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Volume 7, Issue 5: The Puritan Eye

Holy Family Government

Richard Baxter

If it were only understood what benefits come through the holy governing of families, and what mischiefs come by its neglect, there would be few that walk the streets among us who would appear so odious as those careless, ungodly governors who do not know or mind a duty of such exceeding weight. We lie overwhelmed with the calamitous fruits of this neglect; I think meet to try, with some, to remove the cause by awakening sluggish souls to do their undertaken work.

Motive I: Consider that the holy government of families, is a considerable part of God's own government of the world, and the contrary is a great part of the devil's government. It has pleased God to honor his creatures to be the instruments of his own operations. As the several justices in the countries do govern as officers of the king, so every magistrate and master of a family also govern as an officer of God. And if his government by his officers be put down or neglected, it is a contempt of God himself, or rebellion against him. What is all the practical atheism, and rebellion, and ungodliness of the world, but a rejecting of the government of God? It is not against the being of God in itself considered, that his enemies rise up with malignant, rebellious opposition; but it is against God as the holy and righteous Governor of the world, and especially of themselves. And if God shall not govern in your families, who shall? The devil is always the governor where God's government is refused; the world and the fles h are the instruments of his government; worldliness and fleshly living are his service: undoubtedly he is the ruler of the family where these prevail, and where faith and godliness do not take place. And what can you expect from such a master?
Motive II: Consider also that an ungoverned, ungodly family is a powerful means to the damnation of all the members of it: it is the common boat or ship that hurrieth souls to hell. He that is in the devil's coach or boat is like to go with the rest, as the driver or the boatman pleases. But a well-governed family is an excellent help to the saving of all the souls that are in it.
Motive III: A holy, well-governed family tends not only to the safety of the members, but also to the ease and pleasure of their lives. To live where God's law is the principal rule, and where you may be daily taught the mysteries of his kingdom, and have the Scriptures opened to you, and be led as by the hand in the paths of lifewhat a sweet and happy life is this!
Motive IV: A holy and well-governed family tends to make a holy posterity, and so to propagate the fear of God from generation to generation. It is more comfortable to have no children, than to beget and breed up children for the devil. Their natural corruption is advantage enough to Satan, to engage them to himself, and use them for his service: but when parents shall also take the devil's part, and teach their children by precepts or example how to serve him, and shall estrange them from God and a holy life, and fill their minds with false conceits and prejudice against the means of their salvation, as if they had sold their children to the devil; no wonder then if they have a black posterity, that are trained up to be heirs of hell.
Motive V: A holy, well-governed family is the preparative to a holy and well-governed church. If masters of families did their parts, and sent such polished materials to the churches, as they ought to do, the work and life of the pastors of the church would be unspeakably more easy and delightful; it would do one good to preach to such an audience, and to catechize them, and instruct them, and examine them, and watch over them, who are prepared by a wise and holy education, and understand and love the doctrine which they hear.
Motive VI: Well-governed families tend to make a happy state and commonwealth; a good education is the first and greatest work to make good magistrates and subjects, because it tends to make good men. Though a good man may be a bad magistrate, yet a bad man cannot be a very good magistrate. The ignorance, or worldliness, or sensuality, or enmity to godliness, which grows up with them in their youth, will show itself in all the places and relations that ever they come into. When an ungodly family has once confirmed them in wickedness, they will do wickedly in every state of life: when a perfidious parent has betrayed his children into the power and service of the devil, they will serve him in all relations and conditions. But oh! what a blessing to the world would they be, that shall come prepared by a holy education to places of government and subjection! And how happy is that land that is ruled by such superiors and consists of such prepared subjects, as have first learned to be subject to God and to their parents.

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