Family Ministry Today

The Center for Christian Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Home is an Earthly Kingdom: Family Discipleship Among Reformers and Puritans

by C. Jeffrey Robinson Sr. – Mar 25

The sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation profoundly altered the shape of Christianity (1). Martin Luther worked to restore the primacy of the doctrine of sola fide—justification by faith alone—in the proclamation of the Gospel. Luther also asserted the principle of sola Scriptura, which identified Scripture as the locus of authority for the church. In Geneva, John Calvin further expounded these principles and posited a theological perspective that emphasized the sovereignty of God and the radical corruption of humanity. These theological emphases of the Reformation have received massive scholarly attention over the centuries. Another critical consequence of the Reformation—no less important—has received far less emphasis: What have been the implications of this movement for ministry to families?

The Reformers, particularly Luther and Calvin, developed a robust vision for Christian training in the household and called parents to disciple their children. The Puritans in England and America cultivated this Reformation vision and brought it to its fullest flower in the form of consistent family worship and discipleship.

The medieval church had drawn a sharp distinction between secular and spiritual estates. Persons who took upon themselves the counsels of perfection—poverty, chastity, and obedience—were perceived to possess higher righteousness than those immersed in the daily affairs of the world. Luther rejected this dichotomy and asserted the priesthood of all believers. Further, Luther argued that everyone is born as someone’s child and “educated as someone’s pupil, governed as someone’s subject, supplied as someone’s customer, married as someone’s spouse, nurtured as someone’s parishioner,” and at last became a parent of one’s own children (2). Thus, the home must be initial staging ground for the advance of the Gospel; in each home, parents are priests, and it is their sworn duty before God to set the Gospel before the entire family.

Luther did not merely proclaim the practices of mar- riage and parenthood; Luther lived them. On June 13, 1525, Luther the ex-monk married runaway nun Katharina von Bora before a group of friends and witnesses. Throughout his marriage as much as his theology, the German reformer radically changed the way that many Christians viewed marriage and family. “Luther’s monastic revolt and subsequent marriage represent for his ethics what the nailing of the theses and his defense at Worms represent for his theology (3).

Luther and Katharina bore six biological children and adopted four more from relatives. By all accounts, the Luther home bustled with activity and joy: Martin sang songs with his children and serenaded them with music played on his lute. The Luther home was filled with teaching and learning, not only about the things of God but also about games and ordinary issues of life (4). Martin Luther partnered with Katharina in the care of their children, dealing daily with everything from diapers to disciplinary matters.

Luther broke with the Roman Catholic Church by refusing to treat marriage as a sacrament. Marriage was a divine gift and one of the three basic institutions ordained by God alongside the church and the state.

According to Luther,

Marriage is not a thing of nature but a gift of God, the sweetest, the dearest, and the purest life above all celibacy and singleness, when it turns out well, though the very devil if it does not. . . . If then these three remain—fidelity and faith, children and progeny, and the sacrament—it is to be considered to be wholly divine and blessed estate. . . . One should not regard any estate as better in the sight of God than the estate of marriage (5).

The household, as Luther expressed it, was to operate as “an earthly kingdom” where parents train children in the commandments of God (6) For Luther as for medieval theologians, marriage did function as a safeguard against sexual sin—but that was not the primary function of the marriage relationship. The purpose of marriage was to raise godly offspring:

The best thing in married life, for the sake of which everything ought to be suffered and done, is the fact that God gives children and commands us to bring them up to serve Him. To do this is the noblest and most precious work on earth, because nothing may be done which pleases God more than saving souls (7)

“Luther  Making  Music  in  the  Circle  of  His  Family,”  by  Gustav  Spangenberg.  Nineteenth  century.
From Luther’s perspective, parenting is not a secular duty but a holy vocation and a divine calling. The family is the preeminent estate of life—an estate that preceded the Fall of humanity and functions as the fundamental component of social order within every culture: “Thus all who are called masters stand in the place of parents and must derive from them their power and authority to govern” (8).

