Home! That word touches every fiber of the soul, and strikes every chord of the human heart with its angelic fingers. Nothing but death can break its spell. What tender associations are linked with home! What pleasing images and deep emotions it awakens! It calls up the fondest memories of life, and opens in our nature the purest, deepest, richest gush of consecrated thought and feeling.
To the little child, home is his world—he knows no other. The father's love, the mother's smile, the sister's embrace, the brother's welcome, throw about his home a heavenly halo, and make it as attractive to him as the home of angels. Home is the spot where the child pours out all his complaint, and it is the grave of all his sorrows. Childhood has its sorrows and its grievances; but home is the place where these are soothed and banished by the sweet lullaby of a fond mother's voice.
Ask the man of mature years, whose brow is furrowed by care, whose mind is engrossed in business,—ask him what is home. He will tell you: "It is a place of rest, a haven of content, where loved ones relieve him of the burden of every-day life, too heavy to be continuously borne, from whence, refreshed and invigorated, he goes forth to do battle again."
Ask the lone wanderer as he plods his weary way, bent with the weight of years and white with the frosts of age,—ask him what is home. He will tell you: "It is a green spot in memory, an oasis in the desert, a center about which the fondest recollection of his grief-oppressed heart clings with all the tenacity of youth's first love. It was once a glorious, a happy reality; but now it rests only as an image of the mind."
Wherever the heart wanders it carries the thought of home with it. Wherever by the rivers of Babylon the heart feels its loss and loneliness, it hangs its harp upon the willows, and weeps. It prefers home to its chief joy. It will never forget it; for there swelled its first throb, there were developed its first affections. There a mother's eye looked into it, there a father's prayer blessed it, there the love of parents and brothers and sisters gave it precious entertainment. There bubbled up, from unseen fountains, life's first effervescing hopes. There life took form and consistence. From that center went out all its young ambition. Towards that focus return its concentrating memories. There it took form and fitted itself to loving natures; and it will carry that impress wherever it may go, unless it becomes polluted by sin or makes to itself another home sanctified by a new and more precious affection.
There is one vision that never fades from the soul, and that is the vision of mother and of home. No man in all his weary wanderings ever goes out beyond the overshadowing arch of home. Let him stand on the surf-beaten coast of the Atlantic, or roam over western wilds, and every dash of the wave or murmur of the breeze will whisper home, sweet home! Let him down amid the glaciers of the north, and even there thoughts of home, too warm to be chilled by the eternal frosts, will float in upon him. Let him rove through the green, waving groves and over the sunny slopes of the south, and in the smile of the soft skies, and in the kiss of the balmy breeze, home will live again. Let prosperity reward his every exertion, and wealth and affluence bring round him all the luxury of the earth, yet in his marble palace will rise unforbidden the vision of his childhood's home. Let misfortune overtake him; let poverty be his portion, and hunger press him; still in troubled dreams will his thoughts revert to his olden home.
If you wanted to gather up all tender memories, all lights and shadows of the heart, all banquetings and reunions, all filial, fraternal, paternal, conjugal affections, and had only just four letters to spell out all height and depth, and length and breadth, and magnitude and eternity of meaning, you would write it all out with the four letters that spell Home.
What beautiful and tender associations cluster thick around that word! Compared with it, wealth, mansion, palace, are cold, heartless terms. But home,—that word quickens every pulse, warms the heart, stirs the soul to its depths, makes age feel young again, rouses apathy into energy, sustains the sailor in his midnight watch, inspires the soldier with courage on the field of battle, and imparts patient endurance to the worn-out sons of toil.
The thought of it has proved a sevenfold shield to virtue; the very name of it has a spell to call back the wanderer from the path of vice; and, far away where myrtles bloom and palm-trees wave, and the ocean sleeps upon coral strands, to the exile's fond fancy it clothes the naked rock, or stormy shore, or barren moor, or wild height and mountain, with charms he weeps to think of, and longs once more to see.
Every home should be as a city set on a hill, that can not be hid. Into it should flock friends and friendship, bringing the light of the world, the stimulus and the modifying power of contact with various natures, the fresh flowers of feeling gathered from wide fields. Out of it should flow benign charities, pleasant amenities, and all those influences which are the natural offspring of a high and harmonious home-life.
The home is the fountain of civilization. Our laws are made in the home. The things said there give bias to character far more than do sermons and lectures, newspapers and books. No other audience are so susceptible and receptive as those gathered about the table and fireside; no other teachers have the acknowledged and divine right to instruct that is granted without challenge to parents. The foundation of our national life is under their hand. They can make it send forth waters bitter or sweet, for the death or the healing of the people.
The influences of home perpetuate themselves. The gentle graces of the mother live in the daughter long after her head is pillowed in the dust of death; and the fatherly kindness finds its echoes in the nobility and character of sons who come to wear his mantle and fill his place. While, on the other hand, from an unhappy, misgoverned, and ill-ordered home, go forth persons who shall make other homes miserable, and perpetuate the sorrows and sadness, the contentions and strifes, which have made their own early lives miserable. In every proper sense in which home can be considered, it is a powerful stimulant to noble actions and a high and pure morality. So valuable is this love of home that every man should cherish it as the apple of his eye. As he values his own moral worth, as he prizes his country, the peace and happiness of the world; yea, more, as he values the immortal interests of man, he should cherish and cultivate a strong and abiding love of home.
