By Horace Bushnell
BY this very elaborate and poetically ingenious figure, the prophet appears to be giving a contrived representation of the fact, that when God brings in the promised day of his universal reign in the earth, there will be a grand convergency of causes to prepare it, and, like so many concurrent prayers, to make common suit for it before Him. Thus he figures the world as being the beautiful valley called Jezreel, which is the garden, so to speak, of the land. And it is to be as when the people of Jezreel get their harvest, by having every thing in a train of concurrent agency to prepare it--they make petition by their careful tillage to the corn, the grapes, and olives, that they will grow apace; these, in turn, make suit to the earth to give them nutriment; this again hears them, and lifts its petition to the heavens, asking rain and dew; whereupon, last of all, the heavens hand up the prayers to God, to furnish them water, and let them shed it down; which petition he graciously hears, and the harvest follows. So he conceives it will be, as the harvest of the world approaches. It will be as if all things were put striving together, and a prayer were going up for it through all the concurrent circles of Providence. God's counsel and kingdom are constructing always a perfect harmony, by their convergence on his perfect end. Then, as the perfect end is neared, and the harmony with it grows more complete, it will be as if more things were concurring in it and asking for it, and prayer, falling in as a cause among causes, will have them all praying with it, or handing up its request. In which we may see what holds good of all prayer, and how or by what law it prevails. In one view, the whole future is prayed in by the whole present, being such a future as the whole present demands. The more things, therefore, prayer can get into harmony with itself in its request, the more likely it is to prevail; and the more alone it is, and the more things it has opposite to it, in the field of causes, the less likely it is to prevail--even as Adam had less hope of success in praying for Cain, that the blood of Abel was crying to God against him from the ground.
All prayer being under this general condition, family prayer will be of course; and of this I now propose to speak. I choose to handle the subject in this form, in the conviction that the prayers of families are so often defeated by the want of any such concert in the aims, plans, tempers, works, and aspirations of the house, as is necessary to a common suit before God; in other words, because the prayers, commonly so called, are defeated by the suit of so many causes contrary to them.
We sometimes use the terms family worship and family prayers, without any reference at all to their spiritual acceptance with God, or to any gifts and benefits to be bestowed, in the way of answer to such prayers. We speak of the worship, or the prayers, as a kind of morning observance; a religious formality that is to have its value, under the laws of drill and habitual repetition; good therefore, in that sense, to be kept a going, and not expected to be good on the high ground of faith and living intercourse with God. That it is to be the opening of heaven and the keeping of it open to the family, under the conditions of prevailing prayer, is either not commonly supposed, or not made a point of practical endeavor. The benefits thought of are to be such as will come of mere observance itself, and the religious reverence impressed by it.
Now that some such kind of benefit may be expected to follow, I am not about to question. Any such external observance, kept up in the family, must probably beget a deeper sense of religion, and prepare all the members to a readier admission of the great principles of faith, and spiritual devotion to God. And in that view, the observance of family worship is a matter of such consequence in a family, that the parent, who confessedly is not a Christian person, ought still to feel it incumbent on him to maintain that observance. And if such were the persons with whom I am dealing in this discussion, I should urge it upon them, as a matter indispensable, and never to be omitted. But my subject is different. I am addressing Christian parents, on the subject of the Christian training of their children; showing it to be the same thing as a training into Christ, and how that training will secure the real initiation of their children into a state of genuine discipleship. Having this aim therefore, I shall drop out of notice family worship as observance, and speak of it only as the open state of prayer and communion with God in the house. For, as the greater includes the less, we need not be careful about the less; but only about the greater. And I shall speak, in the conviction that a great and principal reason why the family religion of those who are really Christian believers, carries no saving benefit with it, is that they are content with the less when they ought to claim the greater; maintaining the family prayers, in the way of observance only, and not as an appeal of faith to God. They imagine some impossibility perhaps of maintaining the family religion on so high a key. It will not only be a wearisome and over-exhaustive painstaking for themselves, but they sometimes imagine that the children, too, will be finally drugged by such over-dosing, in the spiritual intensities of religion, and be only the more repelled from it.
