My mother's eyes upon thy page divine,
Each day were bent; her accents, gravely mild,
Breathed out thy love; whilst I, a dreamy child,
Wandered on breeze-like fancies oft away,
... Yet would the solemn Word,
At times, with kindlings of young wonder heard
Fall on my wakened spirit, there to be
A seed not lost; for which in darker years,
O, book of heaven! I pour with grateful tears,
Heart-blessings on the holy dead, and thee!"
The family bible! What sweet and hallowed memories cling like tendrils around that book of books! How familiar its sacred pages! How often in the sunny days of childhood, we were fed from its manna by the maternal hand! It was our guide to the opening path of life, and a lamp to the feeble, faltering steps of youth. Who can forget the family bible? It was the household oracle of our grandfathers and grandmothers, -- of our dear parents. It bears the record of their venerated names; their birth, their baptism, their confirmation, their marriage, are here; and
"Though they are with the silent dead,
How joyfully they gathered around the cheerful hearth to read this book divine. How often their hearts drew consolation from its living springs! What a balm it has poured into bleeding and disconsolate hearts. It has irradiated with the glories of eternal day, the darkest chamber of their home. What brilliant hopes and promises it has hung around the parental heart! And here too are the names of our parents, -- long since gathered with their fathers. Here too are our names, and birth, and baptism, written by that parental hand, long since cold in death!
"My father read this holy book
That old family bible! Do we not love it? Our names and our children's names are drawn from it. It is the message of our Father in heaven. It is the link which connects our earthly with our heavenly home; and when we open its sacred page, we gaze upon words which our loved ones in heaven have whispered, and which dwell even now upon their sainted lips; and which when we utter them, there is joy in heaven! We would, therefore, say to the infidel, of this "family tree," as the returning child said to the woodsman, of the old tree which sheltered the slumbers and frolics of his childhood, "I'll protect it now."
The old family bible! What an inheritance from a Christian home! Clasp it, child, to thy heart; it was the gift of a mother's love! It bears the impress of her hand; it is the memento of her devotedness to thee; and when just before her spirit took its flight to a better land, she gave it as a guide for her child to the same happy home:
"My mother's hand this bible clasped;
And the spirit of that sainted mother shall still whisper to me through these sacred pages. In the light of this lamp I follow her to a better home. With this blessed chart I shall meet her in heaven.
"With faltering lip and throbbing brow,
Every Christian home has a family bible. It is found in the hut as well as in the palace. It is an indispensable appendage to home. Without it the Christian home would be in darkness; with it, she is a "light which shineth in darkness." It is the chart and compass of the parent and the child in their pilgrimage to a better home.
"Therein thy dim eyes
Like an ethereal principle of light and life, its blessed truths extend with electric force through all the avenues and elements of the home-existence, "giving music to language, elevation to thought, vitality to feeling, intensity to power, beauty and happiness."
The bible is adapted to the Christian home. It is the book for the family. It is the guardian of her interests, the exposition of her duties, her privileges, her hopes and her enjoyments. It exposes her errors, reveals her authority and government, sanctions her obedience, proclaims her promises, and points out her path to heaven. It makes sacred her marriages, furnishes names for her children, gives the sacrament of her dedication to God, and consecrates her bereavements. It is the fountain of her richest blessings, the source of her true consolation, and the ground of her brightest hope. It is, therefore, the book of home. She may have large and splendid libraries; history, poetry, philosophy, fiction, yea, all the works of classic Greece and Rome, may crowd upon her shelves; but of these she will soon grow wearied, and the dust of neglect will gather thick upon their gilded leaves; but of the bible the Christian home can never become weary. Its sufficiency for all her purposes will throw a garland of freshness around every page; its variety and manifoldness; its simplicity and beauty; its depth of thought and intensity of feeling, adapt it to every capacity and to every want, to every emergency and to every member, of the household. The little child and the old man, hoary with the frost of many winters, find an equal interest there. The rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, the high and the low, are alike enriched from its inexhaustible treasury.
It is a book for the mind, the heart, the conscience, the will and the life. It suits the palace and the cottage, the afflicted and the prosperous, the living and the dying. It is a comfort to "the house of mourning," and a check to "the house of feasting." It "giveth seed to the sower, and bread to the eater." It is simple, yet grand; mysterious, yet plain; and though from God, it is nevertheless, within the comprehension of a little child. You may send your children to school to study other books, from which they may be educated for this world; but in this divine book they study the science of the eternal world.
The family bible has given to the Christian home that unmeasured superiority in all the dignities and decencies and enjoyments of life, over the home of the heathen. It has elevated woman, revealed her true mission, developed the true idea and sacredness of marriage and of the home-relationship; it has unfolded the holy mission of the mother, the responsibilities of the parent, and the blessings of the child. Take this book from the family, and she will degenerate into a mere conventionalism, marriage into a "social contract;" the spirit of mother will depart; natural affection will sink to mere brute fondness, and what we now call home would become a den of sullen selfishness and barbaric lust!
