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Family Duties - A Christian Directory, Part 1

"Next to the Bible," Richard Baxter’s Christian Directory,"is the greatest Christian book ever written," wrote Dr. J.I. Packer. It, continues Packer, "is the richest and best single counseling resource available to those who give pastoral guidance today…. It is the fullest, most thorough, most profound treatment of Christian spirituality and standards that has ever been attempted by an evangelical author….'Back to Baxter,' would make a good and healthful motto for the Christian leadership of our time."(1)

Richard Baxter (1615-1691), considered one of the most influential of the English Puritan Theologians, attained his education largely through self-instruction. Some of his more familiar works still being reprinted today are The Saints Everlasting Rest, The Reformed Pastor, and A Call to the Unconverted. The Christian Directory was first published in 1673.




Family and Home Management


The Duties of the Family in All Its Relationships


Richard Baxter (1615‑1691)


Abridged and Updated by Wayne Rogers

 The Christian Directory “is the richest and the best single counseling resource available . . . . It is the fullest, most thorough, and most profound treatment of Christian spirituality and standards that has ever been attempted by an evangelical author. . . . ‘Back to Baxter’ would make a good and healthful motto for the Christian leadership of our time.”

- J. I. Packer





INTRODUCTION............................................................................................................... Page 3

Chapter 1.  Directions Concerning Pursuing Marriage ............................................................ 5

Chapter 2.  Directions for Choosing Servants and Masters (Employees and Employers)......... 15

Chapter 3.  The Necessity of Family Worship......................................................................... 19

Chapter 4.  General Directions for the Holy Government of Families..................................... 26

Chapter 5.  Special Motives to Persuade Men How to Govern Their Families........................ 29

Chapter 6.  Special Motives for Training Children.................................................................. 32

Chapter 7.  The Mutual Duties of Husbands and Wives to Each Other..................................... 34

Chapter 8.  The Special Duties of Husbands to Their Wives................................................... 41

Chapter 9.  The Special Duties of Wives to Their Husbands................................................... 44

Chapter 10. The Duties of Parents to Their Children.............................................................. 49

Chapter 11. The Duties of Children to Their Parents.............................................................. 54

Chapter 12. The Duties of Children and Youth to God............................................................ 57

Chapter 13. The Duties of Servants to Masters (and Employees to Employers)...................... 58

Chapter 14. The Duty of Masters to Servants (and Employers Employees)............................. 61

Chapter 15. The Duties of Children to Each Other.................................................................. 63

Chapter 16. Directions for Edifying Conversation................................................................... 64

Chapter 17. Directions on How to Spend the Ordinary Days of the Week.............................. 66

Chapter 18. Directions on How to Spend the Lord’s Day........................................................ 70

Chapter 19. Directions for Profitably Hearing God’s Word Preached..................................... 73

Chapter 20. Directions for Profitably Reading God’s Word.................................................... 78

Chapter 21. Directions for Reading Books.............................................................................. 80

Chapter 22. Directions for the Right Teaching of Children..................................................... 82

Chapter 23. Directions Concerning Prayer.............................................................................. 85

Chapter 24. Directions for the Poor......................................................................................... 89

Chapter 25. Directions for the Rich......................................................................................... 91

Chapter 26. Directions for the Aged and Weak....................................................................... 93

Chapter 27. Directions for the Sick.......................................................................................... 95

Chapter 28. Directions for the Friends of the Sick................................................................... 98



 "Next to the Bible," Richard Baxter’s Christian Directory,"is the greatest Christian book ever written," wrote Dr. J.I. Packer. It, continues Packer, "is the richest and best single counseling resource available to those who give pastoral guidance today…. It is the fullest, most thorough, most profound treatment of Christian spirituality and standards that has ever been attempted by an evangelical author….'Back to Baxter,' would make a good and healthful motto for the Christian leadership of our time."(1)

Richard Baxter (1615-1691), considered one of the most influential of the English Puritan Theologians, attained his education largely through self-instruction. Some of his more familiar works still being reprinted today are The Saints Everlasting Rest, The Reformed Pastor, and A Call to the Unconverted. The Christian Directory was first published in 1673.


Affectionately referred to as "Baxter on everything", The Christian Directory is staggering in its exhaustive scope. Someone has suggested that the Directory is the product of notes Baxter made after pastoral visits. It gives practical directions for Christian living in every area of life. Divided into four parts or “books,” Baxter’s Directory provides practical “directions” on the following topics: I. Christian Ethics (Personal Duties); II. Christian Economics (Family Duties); III. Christian Ecclesiastics (Church Duties); IV. Christian Politics (Duties to our Rulers and Neighbors).


The entire Directory has been republished by Soli Deo Gloria in one volume and is almost a thousand pages in length. Because of the small print and oversized pages, the Soli Deo Gloria edition is the equivalent of eight to ten volumes by today’s publishing standards. The edition you are currently reading is an abridgment and consists of all but a few chapters of Part II, Christian Economics, or Family Duties.


Dr. Timothy Keller calls this "the greatest manual on biblical counseling ever produced." Baxter provides much more than the typical "spiritual psychobabble" offered by many contemporary authors. Nor does he just skim over the basic biblical principles. Rather, Baxter approaches the hard issues of life with a wise, deeply rooted application of the Bible. J.I. Packer comments that Baxter was like the other Puritans of his day in that he "embraces both spirituality and standards….It is possible to see clearly the difference between the 'how-to' books that today’s evangelicals write for each other and the 'how-to' teaching of the Directory, which is so much wiser and digs so much deeper. Our 'how-to's' – how to have a wonderful family, great sex, financial success, in a Christian way; how to cope with grief, life-passages, crises, fears, frustrating relationships, and what not else – give us a formula to be followed by a series of supposedly simply actions on our part, to be carried out in obedience to instructions in the manner of a person painting by numbers or activating a computer. Wisdom in role play is all; 'heart-work' hardly comes into it. . . . Baxter zeros in on the 'heart-work' of right action." (2)


Many Christians are sadly unfamiliar with Baxter. The reprint available by Soli Deo Gloria costs more than most people will be willing to pay and should they purchase it, the print is so small that most contemporary readers simply would not take the time to "mine Baxter’s gold". This abridged edition is an attempt to make some of Baxter’s gold more accessible to contemporary Christians. While I have sought to make as few changes as possible in Baxter’s language, I have taken the liberty to modernize some of the King James language, while seeking to remain faithful to his words and thought.