And who is to lead spiritually in the household, this society from which all other societal powers gain their power and authority? The parents, Luther, argued—but a special calling falls to the head of the household, the father. In his preface to the Larger Catechism, Luther urged fathers to lead the entire household in regular, substantive training in the Christian faith: “It is the duty of every head of a household at least once a week to examine the children and servants one after the other to ascertain what they know or have learned of it, and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it” (9).

Unlike Martin Luther, the French reformer John Calvin did not have the privilege of raising children from infancy to adulthood. Calvin and his wife, Idelette de Bure, had one son; this child died shortly after a premature birth in July, 1542. Idelette had two children from a previous marriage. After Idelette’s death in 1549, Calvin helped to raise these children.

Also unlike Luther, Calvin provided little infor- mation about how he interacted with children in his household. Still, Calvin’s preparation of ordinances for regulation of the church in Geneva, his two catechisms, as well as his promotion of education in the establish- ment of the Geneva Academy suggest that he was deeply concerned about the education of children. The subtitle of one of Calvin’s catechisms was “a form of instruction for children” (10).

In Calvin’s thinking, children were simultaneously objects of God’s wrath and heirs of God’s covenant. As heirs of the covenant, infants of believing parents were to be baptized into church membership. These sam children, however, lacked any natural desire to submit to God (11). Parents—and particularly fathers—were responsible to train these children toward godliness. “Constant conversation should be held . . . with their children, in order that fathers should diligently attend and apply themselves to the duty of instruction” (12). Father Abraham could be considered “a good householder” because he was a father who instructed his family in faithfulness to God (13). Ulrich Zwingli held a similar perspective on the role of parents in the Christian formation of children (14).

Yet parents did not stand alone in their training of children. Members of the larger community of faith bore a responsibility to equip parents and to partner with parents in children’s instruction:

It has ever been the practice of the Church, and one carefully attended to, to see that children should be duly instructed in the Christian religion. That this might be done more conveniently, not only were schools opened in old time, and individuals enjoined properly to teach their families, but it was a received public custom and prac- tice, to question children in the churches (15).

More mature believers in the church were also urged to teach the young: “Let the aged guide the insufficiency of youth with their own wisdom and experience wherein they [surpass] the younger, not railing harshly and loudly against them but tempering their severity with mildness and gentleness” (16).

Martin Luther and John Calvin articulated clear theological foundations for discipleship in the context of the Christian household. In the generations following the Reformation, the rise of common-language Scripture translations and mass-printed books led to increased possibilities for discipleship in the Christian household. By the dawning decade of the seventeenth century, the English Puritans were taking full advantage of these new means. In the process, these Puritans and their heirs devel- oped some of the most mature expressions of the theology and practice of what came to be known as “family worship.” The term “Puritan” was first coined in 1580 as a slur to describe persons who were seeking to purify Anglican liturgy. The term is employed in much the same way within contemporary popular literature as a synonym for a long-faced fundamentalism: “Puritanism is,” one twentieth-century journalist claimed, “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy” (17).

Such sweeping generalizations miss the mark at every level. Puritans were people of great passion, joy, even romance. They were the theological heirs of Calvin’s reforms, yet they “regarded the Reformation as incomplete and wished to model English church worship and government according to the Word of God” (18). Their commitment to theologically-driven evangelism and Scripture-saturated piety serve as excellent models for the church today. Most important for the purposes of this chapter, the Puritans’ devotion to Scripture com- pelled them to develop a vital emphasis on consistent worship of God within the family.

For the Puritans, every household was to be “a household of faith; every father a priest in his own family.” “It is no small mercy to be the parents of a godly seed,” Puritan pastor Richard Baxter wrote, “and this is the end of the institution of marriage”—with “end” referring in this context to an “endpoint” or “goal” (19). Much like Luther, the Puritans refused to separate life into “sacred” and “secular” categories. Every aspect of an individual’s life, whether deliberately chosen or circumstantial—which is to say, from a Puritan perspective, providential—was part of that person’s “particular calling” (20). The domestic calling of men included marriage and child-rearing; the entire particular calling for women entailed home-making (21).

A key task in these particular callings was the training of children to love and to obey God. The family was, after all, “the seminary of church and state and if children be not well principled there, all miscarrieth” (22). Puritans endowed all family activities and roles with dignity, and they understood Scripture to teach a divinely-ordained order of responsibility within the household. This order acknowledged the father as the person primarily responsible for the training of children in Christian faith. Fathers were consistently called to “keep up the government of God in your families: holy families must be the chief preservers of the interest of religion in the world” (23).

