Our New Edens
(the Christian home)
J. R. Miller, 1903
The first home there ever was in this world, was in the Garden of Eden. God the Father made it ready for His first children—made it ready for them before they were created. I can imagine with what loving thought He prepared this home for them. He made it very beautiful. He gathered into it all the loveliest things of all the earth—trees, plants, flowers, and fruits. Streams of water rippled through it and there were birds and animals of all kinds in it.
The first home was a 'garden'. Every home should be a garden spot. An important part of our work in this world, is 'garden-making'. We ought to make our homes as beautiful as we can. They may be very plain, perhaps only two or three rooms—but we should put into them all the lovely things we can gather. The first home in this world was in Eden. We should try to make our homes 'Edens'.
Every home should be such a garden. Whether it is a luxurious place—or bare of earthly comforts, it should be sweet with the fragrance of love—and beautiful with the beauty of the Lord.
The 'home' has always been dear to the Divine heart. When Jesus sent His disciples out to preach, one of His instructions was, "Into whatever house you enter, first say, Peace be to this house." On Christ's lips this is more than a salutation; it is a divine benediction as well. Peace means love, heaven's love, the absence of all strife and bitterness. It means also the absence of anxiety and worry.
The New Testament tells us of the home at Bethany where Jesus Himself was welcomed by the sisters. He left peace there. He taught the lesson of quietness and confidence. One of the sisters was disposed to worry—it is not easy to be a housekeeper, to have to provide for the needs of a family, and to manage all the domestic affairs of a home and not sometimes fret a little. Martha was anxious and troubled about many things. But Jesus gently taught her the lesson of peace, and we may be quite sure she never forgot it. We never find her worrying any more.
Jesus comes to the door of each home of ours and says, "Peace be to this house!" We should let the messenger of peace come in. Nothing good ever comes of fretting. We cannot get clear of cares. There are troubles enough in any of our lives to spoil our happiness, if we yield to them. But no matter what comes, what burdens press, what things go wrong, what flowers fade, listen to the Master's word at the door, "Peace be to this house!"
How can we make new Edens of our homes? What are some of the secrets of home happiness? I might gather them all into one word and say—CHRIST! If we have Christ as our guest—our home will be happy!
Christ in the joy—and Christ in the sorrow;
Christ in the day of plenty—and Christ in the day of pinching poverty;
Christ in the business—and Christ in the social life;
Christ at the marriage altar—and Christ as the wedded pair walk together toward the sunset gate.
Christ makes a happy home—when He is admitted into all the household life!
The other day a young friend who is to be a bride in a little while came to have a quiet talk about her new life. She has never confessed Christ as her Master and Friend, and she said she wanted to do it soon, adding: "We never know what trouble we may have, and when we may need Christ. I want to take Him now into my new life, and into my home." She is doing right—but her thought of the possible need for Christ reveals a mistaken conception of His mission to us.
Christ is not needed merely in the days of trouble. Religion is not meant to be a lamp for the sick room, or for the days when the shutters are bowed and there is death-crape on the door. It is for the sunny days as well. Christ's first public act after His baptism, was His attendance at a wedding-feast. He would come into all our experiences of gladness—as well as into our times of care or trial. Our joy needs heaven in it—quite as much as our sorrow does.
It is more of Christ we need in our homes—to make their happiness perfect. One of Turner's pictures was being exhibited in the artist's studio. It was rich and beautiful. But those who were present that day saw that it lacked something. It seemed all mist and cloud—hazy, vague, ill-defined, incomprehensible. The friends who looked at the canvas were perplexed—they could not understand the picture. The artist himself saw the lack, and, taking his brush, added a touch of red to his painting. That took away all the mystery, the vagueness, the mistiness, and made it understandable.
Some of our homes seem to have in them everything they need to make them perfect. They are filled with beauty. They have all the equipments and conveniences of modern taste and skill. Music and art and refinement and the best things that money can add, are present. Health and happiness and the gladness of social life, yield their portion to the comfort of these homes. But something is yet lacking to make the picture complete. It is Christ's "Peace be to this house!" It is a touch of the red of Christ's cross—His love shed abroad in the home-life. If Christ were admitted as a guest. His coming would add immeasurably to the joy and sweetness of the home-life.
But there is only one way of taking Christ into our homes and getting His blessing on our home-life. In olden days there would be a little chapel in great castles where God was formally honored on Sundays, while He was shut out of all the life of other days. Not thus, can we take Christ into our homes. He will not come to be a secluded guest, merely to lodge in loneliness in our best room. He must be welcomed into all our life. He must be in each heart. He must sit at our tables and mingle with us in all our family interaction. Christ can bless our home, only through the lives of those who make the home circle.
The husband has a part in making the earthly home, a little garden of Eden. He must be a godly man. He need not be rich, nor brilliant, nor famous, nor clever—but he must be godly. He must always be a lover—even to his old age. Then he must be a man—manly, brave, true, generous, worthy of honor. He must be a man of unblemished life. He must be a man who loves his home and lives for it The husband has an important part in the home garden-making. Some husbands seem not to know this; at least they fail to take their share of the burden.