Wayne Rogers

Oct 2007

 © Copyright: Wayne Rogers, 1998.

 Email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (See also and


 (This Issue contains Chapters 1-3)



Directions Concerning Pursuing Marriage


[It is important to recognize as you read this first chapter that some of Baxter’s comments will sound, as J.I. Packer characterizes it, “culturally quaint and idiosyncratic.” (J. I. Packer, “Introduction,” in A Christian Directory, Richard Baxter, Soli Deo Gloria, 1997). Although Baxter was happily married when he wrote this material, he held a lifelong conviction that it is better for men, especially pastors of congregations, to stay single if possible. This opinion will explain his somewhat disparaging comments on marriage. Nevertheless, Packer adds that Baxter still manages to produce“golden pages on conjugal love and Christian parenthood, which yield nothing in terms of either high idealism or shrewd realism to family manuals written since his day” (Packer, “Introduction”)].


As Christians are to be holy, dedicated and separated unto God in their personal lives (see Book I, Christian Ethics), so also must their families be. It must be as if "Holiness to the Lord" were written on the door of your house and on all your family relationships, possessions, and affairs. This will require: 1. A holy constituting of the family to begin with, and 2. A holy government of the family and the discharge by the members of the family of their particular duties afterwards.


The first issue required to properly establish a family is the right contracting of marriage.


Take heed that lust or rashness doesn’t thrust you into marriage before you have concluded this is the proper course for you. You must seek the assurance that you have the calling and approval of God in it.


First, it is God that you must serve in your married state, and it is therefore proper that you take His counsel before you rush into it.


Second, it is God whom you must depend upon for blessing and comfort in marriage. Therefore, this is a great reason to take His advice and consent as the chief requirement for the match.


If the consent of the parents is necessary, how much more is the consent of God!




Every person is obligated to choose the condition in which they may best serve God and which most tends to their spiritual welfare and increase in holiness. The following conditions indicate whether or not you have a call and approval from God to marry:


1. Do you have the blessing and permission of your parents? If your parents oppose your wish regarding marrying someone, and there is no greater consideration to the contrary, the command of your parents must be considered the command of God. But if your parents only seek to persuade you one way or another and do not command it, you are free to marry or not, though their desires must not be thoughtlessly ignored or refused.


Parents have no authority to command you to do anything against God, your salvation, or your ultimate end, the glory of God (Matthew 6:33). Therefore, if they command or forbid you to marry against any of these you owe them no formal obedience. Yet the will of your parents, with all the consequences, must be put onto the scales with all other considerations.


2. Do you have the gift of self-control? Those who do not have the gift of self-control should assume they are called to marry. To those who cannot by the use of lawful means exercise self-control and have no obstacles which make it unlawful to marry, the Bible says, "let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn [in lust]" (1 Corinthians 7:9).


A person considering marriage must consider the various urgent and hindering causes of marriage, and the weightiest considerations must rule. 1 Corinthians 7:26 says, "I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress – that it is good for a man to remain as he is." This verse indicates that there may be weightier reasons not to marry than to marry. Some who have strong lusts may have stronger obstacles to getting married. Although they cannot keep that degree of purity in their thoughts and minds which they desire, they must nevertheless still abstain from marriage. However, people who have no reasonable hindrance to keep them from getting married may have a duty to marry as the most certain and successful means against temptation.


Whatever the case, however, every person can keep his body in chastity if he will do his part. Even thoughts can be kept pure and imaginations quickly checked if people be godly and do what they can.


3. Will you be more useful to God and the good of society by being married? Will marriage be a greater help to you and mean less hindrances to the great purpose of your life, the glorifying of God and the saving of yourself and of others? The first two reasons for marriage (preservation from sexual sin and obedience to the will of parents) are subordinate to this the third reason.


What if your parents command you to marry or not to marry and you believe that to obey would cause you to act against God or your salvation, or your ultimate end? Because parents have no authority to command you to disobey God, you would in this case owe them no formal obedience. At full age the child is more at his own disposal than he was before. Nature has given us a hint of this intention in the instincts of animals who are taught to protect, lead, and provide for their young ones while they are insufficient for themselves, but when these young ones are grown to self-sufficiency, their parents drive them away or neglect them. If a wise son who had a wife and children and great responsibilities to manage in the world would be bound to the same absolute obedience to his aged parents as he was in childhood, it would ruin the affairs of his household. His parents’ government would put down in their old age what they built up in their middle age.




In order to restrain excessive eagerness to marry, keep in mind the normal demands, disadvantages, and inconveniences of married life. Do not rush into a state of life without considering its inconveniences. If you have a calling to marry, you will need to understand the difficulties and duties of marriage in order to prepare and faithfully endure them. If you have no calling to marry, this knowledge will assist you in keeping from marriage.


