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THE NEW FEATHER. (From the American Mother's Magazine, for October.) “Mother, did you see cousin Julia's beautiful new feather at church yesterday ?”
“Yes, my child, I did."
“My thoughts were otherwise occupied than in admiring its beauty, Eliza. They were rising in silent thankfulness to God, that you, my child, had been preserved from a love of external ornaments, which I cannot but regard as quite improper for those to feel who have professedly given up the vanities of the world for the service of Christ.”
“But I do not think, mother, that cousin Julia thinks much of the ornamental articles she wears. She told me, the other day, she was sure they had very little influence on her mind; she thought much less about them than she should were she to lay them aside altogether."
“And did you feel a disposition to follow your cousin's example, my daughter, and try whether you would experience more pleasure from spending the money you have been accustomed to give towards the spread of the Gospel, than to adorn your person ?"
“Oh, no indeed, mamma, for I know I should not, and I told cousin so; but then she said it made no difference at all with her, for uncle always gave her whatever she asked of him for benevolent pur poses, so that she gave away just as much as she should have done, if she had not purchased the new feather. And if she does, what harm can there be in her wearing flowers and feathers and jewellery ?"
“Let us look at the matter a little. But I see your cousin coming down the street; we will wait till she comes in, and talk with her about it."
After Julia had taken a seat, Mrs. B. remarked to her, “We were speaking, my dear, before you came in, of ornamental dress, as worn by professing Christians at the present day; and your new feather introduced the subject."
“Do not let me interrupt your conversation, my dear aunt,” replied Julia. " It was a part of my errand this very morning to learn your reasons for disapproving of such articles of dress, as I understand from Eliza that you decidedly do.”
“I will most cheerfully give you my reasons," said Mrs. B., “but before I commence, let me inquire if you are quite sure that such articles have no unhappy effect on your own mind? Did you not think of your new feather as you walked into church yesterday, and during the exercises ; that it was really very pretty, it waved so gracefully, every one must admire it ?"
“I acknowledge, my dear aunt, that I thought of that feather more than I wished for, and felt that it was wrong to think about it."
“And let me ask again,” said Mrs. B., “have you not often before been sensible of the same feelings, from wearing some new article of the kind ? And have you not felt a consciousness that these things were drawing off your mind from the service of the sanctuary ; and that while you were professedly worshiping God, you were in fact only admiring your own person ?”
“I do fear that I have,” said Julia.
“I will now give you my reasons," said Mrs. B., “ for laying aside all such articles of dress myself, and for wishing Eliza to do so.
“In the first place, I consider them prohibited by the word of God. • That women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety ; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array,'' whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair and of wearing of gold,' &c.; and in many other passages, although not so directly. Do Christians professedly yield obedience to the injunction, 'Be not conformed to this world, while they array themselves with the brightest and most costly articles that can be purchased of the jeweller, the milliner, &c. ? What stronger evidence does the professed worldling exhibit, that the love of the world is supreme in her heart? We are told, if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.'
“My second reason is, the condition of the heathen world. Millions of our fellow-beings are perishing in ignorance of the only way of salvation, are going down daily to hopeless, endless misery; and must continue to do so, unless we, who have the Gospel, send it to them. Even now the cry is reaching us from hundreds and thousands of those ready to perish, “Send us the Gospel.' And shall we, who profess to have realized the worth of the soul, and to have laid up our treasure in heaven, manifest so little love for these dying multitudes, as to prefer spending any part of the money which the Lord has lent us to use in his cause and for his glory, to foster in our own hearts self-love, pride, and vanity? Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him ? .
