What is a Home? -- It has been answered that, "It is the unit of society." It has also been pointed out that this unit must be kept clean, pure and right, in all its relations, or society and the state will suffer grave consequences. Certainly, in the past, the institutions of society and state have been seriously weakened only when the moral decay of the family has first set in. There are many organizations which have for their special care the fostering of the social and political life, while the strengthening of home ties has been sadly neglected.
To the individual the good character of the home is of the utmost importance, for his growth in all the finer things which pertain to morality and spirituality.
The Difference in Homes. -- One ideal of a home begins and ends with the externals; a great house, a splendid service and fine furnishings. Everything is here made to bend to the more or less perfect realization of this material ideal. When all is attained that is possible in this direction, and this end, and only this end, is sought of outer adornment, it is found that the essentials of a true home life have been missed.
Another ideal seeks for the cultivation of love between husband and wife, and all the members of the family. Care and forbearance are urged and commended in speech and action. There are set forth a mutual kindness, a careful consideration of the feelings and a helpfulness in bearing burdens, which exalt the soul and make life worth living. According as this ideal is striven for, and attained, will the true home be realized.
Many a man has wrecked his business, betrayed his friends and gone down to a dishonoured grave in the struggle to surround his family with luxuries which he could not afford, but no man ever sincerely tried to cultivate the graces of love and kindness in himself and in his family, who did not succeed, in a large measure, in realizing the great purpose of the home.
The True Home may be found, and is found, in great houses and in small houses, where there is large wealth and where there is dire poverty. It is not dependent upon circumstances but independent.
The great essential is love for those things which make a beautiful and strong character. Low standards of truth and morality in the family tend to reproduce themselves in exaggerated forms in the social life of the community. Individuals, coming out of families where there is no love for the good and no regard for righteousness, often become a serious threat to peace and good order. No educational system can do very much for children with an evil family environment. On the other hand the world is full of examples of men, trained up in righteousness by their parents, who have strictly kept to the path in which their feet were started.
THE IDEAL CHRISTIAN HOME
Jesus honoured the home. His birthplace was mean (Luke 2:7) so far as external things go. The house and the city, where His parents lived, showed plainly the poor estate of the family which, while it was of noble lineage, was greatly reduced in circumstances. Jesus Himself learned and practiced the trade of a carpenter. In living in this home at Nazareth for thirty years of His life Jesus showed that it was possible under hard outward conditions to live a noble life and to cultivate and practice those virtues and qualities which were afterwards so greatly to bless the whole world.
Duties of Husbands and Wives. -- The beginning of every Christian home is in a supreme affection between two, a man and a woman. "For this cause," Christ said, "shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh, so that they are no more twain but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mark 10:7-9). He honoured and sanctioned the marriage relation by His presence at the marriage in Cana (John 2:1-11). In the first century divorce was very common; Hillel, the Jewish teacher, held "that the bond was so loose and flexible that if a wife burnt her husband's food while cooking it, he was justified in procuring a writ of divorcement from her." Jesus denounces this practice and declares (Matthew 5:31,32; Mark 10:2-12) that there is only one cause that justifies divorce.
1. Love to one another. In the various vicissitudes of married life, and in the bringing up of children the bond which needs to be strengthened, and the duty which needs to be urged, is that of love. Love can alone carry husband and wife over the more difficult places of life. Paul says, "Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25-33; Colossians 3:18,19). "Let every one of you so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband" (Ephesians 5:33). No stronger language can be employed than Paul uses in urging husband and wife to love each other with a whole heart, yet he provides for cases where one or the other party in the married relation is not a Christian, and where a strong love may be absent (1 Corinthians 7:12-17). He further says, "Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband; but and if she depart let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife" (1 Corinthians 7: 10,11). But a supreme love settles all troubles (1 Corinthians, chapter 13).
2. Forbearance and kindness towards children. "Provoke not your children to wrath but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). When Christ was upon earth, "a father had the power of life and death over his offspring. A weak and sickly child might be abandoned to death; and this was approved by such eminent authorities as Plato and Aristotle." Jesus declared for the rights of the children. He not only opened His arms for them, but He gave them a new standing in the world (Mark 10: 14-16; Matthew 18:5). He said, "See that ye despise not one of these little ones; for in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father, which is in heaven." (Matthew 18:10).
