10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Alissa Marie Graham
- Published on Amazon.com
This book has been on my radar for a while. Whether it's the puritanical style or the fact that its about family life and marriage, I knew I had to read it.
Just released from Crossway in 2010, yet written over 300 years ago, The Godly Home by Richard Baxter is actually a small part of a larger directory (totaling 1,143 pages) written in 1673. This specific section was titled "Christian Economics for Family Duties," and is an in depth treatment of the way Christians ought to worship God through family life, including marriage and child raising. In the useful introduction by J.I Packer, he quenches any uneasiness one may have with dealing with such an old text. He says "it would be mere chronological snobbery, to borrow a C.S. Lewis phrase, to assume that only contemporary treatments of Christian family life are worth reading." Agreed.
Let me explain a few things about the book. It is definitely written to men. Where it does not directly address men, I think it is implied that the men are reading to the children or to the wives. I got a good laugh anyways. The editor, Randall Pederson, did a really good of making it readable for the 21st century reader, taking out uncommon or old English phrases and still keeping with the authenticity of the text. It took me a minute to adjust, but that could also just be my ADD. There was no difficulty reading it, and it was never boring. In fact, I finished this in less than 3 days.
The book is written in chapters, each first giving a theological examination of a certain family related topic, then providing listed out instructions, and ending with a question and answer section. This was very helpful, and quite intriguing to see certain cultural norms in place (the editor purposefully kept in the sections about marrying first cousins!). I found most of the advice to still be quite timely and important, despite the difference in centuries. Actually, I was very challenged and encouraged by reading this and think its a necessary read for anyone considering marriage and family.
The first chapter has to be one of my favorites. Listen to the title: "Directions About Marriage." Baxter is very keen on making sure his reader has thought very thoroughly on choosing to get married and that "neither lust nor rashness thrust you into a married condition..." He explains very clearly that "every man is bound to choose that condition in which he may serve God with the best advantages and which tends most to his spiritual welfare and increase in holiness." It seems that at this period in time, many were just rushing into marriage (how curious!), so the advice given today might be slightly different. But yes, we must consider through marriage or singleness, which one increases our holiness!
His second directive is to not rush into "a state of life where you have never thought of all the inconveniences!" Oh Richard Baxter. Twenty reasons why marriage is inconvenient later, he goes on to explain how one should go about choosing "the person on whom so much of the comfort and sorrow of your life will rest." Brilliant. It's gold advice. I want to rip out this chapter and give it to all my single or dating friends!
Chapters 2-5 deal with "Family Government" and the "Careful Education of Children." There are many points that I had never fully considered before such as the sanctity of the christian family, discipline as worship, frequency and content of family worship, and authority structures in the family setting. Baxter takes care to explain how to lead the family in ways that will draw the children and family to Christ, instead of heavy handed or passive leadership which is the antithesis of a gospel centered family.
"Mutual Duties of Husbands and Wives Toward Each Other," "Duties of Husbands to their Wives," and "Duties of Wives to Their Husbands" are the titles of chapters 6-8. It is obvious that these chapters reflect on solely the marital relationship. "Never say you love them if you will not labor for their salvation." The main goal is to encourage spouses to point each other in a respectful and loving way towards godly growth. I loved the part about preparing each other to "die well." Sounds morbid, but it's very helpful. Baxter also deals with godly submission of wives to their husbands. I even learned some things from the footnotes in these chapters.
Chapters 9-12 deal with the relationship between parents to children, children to parents, and children to God. I think anyone can relate to these chapters, and even in the "Duties of Children and Youth to God" chapter, I was admonished and helped by some of the directives. He reminds children that "[you] have corrupted natures to be cured and that Christ is the Physician who must cure them." Amen sir.
Throughout this book I caught some paedobaptistic references that I would definitely challenge. I also am now interested in learning more about the theologian William Ames. It also does a good job at subconsciously making the case for local church involvement, membership, and discipline. Some of the quotes from this book remind me of some helpful resources out today such as "Shepherding a Child's Heart," by Tripp and "When Sinners Say I Do" by Dave Harvey.
