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Constitution and the Divine Government itself, is more deeply studied, and habitually regarded, we shall then, and not till then, be more completely reconciled to God, to nature, and ourselves.
In the present age, much has been said, and perhaps as much written, respecting improvements in Society, with comparatively but slender reference to the neglect of Parental Obligations, and the consequent abatement of Parental Authority—evils for which, by the will of God, Parents alone are responsible, and which they alone can rectify or remove. Every inquiry into faction and disorder, degeneracy in morals and increase of crime, must, of necessity, prove essentially defective, which does not embrace them, and the fulfilment or neglect of their obligations; for to whatever other expedients men may betake themselves, it is from the Parents, as such, themselves alone, over the broad surface of a city or a nation, that the restorative or remedy is to be sought and found.
Institutions may be formed in aid of their neglect, and an artificial state of society may, for a time, seem to be very pleasing, more especially since it is of man's devising ; but however kind in its intention, and benevolent in its aspect, all such aid will, in the end, only increase the appetite for help, where help is noxious, whenever it exceeds advice and warning.
Christianity, in its progress, it is true, has, in every land, whether civilized or savage, to fight every inch of its way; but still it comports with enlightened and impartial observation, that in the degeneracy or neglect of domestic duty, and the relaxation of parental authority, we see the most certain tokens of a na
tion approaching the brink of ruin, and the day of just retribution.
Before this neglect and relaxation, the huge monuments of commercial enterprise and art, the luxurious plenty of refined life, and the substantial enjoyments of all inferior ranks, will be swept away. Education as such, if by this is meant purchased tuition, of whatever description, or improvements in education, could not save such a people. The School of Learning and the School of Arts must prove alike in vain. The bands of human society, which no human legislation can supply, and for which human sagacity, at its full stretch, can devise no expedient, are, in such a case, loosened. What then, though every thing which can more speedily enlighten the infant mind, or regulate the more advanced periods of youth and manhood, be proposed? What though every thing which can profitably employ the vacant hour of the artisan be devised ? Nay, what though methods are adopted with a view to the advancement of the kingdom of God, both abroad and at home? Does that nation forget, or seem to forget, all the while, not only that we are a governed race, but that by certain fixed principles and general laws we are governed by the Almighty?
Let but one only of these be disdained, or even forgotten--say, the imperious, and unchanging, and universal obligations of its domestic circle ; then in vain shall that people apply many medicines
in vain devise prompt and efficient restoratives—in vain begin with the infant only, in order to banish the long-formed habits of the man. The cruel, or careless, or unprincipled devourers of the country's vital interests, are to be found neither in prisons nor in banishment, but below the domestic roof; and while they there remain, and there disdain, or only neglect their obligations ; in spite of improvements in prison discipline, and continual transportation; in spite of the tread-wheel and the gibbet; nay, in spite of schemes formed in aid of parental negligence, though all the ingenuity which belongs to human benevolence should never grow weary of devising and applying them ; still juvenile delinquency goes on apace; the criminal calendar doubles ; and the charge of the Judge to the grand jury, is found, at the next assize, to have been only as water spilt upon the ground. His advice might be extolled, and even imbibed by some, but the particeps criminis was not present; perhaps I should rather say, causa latet, vis est notissima.
In such a melancholy state of things, however, it is very far from being only the lower, or the lowest orders, who are chargeable with delinquency or neglect. When society has been compared to a pillar, it is true, they have been considered as its base or support. But let Family Economy or Parental Obligations be neglected, what can wealth or sagacity avail? Then will every order of society prove alike infirm : the base, the shaft, and its capital, are seen in equal progress to decay; and if they are not levelled by the lightning of divine indignation, all alike must crumble into ruin.
If, therefore, at any period, the low and high, the rich and poor together, once ill of the same disease, should descend to one common grave, a serious and important question arises out of such a spectacle : From whence has the evil originated ? I need not ask whether the Children, or even the youth, have ruined
the nation ? But has ignorance been more than a match for knowledge, and sagacity, and frequent occupation ? Or has mere poverty risen up, and overwhelmed wealth and habitual ease ? If not, then it appears as if only one question remained, Has the evil descended ? So it should seem.
With regard to all ranks, it should never be forgotten, not only that the law of Heaven is one; but that the guilt of the superior class, must ever exceed that of the inferior. On this point, I am aware that one of our best Poets has been considered, by a few individuals, as occasionally too fastidious and severe; but whatever severity there may seem, to some ears, in the following lines, it will be found on reflection, I am persuaded, only in the truth which they express :
“ The course of human things, from good to ill,
Of order, from the chariot to the plough.' The reader may perhaps now imagine, that, in such a case, the account must come to a close, and that one is shut up to the absolute necessity of merely saying—“There is no hope ; no !” But I am far, very far indeed, from either thinking or saying this. Look over the state of the Jewish nation, at the moment when the Messiah appeared among them. One remedy then, after all, there is, as far as a remedy can prolong the existence of a nation, or preserve it from decline. No doubt, to some, the mortifying thought will immediately occur, that this remedy is not of human invention, nor is there in it any thing to gratify the vanity, or secure the applause, of a single human being! For the application of this remedy, too, no substitutes can be found; the most opulent and the humblest peasant being here invited to a subject equally incumbent upon both. So far, however, as the present writer is concerned, he must now refer to what follows, and leave the whole to the impartial reflections of his reader.
At the same time, he owes it to himself to state, that no individual can ever be more sensible than he is, of the imperfections which may perhaps be detected in every following section. In sincerity he says this, from a deep and abiding impression of the vital importance of the subject; its importance to man individually ; to the well-being or moral health of families, in any nation, whatever be its form of political government; and to the best interests of the kingdom of God, now on its way to that purity and peace which assuredly await it, before time shall end. But were any man to delay, under such an impression, till he accomplished what might please himself, this very vanity might prevent him from being of the least service to the community. So far, therefore, from deprecating what has been called the severity of criticism, should any individual take the trouble to point out any mistake into which he has fallen, the Author will regard this as an evidence of interest in the subject itself; and if ever a second edition is called