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nesses of our happiness, say, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments. As the dow of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.'
Let us now close the whole with a few reflections.
1. The wisdom and goodness of divine Providence is admirable in so disposing things, as that men should be naturally and almost necessarily led into the enjoyment of this great blessing of domestic friendship.
Man was made for society, and friendship is the noblest cordial of human life. It is the duty and interest of all to love one another, and were the original dictates of nature duly attended to, malevolence and contention would have no existence in our world. But alas! the complaint we often hear is too true, that there is little friendship among mankind at large. Domestic connections however, depraved as human nature is, oblige men by a kind of necessity to be friendly to each other. And though there may possibly be many houses where the demon of strife hath erected his standard, and scatters destruction around him, yet friendship reigns in all its glory in some happy habitations, and there is the appearance of it in most.
Now this is owing to that wise arrangement of Providence we have been considering. God has so formed.men as that they cannot subsist otherwise than in domestic connections. These relations are the fruit of his will and appointment: and tending, as they directly and powerfully do, to the great object of uniting in the most harmonious bands parents and children, brothers and sisters, masters and servants, the host and his guest, they afford a striking proof of his infinite benignity. Thus has he alleviated the evils incident to human life, and mingled cheerfulness and pleasure with the toils and troubles men are destined to endure in their journey through this world. Go we among the savage tribes of America, or the more civilized nations of Europe, we find these little communities subsisting in much the same manner, and enjoying family pleasures in pretty nearly the same proportion. The reverse of which would in all probability be the case, if the interests of individuals were not thus combined, and nature did not lead them by any invincible kind of instinct into these friendly associations.
2. It is further to be remarked, that as the grounds of domestic friendship are laid in nature, so divine revelation affords all imaginable support and encouragement to an institution which is thus manifestly of God.
Nature and the Bible are, in this respect as well as every other, in perfect harmony with each other. The doctrines, precepts, and histories of holy writ all tend to promote peace on earth, and good-will among men : but they bear an aspect peculiarly favourable to the interests of domestic life, which is the basis of all other social connections.
Families are here announced as societies which God hath established for the noblest purposes both civil and religious. The duties of men in this relation are clearly laid down, and enforced by various motives. The blessed God, in allusion to this first arrangement of nature, is described as the father of a numerous family, taking the most tender care of his children, bearing with them, forgiving them, conversing with them, and providing in a thousand ways for their support and happiness. Men are addressed as brethren of one another, and on this ground exhorted to the various duties of tender love, sympathy, and friendship. In the character too, of servants, they are admonished to all those offices which they owe to God their divine Master, and to the children of his family. The patriarchs with their numerous descendants are held up to our view in this relation, discharging the duties and enjoying the comforts of domestic life. The Israelites are described as one family, collected under the wing of Jehovah their Father, and served by angels and ministering spirits, sent forth to defend and bless them. Under this figurative idea the church of Christ is represented, and their numerous duties, honours, and privileges, placed in the most inviting and pleasing light. And from earth the Scriptures lead us up to heaven, and show us the blessed God, in all the charms of an indulgent parent, encircled by his numerous offspring, for ever happy in the enjoyment of his favour, and the ravishing delights of domestic society. So well does the language of inspiration
agree with that of nature, in regard of the grounds of family union and friendship !
And this agreement between the one and the other is no inconsiderable presumptive evidence of the truth of revelation. Let the man who has attentively read his Bible say, whether it is not the object of this book, having first consulted the essential interest of individuals, to promote and cherish by the most powerful arguments that domestic union which nature inculcates. He who enters into the spirit of this sacred volume, instead of tearing asunder these sweet and pleasant bands of society, will feel himself disposed to enlarge and strengthen them to the utmost of his power.-—Which leads me to observe,
3. And lastly, that every thing which tends to derange this original constitution of nature is highly offensive to God, and big with the most fatal miseries to mankind.