Home has voices of experience and hearts of genuine holy love, to instruct you in the way of life, and to save you from a sense of loneliness as you gradually discover the selfishness of mankind. Home has its trials, in which are imaged forth the stern struggles of your after years, that your character may gain strength and manifestation, for which purpose they are necessary; they open the portals of his heart, that the jewels otherwise concealed in its hidden depths may shine forth and shed their luster on the world. Home has its duties, to teach you how to act on your own responsibilities. Home gradually and greatly increases its burdens, so that you may acquire strength to endure without being overtasked. Home is a little world, in which the duties of the great world are daily rehearsed.
He who has no home has not the sweetest pleasures of life. He feels not the thousand endearments that cluster around that hallowed spot, to fill the void of his aching heart, and while away his leisure moments in the sweetest of life's enjoyments. Is misfortune your lot, you will find a friendly welcome from hearts beating true to your own. The chosen partner of your toil has a smile of approbation when others have deserted you, a hand of hope when all others refuse, and a heart to feel your sorrows as her own. No matter how humble that home may be, how destitute its stores, or how poorly its inmates may be clad, if true hearts dwell there, it is still a home.
Of all places on earth, home is the most delicate and sensitive. Its springs of action are subtle and secret. Its chords move with a breath. Its fires are kindled with a spark. Its flowers are bruised with the least rudeness. The influences of our homes strike so directly on our hearts that they make sharp impressions. In our intercourse with the world we are barricaded, and the arrows let fly at our hearts are warded off; but not so with us at home. Here our hearts wear no covering, no armor. Every arrow strikes them; every cold wind blows full upon them; every storm beats against them. What, in the world, we would pass by in sport, in our homes would wound us to the quick. Very little can we bear at home, for it is a sensitive place.
If we would have a true home, we must guard well our thoughts and actions. A single bitter word may disquiet the home for a whole day; but, like unexpected flowers which spring up along our path full of freshness, fragrance, and beauty, so do kind words and gentle acts and sweet disposition make glad the home where peace and blessing dwell. No matter how humble the abode, if it be thus garnished with grace and sweetened by kindness and smiles, the heart will turn lovingly towards it from all the tumults of the world, and home, "be it ever so humble," will be the dearest spot under the sun.
There is no happiness in life, there is no misery, like that growing out of the disposition which consecrates or desecrates a home. "He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace at home." Home should be made so truly home that the weary, tempted heart could turn towards it anywhere on the dusty highways of life, and receive light and strength. It should be the sacred refuge of our lives, whether rich or poor.
The affections and loves of home are graceful things, especially among the poor. The ties that bind the wealthy and proud to home may be forged on earth, but those which link the poor man to his humble hearth are of the true metal, and bear the stamp of heaven. These affections and loves constitute the poetry of human life, and so far as our present existence is concerned, with all the domestic relations, are worth more than all other social ties. They give the first throb to the heart, and unseal the deep fountains of its love. Homes are not made up of material things. It is not a fine house, rich furniture, a luxurious table, a flowery garden, and a superb carriage, that make a home. Vastly superior to this is a true home. Our ideal homes should be heart-homes, in which virtue lives and love-flowers bloom and peace-offerings are daily brought to its altars. It is made radiant within with every social virtue, and beautiful without by those simple adornments with which nature is every-where so prolific. The children born in such homes will leave them with regret, and come back to them in after life as pilgrims to a holy shrine. The towns on whose hills and in whose vales such homes are found will live forever in the hearts of its grateful children.
How easy it is to invest homes with true elegance, which resides not with the upholsterer or draper! It exists in the spirit presiding over the apartments of the dwelling. Contentment must be always most graceful; it sheds serenity over the scenes of its abode; it transforms a waste into a garden. The house lighted by those imitations of a nobler and brighter life may be wanting much which the discontented may desire, but to its inhabitants it will be a palace far outvying the Oriental in beauty.
There is music in the word Home. To the old it brings a bewitching strain from the harp of memory, to the middle-aged it brings up happy thoughts, while to the young it is a reminder of all that is near and dear to them. Our hearts turn with unchangeable love and longing to the dear old home which sheltered us in childhood. Kind friends may beckon us to newer scenes, and loving hearts may bind us fast to other pleasant homes; but we love to return to the home of our childhood. It may be old and rickety to the eyes of strangers; the windows may have been broken and patched long ago, and the floor worn through; but it is still the old home from out of which we looked at life with hearts full of hope, building castles which faded long ago. Here we watched life come and go; here we folded still, cold hands over hearts as still, that once beat full of love for us.
Even as the sunbeam is composed of millions of minute rays, the home-life must be constituted of little tendernesses, kind looks, sweet laughter, gentle words, loving counsels. It must not be like the torch blaze of natural excitement, which is easily quenched, but like the serene, chastened light, which burns as safely in the dry east wind as in the stillest atmosphere. Let each bear the other's burden the while; let each cultivate the mutual confidence which is a gift capable of increase and improvement, and soon it will be found that kindness will spring up on every side, displacing unsuitability, want of mutual knowledge, even as we have seen sweet violets and primroses dispelling the gloom of the gray sea-rocks.
The sweetest type of heaven is home. Nay, heaven itself is the home for whose acquisition we are to strive most strongly. Home in one form or another is the great object of life. It stands at the end of every day's labor, and beckons us to its bosom; and life would be cheerless and meaningless did we not discern across the river that divides it from the life beyond glimpses of the pleasant mansions prepared for us. Yes, heaven is the home towards which those who have lived aright direct their steps when wearied by the toils of life. There the members of the homes on earth, separated here, will meet again, to part no more.
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