“My third reason is, that such articles of dress have a direct tendency to draw the mind away from God and into the world. If they are worn, they must first be purchased; and this is never done without some thought and some conversation. And such conversation is not, to say the least, so profitable as it might be; and is not in compliance with the direction, 'Let your conversation be only as becometh the Gospel of Christ.' I do not think it possible that any individual ever felt a more fervent spirit of prayer, or more ardent love to God, and desire for his glory, after conversing an hour or two upon such subjects; or that any one could, from such a scene, retire to her closet and hold the same free and sweet communion with the Father of spirits, as if her thoughts had been otherwise employed. The world would almost necessarily come between her soul and God; and she would come away, unsatisfied, unblest. Now, if these articles were laid aside, they would not of course occupy the time; and the money that would have been expended for them, might be given to spread the Gospel, and might be made the means of saving one soul, perhaps many, from endless death. And who, that loves the cause of Jesus, would not exult in the thought, that the money thus appropriated, might be instrumental of accomplishing so much good ?
“But there is another reason, which I apprehend has been too much overlooked. It is the influence which such dress, when worn by professing Christians, exerts upon their impenitent friends. They have seen us professedly renouncing the world and its vanities; and by a public profession of our faith, declaring that we have set our affections on things above, and are looking forward to heavenly rest and glory as our home and portion. They have then a right to expect that we shall live and act accordingly. And they do expect it; and if they do not witness it, and find, in our daily deportment, a change of thought and feeling-if they discover in us the same love of gay and costly apparel that we formerly manifested, they must necessarily, and they do, in a measure, lose their respect for us as Christians; and more than this, we really bring reproach upon the cause of Christ. Of the truth of this, I was painfully convinced a short time since, when travelling in company with the wife of a distinguished clergyman and two or three fashionable ladies. As our boat drew rapidly near the harbour, there was a great commotion in our cabin ; trunks, bag, and basket, were ransacked by the clergyman's wife, to find garments in which to array herself and children. After a scene of much bustle and confusion, they were found and adjusted very fancifully.
“ During the bustle, one of the ladies before alluded to, turned to me and said, “I do not see but Mrs. thinks quite as much of dress and fashion, and of appearing in style, as any of us.' I saw it was true, and could say nothing. The cause of Christ was reproached, the Saviour was wounded in the house of his friends. I was grieved and distressed. : “ These, my dear Julia, are my principal reasons for laying aside this kind of dress; and I feel constantly more and more assured that, on a dying bed, I shall not regret the course I have taken. We do not enough consider, in our daily expenditures and in all our actions, • How will this appear in the light of eternity ?'”
“Dear aunt,” said Julia, “ I am sure I have not. I will hereafter remember that my time, talents, influence, all, are the Lord's.”
BY THE REV. J. JEFFERSON. The observance of family worship is one of the circumstances by which the truly pious are distinguished from the ungodly. It is not, alas ! so common, as to justify the assumption that even our Magazine finds its way to no house where there is not an altar for God; still less can it be assumed, that in every family the domestic worship is duly regulated, or that there are no heads of families who would be glad to have a paper on this subject to put into the hands of those who live in the habitual neglect of this solemn duty. A few considerations may be suggested, adapted to each of these classes.
The obligations to family worship are founded in essential principles of reason. It is every man's duty to “ give unto God the glory due to his name.” Each new manifestation of the Divine excellence, and each new interposition of his mercy, demands a corresponding expression of homage. No change of circumstances can destroy the obligation of man 'to worship God. Every new relation into which he enters, as it becomes the occasion of new enjoyments, new difficulties, new dangers, and new trials, renders increasingly necessary the habit of Divine communion, and at once deepens and extends the obligation to it. Social, as well as single life, has its duties, its difficulties, and its pleasures ; and is it not equally bound, in all its ways, to acknowledge God? It supposes kindred affections, and united hearts; and in what should this unity appear, if not in the worship of God ? It implies mutual obligations; and where can these be so appropriately expressed as at the throne of God? The very heathen, both of ancient and modern times, have had their household gods; and can they, who call themselves Christians, neglect family worship, and be innocent ?