That form of government, be it what it may, that endangers the happiness, security, and existence of domestic society, is a bold invasion on the rights of nature. Despotism, by depriving men of their liberty and property, or at least rendering the possession of them insecure and precarious, is guilty of this great evil; and is therefore an offence against the supreme will and authority of God. Both profane and sacred history have told us, in lines written with blood, what havoc has been made on the peace and happiness of domestic life by an insatiable lust of power. See the house of the peasant laid waste, the mansion of the more wealthy torn from its foundation, families dispersed, and their very names obliterated! What a curse on mankind is war! and how tremendous an account have they to give, who, to gratify their ambition, cruelly sport with the rights of mankind, and impiously subvert these little communities, which owe their existence and establishment to the peculiar attention and regards of the merciful God!
But it is not only the lawless ambition and cruelty of princes that we have here to complain of. There are doctrines, too, which tend to divide mankind, to disturb the peace of families, and to endanger the very existence of domestic society. We cannot enumerate them particularly: there are two however that must not be omitted–The celibacy of the Romish church on the one hand—and the unnatural and unfriendly doctrine of polygamy on the other. The former of these tends to the extinction of domestic society, and the latter to the total derangement and subversion of all its pleasures. Had these doctrines been found in the Bible, the enemies of revelation would not have failed to apply them to the purpose of bringing its authenticity into question. They would have set nature and Christianity at variance, and not doubted but in the scuffle the latter would suffer disgrace, if not total ruin. But it is a fact which we have already asserted, and will again affirm, that the religion of Jesus is an advocate not only for personal but domestic friendship. Not a word is to be met with here to discountenance that first great law of nature which leads mankind into conjugal union, and possesses them of all the sweet and rational pleasures that result thence. On the contrary, Antichrist is described when he comes, as forbidding men to marry, and thus offering violence to the express command of God a.-Nor is there a word to be met with to authorize the practice of a plurality of wives, which, were it to prevail, would degrade the softer sex from that rank which Providence meant they should hold in the intellectual world, would give vigour to the cause of despotism and tyranny, and convert the house our text so sweetly describes, into a horrid scene of anarchy and wretchedness. What then are they doing who maintain these doctrines, and endeavour to propagate them in the world? They are sapping the foundation of a most beautiful superstructure which God himself has raised. Or if they suffer it to stand, instead of saying, as our Saviour commanded his disciples to say, Peace be to this house, they bid detraction, envy, malice, strife, and every evil work enter into it.
In finc, all that conduct in individuals that tends to dissolve relations which God has established, to set similar characters at variance, to confound the interests and disturb the repose of families, and thereby to increase and magnify human evils; is highly criminal, and will not fail, as the Scriptures assure us, to bring down the righteous judgments of Heaven on those who are impenitently guilty of it. Let us then be persuaded to contribute all that lies in our power to the promoting that union among families here on earth, which is both a pleasing emblem and bappy omen of that everlasting friendship which shall be enjoyed by all the family of God, in the house which their Father hath prepared for them in the world above.
u 1 Tim. iv. 3.
1 Pet. IV. 9.–Use hospitality one to another, without grudg
ing. When the church of Christ is held up to our view, as it frequently is in Scripture, under the notion of a Household, the first idea that strikes our attention is that of Friendship. How sweet the harmony that prevails, or ought to prevail, in the family of which God is the Father, Christ the elder brother, the excellent of the earth the children, and angels the servants ! But, this idea dismissed, that which succeeds to it is Hospitality. The doors of this house which God hath built, and not mañ, are thrown open, every stranger that enters meets with a hearty welcome; yea, the servants are sent out into the highways and hedges to compel men to come in a. Such is the benignity of the great householder, and such the generosity that breathes through the gracious invitations of the gospel ! Can it be wondered then, that the first ministers of this gospel, having delivered their message, and persuaded men to come and partake of this the noblest entertainment; should exhort the happy guests, in the language of the text, to use hospitality one to another, without grudging ? The apostle Peter had been often fed at the table of his divine Master, the bounty he there partook of had kindled an inextinguishable flame of charity in his breast, and that flame he ardently wished to communicate to every bosom that shared the same bounty with him. May this flame be kindled in each of our hearts !