In the Beginning: The New Household

Reprinted from When Thou Sittest In Thine House, by Abraham Kuiper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. (Pp. v, vi, 1-8.) Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co.

A Word Preliminary

The family is the wondrous creation of God, from which all our human social life has of itself unfolded.

Compare national existence in Israel with that in Rome and Greece, and nothing is more strikingly evident, than the far higher place of honor which the family in Israel occupies.

From Israel this beautiful trait has passed over into the church of Christ, and in every land where the Cross has been planted, family life has made gains in loving tenderness and uniting power.

Among the Christian nations family-life is of higher repute among Protestant than Romish nations. Prussia is ahead of Austria, England of France, the Netherlands of Belgium.

But the sense of home-life was most strong among the nations of the Reformation in Switzerland, Scotland, Netherlands, and in America.

Even among these our Netherlands was in the front rank from of old.

In our quiet, substantial domestic social life was the strength of our middle classes and the nerve of strength in our national life.

At present there is less to boast of, however, along this line. Awayness from home has increased. Life in public interests and by night sitting in the clubhouse and bar-room has gained ground.And therefore the confessors of Christ in the land are called of God, by heroic confession and seriousness of life to save the security once confided to our keeping, and which threatens to be lost, for our own circles, and thereby for the fatherland.

Hence the wish, so frequently expressed, that some volume might be written, suitable at the beginnings of new homes to be placed in the hands of those newly married.

Even church authorities felt the need of this at the solemnities of weddings.

As a sample I wrote and gathered the meditations which are contained in this volume.

The wondrous Creator of the Family command His blessing upon it, that reading and rereading in many a home might sanctify domestic life, heighten the tone of life, and make you sit down in your house, ever richer and happier in the treasure which in that glorious fellowship God gave you.

Amsterdam, July 1, 1899Already in the first word with which Holy Scripture begins, there is a far deeper significance than the superficial reader thinks. “In the beginning” narrates not merely that first the world was not, but only afterward came into being because God created it, but it also implies that God has made a beginning, and thereby has appointed in all His creation the distinction between the beginning of a matter and its further course.

This distinction is familiar to us, and we well understand that one’s birth is different from his further life, and likewise that one’s conversion is something else than his later life of faith and sanctification. To us this distinction between the beginning and the further course of a matter is as clear as day in all our ways. Yet this deeply penetrating and all our life dominating distinction is not come of itself, but has been appointed of God, and therefore there is so much more in it than we commonly think.

For this patent fact, that all things on earth have not merely their career but also their beginning, is important in this way, that the wise of the world have long tried to demonstrate that the world has had no beginning. Yea, it is of such great importance, that to the man of deeper insight, all the difference between the wisdom of the world and Holy Scripture is that Holy Scripture always points again to that beginning, puts all the emphasis upon that beginning, and from that beginning derives every further progress, while on the other hand the wisdom of the world is ever bent upon obliterating that beginning, to bring it to naught and to deny it, in order to proclaim the lie, that the world has always been and is as eternal as God.

When you take a grain of corn in your hand, there is in that small grain the capacity to develop itself into a blade and to produce the ear of corn. But so long as you hold that grain of seed in your hand, nothing comes of it. Only when that seed is dropped into the furrowed earth and is buried, the working begins. So by casting that seed into the earth you yourself appoint the beginning of its development. If you do not do this, but leave it lying on your table, there is no beginning. This only comes when you do something to that seed, which happens only once, and therewith is ended. But if the beginning is once made, the further course follows of itself.

Jesus Himself has outlined this so strikingly in the parable of St. Mark 4:26, when He spoke of that man “who first cast seed into the earth”; and afterward “slept and rose night and day, the whiles the seed sprang up and grew, he himself not knowing how.”

Here too that selfsame deepgoing distinction is sharply and clearly indicated. The beginning is that that man “casts the seed into the earth”; and the further course follows of itself, without the man knowing how.

What is true of all the world, and in all nature, is also true in our human life.

We look forward with concern to many things, but experience teaches that all goes well, when once the beginning is made.

The first step, says the proverb, costs, but the further steps follow of themselves.

He who has to make up a document, or write an important letter, feels how difficult it is to make a beginning, but also how much easier it succeeds, after he has begun.

He who is not accustomed to speak, and must appear in public, feels his heart beat when he must begin, but after he is once started, he comes to himself, and all feeling of apprehension leaves him.

When ten together must do something, the question always is, who shall be the first to put his hand to it, and when he is but begun, following and coming after on the part of the others is so much easier.

So we feel and observe time and again, how much more there is to the beginning of a matter than to its further course.

The beginning is of so much greater importance, demands so much more exertion, asks of us so much more. And is not this the case because that single beginning properly contains the propelling power for all the further course?

He who builds an house must first lay the foundation on which further building can proceed, and knows that order and solidity of foundation guarantees the entire further construction.

