THE CHRISTIAN HOME
AS IT IS IN THE
Sphere of Nature and the Church.
The Mission, Duties, Influences, Habits, and Responsibilities of Home its Education, Government, and Discipline; with Hints on "Match Making," and the Relation of Parents to the Marriage Choice of their Children; together with a consideration of the Tests in the Selection of a Companion, Etc.
REV. S. PHILIPS, A.M.
Published By Gurdon Bill, Springfield, Mass. H. C. Johnson, Detroit, Mich.
"Sweet is the smile of Home! the mutual look, When hearts are of each other sure; Sweet all the joys that crowd the household nook, The haunt of all affections pure."
It is a fact conceded by all, that the constitution of the Christian family, and its social and spiritual relations, are not as fully developed as they should be. In this age of extreme individualism, we have almost left out of view the mission of home as the first form of society, and the important bearing it has upon the formation of character. Its interests are not appreciated; its duties and privileges are neglected; husbands and wives do not fully realize their moral relation to each other; parents are inclined to renounce their authority; and children, brought up in a state of domestic libertinism, neither respect nor obey their parents as they should. The idea of human character as a development from the nursery to the grave, is not realized. Home as a preparation for both the state and the church, and its bearing, as such, upon the prosperity of both, are renounced as traditionary, and too old and stale to suit this age of mechanical progression and "young Americanism."
As a consequence, the influence of home is lost; the lambs of the flock are neglected, grow up in spiritual ignorance, and become a curse both to themselves and to their parents. The vice and infidelity which prevail to such an alarming extent in the present day, may be ascribed to parental neglect of the young. The desolating curse of heaven invariably accompanies neglect of domestic obligations and duties; it was this that constituted that dreadful degeneracy which preceded the coming of the Messiah. The parents were alienated from the children, and the children from their parents. And the only way in which the Jews could avert deserved and impending ruin, was by "turning the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers."
We must adopt the same method. We need in the present day a deeper and more scriptural sense, both in the state and church, of the importance of the family, and of its position in the sphere of natural and religious life. The attention of the people should be directed to the nature, the influences, the responsibilities, the prerogatives, duties and blessings of the Christian home.
Any work which contributes to this end is worthy of our high regard and subserves a noble purpose; for it is only when the details of home-life are given to the public, that proper interest in them will be developed, and we can hope for a better state of things in this first form of associated life.
The following work is an humble contribution to this important cause. It is intended to excite interest in the religious elements of family life, and to show that the development of individual character and happiness in the church and state, in time and in eternity, starts with, and depends upon, home-training and nurture. The author, in presenting it to the public, is fully conscious of its many palpable imperfections; yet, as it is his first effort, and as it was prepared amid the multiplied perplexities and interruptions of his professional life, he confidently expects that it will be received with charitable consideration. It is now published as an introduction to a work on the historical development of home, to which his attention has for years been directed. If this unassuming volume should be instrumental in the saving of one family from ruin, we shall feel ourself fully compensated.
CHAMBERSBURG, PA., 1859.
WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN HOME.—Section I.: Home in the Sphere of Nature.—The Power of Home-Association. Inadequate Ideas of Home. Home is a Divine Institute. Its Highest Conception. Definition of Home. Its Two-fold Aspect. As simply Physical. As purely Moral. Home in the Sphere of Natural Affection. Home-Love. Home-Ties. The Angel-Spirit of Home. Our Nature Demands Home. Home-Sickness. Conclusion.
Section II.: Some in the Sphere of the Church.—The Heathen Home. Constituent Elements of the Christian Home. Marriage. Husband and Wife. Parents and Children. Union of the Members of a Family. The Christian Home must be Churchly. How we Abuse it. Examples of True Homes. Parental Neglect. Address to Parents and Children. Home-Meetings and Greetings.
THE MISSION OF THE CHRISTIAN HOME.—The Nature of this Mission. David. Joshua. It is Two-fold. The Temporal Well-Being of the Members. How Parents Abuse this part of the Home-Mission. The Eternal Well-Being of the Members. Extent of the Home-Mission. Its Importance and Responsibility. Seen in the Vicarious Character of Home. The Principle of Moral Reproduction. The Visitation of Parental Iniquity upon the Children. The Guilt of Unfaithfulness to this Mission. Qualifications for it. The Law of Equality in Marriage. How Parents may Disqualify themselves for it. Incentives to Faithfulness. Address to Parents.
FAMILY RELIGION.—The Christian Home Demands Family Religion. What is it? Different from Personal Religion. Co-existent with. Home. Essential to its Constitution. Its Historical Development from Eden to the Present Age. Its Present Neglect. What it Includes. The Example of our Primitive Fathers. The Forms in which it is Developed. The Home-Mission Demands it. Its Necessity seen in the Value of the Soul. Home without it. Home with it. Relations of Home Demand it. Reply to Excuses from it. Defect of it now. Reasons for this. It is Implied in the Marriage Relation and Obligation. Motives to Establish it.
THE RELATION OF HOME TO THE CHURCH.—It must be Churchly. This Relation is Vital and Necessary, involving Mutual Dependence. Relation of Preparation. Home Completes Itself in the Church. It has Power only in the Sphere of the Church. This Relation involves Duties and Responsibilities.
HOME-INFLUENCE.—Home has Power. This is either a Curse or a Blessing. What is Home-Influence? Its Character. Its Degree Estimated from the Force of First Impressions. Scripture Testimony to it. Its Legitimate Objects. How it Acts in the Formation of Character. Augustine. Washington. John Q. Adams. Bishop Hall. Dr. Doddridge. Dr. Cumming. A Mother Won to Christ by a Daughter. Its Influence upon the State. Napoleon. Homes of the Revolution. The Spartan Mother and Home. Its Influence upon the Church. Its Responsibility Inferred.
HOME AS A STEWARDSHIP.—What is a Steward? Home is a Stewardship. Parents. Home-Interests. Identity of Interest between the Master and Steward. Mother of Moses. Character and Responsibilities of this Stewardship. The Social Prostitution of Home. The Principle of Accountability this Stewardship Involves. The Final Settlement.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CHRISTIAN HOME.—These Inferred from Home-Influence and Stewardship. Their Measure. By the Magnitude of Home-Interest. By the Kind of Influence upon the Members. By the Guilt and Punishment of Parental Unfaithfulness. They are Incentives to Parental Integrity. A Family Drama in Two Acts. Filial Responsibility. Address to Parents and Children.
THE FAMILY BIBLE.—The Memories which cluster around it. The Household Interests it Contains. The Bible as a Family Record. As a Home-Inheritance. As the Gift of a Mother's Love. An Indispensable Appendage to Home. Its Adaptation to Home. It should be Used as the Text-Book of Home-Education. Its Abuse and Neglect.
INFANCY.—New Eras in Family History. The First-Born. Charm and Interest of Infancy. The Infant as a Member of Home. Its Emblematic Character. Its Helplessness. Its Prophetical Character. The Trust and Responsibility Involved. The Mother's Relation to Infancy. Address to Parents.
HOME-DEDICATION.—The Hebrew Mother and her Child. Reasons for Dedication. Dedication of Children. Abraham. Offering of Isaac. Little Samuel. David. Typical Character of Old Testament Family Offerings. Benefits of Home-Dedication. Duty of Parents to Devote their Sons to the Ministry. The Unfaithfulness of Parents to this duty.
CHRISTIAN BAPTISM.—The Baptismal Altar. It is the Sacrament of Home-Dedication. Infants are its True Subjects. Home Demands it. Infant Baptism Proven, by the Child's Need of Salvation, by the Idea and Mission of Christ, by the Idea of the Church, by the Hereditary Character of Sin, by the Relation of Christian Parents to their Children, by the Constitution of Family Life. Enemies of Infant Baptism. Why Opposed to it. Their Sophistry. Dr. A. Carson. Appeal to Parents. Duty and Privilege of Parents to have their Children Baptized. Its Neglect and Abuse. How Abused. The Old Landmarks. Striking Statistics. Abuse by Parents and Children.
CHRISTIAN NAMES.—Proper Kind of Names. Law of Correspondence and Association. Christian Names. Much in a Name. Naming a Child should not be Arbitrary. Nebuchadnezzar. Adam. The Hebrews. Woman. Eve. Cain. Seth. Samuel. Dr. Krummacher. Names now Given. The Folly and Evil of it. Why we should give Suitable Names. Why Scriptural Names. Mary. Instances of Proper Christian Names.
HOME AS A NURSERY.—Idea of Nursing. What a Nursery Is. The sense in which Home is a Nursery. Character of the Home-Nursery. The Mother's Special Sphere. Relation of the Nursery to the Formation of Character. The Nursery is Physical. Sickly and Immoral Nurses. Consequences. It is Intellectual. Its Abuse. It is Moral and Spiritual. The Ways in which the Nursery is Abused. Boarding Schools.
HOME-SYMPATHY.—An Argument against the Neglect and Abuse of the Nursery. Its Natural Elements. Its Definition and Nature. The Ancients. Baptista Porta. Plato. Middle Ages. It is Passive and Active. Its Disease. Good Samaritan. Rousseau. Robespierre. Its Relation to Natural Affection. Its Relation to Woman. Its Religious Elements. Christ. Ruth. Joseph. Mother of Samuel. Peter. Esther. Paul. Family of Lazarus. Its True Pattern. Its Attractive Power. Unfaithfulness to its Law. Its Highest Element.
FAMILY PRAYER.—Its Relation to Home-Sympathy. Its Necessity. Its Idea. Dr. Dwight's View. The Duty to establish it Proven. Its Neglect. Excuses from Family Prayer. Address to Parents.
HOME-EDUCATION.—Section I.: The Character of Home-Education. What is Home-Education. Different Kinds. It must be Physical. Intellectual. Moral. The Means. Circumstances. Temptation. Example. Training. Habit. The Feelings. Conscience. Motives. Cardinal Virtues. When it should Begin. It must be Religious. Necessity of this. St. Pierre. The Mother as Teacher. Objections Considered. Encouragement to Home-Training. Dr. Doddridge. A Pious Minister. Dr. Dwight. Young Edwards. Polycarp. Timothy. John Randolph. J.Q. Adams. Daniel. The Power of Home-Training in Religion.
Section II.: The Neglect and Abuse of Home-Education.—Popular Prejudices Exposed. Dr. Johnson. Edmund Burke. Miss Sedgwick. Everett. Robert Hall. Fruits of a Neglected Education. Law of the Icelanders. Parents are Responsible. Crates. Pleasure of Teaching the Young. Thompson. Abuse of it. Fashionable Boarding-Schools. A Hopeful Young Lady. How to Ruin a Son. Duty of Parents inferred. Books. Bartholin. Home-Training not isolated from Church-Training. Must be Churchly.
FAMILY HABITS.—Their Importance. Their Idea. Different Kinds. Their Formation. Tobacco and Liquor. Evil and Good Habits. Family Prayer. Omission of Duty. Their Influence. Rev. C.C. Colton. A Criminal in India. Habit as the Interpreter of Character. Its Reproductive Power. We are Responsible for our Habits. Christian Habits. Habit of Industry. Rutherford. Habits of Perseverance and Contentment.
HOME-GOVERNMENT.—Home is a Little Commonwealth. Includes the Legal Principle. Relation of Parents to Children. Principle of Home-Government. Parental Authority Threefold. Schlegel. Old Roman Law. A Divine, Inalienable Right. Extent of Parental Authority. False View of it. Correlative Relation between Filial Obedience and Parental Authority. Character and Extent of Filial Obedience. Neglect and Abuse of Home-Government. Parental Indulgence and Despotism. The True Medium. Address to Parents.
HOME-DISCIPLINE.—Its Idea. Its Necessity. False Systems. Discipline from the standpoint of Law without Love. Its Fruits. A Quaint Anecdote. The Europeans. The Arabs. Discipline from the standpoint of Love without Law. Examples. Eli. David. Its Fruits. True Christian Discipline. Chastisement. A Model System. Abraham. His Children. When Discipline should be Introduced. When it should be Administered. Importance of Parental Co-operation. Favoritism. Relation of Command to Chastisement. The Kind of Rein and Whip. When Corporeal Punishment should be Used. Dr. South. Dr. Bell. Its Adaptation to the Real Wants of the Child. Fidelity to Threats and Promises. Examination of Offenses. Never Chastise in Anger. Let your Child know the Object of Discipline.
HOME-EXAMPLE.—Its Idea and Influence. The Child is the Moral Reproduction of the Parent. Solomon. Paul. Shakspeare. Dr. Young. Its Necessity proven from its Relation to Precept—William Jay; from its Adaptation to the Capacity and Imitative Disposition of the Child. Duty of Parents to show a Model Example to the Child. Archbishop Tillotson. Motives to this Duty. Obstacles to the Efficacy of good Home-Example. Unequal Marriages. Jacob's Marriage. Zacharias and Elizabeth.
THE CHOICE OF PURSUITS.—Duty of Preparation for some Useful Occupation. This should be made in Childhood. The part Parents should take in this. Duty of all Persons to engage in some Useful Pursuit shown from the Relation of the Individual to the State, from the Possibility of Future Misfortune, from the Excessive Prodigality of those who have been brought up in Idleness. Law of the Athenians. What Parents should consider in their selection of an Occupation for their Children. Injudicious Course of some Parents. Fruits of Disobedience to the Law of Adaptation. Social Position. Exigencies. But one Pursuit. Jack of All Trades. Loaferism. Fruits of Indolence.
THE HOME-PARLOR.—Its Idea and Relations to Society. Why we should hold it Sacred. The most Dangerous Departments of Home. Duty of Parents to instruct their Children in reference to it. How far the Christian Parlor may Conform to the Laws and Customs of Fashion. Adulteration of the Christian Home through Indiscriminate Association. The Sad and Demoralizing Effects. Address to Parents.
MATCH-MAKING.—Section I.: The Relation of Parents to the Marriage Choice of their Children.—The Bridal Hour. A Home-Crisis. The Bride's Farewell. Have Parents a right to take any part in the Marriage Choice of their Children? This Right Proven from their Relation to their Children, from the Inexperience of Children, from Sacred History. The Patriarchal Age. Judaism. The Christian Church. The Extent of this Right. The Duties it Involves. Moral Control. Coercive Measures. Improper Parental Interposition. Its Sad Effects. Persuasive Measures. Should Parents Banish and Disinherit Children for their Marrying against their will? Paley.
Section II.: False Tests in the Selection of a Companion.—The Mere Outward. How we determine Unhappy Matches. The Manner of Paying Addresses. The Habit of Match-Making. Tricks of Match-Makers. The Sad Fruits. Book Match-Makers. Their Auxiliaries. The Evil. How Parents may Preserve their Children. False Influences. Smitten. Outward Beauty. Impulsive Passion. Falling in Love at First Sight. Wealth. Rank. English Aristocracy. Nepotism. Snobbishness.
Section III.: True Tests in the Selection of a Companion.—Judicious Views of the Nature and Responsibilities of the Marriage Institution. Our Forefathers. Reciprocal Affection. Paley. True Love. Adaptation of Character and Position. Fitness of Circumstances, Means, and Age. Religious Equality and Adaptation. Only in the Lord. The Sad Effect of Inequality. Should Persons Marry Outside of their Own Branch of the Church? Sin and Curse of Disobedience to the Law of Religious Equality. Duty of Parents in reference to Religious Equality. All Matches not made in Heaven. Law of Moses. Abraham. Historical Instances of the Fruits of Disobeying this Law. Reasonableness of the Law. The Primitive Christians. Sense of the Christian Church. Address to Christians.
THE CHILDREN'S PATRIMONY.—The Question this Involves. Not Confined to Wealth. A Good Character and Occupation. True Religion. How Parents should proceed in the Distribution of their Property. Why they should give only a Competency. The Rules to Determine a Competence. Paley. What the Law of Competence Forbids. Penalties of its Violation. History. Impartiality. Paley. The Infatuation of many Parents.
THE PROMISES OF THE CHRISTIAN HOME.—Two Kinds. Divine Promises to Parents and Children. Those of Punishment. Law of Reproduction. Iniquity of the Parents upon the Children. Promises of Reward. In this Life. John Q. Adams. In the Life to Come. God's Fidelity to His Promises. They are Conditional. When they become Absolute. Popular Objections. Compatibility between Promises and Agencies. Paul. Moses. Promises made by Parents.
THE BEREAVEMENTS OF HOME.—Separation. Bereavements Diversified. Reverses of Fortune. Death. First Death. Of Husband and Father. Of a Wife and Mother. Of Children. Of the Infant. Of the First-Born. Wisdom and Goodness of God in Bereavements. Discipline. Moral Instruction. The Dead and Living still Together. Benefit. Death of Little Children is a Kindness to them. Why. Why Christ became a Little Child. We should not wish them Back. Their Death is a Benefit to the Living. Communion of Saints. Ministering Spirits. The Spirit-World. A Ministering Child. A Ministering Mother. Infant Salvation. Zuinlius. Calvin. Dr. Junkin. Newton. The Hope of Re-union in Heaven. We should not murmur against God. This does not forbid Godly Sorrow and Tears. Meekly Submit.
THE MEMORIES OF HOME.—Chief Justice Gibson. Relation of Memory to Bereavement. Memories are Pleasing and Painful. Pleasing and Pious Memories. A Mother's Recollection. The Pleasures of Remembering the Pious Dead. Irving. The Saving Influence of Memory. Painful Memories. Critical Power of Memory. Mementoes of Home. Pictures. Memorials. Letters from Home. Seek Pleasing Memories.
THE ANTITYPE OF THE CHRISTIAN HOME.—Typical Relation between Home and Heaven. The Christian's Tent-Home in its Relation to Heaven. The Antitypical Character of Heaven. A Comparative View of our Earthly and our Heavenly Home. Christ the Center of Heaven's Joy and Attraction. Union between Home and Heaven. A Conscious Union of the Members in Heaven. Family Recognition and Love in Heaven. Family Greeting and Joy in Heaven. Longings after Heaven. Conclusion.
WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN HOME?
HOME IN THE SPHERE OF NATURE.
