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The power of accommodation in the Family Circle to all other
human institutions.—The inimitable character, and highest end, of the Domestic Constitution.
This Constitution of a Family, at once so singular and invaluable, may have been neglected; it may have been misunderstood; and millions also, without doubt, have enjoyed its benefits with delight and comfort; although the grounds and original cause could not by them be explained.
Other forms of government, or the powers that be,” existing at the same moment in different quarters of the globe, the intelligent Christian regards as so many effects of a superintending Providence; and Christianity, ever friendly to order and to peace, enjoins obedience for conscience' sake. These forms, however, are so diversified, that in one he can read the mercy, in another the judgment of God; and not only so, but, with the lapse of time, he sees that these various forms not only may, but actually do, change; so that the same spot of ground has been occupied in succession, by the gradations and extremes of opposite arrangements. It is not so with the Domestic Constitution. Like the constitution of the
church of Christ itself, indeed, that of the Family has been at times sadly invaded or corrupted, and abused; but still of these two constitutions, and of these alone, can the Almighty be considered, in a special and peculiar sense, as the sole and all-sufficient Founder and Ruler, Guardian and Judge. Were evidence of this even still desired, the proofs might be confined to two.
1. Their power of accommodation to human constitutions, without the smallest violation of their - peculiar character.
The political and civil arrangements of men have been various and perpetually shifting ; but the church and the family, which can exist, and, if let alone, can thrive under them all, remain ever the same.
As to the church, even under the Jewish theocracy, when it seemed so interwoven with the state, it remained the same under various forms of political government. Whether under the Jethronian prefects, as they have been called, in the wilderness, or the judges after the death of Joshua, the kings who succeeded them, or the priests and public-spirited individuals after the captivity, it remained the same; that is, under any of these civil arrangements the church might have prospered; under each of them we see it revived and purified, and under each producing individual religious characters of the highest standing. But whatever may be thought of this remark, Christianity, as by Christ established, while it has symbolized with no one form in preference, yet, wherever permitted, it has purified the springs of every form of government, and shed its own peculiar blessings on them all. When let alone, it has flourished, whether in Britain or in America, -when persecuted in any land, the blood of its martyrs has, sooner or later, always proved the seed of the church. Infidel philosophy, and literary violence, the dagger and
the clog, have all been tried in vain. 66 Storms but enliven its unfading green;" for its very highest triumphs were achieved under a Domitian and a Nero ; while, like its Author, in its own essential character, the church remains “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." This continuity of the Church, I grant, respects only its vital character. Changes as to its form and constitution even it has undergone. Time there was, when, from its dispersion in single families, it was gathered within the precincts of those singular tribes, of whom it was said, “Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and they shall not be reckoned
the nations.” So it remained until the Almighty himself shook all nations, and the Desire of all Nations arrived; and although even now we see not yet all things put under Him, still we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor, who will one day take to himself his great power and reign-reign, I believe, according to the form of that House which he instituted by the Fishermen of Galilee.
But however the Church might change as to its outward form, till it ended in a kingdom which is not of this world, and a kingdom which cannot be moved, one small unpretending constitution was set up from the beginning, and, it seems, must exist the same in all ages, however society may assume different shapes and forms—however times may change, and we change with them. There are some men to whom everything relating to man, as man, is interesting and important, who are also fond of antiquity. Let them look here, and amid the constant and inevitable vicissitude of human affairs, though life itself is but a vapor, in the domestic constitution as such, they may discover one, if not the only “imperishable type of evanescence”-the only form of humanity over which time and circumstances have had no control : that only form with which all generations can fully sympathize ;
which the Jewish economy, far from invading, so recognized and venerated, and which it remains for Christianity to exhibit in all the power and beauty which were intended from the beginning by its Divine Author.
The Domestic Constitution, thus surviving all the changes of time, without any change in itself, its power of accommodation must needs be great, but the charm of all in this case is, that nothing is sacrificed. Its power
of accommodation, therefore, to the social forms of man's device, must arise in part from its being complete within itself, and independent of them all, as it also existed before them, the result of mere nature; requiring the intervention of no force, no law, or human contrivance; yet extending throughout the world, over every age and nation, in the same easy manner : it exists everywhere, through mere propensity, under forms of political government, which
may be called the two extremes ; and under both it exists at once, without contention and without difficulty."* Invaded it has been, indeed, both by the arm of despotism, and the injudicious intermeddling of human kindness; but both at last have been alike wearied, and have desisted: the reason is, that the Christian Church, and the human Family, have, in fact, but one and the same favor to implore, in every land, whether from tyranny or pretended benevolence, and that is to let them alone.
Amidst the ruins of the Fall, it is truly refreshing to see two such Constitutions in existence, and thus upheld ; which blessing, and being blest, will, of themselves alone, one day, introduce the Millennium.
2. The inimitable character of the Family and the Church, is another striking proof, that they are the only Constitutions of divine formation, upheld by God, on which the eye can rest.
Much, indeed, may be learned from both, for the purifying and perfecting, as far as may be, both political and civil arrangements, whether systems of government or of natural jurisprudence; but man, with all his ingenuity, cannot frame any constitution of things, precisely similar, either to a Family or the Church of Christ. They are of God's own production, and, like everything else which He has "created and made," defy imitation, and cannot be copied. With regard to a Family in particular, there is not only nothing else like its Constitution among men, but, though there are gradations of rank, or degrees of glory, there is nothing similar to it even among the angels of God. Framed for this brief and transitory, yet allimportant state of existence, and to expire with the last generation of human beings, still it points to what is permanent and unchangeable. In its constitution, as far as we can penetrate, it displays the nearest approach to the divine government, and, unquestionably, it bears this resemblance, with an immediate view to the best interests of that government. As man himself was originally created in the image of God, so it should seem, in the depths of his condescension, he intended to place him at the head of a government,
the shade or similitude of his own!