In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.’—GEN. 5:1, 3.
‘Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.’—GEN. 4:8.
GOD created man in His own likeness; Adam, the fallen, begat sons in his own likeness, after his image. As in the former expression, telling us of man’s high origin and destiny, we have the key to the mystery of the incarnation, and redemption to eternal glory; so in the latter we have the light that shows us whence sin has such fearful and universal power. It was one of the wonderful traits of God’s likeness that man had the power to give life to others. When sin got the mastery, that likeness was not extinguished, but terribly defaced; he still had the power to bring forth, alas! in his own likeness. By one fell blow sin, in conquering Adam, had conquered the race. If ever the race is again to be delivered from the power of sin, it will doubtless be by this power of man’s bringing forth in his own likeness being regained and renewed to be the power for re-establishing God’s kingdom. The parental relation has become the strength of sin; when God restores it, it will be the strength of grace.
If we want to realize the full significance of this word, ‘Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image,’ we have only to study the story of his family at the gates of Paradise. It will teach us lessons of the deepest importance in regard to the family as sin has made it.
Let us mark how the father’s sin reappears and ripens in that of the child. ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself.’ In these two great commandments we have the sum of God’s will concerning us. Adam had transgressed the first, and in sinning had cast off the love of God. His first-born refuses subjection to the second, and becomes the hater and the murderer of his brother. Had Adam continued in the love of God, Cain had certainly loved his brother. With Adam’s sin his nature had become corrupted; that nature had been imparted to the son in his likeness. The child’s sin was the fruit of the father’s.
This first picture of family life God gives us in His Word, what a sombre light it casts on our homes! How often parents can trace in the sins and evil tempers of their children their own shortcomings and transgressions! How the remembrance that their children have inherited their evil natures from themselves ought to humble them, make them very patient and gentle, as well as very earnest and wise, in dealing with the offenders, and lead them to seek what alone can cure and conquer this evil power—the grace and the life that comes from above! Let parents not be afraid of realizing fully that God visits the sins of the fathers on the children; it will urge and encourage them to believe that He will no less remember the mercy to the fathers, and make the children partakers of that too.
Let us note further how in that first child’s sin we have the root and type of all children’s sins. The family had been destined of God to be the image of the bliss of heaven, the mirror of the life of love that reigns there. Sin enters, and the first family, instead of being the emblem and the gate of heaven, becomes the type and the portal of hell. Instead of the love and help and happiness for which God had appointed our social relation, envy and anger and hatred and murder render it a scene of terrible desolation.
The root of all sin is selfishness,—separating first from God and then from man. How early in the little ones in the nursery does it manifest itself! How continually does it come up in the intercourse with companions in school or play! How often it rises even against the parent, and refuses the love or obedience that is due! Let believing parents study with care what Holy Scripture reveals of love as the new and great commandment, as the fulfilling of the whole law, as the way to our dwelling in God and God in us, and seek for nothing so earnestly as this: the reign of love in their home. Let them watch over every manifestation of a selfish or unloving spirit, as a seed of the tree that bore such bitter fruit in Cain, and count no care or prayer too great to have it banished. Let them not be content, as long as there are no striking outbreaks of the evil; let them fear and root out the seeds which often ripen so terribly in after life. Let nothing less content them than to make it their aim that grace should restore their family life to what God created it to be,—a mirror and a foretaste of the love of heaven.
Let us not in this too forget the influence of the parent’s life, as set before us here: ‘In his own image, after his likeness.’ These words refer not only to a blessing lost in Paradise, and to a curse that came with sin, but as much to a grace that comes with redemption. Not, it is true, by natural birth in the flesh can a believer beget a child in his likeness, now renewed again after the image of God. But what nature cannot accomplish, the prayer and the life of faith can obtain, in virtue of the promise and the power of God. As we proceed in our inquiries into the teaching of Holy Scripture concerning the family life, we shall find nothing come out more clearly than the blessed truth that to believing parents the promise is given that their child may he begotten again after their likeness, and that God will to this end use them as the instruments of His grace. To the prayer of faith, manifesting itself in the godly training of the child, the blessing has been secured in covenant,—‘I will be a God to thee and to thy seed.’ As faith and prayer claim the promise and the power of God, the influence of the daily intercourse will make itself felt, and there will go forth from the consecrated lives of father and mother a secret but mighty power to mold the lives of the children, either preparing them as vessels of grace, or establishing and perfecting them in it.
And so we come to the blessed but solemn truth: Let parents be what they want their children to be. If they would keep them from the sin of Cain, who loved not his brother, let them beware of the sin of Adam, who loved not the commandment of his God. Let father and mother lead a life marked by love to God and man; this is the atmosphere in which loving children can be trained. Let all the dealings with the children be in holy love. Cross words, sharp reproof, impatient answers, are infectious. Love demands and fears not self-sacrifice; it needs time and thoughtful attention and patient perseverance to train our children aright. In all our children hear us speak of others, of friends or enemies, of the low, the vulgar, the wicked, let the impression they receive be, the love of Christ we seek to show. In all the intercourse of father and mother with each other, let mutual esteem and respect, tender considerateness and willing self-forgetfulness, prove to the children that love is possible and blessed.
Above all, let us remember that it is the love of God that is the secret of a loving home on earth. It is where parents love the Lord their God with all their heart and strength that the human love will be strengthened and sanctified. It is only parents who are willing to live really consecrated lives, entirely given up to God, to whom the promise and the blessing can come fully true. To make our home the nursery and the type and the foretaste of heaven, the ordinary half-hearted religion will not suffice. The love of God shed abroad in the heart and the home and the life by the Holy Ghost,—it is this, this alone, will transplant our home from the gates of Paradise Lost, where Adam dwelt with Cain, to within the Paradise Regained, where even amid the weakness of earth the image of the heavenly is seen, and the home on earth is in the likeness of the home above.
Blessed Lord God! we bow before Thee in deep humility. We desire to feel more deeply the terrible power of sin in ourselves and our children, and the danger to which it exposes our beloved home. We come to confess how far as parents we have come short in that pure and holy love which Thou didst mean to be the beauty and the blessedness of family life. In our intercourse with Thee, and each other, and our children, and fellow-men—O God, forgive us the want of love! And oh! let not our children suffer through us, as they grow up in our likeness. Deliver us, we pray Thee, from the power of selfishness, and shed, oh! shed abroad Thy love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.
And, O God! bless our children with the Spirit of love. Give us so to walk before them in love, that Thy Spirit may use our example and our likeness to form them to Thy Holy Likeness. Give us a deep sense of our holy calling to train their immortal spirits for Thee and Thy glory. Inspire us with faith, with patience, with wisdom to train them aright Oh that our home on earth might be to them the pathway, and the gate, to the Father’s home in heaven!
Blessed Father! let us and our children be Thine wholly and for ever. Amen.