"My home! the spirit of its love is breathing In every wind that plays across my track, From its white walls the very tendrils wreathing Seem with soft links to draw the wanderer back. There am I loved—there prayed for!—there my mother Sits by the hearth with meekly thoughtful eye, There my young sisters watch to greet their brother; Soon their glad footsteps down the path will fly! And what is home? and where, but with the loving?"
Home! That name touches every fibre of the soul, and strikes every chord of the human heart as with 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.
"Home! 'tis a blessed name! And they who rove, Careless or scornful of its pleasant bonds, Nor gather round them those linked soul to soul By nature's fondest ties,... But dream they're happy!"
But what is home,—home in the sphere of nature? It is not simply an ideal which feeds the fancy, nor the flimsy emotion of a sentimental heart. We should seek for its meaning, not in the flowery vales of imagination, but amid the sober realities of thought and of faith.
Home is not the mere dwelling place of our parents, and the theater upon which we played the part of merry childhood. It is not simply a habitation. This would identify it with the lion's lair and the eagle's nest. It is not the mere mechanical juxtaposition of so many human beings, herding together like animals in the den or stall. It is not mere conventionalism,—a human association made up of the nursery, the parlor, the outward of domestic life, resting upon some evanescent passion, some sensual impression and policy. These do not make up the idea of home.
Home is a divine institution, coeval and congenital with man. The first home was in Eden; the last home will be in Heaven. It is the first form of society, a little commonwealth in which we first lose our individualism and come to the consciousness of our relation to others. Thus it is the foundation of all our relationships in life,—the preparation-state for our position in the State and in the Church. It is the first form and development of the associating principle, the normal relation in which human character first unfolds itself. It is the first partnership of nature and of life; and when it involves "the communion of saints," it reaches its highest form of development. It is an organic unity of nature and of interest,—the moral center of all those educational influences which are exerted upon our inward being. The idea of the home-institution rests upon the true love of our moral nature, involving the marriage union of congenial souls, binding up into itself the whole of life, forming and moulding all its relations, and causing body, mind and spirit to partake of a common evolution. The loving soul is the central fact of home. In it the inner life of the members find their true complement, and enjoy a kind of community of consciousness.
"Home's not merely four square walls, Though with pictures hung and gilded; Home is where affection calls— Filled with shrines the heart hath builded."
Home may be viewed in a two-fold aspect, as simply physical, and as purely moral. The former comes finally to its full meaning and force only in the latter. They are interwoven; we cannot understand the one without the other; they are complements; and the complete idea of home as we find it in the sphere of nature, lies in the living union of both.
By the physical idea of home, we mean, not only its outward, mechanical structure, made up of different parts and members, but that living whole or oneness into which these parts are bound up. Hence it is not merely adventitious,—a corporation of individual interests, but that organic unity of natural life and interest in which the members are bound up. By the moral idea of home, we mean the union of the moral life and interests of its members. This explodes the infidel systems of Fourierism, Socialism, Mormonism, and "Woman's Rights." These forms of Agrarianism destroy the ethical idea and mission of home; for they are not only opposed to revelation and history, but violate the plainest maxims of natural affection.
Love is an essential element of home. Without this we may have the form of a home, but not its spirit, its beating heart, its true motive power, and its sunshine. The inward stream would he gone, and home would not be the oneness of kindred souls. Home-love is instinctive, and begets all those silken chords, those sweet harmonies, those tender sympathies and endearments which give to the family its magic power. This home-love is the mother of all home delights, yea, of all the love of life. We first draw love from our mother's breast, and it is love which ministers to our first wants. It flashes from parent to parent, and from parent to child, making-up the sunshine and the loveliness of domestic life. Without it home would have no meaning. It engenders the "home-feeling" and the "home-sickness," and is the moral net-work of the home-existence and economy. It is stronger than death; it rises superior to adversity, and towers in sublime beauty above the niggardly selfishness of the world. Misfortune cannot suppress it; enmity cannot alienate it; temptation cannot enslave it. It is the guardian angel of the nursery and the sick-bed; it gives an affectionate concord to the partnership of home-life and interest. Circumstances cannot modify it; it ever remains the same, to sweeten existence, to purify the cup of life, to smooth our rugged pathway to the grave, and to melt into moral pliability the brittle nature of man. It is the ministering spirit of home, hovering in soothing caresses over the cradle and the death-beds of the household, and filling up the urn of all its sacred memories.
But home demands not only such love, but ties, tender, strong, and sacred. These bind up the many in the one. They are the fibres of the home-life, and cannot be wrenched without causing the heart to bleed at every pore. Death may dissect them and tear away the objects around which they entwine; and they will still live in the imperishable love which survives. From them proceed mutual devotions and confiding faith. They bind together in one all-expanding unity, the perogatives of the husband, and the subordination of the wife, the authority of the parent and the obedience of the child.
"O, not the smile of other lands, Though far and wide our feet may roam, Can e'er untie the genial bands That knit our hearts to home!"
The mother is the angel-spirit of home. Her tender yearnings over the cradle of her infant babe, her guardian care of the child and youth, and her bosom companionship with the man of her love and choice, make her the personal center of the interests, the hopes and the happiness of the family. Her love glows in her sympathies and reigns in all her thoughts and deeds. It never cools, never tires, never dreads, never sleeps, but ever glows and burns with increasing ardor, and with sweet and holy incense upon the altar of home-devotion. And even when she is gone to her last rest, the sainted mother in heaven sways a mightier influence over her wayward husband or child, than when she was present. Her departed spirit still hovers over his affections, overshadows his path, and draws him by unseen cords to herself in heaven.
Our nature demands home. It is the first essential element of our social being. The whole social system rests upon it: body, mind and spirit are concerned in it. These cannot be complete out of the home-relations; there would be no proper equilibrium of life and character without the home feeling and influence. The heart, when bereaved and disappointed, naturally turns for refuge to home-life and sympathy. No spot is so attractive to the weary one; it is the heart's moral oasis; there is a mother's watchful love, and a father's sustaining influence; there is a husband's protection, and a wife's tender sympathy; there is the circle of loving brothers and sisters,—happy in each other's love. Oh, what is life without these? A desolation!—a painful, glooming pilgrimage through "desert heaths and barren sands." But home gives to life its fertilizing dews, its budding hopes, and its blossoming joys. When far away in distant lands or upon the ocean's heaving breast, we pine away and become "home-sick;" no voice there like a mother's; no sympathy there like a wife's; no loved one there like a child; no resting place there like home; and we cry out, "Home! sweet, sweet home!"
Thus our nature instinctively longs for the deep love and the true hearts of home. It has for our life more satisfaction than all the honors, and the riches and the luxuries of the world. We soon grow sick of these, and become sick for home, however humble it may be. Its endearments are ever fresh, as if in the bursting joys of their first experience. They remain unforgotten in our memories and imperishable in our hearts. When friends become cold, society heartless, and adversity frowns darkly and heavily upon us, oh, it is then that we turn with fond assurance to home, where loved ones will weep as well as rejoice with us.
"Oh, the blessing of a home, where old and young mix kindly, The young unawed, the old unchilled, in unreserved communion! Oh that refuge from the world, when a stricken son or daughter May seek with confidence of love, a father's hearth and heart; Come unto me, my son, if men rebuke and mock thee, There always shall be one to bless,—for I am on thy side!"
HOME IN THE SPHERE OF THE CHURCH.
"A holy home, Where those who sought the footprints of the Lord, Along the paths of pain, and care, and gloom, Shall find the rest of heaven a rich reward."
What is the Christian home? Only in the sphere of christianity does the true idea of home become fully developed. Home with the savage is but a herding, a servitude. Even among many of the Jews it was little better than a Mahommedan seraglio. The most eminent of the heathen world degrade the family by making it the scene of lust, and introducing concubinage and polygamy. Plato, one of the most enlightened of the heathen, had base conceptions of home, and abused its highest and holiest prerogatives by his ideas of polygamy. We find too that in the ethics of Aristotle, the most lovely and sacred attributes of the family are totally discarded. The home which he holds up to view is unadorned with chastity and virtue. And Sophocles follows in the same path, stripping home of all that is sacred and essential to its true constitution. And when we come down to the present age, and view this divine institute in the light of Mormonism and Socialism, who will say that here we have unfolded its true idea and sacred character?
How different is the true Christian home! Here the marriage union is preserved "honorable," held sacred, and woman is raised to her true position. In the sphere of the Christian church, home is brought fairly and completely into view. Here it rises above the measure of natural affection, and temporal interest. It enters the sphere of supernatural faith, and becomes the adumbration of our home in heaven.
The Christian home is a true type of the church. "The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is of the church." The love of the family is self-denying and holy, like that between Christ and His church. The children are "the heritage of the Lord;" the parents are His stewards. Like the church, the Christian home has its ministry. Yea, the church is in the home, as the mother is in her child. We cannot separate them; they are correlatives. The one demands the other. The Christian home can have existence only in the sphere of the church. It is the vestibule of the church, bound to her by the bonds of Christian marriage, of holy baptism, and of the communion of saints, leading to her in the course of moral development, and completing her life only in the church-consciousness.
