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FAMILY PICTURES FROM THE BIBLE.
THE FIRST HUMAN FAMILY.
NEANDER, in his History of the Establishment and Progress of the Christian Church, says that the Bible was the chief book of instruction for families in the first centuries of Christianity. A wise use was also made of it in the public education of youth. A celebrated statesman required his son "to commit to memory every day a portion of the Holy Scriptures, and the boy took great pleasure therein; the cultivation of mind as well as heart being advanced, while his aspirations after truth and sanctification were the engrossing aims of his life." The obligations of distinguished writers in all ages to the Bible, especially to its poetical portions, must be acknowledged by all who compare their works with it. Schlegel says—“ The sacred writings form a fiery and godlike fountain of inspiration, of which the greatest of modern poets have never been weary of drinking; which has suggested to them their noblest images, and animated them for their sublimest flights." Cowley, also, in his preface to "Davideis," proves his assertion that fiction is not necessary to fine poetry, by directing attention to the literary value of the Scriptures. "What can we imagine," he says, 66 more proper for the ornament of wit or learning in the story of Deucalion than in that of Noah? Why
will not the actions of Samson afford as plentiful matter as the labours of Hercules? Why is not Jephthah's daughter as good a woman as Iphigenia? And the friendship of David and Jonathan more worthy celebration than that of Theseus and Pirithous? Does not the passage of Moses and the Israelites into the Holy Land yield incomparably more poetical variety than the voyages of Ulysses or Æneas? Are the obsolete threadbare tales of Thebes and Troy half so stored with great historical and supernatural actions as the wars of Joshua, of the Judges, and of divers others? Can all the transformations of the gods give such copious hints to flourish and expatiate on as the true miracles of Christ, or of his prophets and apostles ?"
But not only, nor chiefly, in a literary point of view, is the Holy Book the best instructor of families. It will not be questioned, at least by any who believe in revelation, that a substantial religious foundation is indispensably necessary for the true family organization and welfare; the more so, as experience shows daily how far into the future extend the habits and influences of family life, exercising a controlling effect upon that which is more public, whether it lie in the department of Church or State. No truth is more generally admitted, than that most of the good or evil exhibited in the actions of men exists in the germ during childhood and youth, and that it may often be discerned by judicious observation, and checked or eradicated, or be nourished by careful culture. Where the conduct in advanced years is not governed by correct principle, the presumption is a fair one that the homeculture has been neglected.
The differences are strongly marked between the family life of ancient and modern times. In the primitive ages of the world, the bond of union was closer, firmer, and more enduring, and the communion of feeling more pervading and constant. Parental authority was more reverenced, and was exercised in a wider range: the sons and daughters were educated at home, and the household circle
constituted their society. The fear of God, which was the foundation of the earliest wisdom taught, dwelt in the house; the domestic altar was continually surrounded by worshippers; and sacrifices, as well as vows, were offered to the Most High. In the simplicity of ancient days, men who had been properly instructed walked by faith rather than by knowledge: they were accustomed to pay more regard to realities than to mere appearances, and the language of the lips more commonly expressed the feelings of the heart. Under the early constitution, the head of the family stood invested with authority delegated from the Supreme Father; the wife had her honoured though subordinate place, and obedience on the children's part was not only considered an imperative and paramount duty, but enforced by penalties rigidly exacted. The religious element which pervaded the domestic relations chiefly contributed to the preservation of order and harmony through all. The customs of polygamy and divorce, so discordant with the original institution of marriage, and the consequently degraded position of woman, were evils, however, that often marred the family life under the old usage. The tendency of Christianity was to remove them, while a new bond of union was added, in the common duty of allegiance to him who was our elder brother according to the flesh."
In modern times, this religious foundation, the best and only sure one, so essential to the spiritual life of a household, has been parted with in a great measure-at least so far as respects the family organization. The domestic associations are no longer, by a law of their very being, so closely interwoven with piety, that a decrease of the one involves a weakening of the other. Parental government and filial submission seem grounded rather upon expediency, or the accidents of feeling or circumstance, than growing directly out of obedience to the authority of the Creator in his institutions. In individual examples, it is true, this element of love to God has its appointed place, but they are few and
scattered: it must operate universally, replacing the foundation, before the proper order and tendency of things can be re-established. To show this truth most strikingly, examples are better than metaphysical discussions. The Bible furnishes us with examples by which we may perceive and understand the true relations of this life; may observe the manner of its existence in the first stages of the world, and trace it, through corruption and decline, to its ennobling through the precepts and faith of Christianity.
In the following brief sketches, some attempt will be made to present a useful lesson, by exhibiting groups and individuals depicted in the Bible in their domestic associations. No effort will be made to array them in a colouring of romance, for the strength and beauty of simple truth in Holy Writ would be marred, rather than improved or set forth, by embellishment. The pictures will be shown as familiar to every reader, that a view of them in this new light may teach us the more impressively how inseparable is regard for the rules of life contained in Scripture from the integrity and preservation of the family constitution; and how inevitably, where this conservative principle is wanting, or its duties are neglected, the most disastrous and fatal results ensue, tending to the destruction of such ties.
With the FIRST MAN we become acquainted with the FIRST HUMAN FAMILY. God himself, who created the man, and the woman for the man, joined them indissolubly in marriage, and bestowed his blessing, the crown of all perfectness, upon the new institution. The nuptials were celebrated in Paradise-their home and possession: they were alone of all their kind, yet felt no want, for, their union being complete, they were sufficient for each other. Instead of communion with other human beings, by which their knowledge might have been extended and their faculties of enjoyment enlarged, they enjoyed the familiar presence of the Deity, and converse with Him. The fountain supplying the aliment of their spiritual nature was ever at hand, and inex