Richard Baxter was an English pastor who lived from 1615-1691. When he first because vicar of the Kidderminster parish, he purposed to make annual visits to the homes of each parishioner in order to be certain that the children were being properly taught the Scriptures by their parents; his personal commitment to nurturing strong families was the secret of his success. He was well-known for preaching the Word of God from the pulpit as it applies to individuals and families and went on to write his beliefs and convictions about a pastor’s role in both The Reformed Pastor and The Christian Directory, the latter being a textbook of Christian family counseling.
A while back, I came across an essay he wrote on the responsibilities of husbands and wives toward each other and thought it would make a nice Valentine’s Day devotional. This version was put into modern language by Scott Anderson and it is amazing how believers today, 400 years later, need to hear the same suggestions and admonishments. I was so personally blessed by this list, as I believe it is a fine example of the teachings of one-anothering as applied to the husband and wife relationship. I hope you, too will be blessed. Please read through the list thoughtfully and carefully, there are so many good things I would hate for you to miss one of them!
“Selfish ungodly persons everywhere enter into all kinds of relationships with a desire of serving their ownselves, and gratifying their own flesh without knowing or caring what is required of them. Their desire is for the honour, profit, or pleasure their relationship will provide them but not for what God and man requires or expects from them. [Gen 2:18, Prov 18:22] Their mind is concerned only with what they shall have and not for what they shall be and do. They know what they want others to do for them, but do not care what their duty is to do for others. This is the way it is with too many husbands and wives.
We should be very concerned to know what the duties of our relationships are. And how we can please God in our relationships. Study and do your part, and God will certainly do his.
The first duty of husbands is to love their wives (and wives their husbands). Eph 5.25,28,29,33. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies; he that loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.Let every one of you in particular so love his wife, even as himself.” See Gen 2.24.
Some directions for maintaining love are as follows:
1. Choose a good spouse in the first place. A spouse who is truly good and kind. Full of virtue and holiness to the Lord.
2. Don’t marry till you are sure that you can love entirely.
3. Be not too hasty, but know beforehand all the imperfections which may tempt you to despise your future mate.
4. Remember that justice commands you to love one that has forsaken all the world for you. One who is contented to be the companion of your labours and sufferings, and be a sharer in all things with you, and that MUST be your companion until death.
5. Remember that women are ordinarily affectionate, passionate creatures, and as they love much themselves, so they expect much love from you.
6. Remember that you are under God’s command; and to deny marital love to your wives, is to deny a duty which God has urgently imposed on you. Obedience therefore should command your love.
7. Remember that you are “one flesh”; you have drawn her to forsake father and mother, and to cleave to you;
8. Take more notice of the good, that is in your wives, than of her faults. Let not the observation of their faults make you forget or overlook their virtues.
9. Don’t magnify her imperfections until they drive you crazy. Excuse them as far as is right in the Lord. Consider the frailty of the sex. Consider also your own infirmities, and how much your wives must bear with you. (7)
10. Don’t stir up the evil of your spouse, but cause the best in them to be lived out.
11. Overcome them with love; and then they will be loving to you, and consequently lovely. Love will cause love, as fire kindleth fire. A good husband is the best means to make a good and loving wife.
12. Live before them the life of a prudent, lowly, loving, meek, selfdenying, patient, harmless, holy heavenly Christian.
Direct. II. Husbands and wives must live together. 1 Cor 7:25
Direct III. Abhor not only adultery itself, but all that leads to unchasteness and the violation of your marriagecovenant. [Mat 5.31,32; 19:9; John 8,45, of adultery; Heb 13.4; Prov 22.14; Hos 4.23; Prov 2.17; 1 Cor 6.15,19; Mal. 2.15; Prov 6.32,35; Deu 23.2; Lev 21.9; 18:28; Num 25.9; Jer 5.79]
Direct. IV. Husband and wife must delight in the love and company, and lives of each other. When husband and wife take pleasure in each other, it unites them in duty, it helps them with ease to do their work, and bear their burdens; and is a major part of the comfort of marriage. [Prov 5.18,19]
Direct. V. It is your solemn duty to live in quietness and peace. To avoid every occasion of fierce anger and discord.