Home Influence.
"By the soft green light in the woody glade,
On the banks of moss, where thy childhood play'd;
By the gathering round the winter hearth,
When the twilight call'd unto household mirth,
By the quiet hour when hearts unite
In the parting prayer and the kind 'Good night;'
By the smiling eye and the loving tone,
Over thy life has the spell been thrown,
And bless that gift, it hath gentle might,
A guarding power and a guiding light!"

The Christian home has an influence which is stronger than death. It is a law to our hearts, and binds us with, a spell which neither time nor change can break. The darkest villainies which have disgraced humanity cannot neutralize it. Gray-haired and demon guilt will make his dismal cell the sacred urn of tears wept over the memories of home; and these will soften and melt into penitence even the heart of adamant.

[Illustration: Maternal Influence]

The home-influence is either a blessing or a curse, either for good or for evil. It cannot be neutral. In either case it is mighty, commencing with our birth, going with us through life, clinging to us in death, and reaching into the eternal world. It is that unitive power which arises out of the manifold relations and associations of domestic life. The specific influences of husband and wife, of parent and child, of brother and sister, of teacher and pupil, united and harmoniously blended, constitute the home-influence.

From this we may infer the character of home-influence. It is great, silent, irresistible, and permanent. Like the calm, deep stream, it moves on in silent, but overwhelming power. It strikes its roots deep into the human heart, and spreads its branches wide over our whole being. Like the lily that braves the tempest, and "the Alpine flower that leans its cheek on the bosom of eternal snows," it is exerted amid the wildest storms of life, and breathes a softening spell in our bosom even when a heartless world is freezing up the fountains of sympathy and love. It is governing, restraining, attracting and traditional. It holds the empire of the heart, and rules the life. It restrains the wayward passions of the child, and checks him in his mad career of ruin.

"Hold the little hands in prayer, teach the weak knees their kneeling, Let him see thee speaking to thy God; he will not forget it afterward; When old and gray, will he feelingly remember a mother's tender piety, And the touching recollection of her prayers shall arrest the strong man in his sin!"

Home-influence is traditional. It passes down the current of life from one generation to another. Its continuity is preserved from first to last. The homes of our forefathers rule us even now, and will pass from us to our children's children. Hence it has been called the "fixed capital" of home. It keeps up a continuous stream of home-life and feeling and interest. Hence the family likeness, moral as well as physical, -- the family virtues and vices, -- coming from the family root and rising into all the branches, and developing in all the elements of the family history.

Home-influence is attractive. It draws us to home, and throws a spell around our existence, which we have not the power to break.

"The holy prayer from my thoughts hath pass'd,
The prayer at my mother's knee --
Darken'd and troubled I come at last,
Thou home of my boyish glee!"

Home-influence may he estimated from the immense force of first impressions. It is the prerogative of home to make the first impression upon our nature, and to give that nature its first direction onward and upward. It uncovers the moral fountain, chooses its channel, and gives the stream its first impulse. It makes the "first stamp and sets the first seal" upon the plastic nature of the child. It gives the first tone to our desires, and furnishes ingredients that will either sweeten or embitter the whole cup of life. These impressions are indelible, and durable as life. Compared with them, other impressions are like those made upon sand or wax. These are like "the deep borings into the flinty rock." To erase them we must remove every strata of our being. Even the infidel lives under the holy influence of a pious mother's impressions. John Randolph could never shake off the restraining influence of a little prayer his mother taught him when a child. It preserved him from the clutches of avowed infidelity.

The promises of God bear testimony to the influence of the Christian home. "When he grows old he will not depart from it!" History confirms and illustrates this. Look at those scenes of intemperance and riot, of crime and of blood, which throw the mantle of infamy over human life! Look at your prisons, your hospitals, and your gibbets; go to the gaming-table and the rum-shop. Tell me, who are those that are there? What is their history? Where did they come from? From the faithful Christian home? Had they pious fathers and mothers? Did they go to these places under the holy influence of devout and faithful parents? No! And who are they that are dying without hope and without God? Who are they that now throng the regions of the damned? Those who were "trained up in the way they should go?" No! if they are, then the promises of God must fail. You may perhaps find a few such. But these are exceptions to a general law. The damning influence of their unfaithful home brought them there. Could they but speak to us from their chambers of wo, we should hear them pouring out curses upon their parents, and ascribing the cause of their ruin to their neglect. On the other hand, could we but listen to the anthems of the redeemed in heaven, we should doubtless hear sentiments of gratitude for a mother's prayer and a father's counsel.

Let us now briefly advert to the objects of home-influence. It is exerted upon the members of home, especially upon the formation of their character and destiny. It moulds their character. The parents assimilate their children to themselves to such an extent that we can judge the former by the latter. Lamartine says that, when he wants to know a woman's character, he ascertains it by an inspection of her home, -- that he judges the daughter by the mother. His judgment rests upon the known influence the latter has over the former. It gives texture and coloring to the whole woof and web of character. It forms the head and the heart, moulds the affections, the will and the conscience, and throws around our entire nature the means and appliances of its development for good or for evil. Every word, every incident, every look, every lesson of home, has its bearing upon our life. Had one of these been omitted, our lives would perhaps be different. One prayer in our childhood, was perhaps the lever that raised us from ruin. One omission of parental duty may result in the destruction of the child. What an influence home exerts upon our faith! Most of our convictions and opinions rest upon home-teaching and faith. A minister was once asked, "Do you not believe christianity upon its evidences?" He replied, "No; I believe it because my mother taught me!"

