Rules & Directions for Family Duties

Rules and Directions for Family Duties

Richard Baxter’s
Rules & Directions for Family Duties.

Shewing how every one ought to behave himself in a Christian behaviour, suitable to that Relation in which God hath placed him. Wherein is set forth the duty of Parents (required of God) towards their Children; likewise Children’s duty to their Parents. Husbands to their Wives, and Wives to their Husbands. Masters to Servants, and Servants duty to their Masters. A work of great use, the serious practice thereof would establish peace and prosperity in all Families, and promote the power of godliness throughout the Nation. And necessary to be set up in every House.

As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord (Josh. 24.15)

To him that ordereth his Conversation aright, will I shew the Salvation of the Lord. (Psal. 50.23)

The Obligations and duty of Parents required of God towards their Children, in their Educating of them in godliness.

Be sure in the first place, that you do your part in entering them at first into the baptismal Covenant. 1. See that you be true to your Covenant yourself, for the promise is made to the true Christians and their seed (Eph. 2.13; Gen. 17.4, 13-14). 2ly, Do not think that his bare being the child of godly parents, is his full condition of right to the benefits of the Covenant, that is but the fundamental part; but you must actually dedicate him to God in baptism (Deut. 29.11-12; Rom. 11.16; John 3.2-5). The child of a believer actually offered or dedicated to God, is a rightful receiver of baptism and its benefits. 3ly. Teach them therefore to know what Covenant they have made, and then cease not till you have brought them heartily to consent to it at age themselves: and then bring them to the minister of the church, that he may solemnly own the Covenant made in his baptism, and so may be admitted into the number of adult communicating members in a regular way.

Teach them the words of the Covenant, 2 Tim. 1.13, and also the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the commandments, and the catechism, teach them the meaning of them, and the way of practicing all labour to possess them with the greatest reverence of God and the Holy Scriptures: then shew them the Word of God, for all that you would teach them to know or do. 2ly. Never speak to them of God and holy things, but with the greatest gravity and reverence: for if they are used once to slight, or jest, or play with holy things, they are hardened and undone. Use often to take an account of what they know and what they do, both in their open and secret practice; leave them not carelessly to themselves, but narrowly watch over them. 3ly. Use all your skill and diligence by word and deed to make a holy life appear to them, as it is the most honourable, profitable, safe, and pleasant life in the world, that it may be their constant delight; make good things pleasant to them, keep them from feeling religion as burdensome, or unpleasant, or a needless thing.

First, begin with the easiest parts, as Scripture histories, and then Church histories: let them read the “Lives of Holy Men,” written by Mr. Samuel Clark and his Martyrology, and the lives of Mr. Bolton, and Mr. Joseph Allir, Mr. Janeway; Dr. Beard’s “Theatre of God’s Judgments,” speak much to them of the praise of ancient and latter holy men; be much in opening to them the riches of grace, and the joys of glory: exercise them much in Psalms and praising God; let your discourse with them be much in the disgrace of sensuality, pride, and worldliness: tell them how pride is the Devil’s sin, which cast him from Heaven, when others tell them of riches, honours, and prefer­ments, do you tell them these are the Devil’s baits to allure and steal thy heart from God that they may be damned, make them often read, Luke 12.16-18; James 14.5; Rom. 8.12; Matt. 5.21-26. Wisely break them of their own wills, and let them know that they must obey and like Gods will and yours.

Let their apparel be plain and decent, not gaudy; be sure when they come to years of ripen, that you keep them from opportunity, nearness, or familiarity with tempting persons of another sex. Be sure you engage your children in good company, and keep them as much as possible out of bad: wicked children will influence them before you are aware, as to drink, to swear, to game, to talk filthily, to lying, and to make a mock of godliness and sobriety. Teach them to know the value of precious time, and the shortness of this life, and to set death still before their eyes; use them to read good books, let your correction of them be wisely used as they need it, not too severely as to disaffect them to you, nor so little as to leave them in a course of sin and disobedience, let it be always in love.

Pray earnestly for them, and commit them by faith to Christ, into whose Covenant you did engage them. Go before them by a holy life: let your practice tell them what you would have them be, especially in representing godliness delightful, and in living in the joyful hopes of Heaven. Choose such trades for them that have least dangerous temptations, and when marriageable, provide such for them as are truly suitable, and stay not till lust and folly ensnare them.

These are the counsels which I earnestly recommend to you in this important work, for your children’s souls are so precious, and the difference between the good and bad so great, that all this must not seem too much, for I take the due education of children for the most needful and excellent work in the world, especially for mothers.

The duties of Husbands to their Wives, and Wives to their Husbands.

The common duty of husband and wife is to love each other (Eph. 5.25, “Husbands love your Wives even as Christ loved his Church“), and therefore choose one that is truly, lovely, and proceed in your choice, with great deliberation, and avoid all things as tend to quench Love. 2ly. Dwell together and enjoy each other, 1 Cor. 7.29, and faithfully join together in the education of your children, the government of your family, and the management of your worldly business. 3ly. Especially to be helpers of each others salvation, to stir up each other to faith, love, and obedience, and good works, to warn and help each other against sin and all temptations, to join in God’s worship in the family and in private, to prepare each other for the approach of death, and comfort each other in the hopes of life eternal.

4ly. To avoid all dissensions, and to bear with those infirmities in each other which you cannot cure: to assuage, and not to provoke unruly passions, and in lawful things to please each other. 5ly. To keep continual chastity and fidelity, and to avoid all unseemly and immodest carriage with any other, which may stir up jealousy, and yet to avoid jealousy which is unjust. 6ly. To help each other to bear their burdens (and not by impatience to make them greater) in poverty, crosses, sickness, and dangers, to comfort and to support each other, and to be delightful companions in holy love and heavenly hopes and duties, when all other outward comforts fail.