The bible should, therefore, be the text-book of home-education. Where it is not, parents are recreant to their duty. It is the basis of all teaching, because it reveals "the truth, the way and the life," because it is God's testimony and message, and is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," and was written "for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope," and be made "wise unto salvation."
"While thou wert teaching my lips to move
Its invaluable treasures, its manifoldness, its beautiful simplicity, its striking narrative, its startling history, its touches of home-life, its expansive views of human nature, of this life and of that which is to come, its poetry, eloquence, and soul-stirring sympathies and aspirations, make it the book for home-training. These features of its character will develop in beautiful harmony the whole nature of your child. Do you wish to inspire them with song? What songs are like those of Zion? Do you wish them to come under the influence of eloquent oration? What orations so eloquent as those of the prophets, of Christ, and of his apostles? Do you desire to refine and elevate their souls with beauty and sublimity? Here in these sacred pages is a beauty ever fresh, and a sublimity which towers in dazzling radiance far beyond the reach of human genius. This is evident from the fact that tributes of admiration have been paid to the bible by the most eminent poets, jurists, statesmen, and philosophers, such as Milton, Hale, Boyle, Newton and Locke. Erasmus and John Locke betook themselves solely to the bible, after they had wandered through the gloomy maze of human erudition. Neither Grecian song nor Roman eloquence; neither the waters of Castalia, nor the fine-spun theorisms of scholastic philosophy, could satisfy their yearnings. But when they wandered amid the consecrated bowers of Zion, and drank from Siloah's brook, the thirst of their genius was quenched, and they took their seats with Mary at the feet of Jesus, and like little children, learned of him!
Even deists and infidels have yielded their tribute of praise. What says the infidel Rosseau? Hear him: "The majesty of the scriptures strikes me with astonishment. Look at the volumes of the philosophers, with all their pomp, how contemptible do they appear in comparison with this! Is it possible that a book at once so simple and sublime, can be the work, of men?" Thus
"Learning and zeal, from age to age,
How often is this precious book abused! In many would-be Christian homes, it is used more for an ornament of fashion than for a lamp to the Christian's path. We find the bible upon their parlor table, but how seldom in the family room! They make it a part of their fashionable furniture, to be looked at as a pretty, gilded thing. Its golden clasps and beautiful binding make it an attractive appendage to the parlor. Hence they buy the bible, but not the truth it contains. They place it upon the table as such; and indeed many do not even give it that prominence, but, yielding to the taste of fashion, place it under the parlor table, and there it rests, unmolested, untouched and unread even for years. In many professedly religious families this is their family bible! Ah! it is not so heartsome as that well-marked and long-used old bible which lies upon the table of the nursery room, speaking of many year's service in family devotion! The other unused bible seems like a stranger to the home-heart, and lies in the parlor just to show their visiting friends that they have a bible! Go into the nursery and other private apartments of that home, and you see no bible, while you behold piles of romance and filthy novels, -- those exponents of a vitiated taste and a corrupt society, suited to destroy the young forever; -- whose outward appearance indicates a studied perusal by both parents and children, and shows perhaps that they have been wept over; and whose inward substance must ever nauseate healthy reason, as well as poison the heart of youth, leading them from the sober realities of life into a world of nonentities.
But upon the family bible you cannot trace the hand of diligent piety. It is shoved back into some part of the room, as a worthless thing, obsolete and superfluous. And see! it is not even kept in decent order. The dust of many day's neglect has gathered thick upon its lids. Oh, Christian parents, when you thus close up the wells of salvation by the trash of degenerate taste and vitiated morals, you are despising the testimonies of the Lord, and leading your children step by step to the verge of destruction. You may buy them splendid, bibles, gilt and clasped with gold, and have their names labeled in golden letters upon its lid; but if the good old family bible is neglected, and the yellow covered literature of the day substituted in its stead; if you permit them to buy and read love-sick tales in preference to their bible, and they see you do the same, you are but making a mock of God's Word, and must answer before Him for your children's neglect of its sacred pages.
Let me, therefore, affectionately admonish you to be faithful to that precious book you call the family bible. Read it to your children every day. From its sacred pages teach them the way to live and the way to die. Let it be an opened, studied family chart to guide you and them in visions of untold glory to the many mansions of your Father's offered home in heaven. It will soothe your sorrows, calm your fears, strengthen your faith, brighten your hopes, and throw around the graves of the loved and the cherished dead, the light and promise of reunion in heaven!
"A drop of balm from this rich store,