All life is in debt to the home. The beginnings of every honoured institution have been in the home. Every valued form of activity may be traced to its source within these hallowed walls. Here the seed of every bit and kind of human organization has first sprung up into strong life.
From the earliest day the home was the centre of worship. The father was priest and minister as well as father. He stood for God in his household, and led his family in their worship and religious observances. The church began here, using that word in its broadest meaning, for a group of people gathered for the worship of God. Among great multitudes the home is still the centre of worship, whatever form the religious observance may take. The church of to-day might well be studying afresh the early home models in planning its service of worship.
All the roots of state and civil government run down and back into the home. This is a highly centralized government, too. It has more paternalism than any national government to-day. Again the father, as head of the family, is the centre of law and of authority. Ideally both father and mother together make the central authority, and it is interesting to observe how far that has always been and is true in practical administration. The mother is even more than the father, playing the larger part in teaching the law of the home, and insisting upon obedience, and in tempering the administration of that law in the little realm of the home.
It is intensely interesting to note that government, as it began in the home, and as it still finds its truest, strongest type there, is highly autocratic. There is no appeal from the decision of the head. But, mark keenly, that ideally, and in good measure practically, it is an autocracy of love. The autocrat is a father, with the best meaning that word may have. And this father-autocrat is under the sway of a friend, with the sweetest meaning that word may have; and he is under the sway, too, of a mother, with the tender meaning that word ever has.
And yet in this highly centralized autocracy representative government had its birth, too. The seeds of purest democracy are here. But it is a democracy blending with autocracy in a manner that would be an utter astonishment to statesmen if suggested as a possible thing in civil government to-day. Governments might well study more closely the old home models whence they spring. The true home spirit must get into our civic institutions if they are to fulfil their mission, and to abide.
The whole school scheme began in the home, from the primary grades up to the university postgraduate work. And no finer school work has ever been done than in the original home university. Its graduates have gone out into every activity of life, and brought honour upon their Alma Mater. It is co-educational in form, with all the advantages of the sexes mingling, each being helped by the distinctive traits of the other. But it is in the atmosphere of accepted authority, and of the unconscious reverence of childhood, and amid the natural restraints of surroundings such as can only be approximated outside of the home.
There began the ideal schooling, with carefully graduated courses, gentle but firm discipline, and with the tender personal relation between teacher and student that lies at the very root of the best character-building. Much of the very language of college life, about which so many tender memories cling, grew up out of the home. "Alma mater," the fostering, feeding mother, and "alumnus" one nursed and fostered, breathe out all afresh the fragrance of tenderest memories of early life. The school that can come nearest to reproducing the spirit of the early home-university will be strongest in character-building, the chief purpose of all school work.
The broad and deep mental culture represented by the library is a bit of the genius of true home life. The little collection of books on the homemade shelves, hard purchased from scanty funds, carefully selected, and jealously guarded, and eagerly pored over, was the foundation of all the great libraries. And many of the larger collections, worthily called libraries, have been, and still are, pretty much home affairs. The readily accessible public library is a comparatively recent addition to modern life.
No finer library work was ever done than in countless numbers of these scanty home libraries with their few old classics. The work was intensive, by force of circumstances, rather than extensive or scattered. What little was there went in deep, and struck its roots into the vitals. The cheap newspaper and magazine had not yet come to make shallow reading and shallower thinking. For so many have not learned the secret of a wise reading of the invaluable newspaper and magazine.
Foundations of great mental power and of great character were laid in the little corner library of the home, such as many, maybe most, great libraries with all their wealth and their invaluable service to men, are utter strangers to. The lean, lank Lincoln boy, lying prone in the light of his pitch-pine fire, conning over English Bible, and Shakespeare, and Bunyan, is typical of the best work of the narrow home collection; and typical, too, of the genius of home, which makes for mental and moral strength and discipline.
And the literary society, with its rare opportunity for the helpful warming friction of congenial minds, began in the evening family group; and in the larger, yet small, group of spirits akin in their mind-hunger, gathering about the hearth-fire. Some literary societies might be improved by a return to that hearth fire.
The earliest hospital was in the home. And the true home atmosphere has never been improved upon, nor approached, in the splendidly equipped hospitals that dot the earth over, with their gracious skilled ministry of brain and hand. Nursing, which with the utmost that the wise physician can do, means so much more than his skill can bring,—nursing finds its finest adepts within home walls.
With the best that recent science has taught at hand, and wisely used, here is the best of nurses' training schools. And, with all due regard for the hospital and sanitorium, they can't approach the psychological power of the atmosphere of the well-regulated home in working cures. And the physicians are laying more and more stress on the psychological in doing cures. The mind can doctor the body better than any other.
And, of course, the beginning of all manufacturing and deft hand-working was in the home. The greatest manufacturing plants owe their existence to the simple home beginnings. And in all corners of the earth the home still includes the humble workshop, with the skilled handworker. And the home factory has not been improved upon for fineness of workmanship. Nor has it been approached for the symmetry of physical and mental development, and for the character-building that rightly belong to manual labour.
The modern factory can make more money for the owners, but has lost in the genius that home put into its beginnings, though an earnest, belated effort is being made to get back. It's a poor home that has lost the spirit of the little old home workshop, and some remnant of the shop itself for its boys and girls.
It may disturb some to remember that the beginnings of army and navy can be traced directly to the hearth-fire. Yet, of course, it is so. The strong father, with his sturdy sons, planning the protection of their home, either inland or down by the sea, from the enemy; several such groups, gathered in the home of the leader, to guard their little community against the common danger—such was the beginning of all army and navy organization.
How blessedly different history would have been if the evil spirit of restless ambition and aggression had never eaten its canker way into such simple sufficient organization. The home contains the genius of the only army and navy organization ever needed, with the only purpose ever permissible, the protection of home interests.
And it may be a bit startling, too, to recall that the modern social club was originally a home affair, though it would seem, in quite a few cases, to have become a prodigal. No social gathering, or place of social resort or retreat, can equal the old home circle, with a few choice friends in, for a bit of tea and a bite of bread, and the exchange of the small courtesies and warmths of life. The break-up of homes and of the home spirit, and the growth of the club, in some form or other, seem to have gone hand-in-hand. If the modern clubs, which have a place to fill in our highly organized city life, could retain more—or would it better be said "some"?—of the old home atmosphere of simplicity and purity and high ideals, they would better fulfil their mission among the thousands of homeless city dwellers.
The home still remains the centre of the social exchanges and functions of modern life. This child has not gone away like the others. Yet one cannot help thinking it has played the prodigal quite a bit to the early simple home ideals.
The first art gallery was in a home. And the home galleries still contain many of the choicest products of brush and chisel and needle. The natural yearning after the ideal as expressed in picture, and stone, and cunningly woven or worked fabrics, is never wholly lost. What home is there, however humble, that has not its bit of idealized face or scene, even though it be only a cheap reprint? The art gallery, and the pictured representation of life, are but mute expressions of the hunger of the human heart for the ideal in life.
And that weird wizard of modern life, organization, which plays the witch in its almost magical power and transformations, found its first expression in the home. The home was the earliest and simplest and yet most perfect form of organization. The very genius of the spirit of organization is found in its highest perfection in the typical home. Here is highly centralized authority, a natural scheme into which all activity fits its adjusted parts, distinctive work for each, responsibility of each and all to the one head, and in and through all a passion of warm, eager loyalty to the home and its head. It is probably no exaggeration to say that the world's life has never known such perfection of organization, and such stupendous achievements of organization, as in our day. And we do well to remind ourselves all anew that it all grew up out of the home.