And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Christians families should be little churches. How may a family come to deserve this title? For this purpose many things are required, whereof some are common to all in the family, others proper to some. Common to all are these two points —
1. If we would have our families churches then we that are members in families must labour to become true members of the Church. For a company of profane men is not the house of God, but a den and dungeon of thieves, adulterers, atheists, conspiring together against God. The which yet is not so to be understood, as if the name of a church could not be attributed to a family in which there are some not members of the Church, for even in the Church itself there are some in it that are not of it. Let therefore everyone of a family be desirous the house he dwells in should be Bethel — God's house — bring one stone to the making of this spiritual house that so he may be able to say, This house is a holy edifice and I am one of the living stones that help to the making of it so.
2. That a family may obtain the commendation of being a Church, this is another thing that we require generally of all in the family, namely, that look what kind of men they are, or at least would seem to be, in the Church and public congregation, the same they would show themselves to be in the family and private conversement one with another. These be things common to all; now follow those peculiar to some — first to the chief, secondly the inferior. Those things which respect the chief are specially these — first, as much as in them lies, let them entertain none into their family whom God hath not first entertained into His. The Church doth not indifferently receive all and admit into her society by the sacrament of baptism the children of Turks and cannibals, strangers from the covenant, but only such ordinarily as are of a holy seed, the offspring of religious parents. So likewise must our families, if we would have them like churches, be something dainty who they receive. David's example is to be imitated (Psalm cf.), whose "eyes were unto the faithful of the land," that he might pick even the choicest of them for his service, and that so much the rather because far more easily may we keep out than cast such guests out of our houses. Secondly, the chief in the family must resemble the chief in the Church, namely, the pastors, etc., thereof; and that not only in those things which concern God's service, but outward discipline also. For the first. There are two special duties of the pastor respecting God's service, preaching and praying. In both these, in some measure, should the governors of the family be like to the pastors of the Church. First, therefore, they must instruct the whole family in that doctrine which is according to godliness. This they must do, first, in words; which Paul commandeth (Ephesians 6), and which God Himself commendeth in Abraham (Genesis 18). Here, then, is censured that government of the family which is only civil, not religious. Assuredly, if the Word of God found not in thy house as in the Church it is unworthy the name of a church? Secondly, they must teach likewise by example. With David, walking in the uprightness of their hearts in the midst of their house; for the eye of the whole family is upon the governors thereof, as is the eye of the Church upon their pastors. Secondly, as in preaching, so likewise in praying, must they imitate the pastors; for the house of God is called the house of prayer. If, therefore, this principal part of God's service be wanting in any house, how can it be called God's house? Thus must they be like the pastors in things concerning God's service. Secondly, they must resemble them in their discipline, causing their house. hold discipline to be answerable to the Church discipline. First, that which is the ground of all good discipline, they must have a very watchful and attentive eye over every soul in the family, so that they may know the several natures, conditions, and dispositions of all, and so proportion their government accordingly. This is rightly to play the bishop, who hath that name from his careful overseeing of the flock (Acts 20:20). Secondly, after that the eye hath laid these foundations the hand must build thereon. First, as soon as it hath received warning from the eye of some evil that is in brewing, in stretching forth itself and arming itself to hinder it, and keep the authors thereof within their bounds. For this purpose both admonitions and threatenings must be used, but especially wholesome laws must be enacted for the prohibiting and preventing of things unlawful. Secondly, the same hand which made the sword of good laws for the prevention of evil to come must draw it out for the punishment of evil past, and not suffer it to lie rusting in the sheath. If, then, any shall break those good laws which the governors of the families have made, let the punishments threatened be inflicted, that so those who would not obey the precepts of the law may perforce be constrained to obey the threatenings thereof. Now herein must there be an imitation of Church discipline. Look, then, as in the Church the offender is first admonished divers times, and at length, not profiting by those admonitions, is excommunicated and dis-synagogued, so likewise in thy family, finding wicked and ungodly ones, first must thou deal with them by admonition, reprehension, castigation; and if, for all these means, they still remain incorrigible, then cast them out of thy house, and think their room better than their company. If the king were to come to thy house, and there were some in it he could not abide, wouldest thou not discharge them thine house, if so be thou wert desirous of the king's presence? And entertaining traitors in thy house, traitors against God, thinkest thou that He will come and pitch His tent and take up His lodging with thee? These be the things proper to the chief. Now follow those which belong to the inferiors, in the which, as in the former, their governors resembled the pastors of the Church, they must resembled the rest of the body of the Church. First, in matter of doctrine. As the Church acknowledgeth those that are over her, in the Lord, and obeyeth them (1 Thessalonians 5; Hebrews 13:1), so must those that are under government carry themselves reverently and respectively towards their governors, cheerfully and conscionably obeying, as all other of their lawful commands, so especially those which concern God's worship. And as by the example of the pastors, the rest of the Church are stirred up to godliness (Philippians 4:9), so must the inferiors in the family be encouraged and inflamed to virtue, when they shall see their superiors going before them. Secondly, they must resemble the Church in matters of discipline. First, enduring those chastisements, either verbal or real, which for their deserts are inflicted, and freely acknowledging the equity of them. Secondly, if at any time they see any of their fellows misbehaving himself, first let them try what they can do themselves by admonition; but if that way they prevail not, then according to the example of the ecclesiastical discipline (Matthew 18), let them acquaint their governors therewithal.
(D. Dyke, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: