The clerical family has ever been one of the chief glories of protestantism. We have no thought of opening an old discussion concerning the differing opinions of two great branches of the Christian church. It may be that the voluntary celibate may rise to a higher plane of sacrifice and devotion than the minister with a family. There have been eminent protestants who have renounced the right of marriage. Among them we find such names as Archbishop Leighton, Samuel Hopkins, William Muhlenberg, author of "I would not live alway," and the historian Neander. Suffice it to say that the reformers can not have been unmindful of the example of the patriarchs, priests and prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament. Peter was married, at least he had a mother-in-law, and Paul claimed the right to do as Peter had done. With this ancient precedent and sanction the reformers can not have been much troubled in conscience when they departed from the rule of one man, Hildebrand, and took to themselves wives. Luther must have had more serious reasons for renouncing the state of celibacy than those which he himself gives, viz., to please his father, tease the Pope and vex the devil. At all events, his home life was bright and happy, an earnest and a type of the clerical family life which he did so much to found. His letters to his children are models of what a father's letters to his children ought to be. Calvin was perhaps more discreet in his marriage than Luther. He may have been thinking of the sneer of Erasmus.
When Calvin married a demure widow of Strassburg, he could still make his boast that he had not assailed Rome as the Greeks assailed Troy, for the sake of a woman. That these early reformers succeeded in harmonizing the life of the priesthood with the life of the family has been for the glory of the church and the untold enrichment of civilization.
The minister's home is usually a home of intelligence and refinement without that ease and luxury which sap the foundations of character. His home is an answer to a wise man's prayer, "Give me neither riches nor poverty." He never gets riches, sometimes he gets poverty, but more often the lines fall unto him in the pleasant places which lie between those two extremes. However limited, the library of the minister's son will have those few books which have been the inevitable companions of genius and attainment—Plutarch's Lives, Pilgrim's Progress, Æsop's Fables, and the Bible. The son of the minister lives in an atmosphere of moral earnestness, intellectual activity and sacrifice and service for that which is highest. If any home ought to send forth a goodly line of stalwart sons it is the home of the minister.
Oliver Goldsmith, himself a minister's son, opens the "Vicar of Wakefield" with these words: