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A WELL-GOVERNED TEMPER.
BY REV. THOMAS SHEPHARD.
I BEG leave to address the readers of this journal, as assembled around their own domestic altars and firesides, within the sacred enclosure of that loveliest and happiest of all places on this earth HOME.
I need not apprize you that the family state is an institution of Heaven; and, if regulated by the principles of the Gospel, it will not fail of becoming a most efficient instrumentality in preparing those within its hallowed precincts, for a better home and a happier family above. Can I add anything to secure such a blessed instrumentality ? May I speak to you freely and familiarly on
The influence of a well-governed temper upon the happiness of the family state? Permit me affectionately to inquire, if, in reviewing the past, it will not appear that much domestic peace has been wasted by neglecting the due control of the disposition? The foe may be insidious, invisible, difficult to be detected, but, nevertheless, incessantly annoying. It is the little foxes which destroy the vines. “Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth!”
It is the dictate of wisdom, as it dropped from the pen of inspiration, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he who ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.” The greatest victories ever wrought in our world are those wherein angry passions have been voluntarily subdued, revenge and hate banished from the breast, and the whole inner man brought down, from a whirlwind of turbulent, conflicting emotions, into a calm and quiet subjection to the law of love and forgiveness. Such a victory never perched upon the standard of Alexander, Cæsar, or Napoleon.
The age in which we live is wonderfully prolific of the sources of agitation. There is no sphere of life in which we can move, but has its public and private collisions. There are perpetual agitations in affairs of government. Each popular election brings its strong party excitements. Every important act of the state or national legislature arouses feelings of like or dislike. Rumors of wars, fluctuation in commerce, stagnation in trade, — creating failures in business, and giving wings to riches, plunging the affluent into sudden and hope
less penury,-often sicken the heart, irritate the nervous system, and overshadow the countenance with misanthropic despondency and gloom. And, then, there is a legion of little troubles, which are circumscribed to the neighborhood and the family connection, that spring up from a love of preëminence in social position, giving occasion for private heart-burnings and firaside scandal, all of which are as numerous and as hidden as the spirits of darkness, and- more annoying to domestic peace than the plagues of Egypt.
Nor is the moral and religious atmosphere free from its north-east winds, irritating the nerves and saddening the countenance.
We live in a time of the revival of imposture and fanaticism. Strange noises are heard, and strange movements are seen, which the producers claim to be received as communications from the spirit world. The grossest infidelity lurks beneath the disguise of some new development of geology, political economy, or social reform. Many are running to and fro, with a zeal and eloquence worthy of a better cause, basing the world's millennium on the annihilation of the civil power, the church, the ministry, the Sabbath, the institution of marriage, and the right of individual property. Hence come those trials so disturbing to the equanimity of our temper, clustering around when we go out and when we come in, irritating the disposition as we rise up and sit down. Without special care these enemies of our peace will invade the hallowed circle of home, and embitter the enjoyment of the domestic sanctuary. Nothing would be more disastrous to your domestic comfort than to find these agitations and conflicts without, like the tempests of heaven, pouring through every leak and crevice of your dwelling, overwhelming each inmate of your family with their harsh discords and angry disputations. As you would defend your families from the blasts of winter, and the storms of spring and autumn, so be not less anxious to shield them from the pestiferous influence of those irritable tempers which too often steal upon the mind which is brought into daily collision with the fruitless agitations of the world without. Bar your doors against them. Give them no place at your firesides. I do not wish you to act the stoic in relation to such evils as are real and of moment. But I would have you take all due precaution that no evils, real or imaginary, shall work gangrene in your sensibilities. I would that your sympathies should not be so perverted and soured, as to render you an uncomfortable inmate in your family circle.
And now, to aid you in the work of self-control, permit me to invite your attention to the following suggestions :
I. It is the design of Providence that this shall be to all a state of trial. It is important that our minds should be settled upon this principle. Offences must come. Otherwise, how could it be known what there is in our hearts? Of chastisements, all are partakers. The best men who have ever lived have grown up under just such embarrassments. But they rose above them, and by them were made perfect in patience, meekness and holy love. Think it not strange, therefore, that fiery trials await you, as though some strange thing had happened to you. Regard all these ills, which are so trying to your christian sensibilities, as the elements amid which you are to form a character; and resolve, that, by the grace * of God, that character shall be so tempered with a meek and quiet spirit as will shed a rich fragrance over the domestic board, and be held in grateful remembrance by future generations.
