Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

blood. If in due time it be tempered by wisdom, and ennobled by generosity, it will do no harm. But if he who has gained riches be man of narrow mind and selfish heart, whose tight hand no sunshine of prosperity can relax, then will he become a greedy miser, and so will his sons be after him. They will inherit his innate avarice; and this will be confirmed by the example ever before their eyes, of grinding extortion, and by many a shrewd maxim of worldly interest. Thus they will grow up for that greed for gain, which is one of the most inveterate passions of our nature, and which will cxterminate from the breast pity and humanity, and which will drive a man to fraud, to ingratitude, and to cruelty. But for all that the man gains his object. Does he not hoard up riches year after year : Many will applaud him as a shrewd and wise man. But follow him through life to desolate and dreary age. Then, when his mind ought to be at rest and at peacc, when he needs affection and gratitude from those who remember his kindness, then behold this selfish being, shrivelled up into a grey and grizzled miser, who sits grinning and chattering over his heaps of gold! And is this an end worth a sacrifice of the best years of life. Follow him into eternity, and see him, “ lifting up his eyes in hell, being in torments,” and then say if the hard beart and cruelty of that man's father have not been terribly punished in this murder of his son !

There is another consequence which the child of a hard man has to bear--the odium of his father's name. When he first becomes a man, and goes forth among men, he beholds something in the regards turned upon him which he cannot explain-a look of anger and aversion, coupled with muttered words. Why this fierce look from a stranger. It is the memory of his father, which is recalled at the mention of his name, and which awakens bitter and revengeful thoughts. Oh, avaricious and cruel man. You may force your way through the world, regardless of universal hatred ; you may be strong enough to bear it, but it will not fail on you alone. When you are dead and gone, your innocent child, just coming on the stage of action, will be met by it. Men will turn from him, and curse him, as in their hearts they now curse you. So often does a father's pride prejudice the fortune, and impair the happiness of his child. A great man may be proud of his superiority ; but to his son he may transmit bis pride without his intellect, and thus that very extravagant self-estimation becomes a constant source of mortification through life.

But the great danger of wealth, to children, is that it nurtures the lore of pleasure and self-indulgence. W alth brings luxury, and, with it, a habit of indulging every caprice, which enervates the mind and unfits it for high thought and heroic action. If this tendency be not discerned by a watchful parent, and resisted by a vigorous discipline, the youth grows effeminate, and intensely selfish, until at last he considers his pleasure more than the bodies and souls of mon. Thereby the moral tone of the mind is lowered. That strong, robust life, which ire expect in a young man, gives place to an unhealtliy craving for pleasure and excitement. Even on the best disposition we see the effect of such a condition. No man can stand long the effect of luxury and idleness. It is a hot-house atmosphere, in which all noble sentiments are extinguished, and the pas. sions fearfully inflamed. Thus temptations multiply, while the power to

resist them is gone. To be born in such affluence is a great misfortune. A young man may be saved by sudden poverty; by a loss of fortune which shall at once cast him out of the lap of luxury, and compel him to struggle. But leave him to languish in indolence, with unlimited wealth at command, and no object but to gratify his passions, and his ruin is certain. Who but can foresee the melancholy wreck which he will soon become? There is not one chance in a thousand for such a man to be saved. Think of this, ye who boast to have provided well for your sons, because you leave them ample fortunes. That may be a good or an evil according to their characters. But perhaps you leave them another heritage—bad blood; passions gross or violent; feeble intellect and feebler conscience. Thus is the high-born youth endowed ; with such faculties he begins his perilous way. May God in mercy permit you to go down to the grave before you see the end !

This danger is aggravated by a weak example and a false education. Pardon me, my brethren, if I seem bold. The minister of Christ must not flatter. I will not suppress my conviction, that the course of education pursued in many rich houses is totally wrong, and can produce only unhappiness. What are the principles given to resist these passions ? Rules of Society ! Laws of Honor! A son is taught to be a gentleman before he is taught to be a man and a christian! Miserable folly! Without religious principle, what is all this worth? Will education keep a young man from vice? Did a flimsy sentiment of honor ever restrain one from being a profligate ? Answer, ye hundreds of debauched and drunken sons from our highest families. This is the radical vice of our fashionable education. It is an attempt to prepare the young for life without religion. Parents think it the great thing to give their children " a fine education;" to cultivate the mind and polish the manners, and prepare them to make a brilliant display. Religion, as the great end of human existence, enters not into their calculations. God is not in all their thoughts. Wretched mistake! What is all this polish of the outward man good for, when there is no exaltation of the soul? What is intellect without principle ? What are manners without heart? They only encourage selfishness by veiling it with grace. Sons, thus educated, will be the curse of your old age. If you leave them to grow up without reverence for God, they will show little respect for your white hairs. Your ingratitude shall breed ingratitude in them, and make you feel, when too late, how