A HEADSHIP OF “LOVE AND COMPLICATED INTEREST”: THE FATHER’S ROLE IN THE PURITAN HOUSEHOLD
When his child was baptized, the Puritan father promised to supervise and to nurture this child in Christian faith; the father was duty bound to teach his children the Scriptures and to lead them in prayer and praise. At minimum, Puritan fathers were expected to lead their families in prayers twice each day and to expound the catechism and a Scripture text with their families every Lord’s Day.

Both husband and wife were viewed as equal in value and in essence. Yet, functionally, God had ordained the husband to be the head (24).  The husband’s headship, according to the Puritans, was not a permit to please himself but a charge to take responsibility for others. Headship did not entitle a husband to “lord it over his family”; his authority was, after all, a derived authority (25). All authority, including the husband’s, is ordained, delegated and regulated by a greater head, one to whom the father will give an account. The husband’s headship was a solemn privilege of loving servanthood built on the example of Jesus Christ. Such love for one’s wife was “like Christ’s to his church: holy for quality, and great for quantity” (26). Richard Baxter put it this way:

Your authority over your wife is but such as is necessary to the order of your family, the safe and prudent management of your affairs, and your comfortable cohabitation. The power of love and complicated interest must do more than magisterial commands. Your authority over your children is much greater; but yet only such as, conjunct with love, is needful to their good education and felicity (27).

A wife’s submission is, in the words of John Winthrop, “her honor and freedom . . . Such is the liberty of the church under the authority of Christ” (28). Matthew Henry put it this way: “The women was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to top him, not of his feet to be trampled by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved” (29).

“TO PROPAGATE THE FEAR OF GOD FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION”: THE FATHER’S DUTIES IN FAMILY WORSHIP

Richard Baxter devoted a major portion of his Christian Directory to the duties of the father in family worship, arguing that if worshipers in the Old Testament made sacrifices twice a day—in the morning and evening—and were commanded to learn the ways of God in the family, believers in Jesus had an even greater duty to give God a sacrifice of praise daily in their households (30). Baxter visited regularly the homes of his entire congregants to make certain that they were learning the catechism (31).

For Baxter, as for all the Puritans, time and eternity were at stake. For the father to abdicate his solemn vocation of ministry in the home was to surrender his family to the whims of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Baxter included one chapter in his Christian Directory specifically to provide “special motives to persuade men to the holy governing of their families.” In this chapter, the minister of Kidderminster pointed out that “a holy and well-governed family doth tend to make a holy posterity, and so to propagate the fear of God from generation to generation” and that “a holy, well-governed family is the preparative to a holy and well-governed church” (32).

The Lord’s Day held a major place in the theology and ethics of the Puritans. Most viewed it as a remembrance that stood in continuity with the Jewish Sabbath. In addition to attendance of corporate worship with God’s people, families were expected to spend their day first preparing for corporate worship, then worshiping God in their homes. The Puritan head of the family began the day with family prayers; after the corporate gathering, family members reconvened to sing a psalm of praise. Fathers rehearsed with their children the major points of the pastor’s sermon. The father might also have read from Scripture or another “profitable book,” followed by prayer “with all the holy seriousness and joy which is suitable to the work and the day”(33). After supper, the father typically examined children and servants on what they had learned during the day, perhaps even reviewing the catechism. The day concluded with family prayer.

This pattern also formed the paradigm for week- day worship in the home: the father led, typically both morning and evening, in devotional exercises that would consist in Scripture reading, catechesis, singing, and prayer. In the event that the husband was unavail- able to lead family worship, the wife did so.

It is crucial to note, however, that family worship was not intended to serve as the sole expression of the parents’ duty among the Puritans and their heirs. “The whole of family religion is not to be placed in acts of worship, properly so called,” one Reformed Baptist pastor reminded his church members,

It includes family government, and discipline; the daily reading of the scriptures . . . , and at some times, especially on the Lord’s Day, other practical books; watching over the ways of our household, catechizing Children, instructing servants; reproving, admonishing, and correct- ing for irregularities of temper and conduct; and more especially for sins against God. But family worship is the most important part, and will have a great influence to promote the regular and use- ful discharge of the rest (34).

