The Christian at Home.

Ephesians 5:22 to 6:9.

The family is especially dealt with in the epistles which treat of the Church. Those epistles which take up Church order and rule take up also the order and rule of the family; and those epistles which show the Church as the body of Christ, show also how this relationship, and the principles it involves, affect the family life. Family relationships were instituted by God in Eden, and confirmed after the fall. Christianity does not change their outward character, but infuses into them new and divine principles. The husband is the responsible head of the house, and the mutual obligation subsisting between him and his wife, his children, and his servants, is the subject of the portion now before us. The question is not one of rights on either side, but rather of the way in which each, as having the life of Christ, should exhibit this in his conduct towards the other.

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church: and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." (v. 22-24.) Part of the curse pronounced on the woman at the fall was, "Thy desire shall be [subject] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." (Gen. 3:16.) Christianity confirms this order, but so remodels it that all trace of the curse disappears. The subjection of the believer to the Lord, or of the Church to Christ, is no curse or bondage, and these are now the models of wifely subjection; for she is to be subject unto her own husband, "as unto the Lord," and as "the Church is subject unto Christ." How beautiful to see a human relationship, and one too which derives a part of its character from the fall, thus transformed into a type of the mystery in which God displays His "manifold wisdom" unto "the principalities and powers in heavenly places."

The subject is expanded in dealing with the other side. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it might be holy and without blemish." (v. 25-27.) Here, though natural affection is owned, a far higher order of love is brought in, so that the earthly relationship is re-cast, as it were, in a heavenly mould. The past, present, and future love of Christ to the Church are all made to bear on the duty of the husband to his wife. And how beautiful the unfolding of this love is! Christ loved the Church not only saints, but the Church - and gave Himself for it. It was the "pearl of great price" for which He sold all that He had. Now He watches over it, cleansing it from defilement by the application of His word. Soon He will present it to Himself in His own beauty, "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband," the object of His own eternal delight.

And here the order of creation is brought in, and made to blend, as it were, with that love of Christ of which it furnishes so beautiful a type. "So ought men to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth Himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." (v. 28-31.) The peculiar mode of Eve's creation out of Adam both gives marriage a special sanctity, so that the wife is to be cherished as a part of the husband's own being, and furnishes an exquisite type of Christ's relationship with the Church. As Adam was not complete without Eve, so Christ, though Head over all, is not complete without the Church, "the fulness [completion] of Him that filleth all in all." As Adam fell into a deep sleep, so Christ went into death. As Eve was formed out of Adam, so the Church is quickened with Christ, and has His own life. As Adam acknowledged Eve to be bone of His bone and flesh of his flesh, so does Christ acknowledge the Church. As Adam was bound to care for and cleave to the woman thus formed out of himself, so Christ delights in nourishing and cherishing the Church which is His own body. How wonderfully all that belongs to this divinely-instituted relationship is raised by being thus linked up with the tender, watchful love of Christ over the Church!

This, of course, is the grand subject, and therefore the apostle writes: "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church." Still the relationship of husband and wife is also in his view, so he adds, "Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband." (vv. 32, 33.) Though the believer is not promised his portion in this life, yet he is told that "godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." (1 Tim. 4:8.) We have an illustration here. Who cannot see the happiness that would reign in the house where the relationship of husband and wife was formed on the godly model here furnished?

The subjection of children to their parents is part of God's order as seen in nature; and under the law a special blessing was attached to the ohservance of the commandment in which this duty was enjoined. Christianity takes up the obligation, but transplants it from natural to divine ground. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and thy mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." (Chap. 6:1-3.) Thus the obligation of children, as of wives, is connected with "the Lord." It is not merely the dictate of nature, though perfectly right, but the acknowledgment of the Lord's claims as represented in the parents. The blessed Lord Himself, who "learned obedience," was the beautiful example of this. Of Him in His lifetime it is recorded that He went with His parents "to Nazareth, and was subject unto them." The law is not here introduced as showing that believers are under it, but as proving the special value which God attached to this duty, so as even to depart from the ordinary character of law, by coupling it with a promise which makes known the connection between this duty and earthly blessing.

