Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

לל

utterance of devout sentiment gives depth and power to the holy affections, which bind all good beings in the universe to each other, and to their God. “ Ask,” said Jesus, "and ye shall receive.” Ask what? Not this or that imaginable good, but sit at the feet of Wisdom, waiting and longing for communications of Divine light and love, until this word ask expresses the habit of your soul, and then will all spiritual blessings flow into it.

The articulate expression of the wants of the soul not only reacts upon ourselves; but it has a similar effect upon other minds and hearts, that are in spiritual sympathy with our own. Words are symbols of religious thought and emotion. They are means of unfolding, multiplying and perpetuating in ourselves, and waking up in others, the purest and holiest sentiments of our nature. If, then, we have ever found in our prayers any comfort, or spiritual growth, or Divine peace, why should we not deem it an unspeakable privilege, as well as a duty, to gather round the family altar those who are nearest and dearest to us, and join with them in the expression of our common wants ? How powersul are the influences of domestic worship, when the flame of devotion, first kindled up in one humble soul, catches from heart to heart till all are animated by one spirit, and breathe out one deep-felt prayer to the great Father, “who setteth the solitary in families." God has instituted all human relations, and religion sheds over them the beauty of holiness. The home of our affections, with all its endearments and blessed charities, is His gift ; and shall we not consecrate it to His worship? We are told that there are many households, from which no voice of prayer or thanksgiving goes up to the Giver of all good. Can it be true? Have they no sense of want, or of gratitude ? Are they willing to live 6 without God in the world ?” If we considered only man's obligations to the Author of all he enjoys and all he hopes, we should hardly permit ourselves to doubt that an altar for His worship was set up in every family and in every heart. But we are compelled to own, that mankind are fearfully estranged from God. It is a matter of grief and shame that there are many Christian households, - nominally such at least, in which religion has no settled and acknowledged place. We do not mean to deny that it may possibly exist in the heart without this outward sign; but it is robbed of its just authority! It should be the central light of our dwellings; it should sanctify and bless all our domestic relations and sympathies ; it should be a living presence, a guardian angel, comforting age in its helplessness, supporting manhood in its integrity, and breathing round the young an atmosphere of heavenly influ

ences.

We have met with persons who deny that family prayer is a duty, because Jesus never in express terms enjoined it upon his disciples. But he found it a settled usage among religious men of his country, and he left it undisturbed. The patriarch of elder time was in his own house a.“ priest after the order of Melchisedec.” The ancient custom was perpetuated because it had its origin in the natural wants of the human soul; and surely a natural duty is not less obligatory than a positive institution. The Gospel aims not to direct our actions in detail, but to develop in the soul those Divine affections, from which all Christian virtues and all holy worship proceed. Devout men have always sought communion with God, and how natural it was to invite those who were dearest to them to share in its blessings. Jesus seems always to have taken it for granted that his disciples would pray, and accordingly his instructions have regard chiefly to the spirit of their devotions.

Many heads of families, who desire to live religiously, feel a difficulty in establishing family worship. They have a false modesty, that shrinks from a holy service which they have never attempted. Unused to extemporaneous speech of any kind, they distrust their ability to clothe their devotional sentiments in appropriate and connected language. But humble and earnest men will soon overcome this difficulty, when the offering of prayer in the presence of others is no longer a strange and unfamiliar service. A sincere desire to train up their families under the shadow of the divine protection will give them courage and resolution to throw off this oppressive diffidence. We would say to such persons, persevere; be not afraid ; commune with God and your own heart in secret; and “while you are musing the fire of devotion will burn.” If you reflect seriously upon your wants, infirmities, and sore temptations, and give free utterance in private to the soul that crieth out for the living God, your deepest emotions will spontaneously clothe themselves in the natural language of prayer. You will not be nice and anxious about phrases and sentences, but be content with the simplest expression of your feelings. In the secret chambers of the soul, where “the spirit maketh intercession with groanings that cannot be uttered," you will learn, not to make prayers, but to pray. Meditate upon the Infinite Goodness that sends blessing and bounty to you through so many channels; think of your domestic relations, of the happiness they impart, the affections they cherish, the duties they impose; think of Christ and his redemption, of the Gospel, with its peace and love and hope and power ; dwell much in this region of serene and holy thoughts ; meditate on these things, and make them subjects of earnest prayer in the lone retirement of your soul, and you will soon be rich in the sentiment and language of devotion. Every day, as it brings you new proofs of God's goodness and love, and higher experiences of religion, will open new fountains of emotion, and give fresh utterances to the longings of a pious heart.

If, however, any one is unable, or imagines himself unable, to conduct this service extemporaneously, let him not, therefore, neglect his family worship. Let him avail himself of forms adapted to meet his wants. We earnestly recommend Mr. Furness's book to him as the very help he needs. It seems as if it was written for his special use. Let him study it diligently, enter with warm sympathy into the sentiments and feelings of the author, make them his own, and then read them with earnest sincerity in his family. The desires of a pious heart will not be less acceptable to the Father because they go up to him in words borrowed from a kindred spirit. Many Christians believe that it is best always to use such aids in family devotion. That is not our opinion. We prefer that every prayer should be the fresh and simple expression of the present emotions and desires of the soul. But reading prayers with the spirit of fervent piety is a good, if not the best, — mode of domestic worship. Only keep the sacred fire burning in your heart, that the prayer may be

your own, full of life and warmth, and it will rise as grateful incense to the throne of God, and bring down spiritual blessings.

We would earnestly recommend this book of prayers to another class of persons. Many families are deprived of their natural heads, by the absence or death of the father; and the delicacy of woman often shrinks from conducting the devotions of the household without the aid of forms. Shall the family altar, then, be deserted ? Shall the fire kindled upon it be quenched, when your loneliness gives you the more need of its warmth and light? Shall your children and domestics be left to believe that you no longer have a God, because the voice, that was wont to speak to Him in supplication and praise, is silent in the grave ?

Will the widowed mother, placed by her heart-breaking bereavement at the head of her family, have less need of the consolations of faith, when her house is thus left unto her desolate ? Where can her wounded affections find relief when her best earthly friend is gone, if she does not seek it in the God of the widow and the fatherless? With profound sympathy we would say to her, let not these fatherless ones grow up orphans indeed, without knowing and loving their Father in Heaven. Let them see that He is your joy and trust, that you have made Christ your portion and hope ; and you may lead their young and innocent affections to that kindest, best of friends, who took little ones like them in his arms, and blessed them, and said, " of such is the kingdom of heaven. Thus you will make your house a boly temple, sanctified by the Divine presence.

And it will be the abode of harmony and joy ; for every amiable and generous affection is daily nourished by communion with the God of love and peace. Once more we recommend this book to you as everything that can be desired in forms of devotion, to aid your spiritual comfort and growth, and establish you in Divine

peace.

C. S.

ART. VII.-- The Poetical Works of EDMUND SPENSER. In

five volumes. First American Edition ; with Introductory Observations on The Faerie Queene, and Notes, by the Editor. Boston; Charles C. Little and James Brown. 1839.

“The Faerie Queene" brings back the long Elysian days of boyhood. No poetry is so engaging to the young imagination ; it is so sensuous and full of vivid pictures, so fanciful and free, jumping the obstacles of literal fact so easily, yet always true to the facts of the soul, always gratifying simple hope. It leaves a lasting sweetness upon the tongue to have fed upon this manna in the days before care came. The new edition reads with so much of the old smack of delight, that we can thank the editor in good spirits about ourselves, and hope one day to come in for a share of bis benediction. “He who, at forty, reads The Faerie Queene' with as much delight as at twenty, is pretty sure to be a wise and a happy man.”

We can best judge a poem some years after reading it. Its true depth and character appear, not in the images which it has stamped upon our memory, nor in the amount of pleasure which it has afforded, but in the light which it has left along the dim history of our own development, and the spirit which it has waked within us. Most clearly has “ The Faerie Queene nourished one tendency in its admirers, namely, the habit of resigning one's self to the contemplation of quiet beauty. Joy and trust frequent the mind after reading it; remembrances of sunny, serene, pure pleasure, hovering sometimes on the of the voluptuous, but kept back by a kindly hand, and taught the deeper satisfaction of imaginary self-denial ; of a careless, childlike freedom, without the restlessness of rebellious feeling ; of wide wanderings of thought, leisurely, without limit, through the long summer hours, through the boundless, ever-varied verdure of a world, not like the one around us, but made to the heart's order, and never contradicting expectation. The realm of Faerie is a purely moral world, unconditioned by time and space, but making them subserve. Here all things leave their cold promiscuousness, and stand forth in an intellectual, moral light, confessing their relationship to us; all things illustrate the sentiments; the heart is at home among them; the intractable, obtrusive actual, with its interfering circumstances and exceptions, its dull, unquickened common-places, is eliminated from the picture. It is a world in which Love and Beauty and the Rule of Right shine always as the grand interests, and into which only enough of wrong is introduced to occupy the Will, to furnish monsters for the knights of glory to contend with, and serve as foils to victorious virtue. Here the ardent young mind has its hopes, and enjoys perpetual novelty, the mild excitement of surprise grown common.

Here it loses itself in a world which dates not from history, but from the heart. Now this is truly poetry, in the sense of one of the happiest definitions which we have seen ; “ Poetry," says Shelley, " is the record of the best and happiest moments of the best and happiest minds." Pleasure, without mixture of misgiving or alarm; beauty ; love; clear conscience; and fresh, perennial youth; — these are the atmosphere of the poem ;

at

3D s. Vol. X. NO. II. 27

VOL. XXVIII.

« ZurückWeiter »