But they greatly mistake, in this kind of judgment, by mistaking first, in their conception of what is necessary to the prevalent effect of the family prayers, and the always open state of the house towards God. No rhapsodies are wanted, or flights of feeling, or heavings of passional intercession, as many are wont to assume, but simply that there should be a sober, calculated harmony between all the plans and appointments of life and the prayers or petitions made. The great difficulty in faith, after all, is to be faithful. God is not carried by shrieks of emotion, but by the honestly meant and soberly contrived ordering of things, to snake them work in with, and, if possible, work out the prayers. In this view, let me call your attention--
I. To the manner in which prayers, of all kinds, get their answer from God. Two things are wanted, as conditions previous to the favoring answer. First, that the matter requested should agree with God's beneficent aims, or the ends of good to which his plans are built. Secondly, that the prayer should agree with as many other prayers, and as many other circles of causes as possible; for God is working always toward the largest harmony, and will not favor, therefore, the prayers of words, when every thing else in the life is demanding something else, but will rather have respect to what has the widest reach of things and persons making suit with it. It is at this latter point that prayers most commonly fail, viz: that they are solitary and contrary, having nothing put in agreement with them; as if some one person should be praying for fair weather when every body else wants rain, and the gaping earth, and thirsty animals, and withering trees, are all asking for it together. Or a man, we may conceive, prays for holiness, getting off his knees to go and defraud his neighbor; or that he may be prospered in some plan that requires industry, and, by indolence and inattention, leaves all the causes of nature making suit against him. God is for some largest harmony in the hearing of prayers, as in every thing else. All the prayers that he will hear too must, in some sense, be from Himself, which is the same as to say that they must chime with His ends, and the working of his plans generally.
See how it is, for example, in the great realm of nature. The first thing here to be discovered is that every thing requires every thing; or, if we take the figure of prayer, that all events make suit for all. Omit any one, and there would be a shock of discord felt in the whole frame work. As regards the interior principle of causes, we know nothing; we only see them all playing into all, and all demanding all, and then, all together, making suit for a certain general future, somehow accordant with them and their harmonies. Thus it will be seen to hold, even scientifically, in the grand astronomic system of worlds, that all the innumerable parts have a perfect concurrence, demanding exactly every thing that comes to pass, in the motions, changes of position, perturbations of parts, and processions of the whole. The principle, every thing for every thing and all together one, is so exact, that every atom and tiniest insect feels the touch, in fact, of every heaviest, highest, and remotest orb, and every such orb a respectiveness of action reaching downward, after every such minim of matter and life.
Such is nature, and it would be exactly so, were it not for sin, in the supernatural order, viz: in the wants, and works, and prayers, and heavenly gifts of God's spiritual empire. Sin harmonizes with nothing. It is a principle of general discord with all God's purposes, plans, and creations; refusing to be included in any terms of intellectual unity and order. But God is none the less intent on harmony here, that the constituent harmony of his realm is broken. All that He is doing as a world's Redeemer, is to gather together in one, all the loosened elements of discord, and settle the world again, in everlasting concord and unity. And toward this final issue he puts all things working together as for the same good issue.
Thus it will be found that the Bible history shows a grand convergency of all the matters included in it, and that a mysterious concert weaves all its facts together, and keeps them working toward the same result. The ritual of Moses, and the forty years' march, and all the captivities and dispersions of the people, and the dispersions of the Greek and Roman languages, and all the philosophic exhaustions, and all the crumblings of the false religions, and all the great wars of the Romans, and all the fortunes of empire determined by those wars, and then the universal pacification of the world--by all these vast concurrences the world is made ready, and set waiting for Christ to be born. The students of history, looking over this field, are astonished by the vastness of the preparation, and it is to them, as if they heard all these world-wide powers voiced in prayer together for the coming of Jesus. Just here, then was the time for him to come. And thus, in fact, he came, in the exact fullness of time, when the largest harmony was asking for him.
In the same way, it will be seen, descending to a lower field, that every conversion to God takes place when some largest harmony demands it. Not always, or commonly, when some friend, or wife, or good mother, prays it, wholly alone, but when others join them, or when, at least, there is a large concurrence of providences and causes, making the same suit, and joining in the general conspiracy of reasons. And so much is there in this, that the subject himself will almost always feel a conviction of some wonderful conjunction of means, and conditions, and prayers, just then brought together, to accomplish the otherwise difficult or impossible result.
