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CHAPTER XIV.

THE CHURCHMAN'S FAMILY.

“ Around each pure domestic shrine
Bright flowers of Eden bloom and twine;
Our hearths are altars all.”

Christian YEAR.

A FEW weeks before his marriage Ridley received the following letter from his friend :

My dear Arthur, If I had clearly foreseen all the consequences of your last visit to Welbourne, I am not sure that I should have encouraged it, as I did. You have done me unknown mischief. All Mary's talent for parochial affairs seems to have departed from her. I have been obliged to take the books of the Provident Society into my own hands, and the school children do anything but mind their lessons. I verily believe I must follow your example and get a wife; if it be only to have some one to supply the vacancy which you have caused in my establishment; for, as to Mary, though she is still under my roof, yet her thoughts are evidently roaming elsewhere.

To speak more seriously, however,—the object of my present letter is to offer some friendly remarks on your future arrangements. As one of your earliest friends, and the brother of your intended wife, I trust I may be pardoned for intruding my advice on certain subjects, upon which, in the hurry of your wedding-day, we might not find a suitable opportunity to converse.

The point which I wish most to impress on my much valued friend, and the husband of my beloved sister, is, that from the first day of your wedded life you make religion the basis of your union. It is, I trust, needless that I should use any argument to convince you, as a Churchman, of the duty of making the marriage ceremony a solemn act of religion, and obtaining the sanction of the Church. How those persons, who neglect to seek God's blessing, can expect any thing but unhappiness, I am at a loss to con

ceive; a more thoughtless flinging away of spiritual benefits,-a more presumptuous defiance of God's wrath, and provocation to Him to bring misery and sorrow on their families and home,it is difficult to imagine. But I will not say any more on this subject; because, in the first place, I cannot doubt that you entertain the same views as myself; and in the second place, if you did not, I should leave Mary to discuss the question with you; who, I am sure, attached to you as she is, will never marry you any where else but under the roof of holy Mother Church; and before marriage, you know, women have not promised to obey. By the way, I have to inform you, also, that it was with the full permission, and at the desire of your intended, that yesterday I published the banns of marriage for the first time between Arthur Ridley, bachelor, and Mary Herbert, spinster, of this parish. I have no notion of people being too fine to be married like their neighbours, as I told Mary, and she quite agreed with me; and so the banns were published as aforesaid, somewhat to the surprise, but much to the delight, of my parishioners. The only difference which I observed in Mary was, that she wore her veil a little closer than usual, and went straight home to the rectory, instead of walking through the village with the children.

However, though I respect the commonest ordinance of the Church, it is not on these, so much as on the character of your future union, that I wish to write. I do most earnestly pray to God that he will give you His grace to make His pure religion from the very beginning the basis of your married life. Begin religiously, and you will be enabled to persevere; but if you put off religious communication, and do not at once establish it, you will find it difficult afterwards to alter your habits. i

The Church itself plainly points out the feeling with which married persons should begin their new course of life. “ It is convenient,” says the rubrick, “ that the new married persons should receive the communion at the time of their marriage, or at the first opportunity after their marriage." By holy communion they become one with Christ and Christ with them, and so their souls are united in mysterious bonds; and their marriage is not the mere union of worldly interests or affections, but the linking of soul to soul, -not only for this world, but for eternity. Such a marriage is justly sanctified by the description of our Liturgy, when it is

called “ an honourable estate, signifying to us the mystical union betwixt Christ and His Church.”

Nor is it only as a husband, but as a master of a household, and perhaps a father, that you will be called on to regulate your mode of life. It is no small responsibility to be master of a household,—to be chief amongst a little knot of Christians, who regard your words with deference, and, in no small degree, take their tone from your character. We are indeed mysteriously linked together, whether for good or evil. There is no such thing as a private Christian. We are bound up together in numberless relations, of which those that unite a Christian household are among the closest: and if God should bless your marriage with offspring, you will find your charge and responsibility continually increasing. “ Children and the fruit of the womb are an heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord.” But they are a gift for the improvement of which parents are responsible, and which must be rendered back to him faithfully.

Amongst the characters of ancient days, there is none which appears to me more worthy of the imitation of a Christian gentleman than that of

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