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be known in the home for the reverse of what the world thinks you, and home is little more than a name, and verges fast toward a ruin. If we treated others as we treat each other in a family; if we were as exacting, as unreasonable, as imperious; if we received every thing as our right, and gave nothing but with grudging; if kind words and looks, and generous acts and sympathies, were wanting, we should be shut from its society, and left outcast, until penance fit had been made, and pardon sought. Cowardly we compel home to submit to affronts we dare not put upon the world. The unselfish heart is of necessity courteous.
It may seem strange to you that I should add to this catalogue, as a part of the intercourse of home, the necessity in the home of seclusion. When we get to build our houses rightly and religiously, so that they shall not be mere physical conveniences, but educators of the souls within them, then we shall build them with regard to the sometime seclusion of the members from each other. We not only need to be shut out from other families, but the members of the same family require means of seclusion from each other. It is not safe or healthy, morally, for a family to live always in common. There must be some place to which each can withdraw, sacred from all intruding steps as was the Jewish inner sanctuary; a place to go to for the chastising of a perturbed temper; for reflection upon our mistakes, imprudence, or unkindness; for self-study, resolve, and prayers. In the varied and intimate intercourse of the home, perpetually do we need to pause, to withdraw, to think, and get strength; and one great preventive of a firm inner growth is, that we are obliged to postpone acts and exercises to a convenient season, whose vitality depends upon being embraced at the moment. We need to seize moods of mind, to use hints as they arise, to follow out the suggestings of circumstance or the moment, and we cannot do this unless we have some place in the house which is all our own to which to retire unmolested. The idea of the chapel and the oratory might with advantage be borrowed from the Romish Church, and the home receive some decided advantage, not from fasts and flagellations and counted beads, but from the sincere humiliation of the soul at such times as come to us all, when it is perturbed by the intercourse of home. The closet ought not to be a fiction of our rhetoric, but a fact of our homes and our experience. In the home intercourse it should be remembered that each one has his place and his part. A happy and pleasant home is an impossibility where any one slights his duty. Home is not a place where you are to cosset your own fancies, or be entertained by the rest. You have no right to sit down, listless and dull, and say, “Come, amuse me, and see how pleasant you can make home.” You have no right to complain that home is ungenial, till you are sure you have tried your best to make it genial. The men who complain of homes are mostly those of whom the homes complain, men whose dignity is offended at the bare suggestion that they have something to do toward making it pleasant. Home is not a mere place of entertainment, a sort of tavern, and he who turns to it for entertainment merely deserves to be disappointed. Hast thou nothing to do, O man but to throw thyself upon a sofa, or monopolize the easiest chair, and, holding back all thine own information, demand that wife and children amuse thee? or wilt thou go moodily out to club or to store, declaring that thou wilt not stay where so little is done for thee ? And shall the young man say, “My sisters do nothing to make home pleasant to me,” when he has done nothing to make home pleasant to them 2 I do not think the different members of a home realize how much the pleasant, profitable intercourse of home depends on each, or how hard it is when one and another hang back for the rest to supply the deficiency. I feel that we are not doing justice to the great privilege of domestic intercourse, that we are not making the best of our homes, that we who are parents are strangers to our children, and our children are strangers to us. Perhaps we husbands and wives are strangers to each other. We do not try to know each other. We let things take their own course, we have no guiding or controlling law, and then wonder that our homes are the unsatisfactory, chaotic things they are. Home, like a delicate, sensitive, manystringed instrument, can only be kept in perfect tone by constant care. Without that, the exquisite harmonies of which it is capable become only clashing and horrid discords, – the jangle of a thing abused and broken. The homes that are bright, happy, and successful are not the special gifts of God, they are not homes endowed with the things position or wealth give, but they are homes wisely regulated, based upon, and growing out of, broad and generous principles. They are homes in which self is subordinate, in which familiarity has led to no abridgment of courtesy, where there is enough, and not too much of discipline, where children and parents grow together, sharing in each other's confidence, partaking in each other's sorrow or joy. I think the idea of home should be a place to grow in, – parents as well as children. It should have progress, this year better than last year; it should have renewal, so that the mistakes of the past may be avoided, and the future lead to something better; it should have a plan, because without plan
nothing is ever done. And all this lies in parental hands. By special Divine enactment they are the educators of the home, – to lead it and to mould it. Its success or its failure rests with them. Except in very rare cases, the home cannot be higher than the aspiration of its heads. Then with them there rests a vast responsibility. With the first formation of the family it begins. It is not the mother's work alone, because her life chances to be more immediately and at all times connected with the home, but quite as much the father's. He ought to begin at the beginning, and know his children, not as playthings, not as disturbers of his peace, not as expenses, but, from their very babyhood up to the time he dismisses them to the world, as moral and immortal beings, whose destiny in the present, if not the future, he may and does control. He ought never to dissociate himself from the interests of his children, but by word and work prove his interest and sympathy in their experiences, their achievements, and their plans, – little things, perhaps, to do, but great things to leave undone. The intercourse of home is not the set, deliberate intercourse of the lips alone, – it is not the great things we attempt merely, but mainly that intercourse is among trivial and occasional things, and out of these, — these which we cannot anticipate, which we do not create, – comes the power of that intercourse, a power that may lift the home to heaven, or thrust it down