Home is, therefore, a partnership of spiritual as well as of natural life. The members thereof dwell "as being heirs together of the grace of life." "Heavenly mindedness," "the hidden man of the heart," and a "hope full of immortality," are the ornaments of the Christian home. Hers is "the incorruptibility of a meek and quiet spirit;" her members are "joint heirs of salvation;" they are "one," not only in nature, but "in Christ." They enjoy a "communion in spirit," that their "joy might be full." "What God, therefore, hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Such a home, being "right with God," must be "full of good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." Here the Christian shows his real character. In the sphere of the church, the family reaches its highest excellence and its purest enjoyment. Says the learned D'Aubigne, "Without the knowledge and the love of God, a family is but a collection of individuals who may have more or less of natural affection for one another; but the real bond,—the love of God our Father, in Jesus Christ, our Lord,—is wanting."
We, therefore, abuse the idea of home when we divest it of the religious element. As the family is a divine institute and a type of the church and of heaven, it cannot be understood in its isolation from christianity; it must involve Christian principles, duties, and interests; and embrace in its educational functions, a preparation, not only for the State, but also for the church. The church gives to home a sacred religious ministry, a spiritual calling, a divine mission; investing it with prophetic, priestly and kingly prerogatives, and laying it under religious responsibilities.
This gives to the Christian home its true meaning, and secures for its members—
"A sacred and home-felt delight, A sober certainty of waking bliss."
Such was the home of Abraham, who "commanded his children and his household to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment,"—of Joshua, who with "his house served the Lord,"—of David, who "returned to bless his household,"—of Job, who "offered burnt-offering according to the number of his sons,"—of Cornelius, who "feared God with all his house,"—of Lydia, and Crispus, and the jailor of Philippi, who "believed in the Lord with all their house."
How many Christian parents practically discard this attribute of home! While all their temporal interests cluster around their home, and their hearts are fondly wedded to it as their retreat from a cold and repulsive world, they never think perhaps that God is in their family, that He has instituted it, and given those cherished ones who "set like olive plants around their table." They are faithful to all natural duties, and make ample provision for the temporal wants of their offspring; the mother bends with untiring assiduity over the cradle of her babe, and ministers to all its wants, watching with delight every opening beauty of that bud of promise, and willingly sacrificing all for its good. With what rapture she catches its first lispings of mother! The father toils from year to year to secure it a fair patrimony, a finished education, and an honorable position in life. How unremittingly these parents watch over the sick-bed of their children and of each other; and oh, what burning tears gush forth as the utterance of their agonizing hearts, when death threatens to blight a single bud, or lay his cold hand upon a single member!
This is all right, noble, and faithful to the natural elements of home. Natural affection prompts it, and it is well. But if this is all; if Christian parents and their children are governed only by the promptings of nature; if they are bound together by no spiritual ties and interests and hopes; if they are not prompted by faith to make provision for the soul, and for eternity; then we think they have not as yet realized the deepest and holiest significance of their home.
The Christian home demands the Christian consciousness,—the sense of a spirit-world with all its obligations and interests and responsibilities. Oh, is it not too often the case that even the Christian mother, while she teaches her babe the accents of her own name, never thinks of teaching it to lisp the name of Jesus,—never seeks to unfold its infant spirit,—never supplies it with spiritual food, nor directs its soul to the eternal world! In the same way the pious wife neglects her impenitent husband; and the pious husband, his reckless wife. There is too much such dereliction of duty in the homes of church members.
Our homes give us an interest in, and bind us by peculiar bonds to, the eternal world; those loved ones who have gone before us, look down from heaven upon those they have left behind; though absent from us in body, their spirits are still with us; and they come thronging upon glowing pinions, as ministering spirits, to our hearts. Mother! that little babe that perished in your arms, hovers over thee now, and is the guardian angel of your heart and home. It meets thee still! And oh, how joyful will your home-meeting be in heaven! Children! the spirit of your sainted mother lingers around your home to minister in holy things to thee. She has left you in body; she lies mouldering now in the humid earth; but she is with thee in spirit. Your home, dwelling in the sphere of the church on earth, has a spiritual communion with the sainted ones of the church in heaven. Thus, as the home-feeling can never he eradicated, so the home-meetings can never be broken up. Even the dead are with us there; their seats may be empty, and their forms may no longer move before us; but their spirits meet with us, and imprint their ministrations upon our hearts. The dead and the living meet in home!
"We are all here! Father, mother, Sister, brother, All who hold each other dear, Each chair is filled, we're all at home! Let gentle peace assert her power, And kind affection rule the hour— We're all—all here! Even they—the dead—though dead so dear, Fond memory to her duty true, Brings back their faded forms to view. How life-like through the mist of years, Each well-remembered face appears; We hear their words, their smiles behold, They're round us as they were of old— We are all here!"
THE MISSION OF THE CHRISTIAN HOME.
"If in the family thou art the best, Pray oft, and be mouth unto the rest; Whom God hath made the heads of families, He hath made priests to offer sacrifice."
The home is a divine institution, and includes the religious element, moving in the sphere of nature and of the church, then its calling must be of God; its mission is divine; it is designed to subserve a spiritual purpose; it has a soul-mission. This was the view of David when he "returned to bless his household." To him his family was a church in miniature, and he its priest. Thus too Joshua felt that his service of God must include family worship.
What then is the mission, of the Christian home? It is two-fold,—the temporal and eternal well-being of its members. It is the mission of home to provide for the temporal well-being of its members. They are parts of one great whole. Each must seek the welfare of all the rest. This involves obedience to the law of co-operation; and has special reference to that provision which the heads of families should make for the wants of those who are placed under their protection. As the parent sustains a physical, intellectual and moral relation to the child, it is his mission to provide for its physical, mental and moral wants. "He that provideth not for his own house hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." Natural affection will prompt to this. Children are in a state of utter helplessness. The infant is at the mercy of the parent. Instinct impels the parent to provide for its wants. Even the brute does this.
That it is a part, therefore, of the home mission to provide for the physical wants of the dependents there, is very evident. To refuse to fulfill it is a crime against nature. This part of the home-mission includes the education of the body, by properly unfolding and directing its powers, and providing it with appropriate nutriment, raiment and shelter. In a word, we should make proper provision for the development and maturity of the physical life of our children. This is the mission of the parent until the child is able to provide for itself. This, says Blackstone, "is a principle of natural law;" and, in the language of Puffendorf, is "an obligation laid on parents, not only by nature herself, but by their own proper act in bringing them into the world." The laws of the land also command it. The child has a legal claim upon the parent for physical sustenance and education.
It is another part of the home-mission to provide for the intellectual wants and welfare of the child. Children have mind as well as body. The former needs nourishment and training as well as the latter. Hence it is as much the mission of the family to minister to the well-being of the mind of the child, as to that of its body. Civil law enforces this. Children have a legal as well as a natural claim to mental culture. In a word, it is the home-mission to provide for the child all things necessary to prepare it for a citizenship in the state.
Parents abuse this mission in two ways, either when they by their own indolence and dissipation compel their children to support them; or, on the other hand, when they become the willing slaves of their children, labor to amass a fortune for them, and, in the anticipation of that, permit them to grow up in ignorance, idleness, and prodigality, fit only to abuse and spend the fruit of parental servitude. In this way the misapplied provision made by parents often becomes a curse, not only to the members of the family, but to the state and church.
Another part of the home-mission is, the spiritual and eternal well-being of its members. This is seen in the typical character of the Christian family. It is an emblem of the church and of heaven. According to this, parents are called to administer the means of grace to their household, to provide for soul as well as for body, to prepare the child for a true membership in the church, as well as for a citizenship in the state, to train for heaven as well as for earth.
Parents are "priests unto their families," and have the commission to act for them as faithful stewards of God in all things pertaining to their everlasting welfare. Their souls, as well as their bodies, are committed to their trust, and God says to them,—
"Go nurse them for the King of Heaven, And He will pay thee hire."
This is their great mission, and corresponds with the conception of the Christian home as a spiritual nursery. The family is "God's husbandry;" and this implies a spiritual culture. As its members dwell as "being heirs together of the grace of life," it is the function of each to labor to make all the rest "fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." Parents should provide for the religious wants of their children. Mere physical maintenance and mental culture cannot supersede the necessity of spiritual training. Children have a right to such training.
This religious provision is twofold; their moral and spiritual faculties should be developed; and their moral nature supplied with appropriate nutriment. All the wants of their moral nature are to be faithfully provided for. The home-mission involves the business of education of body, of mind, and of spirit;—of preparation for the state, for the church, for eternity. It is this which makes it so sacred and responsible. Strip the Christian family of its mission as a nursery for the soul; wrest from the parents their high prerogative as stewards of God; and you heathenize home, yea, you brutalize it! Tell me, what Christian home can accomplish its holy mission, when the soul is neglected, when religion is left out of view, when training up for God is abandoned, when the church is repudiated, and eternity cast off? You may provide for the body and mind of your children; you may amass for them a fortune; you may give them an accomplished education; you may introduce them into the best society; you may establish them in the best business; you may fit them for an honorable and responsible position in life; you may be careful of their health and reputation; and you may caress them with all the tender ardor of the parental heart and hand; yet if you provide not for their souls; if you seek not their salvation; if you minister only to their temporal, and not to their eternal welfare, all will be vain, yea, a curse both to you and to them. Husband and wife may love each other, and live together in all the peace and harmony of reciprocated affection; yet if the religious part of their home-mission remain unfulfilled, their family is divested of its noblest attraction; its greatest interests will fall into ruin; its highest destiny will not be attained; and soon its fruits will be entombed in oblivion; while their children, neglected and perishing, will look back upon that home with a bitterness of spirit which the world can neither soothe nor extract!
