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advanced periods of youth and manhood, be proposed ? What though everything which can profitably employ the vacant hour of the artisan be devised ? Nay, what though methods are adopted with a view to the advancement of the kingdom of God, both abroad and at home? Does that nation forget, or seem to forget, all the while, not only that we are a governed race, but that by certain fixed principles and general laws we are governed by the Almighty ?
Let but one only of these be disdained, or even forgottensay, the imperious, and unchanging, and universal obligations of its domestic circle; then in vain shall that people apply many medicines-in vain devise prompt and efficient restoratives—in vain begin with the infant only, in order to banish the longformed habits of the man. The cruel, or careless, or unprincipled devourers of the country's vital interests, are to be found neither in prisons nor in banishment, but below the domestic roof; and while they there remain, and there disdain, or only neglect their obligations; in spite of improvements in prison discipline, and continual transportation ; in spite of the tread-wheel and the gibbet ; nay, in spite of schemes formed in aid of parental negligence, though all the ingenuity which belongs to human benevolence should never grow weary of devising and applying them; still juvenile delinquency goes on apace; the criminal calendar doubles; and the charge of the judge to the grand jury, is found, at the next assize, to have been only as water spilt upon the ground. His advice might be extolled, and even imbibed by some, but the particeps criminis was not present; perhaps I should rather say, causa latet, vis est notissima.
In such a melancholy state of things, however, it is very far from being only the lower, or the lowest orders, who are chargeable with delinquency or neglect. When society has been compared to a pillar, it is true, they have been considered as its base or support. But let Family Economy or Parental Obligations be neglected, what can wealth or sagacity avail ? Then will every order of society prove alike infirm: the base, the shaft, and its capital, are seen in equal progress to decay; and if they are not levelled by the lightning of divine indignation, all alike must crumble into ruin.
If, therefore, at any period, the low and high, the rich and
poor together, once ill of the same disease, should descend to one common grave, a serious and important question arises out of such a spectacle: From whence has the evil originated ? I need not ask whether the Children, or even the youth, have ruined the nation? But has ignorance been more than a match for knowledge, and acity, and fr uent occupation ? Or has mere poverty risen up, and overwhelmed wealth and habitual ease ? If not, then it appears as if only one question remained, Has the evil descended ? So it should seem.
With regard to all ranks it should never be forgotten, not only that the law of Heaven is one; but that the guilt of the superior class must ever exceed that of the inferior. On this point, I am aware that one of our best Poets has been considered, by a few individuals, as occasionally too fastidious and severe; but whatever severity there may seem, to some ears, in the following lines, it will be found on reflection, I am persuaded, only in the truth which they express :
“The course of human things, from good to ill,
From ill to worse, is fatal, never fails.
The reader may perhaps now imagine, that, in such a case, the account must come to a close, and that one is shut up to the absolute necessity of merely saying_" There is no hope ; no!" But I am far, very far indeed, from either thinking or saying this. Look over the state of the Jewish nation, at the moment when the Messiah appeared among them. One remedy then, after all, there is, as far as a remedy can prolong the existence of a nation, or preserve it from decline. No doubt, to some, the mortifying thought will immediately occur, that this remedy is not of human invention, nor is there in it anything to gratify the vanity, or secure the applause, of a single human being! For the application of this remedy, too, no substitutes can be found ;
the most opulent and the humblest peasant being here invited to a subject equally incumbent upon both. So far, however, as the present writer is concerned, he must now refer to what follows, and leave the whole to the impartial reflections of his reader.
At the same time, he owes it to himself to state, that no individual can ever be more sensible than he is, of the imperfections which may perhaps be detected in every following section. In sincerity he says this, from a deep and abiding impression of the vital importance of the subject; its importance to man individually; to the well-being or moral health of families, in any nation, whatever be its form of political government; and to the best interests of the kingdom of God, now on its way to that purity and peace which assuredly await it, before time shall end. But were any man to delay, under such an impression, till he accomplished what might please himself, this very vanity might prevent him from being of the least service to the community. So far, therefore, from deprecating what has been called the severity of criticism, should any individual take the trouble to point out any mistake into which he has fallen, the Author will regard this as an evidence of interest in the subject itself; and if ever a second edition is called for, and the writer is alive, he will not fail to avail himself of any such remarks.
There is one passage of Sacred Writ, the last verse of the Old Testament, to which frequent reference is made. Though fully aware of different interpretations which have been put upon it, and the difficulty which some have expressed in regard to the precise import of the terms, 'Fathers' and 'Children,' after due consideration, the writer continued to abide by the meaning, which the words themselves express with great beauty and simplicity This, it should be remembered, was a prophecy; and when the reader comes to peruse the proof of its fulfilment, he will, I presume, see no obscurity whatever, in the prophecy itself.
There are a very few quotations, perhaps three or four, in the following pages, where the name of the author is not mentioned, merely because, in one case, it seemed inexpedient on several accounts, and in another, unnecessary to refer to the volumes from whence they were taken. All the others are acknowledged in their respective places.
Written, as the volume has been, not only amidst innumerable interruptions, but in the depth of long-protracted domestic afiliction, accompanied by bereavements repeated and severe, partly to preserve the mind from undue excess, in pondering over scenes and sources of enjoyment never to return, I am persuaded, that to all those who have felt sorrow,' and to whom 'sorrow is a sacred thing,' it will be no matter of surprise, should they meet with some imperfections, or the repetition of a similar idea. As to the subject itself, with the exception of only one, which he will not mention here, a more important one, and one more necessary to the vital interests of his native country, at the present moment, the writer is not able to conceive; and though placed in circumstances in some respects unfriendly to composition, he felt it incumbent upon him, if he could, to engage the ear, as well as the deliberate attention of Parents and the Heads of Families; more especially those Families where the Children are yet in infancy. The young and rising generation have also been kept in view throughout, so as, if possible, to interest the minds of those, who will become the parents of a
In the meanwhile, could I but hope to reach the ear of Parents, whether in cities or in the country, whether in Great Britain, or in Ireland, in whose welfare the writer has long felt so deep an interest, perhaps a perusal of the following pages might be of some service to them, and, as a consequence, to their Children ; and though, at first sight, it may not appear, let them observe whether the subject here presented before their view, besides more important benefits, does not furnish one antidote, to the mistake or mere profession of Christianity, as well as to reckless, not to say unjust, commercial speculation.
Edinburgh, 28th June, 1826.
GER AND VANITY OF INTERFERENCE.