Reprinted from When Thou Sittest In Thine House, by Abraham Kuyper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co.


Brothers and Sisters

The relation of brother to brother is the first, which after that of husband to wife, has originated among men.

After having heard of Adam and Eve, we hear of Cain and Abel, even with the dreadful outcome that the one brother murders the other.

This last is not accidental, and points to the grave danger that lurks in the brotherly relation.

Cain killed Abel, not because Abel had put anything in his way, but because as brother he stood in his way.

Cain was first alone, and when Abel came to stand alongside of him, the significant question arose, how to live with a second of like position, after higher ordinance, on a footing of peace and love.

Adam and Eve did not stand as two equals alongside of and over against each other. In Adam there was superiority above Eve, and, above all, Adam and Eve complemented each other. She was “over against him as a helpmeet.”

But such was not the case with Cain and Abel. These two were of one sort, both were men. And they stood on the foot of equality; both indeed were sons in the same family.

What Adam and Eve called their own, they put together as in one fellowship, and for nothing could one envy the other. But Cain and Abel had to make division.

Also Adam and Eve were destined, till their death, to remain united in the marriage bond; but presently Cain and Abel would each go his own way.

Even now this standing in the way of a brother is sometimes strongly evident.

There is an only child of rich parents. Presently he becomes heir to a million. But see, years after, a brother is born, and that little brother, if he lives, costs him half a million.

Or there is a king who has two sons. The younger can become king provided the older dies. The death of his brother would bring him the crown, but in case his brother lives, he is nothing, at most he is prince, but … his brother’ssubject.

So you perceive at once what germ, what seeds of envy and sanguinariness, can nestle in the seemingly so simply relation of brother to brother; and that germ, those seeds, lodged in Cain’s heart, and so was shed the blood of Abel.

The blood of righteous Abel, since in his heart Abel repressed these germs of brother-sin and overcame, while Cain fed them, cherished them, and as poisonous weeds allowed them to spring up in his heart.

Parents who discern this know their calling, in the training of their sons, to look carefully to the germination of this poisonous weed.

Also by reason of other interests.

It can scarcely be denied that in children generally certain traits of father and mother repeat themselves.

One time the likeness may be more striking, the other time weaker, but rarely is the likeness altogether wanting. The proverb “like father like son” conveys the general understanding of this.

But, and to this we would point, that likeness is rarely entire in a single child; and a father of six sons will readily discover in each of them one of the main traits of his own character dominate. One will repeat more the trait of his heart, the other the trait of his thinking mind, a third the trait of his executive ability.

And this among brothers is so frequently the bitter fruitful cause of dissension and estrangement.

This would not be so if the main features in our own character always belonged together. But we know better. All too often these traits of our character wage bitter war in our own person, and only with difficulty and by heroic inward effort are they reconciled one with the other.

But when these same traits of our character, which are reconciled in us, embody themselves in our children severally, and thereby show themselves the more one-sidedly, it lies at hand, that among these sons the selfsame war breaks out which we have waged in our own heart, but now without the tie which the unity of our own person strung between them.

Or again, father and mother can be very different as to character, and then it is possible that in one son the character of father and in the other son the character of mother repeats itself.

But while this difference of character with man and wife found a counterpoise in their marriage-tie, between brothers this counterpoise is altogether wanting.

Their taste and tendency go out in an altogether different direction, and not infrequently father and mother then forget themselves so pitifully, that from sympathy for their own image, by showing preference and choosing sides, they make the estrangement yet more critical.

Against this natural poison, which, by sin, has been infused into the relation of brother to brother, a strong antidote had to be provided; and this God the Lord gave us [in His grace]….

Christ Himself has sanctified the brother-bond.

He has deigned to adopt God’s elect as His brethren.

And in connection with this blooms that sacred brotherhood in all that are born of God.

Born from one Father, and therefore all brothers together in the fellowship of the Only-Begotten.

And it is this brotherhood out of which a sacred glow shines upon the brotherhood among sons in the same family.

In our Christian families, therefore, the relation between brothers and brothers must be nobler and more choice than is thinkable outside of the Christian domain.

Yet one must not depend for this all too greatly upon the natural course of things.

Father and mother, who were privileged to sanctify their sons in one Baptism, have to see to it in training them that they draw the brotherhood closer between their sons.

It should not suffice them that in their household it becomes no Cain and Abel’s game. The brother-bond must also cast off positive fruit. There must not merely be no envy, but love must be cultivated. And that not only after the sons have grown up, and the characters have formed themselves; but this work of reconciliation and of brothering and of union must begin in their earliest youth. Already at their games.

That sisters also can exert a sanctifying influence on this, shows many a blessed experience even in our days.

But yet the sons themselves, as soon as they awake to fuller consciousness, must look to this very seriously.

They too should know what dangerous sparks they carry about in their own heart; and their prayer and their intent must be to prevent every outburst of the evil fire.