Divine revelation attaches high importance to this holy exercise. True, there is no express command enjoining this service, appointing its seasons, and directing its modes and circumstances; but its obligation is every where implied, and the most direct sanction is given to it. It is uniformly mentioned, to the honour of good men, that their families were religious. Of Abraham God said, “ I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.” Job offered sacrifices for each of his sons, and sent and sanctified them. Joshua said, “As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.” David returned from acts of public service “ to bless his household.” Cornelius “ feared God with all his house." Will any one contend that less is implied in these commendations, than the habit of family worship? When the covenant was made with the Israelites, and they were cautioned as to the danger of neglecting the service of God, it is said, “lest there be any man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turnéth away." Does not this imply the obligation of families, as such, to serve God ? God addresses the word of exhortation to families; “Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel.” Does not this imply family religion? Jeremiah, speaking by the Spirit of prophecy, prays, “ Pour out thy fury upon the heathen, and upon the families that call not upon thy name;" language which is altogether devoid of meaning, if the families of Israel were not accustomed to worship God. And further, the promise of salvation in Christ is made to families; “In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Speaking of Gospel times, it is said, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people ;” and when the prophet Zechariah described the effect of faith in the crucified Saviour, he speaks of it as extending to the families of the people; “And the land shall mourn, every family apart.” What does all this mean, if it do not imply the obligation, the privilege, and the acceptableness of family worship? · It will be inquired, what are the essential parts of family worship? Unquestionably, prayer; for if the dependence of even sinless holiness require continual supplies from the Divine fulness, how inseparable is prayer from all the worship of this imperfect state! And no wise man, who reflects on the claims of his household to Divine instruction, will fail to make the reading of the Scriptures a part of his domestic worship. If the gift of singing be enjoyed, nothing is more natural than to use it in the family to praise God.
The spirit of the service should be deeply serious. It is a solemn thing to enter into the presence of God, to read his word, and to pray before him. Our families should be taught to regard the service as a most solemn engagement; and we should take care to make it such. If the word of God be read with apparent carelessness, if prayer be offered with conceited air and pompous tone, or the service be conducted with hurried manner, as if it were a weariness and a task, it cannot tend to profit. Mere formality in religion entails a curse, and not a blessing, and serves to disgust those it ought to edify.
The whole family should join in the service. This is important alike to the effect and the impression. It is implied in all correct views of the obligation, and absence amounts to a serious privation of privilege on which the whole family has equal claims. Where any circumstances render this arrangement impracticable or undesirable, care should be taken to secure as equal an attention to this service as is possible.
Undeviating regularity should mark the performance of this duty. Morning and evening are the seasons pointed out by nature as those of family worship; and all correct principle and feeling dictate, that the hours should be so chosen as best to suit the convenience of the whole household, and secure the most pleasant and efficient attention to the service. Query. Is it not much more desirable to fix the worship before breakfast and before supper? Is it not less liable to interruption in the morning, and less subject to drowsiness at night?
Whilst sufficient time is necessary to secure effect, care should be taken that the service be not unduly protracted. Ten or fifteen minutes are probably quite the extent to which it should ordinarily be 'continued. Retired families may feel it right to employ a longer time; and there are few cases in which the worship may not be extended on the Sabbath with evident advantage.
Great advantage arises from the wise and holy observance of this service. To the heads of families, it has all the force of a restraint on their sinful deprávities, and a stimulus to the consistent discharge of their relative duties. To children and servants, it is a valuable means of religious instruction, and serves to prove the sincerity of our efforts to gain their attention to the great things of God. On the general prosperity of the family, it wears a decidedly favourable aspect. It tends to promote its peace, its amity, its love; it sanctifies its trials, and blesses its efforts; it insures its temporal prosperity, and is connected with its eternal happiness. The example which it furnishes to the neighbours around, is a most important means of usefulness which none should lightly esteem ; and its connexion with the prosperity of religion in the church and through the world, is close and powerful. Where family religion is neglected, or burns with languid flame, a low tone of piety will inevitably characterize the assemblies of the sanctuary, and the exertions made to save the world will be few and feeble.
To neglect this service, is to neglect an important means of glorify