THE CHIEF PURPOSE
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]".
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.
HUSBAND AND WIFE
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".
"The husband is the head of the wife".
"Love and wisdom. His love must be like Christ's
for His Church: holy for quality and great
"A good husband will make his government of
her as easy and gentle as possible, and strive
more to be loved than feared".
"His wife may take delight in it, and not account
it as slavery, but a liberty and privilege".
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"
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".
"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".
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.
PARENTS AND CHILDREN
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".
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".
"In some honest, lawful calling, labor,
or employment, either in farming or
in some other trade profitable for
themselves and the commonwealth".
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".
The Puritans agree with the Jewish proverb,
"The man who does not teach his son to work
teaches him to be a thief".
"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.
- Family is for-the glory of God.
- Family is to be governed-by the husband and father who rules in love and wisdom.
- Parents owe their children-a decent life, a promising future, and in as much as lies within you, eternal life.
- All discipline therefore is rooted in love, not anger, wrath, or vengeance.