Other illustrations, without limit, could be cited from the processes of God's spiritual administration; for it is always working toward the largest harmony. But we come directly to the matter of prayer itself And here we meet the promise, first of all, that--"if we ask any thing according to his will he heareth us;" for the design is here to draw the petitioner into the most intimate acquaintance, and bring him into the most exact conformity with, God's purposes and ends. And probably the whole economy of prayer, or giving gifts to prayer, which might as well be given otherwise without prayer, is meant to promote this agreement of the petitioners with God. Next we have that peculiar phrasing of the doctrine of prayer, by Christ, when he says--"If two of you shall agree, on earth, as touching any thing, that they shall ask, it shall be done for them;" where the intent of the doctrine is to bring the petitioners into the largest possible circle of harmony among themselves. Hence the promise too--"Ye shall seek me and find me, if ye search for me with all your heart;" where the purpose is to bring each individual into the largest harmony with himself and not leave half his dispositions, or aspirations, or lustings, praying virtually against his prayers. Hence, again the command--"Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation;" where the endeavor is to set the voluntary powers chiming with the prayers, and working toward a grand petitional harmony with them. By the whole economy of prayer, then, God is working toward the largest, most inclusive harmony, and prayer is to be successful. just according to the amount of concurrency there is in it. First, there is to be the completest possible concurrency with God; then a concurrency of one or two hundred, or, if so it may be, two hundred millions of petitioners in a common suit; and then all these are to be total in the suit, bringing all their lustings, affections, works, plans, properties, and self-sacrifices, into the petition; whereupon the prayer will grow strong, just in proportion to the amount of agreement, or concurrence there is in it.
Under this great law, therefore, prayer, as a matter of fact, has been getting and will always be getting more strength by the larger harmonies it embodies. Noah prayed alone for his very ungodly times, and could not be heard--the blood of Abel was crying to God for justice over against him, and so were all the crimes of violence and murder in his own most bloody and cruel age. Abraham prayed for Sodom, but there were no fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, ten, or, as far as we know, more than one righteous man to pray with him; and therefore he fails, obtaining only the safety of that godly brother's family. Afterwards Daniel, in a matter of great peril, was able, going to his house to pray, to set his three friends praying with him, and he found the light on which even his life depended. Still farther on, Esther set all her countrymen in the city praying and fasting with her, and obtained, in that manner, the deliverance of her whole people, and their promotion to honor in the kingdom. And so, again, the more wonderful scene of power which inaugurates the church, on the day of Pentecost, is distinguished by this principal, all-determining fact, that the disciples are all with one accord in one place, praying for the heavenly gift.
Not to extend these illustrations farther, we may safely put it down as a conclusion, that prayer wants the largest possible harmony praying with it; or what is the same, as many reasons, and causes, and wants, and conditions, and persons, as possible, chiming in the suit of it; so that God may answer it for harmony's sake, and not against harmony. It may seem that I have led you a long way to reach this conclusion, especially when my subject is family prayer. But we shall now be able--
II. To dispatch that particular subject as much more briefly; and besides, I have been able to hit upon no other method, which promised to unfold the real conditions of family prayer, and show the reasons of utter failure and abortiveness in it so distinctly and impressively.
The great infirmity of family prayers, or of what is sometimes called family religion, is that it stands alone in the house, and has nothing put in agreement with it. Whereas, if it is to have any honest reality, as many things as possible should be soberly and deliberately put in agreement with it; for indeed it is a first point of religion itself, that by its very nature, it rules presidingly over every thing desired, done, thought, planned for, and prayed for, in the life. It is never to finish itself up by words, or word-supplications, or even by sacraments; but the whole custom of life and character must be in it and of it, by a total consent of the man. And more depends on this, a hundred times, than upon any occasional fervors, or passional flights, or agonizings. The grand defect will, in almost all cases, be, in what is more deliberate, viz: in the want of any downright, honest, casting of the family in the type of religion, as if that were truly accepted as the first thing.
See just what is wanted, by what is so very commonly not found. First of all, the mere observance kind of piety, that which prays in the family to keep up a reverent show, or acknowledgment of religion, is not enough. It leaves every thing else in the life to be an open space for covetousness, and all the gay lustings of worldly vanity. It even leaves out prayer; for the saying prayers is, in no sense, really the same thing as to pray. Contrary to this, there should be some real prayer, prayer for the meaning's sake, and not for the shell of religious decency in which the semblance may be kept. This latter kind looks, indeed, for no return of blessing from God, but only for a certain religious effect accomplished by the drill of repetitional observance. There is also another kind of drill sometimes attempted in the prayers of families, which is much worse, viz: when the prayer is made, every morning, to hit this or that child in some matter of disobedience, or some mere peccadillo into which he has fallen. Nothing can be more irreverent to God than to make the hour of prayer a time of prison-discipline for the subjects of it, and nothing could more certainly set them in a fixed aversion to religion and to every thing sacred. This kind of prayer prays, in fact, for exasperation's sake, and the effect will correspond.