Reason 1. Marriage ordinarily plunges you immediately into many responsibilities and concerns. It multiplies business and usually your wants. [Editor’s note: Marriage in the 16th and 17th centuries usually entailed more than merely taking a wife; it consisted of establishing a household with perhaps an estate, business responsibilities, servants, care of parents, relatives, etc.] There are many things to attend to, and there are many to provide for. And many people you will have to deal with will have selfish dispositions and interests, and they will look at you and treat you according as you suit their purposes. And among many persons and businesses, some things will frequently not go right; you must be prepared for frustration and disappointment. You will need a strong, content, and patient nature in order to bear all these things without being overwhelmed by them.


Reason 2. Your wants in a married life are more difficult to supply than in a single life. You will need many things you never needed before, and you will have so many people to care for and satisfy that, even though you have ever so much and are doing everything you can, it will not seem like enough. You will often be at your wit’s end thinking about the future, what you will eat, what you will drink, and how you will be clothed.


Reason 3. Your wants in a married life are harder to bear than in a single life. It is easier to endure your own lack of things than to see your wife and children suffer; your love for them will make their sufferings more grievous to you. Moreover, the discontent and impatience of your family will more discontent you more than all their lack. Oh, what a heart-cutting trial it is to hear them repining, murmuring, and complaining, to hear them call for that which you have not for them and to complain to you, or of the providence of God, because they have it not!


Do not think that riches will free you from these discontents. "A rich foot must have a rich shoe!" The more people have the more they often feel they need. How few there are in all the world who have families that are content with their circumstances.


Reason 4. Married life contains particular temptations to worldliness and covetousness. When you think you need more you will desire more, and when you find that everything you have is not enough to satisfy those you are responsible for you will measure your estate by their desires and you will think you never have enough. Birds and beasts that have young ones to provide for are most hungry and insatiable. You will now have so many to scrape for that you will think you are still in want. In addition, it is not only until death that you must lay up for but you must also provide for your children who will survive you. So you will have two generations to provide for!


Reason 5. You will be hindered from works of charity to others because a wife and children will be a devouring gulf that will swallow all. If you only had yourself to provide for, a little would serve and you could deny your own desires for unnecessary things, and so might have plentiful provisions for good works. But by the time wife and children are provided for and their unceasing desires are satisfied, there is nothing considerable left for pious or charitable uses.


Reason 6. Your calling and gifts might be better suited to being single than married. Single people often have greater freedom to pursue many labors and opportunities which others cannot. A hundred dollars given to the poor may advance the honor of religion more than a thousand dollars given to your own children even if you give it to them for a godly purpose. In this instance less can accomplish more.


Reason 7. Generally speaking, the female nature requires a good deal of patience. Many women are given to romantic fantasies and to tender, passionate, and impatient spirits. Many are easily angered, jealous, and discontent. It may seem that if you barely touch them, you hurt or bruise them. With some people it doesn’t matter what you say or do you cannot seem to please them. Also, the very multitude of words that many women are addicted to makes some men’s lives a continual burden to them. Proverbs 21:9 says, "Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman." See also Proverbs 21:19, 25:24, 27:15, and Ecclesiastes 7:28.


Reason 8. In marriage, there is such a meeting of faults and imperfections in both husband and wife that it makes it much harder to bear with the infirmities of the other. If only one party were still rebellious and impatient, the faithfulness and godliness of the other might make your relationship more bearable. But we are all sick, in some measure, of the same disease. And when sinful weaknesses meet weaknesses, pride meets pride, passion meets passion, it increases the problem and doubles the suffering. Our sinful failings are such that even though our intent and desire is to help the other, we often end up only stirring up each other’s tempers.


Reason 9. The business, cares, and troubles of a married life are a great temptation to distract your thoughts from God and divert them from the "one thing necessary" (Luke 10:42). These distract your mind and make you indisposed to holy duty. When you serve God with a divided heart, it is as if you do not serve Him at all. How difficult it is to pray and meditate with any serious fervency in the midst the cares and businesses of life (see 1 Corinthians 7:7-8, 26-28, 32ff.; Matthew 19:11).


Reason 10. The business of a married life commonly devours most of your time so that little is left for holy contemplation or serious thoughts of the life to come. All God’s service, like dirty clothes, is thrown into a corner and done when you get around to it. The world will scarcely allow you time to meditate, pray, or read the Scriptures. Just as Martha did, you think that it’s more important to dispatch your business than to sit at Christ’s feet to hear His word. Oh, if only single people knew the preciousness of their leisure, how free they are to attend the service of God and learn His word.


Reason 11. Marriage joins two people with vastly differing temperaments and degrees of understanding. In fact, there are scarcely any two people in the whole world but that there is some unsuitableness between them. Like stones that have some unevenness that makes them lie crooked in a building, there will always be some disparity of opinion, disposition, interest, or will between two people. These differences come about by nature, custom, and education, and they will stir up frequent discontents.


Reason 12. Husbands and wives are required to instruct, admonish, pray, and watch over one another. They are to be continual helpers to each other for the sake of their everlasting happiness, and they must patiently bear with the infirmities of each other. To the weak and backward heart of many men, the addition of so much duty adds to their weariness however good the work is in itself. You should evaluate your strength before you undertake more work.


Reason 13. The more husbands and wives love each other the more they participate in each other’s trials, and one or the other will frequently be under some sort of suffering. If one is sick, crippled, pained, defamed, wronged, or upset, or if one by temptation falls into sin, the other is affected and bears part of the distress. Therefore before you undertake to bear all the burdens of another’s hurts you must observe your own strength and how much more you will have than your own burdens require.


Reason 14. Consider how exceeding great your affliction will be if you marry someone who proves to be ungodly. If you love this person, your own soul would be in constant danger. An ungodly spouse would be the most powerful instrument in the world to pervert your judgments, deaden your heart, take you away from a holy life, kill your prayers, corrupt your life, and damn your soul. And if you should have the grace to escape these snares and save yourself it will be by great difficulty and suffering since the temptation to you is all the greater. And it will break your heart to know that you live so closely with one who is a child of the devil and is likely to suffer forever in hell. The daily thoughts of that would be like a daily death to you.


