Imagens da página

Through the spirit of prayer, the mind is associated with heaven, and all its affections and thoughts are arranged in heavenly order; like the encampments of Israel, which bid defiance to the curses of Balak, no evil can assail it, without meeting with a triumphant resistance. Whereas, if the spirit of prayer be wanting, the affections and thoughts, are like the rabble or mixed multitude, which murmured against the Lord, and which felt a lusting after the flesh, the fish, the leeks, the onions, and the garlick of Egypt.

We learn from the doctrines of the New Church, the proper relation between charity and piety. Charity is the soul and the sun of religion; piety is its body and its garment of holiness. Charity cannot exist without manifesting itself in a form: that form is piety taken in its proper and comprehensive meaning. Charity is the principal, piety is the instrumental ; the former is the essential, the latter the formal. Piety involves the proper regulation of our external man, his outward deportment, his acts, his words, &c., in every relation of life, in our relation to the Lord, to our neighbour, and to all objects, both animate and inanimate, with which we have to do. Piety is not like a Sunday garment to be worn on certain occasions ; it is the dress in which we should constantly be clothed. It should accompany us into the city, into the field, into the mart of commerce, and into the scenes of pleasure and rejoicing. The countenance of piety is not demure, downcast, and gloomy; in the house of prayer, it is solemn and grave; in the family circle, it is open-hearted, complaisant, mild, gentle, and firm ; in the emporium of business, it is sincere, honest, and upright; and in the scene of rejoicing and amusement, it is sober, discreet, and cheerful. In whatever relation, and in whatever circumstances we may be, piety is the body, the garment, the outward expression of charity. He who neglects the duties of piety, evinces that charity is still a stranger to his bosom. Piety, however, may be separated from charity, as a garment from him who should wear it; but, like the garment in question, piety is then devoid of substance and of life, and, is consequently, the mere image of charity; it is the sheep's clothing which covers the ferocious, hideous form of the wolf. The doctrines of the New Church shew us most plainly the enormous wickedness of separating piety from charity, of “having a name to live and yet to be dead ;” of “having the form of godliness, but none of the power thereof;" of being hypocrites, and in the light of heaven appearing as “a generation of vipers,” and not as the “children of light.” But although piety can be separated from charity, it should be well considered, that charity can never be separated from piety; since if charity exist, it can only manifest itself in its proper form, which is piety understood in the comprehensive sense mentioned above. Let him, therefore, who thinks that he can dispense with the duties of piety in the public worship of the Lord, in the family circle, in the common duties of life, &c., take great heed, lest the spark of charity, which may still feebly tremble in his bosom, become extinct. It is well known, that if the instrumental ceases, the principal can no longer act; if the formal disappears, the essential can no longer be manifest. Thus the relation between charity and piety is clearly discovered in the doctrines of the New Church; and the duties of piety cannot be neglected, without imminent danger to every spiritual state of charity, innocence, and peace, in the inner man. It is the duties of piety which kindle the spark which feebly trembles on “the smoking flax” into a celestial flame, and which prevent “ the bruised reed" of a feeble faith from being entirely broken and destroyed.

Of all the relations and positions in life, none is so important as that of the father of a family. Before kings and princes assembled families into kingdoms and nations, each family constituted a kingdom in miniature, whose natural chief and king was the father. He provided for its support, protection, and comfort ; he was the most venerable person in the happy circle ; his example was that of integrity, virtue, and dignity; and his words and precepts were invested with authority and power; when he gave instruction and precepts, all joyfully obeyed and loved the parent and teacher. Such was the father in the golden age of our race, when, as the poet sings,

- Vindice nullo
“Sponte sua lege fidem rectumque colebat.

“ Pæna metusque aberant,” &c. Hence, amongst all people the character of the pater-familias, the father of the household, has been dignified and venerable, and, at the present time, is esteemed amongst all. The prince sustains the character as well as the poorest of his subjects. The laws of all nations give to man in this character, higher rights and higher duties. He is still the representative of those who are dependent upon him; and as their provider and protector he claims their obedience, their duty, and their love. This most ancient and primitive institution of human society will for ever continue, since it has not arisen from human prudence and ingenuity, but it is a work of God and one of the institutions of his all-wise Providence. Let him beware, therefore, lest he dishonour this character by not studying and fulfilling its all important duties.

The first duty of his life is religious. Religion is the only tie, as the origin of the term implies, between man and his Maker. Man, of all living existences, is the only subject of religion. He can think of God, he can know God, he can love God, and he can, through love, be conjoined with God. Hence his immortality; hence, also, when these duties are accomplished, his salvation, and his eternal happiness in heaven. Religion implies the fulfilment of these essential duties of human existence, and is the means of conjoining man with his Saviour God. The father of a family should, consequently, be religious, as the great and primary duty of his life. He should elevate his thoughts to the Lord, who is the only God, rendered visible to the finite perceptions of his mind as a “ Divine Man, all-good, all-wise, all-glorious, and everywhere present.” He should love to know him by studying his Word, and by enlarging his views and conceptions of his divine nature and operations; and, finally, he should love to practise and to realize what he knows. This is the circle of his religious duties.* In this circle man should constantly move like a planet around its sun, constantly turning on its axis to the east, and receiving, as much as possibile, the full-orbed splendours of heat and light-of love and wisdom from his God. The soul of religion is what the Scriptures call agape, love and charity. All our duties towards God are involved in the term love ; all our duties towards man are implied by the term charity. Love is the soul of every duty; it is the crown and the glory of the human character; it is the “ golden girdle” which unites families, communities, and nations together, and binds them in the closest ties of sympathy and affection. This divine principle takes its seat in the centre of the human system, like the sun in the centre of the solar world. Viewed as to successive order, it is the highest; viewed as to simultaneous order, it is the inmost principle in man. Its residence is consequently in the spiritual mind, the “ inner man :” the natural mind or "outer man” is the earth upon which it shines, and which it covers with the verdure, beauty, and fruitfulness of heavenly life. This is the relation between the inner and the outer man; and the order by which this relation is governed is pourtrayed to us by the works of God in nature: hence genuine theology harmonizes with genuine science and philosophy. But piety and the duties of piety have a specific relation to the external mind, or to the "outer man.” The essential duties of piety are repentance, self-denial, and prayer. These are the duties which the Lord so often enjoined as the great and only conditions of becoming his disciples. By repentance

