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nor conducted but by the wedded heads of families, prompted as they are to the task by those affections which God has given them. It is by the instruction which they both give and provide for them, it is by the principles which from time to time they instil into the mind, and by the example which they set before them, that children are trained to virtue, civility, industry, and usefulness.
Industry and economy, especially, are the result of early habit. These are not natural to man, however necessary they may be to his comfortable subsistence. Savages are idle and wasteful, and suffer much from the evils which idleness and waste occasion. It is only in families, and where some degree of civilization has been attained, that parents exercise the watchfulness and unremitting attention requisite to the training of children to habits of industry and economy: and without these habits, science, arts, comfortable dwelling-places, and all that improves, embellishes, and renders life delightful, would have no existence.
A most important part of education is the habit of subordination to lawful authority. One design of Providence in dividing mankind into families is, to accustom them from the dawn of their being to obedience; and thus to prepare them for rendering that submission to “ the Powers that be” which is so necessary to the
peace, order, and happiness of the world. To the parental authority, obedience is secured, not merely by the love and tenderness which accompany it, but by the filial affections which Providence has placed in the hearts of children. Obedience becomes delightful because it is rendered, not from constraint, but will
ingly, not from servile fear, but from filial love. A habit of subordination to just authority is thus imperceptibly formed, which human beings carry with them from the family to the world, and which if not attained in early life, and under the direction of parents, could never be attained at all.
If it were never formed, and by the means and the multitudes that Heaven employs in its formation, what would be the consequence? Could mankind be taught submission by the enactments of the legislature, the power of the magistrate, the hope of reward, or the fear of punishments? Having grown to manhood without government, they could never, without a miracle, be governed at all. It is unnecessary to say, that in such a state of things the earth would present a scene of anarchy, desolation, and destruction.
III. Marriage is the source of the gentle affections and natural relations which unite mankind. To these our attention has already been directed; and it is sufficient here to remark, that the benevolence of the human mind, and the rudiments of all that is lovely in human character, are very much owing to the family union. This is the spring of the humanity and philanthropy which render the intercourse of mankind a blessing. It is from this source that the parental, the conjugal, the filial, the fraternal, and other useful relations, take their rise; and which are the occasion of the greater share, not merely of the happiness, but of the virtue of the human race.
Such are some of the designs of the institution of marriage; the inestimable benefits which it confers ; and the numerous consequences which flow from it.
Need it surprise us that an ordinance of such importance to the comfort, the moral improvement, and even the existence of mankind, should have been made the subject of one of the precepts in the decalogue, and that its violators should be classed with the most atrocious criminals, and threatened with the severest punishment ?
This crime is forbidden in the decalogue, and peremptorily condemned in several parts of Scripture. Its commission tends to discourage and prevent marriage, and, consequently, to prevent the existence of those blessings of which marriage, by the divine wisdom, is productive. This is its direct tendency; and it is therefore to be viewed as an attack on the progressive virtue and happiness of the species. “The libertine may not be conscious that his irregularities hinder his own marriage, from which he is deterred, he may allege, by different considerations ; much less does he perceive how his indulgences can hinder other men from marrying; but what will he say would be the consequence, if the same licentiousness were universal; or what should hinder its becoming universal, if it be innocent or allowable in him ?”
It necessarily involves others in vice, and often in inconceivable misery. The sense of infamy occasioned in the devoted victim is sometimes felt to be insupportable. This is exemplified by her overcoming one of the strongest feelings in the bosom of woman,-affection to her sucking child, compassion to the son of her womb,-and deserting, nay, even destroying her own offspring. How bitter the agony of wretchedness and despair that could suggest such a thought to the heart of a mother, that could lead her to entertain it, and to carry it into execution !
But the career of crime and misery, in many cases, only begins here. The polluted, degraded, outcast female, who perhaps has been betrayed into sin, and whose relations frown upon her, has recourse to prostitution as her only means of subsistence, and enters one of those receptacles of infamy from which mercy, virtue, and happiness are for ever shut out. Here, in the absence of all the means of reformation, and associated with the worst of the species, she bids a final adieu to the house, the word, the ordinances, and the salvation of God. What must be his guilt by whom she was seduced from the path of virtue, and who is the author of her pollution, degradation, misery, and perdition! Such, however, is the guilt, and, in many instances, , the misery to which every act of fornication contributes,
This crime, besides, leads to a repetition, and a repetition is subversive of all moral principle. This is a fact which has been observed by every one who has made his fellow-creatures the subject of his observation and reflection. “ However it be accounted
says Paley, “ the criminal commerce of the sexes corrupts and depraves the mind and moral character
more than any single species of vice whatsoever. That ready perception of guilt, that prompt and decisive resolution against it, which constitutes a virtuous character, is seldom found in persons addicted to these indulgences. They prepare an easy admission for every sin that seeks it; are, in low life, usually the first stage in men's progress to the most desperate villanies; and, in high life, to that lamented
; dissoluteness of principle, which manifests itself in a profligacy of public conduct, and a contempt of the obligations of religion and of moral probity. Add to this, that habits of libertinism incapacitate and indispose the mind for all intellectual, moral, and religious pleasures *.”
The fact is incontrovertible; and when we consider the polluting influence of the crime itself, and the debasing tendency of the means usually employed in its accomplishment, we can, without much difficulty, account for it. Not only is secrecy, in the greater number of cases, deemed necessary, but the perpetrators are brought into the society of vicious persons, and are led to employ deceit and fraud in the gratification of their licentious appetites. Hence, the persons over whom this wickedness acquires ascendency become thoroughly unprincipled, impious, blasphemers, treacherous, drunken, and ready for every crime.
To those who are yet on the threshold of this course, we would say, Return. Advance but a little further, and your recovery is hopeless. None (comparatively none) who fully set out on this way of destruction turn again, neither take they hold of the
* Mor. Phil. vol. i. p. 292