I finished The Godly Home today and my overarching thought is Baxter saw the centrality of Christ in everything related to home life. He was concerned to see Christ exalted in our marriages, our children and our families and so he outlines many directions in each chapter to help Christian families understand the gravity of their call. I have been challenged in many ways to reflect on how much more I could engage my wife and childern with the good news of Jesus Christ.
While the book does seem to repeat itself at times, I would recommend couples read it together and discuss the salient recommendations Baxter gives. But remember, this isn’t a self help kind of book like many modern day parenting books, this is a book about the skeleton of family life stressing the need to be Christlike in all we do, say and teach to one another.
With that review, let me move on to some final points from the last few chapters.Baxter’s first point of advice to parents concerning children is to speak with honor and reverence to children about God’s ministers and God’s people and to sepak with disapproaval of those ungodly people and ungodly actions. He writes,
“Before they can understand particular doctrines, they can learn, in general, what kind of persons are most happy or miserable, and they are very apt to receive a liking or disliking from their parents’ judgment, which has a great hand in all the following good or evil of their lives.” (p.189)
In short, by speaking well or poorly of folks, we can teach our children the kinds of people where wisdom and instruction dwell and the kinds of folks where devastation and evil reside. They can learn where to drink and where to avoid.
This one I found particularly interesting,
“if you love either the souls or the bodies of your children, teach them temperance from their infancy, and do not let their appetites or cravings, but your own reason, be the measure of their diet. Teach them to eat sparingly, and let it be of the coarser rather than the finer sory of diet. See it measured to them yourselves, and do not let them eat or drink between meals and out of season; and so you will help to overcome their sensual inclinations and give reason the mastery of their lives, and you will, under God, do as much as any one thing can do to help them to a healthful temper of body, which will be a great mercy to them and fit them for their duty all their lives.” (p192)
I had never thought about our feeding and dining habits in this respect, although it makes great sense. The spiritual discipline of fasting aims to develop restraint in the body so that this lesson can also be transferred to the breaking of addictions in the body as well. This is fasting at its most rudimentary level.
As a homeschooler, I have to quote this. Baxter rightly understands the dangers of public education as exposing our children to the corruption of the world. He then goes on to write,
“Therefore, let those who are able either educate their children at home or in private and well-ordered school; those who cannot do so must be the more watchful over them [their children] and charge tem to associate with the best.” (p. 194)
He then goes on to speak about it being a great mercy of God if a child survives public education with his faith still intact. And this in the 1700’s. What would he say today?
The final pages of the book contain a whole list of questions for families to talk about and discuss. Here are some of them
Direct. xvi. ‘ Some pertinent questions which by the answer will engage them to teach themselves, or to judge themselves, will be sometimes of very great use.’ As such as these ; ” Do you not know that you must shortly die.’ Do you not believe that immediately your souls must enter upon an endless life of joy or misery? Will worldly wealth and honours, or fleshly pleasures, be pleasant to you then? Had you then rather be a saint, or an ungodly sinner ? Had you not then rather be one of the holiest that the world despised and abused, than one of the greatest and richest of the wicked ? When time is past, and you must give account of it, had you not then rather it had been spent in holiness, and obedience, and diligent preparation for the life to come, than in pride, and pleasure, and pampering the flesh ? How could you make shift to forget your endless life so long? Or to sleep quietly in an unregenerate state? What if you had died before conversion, what think you had become of you, and where had you now been ? Do you think that any of those in hell are glad that they were ungodly ? Or have now any pleasure in their former merriments and sin ? What think you they would do, if it were all to do again ? Do you think, if an angel or saint from heaven should come to decide the controversy between the godly and the wicked,, that he would speak against a holy and heavenly life, or plead for a loose and fleshly life? Or which side think you he would take ? Did not God know what he did when he made the Scriptures ? Is he, or an ungodly scorner to be more regarded ? Do you think every man in the world, will not wish at last that he had been a saint, whatever it had cost him ?” Such kind of questions urge the conscience, and much convince. (p221-222)
You can buy the book at amazon or read a free electronic version here (vol. 4 deals with the Christian Family even though entitled Christian Economics) or here (this is the complete set of his practical theology, enjoy it).