The wife too has a responsibility. The word "wife" is suggestive. Some lexicographers would connect it with "weave." In olden days the wife's hands wove the garments her husband wore. This is not the case now—but the wife does weave the garments of her husband's character. Most men who amount to anything worth while, confess that they owe it all to their wives. Jeremy Taylor's tribute to a true wife is very beautiful—but as true as beautiful, though it sets a high ideal: "A good wife is heaven's best gift to man; his angel and minister of graces innumerable; his gem of many virtues; his casket of jewels."
The wife is the real home-maker. It is her sweet life that gives the home its atmosphere. Her hands fashion its beauty. Her heart makes its love. And the end is so worthy, so noble, so divine, that no woman called to be a wife, should consider any price too great to pay that she may be the light, the joy, the blessing, the inspiration, of her home!
I know how some good mothers sometimes feel that it is only a dull, dreary, routine life they are living. They contrast it with the lives of certain women who are achieving distinction in other lines, winning honors, doing work which the world praises—and sometimes they feel that their lives are humdrum and insignificant in comparison. But the woman who makes a sweet, beautiful home, filling it with love, prayer, and song—is doing something better than anything else her hands could find to do anywhere beneath the blue skies.
"My day has all gone!" 'twas a woman who spoke,
As she turned her face to the sunset glow.
And I have been busy the whole day long;
Yet for my work there is nothing to show!
No painting nor sculpture her hand had wrought;
No laurel of fame her labor had won.
What was she doing in all the long day,
With nothing to show at set of sun?
You know what she was doing—kindly things all the day long, trifles, perhaps—but trifles that left blessings everywhere. She had put blessings into her husband's heart—as he went forth in the morning to his work. She had brought heaven down about her children's lives—as she prayed with them. She had left touches of beauty in every part of her home—as she went about her task-work. She had kept sweet amid all the home care and turmoil. She had found time to go out to carry to a sick neighbor, or to a home of sorrow—comfort and cheer.
Humbly and quietly all the long day
Had her sweet service for others been done;
Yet for the labors of heart and of hand,
What could she show at set of sun?
Ah, she forgot that our Father in heaven
Ever is watching the work that we do,
And records He keeps of all we forget.
Then judges our work with judgment that's true.
For an angel writes down in a volume of gold
The beautiful deeds that all do below.
Though nothing she had at set of the sun,
The angel above had something to show!
Children, when they come, are also important factors in making the happiness of the home. They bring care, and demand toil and sacrifice, and cost ofttimes pain and grief; yet the blessing they bring to a true home—repays a thousand times the care and cost!
One of the holiest secrets of home happiness, is a true mother. God sends many beautiful things to this world, many noble gifts; but no blessing He ever gives is richer than that which He bestows in a mother who has learned love's lesson well and understands something of the meaning of her sacred calling.
A father also has his share in the making of the Eden home. It is not fair to put all the responsibility for the home-life on the mother. Fathers cannot evade their duty in this regard, without lack of faithfulness and also of chivalrous conduct. God will call them to answer for their part of the responsibility. Then it is not manly, for a man to try to roll the whole burden on her whom he sometimes teases with being the "weaker vessel." If the wife is weak and he is so strong, then let him bear the strong man's part of the load. No doubt there are parts of the home duty which a mother can do far better than a father. Men's hands are awkward and clumsy, and a woman's hands are gentle and deft in love's arts. But let no man cherish the notion, that he has nothing to do in this home garden-making. His strong life should be the secure shelter beneath which his wife and children may safely abide. His character and disposition should be a continual revealing of the love and holiness of God.
Brothers and sisters also have their part in making the home happiness. Sometimes they forget this. Some young people do not add to the joy and the sweetness of the home in which they have been brought up—as they might do.
They do not give to their parents the comfort and cheer they might give. They do not remember and practice the fifth commandment. Then they do not live together sweetly as they might do, adding to the music of the home. Children carry in their hands—the happiness of their parents. We talk of the responsibility of parenthood—did you ever think of the responsibility of children for their parents? In this home garden-making every child has a share.
The artist was painting a picture of a dead mother, and was using a photograph as his copy. But to make the face look fresher and younger, he was leaving out the lines and marks of old age and care on the face. "No, no!" said the son. "Don't take out the lines! Leave them, every one! It wouldn't be my mother if all the lines were gone." Then he told the story of her devotion to her children through their infancy and through times of sickness. The lines which seemed to disfigure the face—were love's records, telling of sacrifice and suffering. We should never forget what we owe to our mothers.
Then may I say a special word about children's thought for their fathers? Mothers are idealized much oftener and with more just recognition and praise than fathers. More children pay honor and love and attention to mothers—than to fathers. Of course, mothers do more for children than fathers do—suffer more, are gentler and sweeter, give more thought and time and strength to them—and deserve more in return. We are not in danger of ever overdoing our gratitude to our mothers or of showing them too much kindness. But fathers also hunger for love from their children.
