Thinking about Valentine’s Day: Richard Baxter’s Directions about Marriage

Richard Baxter was an English Puritan whose practical works on the Christian ministry and life are still some of the best in existence. He wrote a massive 1,143 page book called A Christian Directory, that covered the practical Christian life as a minister, the master of a family, and private Christians.  He wrote it to be thorough and  addressed a wide array of questions and cases for wisdom in godly living.  His ministry completely transformed the town of Kidderminister, England. It was said that one could not walk through the streets without hearing families praying and singing praises together.  The selection below is a a bulleted list of the main points of a section entitled “Directions about Marriage.”

To the right constituting of a family belongs the right contracting of marriage…

Direction 1: Take heed that neither lust nor rashness thrust you into a married condition before you see reasons to invite you to it as may assure you of the call and approval of God.

Direction 2: To restrain your inordinate desire for marriage, keep the inconveniences of it in memory.

Direction 3: If God calls you to a married life, expect all these troubles or most of them and make particular preparation for each temptation, cross, and duty that you must expect.

Direction 4: Take special care that fancy and passion do not overrule reason and friends’ advice in the choice of your condition or of the person.

Direction 5: Do not be too hasty in your choice or resolution, but deliberate well, and thoroughly know the person on whom so much of the comfort or sorrow of your life will depend.

Direction 6: Do not let carnal motives persuade you to join yourself to an ungodly person.

Direction 7: Next to the fear of God, make the choice of a nature or temperament that is not too much unsuitable to you.

Direction 8: Next to grace and nature, have a due and moderate respect to person, education, and estate.

Direction 9: If God calls you to marriage, take notice of the helps and comforts of that condition as well as the hindrances and troubles, that you may cheerfully serve God in it, in the expectation of his blessing. 

Direction 10: Let your marriage covenant be made understandingly, deliberately, heartily, in the fear of God, with a fixed resolution to perform it.

Direction 11: Be sure that God is the ultimate end of your marriage and that you choose that state of life in which you may be the most serviceable to him and that you heartily devote yourselves and your families unto God, so that it may be to you a sanctified condition.

Direction 12: When you are first joined together, (and through the rest of your lives), remember the day of your separation.