What is the Christian Home?


"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!"



"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!"

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