"Sharper than a serpent's tooth it is,

To have a thankless child." If their moral principles are not anchored first to the throne of God, you have no security that they will not be carried away by the first strong temptation. Therefore do I solemnly accuse many fathers of utterly failing in duty to their children. They leave them to grow up with no religious faith or principle whatever. The first word of man's relations to his Creator, or of life beyond the tomb, is never heard under their roof. Sons are left to catch the vague notions of ignorance and prejudice; and fathers will hear their flippant and conceited opinions without rebuke. Perhaps by ridicule of sacred things they sap the principles of all religion in their minds. And is such a father doing his duty? Is this kindness? Is this affection? Is this a preparation for all the snares that a son will meet in going through the world?

I have spoken of the temptations of sons. But by the household hearth there stands a gentler being, whose destiny, too, is involved in the parental character and training, and who may reap the bitterest woes, not only from parental wickedness, but from parental ignorance and folly. Take a common case—that of a young, bright, beautiful girl—the object of tenderest solicitude. Every thing which wealth can do for her is done; she has the best teachers ; every grace is added to her person, and every accomplishment to her mind. But for what is all this to prepare her? For a more useful life ? No ; but to make a dazzling figure in society. All her dreams of life terminate in one thought-pleasure—her own personal enjoyment. She studies music, not as a means of fine spiritual culture ; not to refresh her after severer duties; but only to make her an object of admiration. This is the whole aim of existence—to gratify her vanity. And no faithful friend ever cautions her against placing in this all her happiness. Father and mother never speak to her of duty; of her obligations to her Creator and to society ; but by the fond looks with which they gaze upon her, and the flattery they pour into her ear, they stimulate her vanity to the highest pitch. What a foundation for happiness! What a preparation to live, and-for even such flowers must fade—to die! Behold this young being, as, thus adorned, she steps upon the threshold of life. See her, when first introduced into the world of fashion in which she is to move. She enters a drawing room, brilliant with lamps and mirrors, which reflect on every side her fairy form, and, for an instant, is the centre of all eyes. This is the happy moment of which she has dreamed for years. Now her life is begun. At length she is embarked on that full stream of pleasure, which is to float her on forever! Unhappy young woman! She has commenced a life which will inevitably end in disappointment and sorrow. What bitter tears will she shed! And though that radiant form now appears the youthful green of beauty and felicity, to the eye of hoary experience, which has seen many such bright but brief careers, she seems far more like one of those fair youths, whom the ancient Mexicans decked with garlands for the sacrifice. She cannot be happy. Wretched father! what are you doing with that beautiful child ? Is she to tread on air that you educate her thus-only to lead a life of pleasure, with no right idea of the world she is to enter, with no sense of religious duty, and no principles to resist temptation ? Oh! could you look forward ten years! What a spectacle mnight you behold. That idolized daughter-withered, to bloom no more; her affections wasted ; her heart broken ; and slowly sinking into the arms of death-death of which you have kept her ignorant, or which you have led her to believe, could not come to her. Beholding such a wreck, I ask, Who is responsible for all that disappointment and anguish? Is it not the pride and folly of the father, which are thus terribly visited upon his child ? Yet such are the influences which hundreds of fathers and mothers throw around their children. Unconsciously they act the part of tempters and deceivers. They entice their children to destruction by a gay and glittering path. May God forgive them, for they know not what they do!

It is nothing to reply, as many a father does, when he sees a son or

daughter going to ruin : I meant no harm! Alas! it is not what you mean, but what you do. Your children must suffer for your mistakes as well as your crimes. Your errors of judgment—your false educationmust leave its ruinous effect upon them. And no confession of guilt could be more melancholy than the words which so often break from a dying old man, who has seen his children destroyed—I have made a great mistake! Think not that I charge any who hear me with a want of affection to their children. I know how fondly you bend over those little beings. You wish to educate them well. You do not mean to instil false principles into their minds. And yet by some fatal mistake-even by over fondness—you may as effectually injure all their prospects for happiness in this world and another, as if you were their bitterest enemy. Mere inefficiency is often as potent for evil as harsh brutality. You do not mean to be cruel. You do not premeditate crime. But alas ! in this world, where the tendency of things, left to themselves, is to go wrong, more sin is committed, and more misery to body and soul is caused by indolence than by malice. You are not hard-hearted. But it is your indifference, or neglect, or your astonishing blindness, which may do all this evil. If you now perceive your error, and would remedy it-away with that stupid folly that it is enough to educate the mind and polish the manners. Begin to educate the heart and the soul. Give your children fixed religious principles. Bring them up in the love and fear of Almighty God.