How many such homes there are! Even the homes of church members are too often reckless of their high vocation. Their moral stewardship is neglected; their dedications, formal and heartless. No prayers are heard; no bible read; no instructions given; no pious examples set; no holy discipline exercised. Their interests, their hopes and their enjoyments; their education, their labor and their rest, are all of the world,—worldly. The curse of God is upon such a home!
The importance and responsibility of the home-mission may be seen in its vicarious character, and in its influence upon the members. The principle of moral reproduction is manifest in all the home-relations. What the parent does is reproduced, as it were, in the child, and will tell upon the generations that follow them. Those close affinities by which all the members are allied, give to each a moulding influence over all the rest. The parents live, not for themselves alone, but for their children, and the consequence of such a life is also entailed upon their offspring. "The iniquity of the fathers shall be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." If the parent "sow to the flesh," the child, with him, "shall of the flesh reap corruption;" but if he "sow to the spirit," his offspring, with him, shall "of the spirit reap life everlasting."
Sacred and profane history proves and illustrates this great truth. Did not God punish the first born of Israel, because their fathers had sinned? And is it not a matter of daily observation that the wickedness of the parent is entailed upon the child? Such is indeed the affinity between them that the child cannot, unless by some special interposition of Providence, escape the curse of a parent's sin. "If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it."
The guilt and condemnation of unfaithfulness to the home-mission may be inferred from its importance and responsibility. Those who are unfaithful are guilty of "blood." We see the curse of such neglect in that deterioration of character which so rapidly succeeds parental delinquency. They must answer before God for the loss which the soul, the state, and the church sustain thereby. "It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for them."
The Christian home should be qualified for this mission. There can be no such qualification, however, where the marriage alliance involves inequality—one of the parents a Christian, the other not; for they cannot "dwell together as heirs of the grace of life," neither can they effectually dispense that grace to their offspring. When thus "the house is divided against itself, it must fall." "Be ye not, therefore, unequally yoked together." If one draws heavenward and the other hellward, there will be a halting between Baal and God, and the influence of the one will be counteracted by that of the other. What communion hath light with darkness? "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" Thus divided, their home will be unfit for its high vocation. Hence parents, in their marriage alliance as well as in their individual character, should qualify themselves for the responsible mission of home. Can the ungodly wife or husband fulfill this mission? Can the irreligious parent bring up his offspring "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?"
Many parents disqualify themselves for their home-mission by devoting too much attention to society,—by spending more time abroad, at parties, theaters and masquerade balls, in gossiping and recreation, than at home with each other and with their children. They commit their children, with all the family interests, to nurses and servants. They regard their offspring as mere playthings to be dandled upon the knee, brought up like calves in the stall, and then turned out to shape their own destiny.
This is a sad mistake! There is no substitute for home,—no transfer of a parent's commission, no adequate compensation for a parent's loss. None can effectually take the parent's place. Their influence is overwhelming and absolute.
"With what a kingly power their love Might rule the fountains of the new-born mind!"
Not even the dark villainies which have disgraced humanity can neutralize it. Gray-haired and demon guilt will weep in his dismal cell over the melting, soothing memories of home. Their impressions are indelible, "like the deep borings into the flinty rock." To erase them we must remove every strata of their being. They give texture and coloring to the whole woof and web of the child's character. The mother especially preoeccupies the unwritten page of its being, and mingles with it in its cradle dreams, making thus a deathless impress upon its soul.
"The mother in her office, holds the key Of the soul; and she it is who stamps the coin Of character, and makes the being who would be a savage But for her cares, a Christian man!"
What a folly and a sin, therefore, for Christian parents to give over their holy mission to another, while they immerse themselves in the forbidden pleasures and recreations of the world! Oh, if you are loving, faithful parents, you will love the society of your household more than the fashions and the fashionable resorts of the world; you will not substitute the "nurse" and the "boarding school" for the more efficient ministrations of the Christian home.
"If ye count society for past time,—what happier recreation than a nursling, Its winning ways, its prattling tongue, its innocence and mirth? If ye count society for good,—how fair a field is here, To guide these souls to God, and multiply thyself in heaven!"
"Walk, therefore, worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness." "Magnify your office." Be faithful to your home-mission. Draw your pleasure from it. Souls are committed to your trust and hang upon your hire. Your regard for the temporal and eternal welfare of your children should prompt you to faithfulness to the holy mission of your family. You love your children, and desire their welfare and happiness. But do what you will for them, if you are unfaithful to their souls, you wrest from them the means of safety and of happiness; you aid in their misery in this and in the world to come. You are more cruel to them than was Herod who slew the bodies of children. You murder their souls. He murdered the children of others; you murder your own; he employed others to do it for him; you do the work of slaughter yourself! If, then, you love your children; if their souls are committed to you; if your unfaithfulness to them may result in their ruin; if God blesses the holy mission of your home to their temporal and eternal welfare; if its fulfillment by you be "like words spoken in a whispering-gallery, which, will be heard at the distance of years, and echoed along the corridors of ages yet to come;" and if it will prove to them in life like the lone star to the mariner upon the dark and stormy sea,—should you not be faithful to your home-vocation!
Not only so, but your regard for your own comfort and happiness here and hereafter should impel you to this faithfulness. Do you love yourself? Do you regard your own comfort and welfare? Would you avoid painful solicitude, bitter reflection, heart-burning remorse, dreadful foreboding? Then be faithful to the home-mission. If you are, God will bless you for it through your children. What a comfort it will be to you to see them become Christians, enter the church, and, at their side around the Lord's Table, hold communion with them in the joys of faith and in the anticipations of heaven! And should God remove them from you by death, you will be cheered amidst the agonies of separation by their dying consolation. The hope of a speedy reunion with them in heaven would afford a sweet solace to your bereaved heart.
Or should you be taken before them, what a comfort would they afford you in your last moments! With the glow of Christian faith and hope, they would whisper to you the consolations of the gospel, and bless you for your faithfulness to them. And when you and they shall meet at the bar of God, they will rise up and call you blessed.
But, on the other hand, should you neglect them; and, as a consequence, they grow up in wickedness and crime; oh, what a source of withering remorse they would cause you! No sin more heavily punishes the guilty, and mingles for him a more bitter cup, than the sin of parental neglect. What if after the lapse of a few years, your neglected child be taken from you, and consigned to the cold grave, think you not that when you meet it before the bar of God, it will rise up as a witness against you, and pour down its curses upon your head!
But suppose that child grows up, unprovided for by you in its early life; and profligacy mark his pathway, and demon guilt throw its chains around him in the prison cell; and he trace back the beginning of his ruin to your unfaithfulness, oh, with what pungency would the reflection send the pang of remorse to your soul!
"Go ask that musing father, why yon grave So narrow, and so noteless, might not close Without a tear?"
Because of the bitter and heart-stricken memories of a neglected, ruined child that slumbers there!
Or suppose that you die before your neglected children, think you not that the recollection of your past parental unfaithfulness will plant thorns in your pillow, and invest with deeper shades of horror your descent to the dark valley of death? And oh, when you meet them before the bar of the avenging judge, most fearful will be your interview with them. Tell me, how will you dare to meet them there, when the voice of their blood will cry out from the hallowed ground of home against you! And then, eternity, oh, eternity! who shall bring out from the secrets of the eternal world, those awful maledictions which God has attached to parental unfaithfulness?
Provide, therefore, for your family as the Lord commands. Remember that if you do not, you "deny the faith and are worse than an infidel;" and in the day of Judgment "it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you."
"Lo! where yon cottage whitens through the green, The loveliest feature of a matchless scene; Beneath its shading elm, with pious fear, An aged mother draws her children near, While from the Holy Word, with earnest air, She teaches them the privilege of prayer. Look! how their infant eyes with rapture speak; Mark the flushed lily on the dimpled cheek; Their hearts are filled with gratitude and love, Their hopes are centered in a world above!"
The Christian home demands a family religion. This makes it a "household of God." Without this it is but a "den of thieves." It is "the one thing needful."
What is "family religion?" It is not an exotic, but is indigenous to the Christian home. It is not a "new measure," but an essential ingredient of the home-constitution,—coexistent with home itself. The first family "began to call upon the name of the Lord;" the first parent acted as high-priest of God in his family.
It is not individual piety as such, not simply closet devotion, but family service of God,—religion taken up in the home-consciousness and life. Hence a family, and not simply a personal religion.
