GOD, the Creator of man, established the family constitution. ‘God setteth the solitary in families,’ Ps. 68:6. As to the design of this constitution, we are expressly informed in Malachi 2:15. ‘And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the Spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed.’ And it is declared that ‘a seed shall serve him,’ Ps. 22:30. When God ordains an end, all the means requisite for its accomplishment are necessarily implied, and sometimes specifically prescribed. If then the design of God, in the family constitution, be to raise up a holy seed to serve him, it is incumbent on those who have the charge of families to train them up with a special view to this declared end, otherwise it would be presumption to expect that this end will be answered.
From the nature and design of the family constitution, therefore, arises a solemn duty resting upon parents and masters, to train up their children and servants in the way in which they should go, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, so that when they come to the years of discretion and self-government, they may not depart from it, but become ‘a godly seed’ to serve the Lord.
The family constitution is the original, elementary, and therefore the simplest form of society. All public communities, whether civil or ecclesiastical, are composed of families. The forms of public societies, and their modes of government, have undergone, and are still undergoing, great and important changes; but that of the family remains, amid all these revolutions, essentially the same as when originally constituted. This is the only form of government, whose claim to Divine appointment has not been questioned or denied. To this appointment, as well as to the nature of the institution itself, may be attributed, under the purpose-accomplishing providence of its Great Founder, the perpetuity of its existence and form. Families continue on the earth, that the wise object of their establishment, may be effected.
Families are the appointed nurseries of both Church and State. They are to furnish civil society with virtuous and worthy members, and the church with active, useful, and devoted Christians. Both worlds may, therefore, be said to meet in the family society, and bring with them those considerations which enhance to an awful degree, the weighty responsibilities which rest upon the family head. From this divinely established fountain of influences, shall issue blessings or curses upon the nation and the Church. Into this fountain, then, must be thrown the salt, that its streams may be purified and purifying. Otherwise they will convey pollution and death whithersoever they flow.
The head of a family sustains to his household the threefold relation of a king, a prophet, and a priest. As a king, he rules his house, and administers its government. As a prophet, it is his business to impart suitable instruction to his children and servants. And as a priest, he should conduct the worship, and lead the social devotions of the family. These duties are strictly of a religious character, and are enjoined by Divine authority. They arise naturally out of the family constitution; and their conscientious and faithful performance, with the Divine blessing, can alone secure the great end of that institution. To a plain but careful examination of these duties, the reader’s attention is now invited.