* See Apoc. Exp. 242.

"outer mehe, spiritual mit principle in manhe

" the fallow ground” of the natural mind is broken up, and the plough-share is driven through every unhallowed affection. The soil of our lower nature is exposed to the sun and to the influence of heaven, and the seed of truth falls into good ground. By self-denial we controul the tendencies of our sensual nature, subdue the impulses of our carnal affections, and chain the wolf and the leopard of our ferocious dispositions, and make them lie down with the lamb and the calf of innocence and meekness from the “inner man.” By the duties of prayer heaven is opened to our souls, and angels come and minister unto us. They inspire the soul, from the Lord, with every sweet and heavenly affection; they elevate the motives and ends of action; they cause the mind to look higher and higher on the scale of perfection. From the elevation to which man attains in his spiritual mind, he looks down upon the natural mind and takes a survey of its states, its defects, its culture, in short, of the great work of regeneration which demands his utmost diligence and his greatest attention—"the one thing needful" of his life. The mind is enlightened, strengthened, and encouraged to perform these duties by instruction : hence this is also involved in the duties of piety. In this manner“ we sow to ourselves in righteousness, we reap in mercy, we break up our fallow ground, we seek the Lord, and he, in his mercy, rains righteousness upon us(Hosea 10, ver. 12).

The father of a family here beholds his religious duties, to instruct, to train to repentance, self-denial, and prayer. This is the basis of all spiritual life in the minds of his children and dependents; and his hand is expected, by the requirements of divine order itself, to carry out this great business of his life. He instructs them by reading daily a portion of the Scriptures, and opening their divine contents in the simplest manner to their minds; he trains them to repentance, by inducing them to shun every thing evil and naughty as an offence and a sin against the Lord, by making him the object whom they should study to please, and whose favour and pleasure will ever attend every effort to obey him. He trains them to self-denial when he teaches them to forego and renounce any selfish gratification, especially for the sake of others; when he exhibits in his own life the example of self-denial, and proves by his conduct the efficacy of the precept he inculcates. He trains them to this heavenly duty, when he leads them to share their joys and their pleasures with others, and to experience delight in seeing others joyful and happy. He trains them to prayer, by leading them to acknowledge that the Lord is the giver of every gift they enjoy; that it is he who gives them their daily food, the clothes they wear, the house they inhabit, the health they enjoy, &c. Thus every earthly good should be connected with the Giver of all good: in this manner the spirit of thankfulness and gratitude is awakened in the heart, and the mind is disposed to prayer, and its duty becomes regular and delightful. It is as necessary to train children to repentance, self-denial, and prayer, as it is to train them to walk, to speak, and to act. The degeneracy of our race, and the vice and misery which abound, arise chiefly from the great and almost universal neglect of these duties on the part of the parent. It is a most fatal delusion to suppose, that children are ever too young for being taught and trained to these duties. As in the golden age the great duty of life consisted in the training of children for heaven by instruction, repentance, self-denial, and prayer, so in the New Church this duty must be restored to its real importance.

Order, and the regulations of order, are the next most important duties we would impress upon the father of a family. When a Christian father properly arranges his household, all the duties of the domestic circle are performed with regularity, promptitude, and success. If order and regularity are wanting in him, confusion and disorder will almost certainly reign in the domestic circle. The children will be the first victims to this disorderly spirit; their instruction and training will be neglected, and a stubborn self-will must characterize their conduct as they advance in years. The parent's will, guided and influenced by wisdom, should be the will of the household. Love, the most tender and disinterested upon earth, is the peculiar characteristic of the parent's will; which, when guided by the wisdom of Christianity, forms the most perfect government upon earth, because the most exempt from selfishness, injustice, and tyranny. Order established in the household, banishes nearly every cause of disturbance, division, and discord; there is no collision between the respective members in performing their duties, and all things move onwards in a regular train, towards their proper accomplishment. Of all the disorders that can possibly exist in a household, division and discord between the husband and the wife are the greatest. As conjugial love is the very soul of order, concord, and harmony, it follows that discord in the conjugial state is the fire-brand which enkindles the destructive fires of anger, altercation, strife, and disorder. Thus the union and mutual co-operation of married partners is the golden sceptre of domestic order and government. So long as this sceptre bears its gentle and delightful sway, there exists a power which will speedily subdue the risings of disorder in the children, and in the institutions of the

« AnteriorContinuar »