Marriage Duties

Marriage Duties

Thomas Gataker
Marriage Duties

To the hopeful young couple, the right worshipful Mr. Robert Cooke esquire, and the virtuous gentlewoman, Mistress Dorothy Cooke, his wife; many comfortable days in God’s fear and favor to their mutual and eternal good.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

(Colossians 3:18-19).

Without faith, saith the Apostle Paul, it is impossible to please God. And, faith, saith the Apostle James, is but dead without works. There be two things therefore necessarily required of every Christian, true faith and good life. A man cannot live but by a lively faith; and faith is not lively without holy life.

The Apostle therefore accordingly spendeth this, as he doth other of his Epistles, partly in delivering the grounds and doctrine of faith, and partly in directing the faithful for the manner of their Life.

Now because every man ordinarily hath two several callings, a general and a special—the general calling of a Christian, and some special calling in that particular estate that God hath assigned each one unto—the Apostle giveth rules here, as elsewhere, for our behavior. Either some generally concerning all men generally, as they are Christians (in the former part of this chapter), some special concerning several persons in their several estates, as they are inferiors or superiors, tied by natural or civil bands to each other (in the words of my text, and so forward [Col. 3:18ff]).

And in this part the Apostle delivereth the duties:

1. Of husband and wife.
2. Of parents and children.
3. Of masters and servants.

The duties of husband and wife are in the words of my text, the wife’s duty in the former verse, the husband’s in the latter. In handling whereof we will observe first the order, then the matter.

Order of the Text.

For the order, the Apostle is here, as ever usually, exact.

Before, he began first with faith, and then came to life, because faith is the root and good life the fruit, and without the root there can be no fruit. In regard whereof it is well said, that the whole life of the faithless is nothing but sin, and there can nothing be good without the chief good. For it is no less true of special faith, which is spoken by the Apostle of the general faith, that “whatsoever is not of faith, is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

He began first with rules of life general (Col. 3:1-17), and then came to rules special (v. 18ff). Because howsoever the Heathen man thought that a man might be a good man and yet not a good citizen, or he might be a good magistrate, or a good master, and yet not a good man, yet indeed a man can not be a good husband, parent, or master, unless he first be a good Christian—at least not so good as to reap comfort or benefit there by himself, or to perform offices to others in that manner as he ought.

Here likewise he beginneth first with the duties of married persons, and of them first with the wives.

Why the Duties of Marriage First?

First, at the duties of married persons of man and wife the Apostle beginneth here, as elsewhere (Eph. 5:22-25); and so proceedeth to the duties of children and parents in the second place, and of servants and masters in the third place (Col. 3:20-21; Eph. 6:1-4).

1. First, because this society it is the first that ever was in the world (Gen. 2:22), and therefore as it was the first in nature, so it is the first here in order. The Apostle beginneth first with that which in course of nature is first.

2. Secondly, because this is the fountain from whence the rest flow, and the streams can not flow pure and clear unless the fountain be first cleansed and kept clean. The Apostle therefore wisely beginneth at the head-spring, that a good course being settled in this principal society, it may be the better kept and continued in others that issue and flow from it.


1. And this point thus observed may first serve to shew what is one main cause of much neglect of duty in many families, in children towards parents, in servants toward master and mistress. Because the governors are not careful of mutual duties betwixt themselves, of concord and agreement the one with the other, of love and fidelity the one to the other, of respectful and regardful carriage the one towards the other. And so neglect of duty and difference between them is a means to breed a contempt of one or both in those that should be guided by them, making servants and children to take occasion of liberty and fail in their duty to them, as they fail in duty to each other. Yea it is a just judgment oft with God to punish the one by the other—as rebellion against the Creator by rebellion in the creature—so neglect in rulers of duties enjoined them of God, by neglect of duty toward them in those that should be ruled by them.

2. Secondly, it may admonish married folk that are heads of houses, if they desire to have things go well in the family, that they have a special care of those duties that God hath enjoined them in regard to each other. That will be a means to make duties pass more orderly both from them to others, and from others to them, as the contrary proveth ordinarily a great hindrance to either.