II. Many of the ills of life are imaginary. How prone are we to suspect wrong intentions and sinister motives where subsequent developments show that none such existed! How hasty to pervert the meaning of words and actions through prejudice! Nothing is more self-torturing than a jaundiced eye, that tinges with a sickening yellow every object towards which it is turned.
Moreover, the heaviest burdens which press upon us are those we : imagine we see in the future. Our present circumstances are prosperous, at least tolerable ; but, ah, the clouds, the darkness, the tempests, which we discern in the distant horizon! We hear the roar of the angry floods with which we divine we shall be overwhelmed by and by. So stood the hosts of Israel in sight of the Red Sea, with Pharaoh's army in their rear. But the billows rolled back and gave them a dry passage. Let us, in all such straits, go gently forward, trusting in God, and we may find our fears unreal, and our painful anticipations without cause.
“ The clouds ye so much dread,
and shall break
III. In the darkest seasons there are unnumbered blessings in possession, which should hush every murmur. There is no stage of our earthly pilgrimage, but has its bright as well as its
dark side. Is it not ungrateful to be always looking at the latter to
the exclusion of the former ? Even in the direst extremity, how | many are there around us with whom we would, on no account, exli change places. In all those blessings in which we may obviously b claim the preëminence, should not our countenances be lighted up
with gratitude and hope? And could we look within the breasts of those whose favored circumstances we are disposed to regard with envious discontent, we might see such corroding care, such insatiable ambition for higher and richer sources of gratification, as would effectually convince us that a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. Every heart knoweth its own bitterness.” Happiness depends not upon outward circumstances. The rich have their share of trials as well as the
Could we search creation through, and try every condition in life, from the beggar to the monarch, that we might find some Eden in which we might embower ourselves in Paradisiacal bliss, we should in all probability, in the end, cast ourselves upon the prayer of Agar : “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me.” And the result of our experience would be the same lesson which Paul learned in passing through the vicissitudes of life.
For I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased and how to abound; everywhere, and in all things, I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer necd.”
IV. Let us, then, cultivate a cheerful and contented disposition under all circumstances. Let our adorning be that of a "meek and quiet spirit, which, in the sight of God, is of great price.” In the exercise of such a temper alone, we are prepared to bow with submission to the ebastisement of our heavenly Father.
If we are his children, we are specially bound to manifest to the world, by the very expression of our countenances, that we do not serve an hard Master. The very tones of our voice should evince that his yoke is easy and his burden light. In relation to those around us and associated with us, whose peace
, and happiness, here and hereafter, are bound up in the same bundle with our own; how vitally important that we exercise a proper selfcontrol over every excitable passion, and, at all times, carry about in our bosoms dispositions subdued and mellowed by a spirit of
gentleness, kindness and charity. How essential is such a sanctified temper to social happiness !
Are you a husband, a wife? A kind, forbearing, yielding temper is the first, the chief ingredient, in your cup of connubial bliss. Destitute of it, you can never know the full meaning of those words, " And they twain shall be one flesh.”
Are you a parent, and do you desire to make your house an asylum of peace, a home, in the true sense of that word, a point of attraction to all the members of the family? Then you must cultivate an amiable and an attractive temper. Your government must be tender and sympathetic, decided, unyielding in essentials, but mingled with love; your authority ever enforced with tenderness. Provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the fear and nurture of the Lord. Be assured that the broad features of your temper will be stamped upon the very countenances of those who are trained up under your example. They will catch the tones of your voice, and transmit them to the next generation.
Are you a brother, a sister, a child of tender years ? Let selfcontrol be the first and the last lesson of each day, and your earnest prayer for a subdued, patient, hallowed spirit. The lesson must be learned while you are young, or never.
Amid the scenes of home, under wise parental instruction and example, within and around the walls of a well-disciplined school, your eye is to be trained to reflect its benignant smile, your lips to utter soft and subdued tones, your heart to breathe out sentiments of kindness and good-feeling toward all around you. What but a spirit thus trained by early self-control, a spirit mollified and chastened by the power of the cross, can smooth your way in the rugged and thorny road of life, and piNow your old age, when the grasshopper shall become a burden, in downy peace ?
I would that every house should present just that lovely place where the Spirit, the holy Dove, may find a peaceful abode. I would that every family should be an emblem and a foretaste of the redeemed family above, where every heart beats in unison, and every feeling, word and act, contribute to the well-being of all.
“ Where joy like morning đew distils,
And all the air is love."
Then the family would be the nursery of a peaceful, loyal community, a harmonious, united church, an enlightened, happy nation.