Family

Family The idea of the family (οϊvκος), in Greece, was that of the nucleus of society, or of the state. "Aristotle speaks of it as the foundation of the state and, quotes Hesiod to the effect that the original family consisted of the wife and the laboring ox, which held," as he says, to the poor the position of the slave (Polit. 1:1). The complete Greek family, then, consisted of the man, and his wife, and his slave; the two latter, Aristotle says, never having been confounded in the same class by the Greeks, as by the barbarians (Ib.). In this form, the family was recognized as the model of the monarchy, the earliest, as well as the simplest, form of government. When, by the birth and growth of children, and the death of the father, the original family is broken up into several, the heads of which stand to each other in a co-ordinate rather than a strictly subordinate position, we have in these the prototypes of the more advanced forms of government. Each brother, by becoming the head of a separate family, becomes a member of an aristocracy, or the embodiment of a portion of the sovereign power, as it exists in the separate elements of which a constitutional or a democratic government is composed. But at Rome the idea of the family was still more closely entwined with that of life in the state, and the natural power of the father was taken as the basis not only of the whole political, but of the whole social organization of the people. Among the Romans, as with the Greeks, the family included the slave as well as the wife, and ultimately the children, a fact which, indeed, is indicated by the etymology of the word, which belongs to the same root as famulus, a slave. In its widest sense, the famalia included even the in-animate possessions of the citizen, who, as the head of a house, was his own master (sui juris); and Gaius (2:102) uses it as synonymous with patrimonium. In general, however, it was confined to persons — the wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, if such there were, and slaves of a full-blown Roman citizen. Sometimes, too, it signified all those who had sprung from a common stock, and would have been members of the family, and under the potestas of a common ancestor, had he been alive. In this sense, of course, the slaves belonging to the different members of the family were not included in it. It was a family, in short, in the sense in which we speak of 'the royal family,' etc., with this difference, that it was possible for an individual to quit it, and to pass into another by adoption. Sometimes, again, the word was used with reference to slaves exclusively, and, analogically, to a sect of philosophers, or a body of gladiators." See Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

The Christian family, on the contrary, is a communion resting as an ethico- religious foundation, and forming the closest of all human relationships. It is a copy of the highest and most perfect union, that of the Church with Christ its head. Christianity, considered as the true (ideal) family, wherein Christ's power begets, through the Word and the Spirit, children of faith unto God, who mutually aid each other with their several spiritual gifts, is imaged in the natural family; imperfectly, indeed, since the life of the Christian family is yet a life in the flesh (Ga 2:20); yet truly, because its bond of union is spiritual, being the spirit of Christ. The basis of the Christian family is Christian marriage, or monogamy, the exclusive union of one man to one woman. The deepest ground of this union, and its true aim, without which Christian marriage and family are impossible, is the consciousness of unity in Christ, or in the love of God in Christ, the source of individual sympathy, as well as of brotherly and universal love. Marriage has, in common with Christian friendship, the bond of tender sentiments; but the former is an exclusive bond between two persons of different sexes, whose personality is complemented, so to speak, by each other. It is therefore a lifelong relation, while friendship may be only temporary. SEE MARRIAGE.