Such religion, we say, is as old as the church. We find it in Eden, in the tents of the patriarchs and in the wilderness of the prophets. We find it in the tent of Abraham in the plains of Mamre, in the "house" of Moses, in the "service" of Joshua, in the "offerings" of Job, and in the palace of David and Solomon. It is also a prominent feature of the gospel economy. The commendation bestowed by Paul upon Timothy, was that "from a child" he enjoyed the "unfeigned faith" of his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois. Paul exhorts Christians thus: "Rule well your own houses; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." The same family religion was a prominent feature of the homes of the primitive Christians. With them, every house was a sanctuary, and every parent a minister in holy things to its members. The bible was not only a parlor ornament, but a lamp to their feet and a guide to their path, used, meditated upon, prayed over. Says Turtullian of its members, "They are united in spirit and in flesh; they kneel down together; they pray and fast together; they teach, exhort and support each other with gentleness."
How, alas! have Christian homes degenerated since then in family piety! They received a reviving impulse in the Reformation; yet even this was meteor-like, and seemed but the transient glow of some mere natural emotion. The fire which then flashed so brilliantly upon the altar of home, has now become taper-like and sepulchral; and the altar of family religion, like the altar of Jehovah upon Mt. Carmel, has been demolished, and forsaken. Only here and there do we find a Christian home erect and surround a Christian altar. Parents seem now ashamed to serve the Lord at home. They have neither time nor inclination. Upon the subject of religion they maintain a bashful, sullen, wonderful silence before their families. They seem to be impressed with the strange idea that their wives and children put no confidence in their piety, (and may they not have reason for it?) and that it would, therefore, be vain for them to pray, or exhort their households. "Many walk thus," says Paul, "of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ!" Upon them shall be answered the prayer of Jeremiah, "Oh Lord, pour out thy fury upon the families that call not upon thy name!"
Thus, therefore, we see that the Christian home demands a family religion. The private devotion of the individual can be no effectual substitute for it.
"The parents pair their secret homage, And offer up to heaven the warm request, That He who stills the raven's clamorous nest, And decks the lily fair in flowery pride, Would, in the way His wisdom sees the best, For them and for their little ones provide."
Family religion includes parental bible instruction, family prayer, and religious education, government, discipline and example. These involve the parent's position in his household as a prophet, priest, and king. "Thou shalt teach my words diligently unto thy children, and talk of them when thou sittest in thy house."
"Daily let part of Holy Writ be read, Let as the body, so the soul have bread. For look! how many souls in thy house be, With just as many souls God trusteth thee!"
Thus felt and acted our primitive fathers. By every winning art, they sought to fill their children with the knowledge of God's Word. The entire range of nursery instruction and amusement was comprised in scripture pictures and hieroglyphics. They intermingled religion with all their home pursuits, and entwined it with their earliest and purest associations of childhood. If Christian parents would follow their example now, in these days of parental delinquency, we would not behold so many of their children grow up in religious ignorance and indifference.
The same may be said of the family altar and prayer. A prayerless family is an irreligious, godless family. Says Henry, "They who daily pray in their houses do well; they that not only pray, but read the scriptures, do better; but they do best of all, who not only pray and read the scriptures, but sing the praises of God."
Besides, the religion of home implies that we "command our children and household to keep the way of the Lord,"—that we "bring them up in His nurture and admonition," and "train them up as He would have them go;" and that in things pertaining to their spiritual welfare we "go in and out" before them as their pattern and example, bidding them to "follow us even as we follow Christ," and living in their midst as "the living epistles of Christ, known and read" of them all.
Family religion must "show itself by its works" of Christian charity and benevolence to the poor, the sick and the distressed. We should "lay by" a certain amount each year of what God bestows, for the support of the church and the propagation of the gospel. Oh, how little do Christians now give to these benevolent objects! A penurious, close-fisted, selfish home cannot be a religious household. Family religion must be reproductive, must return to God as well as receive from Him. But as these characteristic features of the Christian home will be considered hereafter, we shall not enlarge upon them here. Suffice it to say that the mission of home demands family religion. Its interests cannot be secured without it. Let our homes be divorced from piety, and they will become selfish, sensual, unsatisfactory, and unhappy. Piety should always reign in our homes,—not only on the Sabbath, but during the week; not only in sickness and adversity, but in health and prosperity. It must, if genuine, inspire and consecrate the minutest interests and employments of the household. It must appear in every scene and feeling and look, and in each heart, as the life, the light, the hope, and the joy of all the members.
The necessity of family religion is seen in the value of the soul. The soul is the dearest treasure and the most responsible trust of home. What shall it profit the family if its members gain the whole world and lose their own souls? What would Christian parents give in exchange for the souls of their little ones? Is it not more important that they teach them to pray than to dance, to "seek the kingdom of heaven" than the enjoyment of "the pleasures of sin for a season?" Oh, what is home without a title to, and personal meetness for, that kingdom? It is a moral waste; its members move in the putrid atmosphere of vitiated feeling and misdirected power. Brutal passions become dominant; we hear the stern voice of parental despotism; we behold a scene of filial strife and insubordination; there is throughout a heart-blank. Domestic life becomes clouded by a thousand crosses and disappointments; the solemn realities of the eternal world are cast into the shade; the home-conscience and feeling become stultified; the sense of moral duty distorted, and all the true interests of home appear in a haze. Natural affection is debased, and love is prostituted to the base designs of self, and the entire family, with all its tender cords, ardent hopes, and promised interests, becomes engulfed in the vortex of criminal worldliness!
But reverse the picture! See what home becomes with religion as its life and rule. Human nature is there checked and moulded by the amiable spirit and lovely character of Jesus. The mind is expanded, the heart softened, sentiments refined, passions subdued, hopes elevated, pursuits ennobled, the world cast into the shade, and heaven realized as the first prize. The great want of our intellectual and moral nature is here met, and home education becomes impregnated with the spirit and elements of our preparation for eternity.
The relations of home demand family religion. These are relations of mutual dependence, involving such close affinity that the good or evil which befalls one member must in some degree extend to all the other members. They involve "helps." Each member becomes an instrument in the salvation or damnation of the others. "For what knowest, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"—1 Cor. vii., 16. "If one member Suffer, all the members suffer with it." They stimulate each other either to salvation or to ruin; and hence those children that go to ruin in consequence of parental unfaithfulness, will "curse the father that begat them, the womb that bare them," and the day they entered their home.
Many parents seek to excuse themselves from the practice of family religion, upon the ground that they have not the capacity nor the time. If so, you should not have married. But if you are Christians, you have the capacity, and you will take the time.
But some are ashamed to begin family religion. Ashamed of what? of your piety? of your children? of the true glory and greatness of your home? Then you are ashamed of Jesus! You should rather blush that you have not begun this good work.
The great defect of family religion in the present day is, that it is not educational. Parents wait until their children have grown up, and established habits of sin, when they suppose that the efforts of some "protracted meeting" will compensate for their neglect in childhood. They overlook the command of God to teach them His words. The influence of this defect and delusion has been most destructive. Many Christian homes are now altogether destitute of religious appliances. If the angel that visited the homes of Israel were to visit the Christian homes of this age, would he not be tempted to say, as Abraham said to Abimelech, "Surely the fear of God is not in this place!"
One great reason, perhaps, why there are so many such homes is, that there are now so many irreligious marriages, where husband and wife are "unequally yoked together," one a believer and the other not. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" Can there be family religion when husband and wife are traveling to eternity in opposite roads? No! There will be hindrances instead of "helps." If they marry not "in the Lord," religion will not be in their home. Says the pious Jay, "I am persuaded that it is very much owing to the prevalence of these indiscriminate and unhallowed connections, that we have fallen so far short of those men of God, who are gone before us, in the discharge of family worship, and in the training up of our households in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
Family religion is implied in the marriage relation and obligation. It is included in the necessities of our children, and in the covenant promises of God. The penalties of its neglect, and the rewards of our faithfulness to it, should prompt us to its establishment in our homes. Its absence is a curse; its presence a blessing. It is a foretaste of heaven. Like manna, it will feed our souls, quench our thirst, sweeten the cup of life, and shed a halo of glory and of gladness around our firesides. Let yours, therefore, be the religious home; and then be sure that God will delight to dwell therein, and His blessing will descend, like the dews of heaven, upon it. Your children shall "not be found begging bread," but shall be like "olive plants around your table,"—the "heritage of the Lord." Yours will be the home of love and harmony; it shall have the charter of family rights and privileges, the ward of family interests, the palladium of family hopes and happiness. Your household piety will be the crowning attribute of your peaceful home,—the "crown of living stars" that shall adorn the night of its tribulation, and the pillar of cloud and of fire in its pilgrimage to a "better country." It shall strew the family threshold with the flowers of promise, and enshrine the memory of loved ones gone before, in all the fragrance of that "blessed hope" of reunion in heaven which looms up from a dying hour. It shall give to the infant soul its "perfect flowering," and expand it in all the fullness of a generous love and conscious blessedness, making it "lustrous in the livery of divine knowledge." And then in the dark hour of home separation and bereavement, when the question is put to thee, mourning parents, "Is it well with the child? is it well with thee?" you can answer with joy, "It is well!"
THE RELATION OF HOME TO THE CHURCH.
The Christian home sustains a direct relation to the church. This relation is similar to that which it sustains to the state. The nature and mission of home demand the church. The former is the adumbration of the latter. The one is in the other. "Greet the church that is in thine house." The church was in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, in the tent of Abraham, and in the palace of David. It must be in every Christian home, and every Christian home must be in the church. In a word, our families must be churchly.
