Jun 22, 2014

The Family, From the CEC Convention

Motion five has passed by a majority of clergy and members.  The Puritan Church hereby declares that the family is headed by the father as Christ is head of the church.  Marriage is between one man and one woman.  Children do not belong to the parents or community but are gifts from God and for their entire life belong to God and to no human.

Before we get into the dos and don'ts of family life, we shall look at the big picture. What is a family for? Now, the Bible clearly says the family is a God-given institution-and not something cave men stumbled into over millions of years. If God created and blessed the family, it must have a purpose.
What is it?
Romantics make family into a sort of salvation. A husband or wife or kids will solve all your problems, answer all your critics, meet all your needs, and pretty much create a heaven on earth. When this doesn't happen, people wonder why it fell short.  This overly romantic view has increased divorce rates.

The Puritan view doesn't fit into the accepted categories: it isn't liberal or conservative or traditional or reactionary. The best word for it is Christian. The purpose of marriage is not to make you happy or to have legitimate children or to build society or to prepare for retirement (though these are often byproducts of matrimony). No, to our way of thinking, what the family is for is the glory of God. Benjamin Wadsworth wrote,

"Every Christian should do all he can to promote
the glory of God.and the well ordering of matters
in particular families, tends to promote [it]".
Most Americans are not interested in theory. What difference does it make what the family is for as long as it's happy or peaceful or productive?  Christians and Puritans know better: The goal of family life will determine its priorities and practices.
For example, if the family's aim is to glorify God, will the husband and father work eighteen hours a day? Or, will the wife nag her husband into being the spiritual leader? Or will the parents neglect their kids? Or abuse them?

Keep this in mind and your family life will be dramatically better. The destination determines the road you take to get there. The purpose of the family is to glorify God. Very few couples start there. And it shows.


A well ordered Gospel believing home is run by the man of the family. Husband and father imply authority. Not brute strength, but a God-given right to govern wife and children. And not just a right to do it, but a responsibility.
William Perkins wrote,
"The husband is he that hath authority over the wife,
the two being one flesh, but he is also the head
over his wife".
On this point, the Puritans believe exactly what the Bible teaches. The husband is in charge of the home-not because society says so or tradition or religion. It is God who says so,
"The husband is the head of the wife".
If the husband has authority over his wife, it must mean he can do pretty much whatever he pleases and she has no say at all-right? Wrong. John Robinson says the husband must rule with
"Love and wisdom. His love must be like Christ's
for His Church: holy for quality and great
for quantity".
Benjamin Wadsworth emphasizes the tenderness of the husband's rule,
"A good husband will make his government of
her as easy and gentle as possible, and strive
more to be loved than feared".
Samuel Willard even goes farther, saying the husband ought to rule his wife with such love and wisdom that,
"His wife may take delight in it, and not account
it as slavery, but a liberty and privilege".
Brothers, do we so rule our wives as to make them thankful for it? If you've turned your wife into a drone in the name of godliness, repent of your sin and taking the Lord's name in vain. Remember this: The better you rule your wife, the freer she will be.
You know what a truly liberated woman is? One who's husband leads her in love and wisdom.

If "the husband is the head of the wife", then some would say the wife has no say around the house-except for "yes sir!"
Christians and Puritans know better than this. They understand that ruling your wife includes explaining things to her (not just issuing orders) listening to her, deferring to her when she knows more than you do, and accepting her criticism.
"A man must support his cause from the Scriptures
and lay before her sufficient conviction of her duty"

(Samuel Willard).

In other words, "Because I said so" may be good enough for children and servants, it's not good enough for your wife. You should not only tell her what to do, but explain things to her from the Bible.  It is not easy if she's quarrelsome. But easy or not, it's the right thing to do.
In his diary, Samuel Sewall said he turned the family finances over to his wife because,

"She has a better faculty than I
at managing affairs".
On the same point, John Milton adds,
"Particular exceptions may have place, if she exceed
her husband in prudence and dexterity, and he
contentedly yield, for then a superior law comes
in, that the wiser should rule the less wise,
whether male or female".
The Puritan way of thinking, micromanagement is mismanagement. If your wife knows money better than you do, let her manage it-and do what she says with a good attitude.

