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Thoughts upon Home-Life in Our Cities.



Author of "Studies in Christian Biography,"
"God with Men, or Footprints of Providential Leaders," &C.

"This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold:
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told."

D. Appleton and Company,
200 Broadway.
London: 10 Little Britain.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1858 by
D. Appleton And Company,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern
District of New-York.


These thoughts are published for the same reason that led the author from
time to time to put them upon paper, - a wish to meet a want in the sphere
of the affections rather than to claim any honor in the kingdom of ideas.
Wherever important questions have been at issue he has not avoided them,
however conspicuous or controverted; but the volume aims to breathe a
kindly spirit above the reach of sect and party. He is not ashamed to have
his style show something of the habit of his profession, and to use, in
part, ideas that he has expressed in the lyceum and the pulpit in a
different form.

It will be seen that the several subjects connect themselves more or less
closely with a year's life in the household, and that the light which
cheers the whole twelvemonth is kindled on the hearth-stone at Christmas
and New Year.

The state of things in our American cities is now so peculiar, so marked
by privilege and peril, that no earnest plea for home affections and
virtues can be wholly thrown away. To dedicate books to conspicuous names
is a custom now almost obsolete, and if the Author were to venture upon
any dedication of this little volume it would read somewhat thus: -


NEW-YORK, _Oct. 22, 1853_.





















Home Views of American Life.


What day of all the year gives an American a happier sense of his civil
and domestic blessings, than the old feast of the ingathering - the
time-hallowed Thanksgiving? Once more it has come round; and our pen is
disposed to catch a little of its genial temper before the hearth-stone.

This is peculiarly the home festival of our people, and throughout all the
States of our republic it is affectionately cherished. As such, resting
upon a good old precedent, it appeals to a permanent want, and gains
interest with years. The character of the day has somewhat changed, and
the domestic element in its uses preponderates far over the
ecclesiastical. Yet much of the old feeling remains, and thousands gather
in the churches, all the better prepared by the hour of worship, for the
hours of fireside enjoyment. Large scope is usually given the preacher at
this time, and many a timid man ventures upon bold themes, quite free to
take the political, or social, or philanthropic, or ecclesiastical view of
the country or the world, as he may choose. The preacher may not
complain, then, of the essayist for taking something of the same liberty,
and trenching a little upon the prerogative of the pulpit. It is surely
not amiss to open this series of discursive papers with some thoughts upon
our home blessings, upon God's hand in giving them, and our work in
spreading them.

Our home blessings! Take first the most obvious view of them. Consider the
plenty that abounds. I speak not of the few affluent, but of the great
majority who enjoy the common lot. What abundance in their homes! Look at
the household of any unpretending citizen, and say what realm of earth,
what domain of nature, does not send its treasures thither? The orchards,
the fields, the pastures, the hills, the rivers, the mines, the oceans,
bring their tribute to the fireside. From the shores of the Mediterranean
come the olive, the grape, the orange, the fig, the date. The farther
Indies send their fragrant herbs and sweet spices. The repast of a frugal
family is rarely set forth without offerings from all quarters of the
globe. The cottager's lamp, that burns by night, is fed with oil from the
Arctic zone. The light of day shines through clear crystal, that shows the
perfection of the arts, and the cheapness of their most beautiful
products. In humble abodes the wonders of manufacture appear. Rich cotton
stuffs tell of the affluence of the Southern soil and the skill of the
Northern artisan. Luxuries, of old the prerogative of princes, are now
familiar things. The silks of France and Italy are worn by the wife and
daughters of the farmer and the mechanic. I will not try to describe the
mansions of the wealthy, although these, when graced by refinement, and
exalted by piety and charity, may give impressive views of the ample
bounty of Providence. It is better to contemplate the plenty within reach
of the common lot. Among what people, in what age, has the common lot been
so favored as with us? When in the earth's history have so many persons
had reason to be grateful at the feast of the ingathering as now? We boast
not of great banquets, in which the luxury of the few is wrung from the
misery of the many. We speak not of pearls dissolved in the wine cup, and
the price of cities thus quaffed at a draught. Our country, prouder than
the empire of a Caligula, or a Cleopatra, can point to the households of
her people, and in the amount of their combined blessings pity the poverty
of the builders of the Coliseum or the Pyramids. Other lands may have
prouder palaces and more princely fortunes. None can show so many favored
homes. Go to thy home, and tell how great things the Lord, the giver of
the harvests, hath done for thee in its plenty.

