God sets the solitary in families: he brings out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
The family has been best defined as "the institute of the affections." In its ideal state it is the home of love. It is the place of all others in which the affectionate side of human nature receives its strongest impulse, its freest, fullest development. While the family is first in order of time, having in embryo all the after fruits of civilization, being at the beginning of things, it held also within its limits both Church and State in their primitive condition. "The home is the first Church, and the home is the first State." Historically and germinally there has sprung from the family all that is best in human history, all that we most admire in human life.
1. Every one who takes the Bible as his guide must believe that the family is Divine in its origin. It was instituted in Eden by God Himself for the preservation of the race, for the welfare and happiness of His creatures. It has stood the test of time. Sin has corrupted, but could not destroy it. Christ came to a sinning world to redeem and regenerate it. Sin had polluted all the relations of man and those institutions which God had established for man's happiness and glory, so pure in their first inception. The family had not been exempt from this downward drag of sin. Christ would touch this centre of influence and bring the family back to its original place. He re-emphasized its sacredness. He put Himself in direct opposition to the theories of His age. Nowhere in the literature that preceded Him can you find such exalted views of marriage and the home as were presented by Him. That which by the perversion of sin had become such a power for evil He aimed to transform into a ministry of light and love. Through it He sought to propagate His faith and to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth.
2. Consider next the unity of the family — its oneness of life. The family is treated as a unit in the Bible. The members of it are not so many isolated beings, each one independent and thoughtless of the other. They have a common interest and a common life; what affects one affects the other. This is true not only of every living generation, but of all subsequent generations. Every family has a history distinct from all others. It is a link binding the past and the future. Receiving from its fathers the heritage of their virtues, it is expected to transmit them to those who follow. Just as surely as every Church and nation has its unmistakable tone and spirit, so, surely, is there a common family life. Every household has its marked characteristics, natural aptitudes, its distinctive views, tastes, and ideas: Too much has been made of heredity in certain quarters, but the basis of truth in connection with it we must all recognize.
(1) It is interesting to note, even from a physiological point of view, the physical traits which reappear in the same family in successive generations. You take the child of to-day and trace a very close resemblance between him and the pictures of ancestors who lived one hundred or two hundred years ago. You detect the same features, the same colour of the hair and expression of the eye.
(2) Mental traits also descend from parents to children. The prominent and remarkable men of the world have, as a rule, had a remarkable mother. Distinguished women have borne the impress of a distinguished father. Say what we will, blood has much to do in deciding what we are to be and do in this short life.
(3) If it be generally admitted that physical and mental traits are transmitted, it will not be difficult to show that the spiritual nature of the child takes its direction very largely from the spiritual nature of the parent. Given parents who are gluttonous, intemperate, licentious, who are the slaves of their sensual appetites, what may we expect of the children who partake of their natures, who breathe the air and imbibe the teachings of their home. Who can measure the power of this family spirit? How often it is the very opposite to what it should be! Here it is money, money written on every face; here it is good living; here it is show; here scandal and detraction. Sometimes the sense of religion and of spiritual things will seem to be nearly lost or obliterated. Not that God permits this evil spirit of the household to have full and undisputed sway. He has established remedies and counter forces to resist it. Wicked homes are often broken up. Children whose natural parents will not care for them are gathered into public institutions or private homes by Christian workers. Families, too, are constantly intermingling. Better influences from without may overcome the wicked spirit at home. But that does not disprove the unity of the family, that oneness of spirit and character which manifests itself in successive generations. It is something more than influence, direct or indirect. "Every child is born into the peculiar life of its own family, partakes of its nature, and feels its power.
(S. W. Dana, D. D.)
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.