Page images

The testimony of one man is the experience of thousands : “Past life has left me honey in the hive of memory that I now feed on for present delight. When I recall the years of boyhood, youth, early manhood, I am filled with a sense of sweetness, and wonder that such little things can make a mortal so exceedingly rich.”

From seed sown in nurseries comes the plantation of the world; and how deeply it is rooted there we may know when, in after-life, we try to eradicate the prejudices and superstitions which have been sown along with better seed. How difficult for one imbued in infancy with Judaical views of the Sabbath to make Sunday a right joyous as well as religious day! How difficult for one trained in image worship to limit his devotions to the one God !*

Such a good man as Keble found it impossible to supplant old prejudice by new historical evidence regarding Charles I. “It might be so," he said, but "in truth belief in the heroes of his youth had become part of him.” +

Home joys are as superior to outside pleasures as wine is superior to alcohol. They are milder, healthier, more delicious, and less stimulating. Dr. Johnson declared that a tavern chair was the throne of human, felicity ; but he abounded in paradoxes, and was not able from experience to estimate home-life at its just value.

This remark will apply to all who, not having a happy

* No one could put this more forcibly than Jean Paul Richter has done : “A circumnavigator of the world is less influenced by all the nations he has seen than by his nurse.”—“Levana,” xvi.

+ “Life of Keble," p. 567.

of envy

home, seek for enjoyment out of doors. But there is a large class besides, who, having formed low and vicious tastes, come to regard domestic happiness as something insipid, and are eager for sensational pleasure. The gaiety and merriment of such scenes is apt to inject an occasional pang

into those who are more domesticated. But if you reflect, you will not envy their laughter nor covet their joys; for your sighs are better than their laughs, and your sorrow is better than their joy ; since they pay a frightful price for sensational pleasure-paying away health, and substance, and peace of mind.

This is not the assertion of the outsider, but the confession of the initiated, as it is expressed by the poet Burns : "In the hour of social mirth, my gaiety is the madness of an intoxicated criminal under the hands of the executioner.” The Ettrick Shepherd had often heard the following story from the eye-witness who happened to be present and unobserved. One night, after a debauch, Burns, not knowing that he was noticed, threw himself on his knees and began to pray. By degrees he became so fervent in his supplication for mercy and forgiveness for all his transgressions, that it was awful to hear him. With tears of agony, he confessed himself to be the chief of sinners. Lord Byron made a similar acknowledgment.

It shows real poverty when one has to travel from home in quest of enjoyment. "A good man shall be satisfied from himself." He need not go

miles fetch home the water of happiness. There is a spring in each man's dwelling, if he has the wit to find it out.

away to

Doubtless it was that each family might have a fair chance of happiness, that the Father of all families made his best gifts the most common. Bread, water, air, health, sleep, work, love, hope, life are at once the commonest and the best. Simple and natural joys please the healthy mind as much as those that are more complex and artificial. The convolvulus peeping out in the hedgerows can delight the eye as much as a mass of rhododendrons on a cultivated lawn.

How many even great and ambitious men have never learned the simple lesson of self-content, and how much unnecessary pain do they inflict on themselves by aspiring and struggling after the reserved seats of Providence ! They give up repose and privacy for some public post, often losing the sweetness of private life, and living in an aquarium before the eyes of all men. This is one of the considerations which help to reconcile us to the inequalities of human conditions. Oftentimes we see life in a lower station far happier than the life of higher rank. It depends so much on what one can get out of it ; for, on this principle, sometimes a copper mine is more precious than a gold mine.

It is the duty of a father of a family to make home as pleasant and attractive as possible, and indeed he should make this a study. A family should never subside into monotony. Neither young nor old can bear it. History supplies us with a forcible illustration of this fact. The French army on their march to Moscow found hardly any brooks, hardly any stones. There was no variety of trees. The mind was fatigued by never seeing any new objects, such as rocks, hills, and valleys.

It was a

monotony of nature. Now that home may not suffer in this way, let there be pictures, photographs, statues, if one can ; music, reading, singing, dancing ; especially let there be beautiful manners. It is not enough to have things convenient, let them be lovely. Many plants would have been equally useful, though unadorned with colour; but He, the Great Teacher, has beautified the useful.

Birth-days may be made great sources of household joy. The gifts and kind wishes inspire the pleasant feeling of being remembered and loved. This celebration might well be extended to other anniversaries, thus recalling to mind some great mercy, or preservation,* or any happy event, and making gratitude more lively and permanent.

These commemorations foster many domestic virtues, and chiefly unity. All the members should be united in the inner circle, that they may be able to withstand the trials, difficulties, and attacks in the outer circle of the world. The union of the weak is marvellously powerful against the strong. Even the swallows united drive away the hawk. These are wise words which Milton puts into the mouth of Adam :


“ Let us no more contend, nor blame
Each other, blamed enough elsewhere; but strive
In offices of love, how we may lighten
Each other's burden, in our share of woe.” +

* “Non minus jucundi atque illustres sunt ii dies, quibus conservamur, quam illi, quibus nascimur.”—Cic. in Cat., iii. 2.

+ “Paradise Lost," b. x.

Home should be well provided with amusements for the little ones, as their childhood was manifestly intended to be full of enjoyment, and they should be allowed to play freely and heartily. A wise parent will not check mirth in children, for suppressed spirits are as dangerous to character as suppressed perspiration is detrimental to health. It was a fine trait of the late Bishop Lonsdale that he would never allow the noise of children to be stopped, even close to his door. Still, while freely encouraging children's play, we must bear in mind that even at this early age the process of education has begun, and the little motives and arguments of their games need to be watched and corrected.

There are few sadder spectacles to be seen in a family than a precocious child, whether in intellect or religion. The premature utterances, which delight the parents, distress the experienced hearer. While guarding, however, against this danger, the understanding and feelings of the children should be cultivated, and fostered early, especially the religious affections, for they are sure to be discouraged at schools and colleges, and are often fossilized in the hard world outside. The Baboo Keshub Chunder Sen said at his farewell soirée, that during his stay in this country he had visited many English families, and that he was much struck with the happiness of their homes, and that the little English children seemed to him like angels.

This is one of the many instances of modern social improvement. If Juvenal's picture is not overdrawn, the Roman homes in his time were very inferior. 'One house," says he, “is quite enough. Spend but a few days

« PreviousContinue »