Protecting the family is one of the highest priorities set forth in the Holy Scriptures. The Lord promises the blessing of an enduring stability and joy to families that carefully obey His Word. That is the only sure immunity from the epidemic of divorce and ruin that is now devastating many professing Christian families. Numerous pastors’ hearts are broken over families that had maintained a good testimony for decades, yet now are destroyed by separation and divorce. Of course, the head of the family bears the primary responsibility for maintaining family unity by leading through a godly example and loving instruction. Although many godly fathers are doing an excellent job of caring for their families, an increasing number are failing miserably. A wise church elder recently commented that many husbands blame their relationship with their wife as the source of the problem; however, he went on to say that the real source of the problem is the husband’s relationship with the living God. Truly, the key to success in all relationships is real and vibrant: daily fellowship with the Lord. That is why Dr. J. R. Miller’s book Home-Making is so useful today. Like Richard Baxter’s The Christian Directory, Dr. Miller’s book is full of scriptural answers without humanistic psychology.
Dr. J. R. Miller was an admirable minister of Christ in Pennsylvania during the mid to late nineteenth century. His deeply spiritual, pastoral ministry is reflected in his many devotional writings. His book with the unusual title, Home-Making, was first published in 1882. With such a title, some might think that the book is dealing only with the wife and mother’s duties; however, the twentieth century term “home economics” in its literal sense would aptly describe the book. Economics means the “law of the house” and the consistently spiritual application of God’s holy law transforms a house into a truly happy home. Such a home is the product of the contributions of all the family members.
Without the loving and consistent application of God’s holy law, a house is merely a scene of chaos. Sadly, the “Christian West” has shifted over the last 100 years to the position of antinomianism which has brought ruin to many homes. Antinomianism is the mistaken idea that the moral law is no longer applicable as the rule of conduct for the believer. The chaos of the West is demonstrated by a divorce rate that is indeed epidemic. Now over fifty per cent of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. How devastating not only for the estranged spouses, but also for the helpless children who are thrown into a tug of war between their parents.
Dr. Miller’s book applies God’s Word to each family member. Of course, he begins with the home’s foundation: Christian marriage. He devotes a chapter to the duties of the husband. As the leader and head of the home, the husband bears the primary responsibility for proper Biblical leadership. The following chapter on the duties of the wife is just as important, unfolding the wife’s biblical response of support to her loving husband. The very atmosphere and attitude of the home are created by the wife. Her faithful keeping of the home, her decorating the rooms with good taste, and her relationship with the Lord combine to make a house into a home. The chapter on parenting is also essential because of God’s plan to fill the earth with a godly seed through Christian parents. God’s will is generally for children to come into the home and to be nurtured in that loving atmosphere so that they will come to know and to serve Christ. What a thrilling chapter Dr. Miller wrote concerning siblings in the home. One of the goals of parenting is to guide the children into becoming best friends. Why should the children seek their best friends from families other than their own? Friends are won by kindness, thoughtfulness, and unselfishness.
“Let no one suppose that home friendships can be won and kept in any other way. We cannot depend on nature or instinct to do this for us. We must live for each other. We must gain each other’s heart by giving just what we expect to receive. We must cherish the friendship that we have won. Unless we do, it will not grow. We must watch our words and our conduct. We must seek to please and take pains never to wound or grieve. We must deny self and live for one another. We must confide in one another. We must cultivate in our own homes and lives whatever is beautiful, whatever is tender, whatever is holy, whatever is true. Friendships in our own home, to be deep and true and heart-satisfying, must be formed by the patient knitting of soul to soul and the growing of life into life, just as in other friendships.”
Brothers and sisters should cultivate home friendships among themselves. Thus, they plant the lovely flowers of lasting affection. The home shall thereby be transformed into “the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21). “If Christ be remembered daily and hourly in the home, if his presence be consciously realized and its transforming power felt in each heart, and if everything be done and every word spoken in his name, the household life will be pervaded by the spirit of heaven, and the home memories will be tender with all the hallowed tenderness of the warmest love.”
What a wonderfully helpful resource Dr. Miller produced for families living in this chaotic era! Surely the wholesale ruin had barely begun to show its ugly features during his lifetime. Home-Making, despite its outdated-sounding title, is a relevant help for Christian homes in today’s society.
Rev. Myron Mooney is minister of Trinity Free Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Alabama