3. Hospitality. True Christian love will extend itself beyond the bounds of the household, and seek to do those outside of it good by drawing them within its charmed circle. This hospitality should be given not only to those who can return it again, but also to those from whom no return can ever be expected (Matthew 5:46). "Use hospitality one to another without grudging" (1 Peter 4:9; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2). "But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:13,14,11,12; compare Matthew 25:35,42). In the midst of our splendid charitable boards, which do such a needed work, individual charity and hospitality should not be forgotten and put out of its rightful place.
4. Commending the home to God. In writing to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5) Paul calls to mind the unfeigned faith that is in Timothy, which dwelt first in his grandmother Lois and then in his mother Eunice. Paul himself was brought up by devout parents. The Bible has many instances of men, like that of Samuel, who have been trained for great parts in the world in a religious household. The old proverb has it, "Like father, like son." If God is honoured by the parents and the home commended to Him, the children will be quite sure to honour Him also. Bring up your children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Have them ready to meet Christ at any time (Mark 13:34-37).
Duties of Children. -- 1. Honouring parents. "Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1,2,3; compare Exodus 20:12; Colossians 3:20). The first necessary lesson in every human life is to learn the lesson of obedience; if this is not well studied and practiced in the home, the child, when he grows up and goes out for himself, will be quite sure to have a hard time of it and receive some severe buffetings. Those who break the laws of society and the state are those who have first broken the commandment to honour father and mother.
2. Care of parents. Children, when grown up, are sometimes apt to forget the love and care bestowed upon them when they were young. Their parents become old and feeble and are often unable to look out for themselves. In Jesus' time there was a bad custom of repudiating parents who for any cause needed to be helped. The children had only to say "Corban," that is, that their goods were dedicated to a sacred purpose, to secure release from their filial obligations. Christ denounced this custom in the strongest terms and declared that the children ought to honour their parents by caring for them. Thus He became an advocate for the rights of parents as He had of the rights of children (Mark 7: n, 7-13; Matthew 15:3-6). When in His last agony, on the cross, Jesus provided a home for His mother (John 19:26,27).
Duties of Dependents and Servants. -- Jesus commended the honourableness of service. He washed the disciples' feet (John 13:4-16) and then told them that He had given them an example of the kind of service which they should render to each other. He took upon Himself the form of a servant, hiding His glory, that He might accomplish His great work (Philippians 2:6-9). Paul exhorted servants of the household to be obedient, serving, "not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart" (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Corinthians 9:19). Masters are told to be just towards their servants, remembering that they have a Master in heaven (Colossians 4:1). When the runaway slave, Onesimus, is sent back to his master, by Paul, he is commended to Philemon as a brother beloved (Philemon 16). We should hear but little of strikes and lockouts if employers and employees would only take these principles, laid down in the New Testament, for the guidance of masters and servants, for their rules of conduct towards each other and seek to carry them out.
Duties of Young and Old. -- "That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to the sober minded" (Titus 2:2-6).
THE ATTACK UPON THE HOME
There are many influences at work which seek to minimize the importance of the home life and to undermine it.
There are four quite well defined lines of the attack upon the life of the family.
The Assault Upon the Marriage Relation. -- The moral leper advocates that marriage be dissolvable at will, not by mutual consent alone, but when either party to the contract desires its conclusion. The church, in its different branches, stands as a unit against this iniquitous proposition. But how far the civil power has yielded, by the pressure which has been brought to bear, is made manifest by the fact that in the different states of the Union there are now recognized by the courts forty-six legal causes of annulling a marriage. Our courts are crowded with divorce cases and the suits which grow out of them in regard to property and the care of children. That the odour of scandal, going up from such cases is bad, is unquestioned. That the influence, of such proceedings upon the morals of the country, is evil is also sadly admitted. A blow struck at marriage is one which is felt not only by the family but by society and the state. The fall of the Roman empire was preceded by an extraordinary laxness of the marriage tie. It is time the church bestirred itself to oppose more strongly the theory and practice of the moral leper.