Reason 15. There is especially for women the consideration of the responsibilities of bearing and rearing children. Do you have a godly inclination, desire, and willingness to bear, love, and rear children, and to be patient in all the daily routines of life that you will be called to experience? Sickness in pregnancy, pain in childbirth, danger to your very life, the tedious responsibility night and day which you have for your children, besides subjection to your husband, and continual care for your family affairs, requires you to spend your life in a multitude of what might seem to be insignificant, troublesome, and difficult work. If “nature” didn’t incline women to it, the difficulties and duties of bearing and rearing children would probably deter all women from marriage and the world would come to an end!


Reason 16. Consider also the rigorous demands of godly child rearing. What an abundance of duty is incumbent upon both parents towards every child for the saving of their souls. What incessant labor is necessary to teach them the doctrine of salvation (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; 11:19). What abundance of obstinate, rooted corruptions are in the hearts of children which parents must by all possible diligence root up. Oh, how great and hard a work it is to speak to them of their sins and Savior, of their God, their souls, and the life to come with that reverence, gravity, seriousness, and unwearied constancy which the weight of the matter requires. Little do most parents know what abundance of care and labor God will require of them for the sanctifying and saving of their children’s souls. Consider your fitness for so great a work before you undertake it.


Reason 17. In addition, consider the grief that comes from your children’s sins. It is a great grief and sadness to see the miscarriages of your children when you have done your best, and much more grievous if you neglect your duty as many parents do. After all your pains, care, and labor you may have to look upon the foolishness of some, the stubbornness of others, and the unthankfulness of those whom you have loved the best. Their sins will pierce your heart. Oh, what a grief it is to breed a child to be a servant of the devil, an enemy of God and godliness, a persecutor of the church, and to think of his lying in hell forever. And, sadly, how great it is the number of such.


Reason 18. Household servants and employees also cause married couples a great deal of care and trouble. It is so difficult to get servants who are good and much more difficult to make them good. You will have a great duty to teach them and focus their minds on their salvation; this will be a source of great concern to you. Many of them will be discontent with the work you give them, and their displeasure will hinder them for accepting your instructions. For these reasons, most families become houses of correction or affliction.


Reason 19. These marriage crosses are not just for a year but for your whole life. There is no room for repentance nor escape. Marriage should therefore be undertaken with serious forethought.


Reason 20. A husband and wife who love one another and are dear to each other will experience great grief at the parting of death. Before you marry, know that you must have such a parting one day. Through all the course of your life, foresee that one of you must see the body of the other turned into a "cold and ghastly clod", that you must follow it weeping to the grave and leave it there in dust and darkness. There that body must lie rotting as a"loathsome lump" until you shortly follow it and lie down yourself in the same condition.


All these are the ordinary accompaniments and consequences of marriage, that estate that is easily pledged but long and hard endured. These are not fictions, but realities, and less than most have reason to expect. Should such a life be rashly ventured into in a pang of lust or such a responsibility undertaken without forethought?




1.   If God calls you to a married life, expect all these troubles or most of them and make particular preparation for each temptation, cross, and duty which you must expect. Do not think that you are entering into a state of mere delight lest it prove but a fool’s paradise to you. See that you are equipped with strength and patience for the duties and sufferings of a married state before you venture into it.


2.   Be well prepared against temptations to a worldly mind and life for it is here that you are most likely to be most violently and dangerously assaulted.


3.   See that you are well provided with affection for each other, for that is necessary both for the duties and difficulties of a married life.


4.   Potential husbands, see that you are well provided with prudence and understanding so that you may be able to instruct and edify your family and may live with them as men of knowledge (1 Peter 3:7), and manage all your business with discretion (Psalm 112:15).


5.   Frivolity and instability are no fit conditions for a state that only death can change. Let the love and resolutions which brought you into marriage continue with you to the end.


6.   See that you are well provided with marriage patience to bear with the infirmities of others and undergo the daily crosses of your life.


To marry without preparation is as foolish as going to sea without the necessary preparations for your voyage, as going to war without armor or ammunition, as going to work without tools or strength, or as going to buy food in the market when you have no money.


Distinguishing Lust from Love


Take special care that fancy and passion does not overrule reason or the advice of wise friends in your decision to marry and in the choice of the one you wish to marry. To say that you love someone but do not know why, is more becoming of children or imbeciles than those who are soberly entering upon such an important change of life. A blind love which makes you think that a person is excellent and wonderful who in the eyes of wiser and unbiased people is not so, is but the evidence of your folly. And though you honor your relationship with the name of love, others know that it is better named lust or fancy.


Any marriage that is made by lust or fancy will never lead to solid content or true happiness. And because this passion of lust (called love) is such a blinding thing, everyone that feels a touch of it should never trust it until they test it and even seek to quench it in order to prove it genuine. You ought to suspect your own feelings and trust the judgment and advice of others.


The following are a few ways to test your love:


(a) Keep apart from the person you feel you are in love with for a while. The nearness of the fire and fuel often causes the combustion. Fancy and lust are inflamed by the senses. Keep out of sight and in time the fever may abate.


(b) Do not overvalue vanity in the sense of fine clothes, fame, money, or beauty. Do not judge things as children do but as grown adults. Do not play the fool in magnifying trifles and overlooking real inward worth. What a childish thing it is to dote on a book of lies because it has a beautiful, gilded cover and to undervalue the writings of the wise because they have a plain and homely cover! 


(c) Rule your thoughts and do not let them be controlled by your emotions.


(d) Do not be idle but rather be busy with your occupations and employ your thoughts.


