The interrogation of family visiting must cover every phase of life. In addition to the civil and social sphere, discussed in our last writing, the following should be considered:
(2) The Family Life: “Dwell on the condition of family life. Begin with the head of the family and then you might ask whether family worship is faithfully maintained, family prayers uttered, the scriptures read at stated times each day with the family and its truths commented upon and considered. If the answers to these inquiries is negative, there is room for admonition. Bind upon his heart his calling in this respect and encourage him as much as possible to fulfill it.” (G.M.O.)
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of the work of family visiting is the selection of the proper and most effective method. On the one hand, careful attention must be given that there is some definite system and order followed in this work with a view to attaining its spiritual objective. Unless this is done, the work, haphazardly done, will prove to be fruitless. On the other hand, however, the same caution must be taken to avoid making this work a matter of formal routine. The members of the family are then simply confronted with a list of prepared questions; answers are hastily heard and the visit is considered completed. Such formal legalism, however systematic it may be, affords little spiritual benefit. This method is no improvement over the complete lack of system. Both are extremely dangerous and must be scrupulously avoided in selecting a proper method for the performance of this work. To find a method that is entirely free from both errors is not the simplest matter.
Frequently, even among those who are members of Reformed churches, there emits rather strong sentiments of discontentment with the venerable practice of family visitation. In some circles these dissatisfactions are catered to, resulting in either the complete abolition of the practice or in its being substituted with something less poignant and official. Since generally the objections that are raised are tendered by those who for carnal reason detest any form of spiritual investigation of their faith and walk, such a surrender on the part of the church characterizes her as spiritually weak and more willing to appease men than to unstintingly perform her spiritual duty. Thus the flesh prevails and the communion of saints is reduced to a common society. Order and decency as maintained by spiritual rule are lost and each member does without restraint as seems good in their own eyes. The salt hath lost its savor!
Our communion form delineates the walk of gratitude of the Christian as the laying aside unfeignedly of all enmity, hatred, and envy and a firm resolution to walk in true love and peace with the neighbor. Such conduct evidences true thankfulness to God because it is only the regenerated child of God who can and will do these things and in the practice of them he is deeply conscious that "by the grace of God I am what I am and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain" (1 Cor. 15:10). Human nature cannot and will not submit to God's ordinance of love for "the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). All the works of the flesh are characterized by "enmity, hatred, and envy", the very things which the child of God strives by grace to put off. Thankfulness, which is the fruit of regeneration, springs to manifestation in a life of uprightness before God.
The essence of that life is love and in the concrete manifestation of the love of God in our walk therefore lies the proof that we are born of God and are made partakers of his communion and that of his saints. In the living experience of that love lies the conscious enjoyment of all the blessings of salvation while the absence of that love creates total spiritual vacuum in the consciousness of man.
It is not particularly striking then that the word of God in countless places emphasizes the importance of love in the conversation of the saints. Jesus tells us that it constitutes the core of the entire law of God in that well known summary: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37–40).