So is all beginning the laying of foundation on which further building can proceed; and for this reason all beginning is so difficult.

He who is godly, senses therefore so deeply how much hangs on it whether he makes that beginning with or without God. Hence the solemn word of consecration that lies in the soul or on the lips of God’s child at the moment of every beginning: “Our beginning (help) is in the Name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 124:8).

God appointed the beginning of all beginning, when “in the beginning” He made heaven and earth. And so he who is godly seeks for every beginning he has to make, his power and strength in Him who became the origin of all beginnings when He created heaven and earth.

This implies not merely that all power is with God, but also that from God is all beginning, and that God’s child will make no beginning of anything without God.

It cannot be sufficiently deplored, that so frequently most important beginnings are made so thoughtlessly and without God.

This is especially noticeable at the beginning of a household.

Two people fall in love with each other and propose to marry; and after they are married, to begin a household.

One may say that few things can be begun of so preponderant and so all dominating an importance. Founding a household is instituting a family; laying the foundation for common living together until death; the creation, if you will, of a small domestic circle in life of one’s own, of which everything is to be expected, and by which the future of man and wife, and presently of children and children’s children, is governed.

The importance of this matter is so commonly realized that it is made the occasion of feasting, for which long preparations are made and large sums of money expended, such as no one thinks of doing at other times. And we grant that he who lives a consecrated and godly life will not make so important a beginning without God.

As a rule the happy couple present themselves in the midst of the congregation, to invoke the prayers of all and to hear the blessing of the Lord pronounced upon their marriage. They who are married without this can be counted.

But when you ask whether in such days or at such moments it is sensed, felt, and realized what it means to make such an extremely important, all one’s future dominating beginning, we put an interrogation mark, upon which all too frequently follows a disappointing answer.

On such days one is so busy. There is so much diversion and distraction. The urge of enjoyment is so strong. And when in the sanctuary they kneel side by side and plight each other their troth, alas, how few they are who at that moment did anything else than take part in a solemnity, of which they thought it so wonderful to be the central figures.

Alas, of how many it must be deplored that they let themselves be married more for the sake of others and after the rules of tradition, than that they themselves made a beginning, the beginning of a new life, of an altogether new future.

This premeditated acting, such doing in which the deeper consciousness has no voice, the heart no part, and God no recognition, is bound to bring its own pitiful consequences.

The beginning is there, the new life begins, and to this too applies the rule that it will be as the pace was set.

It is of exceeding importance, therefore, that husband and wife, already on the first day of their living together, give themselves account of their new future which they face, and therefore not let themselves thoughtlessly be carried along, but so to appoint things that a happy life together, consecrated to God, can grow out of it.

For from that first beginning that is formed on the day of marriage flow all sorts of other beginnings. A beginning is made with the household; a beginning of the life of the husband with respect to his wife; a beginning of the life of the wife with respect to her husband; a beginning of their living together with respect to their several relatives; a beginning with the way in which together they shall serve God; together will care for the poor; together will order their day’s work; together will act on occasion of difference of insight; together direct their finance; together take measure with respect to their servants; together regulate the style of their life.

Much of this begins on the very first day; while in the days that come after, ever and again they face new choices, new crises, the adoption of new habits and usages which, once begun, presently become silent law and order.

And can it be acceptable to God, when all this is left to chance, when all this is done without thought, when half playfully and sportively the household and thedomestic life are left to make of themselves what they will, rather than that consciously, as result of counsel and forethought, everything is regulated according to God’s Word and according to the standard of His holy gospel?

But this is what happens when no heed is taken of the difference between the beginning of a matter and its further course.

For though blessing is invoked, how can that blessing come when such important moments and days are spent, not as by two human beings who take thought and accept God’s Word as rule, but as by two birds that together build their nest.

Seek the blessing, it is well, but seek it from Him who Himself has appointed a beginning to all things when He made heaven and earth, and for this reason called you, as created after His Image, to the sacred task of appointing, in a human way, a beginning in your life, to form it, and to do it with all the seriousness which so holy a matter demands.

Who will be to blame when presently the consequences of the unmeditated and playful beginning bring their bitter regrets? When there is confusion instead of order. Waste instead of stewardship. Anger and ennui where there might be happiness and domestic joy. And where in this way, far from building you up, edifying, comforting, and sanctifying you, the home-life spoils your character, inflames your passion, and quickly ruins your heart.

In case of conversion at a later day, much of what was spoiled can be righted; but is it not far more joyous and beautiful, from the beginning to have chosen the right path?

And would not father and mother take a nobler stand and go out more free before God if, when their children are married, they would provide not merely clothing and furniture, but would also urge upon them the one importance, of making the beginning of their marriage in the name of the Lord, i.e., by the appointment of all things according to the closely thought-out demand of His holy Word?