Consider too its peace as well as its plenty. No wars disturb it, nor
rumors of war. No civil strifes threaten its tranquillity. No tyrannical
powers intrude upon its freedom. Every household is better guarded than
any feudal castle. Equal laws make it more impregnable than walls or
moats. Public opinion is a host of defence stronger than an army with
banners. We do not indeed forget our own imperfections and failings. We do
not forget that millions are in bondage in our land, and that if they have
homes in favored cases, they have them by their owners' mercy, not by
their own legal right. Yet to-day the slave is somewhat a sharer in his
master's bounty, and this feast, that carries our thoughts back to the
time of the great Hebrew Exodus, allows us to enjoy the liberty that God
has bestowed upon us and these free States, and forbids us to despair of
the redemption of any of the races yet held in bondage. It is something to
boast of, that slavery is the exception now among civilized nations,
instead of being, as of old, the universal law for the weaker from the
stronger. For ourselves, we disclaim all share in its origin and
continuance, deeming it to be a local misfortune to be deplored, not a
national institution to be honored.

As a nation, we are lovers of equal law. The sober thought, nurtured by
the best experience of the Atlantic States, finds its response in the new
regions of the farthest West, and not even the mad thirst for gold has
made the restless people on our Pacific coast forgetful of their
birthright of liberty and law. A mighty habit of civil order has entered
into our national life. The strongholds of order are in our homes. There
each man finds the motive that leads him to resist alike the disorganizer
and the invader. Thence we derive the assurance of the best of standing
armies; for men that have households to defend, will be as little inclined
to yield to hostile invasion as to destructive revolution. How peaceful
our homes! As mighty is the power nurtured within them that makes them so.

Go home, and in addition to the blessings of plenty and of peace, consider
the means of intellectual and spiritual culture there. The laboring man
may own a better library than a prince or prelate of the olden time. For a
pittance trifling even to him, he may have tidings daily from all quarters
of his own country, and from foreign lands. His children bring with them
more learning from the common school, than would have sufficed of old to
constitute the wisdom of a sage. For a less sum than the tippler gives for
the draught that fevers his blood and crazes his brain, the artisan may
adorn his house with choice works of art, through the cheap and beautiful
products of the engraver's skill; and thus the beautiful from the hand of
man and of God, may refine and cheer the common lot. Music, that voice of
the beautiful arts, is becoming a familiar blessing, and a part of
ordinary education. Groups of children by the fireside, and in the field
and garden, sometimes at the corners of the streets or in their walk home
from school, are heard singing their songs and hymns together, thus
exchanging discord for peace, quarrels for harmony. Even the utilities
that are becoming the custom of our time, have their refining and exalting
influences. The light that streams up in our streets and houses, is the
handmaid of a light brighter than its own. The pure water that gushes up
in so many homes, has connections far more substantial than fanciful with
the living water of the divine word. Facts enough show that human
civilization needs, in the most literal sense, its water-baptism before
its spirit-baptism can be realized.

The spirit is not lost sight of even in this utilitarian age. In religion
the means of culture have their consummation. Within every home, in any
degree worthy the name, Christianity proves its power, whether the gospel
be nominally professed or not. The very unity of the family comes from
Him, who has decreed the purity of the home by his fundamental law, and
bound parents to each other and their offspring by a tie at once of
principle and affection. Greater still the blessing where Christianity is
fully known and practised in its truths and graces, where the pleasant
fireside is a consecrated altar, and the earthly mansion opens ever into
the heavenly.

Consider then the blessings of our homes - their plenty, their peace, their
means of intellectual and spiritual culture.

Consider them well, and moreover, own God's hand in them.

God is Creator and Lord of nature. From him comes the plenty of our homes.
Man does not create, he finds the bounties of his lot. His utmost industry
and skill but find the blessings stored up for him. We may look upon the
kingdom of nature from many points of view. We may consider the organism
of the heavens, the great periods of the earth's apparent formation, the
influence of climate and position upon the history of nations, and see
God's hand in natural laws. But what view of the universe is more sublime,
and at the same time more touching, than that from the home? The heavens
themselves help in keeping it upon its foundation by the force of the
great law of attraction, whilst every element and domain of the earth
conspires to give it blessing. Tenderly indeed does the Lord of this
great Cosmos care for the dwellings of men. His love looks down from the
stars of heaven that shine into the casement, and is reflected from the
little flower that blooms in the garden, or cheers the sick man's chamber.
To God, Creator and Preserver, be our thanksgiving.

