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THE CONSTITUTION OF THE HUMAN FAMILY, OR
DOMESTIC CIRCLE; INCLUDING ITS VARIOUS
Reduce things to the first institution, and observe wherein and how they have degenerated; but yet ask counsel of both times; of the ancient time what is best, and of the latter time what is fittest.
Persons are elements of Families; Families are the elements of which 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.
The state of Judea at the period of the Messiah's Advent, conveyed
to us in terms illustrative of the Domestic Constitution, and the extreme degeneracy of the Nation.
Among the various remarkable eras, to which the attention of man can be directed, there is not one to be compared, in point of interest or importance, with that in which the Saviour entered our world. The state of all nations, in remote or immediate connection with this mysterious event, may be and should be investigated; but the sources from whence information can be drawn, though not vague or uncertain, are opened chiefly to the learned and the studious. The moral and religious condition of that peculiar people, anong whom He condescended to appear, is however not so veiled in obscurity; nay, it is remarkable that, to infinite wisdom, it seemed meet to foretell minutely, not only the time and circumstances of the Saviour's appearance, but the precise state of the Jewish nation at the moment of his advent. The volume of prophecy teems with references to this period : even the close of the Old Testament is intended to de
scribe the opening of the New; and the very last words of the last of the prophets, direct the eye to the harbinger of the Sun of Righteousness :—He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.
The phraseology adopted by Malachi, on this occasion, is certainly of a peculiar character; and it deserves more attention, from its being intended to describe the melancholy state of the Jewish nation, immediately preceding our Saviour's actual appearance in it. On the general complexion of society, it looks very hard ; and even as though it were intended, by a master-stroke of the prophetic pencil, to depict wherein the greatest demoralization of a nation consists,--the dissolution of the Family compact. At the same moment, however, it points out the only way in which the tone of society may be restored ; the only way in which, under such sad and degenerate circumstances, a general improvement may be attained, or at least an effectual one, so far as it goes.
But why, it may be inquired, adopt such a phraseology? Why not fix upon some of the other links in the chain of being ; some of the other relative connections? Why not have said, He shall turn the heart of the masters to the servants, and the heart of servants to their masters, the heart of kings, or of governors, to their subjects, and the heart of subjects to their rulers? If the general prevalence of religion throughout a nation be the object, would not this be a much more effectual method, and more likely to produce a permanent and public change ? To all this I reply, without hesitation, in the negative. The precise terms of divine revelation are of great moment, and for them, as well as for the order in which these terms are introduced to our notice, the strongest arguments may, in numberless cases, be adduced, and so it seems here.