God sets the solitary in families: he brings out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
There is a strong disposition on the part of many now to deny the goodness of God as seen in Creation. A great philosopher, recently deceased, assures us, in his last deliverance about Nature, that on the whole this is a very clumsily conducted world. No doubt this pessimistic state of mind has been partly caused by the foolish and excessive optimism of the writers on Christian evidences. These quietly ignored the deeper difficulties and perplexities of the subject, and the philosophers have taken revenge by parading them and deepening their complexion. True, Dr. Watts, for reasons connected with man's depravity, preferred to find this world of ours "not a proper habitation for an upright being: its form is rude, irregular, abrupt, and horrid." It is curious to find Dr. Watts and Mr. Mill in such entire harmony about Nature. Dr. Watts sees a fallen and corrupted in what the other sees an originally ill-constructed and ill-compacted world. But the world has working in it the principle of progress, and this is continually refining, elevating, and developing both man and his world. Nature, like man, is saved by hope. The depreciation which has fallen upon the Order of Creation falls more heavily on the order of the human world. And, no doubt, the signs of strife, struggle, confusion, of waste and wreck manifest in Creation, are yet more so in the human sphere. The signs of dire disorder affront us everywhere. The skeleton stalks abroad; it saddens with its ghastly presence the sunlight of life. It is a great mystery. It is inevitable that these things should perplex us when we consider the large and far-reaching plan on which God has made the world. The key to it is the culture of a free being: his education for a free and noble eternity. No key but this will fit all the wards of Nature and of life. Much of the complaint that is heard is really against man's freedom, and because he is not more of a machine. If men were machines, and all filings were the result of a mechanical arrangement; if what looks like freedom were only reflex action, then one would be driven to the conclusion that the machine is extremely clumsy and ill-arranged. We could, in that case, readily conceive that a much more simple one might have been constructed, which would work much more smoothly, and with far less fret and friction. But, judging by the lights of Reason and Revelation, God has chosen to construct the world upon quite another scheme, in which the education of free, moral beings for an immortal life is the deep thought that underlies it. Everything must be judged absolutely by its fitness for this purpose. And if this be the purpose, then it is worth while to study profoundly this great scheme, and to search out all its depths. Contemplate, then, the Divine goodness in the order of human society, which grows out of the social instincts and aptitudes which are the special endowments of man. And at the root of them all lies the institution of the family. Out of that human society grows. We may understand the text as telling both of God's loving care for the solitary, or as indicating the loving provision for man's happiness, solace and development, which the institution of the family secures. Now, the immediate purposes of this order seem to be —
1. The drawing forth and the culture of the several faculties of the individual, and —
2. The continual elevation and purification of the life of society: its constant progress towards an ideal, the vision of which God has set before mankind. In the family you have, in little, the picture of society. It is there in miniature. It is under your eye and hand; you can study it readily and see how it works. And the pessimist philosophers would tell you that they find in the family constitution just the mischievous blundering of which they complain elsewhere. As the world, so the family is, they say, "capriciously governed." And some speak of it more harshly still. It hands over, they complain, the character and career of each successive generation to individual caprice and will, concerning which you can take and hold no security: it is all blind chance what the parents may he. Plato sought, and communistic ideals seek, to rectify this supposed flaw in the arrangement of society, which is the result of family life. It is said, "What sort of blundering is it which places young children in their formative years, on which everything depends, under the control of those who are tolerably certain to be capricious and foolish? Would it not be better to take possession of the children from the first and place them under the rule of those who will be certain to train them in wisdom and virtue?" And there does seem something to be said for this. For what awful consequences come from bad parental influences! How many myriads of children are ruined by it! Now, it is not a complete answer to say that man has gone aside from God's intention, because it allows that God made man capable of thus falling. But we must remember that all this is for our ,education, and is a mighty instrument in it, and we must take eternity into view. Then and there, if not here and now, we shall see God's ways justified.
(J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.