The Assault Upon the Quiet of the Home. -- In the modern stress and strain of life there is need of a quiet place in which to rest, to get acquainted with God, to know one's family, to live to the best things and to get ready again to engage enthusiastically in the daily battle of life. The home is designed to furnish such a place of rest, when the work of the day is done; it is here, in a Christian home, that there should be an atmosphere of supreme love and care. It is, however, when night comes that all the attractions, which appeal to the love of excitement, put forth their most strenuous efforts to draw to them the inmates of the home. There are amusements and amusements; a person, however, who looks only to be amused seeks by and by those of the strongest flavour and those which border very closely on the forbidden land. The love of excitement grows upon what it feeds and soon, to the habitual pleasure-seeker, the quiet atmosphere and love of the home no longer appeal; he has begun a chase for excitement and pleasure which will never satisfy him. Multitudes of wrecked homes and burned out characters, show the disastrous work of this assault upon the quiet of the home.
The Assault Upon the Purity of the Body. -- We are told by Paul that our bodies are temples of God and members of Christ and therefore they should be kept pure and clean (1 Corinthians 3:16,17; 6:15,16). Yet a certain class of so-called reformers are seeking to teach men that to sit in a saloon drinking the beverages there served out, and which defile the purity of the body, makes for manhood.
The modern saloon, which destroys the purity of the body, is one of the most successful of all agencies for the demoralization and the destruction of the home. Once it has fastened its hold upon a man, the time which he should spend with his family is spent in defiling his body in this place; the money which should be spent, in clothing and feeding his wife and children, is squandered here; until the home loses its hold upon him and he selfishly indulges his appetite, no matter who suffers. We are faced with actual conditions and no substitutes of better kept saloons or purer beverages can help very much. It is a travesty of the truth to call a saloon a working men's club; it is his destruction. What is actually needed is a reform which will send men, who frequent saloons back to their homes. The real problem is not how to reform the saloon, but how to make the home better so that father, mother and the children may take delight in spending their evenings there. The policy of some social organizations, which work in the slums of our great cities, seems to be by providing great public dance halls and fostering the saloons to draw the people still further away from the home life and to make it harder to maintain it.
After all the only real remedy for the saloon habit is Christianity. It is only when Christ comes into the heart of a man that he begins to care for his home and to spend his evenings there. The Church, then as possessing the lure for the home, ought to take more seriously to this work in the slums. But the trouble is that the slums do not receive very pleasantly those who seek to cleanse their hearts and bodies, but they do take kindly to the agencies, and often throng them, which look kindly on those things which really keep them down, and insure them miserable homes. Still it remains true that the teaching of Christianity, even when received with hostility, is the only leavening power for better things in the slums. It is one of the hard things to cleanse a man's body before his heart is made clean, but let his heart be purified, and the purity of the body will follow; then the first thought of that man will be for his home and its betterment.
The Assault of Freedom of Speech. -- In no place is there more need of kindliness of speech and manner than in the home, yet in no other place is there more plain speaking. The mask of pleasantness, which may be worn all day in business or social relations, may be in the home laid aside; and the character revealed and the vigour of language used may easily drive away every vestige of happiness. When people live together under the same roof the feelings become very tender and are easily hurt. What is said outside may be thought little of, but in the home it is different. "Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes" (Song of Solomon 2:15).
Incompatibility of temper is a reason sometimes given for the breaking up of a home, but the real reason is an undue familiarity and freedom of speech. Because persons live together in families there should be no license to say everything and anything, no matter who is hurt.
Home happiness is a tender plant, it needs much care and watching, but when it blooms the flowers are of a rare beauty of form and their fragrance exceeds that of all others.
THE PRESERVATION OF THE HOME
How may the home be preserved and made to serve its great end? There are three ways, amongst a greater number, which are here indicated.
Personal Care. -- All betterment of the home must begin with the individual and every individual has a chance to exercise this care as his lot is cast in some family. Thought, time, money, all need to be employed in working out in a practical way the ideal of the true home.
Placing the Home Under the Care of God. -- There is a need of the reinstatement of the custom of family worship; the place and time where and when the family is commended to God and placed under His care. As children of the great household of God we need constantly to keep in touch with our Father.
The Obedience of the Golden Rule, as it is stated in a new form: I will not do unto others that which I would not have them do to me. I will not think of others that which I would not have them think of me. I will not say of others that which I would not have them say of me.
What is a home? What is the difference in homes? What is the true home? What can be said of the ideal Christian home? Duties of husbands and wives; what are the four lines? Duties of children; what are the two lines? What are the duties of servants and dependents; of the young and aged? What can be said of the attack upon the home; the marriage relation, the quiet of the home, the purity of the body, freedom of speech? In what three ways may the home be preserved?