But the duty is not one-sided. The apostle adds, "And ye, fathers, provoke not your children to wrath but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (v. 4.) Both parents are to be obeyed, but this admonition is addressed only to the fathers. This may be partly because fathers are more likely to err in the provoking of their children to wrath than mothers; but the principal reason is that the father, as the head of the house, is responsible to God for the bringing up of the children, and he is treated on the ground of this responsibility. This principle, as seen in Eli's case, runs throughout Scripture. It is all the more solemn because under Christianity the children are already holy, as belonging to the house of God; and the obligation is therefore the greater to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." The Israelites were holy by birth - not personally, but as belonging to a nation set apart to God - and therefore the fathers were to instruct the children in the law, their then link with God. So Christian parents are to instruct their children as to what becomes the holy character which attaches to them as members of a Christian family.

The next class of household relationships differs from the others in being one instituted by social rather than natural causes. The servants here named were bondsmen. Whether slavery is right or wrong, humane or cruel, is not the point here. Christianity takes men in the social position in which it finds them, and shows how they may live Christ in that place. It is not occupied in remodelling society, but in teaching the believer to exhibit Christ. He was to be subject to the powers that be; and as these authorized slavery, he was to obey the laws in this as in other matters, seeking freedom lawfully if he could, but if not, to be content with his lot. The service rendered under present social conditions differs in its legal basis, but this does not alter the obligations on either side named by the apostle. Nay, if there is any difference, the obligation is even stronger; for service rendered for wages should surely be given as cheerfully and performed as thoroughly as service exacted by bondage.

"Servants," therefore, are exhorted to "be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men." (v. 5-7.) Here again the obligation is taken out of the range of the old creation, and connected with Christ in glory. Like wives and children, the servants are exhorted to render their obedience "as unto Christ." This at once transfers their duties to a higher region than either the legal compulsion of the old system, or the legal contract of the present. Even a slave's duties were at once ennobled and sweetened if he could say, "I am doing this, not for reward, or to escape punishment, but to please Christ." It was not to be a question of whether the task imposed was reasonable or unreasonable, light or arduous. Wrong endured, or severe labour performed for Christ's sake, might be cheerfully borne.

How beautifully our Lord Himself furnishes the example of this. He "took upon Him the form of a servant." Though entitled to be free, He submits to tribute lest He should offend them. So the believing servant, under the cruelest and most tyrannical treatment, was to show out the life of Christ in him. "For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully … for even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps." (1 Peter 2:19-21.) And as the cheerful and diligent obedience of the servant was the means of showing forth Christ, so any failure in the respect or subjection here enjoined would bring reproach on His name. Hence the apostle, in writing to Timothy, says, "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed." (1 Tim. 6:1.)

Nowhere is the honour of Christ spoken of as bound up with the conduct of the believer, so remarkably as in the case of the servant. The very hardships of his lot, the very injustice and cruelty with which he was liable to be treated, only rendered the power of the life of Christ in him the more conspicuous. And before none other is the reward of his conduct so distinctly set: "Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free." (v. 8.) How cheering to the suffering bondsman, to look beyond the drudgery and unrequited labours of his earthly lot, and to know that the faithful toil endured with good will for the Lord's sake here, is not, and never will be, forgotten, but will all "be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ 1" (1 Peter 1:7)

And if Christ, as the Lord of the inheritance, holds out the hope of reward to the servant, so He utters words of warning to the master: "And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him." (v. 9.) "The same things" probably mean what is called in the Colossians, "that which is just and equal." The principle here is the counterpart of that in the last verse. Even a Christian master might forget that social distinctions, though recognized and sanctioned on earth, have no existence in Christ's judgment. Master and servant will all answer to Him. To the one whose low position might cause discouragement He holds out, therefore, the prospect of reward for faithful service; to the one whose high position might lead to oppression, He holds out the judgment that will follow an abuse of power. Though the law might give the injured servant no redress, the master was reminded of another tribunal before which he must stand, and in which his conduct to his servant would be judged, not according to man's laws, but according to the estimate of Him that is holy, Him that is true. Thus Christ is made the standard of everything in the Christian's walk. Whether as wife or husband, as child or parent, as bondsman or master, the rule is, that having Christ's life, the walk of Christ is to be shown forth in the believer's ways. "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked." T. B. Baines.

The character of a Christian is thorough abstraction of heart from the world.

A Christian who is not dead to the world is but a stumbling-stone to every one who seeks to follow Christ.