From the perspective of these heirs of the Puritans, ministry within the family entailed far more than a mere practice of family devotions; family ministry was a whole-life experience that included “watching over,” disciplining, and differentiating between children’s “irregu- larities” and “sins.”

Such devotion spawned a golden age of catechisms and devotional works designed to be used in the teaching of children and in family worship. Separatists in the Puri- tan tradition, particularly Baptists, wrote catechisms to be used in teaching children. Benjamin Keach, a Particular Baptist preacher in London, abstracted the doctrines of the Second London Confession into a catechism (35). John Bunyan produced a work pointedly titled Instruction for the Ignorant: Being a Salve to Cure That Great Want of Knowledge, Which So Much Reigns Both in Young and Old (36). More conversational than most catechisms, Bunyan concluded with a call to repentance: “Bring thy last day often to thy bedside, and ask thy heart, if this morning thou wast to die, if thou be ready or no” (37).

For Puritans in England and New England alike, every Christian household was “a household of faith; every father a priest in his own family.” Worship, both in the home and in the church, was largely intergenerational. These practices did not, however, prevent church leaders from gathering age-organized groups for the purpose of teaching biblical truths. Cotton Mather spoke of belonging to a young people’s group that, each Sunday evening, “prayed, and sang a psalm, taking our turns in such devotions” (39).

In 1674, a resident of Roxbury, Massachusetts, recalled the restoration of his church’s “primitive practice” of “training up . . . male youth” by gathering them on Sundays to “examine their remembrance” of the sermon and to hear them recite portions of the catechism. Female youth gathered for a similar meeting on Mondays. Church records from Norwich, Connecticut, in 1675 and from Plymouth in 1694 suggest that such practices may have been widespread in New England (40).

The goal of these age-organized gatherings seems to have been to reinforce young people’s relationship with the larger community of faith—not to separate young people from the congregation. The content of these discussions and devotions was apparently drawn from the pastor’s message on the Lord’s Day and from catechisms that had been learned at home. The intent was to review and to apply, in an age-organized con- text, words that were already being proclaimed in intergenerational settings.

Jonathan Edwards was the last and most noteworthy of the American Puritans. Edwards’ Calvinistic theology formed his framework for family ministry (41). For Edwards, the Christian family was “a little church and commonwealth by itself,” and “the head of the family has more advantage in his little com- munity to promote religion than ministers have in the congregation” (42).

From Edwards’ perspective, the fountainhead of genuine revival was the grace of God working to transform households and to renovate the hearts of fathers (43). Children were separated from God—“little snakes” and “children of the devil,” Edwards called them—by nature and by choice, (44)  and parents bore a special responsibility for evangelizing their own children (45). For this to occur, children desperately needed to see the Gospel treasured within the father’s affections (46).

Jonathan Edwards diligently read Scripture with his eleven children each day and taught them the catechisms. Each Saturday, he carefully prepared them for worship on the Lord’s Day (47). His wife Sarah oversaw finances and daily operations in the Edwards home. By all accounts, Edwards’ own children profited from their father’s ministry, embracing the Gospel and committing themselves to lives of holiness (48).

LOCAL CHURCH AND “LITTLE CHURCH”

The churchly function of the household never, how- ever, eclipsed the importance of the gathered people of God. The local church provided the lens through which Edwards viewed the functions of the “little church,” the family; Edwards proclaimed certain tasks and purposes for the Christian family precisely because God had already assigned these purposes to the larger gathering of the saints (49). The household represented a parallel out- working of the life of the local congregation, with the father functioning as pastor within this model of the church in miniature (50).