Overall, "The Godly Home" is quite the robust guide for all things marriage and family. I give it a two thumbs up.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Michael C. Boling
- Published on Amazon.com
I have long appreciated the work and writings of the Puritan authors. Their ability to thoroughly dissect all manner of Christian doctrine in a manner that is both fully theological in scope while consistently practical in application is a skill for which modern writers and expositors of Scripture should certainly take note. One of the Puritan divines I always enjoy reading is Richard Baxter, author of over 170 works, one of which arguably is his magnum opus, Christian Directory, Methodus Theologiae Christianie, an 1143 page manual described by Tim Keller as “the greatest manual on Biblical counseling ever produced.” Crossway Books has published The Godly Home, a work that constitutes an updated and easier to read version of the opening chapters of Baxter’s Christian Directory, specifically the sections dealing with matters of marriage, family worship, parenting, and children.
For those not familiar with the Puritan methodology of writing should note the writing style of the Puritan authors is very structured. They first state the issue at hand such as the doctrine under consideration, followed by a discussion of the arguments both pro and con regarding that doctrine, concluding with practical matters of application to include the appropriate nature by which the doctrine under discussion should be practiced in daily life. In The Godly Home, Baxter follows the traditional Puritan style of writing by engaging marriage, family worship, parenting, and children by stating the biblical position, addressing the various arguments presented for and against that doctrine, followed by the important element of application. It is the application portion of this book that is of great significance for Christian families today.
Many may view the Puritan perspective on things like marriage, parenting, children, or family life in general as outdated, outmoded, and irrelevant to the accepted and promoted methods found in modern society. Such an approach should be rethought as the Puritans share much in their writings that should be applied in our families and in our relationships, thoughts that are soundly rooted in theological rich doctrine and the aforementioned practical application. In particular, despite the material from which The Godly Home is taken from being over 300 years old, the truths shared by Baxter are timeliness since they again are rooted in the pages of Scripture.
Since the entirety of Baxter’s The Godly Home is well worth reading over and over again as a valuable family resource, I will focus on a few points of discussion Baxter addressed that stood out to me. As a relatively new parent and in particular being the parent of a 12 year old adopted daughter, I was immediately drawn to the chapters in this book titled “Duties of Parents to Their Children” and “Duties of Children to Their Parents.” We live in a world where far too often the duty of parenting has been grossly neglected even within the Church. Parents far too often slough off their biblically mandate duty of teaching their children God’s Word to the Sunday School teacher or Youth Group leader hoping that will be enough godly teaching to enable their child to be a god fearing adult. Baxter aptly notes “You cannot dedicate yourselves to God until you dedicate to him all that is yours and in your power, and therefore your children as far as they are in your power.” Such a statement is rooted in passages such as Deuteronomy 6:7 and 11:19 where God commands parents to instruct their children in the things of God all day and every day.
Furthermore, those who feel as if the Puritan authors have nothing relevant to say should consider Baxter’s comment that “The common course of parents is to please their children so long by letting them have what they want and what they will, until their wills are so used to being fulfilled that they cannot endure to have them denied and so can endure no government because they endure no crossing of their wills.” Such a poor parenting approach is the method du jour in many modern households and Baxter rightly reminds parents of the need to balance love with discipline when it comes to raising their children.
I also appreciated the fact that Baxter addresses children, taking the time in this book to relay the importance of things such as obedience, respect, love, authority, contentment, humility, thankfulness, discipline, and godly friendships. These are all extremely important issues for children to understand especially in the current social environment they find themselves operating in on a daily basis. Baxter saliently instructs children that “It is a fearful thing to see and hear how ungodly children talk contemptuously and rudely to their parents, argue and contend with them, contradict them, and speak to them as if they were equals; and at last they will grow even to abuse and defame them.”
Marriage, parenting and family dynamics are no easy issues for anyone and there certainly are no perfect marriages, no perfect parents, and no perfect children as we are all sinners in need of a daily dose of God’s grace. With that said, books such as The Godly Home by Richard Baxter should be required reading for parents and their children. This would be an excellent book to utilize during family devotions as its addresses a plethora of important issues facing families. I highly recommend this as a resource for parents to implement in their parental tool chest as the sound guidance found within its pages will be of great assistance for your family, your children, and their children’s children.
I received this book for free from Crossway Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”