Other Considerations Regarding Choosing a Mate


1.   Do not be too hasty in the choice or determination of whom you will marry but deliberate well. Strive to thoroughly know the person on whom so much of the comfort or sorrow of your life will necessarily depend. Where there is no room for repentance, as in marriage, there is the need for greater care to be used to prevent it.


2.   Choose a mate who fears God. Do not let carnal, fleshly motives persuade you to join yourself to an ungodly person but let the holy fear of God prevail and predominate in your choice before all worldly considerations, regardless of how excellent the person otherwise is.


Do not marry a swine for a golden trough or an ugly soul for a beautiful body.


3.   Choose someone who has a nature or temperament that is suitable to you. A cross disposition will be a continual aggravation to you, and you will have a domestic war instead of love.


4.   Make sure your potential mate possesses the following qualities:

(a)  a loving and not a selfish nature

(b)  a quiet and patient nature, not intolerably demanding or hard to please

(c)  competence of wisdom, for no one can live lovingly and comfortably with a fool

(d)  sufficient humility

(e)  the ability to be silent as well as to speak, for a babbling tongue is a continual aggravation


5. Have a due and moderate respect for the personality, education, and estate of the one you wish to marry. In addition, consider and respect the parentage and education of another so that there won’t be a great unsuitableness of mind or any strong differences of opinion which may make you too unequal.


6.   If God calls you to marriage, note the helps and comforts as well as the hindrances and troubles of marriage. Married life has its temptations and afflictions as well as its particular benefits which you are thankfully to accept and acknowledge unto God. Ecclesiastes 4:10-12 says, "For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who it is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord it is not quickly broken."


Benefits of Marriage


1.   Marriage is a mercy in order to propagate a people on earth to love and honor their Creator and to serve and enjoy God in this world and in eternity (Malachi 2:15).


2.   It is a mercy to have in marriage a faithful friend that loves you entirely and is as true to you as yourself, to whom you may open your mind and communicate your affairs, and who would be ready to strengthen you, divide the cares of your affairs and family with you, help you to bear your burdens, comfort you in your sorrows, and be the daily companion of your life and partaker of your joys and sorrows.


3.   It is a mercy to have so near a friend to be a helper to your soul, to join with you in prayer and other holy exercises, to watch over you and tell you of your sins and dangers, and to stir up in you the grace of God and remind you of the life to come, and to cheerfully accompany you in the ways of holiness (Proverbs 19:14, 31:10-12).


4.   Let your marriage vows and covenant be made with understanding, deliberately, heartily, and in the fear of God, with a fixed commitment to faithfully perform them. Go to God beforehand, therefore, for counsel and earnestly beg His guidance and His blessing. Do not try to run your married life without Him or before Him.


5.   Be sure that God’s glory is the ultimate purpose of your marriage and that you principally choose that state in life in which you may be most useful to Him. If you marry, be sure that both of you heartily devote yourselves and your family unto God so that it may be a sanctified condition to you.


6.   Always remember that one day you will be separated by death. Whether you live in a married or an unmarried life remember that you are moving towards everlasting life, where there is neither "marrying or giving in marriage" (1 Corinthans 7:29, 30). As husband and wife, you are to help each other on your way that your journey may be the easier to you and that you may happily meet again in the heavenly Jerusalem.



Directions for the Right Choice of Servants and Masters


[Editor’s note: In the 17th century, every home had at least one resident servant except for the poorest of families. Servants were considered virtual members of the family in the same way that the Bible addresses slaves as members of a household (Ephesians 6:5-9). While few of us have such servants today, much of what is said here will have obvious application to Christian employees and employers. Some of these applications are noted in parentheses.]


Directions for the Right Choice of Servants (Employees)


Servants are integral parts of your family (or business) who contribute much to the holiness or unholiness of it, to the happiness or misery of it. Therefore, masters (employers) ought to be careful in their choice of servants (employees).


1.   It takes more than honesty and devotion to God (a sincere profession of faith and an effort to live a holy and godly life -Ed.) to make servants (employees) do their work. It also takes strength, skill, and willingness.


2.   If possible, select people to work for you who have the fear of God, or at least those that are willing to be taught, and not people who are ungodly, sensual, and profane in their speech and actions.


3.   Do not measure the godliness of a person you are considering hiring merely by their knowledge or words, but by their love and conscience. A person may talk a great deal about religion but still have an unsanctified heart and life. On the other hand, much lack in knowledge and utterance in a person may exist with a sincere spirituality of heart. You may safely judge someone to be godly if:  (a) They love godliness, the Word of God, the servants of God, and they hate all wickedness; and  (b) They make it a matter of conscience to do their work and avoid known sin both openly and in private.


4.   If necessity forces you to hire people who are unsuitable and bad, remember that, as a Christian, you then have a greater duty to behave in a diligent and persuasive manner toward them which will tend to make them better people and servants. Also, do not employ people in the same way you would use a horse or ox, only to use them for work; remember that they have immortal souls which you take charge of.


Directions for the Right Choice of Masters (Employers)


It is important that every prudent servant be careful about where he and his family live and work since his happiness, the safety of his soul, and the comfort of his life and family is much affected by this.


1.    Above all, be sure that you do not choose your place of employment merely on the basis of physical comfort and desirability. I know that fleshly, graceless people will hear this direction with as ill a will as a dog when he is forbidden his meat. I know I speak against their very nature, and therefore against their very hearts, and, therefore, they will think I speak against their interest and good. Therefore, I may seek to persuade them to this course a hundred times before they will believe me or obey my counsel.


