -turn the heart of the parents to the children, and the heart of the children to their parents.” He did, and we may ; nay, we shall, if we have faith in God, when treading in the footsteps of John: otherwise, what has become of our blessed Savior's assurance-i He that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he ?"
pp. 69, 70.
Art. II.-AN INQUIRY INTO THE TRUE WAY OF PREACHING ON
ABILITY. Few questions have been more agitated, than that relating to man's ability or inability to obey God. As the immediate object of preaching is, to induce obedience to God, on the part of the hearers, this is a question in which preachers might be expected to take a peculiar interest. They have accordingly done so. Almost every preacher, however indifferent or averse to theorizing on other points, has theorized, in some sort, here ; and has adopted some philosophy, or classed himself with some school, which controls and shapes his manner of preaching, in relation to this subject.
There is much ground for the presumption, that, in respect to this point, as well as many others in popular theology, preaching generally has not been unobjectionable. Complaint here is loud. Preachers are abundantly charged with inconsistency and self-contradiction, not only by gainsayers, but by the wisest and best of their hearers, and by one another. Nor is this the only reason for thinking them unskillful, to say the least, in their management of this point. The multitude are at a loss what to think ; and, to a great extent, their perplexity ends in their adopting the most serious mistakes. How many are there, for example, who neglect their salvation, either on the pretext, that they can do nothing to save themselves; or, on the opposite persuasion, that they can save themselves when they please, and may, therefore, with the risk only of meeting a sudden death, postpone their repentance to a more convenient season! How many others there are, also, who though not perfectly careless, content themselves, with what they call waiting in the use of means, (hearing, reading, praying, etc.) while they still live in allowed sin ; sincerely supposing, that they can do nothing better, and that nothing better can be reasonably required of them!
Let it not be thought, that these mistakes of the people should be charged wholly to their own willfulness: they do indeed fall in with their depraved inclinations ; but they often seem sincere in their belief of them. Their belief of them, indeed, is a part of their orthodoxy, entitling them, as they suppose, not to censure, but praise. These mistakes are deeply rooted in their minds; they are principles of action, and have controlling influence over them. This is often witnessed in those scenes of intense interest, to which persons exercised with spiritual concern are wont to resort, for relief to their perplexed and anxious minds. Those who go to these solemn places, may, for the most part, be divided into two classes; one of which are kept at a most painful and perilous stand, by the impression, that something almost miraculous must be done for them, before they can do any thing; and the other are so confident in the sufficiency of their natural ability, and so little aware of the depravity and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they are perfectly ready, in reliance on their own strength, to engage at once to do whatever may
be necessary We need not stay to show, that this is a most undesirable state of things. Whether preachers are in any degree responsible for it or not, it is what every one must deplore, who loves the souls of men. What could be more opposite to the wishes of such persons, than to have the point before us involved in dispute or doubt? It is, of all points, just the very one which should be kept clear of every difficulty. Obedience to God, is the end of all preaching and all hearing: how much to be regretted, that when the pulpit has tried its