In the next place, what is prayed for in the house by the father, is, how commonly, not prayed for by the mother in her family tastes and tempers, and is even prayed against, in fact, by all the instigations of appearance, and pride, and show, which are raised by her motherly studies and cares. And this, too, not seldom, when her prayers themselves are burdened with much feeling, and bear the appearances of much earnest longing for the piety of her children. Her prayers sound well in the wording, and she verily thinks that she means what she asks for; but the notions of standing she is putting in the head of her son, or the dress she is just now getting up for her daughter, pray, a hundred fold harder than her prayers, only just the other way; calling in results of feeling and character that are selfish, worldly, earthly in the last degree.
It is a matter of the greatest importance, too, as regards the successful training of children, that they should be inducted into ways and habits of prayer themselves, as very frequently they are not. Sometimes even Christian mothers, who pray much for their children, never lead them into the practice of prayer for themselves. They are kept from so doing, by the supposed orthodox belief, first, that their children are of course in the gall of bitterness, and secondly, that such can offer no prayer, which is not an abomination to the Lord; in both which conclusions they are, in fact, neither orthodox nor Christian, and what to the children, at least, is even worse than that, consent to let them grow up in no personal habit of religion. How then can they be reached by the prayers of the house, when they are deliberately put outside of the possibility, even of beginning to pray for themselves? Sometimes they are taught to pray only in the sense of saying prayers, or repeating some little formula appropriate to their age. And there is nothing ill in this, if they only do it occasionally. But the much better method, in general, is for the mother to word a simple prayer for them herself, and let them follow after in the repetition of it, sentence by sentence. The prayer in this case, will have respect to the particular matters of the day; what has been seen, felt, enjoyed, wanted, suffered, and needs to be forgiven. Very soon the child himself, practiced in this way, will begin to drop in a sentence, here or there that comes directly out of his feeling, and it will not be long before he will be able to word a whole prayer for himself, and will so be led along into the habit of praying with his mother, and be grown, so to speak, into the ruling desires and prayers of the house. In this method, regularly pursued, the child may be trained to a perfectly open state in the matter of prayer; so that when the father is absent, or is taken away by death, he will be ready, at a very early period on his way to manhood, to take his father's place. There will be nothing ghostly, or sanctimoniously separated from the common going on of life, in the way of prayer thus maintained. Having it for the element of childhood, and being grown into the practice of it, the very geniality, and sweetness, and good cheer of home, will seem to be lapped in it, and it will be so far natural, that, if it were taken away, the course of life itself would seem to be even painfully unnatural. A house without a roof, would scarcely be a more indifferent home than a family state unsheltered by God's friendship, and the sense of being always rested in his Providential care and guidance. No sweetness of life is so indispensable to a family, brought up thus, in the open state with God, as to have all the cares, affections, partings, sicknesses, afflictions, prosperities, marriages, deaths, and all kinds of works, habitually blessed, by the sense of God ap pealed to, and consciously witnessing in them.
But this again, depends on yet another fact, where commonly the defect is manifold greater than it is in the points already referred to. It is not only necessary to the genuine state of family religion, or the open state of godly living in the house, that the prayers should be prayers and not observances, and that both the parents should be truly in them together, and the children carefully bred into them also as the common joy of their home; but it is necessary also that the practical ends, tastes, plans, aspirations, and works of the house, should all come into the same circle of concert, and join their petition to reinforce the suit of the prayers. And here, as I have already intimated, is the great cause of failure in family religion. It is not difficult to get a Christian father into such a strain of desire for his children, that he will faithfully maintain the prayers of the house, and press himself at times into great fervors in his suit for them. These fervors will, too often, be kindled, in fact, by the conviction of really great derelictions of duty, such as come between the family and all God's blessings upon them. No, the difficult thing here is, not to get even the fervors of prayer, but to get the life itself and its works into that honest and deliberate agreement with the prayers, that will give them a genuine power and meaning, without any such flights and passional vehemences. The difficulty is that almost nothing, in the arrangements, tempers, and practical ends of the house, agrees with the prayers. The father prays in the morning that his children may grow up in the Lord, and calls it even the principal good of their life, that they are to be Christians, living to God and for the world to come. Then he goes out into the field, or the shop, or the house of trade, and delving there, all day, in his gains, keeps praying from morning to night, without knowing it, that his family may be rich. His plans and works, faithfully seconded by an affectionate wife, pull exactly contrary to the pull of his prayers, and to all their common teaching in religion. Their tempers are worldly, and make a worldly atmosphere in the house. Pride, the ambition of show and social stand ing, envy of what is above, jealousy of what is below, follies of dress and fashion, and the more foolish elation felt when a son is praised, or a daughter admired in the matter of personal appearance, or what is no better, a manifest preparing and foretasting of this folly, when the son, or daughter, is so young as to be only the more certainly poisoned by the infection of it--O these unspoken, damning prayers! how many are they, and how totally do they fill up the days! The mornings open with a reverent, fervent-sounding prayer of words, and then the days come after piling up petitions of ends. aims, tempers, passions, and works, that ask for any thing and every thing, but what accords with the genuine rule of religion. The prayer of the morning is that the son, the daughter, all the sons, all the daughters, may be Christian; and then the prayers that follow are for any thing but that, or any thing, in fact, most contrary to that. Is it any wonder, when we consider this common disagreement between the prayers, even the fervent prayers of the family, and all the other concerns, enjoyments, and ends of the common life beside, that so many fine shows of family piety are yet followed, by so much of godless and even reprobate character, in the children!