God is in history, and to his hand we trace the peace of our homes. Our
familiar social blessings are not the exhalations of a day, but the growth
of ages. No clearer or more striking view of the development of the Divine
plans in the course of events can be given than the domestic view. All
that God has done for man as an individual soul or as a social being, thus
is made to appear. There is a providence in the development of liberty,
and so too in the progress of law, and in the combination of them both in
a true social order. What better symbol of their combination and proof of
providential guidance than the peaceful home? How vast the providential
agencies instrumental in framing that statute-book which, next to the
Bible, is the safeguard of the dwelling, and which bands the whole nation
together in defence of every citizen's right, - the constitution of our
country, to us the bequest of ages, guided by an arm mightier than man's,
and to issues beyond his dream. In two grand lines of influence it brings
to every household the co-ordinate powers which, from quarters once
antagonistic, unite in a true civilization. It guarantees to every family
the liberty so dearly prized by the old parent races of the Germanic
North, whilst it gathers them into a great nation under the guidance of
that law which was the bequest of the Roman empire to the world. These
and all the leading lines of history meet in the home, and in them we own
God's guiding hand. From the East with the Star of true empire, came the
benign power that united these two mighty agencies of our civilization.
Surely it was the religion of Jesus that wedded Roman law to Germanic
liberty, and laid the foundations of constitutional freedom and domestic
peace. Blessed indeed was that bridal, and the living Word that hallowed
the union still dispenses the blessing, and calls the children of its
lineage to a future brightening unto the perfect day.

The Constitution, and above it, the Bible! In this is the Word of God, and
the way of life, present and eternal. It is the chief agency in
intellectual and spiritual culture, giving the mind its true aim, the soul
its rightful dignity, life its highest grace. Where the Bible is held in
honor, the home has purity and elevation. Interesting indeed is the
ecclesiastical view of Christianity. For its priests and temples we have
no words of disparagement. Yet we most honor the church in honoring the
home, for where the family is most blessed, there the church is most
worthy. The history of the gospel neither ends nor begins with that of
cathedrals and priesthoods. Since God laid the foundation of domestic
purity on Sinai, since Jesus bore the grace of the gospel to the homes of
Judah and Galilee, the brightest illustrations of the beauty and power of
religion have been given in abodes far less stately than the temple, or
the cloister, or the palace. The end is not yet, not yet developed are our
grounds of gratitude to the Heavenly Father for the gospel in the
blessings of our homes. God's love in giving them, we own and adore.

Responsibility walks ever hand in hand with privilege, and human duty
follows in the path of Divine goodness. No topic of graver import can be
urged now, than that of the obligation of Christian people to diffuse
domestic blessings. This topic carries us into the heart of the momentous
social questions of our age. The Christian should have his answer ready,
an answer too which considers all the needs of man's being, and respects
alike his physical and moral wants.

The most obvious, certainly the most obtrusive evil in the homes of the
wretched, is poverty. The love of God, who has given for man's use the
earth and its fulness, the gospel of Him who fed the hungry and healed the
sick, teach us to look with tender interest upon the poor, and try to
redeem them from a lot as full of temptation as of suffering. Of public
and private almsgiving, I will not speak now, important in their places as
these are. There is a need far greater than these can alleviate, and I
cannot dwell upon them here, pertinent as it would be to urge the worth of
those benevolent schemes that aim to provide comfortable homes for the
poor, and commodious baths and wash-houses in their neighborhoods. These
charities appeal to enlightened self-interest, as well as humanity, and,
if we will not ask in kindness who is my neighbor, we shall ask in fear,
either of pestilent disease or aggressive violence. The springs of human
energy are to be moved as never before, and the wretched are to be made to
help themselves as never before; or our civilization, certainly European
civilization, will stand on the brink of an abyss fearful as at the
dissolution of the old Roman Empire. Poverty has, in some cases, made an
alliance that gives omens of a conspiracy worse than Catiline's, and, with
cunning quickened by want, sharpens its knife upon the stone which has
fallen to its lot instead of bread, - bent upon living by destruction, if
it is not taught to live by producing. It is an indisputable fact that in
many countries the majority are so ignorant and inefficient, that the
whole annual product of the land is not sufficient to provide for their
decent wants. The theorists of France, who have been losing their wits in
the airy heights of pantheistic socialism, hoping to find a way to plenty,
other than the old way of labor and frugality, may well remember the
answer of the admirable political economist, Chevalier, and look for
plenty rather in making property more desirable than less so, and giving
the whole people the desire and the opportunity of profitable labor. The
material product of France at the highest estimate, he declares, does not
exceed ten thousand millions of francs, and thus at this estimate, an
equal division would give each person 78 centimes, or about 14-1/2 cents
per day, for food, lodging, clothing, education, enjoyment. Thus, he adds,
even upon the supposition of an absolute distribution of products, France
is not in a condition to give the majority of her children a tolerable
subsistence. Of course millions of citizens now come far short of this
miserable pittance. What is the inference? Certainly the productive
industry of the nation must be increased, that there may be plenty in the
home. Let more wealth be produced, and each man be put in a position to
get a due share of it, and the misery is alleviated, and plenty in the
household stops the spirit of reckless revolution, and gives the spirit of
peace, and motive and time for the higher aims of life.

