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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

But paternal misdoing is not for that any the less evil


Men

often have too much confidence in their measuring-lines. They fancy they have fathomed a soul's depths when they have but sounded its shallows. They think they have circumnavigated the globe when they have only paddled in a cove. They trim their sails for other seas, leaving the priceless gems of their own undiscovered. To many a man no voyage of exploration would bring such rich returns as a persevering and affectionate search into the resources of the heart which he calls his own. Many and many a man would be amazed at learning that in the tame household drudge, in the meek, timid, apologetic recipient of his caprices, in the worn and fretful invalid, in the commonplace, insipid domestic weakling he scorns an angel unawares. Many a wife is wearied and neglected into moral shabbiness, who, rightly entreated, would have walked sister and wife of the gods. Human nature in certain directions is as infinite as the Divine nature, and when a man turns away from his wife, under the impression that he has exhausted her capabilities, and must seek elsewhere the sympathy and companionship he craves or go without it altogether, let him reflect that the chances are at least even that he has but exhausted himself, and that the soil which seems to him fallow might in other hands or with a wiser culture yield most plenteous harvests.

There is another point which should be kept in solemn consideration. The deportment of children to their parents is very largely

influenced by the deportment of parents to each other. It is of small service that a child be taught to repeat the formula, "Honor thy father and thy mother," if, by his bearing, the father continually dishonors the mother. The Monday courtesy has more effect than the Sunday commandment. Every conjugal impoliteness is a lesson in filial disrespect. If a son sees that his father is regardless of his mother's taste, does not respect her opinions, or heed her sensitiveness or care for her happiness; or if, on the other hand, he sees that she is held in ever-watchful love, he will be very likely to follow in the same path. There are of course exceptions. A gross and brutal abuse may work an opposite effect by the law of contrarieties, but in ordinary cases this is the ordinary course of events. In common Christian families a boy will appraise his mother at his father's valuation. If the husband takes the liberty of speaking to her sharply, the son when irritated will not think it worth while to repress his inclination to do the same. If the husband is not careful to pay her outward respect, let it not be supposed that his son will set him the example. But if the husband cherishes her with delight, if his behavior always assumes that the best is to be reserved for her, the best will be her incense from the whole family, and no son will any more allow himself to indulge any evil propensity in her presence than he would pluck out his right eye. And in the delicacy, the refinement, the gentleness and warmth and consecration of her presence all this courtesy and consideration will come back to them a hundred-fold in constant dews of blessing.

As with habits so with principles. The mother's influence is strong, but the stories told of its strength are often hurtful in their tendency. It is not the strength of the mother's, but of the father's influence, that needs to be held up to prominence. By Divine sufferance, mothers can do much to abrogate the evil consequences of paternal misdoing,--but paternal misdoing is not for that any the less evil. If the husband laughs at his wife's temperance notions, and thinks wine-sipping to be elegant and harmless, his boy will sip wine elegantly and fancy his mother old-fashioned; and with his father's appetite, but without his father's strength, and with more than his father's temptations,--in the great city, homeless, bewildered, and dazzled,--he will rush on to a bitter end. If the husband thinks religion a thing beautiful and becoming to woman, but unnecessary to manly character, his son will not long go to church and to Sunday school when he feels in his veins the thrill of approaching manhood. I know a community where not a man can be found to superintend the Sabbath school, and a woman, noble and whole-souled, takes its charge upon herself. The fathers do not disbelieve in Sunday schools, or they would not suffer their wives and children to go. They do not believe in them, or they would go themselves. They are simply indifferent,--and indifferent in a matter so important, that indifference is guilt. Will the young men of that community be likely to fear God and keep his commandments? Will they be likely to acknowledge the claims of a religion which their fathers despise? If they grow up hardened, selfish, headstrong, unfortified against assault, will it be the fault of the mothers who are struggling against wind and tide, or of the fathers who are lazily lounging at oar and rudder?


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