The same may be said of its influence upon our sympathies, and in the formation of habits. It draws us by magnetic power to home, and develops in us all that which is included in home-feeling and home-sickness.

"I need but pluck yon garden flower,
From where the wild weeds rise,
To wake with strange and sudden power,
A thousand sympathies!"

In this respect how irresistible is the influence of a mother's love and kindness! Her very name awakens the torpid streams of life, gives a fresh glow to the tablets of memory, and fills our hearts with a deep gush of consecrated feeling.

Our habits, too, are formed under the moulding power of home. The "tender twig" is there bent, the spirit shaped, principles implanted, and the whole character is formed until it becomes a habit. Goodness or evil are there "resolved into necessity." Who does not feel this influence of home upon all his habits of life? The gray-haired father who wails in his second infancy, feels the traces of his childhood-home in his spirit, desires and habits. Ask the strong man in the prime of life, whether the most firm and reliable principles of his character were not the inheritance of the parental home. What an influence the teaching's and prayers of his mother Monica had upon the whole character of the pious Augustine! The sterling worth of Washington is a testimony to the formative power of parental instruction. John Quincy Adams, even when his eloquence thundered through our legislative halls, and caused a nation to startle from her slumber, bent his aged form before God, and repeated the prayer of his childhood. "How often in old age," says Bishop Hall, "have I valued those divine passages of experimental divinity that I heard from the lips of a mother!" Dr. Doddridge ever lived under the influence of those scripture instructions his mother gave him from the Dutch tiles of her fireside. He says, "these lessons were the instruments of my conversion." "Generally," says Dr. Cumming, "when, there is a Sarah in the house, there will be an Isaac in the cradle; wherever there is a Eunice teaching a Timothy the scriptures from a child, there will be a Timothy teaching the gospel to the rest of mankind." By the force of this same influence, the pious wife may win over to Christ her ungodly husband, and the godly child may save the unbelieving parent. "Well," said a mother one day weeping, "I will resist no longer! How can I bear to see my dear child love and read the scriptures, while I never look into the bible, -- to see her retire and seek God, while I never pray, -- to see her going to the Lord's table, while His death is nothing to me! I know she is right, and I am wrong. I ought to have taught her; but I am sure she has taught me. How can I bear to see her joining the church of God, and leaving me behind -- perhaps forever!"

The Christian home has its influence also upon the state. It forms the citizen, lays the foundation for civil and political character, prepares the social element and taste, and determines our national prosperity or adversity. We owe to the family, therefore, what we are as a nation as well as individuals. We trace this influence in the pulpit, on the rostrum, in the press, in our civil and political institutions. It is written upon the scroll of our national glory.

The most illustrious statesmen, the most distinguished warriors, the most eloquent ministers, and the greatest benefactors of human kind, owe their greatness to the fostering influence of home. Napoleon knew and felt this when he said, "What France wants is good mothers, and you may be sure then that France will have good sons." The homes of the American revolution made the men of the revolution. Their influence reaches yet far into the inmost frame and constitution of our glorious republic. It controls the fountains of her power, forms the character of her citizens and statesmen, and shapes our destiny as a people. Did not the Spartan mother and her home give character to the Spartan nation? Her lessons to her child infused the iron nerve into the heart of that nation, and caused her sons, in the wild tumult of battle, "either to live behind their shields, or to die upon them!" Her influence fired them with a patriotism which was stronger than death. Had it been hallowed by the pure spirit and principles of Christianity, what a power for good it would have been!

But alas! the home of an Aspasia had not the heart and ornaments of the Christian family. Though "the monuments of Cornelia's virtues were the character of her children," yet these were not "the ornaments of a quiet spirit." Had the central heart of the Spartan home been that of the Christian mother, the Spartan nation would now perhaps adorn the brightest page of history.

But the family, whether Christian or heathen, exerts an overwhelming influence over the state. It is on the family altar that the fire of patriotism is first kindled, and often, too, by a mother's hand.

"It hath led the freeman forth to stand
In the mountain battles of his land;
It hath brought the wanderer o'er the seas,
To die on the hills of his own fresh breeze."

The same, too, may be said of the influence of home on the church. It is the nursery of the church, lays the foundation of her membership, and conditions the character of her members. The most faithful of her ministers and members are those generally who have been trained up in the most faithful families. Wherever there is the greatest number of such homes, there the church enjoys the greatest prosperity.

What a fearful responsibility must rest, therefore upon the Christian home! If its influence is for good or for evil, for weal or for woe, for heaven or for hell; if it is either a powerful emissary of Satan for the soul's destruction, or an efficient agent of God for the soul's salvation, then how responsible are those who wield this influence!

"Upon thy heart is laid a spell,
Holy and precious -- oh! guard it well!"

Are you not, Christian parents, responsible to God for the exercise of such sovereign power over the character and well-being of your dear children? And will not the day soon come when you must "give an account of your stewardship?" Oh! what if it be exerted for the ruin of your loved ones, and they "curse the day you begat them?" What if, in the day of final reckoning, you find your hands drenched in the blood of your offspring, and hear the voice of that blood cry out from the hallowed ground of home against you, saying, "How long, oh Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on earth?" Oh see, then, that your influence be wielded for good.

"For round the heart thy power hast spun
A thousand dear mysterious ties;
Then take the heart thy charms have won,
And nurse it for the skies!"

chapter iv the relation of
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