But what about criticism? Does a wife have the right to correct her husband? To tell him he's wrong?

Let's define our terms: If by "correct" you mean scold him or despise him or nag him to death, then, no, she doesn't. But if the correction is offered in humility and love, then she has every right to do it.  As Cotton Mather noted:

"Women may and must privately exhort
others.they may also privately admonish
men.she is not so subject but she may
admonish and advise her husband if
she is sure the things she speaks against
are sinful or hurtful".

One more thing: Why does the man have to be in charge? Why can't everything be done with the consent of both husband and wife? In my family, most things are done that way. Maybe 99% of things. But once in a while, the most agreeable couple disagree. 

Somebody has to make the call. Now there are only three options: Either the husband has to do it or the wife has to or they take turns. Taking turns is ridiculous, because it would cancel everything.

Schooling is important. But what my wife and I disagreed on it. The first decision is mine: We're sending them to Christian school. The next decision is hers: We're homeschooling them. Then it's my turn again: Christian school, then hers.on and on it goes. And no decision is made.

A word to wives who think it's unfair: Would you want to be married to a man who didn't have the guts to make a decision? Who deferred to you on everything? You might love the man or pity him, but you'd never respect him.

It is logically necessary for someone to have the final say. And when the husband doesn't have it three bad things must follow: the man feels rotten about himself, the wife holds him in contempt, and the Lord is dishonored.


The Puritan view of parents and children.
The Puritan big idea can be summed up in one word: stewardship. Our children are not ours, but God's. What parents are required to do, therefore, is to bring them up for Christ.

"The children born in our families are born
unto God. God leased them out to us".
(Deodat Lawson)
This means we're responsible to God for what we do with our kids. They're not ours, but His. Therefore, they're to be brought up the way He says, and not the way we think best.

What do parents owe their children? Puritans insist on three things:
We must provide for their physical needs.
"If others suffer need, yet the children will surely
be taken care of, for as long as there is anything
to be had".
We must provide for their future. According to Cotton Mather every father is required to see that his children are instructed,

"In some honest, lawful calling, labor,
or employment, either in farming or
in some other trade profitable for
themselves and the commonwealth".
In other words, parents have to teach their children how to work for a living. This includes the basics of taking orders, cooperating with people, starting on time, being there until time to leave, even when you're not feeling perfect, and so on. 

And also vocational training or a professional education. Teaching them to work is every parent's duty. Benjamin Wadsworth stressed the importance-even if they didn't need to the money,

"If parents train their children to be serviceable
in their generation, they do better for them than
if they should bring them up to be idle, and
yet leave them great estates".
In other words, it's better to leave your kids nothing, but teach them to work than to let them be idle and leave them a fortune!
The Puritans agree with the Jewish proverb,

"The man who does not teach his son to work
teaches him to be a thief".
Insofar as we can do it, we must provide for their eternity. Cotton Mather also notes,

"Before all, and above all, is the knowledge of the
Christian religion that parents are to teach their
Children. The knowledge of other things, be
it ever so desirable for them, our children
May arrive in eternal happiness without it.
But the knowledge of the godly doctrine of Jesus
Christ is a million times more necessary for them".

There's one more subject to explore and that's the discipline of children.
    1. Family is for-the glory of God.
    2. Family is to be governed-by the husband and father who rules in love and wisdom.
    3. Parents owe their children-a decent life, a promising future, and in as much as lies within you, eternal life. 
    4. All discipline therefore is rooted in love, not anger, wrath, or vengeance.
May God bless our families and make them what they ought to be. A kingdom Christ's people.

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