I’m reading The Godly Home by Richard Baxter, which is one section of his larger work “The Christian Directory”, updated in syntax and some language for better clarity of meaning in contemporary times. Even with the update, it is the kind of writing you have to be paying close attention to but I am finding it to be a goldmine of quotes and instruction. I hope to have a discussion on the book later this month, but in the meantime I’ll be throwing out a few quotes here and there in a series of “Baxter Bites” for your edification, enjoyment and consideration. Starting us off is this little nugget from the opening chapter that deals with the question of when and if a person should get married:
To say you love but that you do not know why is more beseeming children or the insane than those who are soberly entering upon a change of life of so great importance to them. A blind love that makes you think a person excellent and amiable who, in the eyes of the wisest who are impartial, is nothing so or that makes you overvalue the person whom you fancy (and be fond of one as some admirable creature) who in the eyes of others is next to contemptible – this is but the index and evidence of your folly.
Ah, yes, the nice, polite discourse of the Englishman… I have to say that Baxter’s bluntness is somewhat refreshing. In an age where love is treated as an overriding feeling or experience that rushes upon and consumes the senses and reason, it is sound and true advice that this 17th century puritan offers. Love is not so base a thing as infatuation or lust. Love is a much higher thing, being of God, and between two people must involve the eyes-wide-open recognition that the object of our love is not worthy of such devotion by their own merit, but instead receive it in grace, and we are so glad to give it because we count ourselves even lower than they. Love is not blindly receiving a person’s faults as virtues. It is seeing the faults and committing to faithfully serving, encouraging, befriending and caring for that person with full view of their own lack and folly.
So thank you, Mr. Baxter, for telling it like it is. And one more for the road, dealing with the obsession over external beauty at the neglect of inner faithfulness:
What a childish thing it is to be ravished with a book of tales and lies because it has a beautiful, gilded cover and to undervalue the writings of the wise because they have a plain and homely outside.
I’ll tell you this much, though. I am the blessed husband of the gift that God gave me in my wife. She is to me marked by God’s beauty both inside and out. And the more I see her grow in the love of God and the works of his Spirit, the more she is beautified internally, the more enthralled I am with her outer beauty too. Beauty is good. But we should much prefer the inner beauty to the outer.