2.    See that your first and principle concern is to live where you have the least spiritual hindrances and the greatest helps in pleasing God and the saving of your souls. Seek a position where you shall have no liberty to sin, nor have your fleshly will fulfilled, but shall be best instructed to know and do the will of God, and under Him the will of your superiors. It is the mark of those that God forsakes to be given up to their own wills, to have their own hearts’ lusts, or to walk in their own counsels (Psalm 81:12). Take care first that your souls are provided for, and take for the best work that which helps you most in the service of God to your salvation.


3.    If possible, live where there is a faithful, powerful, convincing minister, whose public teaching and private counsel you may make use of for your soul (see Ephesians 4:11ff). Do not be like those brutish persons that live as if there were no life but this, and therefore take care to get a place where their bodies may be well fed and clothed and may have ease, pleasure, and advancement for the world. Such do not much care what teacher there is to be their guide to heaven, nor whether or not they are ever seriously taught of the world to come.


4.    Live and work, if you can, with employers who fear God, who will care for your soul as well as your body, and will require you to do God’s service as well as their own. Do not seek worldly, ungodly masters who will use you as they do their beasts, to do their work and never take care to further your salvation (see Ephesians 6:5ff; Colossians 3:22ff).


5.    Choose such work as you are fit and able to do. Whereas you should of course avoid a life of idleness, you should also avoid one of excessive business, if you have the choice. If the toil of the weekdays leave the body fit for nothing but to sleep, then the Lord’s Day will be spent with little comfort. In addition, a job that does not allow you time to pray, read the Scriptures, or to mind your everlasting state, is a life more fit for beasts than men.


6.    If you can, live and work where your fellow employees as well as your employer fear God. Fellow workers usually talk to each other more often and openly than they do to their bosses or employers. Therefore, even if your master gives you the most heavenly instructions, the idle, "frothy" talk of fellow-servants may blot it all out from your memory and heart.


7.    If you lack any of the above in your present employment, diligently seek to improve what is lacking in your circumstances if you can.


8.    If you seek to be employed by the best employers, work to be the best servant. Good servants are so scarce and are valued so much that the best places of business will strive for you, if you will strive to be such a person. Excel others in labor, diligence, trustworthiness, obedience, gentleness, patience, and then you may have almost whatever position or job you desire.



The Necessity of Family Worship


Some profane persons and religious sects object to family worship, denying that it is required by God. The following are biblical arguments to prove the necessity of family worship, to prove that solemn worship of God in and by families is a matter of divine appointment, and to answer the objections of those persons and religious sects who deny that such worship is required by God.



The Definition of Worship

We are not principally referring to that general obedience and service which we owe to God in our daily Christian life which is sometimes called “worship” (Romans 12:1-2). By worship we mean a special religious performance of some sacred actions with an intention of honoring God.


Two Kinds of Worship

1. Blessing or Praising God

The first and more excellent kind of worship is when the whole end and purpose of our worship is the direct honoring of God. Any blessing we enjoy is secondary and subordinate to honoring and praising God. These particular acts of worship include praise and thanksgiving which we begin on earth and shall perpetuate in heaven.


Here is a mystery of religion: We receive more from God and enjoy more fully our own happiness and peace in Him in these acts of worship that give all praise and glory to Him than when we are directly seeking some blessing from Him!


2.  Being Blessed by God

The second sort of worship which we engage in consists of acts in which we are more directly seeking or receiving something from God. These acts of worship are directed more toward ourselves and our needs, although even in these it is still God’s praise and glory that should be our ultimate aim. These acts of  worship include:


(a)    Prayers of Confession, Supplication, Intercession, and Petition: Prayer for something that we lack or need.


(b)    The Ministry of Preaching and the Sacraments: The solemn proclamation and deliverance to us of God’s laws, word, instruction, correction, reproof, and sacraments by His ministers in His name. His laws come to us in general by ordinary preaching and secondly by the particular and personal application of it to us in discipline (Matthew 16:23; Galatians 2:11; Titus 1:13, 2:15).


(c)     Prayer that the Word and Sacraments May Be a Means of Grace to Us: Prayer that we may receive instruction, precepts, promises, and warnings from God’s Word by His appointed and called messengers (ministers, preachers) and that the sacraments may indeed be means of grace to us.




(a)   By “Solemn” we do not mean incidental or occasional worship which occurs but worship that is planned and ordinarily done, and done with such seriousness that is worthy a business of such importance.


(b)  By “Family” we don’t mean that each person in the family must lead in family worship but that one person, either the head or someone assigned by him and representing him, be the leader. Other members of the family should either perform whatever part he appoints for them or just concur in the prayers and praises offered up to God.


Family Worship in General


The Difference between Family and Congregational Worship


God has not appointed all elements of worship to be performed by families. There are some parts that are more proper to public assemblies.


1.   The administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not to be performed by families. These are signs and seals associated with the common life and fellowship of God’s church. They are committed to the ministers of the gospel for the administration thereof.


2.   Many people by their own vices, faults, and negligence disable themselves so that they cannot perform what God has made their duty, but it remains their duty nevertheless. Some disability or circumstance may excuse them in part from worship but not in whole.


God Requires Family Worship


The following are some proofs that the solemn worship of God by families is by divine appointment:  


1.  Families have special advantages and opportunities for the worship of God. One advantage to family worship is that the head of the home has the authority to require all those in the household, including household servants, to attend family worship. Visitors and other household employees may not be required to attend public worship but they cannot escape family worship. (Editor’s Note: A “household” consisted of more than immediate family members, but also visitors, other families, or other individuals residing in a home.)


Another advantage of family worship is that it provides the opportunity to address and resolve misunderstandings in the home. Such worship opens up opportunities to reprove, exhort, confess sins, and petition the Lord concerning things that the minister, not being present in the home, does not know about. Families should therefore take every opportunity for worship.