Here then, my brethren, is the great lesson of family religion; it is that religion, being the supreme end and law of life, is to have every thing put in the largest possible harmony with it. And this is to be done by no superlative fervors, or heats of piety and prayer, but by the sober, honest, practical arrangement of life and its plans. Thus, if your children are to grow up into Christ, that is to be made their prayer, and the prayer of both the parents, and the prayer of all the buildings, migrations, plans, toils, trades, and pleasures of the house. All these are to pray, in sober earnest, that the children, as the practically best thing possible, and most to be desired, may be Christian in their life. There is no difficulty in forming a whole family to God, when there is grace enough in the parents to make that really the object, and set every thing in the largest harmony with it. The only difficulty is in doing it, when the prayers and the family religion are one side of every thing else, in a department by themselves, and the whole body of life's practical works and ends is operating directly against the result desired and prayed for. Prayer, in a certain proper view of it, is only one of the great causes of the world, and all the causes, natural as well as supernatural, are, in a certain broad sense, prayers. What is wanted, therefore, is to put all the causes, all the prayers, into a common strain of endeavor, reaching after a common good, in God and his friendship. The religious affinities of the house then take the mold of the prayers, and become a kind of prayer themselves. The children grow into faith, as it were, by a process of natural induction--only it will be intensely supernatural, because their faith is both quickened and grown in the atmosphere of God's own Spirit, always filling the house. He molds the prayers to agreement with God's will, and the prayers of each to the prayers of all, and the works and plans and tastes of all to the prayers; and then, as a consequence, which is also an answer, fills the house with his ingrown sanctifying power, and seals the members with his seal of life.
Let us stop here now, in our closing, and contemplate the dignity and power of a genuine family religion, thus maintained. Consistency and solid reality, we have seen, are its great distinction--the whole ordering of the house is worshipful, and faithfully chimes with the prayers. The very table is sanctified with, as well as by, the blessing invoked upon it; so that when the house are feeding animal enjoyments, and, so far, saying that they are animals, they do not become such. Their sensuality is kept under by a divine spirituality above it. It is not so much their bodies as their souls that are fed. By their holy charities and prayers, the family property is also sanctified, and all the industries by which it is obtained. The training of the house does not end in money, the conversation is not about money, the plans are not plans turning on the supreme good of money, the only losses dreaded or shunned are not losses of money. Their thoughts and affections therefore, mellowed by the family piety, do not clink in their souls, as we sometimes almost hear them with a hard-money sound. For the love of God penetrates and savors, all through, even the works of thrift and all the ennobled virtues of a genuine economy. The mental life also is raised by the family religion, for they live thoughtfully, as in contact with God, and all the highest themes of existence. Events, providences, nay even things themselves, take on senses related to intelligence, feeling, and the uses of faith. And so their very talent grows into volume, because it is never imprisoned, or stunted by the external measures of things; but is led forth, always, into what things signify, as related to the broader affinities and the half-poetic life of religion. They are refined, in this manner, without any ambition to copy the mannerisms of refinement; refined by the fining of their intelligence and feeling. They are not emasculated by their culture, but grow manlier in it; because of the good and great thoughts, and high subjects, into which they are trained by the sober, honest piety of their practice.
