« PreviousContinue »
I will only name another influence which I think has very powerfully contributed to the formation of English character, and that is our domestic habits and love of home. We know that in some countries they have not even the word home, and know not what it means. They live in public, and therefore the marriage bond is not revered, and the formation of moral habits in children is neglected, and they are therefore never imbued with a reverence for home. I am quite sure that nothing is more important than “ the domestic constitution.” I hope that Englishmen will never become undomesticated; I hope that no institution you can form, will tend to draw Englishmen away from their homes. Even if the wonderful advantages of locomotion which we possess in the present day should tend to relax the ties which bind us to home, I should
that even they would be too dearly purchased at such a price. God's method of reforming society is to reform individuals; God's plan of building up communities is to train up families. When an architect was asked how he built one of the lofty chimneys which stud the face of some parts of Lancashire, he replied, “I built it up from within." Nations are to build up from within. Every additional well-ordered family gives increased security to the community. Family influence is more important in this respect than political enactments. “ Train up a child in the way he should go"-"Train him up,” says the wise man, “ from earth to heaven, from man to God.” Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But to whom are those exhortations directly addressed ? Not to Sunday-school teachersnot to Christian neighbours. They are given to parents. An obligation rests upon all parents that can never be transferred to other shoulders. Whenever a child is born in a family, it is as though an audible voice spoke from heaven to the parent and said, "Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.” Every cottage should be a Sunday-school, and every parent should be a Sundayschool teacher. Remember, I am not undervaluing Sunday. schools. I do not agree at all with those who speak of them as merely remedial institutions. The Christian Church is a remedial institution. I believe the time will never come when Sunday-schools can be safely superseded. I believe the more the Church prospers, and the more real religion advances, the more the advantages of the Sabbathschool will be extended in our densely-populated districts. This does not at all interfere with the principle for which I contend-home education and domestic training. I bring this subject forward advisedly and seriously, because I know I am addressing young men, who, in the nature of things, are to be heads of families and conductors of our commercial establishments. I desire to lay it upon your consciences to give your serious and prayerful attention to this serious and important subject. It is a very prominent one in God's Word,-much more so than many people seem to imagine ; it is wonderful in what various aspects it is brought before us there. I should hardly say it is wonderful, because we shall find that as much is said in two or three words of Scripture as would extend over pages of one of the wire-drawn publications of the present day. Scripture simply lays down great principles, and leaves us to apply them. I am anxious not to be misunderstood with respect to the nature of the domestic constitution. Piety is not hereditary, and grace does not flow in the blood. The best of parents have sometimes the worst of children, and the best of children have sometimes the worst of parents. Wicked King Ahaz was the father of good King Hezekiah, and Hezekiah himself was the father of the impious and idolatrous Manasseh. . But while we acknowledge in this respect that God is a Sovereign, I believe that the moral and spiritual condition of a family, as a rule, depends upon the amount of care and culture which parents bestow upon them. It is wonderful what a tenacity there
. is in real Christianity when it gets into a family, and how often it is blessedly perpetuated. Look at Boaz and Ruth: their union was formed in the fear of God, and you see their son Obed, their grandson Jesse, and their great grandson David, mentioned with distinction in Holy Scripture. The result of such an union seems to be transmitted. St. Paul, writing to Timothy, speaks of the “unfeigned faith which dwelt first in his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice;” and adds, “I am persuaded that in thee also.” Here we see the same precious principle lasting through three generations in the same family.
Thank God we have other instances besides those of sacred Scripture. Look at Philip Henry, one of the most saintly men this country ever possessed, and whose name I cannot mention without reverence. Not only did his son Matthew imbibe his heavenly spirit and import it into his matchless Commentary, but to this very day I know of many persons in different parts of England, all lineal descendants of that holy man, who are models of Christian character. I might also give you the case of Thomas Scott, of whom Sir James Stephen says, “He was one of the greatest men that England ever produced.” Should any one hesitate to adopt this high estimate, no one will deny that this distinguished commentator was a truly good person. There was a reality about this venerable man; he was not an artificial character. He was one of those men who would bear to be measured by what we call “
square measure.” Few families have so ramified in this country as the descendants of Scott; and yet I speak very positively and very advisedly when I say that there are few families so decidedly and unequivocally on the side of Evangelical
and Protestant truth. I bring this forward, young men, to show you that domestic training is most important; and I insist upon it the rather because I remember so very well when Lord Shaftesbury came to Manchester some time ago, he said, and I am afraid that there was too much truth in what he said—“In the present day there is almost a dissolution of the family compact. Children of all ranks in our country, from the highest to the lowest, have a freedom and a liberty in the present day which children had not in former times." This is so, and I do not believe that the result enables us at all to speak favourably of it. Oh! how important it is to train up children,-to train them up for God; to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord! Now, I do believe that our domestic habits in this country, and our love of home, have entered largely into the formation of our distinctive character as Englishmen, and have made us, on the whole, to stand out in this respect so favourably, when compared with other nations.
It only remains for me now to dismiss you, with this reflection. Certain obligations rest upon you, and especially upon young men. We are Englishmen, and I am sure we may well be pardoned if a glow of pride and patriotism swells in our hearts, when we call ourselves so. I believe there is not a nation in the world that enjoys the same amount of well-defined and well-regulated liberty as England. England is the Goshen of Christian privilege, and the centre of Evangelical light; the granary, if I may so speak, of the incorruptible seed of God's kingdom. England is now first amongst the nations of the earth. Our ships are to be found upon every sea, and our commerce in every clime. England exerts an influence, directly or indirectly, over one-third of the population of the globe; and our Queen sways a sceptre, as has been so often said, "over an empire upon which the sun never sets.” An obligation rests upon
us that we do nothing to tarnish the fair fame of our country; and, above all, an obligation rests upon us that we do what we can in our day and generation to transmit the glorious privileges we possess of an open Bible, a Christian Sabbath, and freedom of religious worship, un. injured and unimpaired to generations yet unborn.