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of dulness and insipidity. Happy if the evil extended no further. But the transition from the negative state of not being pleased to positive ill-humour, is but too easy. Fretfulness and peevishness arise, as nettles vegetate, spontaneously, where no salutary plants are cultivated. One unkind expression infallibly generates many others. Trifles light as air are able to kindle the blaze of contention. By frequent conflicts and unreserved familiarity, all that mutual respect which is necessary to preserve love, even in the most intimate connexions, is entirely lost, and the faint affection which remains is too feeble to be felt amid the furious operation of the hateful passions. Farewell peace, and tranquillity, and cheerful converse, and all the boasted comforts of the family circle. The nest which should preserve a perpetual warmth by the constancy of paternal and conjugal affection is rendered cold and joyless. In the place of the soft down which should cover it, are substituted thorns and briers. The waters of strife, to make use of the beautiful allusion of Scripture, rush in with impetuous violence, and ruffle and discolour that stream, which, in its natural and undisturbed current, devolves its waters all smooth and limpid.
But it is not necessary to expatiate on the misery of family dissension. I mean more particularly to suggest, that family dissension, besides all its own immediate evils, is the fruitful parent of immoral conduct, of vice as well, as misfortune. /
- When the several parts which compose a family find themselves uneasy in that home which is naturally the seat of mutual enjoyment, they are tempted from the straight road of common prudence to pursue their happiness through a devious wild of passion and imagination. The son, arrived at years of maturity, who is treated harshly at home, will seldom spend his evenings at the domestic fireside. If he lives in the metropolis, he will fly for refuge to the places of public diversion. There, it is very probable, some unhappy connexion will be formed, which cannot be continued without a plentiful supply of money. Perhaps money cannot be procured honestly but from the parent; but money must at all events be procured. What, then, remains but to pursue those methods which unprincipled ingenuity has invented, and which, sooner or later, lead to their condign punishments, pain, shame, and death?
But though the consequences are not always such as the operation of human laws produces, yet they are always terrible, and destructive of happiness and virtue. Misery is, indeed, the necessary result of all deviation from rectitude; but early debauchery, early disease, early profligacy of all kinds, are peculiarly fruitful of wretchedness; as they sow the seeds of misery in the spring of life, when all that is sown strikes deep root, and buds, and blossoms, and brings forth fruit in profuse abundance.
In the disagreements between children and
parents, it is certain that the children are usually most culpable. Their violent passions and defective experience render them disobedient and undutiful. Their love of pleasure operates so violently, as often to destroy the force of filial affection. A parent is stung to the heart by the ingratitude of a child. He checks his precipitancy, and perhaps with too little command of temper: for who can always hold the reins? Asperity produces asperity. But the child was the aggressor, and therefore deserves a great part of the misery which ensues. It is, however, certain, that the parent is often imprudent, as well as the child undutiful. He should endeavour to render home agreeable, by gentleness and reasonable indulgence; for man at every age seeks to be pleased, but more particularly at the juvenile age. He should, indeed, maintain his authority ; but it should be like the mild dominion of a limited monarch, and not the iron rule of an austere tyrant. If home is rendered pleasing, it will not long be deserted. The prodigal will soon return, when his father's house is always ready to receive him with joy.
What is said of the consequences of domestic disunion to sons, is equally to be applied to daughters. - Indeed, as the misconduct of daughters is more fatal to family peace, though perhaps not more heinous in a moral view, particular care should be taken to render them attached to the comforts of the family circle. When their home is disagreeable, they will be ready to make any exchange ; and will often lose their characters, virtue, and happiness, in the pursuit of it. Indeed, the female character and happiness are so easily injured, that no solicitude can be too great in their preservation. But prudence is necessary in every good cause, as well as zeal; and it is found by experience, that the gentlest method of government, if it is limited and directed by good sense, is the best. It ought, indeed, to be steady, but not rigid; and every pleasure which is innocent in itself and in its consequences ought to be admitted, with a view to render less disagreeable that unwinking vigilance which a delicate and sensible father will judge necessary in the care of a daughter.
To what wickedness, as well as wretchedness, matrimonial disagreements lead, every day's history will clearly inform us. When the husband is driven from his home by a termagant, he will seek enjoyment, which is denied him at his own house, in the haunts of vice, and in the riots of intemperance: nor can female corruption be wondered at, though it must be greatly pitied and regretted, when in the heart of a husband, which love and friendship should soften, hatred is found to rankle. Conjugal infelicity not only renders life most uncomfortable, but leads to that desperate dissoluteness and carelessness in manners which terminates in the ruin of health, peace, and fortune. If we may form a judgment from the divorces and separations which happen in the gay world, we may conclude, that the present manners are highly unfavourable to conjugal felicity. And we see, consistently with my theory, that the consequence of these domestic disagreements is the prevalence of vice in a very predominant degree, as well as of misery.
But it avails little to point out evils without recommending a remedy. One of the first rules which suggests itself is, that families should endeavour, by often and seriously reflecting on the subject, to convince themselves, that not only the enjoyment but the virtue of every individual greatly depends on a cordial union. When they are convinced of this, they will endeavour to promote it; and it fortunately happens, that the very wish and attempt of every individual must infallibly secure success. It may, indeed, be difficult to restrain the occasional sallies of temper; but where there is, in the more dispassionate moments, a settled desire to preserve domestic union, the transient violence of passion will not often produce a permanent rupture.
It is another most excellent rule, to avoid a gross familiarity, even where the connexion is most intimate. The human heart is so constituted as to love respect. It would, indeed, be unnatural in very intimate friends to behave to each other with stiffness; but there is a delicacy of manner, and a flattering deference, which tends to preserve that degree of esteem which is necessary to support affection, and which is lost in contempt when it deviates into