This relation is vital and necessary,—a relation of mutual dependence. The family is a preparation for the church, subordinate to it, and must, therefore, throw its influence in its favor, be moulded by it, and labor With direct reference to the church in the way of training up for membership in it. As the civil and political relations of home involve the duty of parents to train up their children for efficient citizenship in the state, so its moral and religious relations involve the duty of education for the church. Hence the Christian home is churchly in its spirit, religion, education, influence, and mission.
Family religion is an element of home, not only as a mere fact or principle in its subjective form, but in the form and force of the church. In its unchurchly form it is powerless. It must be experienced and administered in a churchly spirit and way, not as something detached from the organic embodiment of Christianity. The relation of the church to the family forbids this. The church pervades all the forms of society. It includes the home and the state. It gives to each proper vitality, legitimate principles, proper direction, and a true destiny.
But home is not only a preparation for the church, but completes itself in the church,—never out of the church. By the "mystery" of marriage and the sacrament of holy baptism, home and the church are bound up into each other by indissoluble bonds. The one receives the mark and superscription of the other; the one is the type or emblem of the other.
The church, through her ordinances, ministry and means of grace, is brought directly "into the house," and operates there constantly as a spiritual leaven. It is the purpose of God that our homes be entrenched within the sacred enclosures of His church. The former, in its relation to the latter, is like "a wheel within a wheel,"—one of the parts which make up the great machinery of the kingdom of grace, operating harmoniously and in its place with all the rest, and for the same end. The former is built upon the latter,—receives her dedication and sanctity from it. They are correlatives. The one demands the other. Hence they cannot be divorced. The individual passes over to the church through the Christian home. The one is the step to the other. They have the same foundation. Home is not erected upon a quicksand, but reared upon the same rock upon which the church is built. Like the church, it rises superior to all the fluctuations of civil society, and will live and flourish in all its tender charities, in all its sweet enjoyments, and in all its moral force, in the humble cottage as well as in the costly palace, under the shadow of liberty as well as under the frowns of despotism, in every nation, age, and clime. Like the church of which it is the type, it can never be made desolate; break it up on earth, and you find it in heaven. Its nuptial union with the church is like that between the latter and Christ. Nothing can throw over our homes a higher sanctity, or invest them with greater beauty, or be to them a greater bulwark of strength, than the church. Home is the nursery of the church. "Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God, and shall bring forth fruit in old age."
Thus, therefore, we see that the relation between the Christian home and the church is one of mutual dependence. The latter, as the highest form of religious association, demands the former, and the former looks to the latter as its completion. Where the religion of the family does not move in the element of the church, it is at best but sentimentalism on the one hand, and rationalism on the other. It is a spurious pietism. To be genuine it must be moulded by the church. Without this it is destitute of sterling principle, of a living-faith, of well-directed effort and lofty aims. The family which does not move in the element of the church is a perversion of the true purpose of God in its institution. It will afford no legitimate development of Christian doctrine, and the whole scheme of its religion will rest for its execution upon unreliable agencies extraneous to home itself. Hence we find that the piety of those families or individuals that isolate themselves from the church, is at best but ephemeral in its existence, contracted in spirit, moving and operating by mere impulse and irregular starts, and withal destitute of vitality and saving influence. A death-bed scene may awaken a transient and visionary sense of duty; adversity may startle the drowsy ear, and cause the parents to turn for the time to the souls of their children; but these continue only while the tear and the wound are fresh, and the apprehensions of the eternal world are moving in their terrible visions before them!
The efficacy of the Christian home, therefore, depends upon its true relation to the church. The members should be conscious of this. Then both parents and children Will appreciate the religious ministrations of home. Then the former will not grow weary in well doing, but will have something to rest upon, something to look to; and the latter will love the church of their fathers, and venerate the family as its nursery.
But the relation between the Christian home and the church implies reciprocal obligations and duties. The former should not only exist under the patronage of the latter, but in the spirit of a true subordination. Parents should teach and rule and appropriate the means of grace under the supervision of the church. They should take their household, with them to her public service, send their children to her schools, and in all respects bring them up in her nurture and admonition.
Thus the family should exist as the faithful daughter of the church; and as the latter in the wilderness "leaned upon her beloved," so the former should repose itself upon her who is "the mother of us all," and in whom, as the "body of Christ," shall "all the families of the earth be blessed." As her loving and confiding daughter, the family should live under her government and discipline, listen to her maternal voice, and be led by her maternal hand. The minister in his pastoral functions, is the representative of the church in each of the families of his flock; and should, therefore, be received, loved, confided in and obeyed, as such. The home that repels his proffered ministrations in the name and according to the will of the church, throws off its allegiance to the latter, and through it, to Christ,—her glorious head, and is hence unworthy of the name of Christian home. The true Christian home yearns after the church, loves to lean upon it, to look up to it, to consecrate all to it, to move and develop its interests in the sphere of the church, and to labor to complete itself in it.
"For her my tears shall fall; For her my prayers ascend; To her my cares and toils be giv'n, Till toils and cares shall end."
"By the soft green light in the woody glade, On the banks of moss, where thy childhood play'd; By the gathering round the winter hearth, When the twilight call'd unto household mirth, By the quiet hour when hearts unite In the parting prayer and the kind 'Good night;' By the smiling eye and the loving tone, Over thy life has the spell been thrown, And bless that gift, it hath gentle might, A guarding power and a guiding light!"
The Christian home has an influence which is stronger than death. It is a law to our hearts, and binds us with, a spell which neither time nor change can break. The darkest villainies which have disgraced humanity cannot neutralize it. Gray-haired and demon guilt will make his dismal cell the sacred urn of tears wept over the memories of home; and these will soften and melt into penitence even the heart of adamant.
The home-influence is either a blessing or a curse, either for good or for evil. It cannot be neutral. In either case it is mighty, commencing with our birth, going with us through life, clinging to us in death, and reaching into the eternal world. It is that unitive power which arises out of the manifold relations and associations of domestic life. The specific influences of husband and wife, of parent and child, of brother and sister, of teacher and pupil, united and harmoniously blended, constitute the home-influence.
From this we may infer the character of home-influence. It is great, silent, irresistible, and permanent. Like the calm, deep stream, it moves on in silent, but overwhelming power. It strikes its roots deep into the human heart, and spreads its branches wide over our whole being. Like the lily that braves the tempest, and "the Alpine flower that leans its cheek on the bosom of eternal snows," it is exerted amid the wildest storms of life, and breathes a softening spell in our bosom even when a heartless world is freezing up the fountains of sympathy and love. It is governing, restraining, attracting and traditional. It holds the empire of the heart, and rules the life. It restrains the wayward passions of the child, and checks him in his mad career of ruin.
"Hold the little hands in prayer, teach the weak knees their kneeling, Let him see thee speaking to thy God; he will not forget it afterward; When old and gray, will he feelingly remember a mother's tender piety, And the touching recollection of her prayers shall arrest the strong man in his sin!"
Home-influence is traditional. It passes down the current of life from one generation to another. Its continuity is preserved from first to last. The homes of our forefathers rule us even now, and will pass from us to our children's children. Hence it has been called the "fixed capital" of home. It keeps up a continuous stream of home-life and feeling and interest. Hence the family likeness, moral as well as physical,—the family virtues and vices,—coming from the family root and rising into all the branches, and developing in all the elements of the family history.
Home-influence is attractive. It draws us to home, and throws a spell around our existence, which we have not the power to break.
"The holy prayer from my thoughts hath pass'd, The prayer at my mother's knee— Darken'd and troubled I come at last, Thou home of my boyish glee!"
Home-influence may he estimated from the immense force of first impressions. It is the prerogative of home to make the first impression upon our nature, and to give that nature its first direction onward and upward. It uncovers the moral fountain, chooses its channel, and gives the stream its first impulse. It makes the "first stamp and sets the first seal" upon the plastic nature of the child. It gives the first tone to our desires, and furnishes ingredients that will either sweeten or embitter the whole cup of life. These impressions are indelible, and durable as life. Compared with them, other impressions are like those made upon sand or wax. These are like "the deep borings into the flinty rock." To erase them we must remove every strata of our being. Even the infidel lives under the holy influence of a pious mother's impressions. John Randolph could never shake off the restraining influence of a little prayer his mother taught him when a child. It preserved him from the clutches of avowed infidelity.
The promises of God bear testimony to the influence of the Christian home. "When he grows old he will not depart from it!" History confirms and illustrates this. Look at those scenes of intemperance and riot, of crime and of blood, which throw the mantle of infamy over human life! Look at your prisons, your hospitals, and your gibbets; go to the gaming-table and the rum-shop. Tell me, who are those that are there? What is their history? Where did they come from? From the faithful Christian home? Had they pious fathers and mothers? Did they go to these places under the holy influence of devout and faithful parents? No! And who are they that are dying without hope and without God? Who are they that now throng the regions of the damned? Those who were "trained up in the way they should go?" No! if they are, then the promises of God must fail. You may perhaps find a few such. But these are exceptions to a general law. The damning influence of their unfaithful home brought them there. Could they but speak to us from their chambers of wo, we should hear them pouring out curses upon their parents, and ascribing the cause of their ruin to their neglect. On the other hand, could we but listen to the anthems of the redeemed in heaven, we should doubtless hear sentiments of gratitude for a mother's prayer and a father's counsel.
