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FAMILIAR TALK OF THE CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN.
THE table-talk of the Christian gentleman is that part of his conduct in which he particularly declares himself. It is in the competency only of considerable minds to season social intercourse with wit, or to enrich it with the tributary products of ready wisdom; but there is a complacent turn of thought and morality characteristic of the well-educated and well-furnished Christian, which, with little advantage from experience, conciliates and fixes attention. It can hardly happen, but by a very cross combination of circumstances, that a father can fail of being the centre of attraction to his family, where religion joins its voice to that of nature to enforce his claims. To guide domestic conversation, and to give to it its proper tone; to make it profitable and irreproachable, the multiplier of thoughts, the medium of a spiritual commerce, a mutual provocation to virtuous resolves and manly purposes, is the province which the Christian father must fill in his family, or he does not reach the level of his station.
There are other besides his children to whom the domestic and familiar talk of a Christian belongs. His servants have a property in it: they have a claim upon it in virtue of their ignorance. An awful accountability waits upon the accents of a parent in the midst of children and domestics, whenever he approaches what belongs to their peace, touches the consecrated lines which distinguish truth from error, right from wrong, reason from prejudice, or affects in whatever degree the principles by which we live to God, to ourselves, and to society.
There is a garniture with which Christian morality decorates common discourse, for which no other gifts or graces can be adequately substituted. A natural dignity, a composure of manner, a quiet eye, a complacent regard, are among the exterior advantages which it confers: they denote its specific presence, its peaceful domicile in the bosom. When the passions and principles are not under its control, the countenance betrays an inward riot. Something unrectified, tumultuous, alarmed, suspicious, or fierce something that carries the mark of Cain, that tells of inborn corruption, that discovers the alienated mind-gathers about the brow of a godless person, speaks in his gestures, and breaks through the disguise of artificial breeding.
Thus it is that a real Christian heart is fundamental to that graceful composition of the social man, emphatically called the gentleman. The religious gentleman is such in his countenance; he carries in his forehead his credentials from above, and the seal of his designation and calling. He comes with a sort of diplomacy into the world, bearing the badge and collar of his great Master, whose willing agents are not only in his holy service, but in his holier similitude.
In a peculiar sense, the Christian gentleman must be absent from the world: not, indeed, from the intercourse of business with the world; such an abstraction may not be consistent with his duties and engagements; neither does it comport with his general character and necessary relations to withhold himself from the commerce of good offices and cheerful hospitality but he must separate himself by a decided line from the loose practices and careless demeanour of worldly men. He who sets God always before him, cannot "sit among the ungodly," without a depression of spirit. The communication with the godless he cannot altogether avoid: he cannot avoid the contact, but he may avoid the intermixture. As he has his delights, with which they cannot intermeddle, so does the nature of their pleasures exclude his participation. There
is, however, a neutral ground on which they may stand together; common interests, by which they may be temporarily associated; reciprocities, which hold them in occasional correspondence; but the Christian gentleman looks below him on the crowd of pleasure's votaries. While "he meditates in the fields, at eventide," or converses with God in his chamber, or sits in his watch-tower, to "muse upon his works," he sees through dust and smoke the plain beneath him, the "dwellings of Mesech," and the " tents of Kedar," or perhaps the turrets of the distant city,
"Where the noise
Of riot ascends above her loftiest towers,
The Christian gentleman is not required to declare war against what he must disapprove; his object must be simple separation, and that will be effected for him, without trouble on his part. He has only to declare for God, and the sentence of outlawry will follow: his imputed leprosy will send him from the camp to his own world of pure and rational delights.
After all, however, let Christian piety be fairly judged, as to its real effects on social happiness. Has it no merry moods? The way to do it justice will be to bring under a fair comparison
with each other its renunciations and its acquisi-