These emphases persisted for many decades not only among the direct heirs of the Puritans but also among others, including the Methodists. In the latter half of the eighteenth century, John Wesley declared to husbands and fathers that the person in your house that claims your first and nearest attention, is, undoubtedly, your wife; seeing you are to love her, even as Christ hath loved the Church. …Next to your wife are your children; immortal spirits whom God hath, for a time, entrusted to your care, that you may train them up in all holiness, and fit them for the enjoyment of God in eternity. This is a glorious and important trust; seeing one soul is of more value than all the world beside. Every child, therefore, you are to watch over with the utmost care, that, when you are called to give an account of each to the Father of spirits, you may give your accounts with joy and not with grief. ..For what end do you send your children to school? ‘Why, that they may be fit to live in the world.’ In which world do you mean–this or the next? Perhaps you thought of this world only and had forgot that there is a world to come; yea, and one that will last forever! Pray take this into your account, and send them to such masters as will keep it always before their eyes. … Surely, if you live or fear God yourself, this will be your first consideration: ‘In what business will your son be most likely to love and serve God? In what employment will he have the greatest advantage for laying up treasure in heaven?’ I have been shocked above measure in observing how little this is attended to, even by pious parents! Even these consider only how he may get most money; not how he may get most holiness! … Upon this motive they fix him in a business which will necessarily expose him to such temptations as will leave him not a probability, if a possibility, of serving God. O savage parents! Unnatural, diabolical cruelty–if you believe there is another world (51).

Like his Puritan forebears, Jonathan Edwards was willing to gather the children of the church in age-organized groups to reinforce the catechisms that they were learning in their homes as well as the messages that they heard on Sundays. Edwards described this practice to an acquaintance in 1743:

At the conclusion of the public exercise on the Sabbath, I appointed the children that were under sixteen years of age to go from the meet- inghouse to a neighbor house, that I there might further enforce what they had heard in public, and might give in some counsels proper for their age. . . . About the middle of the summer, I called together the young people that were communi- cants, from sixteen to twenty-six years of age, to my house; which proved to be a most happy meeting. . . . We had several meetings that sum- mer of young people.

When a teenager named Billy Sheldon died, Edwards gathered a group of young people to proclaim a message to them, emphasizing the need to seek salvation now: Billy “was cut off at such a time” said Edwards, “to make you take full advantage of our opportunity.” Edwards’ exposition of the text is very brief, but his evangelistic application to the lives of the youth is long and pleading (52).

A pastor wrote these words, bemoaning the break- down of the families around him, pointing out that mar- riage was being entered into casually with no concern for raising godly offspring:

I have observed many married couples coming together in such great passion that they were ready to devour each other for love, but after a half-year the one ran away from the other. I have known people who have become hostile to each other after they had five or six children and were bound to each other not merely by marriage but also by the fruits of their union. Yet they left each other.53 The pastor was not someone in twenty-first century Europe or North America. It was Martin Luther, and the era was the early sixteenth century.

Then, as now, the revolution in family relationships cannot begin in the church. It must begin in the Christian household. A new reformation must begin with fathers taking responsibility for training their children in righ- teousness and with mothers who partner with their hus- bands in pursuing this vision. It will require these fathers and mothers to love and to train children whose parents are unbelieving or uninvolved in their spiritual develop- ment. It will require churches to equip single parents and to connect them with other families who can assist them in tasks of family discipleship. But the revolution cannot begin with church activities or programs; the revolution begins with your household and mine.

Endnotes

1 This article excerpted from Trained in the Fear of God, ed. Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2011)].

2 Jane E. Strohl, “The Child in Luther’s Theology” in The Child in Christian Thought, ed. Marcia J. Bunge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 139.

3 William H. Lazareth, Luther on the Christian Home: An Application of the Social Ethics of the Reformation (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1960), 1.

4 Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York: Meridan, 1995), 226-37.

5 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition [Works], ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehm- ann, 55 vols. (Philadelphia: Mulenberg, 1955), 45:47

6 The Large Catechism in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2000), 410.

7 Martin Luther, “Sermon on Married Life,” quoted in Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 1986), 239.

8 Luther, Book of Concord, 406.

9 Luther, Book of Concord, 383.

10John Calvin, Tracts and Letters, Volume 2, trans. Henry Beveridge (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 33.

11 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion: 1536 Edition, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 97.

12 John Calvin, Harmony of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy in Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. II, trans. Charles William Bingham (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 367.

13 John Calvin, Genesis in Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. I, trans. John King (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 481.

