A Man of Integrity
"...but as for me and my house,
we will serve the LORD."
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A Father's Duty to His Family in General
by John Bunyan
He that is the master of a family, he has, as under that relation, a work to do for God; the right governing of his own family. And his work is twofold. First, Touching the spiritual state of it. Second, Touching the outward state of it.
First, As touching the spiritual state of his family; he should be very diligent and circumspect, doing his utmost endeavor both to increase faith where it is begun, and to begin it where it is not. For this reason, he should diligently and frequently lay before his household such things of God, out of his word, as are suitable for each particular.
And let no man question his rule in the word of God for such a practice; for if the thing itself were but of good report, and a thing tending to civil honesty, it is within the compass and bounds even of nature itself, and should be done; much more things of a higher nature; besides, the apostle exhorts us to 'Whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, pure, lovely, and of good report, to think of them,' that is, to be mindful to do them (Phil 4:8).
But to be conversant in this godly exercise in our family, is very worthy of praise, and is very fitting to all Christians. This is one of the things for which God so highly commended his servant Abraham, and that with which his heart was so much affected by. I know Abraham, says God, 'I know him' to be a good man indeed, for 'he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord' (Gen 18:19). This was a thing also which good Joshua designed should be his practice as long as he had a breathing time in this world. 'As for me,' says he, I 'and my household, we will serve the Lord' (Josh 24:15).
Further, we find also in the New Testament, that they are looked upon as Christians of an inferior rank that have not a due regard to this duty; yes, so inferior as not fit to be chosen to any office in the church of God. A [bishop or] pastor must be one that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?
'The deacon' also, says he, must 'be the husband of one wife, ruling their children, and their own house well' (1 Tim 3). Notice, the apostle seems to lay down this much, that a man that governs his family well, has one qualification belonging to a pastor or deacon in the house of God, for he that knows not how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God? This, considered, gives us light into the work of the master of a family, touching the governing of his house.
- A pastor must be sound and uncorrupt in his doctrine; and indeed so must the master of a family (Titus 1:9; Eph 6:4).
- A pastor should be apt to teach, to reprove, and to exhort; and so should the master of a family (1 Tim 3:2; Deut 6:7).
- A pastor must himself be exemplary in faith and holiness; and so also should the master of a family (1 Tim 3:2-4; 4:12). 'I,' says David, 'will behave myself in a perfect way; I will walk in,' or before, 'my house with a perfect heart' (Psa 101:2).
- The pastor is for getting the church together; and when they are so come together, then to pray among them, and to preach unto them. This is also commendable in Christian masters of families.
Objection: But my family is ungodly and unruly, touching all that is good. What should I do?
1. Though this be true, yet you must rule them, and not them you! You are set over them of God, and you are to use the authority which God has given you, both to rebuke their vice, and to show them the evil of their rebelling against the Lord. Eli did this, though not enough; and so did David (1 Sam 2:24, 25; 1 Chron 28:9). Also, you must tell them how sad your state was when you were in their condition, and so labor to recover them out of the snare of the devil (Mark 5:19).
2. You should also labor to draw them out to God's public worship, if perhaps God may convert their souls. Said Jacob to his household, and to all that were about him, 'Let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress' (Gen 35:3). Hannah would carry Samuel to Shiloh, that he might abide with God for ever (1 Sam 1:22). Indeed a soul rightly touched, will labor to draw, not only their families, but a whole city after Jesus Christ (John 4:28-30).
3. If they are obstinate, and will not go with you, then bring godly and sound men to your house, and there let the word of God be preached, when you have, as Cornelius, gathered your family and friends together (Acts 10).
You know that the jailor, Lydia, Crispus, Gaius, Stephanus, and others, had not only themselves, but their families, made gracious by the word preached, and that some of them, if not all, by the word preached in their houses (Acts 16:14-34; 18:7, 8; 1 Cor 1:16). And this, for all I know, might be one reason among many, why the apostles taught in their day, not only publicly, but from house to house; I say, that they might, if possible, bring in those in some family, which yet remained unconverted, and in their sins (Acts 10:24; 20:20, 21).
For some, you know how usual it was in the day of Christ, to invite him to their houses, if they had any afflicted, that either would not or could not come unto him (Luke 7:2, 3; 8:41). If this be the way with those that have outward diseases in their families, how much more then, where there are souls that have need of Christ, to save them from death and eternal damnation!
4. Take heed that you do not neglect family duties among them yourself; as, reading the word and prayer; if you have one in your family that is gracious, take encouragement. If you are alone, yet know that you have both liberty to go to God through Christ, and also are at that time in a capacity of having the universal church join with you for the whole number of those that shall be saved.
5. Do not allow any ungodly, profane, or heretical books, or discourse in your house. 'Evil communications corrupt good manners' (1 Cor 15:33). I mean such profane or heretical books, etc., as either tend to provoke to looseness of life, or such as do oppose the fundamentals of the gospel. I know that Christians must be allowed their liberty as to things indifferent; but for those things that strike either at faith or holiness, they should be abandoned by all Christians, and especially by the pastors of churches, and masters of families; which practice was shown by Jacob's commanding his house, and all that were with him, to put away the strange gods from among them, and to change their garments (Gen 35:2).
All those in the Acts set a good example for this, who took their curious books and burned them before all men, though they were worth fifty thousand pieces of silver (Acts 19:18, 19). The neglect of this fourth particular has occasioned ruin in many families, both among children and servants. It is easier for vain talkers, and their deceivable works, to subvert whole households, than many are aware of (Titus 1:10, 11). We have touched the spiritual state of your household. And now to its outward state.
Second, Touching the outward state of your family, you are to consider these three things.
1. That it lies upon you to care for them that they have a convenient livelihood. 'If any man provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel' (1 Tim 5:8). But notice, when the Word says, you are to provide for your house, it gives you no license to distracting carefulness; neither does it allow you to strive to grasp the world in your heart, or bank account, nor to take care for years or days to come, but so to provide for them, that they may have food and raiment; and if either they or you are not content with that, you launch out beyond the rule of God (1 Tim 6:8; Matt 6:34).
This is to labor, that you may have the means 'to maintain good works for necessary uses' (Titus 3:14). And never object, that unless you reach farther, it will never do; for that is but unbelief. The word says, 'That God feedeth ravens, careth for sparrows, and clotheth the grass;' in which three, to feed, clothe, and care for, is as much as heart can wish (Luke 12:6-28).