Since its original appearance in 1656, The Reformed Pastor has been a sober call to ministers to be serious about the gospel and their own personal holiness. In the preface, William Brown wrote, “hard must be the heart of that minister, who can read it without being moved, melted, and overwhelmed, under a sense of his own shortcomings; hard must be his heart, if he be not roused to greater faithfulness, diligence, and activity in winning souls to Christ.”
However, there is another aspect of Baxter’s pastoral ministry that is not as well known, but very pertinent to us here at Dads Are Disciplers, that is, his devotion to family discipleship. He was convinced that one of the most important areas where the members of a local church need serious training is that of biblical family living and his primary focus was on the fathers.
We must have a special eye upon families, to see that they are well ordered, and the duties of each relation performed. The life of religion, and the welfare and glory of both the Church and the State, depend much on family government and duty. If we suffer the neglect of this, we shall undo all. What are we like to do ourselves to the reforming of a congregation, if all the work be cast on us alone; and masters of families neglect that necessary duty of their own, by which they are bound to help us? If any good be begun by the ministry in any soul, a careless, prayerless, worldly family is like to stifle it, or very much hinder it; whereas, if you could but get the rulers of families to do their duty, to take up the work where you left it, and help it on, what abundance of good might be done! I beseech you, therefore, if you desire the reformation and welfare of your people, do all you can to promote family religion….Get masters of families to do their duty, and they will not only spare you a great deal of labour, but will much further the success of your labours (pp. 100-102).
Local churches that will concentrate a good amount of their discipleship energy on the heads of households will not only perform God’s will, but will end up cutting their “crisis counseling” load by a large percentage. This is not to say, of course, that well-ordered families are the solution to all our woes, but we would be exceedingly foolish to ignore the priority that God Himself has placed on them and their tremendous help to further the work of the church.