2.    The family, as divinely appointed institution, should be devoted to God. Every individual and every institution established by God should be devoted to Him who created them. Malachi 1:6 reads, “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts.” God not only created individuals but institutions, families, civil governments, etc. God is the proper Sovereign of every commonwealth, the Head of the church, and is the Head of every family. Therefore, every “society” established by God, including families, should, according to their capacities, perform divine worship and honor of God.


3.  Since families live and exist in the very presence of God, they ought to acknowledge His presence and worship Him. If a king, or a father, or a master were present with those under their authority, would it not be contemptuous of their subjects and disrespectful of a child not to give them the honor due them when in their presence? God is ever present, not only with every individual, but also with every family. This is clear by His directing and blessing the affairs of their families.


If anyone says, “We do not see God or we would worship Him,” we answer, “Faith sees Him who to sight is invisible.”  If you had a son that was blind and could not see his father, would you excuse him from honoring his father whom he knew to be present?  We know that God is present in our families, though our physical eyes cannot see Him. Therefore, we ought to worship and honor God in our families.


4.  The Christian family is to be devoted to God’s service and glory. Since Christian families are set apart and dedicated to God’s service and glory, then it is God’s will that those families should solemnly worship Him. To alienate the family from God, when it is supposed to be dedicated to Him, is sacrilege.


God has a double right to all Christians, that of creation and redemption. But he also has a third right as well, the right of their sanctifying, setting apart, devoting, all that they have to God. It would be ridiculous to think that a Christian, who is to be totally devoted to God as an individual, should not be totally devoted to Him if he becomes a soldier, a magistrate, or a king. In the same way, he who is devoted to God as a single person is bound to serve Him when he becomes a husband, a father, and a head of a household.


The fearful judgment of Ananias is a sad example of God’s wrath on those who withhold from God what is His. Christian families are institutions created to be devoted to God’s service and glory (Deuteronomy 7:6; Joshua 24; Zechariah 9:12-14; Acts 18:8, 16:14-15, 31-33; John 4:53; 1 Timothy 4:5). Do not withhold your family from God’s service and worship. Since Christian families are to be sanctified and dedicated to God’s glory, they must worship Him as such to the best of their ability.


The Acts of Family Worship


Teaching is an Act of Family Worship


First, fathers should teach the content of the Scripture by reading it, teaching others to read it, and by causing them to memorize it, which is a kind of "catechizing". Secondly, fathers should teach the meaning of the Scripture text. And thirdly, fathers should apply the teaching by practical and personal reproofs, admonitions, and exhortations.


The Content of Scripture Teaching:


1. The doctrine of God concerning salvation.

2. The terms on which salvation is to be had.

3. The means to be used for attaining salvation: Prayer, hearing biblical preaching, the reading of the Scriptures, covenant baptism.

4. All the duties required on the part of those who are saved.


Other cautions directed to fathers for Scripture teaching:


1.   When I say that men should teach their families, I am implying that they must be able to teach, that they should not teach before they are able, and if they are not able it is their own sin, because God always provides what He requires.

2.   Men must teach according to their ability and not presume to have more knowledge than they do, or to attempt to teach that which they cannot perform. Such presumption incurs the guilt of proud self-conceitedness, profanation, or other abuse of holy things. Men that are not able to judiciously interpret the original language or to give the meaning of difficult prophecies and other obscure texts of Scripture, should not presume to do so, nor to address controversies that are beyond their ability or knowledge.

3.   They may study what more learned and able men say in such difficult cases and tell their families that this is the judgment of church fathers, councils, and other learned men.

4.   Ordinarily, it is the safest, humblest, wisest, and most orderly practice for heads of the family to let controversies and obscure Scriptures alone, and to teach the plain, few necessary doctrines commonly contained in the catechisms and to teach the matters of important practice concerning Christian duties and character.

5.   Family teaching must respectfully stand in subordination to ministerial teaching, as families are subordinate to ministers and elders. Family teaching should ordinarily give place to ministerial teaching and generally not be set against it. Furthermore, families should not be having family Bible study and worship at home when they should be at church, under the ministry of a pastor. In addition, when any hard text or controversy comes up, fathers should consult with their pastor for exposition.


Proofs that it is fathers’ duty to teach our families:


Remember that whatever Scripture proves the ruler’s duty to teach also proves the family’s duty to learn and to listen to his teaching that they may learn.


1.   Deuteronomy 6:6-8, 11:18-21: Parents must teach their children the law of God.

2.   Genesis 18:18-19; 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15: Children are to be taught the Word and commands of God.

3.   Ephesians 6:4: Fathers must instruct and correct their children. The word “nourish” means that just as you feed children with milk and bodily food, you must as carefully and constantly feed and nourish them in the Lord.

4.   Proverbs 22:6: Training up a child in the way he should go necessitates instruction.

5.   Proverbs 1:8; 6:20; 3:22; Deuteronomy 21:18-20: Family parental instruction is implied and demanded in all the texts that exhort children to listen to the instruction of their parents.

6.   1 Peter 3:7; Ephesians 5:25-26; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35: Husbands are to instruct their wives which implies family instruction.

7.   Colossians 3:22-25; Ephesians 6:5-8: Servants are to be obedient to their masters, which implies that they must be commanded and instructed in Christ.

8.   1 Peter 4:11; Colossians. 3:16: Fellow Christians are to exhort one another daily. Since family members are also Christians there ought to be daily family worship and instruction for exhortation.

9.   1 Timothy 3:4, 12: Those who are chosen as deacons or elders must manage and rule their own children and household well. How can they manage them if they do not teach them?


Discipline Is Indirectly an Act of Family Worship


While not formally or directly an act of worship, discipline promotes and preserves godliness in the home. Discipline is an authoritative act done by the command and commission of God upon anyone who disobeys Him, and is carried out for God’s glory. Discipline should be done with as great solemnity and reverence as other acts of worship.


