Page images

birth, and such the law by which He prepares the Parents for the fulfilment of duties devolving necessarily on them alone. Nor is Nature silent on such an occasion as this. What though man is born the most helpless and dependent of all living ? In the first hours of his existence, “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.

Let but this voice of Nature unite with that of Revelation, and then the connection between parent and child will be at once understood and felt : a connection, however, which will derive further illustration from the fourth the Egyptians prevented the children of Israel from observing the Sabbath ; had Pharaoh no reference to this sacred rest when he said, “Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works ? Behold the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their hurdens.” But whether he, in these words, referred to the Sabbath, and the interference of Moses in its favor, or not, what could Jehovah himself intend, when, before the giving of the law on Sinai he said to Moses, “ How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, (not the law, but the opportunity to observe it, and ye can no longer plead excuse, as you might in Egypt), therefore he giveth you, on the sixth day, the bread of two days; so the people rested on the seventh day.” Had the institution not been observed by their progenitors, how could the nation have possibly understood this remonstrance ? nd, finally, when the decalogue itself was put into the hand of Moses, how came phraseology so peculiar to be employed with regard to this sacred day, if it was not ancient as the first week of time, obligatory from the period of the creation, and commemorative of that mighty work? Hence it was said, “ Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy, for in six days,” &c.

and fiftn Sections, in which the descending penalty and blessing are more fully considered.

BROTHERS AND SISTERS.-While society at large has been divided, with sufficient propriety, into three classes, superiors, inferiors, and equals, it must ever be remembered, by almost every human being, that he never will be able to fulfil the duties imposed upon him by God, except he regard himself as standing between the two extremes ; for as any man with ease can fix his eye upon an inferior, so at all times there are many whom he must regard as superior to himself. Now, it is not unworthy of notice, that, as though it were, and most probably is, with a view to all the adventures of future life, this is the precise ground on which every child is placed, by the providence of God, in every family where there are servants as well as parents ; and as the children of such families are destined to act a more important part in civil society, so are they, even from infancy, placed in a correspondingly advantageous situation.

When, however, we speak of inferiors and superiors in society at large, a twofold distinction must be kept in view : one consists in what has been styled rank in society, the other consists 'in moral worth. The former, though far inferior in importance, though of a transitory nature, and soon must pass away, as it is a distinction of God's own creation, which he is determined to maintain, it ought to be treated with becoming respect. At the same time, this is not only compatible with a regard to the second distinction, but regard to character as well as rank becomes absolutely necessary to every man, if he would avoid dishonest servility on the one hand, or tyrannical disdain on the other. Here again, therefore, we see the advantageous ground on which the children of such a family are placed, for initiating them into the

duties which must one day devolve upon them. And, oh, what an argument do the children furnish, to both parents and servants, their superiors and inferiors in rank, for enforcing the necessity of moral worth !

The main object, however, of these few remarks, is to induce consideration, not only of the peculiar ground on which children stand, but of the connection which subsists between brothers and sisters, or between the children though of one sex. If the connection of children with parents is intended to produce submission and respect for their superiors; their connection with a servant, courtesy and good-will; so their connection with each other is manifestly intended to initiate them into the sacred and equal duties of friendship. Now, if friendship in general be indeed the cement of the soul, the sweetener of life, the solder of society; "and if it be delightful to enjoy the continued friendship of those who are endeared to us by the intimacy of many years, who can discourse with us of the adventures and studies of youth, or of the years when we first ranked ourselves with men in the free society of the world ; how delightful must be the friendship of those who, accompanying us through all this long period, with a closer union than any casual friend, can go still farther back, from the school to the very nursery which witnessed our common pastimes; who have had an interest in every event that has related to us, and in every person to whom we have been attached ; who have honored with us those to whom we have paid every filial honor in life, and wept with us over those whose death has been to us the most lasting sorrow of our heart! Such, in its wide unbroken sympathy, is the friendship of brothers, or of brothers and sisters considered even as friendship only. But how many circumstances of additional interest does this union receive, from the common relationship to those who have original claims to our still higher regard, and to whom we

offer such an acceptable service, in extending our affections to those whom they love ?

“ In treating of the circumstances that tend peculiarly to strengthen this tie, an ancient classical writer extends his view even to the common sepulchre which is at last to enclose the entire family! It is indeed a powerful image -a symbol and almost a lesson of unanimity. Every dissension of man with man excites in us a feeling of painft. incongruity; but we feel a peculiar incongruity in the discord of those whom one roof has continued to shelter during life, and whose dust is afterwards to be mingled under one common stone !"

The connection, therefore, which we now consider, involves in it “the duties of a cordial int macy, rendered more sacred by relationship to the parents from whom we have

sprung, and to whom we owe common duties, as we have been objects of common cares. By the peculiar attachment of brothers and sisters, and the mutual services thence arising, the world is at last enriched with the reciprocal enjoyments of a regard that has already formes friends, before it could have thought of seeking them. Surrounded by the aged only, or at least by those who are aged in comparison, the child would have learned only to respect and obey; but with the little society of his equals around him, he learns that independence ana equality of friendship which train him to the affections that are worthy of a free and undaunted spirit, in the liberty and equal society of maturer years."*

MASTER AND SERVANT.-Of all domestic connections, this, perhaps, is least understood, or, at least, is most neglected. In the two preceding cases, Nature, imperfect and corrupt as she is, has come in with her aid ; but

* Brown's Lectures on Moral Philosophy.

[ocr errors]

this is a connection, affecting at the same time the vital interest of a family, which is left by God to conscience and Scripture alone. Should these two be neglected, what wonder if the duty on either side is not fulfilled ? Between master and servant, indeed, a civil connection is at once admitted, and by the laws of various nations this is recognized; but though it is admitted to be of moral obligation, with many it extends in no degree to the care of the soul, nor is there imagined by many to be anything of this nature involved in it. Let the servant only be obedient and courteous, faithful, and, in some degree, interested about the welfare of the family; and let the master, in addition to the regular payment of the stipulated hire, only add a trifle, occasionally, by way of encouragement or reward, and then both parties conceive that they have well fulfilled their mutual obligations. Multitudes, however, of persons professing the Christian religion, go not even so far as this : the poor and miseraable light in which they regard this connection being nothing more than that of a covenant for labor, and wages in exchange.

Now, surely that fine and extensive power, which, by the constitution of a family, is deposited in the master's hand, was never lodged there for such a trivial purpose as this. It is granted, that the connection is far inferior to any one of the three already considered. It may also very soon be dissolved, and this very power of dismission, like the act of transportation or banishment in a state, being left in the master's option, is one striking proof of the divine regard for the best interests of his own institution, the domestic circle ; but still the household servant cannot, must not, be regarded as an alien. Though not born in the house, such a domestic has been ingrafted, and is in fact a branch of the family. If proof were wanting, let any one look at the injury or the benefit which,

« PreviousContinue »