Two persons thus joined in marriage lay the foundation of a Christian family; indeed, they constitute a family, though yet incomplete and undeveloped. It awaits its completion in the birth of children. In proportion, however, as the married couple live in a state of holiness, so are the natural desires for issue and their gratification made subservient to the divinely ordered end of the marriage, and accompanied by a sense of dependence on the will and biessingof God. And in order duly to attain this higher end of the family, it is necessary that, keeping the merely carnal passions subordinate, both husband and wife should endeavor to subserve each other's moral and spiritual completeness; and also that they should, when children are born, faithfully help each other in training them properly, by the combination of their particular dispositions, the father's sternness being tempered with the mother's gentleness, and the mother's tenderness energized by the father's authority. The children should see the unity between the father and the mother, in their unity of aim, though manifested according to their different dispositions. Early baptism should be followed by careful religious training. In this the mother has a certain priority, inasmuch as, aside from giving her children birth, she is also first in giving them the bodily and spiritual care they require. Yet even in this early period she derives assistance from the husband, who, as the head of the family, counsels, strengthens, and assists her. In after years their relative shares in the education of the children become more equalized, the sons coming, however, more under the influence of the father, while the daughters remain more under the mother's. Those who wish theirs to be a real Christian family must from the first inculcate on their children (aside from the habit of absolute, unquestioning obedience to the parental authority as divinely instituted) the true ground of obedience, as laid in obedience to God, springing from love to God. "The order in which the love of the child graduates is from the stage of instinctive love to moral affection; and from this to the love of its heavenly Parent. Desirous as the parents may be to lead its affections up at once to the Creator, the previous stages of the path must first be passed through. For a while the maternal care is the only Providence it knows; and the father's experience is to it a world of grand enterprise, and of power unlimited. In vain it strives to climb the height of his knowledge — his virtual omniscience; nor can it conceive of a diviner guarantee than his promise. To see its parents bend in worship, and to hear them speak with holy awe of their Father in heaven, is itself solemn and suggestive as a ladder set up from earth to heaven. The wise discipline, too, which leads the parent kindly to repress its selfish desires, and constantly to aim at its moral welfare, invariably begets in return the highest order of filial love and confidence; evincing the power of the child to discriminate between instinctive and moral affection, and preparing it to embrace that heavenly Parent of whom the earthly is but an imperfect representation. And let the parents remark that, from the moment they begin to point their child to God as all object of reverence and love, they are pursuing the certain course for augmenting its moral affection for themselves; while its intelligent love for them is a valuable means and a pledge for its ascending to the love of God" (Harris, Patriarchy, or the Family, page 352). This divine liberty, based on fear and love, far from diminishing the respectful love of the children for their parents, will exalt and purify it, and bring it to its highest degree of perfection; it will make it become part of their religion, and whenever a collision may occur between the parental wishes and the will of God, it will lead the children, while obeying the latter, to cherish all possible reverence and respect for the former. By this personal development of their spiritual life the sons and daughters will become friends to their parents; a higher kind of trust; such as is felt in one's equals, is thus reached, without diminishing the respect which is the, duty of the child and the right of the parents. This is the true graduation of the Christian family life, in which the elder children become helps to the parents for the education of the younger, while at the same time they become more thoroughly fitted to fulfill their own duties as heads of families in after life. Where the blessing of children has been denied, it can in some measure, though not completely, find a substitute in the adoption of orphans or other children, and then the duties towards these are the same as towards one's own.

Bible concordance for FAMILY.

The Christian family includes also what heathen Rome called the family in a subordinate sense — the servants. Their position, wherever the principles of Christian humanity prevail, is not one of slavery, but is a free moral relation, entered into by the consent of both parties, and giving each peculiar rights and duties. The Christian, penetrated with the spirit of his Master, will not lose sight of the fact that this spirit inclined Him much more to serve others than to have them serve Him, and he will not be satisfied by rewarding his servants with wages only, but with all the spiritual blessings of which the family is the proper sphere. They should take part in the family worship, and even an active part, as in reading, singing, praying. The more they come to take part in the life of the family, in its interests, its joys, its griefs, and receive from it the sympathy and help they require, either for the body or the mind, the more does the general family lead a really Christian life.

The entire life of the Christian family is a continuous act of worship in the more extended sense of the word, and must gradually become more and more so, since all its actions are done in the name of Christ and for the glory of God. This thoroughly Christian conduct is, however, sustained and strengthened by the family worship in the proper sense, in which the family, as such, seeks for strength in the Word and in the Spirit of God. The more perfectly this family worship is organized, the more will it resemble public worship, consisting, like it, in the reading and exounding of Scripture, singing, and prayer. The eader in the religious exercises of the family should be the father, as priestly head of the house. This, however, is not to exclude the co-operation of the mother, children, and other members of the family their participation, on the contrary, adds much to theinterest of the service, and makes it an admirable supplement to public worship, as in the family the feeling of trust in each other and of self-dependence add much: to liberty in prayer. This constitutes the true hearth of the family, the center around which all meet again, from whence they derive light and warmth, and whose genial influences will be felt through life. From the bosom of such a family the spirit of Christianity goes out with its healthful influence into the Church, the school, the state, and even the whole world.

Definition of family

See generally the writers on moral philosophy and Christian ethics, and especially Herzog, Real-Encyklopddie 4:318; Rothe, Theolog. Ethik, in, 605; Schaff,. Apostolical Age, § 111; Harris, Patriarchy, or the Family (Lond. 1855, 8vo); Anderson, Genius and Design of the Domestic Constitution (Edinb. 1826, 8vo); Thiersch, Ueber christliches Familienleben (4th ed. Frankf. 1859; translated into several languages).

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

 
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