Acts of discipline include:


1.   Denying ungodly people entrance into our family. 2 John 10 reads, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him." (Entrance means coming to live in the household.)

2.   Correcting, by corporal, reasonable punishment, those who are in our homes.

3.   Casting out ungodly, wicked servants or others from our homes (Psalm 101:2-3, 7-8). 


Solemn Prayer and Praises of God Are Acts of Family Worship


1.   It is God’s will that Christians who have the occasion and opportunity for prayer and praises do so. Since Christian families have the opportunity to pray and praise, they should do so (see 1 Timothy 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; Colossians 4:2; 3:16-17; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18).


2.   If there are blessings that the family needs, then it God wills the family to pray for these blessings. Then when they have received them they should also give thanks to God for them (Matthew 6:11; John 6:11).


3.   God has charged the head of the family to see that the rest of the family worship Him (Genesis 18:19; Exodus 20:9ff; Joshua 24:15). The head of the family should also require that everyone join him in reverent family worship.


4.   God delights in the prayers of His people in fellowship with one another, not just the prayers of individuals. Therefore, God expects not only personal devotions and corporate worship but family worship as well (See Colossians 3:16; Acts 12:12; 20:36; James 5:15-16, Hebrews 10:25; Romans 15:30).


5.   Some parts of worship, such as singing, are such that they lose their glory if they are not performed with others (Ephesians 5:19; Revelation 4:8-11). Therefore, we should sing together, which is a part of worship.


6.   Prayer and praises are a duty crowned with precious, divine, and special blessings (Psalm 1; Psalm 128). Therefore, we should do so together.


Who ever seriously practiced family worship and did not spiritually benefit and receive blessings from it?  In what families do you find grace and heavenly-mindedness prospering but in those that practice family worship? Compare the families that read the Scriptures, pray, and praise God together in all your towns, cities, and villages with those that do not, and see the difference. Which of these families abound more with impiety, oaths, cursing, fights, drunkenness, lewdness, and worldliness? And which families abound most with faith, patience, temperance, charity, repentance, and hope?  I don’t think it will be hard to decide.


7.   1 Timothy 4:1-5 instructs us that food is to be received with thanksgiving. Families eat together, and therefore they ought to give thanks together.


8.   1 Peter 3:7 says that the husband’s prayers may be hindered if he does not dwell with his wife according to knowledge and honor her, which implies that husband and wife pray together.


9.   Colossians 3:16-17; 4:12 tell us that we should build up one another, which implies that we should worship together.


10. Daniel 6:10 says that Daniel prayed within his house three times daily. If Daniel did so, even though he may have been the only member of his house, shouldn’t we also pray regularly throughout the day?


11.  Joshua 24:15 says the whole household is to be engaged to serve the Lord. Worship is an act of serving the Lord.


12.  The story of Cornelius in Acts 10 (verses 2, 11, 14, 24, 30) also proves that we should worship God together in our families.


13.  1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12 implies that we should worship in our families. Men are to rule their families well, which requires instruction, training, and discipline. From a child Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures which were able to make him wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Remember that most individuals did not possess their own Bibles. This instruction and knowledge must have come from memory and instruction after the pattern of Deuteronomy 6:4ff.


The Frequency and Seasons of Family Worship


When should the family worship? Ordinarily, families should worship every day twice a day. The morning and the evening are ordinarily the best times. But there are extraordinary cases where some greater duty might intervene which may, for that time, not obligate us to our normal worship. In addition, the circumstances of some families may make one time suitable for one family that it is not suitable for another.


1.   Since you ought to worship God as you have opportunity, you usually have opportunity in the morning and evening (read Psalms 3 and 4).


2.   The Lord’s Prayer directs us to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). Therefore, we ought to pray daily.


3.   From 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Colossians 4:1-2, 3:17; and Philippians 4:6, it is easy to see that less than twice a day does not answer the call to pray without ceasing!


4.   Daniel prayed in his house three times a day (Daniel 6:10). Therefore, less than twice a day under the gospel era is unreasonable.


5.   1 Timothy 4:5 speaks of Paul’s praying night and day.


6.   Christ prayed night and day, and His servants also prayed, read, and meditated on the Scriptures daily (Luke 6:14; 2:37; 18:17; Acts 26:7; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 2 Timothy 1:3; Revelation 7:15; Nehemiah1:6; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 88:1).


7.   Deuteronomy 6:7; 11:19 teach parents to instruct their children night and day.


8.   A number of passages speak of the frequency of prayers and praises: Psalm 119:164; 145:2; 5:3; 59:16; 88:13; 92:12.


I have spent more time on this subject than a holy, hungry Christian might think was necessary. “Who needs so many arguments to persuade him to feast his soul with God and to delight himself in the frequent exercises of faith and love?” you might be thinking. The new nature in Christ and the holy love, desires, and experience of a true believer does not need these arguments. If they observe the difference between praying families and prayerless families, and if they care for their own souls and communion with God, fewer words than these would convince them of the need and benefits of family worship. However, the reason I have written this is not for holy, hungry saints, but for carnal hypocrites, and to stop the mouths of wrangling enemies who suggest that family worship is not necessary. It is a dead, graceless, and carnal heart that must first be cured before these men will be convinced. Men will not easily believe to be their duty that which they do not love, but are weary of.


[1]Dr. J. I. Packer, “Introduction,” in A Christian Directory, Richard Baxter (Soli Deo Gloria, P.O. Box 451, Morgan, Pa. 15064) 1997.

[2]Dr. J. I. Packer, “Introduction,” in A Christian Directory, Richard Baxter (Soli Deo Gloria, Morgan, PA, 1997).