What shall increase the national wealth and distribute it with due justice
in the homes of the people? Communism? Not so; for destroying the very
idea of property is not the way to increase the aggregate of property. Who
will work, if his gains are not secured to him and his children? Who will
plant the grain or the vine, if the field or the vineyard is to be an open
pasture, which any idler may waste? The way to enlarge and distribute
wealth is rather to strengthen the foundations of property, and give all
motive to earn their share of it by labor, temperance, and economy.

Here we believe that every nation is bound to apply the force of law to
reach the root of the difficulty. I am not proposing to discuss the
various projects set on foot to insure the more equable distribution of
property - such as the homestead laws of some of our own States, or the
measures in train to redeem the peasants of Ireland from their slavish
penury. Very certain it is, that we need to watch jealously the
distribution of the public lands, to keep them from the grasp of avarice
and intrigue, and to hold out the utmost inducements to actual settlers to
till and own the soil. It is interesting to find that upon this one point,
the most sanguine of the Land Reformers have much countenance from the
most judicious conservatives, and the wary sagacity of Webster himself
saw no peril in securing a part of the national domain to every
persevering cultivator. It is also interesting to observe that, whilst the
ultraist advocates of a protective tariff have signally lowered their
tone, some of the most earnest advocates of free trade, as the only
philosophical theory, are favoring such judicious protective duties as
shall tend to bring the producer and consumer near together, check the
wastefulness of needless transportation, and thus prepare the way for the
final triumph of free trade by the action of associative industry. All
such expedients however good in themselves, are of no avail apart from a
broad and energetic policy that meets the difficulty in the face. We mean
the education of the entire people in schools open to all the children of
the nation. Thus we reach the home - thus we open the eyes and quicken the
energies of the people - thus we enlarge the products of intelligent labor,
and guard against the worst evils of human inequality. Thus we open the
way for a better social science and organization, and favor the associated
enterprise, which is the best safeguard against communism. The educated,
industrious population will take their own lot into their own hands, and
by practising a truer philosophy of accommodation, they will apply in
their home economy something of that wise policy which has been left too
exclusively to the use of the favored few. The architecture of the house,
and the arrangements of the neighborhood, will show the influence. Whilst
gardens, filled with rare exotics, and stately mansions adorned with the
graces of art, may still be the prerogative of affluence; we shall see the
comfortable and tasteful houses of the unpretending classes ranged about
pleasant and salubrious squares, with all the appliances of health and
order, usually deemed beyond their means. For my own part, I know no more
cheering aspect of our country and our age, than that which is furnished
by some of those villages, which have been built up in the vicinity of our
great cities by associations of mechanics, securing to each man an
independent home. The fact that a set of men, educated in our free
schools, and with no means but the fruit of their own honest toil, provide
such homes for themselves, must give a benevolent observer more genuine
satisfaction, and more encouraging hope, than any of the proudest triumphs
of capital, whether a palace in the city or a palace upon the water. It is
not out of place here to say, that the highest honor will belong to him
among our architects, who most skilfully plans a model house for the many
of us who have moderate or slender means - a house that shall for the least
outlay best secure the retirement, the refinement, and the health that
make a true home. Honor to the science that has busied itself with this
problem, and to the capital which has tried to carry the solution into
practice thus far!

A true system of popular education in connection with our laws regarding
inheritance, is raising up a generation which will not long be ignorant of
the power of intelligence, industry, and friendly accommodation, in
developing a social policy beyond the reach of the fanatical theorists of
the old world, who have impoverished the nations in their promise of
plenty, and shed blood in rivers in the name of fraternity. The great mass
of the people, it is to be hoped, will continue to have that home feeling,
which is as mighty in conservation as in defence. We shall remain as we
are in the best sense of the term - the most conservative nation on the
face of the earth. That race of Ishmaelites, the homeless, the desperate,
the Bedouins of civilization, whose hand is against every man's, whose
delight is in commotion, whose life is in destruction, whose hope is in
the despair of others, will disappear, kept down in their true place, or
what is better, transformed into intelligent, industrious citizens, lovers
of the state, the church, and the home.

Thus do we commend the worth of industry and the education upon which it
rests, in diffusing the household blessings that we enjoy. But we build
upon a sandy foundation without a positive religious basis. Upon that the

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Online LibrarySamuel OsgoodThe hearth-stone: thoughts upon home-life in our cities → online text (page 1 of 15)