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The Ends of Family Institution, with observa
tions on the Importance of Education.
MALACHI ii. 15.
And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the
Spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a goda ly seed. TOWARD the close of the Babylonilh captivity, religion revived among the Jews. Several zealous and able reformers were raised up and advanced to power, whose influence was blessed to call back that people from their declensions, and prepare them for mercy. But the effect of their labors was only temporary. When they were gone off the stage, the people again apoftatized, neglected the worship and ordinances of God, and became vicious and corrupt. This prophet, who lived several ages after their return to Canaan, was sent to reprove their irreligion and the immoralities, which abounded among them, and had infected every order of men,
One of the fins then rife in Israel, was a family Gin. Family contentions, which frequently terminated in divorces, were become common.
Divorces were permitted to the Hebrews, " for the hardness of their hearts, but it was not so from the beginning.”
LARGER communities are all made up of families. Evils therefore which affect the latter, cannot but affect the former. Were all the families which compose an empire divided and unhappy, the empire would be fo.
It is also worthy of notice, that the first rudiments of character, which render good or bad, and caufe people to be blessings or curses in society, are commonly begun in those nurseries of our
The bias there given, seldom wholly wears off ; it is generally carried, in degree, through life. Probably many of the evils which afflicted the Jews in the days of this prophet, had their origin in the cradles of the nation. He was therefore directed to strike at the root of evils, and by endeavoring to reform the smaller societies, of which the larger were composed, to reform the whole. With this view he led back the minds of those among whom he ministered, to the origin of families, and declared the merciful design of the Most High, in their institution-That he might seek a godly feed.
Seeking a godly feed is not the only design. It is however a principal design, and will be chiefly regarded in the following discourse.
One thing designed is the comfort and advantage of the several members of these little communities. But to the attainment of these ends, they must keep respectively, in their places, and act faithfully in them. The heads must live together in harmony, and unite in ordering the common affairs of the society ; and the inferior members must submit to their authority, and do the duties of their stations.
Human happiness greatly depends on the temper and conduct of those who are connected in the nearest relations, and live together. Suppose trouble abroad, yet if one hath peace and friends ship in his family, and finds order and affection at home, he will not be very unhappy. He will often " relire to his secret chambers, and shut the doors about him, till the evils are past." But the house divided against itself, is a scene of confufion and trouble. Contentions there, are like a continual dropping.
The man who hath affluence and honor ; who is respected or envied abroad, is but a wretch, if his retirements are unquiet ; if his family connexions are peevish and disagreeable, and the inferior members rise in rebellion and refuse obedience to his reasonable requirements, or neglect the duties of their stations. Fidelity and affection in the nearest relations, yields the greatest temporal felicity ; the want of them occasions the most pungent grief which is experienced in life ; that which arises from fenfe of guilt excepted.
The part acted by every member of a family, affects the whole. None can rejoice or mourq alone. All participate in the joy or grief. All are affected by the discharge, or neglect of relative duties : Joy and sorrow keep pace with them.
NEITHER are the evils which arise from these abuses to be avoided by celibacy, without incurring others of a serious nature. Man is formed for society. An help meet was necessary even in Eden. To have remained alone would have rendered an earthly paradise a tiresome place. Therefore was a suitable companion given of God, to crown the joys of innocence.
The comfort and advantage of the members is manifestly one deGgn of family institution ; but where the duties of the several relations are neglected, or counteracted, the ends are frustrated, and the blessing changed into a curse.
" It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with a con. tentious and angry woman.” And the woman who instead of a kind and virtuous companion, is joined to a tyrant, or a man of Belial, must have forrow upon sorrow, till death comes to her relief.
But the design of family institution expressed in the last clause of the text-That he might seek a godly feed, will be chiefly attended to.
We are here taught that God made one, and only one to be man's companion and helper—that he might seek a godly feed. One is necessary for this purpose; more would rather hinder than help. With one there is a joint interest ; more would cause divisions.
· To answer the ends proposed, the connexion must be for life. It must not be left to the par
ties, or either of them, to diffolve it at pleasure, as the Jews of that age contended. This liberty the prophet shews to be contrary to the spirit and design of marriage. He observes that though God had the residue of the Spirit-all power, and could easily have made many, he made only one, to be the companion and helper of man-that this in. dicated the design of marriage to be an indif. fóluble connexion, which was ordained to con. tinue till death. This which is intimated in the text, is confirmed by our Savior in his reply to the Pharisees who questioned him on this subject.*
In farther discussing our fubject, after a few defultory obfervations on the importance of education, efpecially parental education, we shall inquire in what ways, and by what means parents are required to feek a godly feed.
Much culture is necessary to man's attaining his proper rank in creation. This should begin at an early period, and naturally devolves on par. ents, who, by providential appointment, are guardians of the infancy and childhood of their offspring
Brutes need no instruction in order to fill the places designed for them of the Creator. Neither do they need example. Inftinct supplies their pla. ces--teacheth all which they need to know; and teacheth perfectly. The several kinds of beafts and birds, fhut out from their dams, and secluded from their own species, act according to their na.
* Matthew xix. 3IQ