The family is thus exalted, every way, by the family religion; because there is such reality and all-diffusive harmony in the scope of it. In the prayers of the day it recalls, in one way or another and with filial reverence, the ancestors that have gone before, and looks hopefully on to the great reunion of the future. Its births are so many arrivals, or presentations, at the gate of eternity; its baptisms and baptismal namings are titles recorded in the family register of God; its deaths are only the migrations of so many into life, to be followed by the migration of all; and the sense of a good future, to be their common heritage, imparts a trustful, quietly cheerful air to their waiting. For that bright gathering of the house, after the storms are over, gilds their adversities and sicknesses, and kindles a beautiful expectancy in their prayers--keeps them looking up and away, without any instigations of asceticism, or false antipathy to the world. The godly father dwells in such a house, even as the apostle pictures Abraham, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise viz: that of a city that hath foundations. Heirs with him--not heirs of his fee-simple, not legatees in his will, waiting patiently or impatiently for him to die, but heirs with him of a great angelic future that rests in character and fruits of well doing, in which they bless, and by mankind as well as God, are blessed.
What scene of family dignity is more to be admired? The highest splendors of wealth and show, have but a feeble glow-worm look in the comparison--a pale, faint glimmer of light, a phosphorescent halo, enveloping what is only a worm. Even the poor laboring man, thanking God, at his table, for the food he earned by the toil of yesterday, singing still, each morning, in his family hymn, of the glorious rest at hand, moving on thitherward with his children, by single day's journeys of prayer and praise, teaching them, even as the eagles do their young, to spread their wings with him and rise--this man, I say, is the prince of God in his house, and the poor garb, in which he kneels, outshines the robes of palaces.
The beauty of such family scenes has not escaped the notice of poetry itself, or even of mere worldly observation. But we must not, for a moment, forget that the charm of all such family pictures depends on that sound reality of worship, which puts every thing in the house in keeping with the prayers, and carries back the meaning of the prayers into every thing in the house. A flourish of prayer in the morning, followed by all flourishings of vanity and prosperous selfishness, for the rest of the day, will not answer. We look in upon the Christian family, where every thing is on a footing of religion, and we see them around their own quiet hearth and table, away from the great public world and its strifes, with a priest of their own to lead them. They are knit together in ties of love that make them one; even as they are fed and clothed out of the same fund, interested in the same possessions, partakers in the same successes and losses, suffering together in the same sorrows, animated each by hopes that respect the future benefit of all. Into such a circle and scene it is that religion comes, each day, to obtain a grace of well-doing for the day. And it comes not by itself, as in the public assembly, not in a manner that is one side of life and its common affairs. There is no pretense, no show, no toilet practice going before, no reference of thought to fashion, or dress, or appearance. It leads in the day, as the dawn leads in the morning. It blends a heavenly gratitude with the joys of the table; it breathes a cheerful sense of God into all the works and tempers of the house; it softens the pillow for rest when the day is done. And so the religion of the house is life itself, the life of life; and having always been observed, it becomes an integral part even of existence, leaving no feeling that in a proper family it could ever have been otherwise. A family state, maintained without a fire, would not seem to be more impossible or colder. Home and religion are kindred words; names both of love and reverence; home, because it is the seat of religion; religion, because it is the sacred element of home.
This training, in short, of a genuine, practically all-embracing, all-imbuing family religion, makes the families so many little churches, only they are as much better, in many points, as they are more private, closer to the life of infancy, and more completely blended with the common affairs of life. Here it is that chastity, modesty, temperance, industry, truth--all the virtues that give beauty, and worth, and majesty, to character, get their root. Here it is, above all, that they who are born into life, are led up, in their gracious training, to knit the green tendrils of existence to God. And so, in all the future scenes of duty, and wrong, and grief; through which they are to pass, it will be found that they were furnished here, with supplies of grace, and armed with shields of confidence from God, to meet every encounter, bear every burden, and maintain every kind of well doing, till the victory of life is won.
Holding, now, this conviction, as Christian parents, of the importance of a true family religion, allow yourselves never to forget the condition which alone makes it of so great value, viz: that it has such scope as to include and harmonize all the ways, and works, and cares of the house. See that you plan to be, in your undertakings, just what you pray to be in your prayers. Set the general concert of your affairs in God's own order, to accomplish only what is agreeable to his will, so to be always praying with you, and the prophet's rich valley, teeming with all fruits of abundance and luxury, will but feebly represent the unfailing, never blighted, always fruitful, piety of your children.