Max O'Rell has a strong word somewhere about the beauty of a daughter's attention and devotion to her father, saying also that such love and appreciation are rare. Love your mother and give her high honor—but do not forget that you can give your father great joy by being kind to him. He loves you too—and has lived for you all the years. He needs your affection and will be cheered by your thoughtfulness and attention.
I want to say some earnest words about the home-life we must live—if we are to make our homes little gardens of Eden. As in everything, LOVE is the great master secret of home happiness. When love is left gone from the home—the peace is broken. We must remember too that love needs expression. There are men who love their wives and would die for them—but who are not always gentle and kind to them. There are wives who love their husbands—but say little about it and do not take pains to show it. There is need for love that is affectionate, thoughtful, fond in its expression. Bring your flowers while they will do good—and do not keep them for the day of the funeral!
Parents cannot think too seriously of what they should try to make their homes—for the sake of their children. They are given to us in tender infancy to be brought up by us—for holy, worthy, beautiful lives. It is our duty to teach them and train them so that they shall be ready by and by for the positions in life they may be called to fill. The place of the home-life among the educational influences which help to mold and shape character, is supreme in its importance. It is not enough to have an opulent house to live in. It is not enough to have fine foods, and luxurious furniture, and expensive entertainments. Most of the world's worthiest men and women, those who have blessed the world the most, were brought up in plain homes, without any luxury. It is the tone of the home-life that is important. We should make it pure, elevating, refining, inspiring. The books we bring in, the papers and magazines, the guests we have at our tables and admit to our firesides, the home conversation, the pictures we hang on our walls—all these are educational.
The religious influences are also vitally important. In that first garden home the Lord came and went as a familiar friend. Christ must be our guest—if our home is to be a fit place either for our children or for ourselves. If no window opens into heaven, it is not a true home. If there is no prayer in it, it is not a home at all—it is only a heathen lodging-place!
A godly man tells of going back to the home of his childhood and of being put to sleep in the spare room. Opening a closet, he saw an old stool there, faded and worn, and noticed especially two deep dents in the cushion. Evidently they were dents made by a pair of knees. He understood at a glance. It was on that stool his mother had knelt daily through years as she prayed for her children, and prayed them one by one into the kingdom. There should be such a stool or spot in every home, where mothers and fathers bow morning and night to plead for their children.
They say that family worship is falling into disuse—and going out of fashion. It is a great loss to the world if this is true. There is a story of one man whom his wife urged to begin family prayers. It was hard the first time. A Bible chapter had been read and the two were on their knees—but there was silence—the prayer did not begin. The wife at length cried out, "O God, give John a lift!" The lift was given and the sealed lips were opened. It may not be easy to start family prayers—but if we try, God will give us a lift, and then great joy and good will follow.
There are godly mothers who every day kneel by their children's sides and pray with them—and there is great power in a mother's prayer!
We talk about the dangers of the street for our children, and God alone knows how real and how great the dangers are. What is the best way to save them from these perils? We must do it in the home. There is a tendency to roll the responsibility for the religious care and protection of children—over on the church. But we cannot evade our personal duty in this way. Parents are the custodians of their children's lives. If they would meet their responsibility and be able to look God and their children in the face at the judgment, they must make their homes as nearly 'gardens of Eden' as possible. The way to save the boys from the temptations of the streets—is to make home so bright, so sweet, so beautiful, so happy, so full of love, joy, and prayer—that the streets will have no attractiveness for them, no power to win them away. "Overcome evil with good."
The parents who are ready to do this will not be sorry for it by and by. No other work we can do—will yield larger returns. But there are some who do not care to devote themselves in this way, to the teaching and training of their children. "It is too much trouble!" they say. It is pathetic to think of how many children there are who are always in the way, whose noise always jars home nerves, who never get much love at home.
Let us live with our children! Let us take them into our lives. Let us enter into their lives. The best thing a father can do for his boy—is to be a boy again himself with him. The best thing a mother can do for her daughter—is to be a girl again herself with her. There is no revival needed today quite so imperatively as a revival of sweet, beautiful homes that shall clutch the lives of the boys and girls in them with a clutch of love, from which no power of temptation or of evil can ever tear them away.
I call upon all parents who care to heed my pleading to begin today—to make their homes more winning, more attractive, more happy, sweeter, heavenlier. Religion? Yes—but not religion made somber or distasteful, so that your children will not be influenced by it. Make your religion sunny, cheerful, full of sympathy with child-life, glad, songful—a religion for boys and girls. There is no reason why religion in a home should not be winsome, just as the life of Christ was. Bring heaven down into your homes. Try to make such a home-life as must have been in Joseph's home at Nazareth, when Jesus was a boy there. God has planted a 'new garden of Eden' for you to dress and keep. Tend it well.
There is an Eastern legend of a rose so sweet, that "even the earth which lies round its roots becomes permeated with fragrance, and little bits of it are sold as amulets and worn by princes." Make your home so sweet, so heavenly, with love and prayer and song and holy living—that all through it, there shall be the fragrance of the heart of Christ!
Thus let us make our homes little Eden gardens, in which something of the beauty, the sweetness, and the joy of heaven shall be reproduced on earth, to make the world believe in the home above in the Father's house, waiting for all the Master's friends!