The design of this long argument is plain. It is to open the eyes of parents to the dangers which surround their families; to lead them to the brink of the precipice, from which they may look down the abyss into which their children may be plunged. This law of hereditary evil places every father in a position of responsibility truly awful. He is the master of an absolute authority, a dread arbiter of woe. Among the ancient Romans a father had the right of life and death over his child. Our laws have taken away that fearful power. But still the ability remains—for it exists in nature—to poison a child's blood, and fire his brain, and destroy his happiness. How wretched then is the office of a wicked man on the earth-born only to curse everybody with whom he comes in connection. Wherever his kindred extend, his influence carries a poison with it. Even when his family is allied with others, and thus the descent is divided, still in those most remote there is the trace of that tainted blood. It may be mingled with other currents, with gentler races, still in the far descendants will break out the irrepressible passion of their ancestor. He therefore who entails a malignant nature on all to whom he gives life, perpetuates the evil of his own depraved mind to hundreds that are unborn. He accumulates guilt upon himself even after he is dead. He who thus hath wronged his race, is doubly damned-for his own wickedness, and for his ruin of others. Better that he had never been born! or better that he had died young, even though he perished ! Bad men think it hard to be punished in eternity. But, ah! that is the least misfortune. If he alone, who has done this evil, could be dead and forgotten-aye, if the blackness of darkness could close over him for ever, and no other effect issue from his guilty life, then, dreadful as it would be, we could consent to the sacrifice. But, no ; he drags others down with him. His offspring, innocent of his crimes, must yet suffer for them. He blasts their

happiness. He prevents their salvation. Thus from one bad man a long succession of misery flows down the ages.

If spirits from another world ever come back to this, with what remorse must a wicked man trace the effect of his life in successive generations of his descendants-an effect which he has now no power to prevent. He will see to what degradation a once honored name may be reduced. His own dear children-so like their father now—may yet drag his image through dens of infamy and shame. At the distance of a hundred years one of his line may bear his proud name to the scaffold. And as these spirits pass from life, and enter the world of retribution, he may hear afar off in the distance many a well-remembered voice—the echo of his own! Are there any here whose course of life threatens this disastrous termination? I bid them stop and look before them. It is not too late to stay the work of ruin—for I speak to living men. The grave has not yet closed over you, and shut out all hope of remedy. You may avert this terrible calamity which is about to overwhelm your house. Awake, then, to the dark current of evil that flows from one wicked man. See what you are doing. Stop these baleful influences. Smother the tremendous passions which rage and boil within your breast. Hold back that stream of fire, which, if once it break forth, will desolate your home, and blast and blacken the hopes of generations to come. I plead for the unborn. They are yet in the future, and can offer ny prayer. They cannot deprecate the curse--if curse it be- of being among your descendants. Yet they are all living in the eye of God, and their existence and their woes will soon become a fearful reality. I plead, then, for your own children--for those that half a century hence shall stand up on the earth--in your likeness, having your blood in their veins, and who may suffer all their wretched lives from the vicious nature which you have transmitted to them.

If it seem hard that future generations should suffer for the sins of the present, remember that with this law of hereditary evil is connected à law of hereditary good. “Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me: and showing mercy unto thousands of them that lore aiv, and keep my commandments.Thus by its operation all the righteous families of the earth are blessed. If it be a mournful position to stand at the head of a family noted only for wickedness, how honorable and glorious is it to be the progenitor of a pious race-a race of upright, Christian men. It was the chief ambition of Walter Scott to be the founder of a family—the first of a long and noble line. Alas! he has been dead but twenty years, and already his name is extinct. But what was denied to the man of genius, is often granted to a poor man, eminent only for his piety. In our country churches lives many a patriarch, whose crown of glory is his children. How simple is that character, and yet how august! In his family he is a king and a priest; poor, it may be, and struggling hard for subsistence, he can give his children little. But he gives them religion ; and that is cnough. He who imparts to his sons good religious principle; who gives them a firm faith in that divine government which is established over the world, and which sooner or later will reward virtue and punish guilt; and who leaves a pious example to those that shall come after, has made the best provision for their happiness. Who can measure the influence of such an ancestor? How it

« PreviousContinue »