14 W. P. Stephens, The Theology of Huldrych Zwingli (Oxford University Press, 1986), 194.

15 John Calvin, Tracts and Letters, Volume 2, trans. Henry Beveridge (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 37, emphasis added.

16 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion: 1536 Edition, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 28.

17 H.L. Mencken, quoted in Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 1986), 1.

18 Horton Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1997), 1.

19Richard Baxter, The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, Volume I: A Christian Directory (Grand Rapids: Soli Deo Gloria, 2008), 20.

20 J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 271-72.

21 J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 270.

22 John Geree, The Character of an Old English Puritaine, or Nonconformist, J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 270.

23 John Geree, The Character of an Old English Puritaine, or Nonconformist, as quoted in J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 271-72.

24 Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 262-63. 25Ryken, Worldly Saints, 76. 26Ibid. 27Baxter, Christian Directory, 2.

28 John Winthrop and James Savage, The History of New England from 1630 to 1649 (Boston: Little and Brown, 1853), 39.

29Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Volume 1: Genesis to Deuteronomy (Peabody: Hendrick son, 2000), 16.

30 Baxter, Christian Directory, 507.

31 Baxter details his ministerial activities and sets forth a comprehensive pastoral vision in his classic work, The Reformed Pastor (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1974). Also, the entire section on family, including the duties of fathers, mothers and children, was recently published in a single work, Richard Baxter, The Godly Home, ed. Randall J. Pederson (Wheaton, IL: Cross- way, 2010).

32 Baxter, Christian Directory, 422-31.

33 Ibid., 573.

34 Job Orton, Religious Exercises Recommended (American ed., Bridgeport: Backus, 1809) 66

35 The full text of this catechism has been republished by Tom Nettles in Teaching Truth, Training Hearts: The Study of Catechisms in Baptist Life (Amityville, NY: Calvary Press, 1998).

36 John Bunyan, The Works of John Bunyan, Vol. 2, ed. John Offor (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999), 675-90.

37 Ibid., 690.

38 Portions of this section are drawn from Timothy Paul Jones, “A History of Age-Organized Ministry,” lectures in 93575 Models of Family Ministry.

39 Frederick DeLand Leete, Christian Brotherhoods (Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham, 1912) 209.

40 Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Volume 21. (Massaschusetts: The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1920) 259-265. Young people also gathered, as early as 1717, in “Singing Schools,” Francis Otis Erb, The Development of the Young People’s Movement (University of Chicago, 1917), 16-17.

41 For works on the Edwards’ home, see Elisabeth Dodd’s Marriage to a Difficult Man: The “Uncommon Union” of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards (Laurel, MS: Audubon: 2004) and Edna Gerstner, Jonathan and Sarah: An Uncommon Union (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1996).

42 Jonathan Edwards, “Living to Christ,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1720–1723, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Wilson H. Kimmach (New Haven: Yale Univesity Press, 1992), 10:577.

43 Jonathan Edwards, “The Importance of Revival Among Heads of Families,” Works 22:451.

44 John H. Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards, Evangelist (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1995), 34-35.

45 John H. Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards, Evangelist (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1995), 34-35.

46 Jonathan Edwards, “The Importance of Revival Among Heads of Families,” Works 22:453.

47 Beck, Little Church, 3.

48 Quoted in Iain H. Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987), 214.

49 Peter Beck, “The Little Church: Raising a SpiritualFamily with Jonathan Edwards,” unpublished paper.

50 Jonathan Edwards, “The Importance of Revival Among Heads of Families,” Works 22:451.

51 John Wesley, “On Family Religion,” Sermon 94.

52 Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards, Evangelist, 35.

53 Quoted in Ryken, Worldly Saints, 73.

[Editor's Note: C. Jeffrey Robinson, Sr., (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as elder of preaching and pastoral vision at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. A longtime newspaper journalist before surrendering to gospel ministry, Jeff has earned the bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia in addition to master’s and doctoral degrees from Southern Seminary. Jeff and his wife Lisa have four children: Jeffrey, Hannah, Lydia, and Jacob. Jeff is co-author with Michael A.G. Haykin of The Great Commission Vision of John Calvin (Crossway).]

This article was originally published in The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 3.1 (2012).