The more special duties of Husbands.

The more special duties of husbands are to exercise love and authority together (never separated) to his Wife. 2ly. To be chief teacher and governour of the family, and provider for its maintenance, to excel the wife in knowledge and patience, and to be her teacher and guide in the matters of God, and to keep up the wife’s authority and honour in the family over inferiors.

The special duties of Wives.

The special duties of wives are, to excel in love, and 2ly. Be obedient to their husbands, and examples therein to the rest of the family, submissively to learn of their husbands (that can teach them), and not to be self conceited, talkative, or imperious, to subdue their passions, not to tempt their husband to satisfy their vain desire in pride, excess, revenge, or any evil; not to rob God and the poor by a proud wasteful humor. 5ly. To govern their tongues, that their words be few, and grave, and sober. 6ly. To be contented in every condition, to avoid the childish vanity of gaudy apparel, and following of vain fashions of the prouder sort. 7ly. To help on the maintenance of the family by frugality, not to dispose of her husband’s estate without his consent. 8ly. Above all to be constant helpers for the holy education of their children; for this is the most eminent service that women can do in the world; she must daily catechise them, and teach them to know God, and mind them of the world to come, and teach them to pray.

The duty of Children to Parents.

Is to love them dearly, and to be thankful for all that love and care which they can never requite. 2ly. To learn of them submissively, especially the doctrine of salvation. 3ly. To obey them diligently in all lawful things in obedience to God. 4ly. To honour them in thought, words, and actions, and to avoid all appearance of slighting, dishonour, and contempt. 5ly. To be contented with their parents allowance and provisions, and willing and ready to such labour or employment as they command them. 6ly. To take patiently the reproofs and corrections of their parents, and to confess their faults with humble penitence, and to amend. 7ly. To use such company as their parents command them, and not to run into the company of vain and tempting persons. 8ly. To be content with such a calling as their parents choose for them. 9ly. To marry by their parents choice or consent only. 10ly. To relieve their parents if they need. Gen. 9.22; Prov. 30.17, 13.24; Prov. 6.20; Col. 3.20.

A short prayer for Children.

Let thy blessing O Lord, be upon my parents and governours, cause them to instruct and educate me in thy fear, cause me with thankfulness to receive their instruction, and to love, honour, and obey them in obedience to thee: keep me from the snares of evil company, temptations, and youthful pleasures, and let me be a companion of those that fear God. Let my daily delight be to meditate on thy Law, and let me never have the mark of the ungodly, to be a lover of pleasure more than of God. Furnish my youth with those treasures of wisdom and holiness which may be daily increased and used to thy glory. All this I beg and hope for on the account and merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour, saying, as he hath taught me, ‘Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, etc.

The duty of Masters towards their Servants.

Is to rule them with that gentleness as becometh fellow Christians, and yet with such authority, as that they be not encouraged to contempt. 2ly. To restrain them from sinning against God. 3ly. To instruct them in the doctrine of salvation, and pray with them, and go before them by the example of a sober life. 4ly. To keep them from evil company, and temptations, and opportunity of sinning. 5ly. To set them upon meet labours, to keep no idle serving men, nor yet to over-labour them to the injury of their health, nor command them any unlawful thing. 6ly. To provide them such food and lodging as is wholesome and meet for them; and to pay them what wages is due to them by promise or desert. 7ly. To bear patiently with their daily infirmities, and such frailties as must be expected in mankind, Eph. 6.9-10; Col. 4.1-3.

The duty of Servants to their Masters.

First, to honour and reverence them, and obey them in all lawful things belonging to their places to command, and to avoid all words and carriage, which savour of dishonour, contempt, or disobedience. 2ly. To perform all labour willingly which they undertake, and is required of them, and that without grudging: and to be as faithful behind their Masters backs as before their faces. 3ly. To be trusty in word and deed, and abhor lying and deceit, not to wrong their masters in buying or selling, or by stealing any thing that is theirs, no not meat nor drink against their will: but being as thrifty and careful for their master’s profit, as if it were their own, not to murmur at the means of food that is wholesome, nor to desire a life of fulness, ease, and idleness. 5ly. To be more careful to do their duty to their masters, than how their masters shall use them, because sin is worse than suffering. 6ly. Not to reveal the secrets of the family abroad, to strangers or neighbors. 7ly. Thankfully to receive instructions, and to learn God’s Word, and to observe the Lord’s Day, and seriously join in public and private worshipping of God. 8ly. To bear patiently reproof and due correction, and to confess faults and to amend. 9ly. To pray daily for a blessing on the family, on their labours and themselves. 10ly. To do all this in true obedience to God, expecting their reward from him, 1 Pet. 2.18; Tit. 2.9; 1 Tim. 6.12; Col. 3.22; Eph. 6.5; Matt. 10.24.

The Servants Prayer.

O Lord, as thou hast made me a servant, make me conscionable and faithful in my place, trusty and careful with my master’s goods and business, as I would be if it were my own. Make me submissive and obedient to my governor. Keep me from self-will and pride, from murmuring and iterant speeches, from falsehood, slothfulness, and all deceit, that I be not an eye servant pleasing my lust and fleshly appetite. That I may cheerfully and willingly do my duty, as believing that Thou art the revenger of all unfaithfulness and may I not only as unto man, but as unto the Lord, expecting from Thee my chief reward. All this I beg on the account of the […] of my dear Saviour Jesus Christ, concluding in the prayer he hath taught us, ‘Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, etc.


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