Let us now briefly advert to the objects of home-influence. It is exerted upon the members of home, especially upon the formation of their character and destiny. It moulds their character. The parents assimilate their children to themselves to such an extent that we can judge the former by the latter. Lamartine says that, when he wants to know a woman's character, he ascertains it by an inspection of her home,—that he judges the daughter by the mother. His judgment rests upon the known influence the latter has over the former. It gives texture and coloring to the whole woof and web of character. It forms the head and the heart, moulds the affections, the will and the conscience, and throws around our entire nature the means and appliances of its development for good or for evil. Every word, every incident, every look, every lesson of home, has its bearing upon our life. Had one of these been omitted, our lives would perhaps be different. One prayer in our childhood, was perhaps the lever that raised us from ruin. One omission of parental duty may result in the destruction of the child. What an influence home exerts upon our faith! Most of our convictions and opinions rest upon home-teaching and faith. A minister was once asked, "Do you not believe christianity upon its evidences?" He replied, "No; I believe it because my mother taught me!"
The same may be said of its influence upon our sympathies, and in the formation of habits. It draws us by magnetic power to home, and develops in us all that which is included in home-feeling and home-sickness.
"I need but pluck yon garden flower, From where the wild weeds rise, To wake with strange and sudden power, A thousand sympathies!"
In this respect how irresistible is the influence of a mother's love and kindness! Her very name awakens the torpid streams of life, gives a fresh glow to the tablets of memory, and fills our hearts with a deep gush of consecrated feeling.
Our habits, too, are formed under the moulding power of home. The "tender twig" is there bent, the spirit shaped, principles implanted, and the whole character is formed until it becomes a habit. Goodness or evil are there "resolved into necessity." Who does not feel this influence of home upon all his habits of life? The gray-haired father who wails in his second infancy, feels the traces of his childhood-home in his spirit, desires and habits. Ask the strong man in the prime of life, whether the most firm and reliable principles of his character were not the inheritance of the parental home. What an influence the teaching's and prayers of his mother Monica had upon the whole character of the pious Augustine! The sterling worth of Washington is a testimony to the formative power of parental instruction. John Quincy Adams, even when his eloquence thundered through our legislative halls, and caused a nation to startle from her slumber, bent his aged form before God, and repeated the prayer of his childhood. "How often in old age," says Bishop Hall, "have I valued those divine passages of experimental divinity that I heard from the lips of a mother!" Dr. Doddridge ever lived under the influence of those scripture instructions his mother gave him from the Dutch tiles of her fireside. He says, "these lessons were the instruments of my conversion." "Generally," says Dr. Cumming, "when, there is a Sarah in the house, there will be an Isaac in the cradle; wherever there is a Eunice teaching a Timothy the scriptures from a child, there will be a Timothy teaching the gospel to the rest of mankind." By the force of this same influence, the pious wife may win over to Christ her ungodly husband, and the godly child may save the unbelieving parent. "Well," said a mother one day weeping, "I will resist no longer! How can I bear to see my dear child love and read the scriptures, while I never look into the bible,—to see her retire and seek God, while I never pray,—to see her going to the Lord's table, while His death is nothing to me! I know she is right, and I am wrong. I ought to have taught her; but I am sure she has taught me. How can I bear to see her joining the church of God, and leaving me behind—perhaps forever!"
The Christian home has its influence also upon the state. It forms the citizen, lays the foundation for civil and political character, prepares the social element and taste, and determines our national prosperity or adversity. We owe to the family, therefore, what we are as a nation as well as individuals. We trace this influence in the pulpit, on the rostrum, in the press, in our civil and political institutions. It is written upon the scroll of our national glory.
The most illustrious statesmen, the most distinguished warriors, the most eloquent ministers, and the greatest benefactors of human kind, owe their greatness to the fostering influence of home. Napoleon knew and felt this when he said, "What France wants is good mothers, and you may be sure then that France will have good sons." The homes of the American revolution made the men of the revolution. Their influence reaches yet far into the inmost frame and constitution of our glorious republic. It controls the fountains of her power, forms the character of her citizens and statesmen, and shapes our destiny as a people. Did not the Spartan mother and her home give character to the Spartan nation? Her lessons to her child infused the iron nerve into the heart of that nation, and caused her sons, in the wild tumult of battle, "either to live behind their shields, or to die upon them!" Her influence fired them with a patriotism which was stronger than death. Had it been hallowed by the pure spirit and principles of Christianity, what a power for good it would have been!
But alas! the home of an Aspasia had not the heart and ornaments of the Christian family. Though "the monuments of Cornelia's virtues were the character of her children," yet these were not "the ornaments of a quiet spirit." Had the central heart of the Spartan home been that of the Christian mother, the Spartan nation would now perhaps adorn the brightest page of history.
But the family, whether Christian or heathen, exerts an overwhelming influence over the state. It is on the family altar that the fire of patriotism is first kindled, and often, too, by a mother's hand.
"It hath led the freeman forth to stand In the mountain battles of his land; It hath brought the wanderer o'er the seas, To die on the hills of his own fresh breeze."
The same, too, may be said of the influence of home on the church. It is the nursery of the church, lays the foundation of her membership, and conditions the character of her members. The most faithful of her ministers and members are those generally who have been trained up in the most faithful families. Wherever there is the greatest number of such homes, there the church enjoys the greatest prosperity.
What a fearful responsibility must rest, therefore upon the Christian home! If its influence is for good or for evil, for weal or for woe, for heaven or for hell; if it is either a powerful emissary of Satan for the soul's destruction, or an efficient agent of God for the soul's salvation, then how responsible are those who wield this influence!
"Upon thy heart is laid a spell, Holy and precious—oh! guard it well!"
Are you not, Christian parents, responsible to God for the exercise of such sovereign power over the character and well-being of your dear children? And will not the day soon come when you must "give an account of your stewardship?" Oh! what if it be exerted for the ruin of your loved ones, and they "curse the day you begat them?" What if, in the day of final reckoning, you find your hands drenched in the blood of your offspring, and hear the voice of that blood cry out from the hallowed ground of home against you, saying, "How long, oh Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on earth?" Oh see, then, that your influence be wielded for good.
"For round the heart thy power hast spun A thousand dear mysterious ties; Then take the heart thy charms have won, And nurse it for the skies!"
HOME AS A STEWARDSHIP.
"Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages."—EXODUS II., 9.
"For look, how many souls in thy house be, With just as many souls God trusteth thee!"
The Christian home is a stewardship. The parents are stewards of God. A steward is a servant of a particular kind, to whom the master commits a certain portion of his interest to be prosecuted in his name and by his authority, and according to his laws and regulations. The steward must act according to the will of his master, in his dealing with what is committed to his care. Such was Eliezer in the house of Abraham; and such was Joseph in the house of Potiphar. One of the specific duties of a steward was to dispense portions of food to the different members of the household, to give servants their portion in due season, and to superintend the general interests of the master's household.
In a religious sense, a steward is a minister of Christ, whose duty is to dispense the provisions of the gospel, to preach its doctrines and to administer its ordinances. It is required of such that they be found faithful.—1 Cor., chap. iv.
In its application to the Christian home, it expresses its relation of subordination to God, and the kind of services which the former must render to the latter. The stewardship of home is that official character with which God has invested the family. In this sense the proprietorship of parents is from God. They are invested only with delegated authority. Their home is held by them only in trust. It belongs to them in the same sense in which a household belongs to a steward. It is not at their absolute disposal. It is the "household of the Lord," and they are to live and rule therein as the Lord directs. They are to appropriate it and dispose of its interests according to the known law and will of their divine Master, and in this sense, yield, with their whole household, a voluntary subordination to His authority.
As a stewardship, God has entrusted the Christian home with important interests. He has committed to her trust, body and soul, talents and means of grace. He has entrusted to the parents the training of their children both for time and for eternity. These children are the heritage of the Lord; they are not at the absolute disposal of their parents; but merely entrusted to their care to be educated and dealt with according to the will of God.
There is one great peculiarity in this stewardship of the Christian family,—the absolute identity of interest between the Master and the steward. The interest of the former is that also of the latter; and the latter, in promoting the interest of his Lord, is but advancing his own welfare. Such is the economy of the gospel, and it is this which makes the servitude of the Christian so delightful. Faithfulness to God is faithfulness to our own souls. Parents who are thus faithful to God must be faithful to themselves and to their children. Thus, then, the interest of God in our families is the welfare of all the members. When we act towards our children as God directs, we are but promoting their greatest welfare. This is one prominent feature of God's mercy towards us in all His dealings with us. He identifies His interest with the interest of His people. This is a powerful incentive to parental integrity, and is beautifully exemplified in the mother of Moses. When the daughter of Pharaoh said to her, "Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will pay thee thy wages," was not the interest of the queen and the nurse the same? In nursing him for the queen, that devoted mother nursed him also for herself; and in doing this, she was also promoting the welfare of her son, and executing the will of God concerning him. This illustrates the principle of stewardship in the Christian home. Of every child, God says to its parent,—