For as in a clock or a watch, if the spring be faulty, the wheels cannot go, or if they move not each other, the hammer cannot strike—so here, where duty faileth between man and wife it causeth a neglect of all other good duties in the family that dependeth upon them, yea of duty oft even to God himself in them. And therefore married persons, if they desire to have duties performed to them by others, they must first perform what is fit and convenient to each other, remembering that the due performance of mutual duties to each other, shall both make them fitter for the performance of good offices to others, and others readier in performance of theirs unto them.

Why the Duties of the Wife First?

Now in the next place as the Apostle beginneth with married persons, man and wife. So of the twain here he placeth the wife’s duty in the first place. A course constantly observed both by Peter and Paul, as here and elsewhere (1 Peter 3:1-7; Eph. 5:22-33), that they begin first with the wife’s duty and so pass on to the husband’s, and that for two causes.

1. First to shew the inferiority of the wife in regard of the husband. For we may observe that the Apostle beginneth ever with the duty of the inferior: first the children, then the parents (Col. 3:20; Eph. 6:1, 6:4), first the servants, then the masters (Col. 3:12, 4:1; Eph. 6:5, 6:9), and so first the wives then the husbands, the woman’s first, then the man’s.

2. Secondly, to shew where duty is to begin, on the wife’s part. It is to begin at the inferior and so to ascend to the superior. For love goeth downward, duty cometh upward. It beginneth with the inferior and so goeth up to the superior. The wife’s duty is as the base or ground that the husband’s duty is built upon. It is that that must draw duty and respect from the husband. Likewise, saith the Apostle Peter, “Let the men live with their wives,” etc. having spoken of the wife’s behavior toward her husband before. Not that it is lawful for the superior to omit his duty if the inferior be slack or faulty in the performance of hers, but to shew in course of nature whither should begin to shew duty.


And this first serveth to admonish the wife to be forward in performance of such good duties as God requireth on her part, and not to strain courtesy and stand upon terms, as to say, “Let him do what he should do, and then I will do what is befitting me.” Wouldest thou have him to do that that is his duty? There is no way more agreeable to the word and will of God, more consonant to the course and order of nature, more likely to prove successful and effectual to that purpose and to have a blessing of God go with it, than the careful performance of thy duty to him, than which nothing is more forcible to draw duty from him. In a word, the wife’s main duty here is subjection, the man’s principally love. And there is nothing more available with a good nature, to extract from it love and all duties of love, than a willing subjection and yielding, issuing from love in the party to be loved.

Again this sheweth, if any breach or occasion of offense shall arise between man and wife, whither is to seek to other. Howsoever the husband in discretion (being that he is, or ought to be, the wiser, and the woman held to be the weaker; as Abraham sought to Lot, though being every way the better), yet the wife is in duty rather to seek reconciliation (as the Apostle implieth when he saith, “Let her be reconciled to her husband” (1 Cor. 7:14), and as we see it held in all estates, that the inferior doth ever seek and sue to the superior) and so to break off first on her side that vacancy and intermission of duties that thereupon hath ensued.

The Matter of the Text.

And thus much for the order. We come now to the matter. Wherein concerning the wife’s duty first propounded observe we two things: the main duty, and the manner of it.

1. The Main Duty of the Wife.

The main duty, on the wife’s part is submission, or subjection. That the Apostles of Christ both Paul and Peter exact ever, on her part (Eph. 5:22; 1 Tim. 2:11; 1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Peter 3:1&5).

For the reason whereof, in general, no other need be rendered than that which the Apostle Paul propoundeth in this place, that it is a matter of comeliness and decency.

God is the God as of order and peace, so of comeliness and decency, and therefore will have all things done in decency and in order. But that the wife should submit and subject herself to her husband, it is a thing comely, and the contrary uncomely.

The Husband is the Head, the Wife is the Body.

Which point shall further the more plainly appear if we shall consider that the husband is the superior, and the wife the inferior; that the husband is as the head, the wife as the body or the rib.

For the first, there can be no ordinary intercourse and commerce or conversing between person and person, but there must be a precedence on the one part, and a yielding of it on the other. Now where they be equals, there may be some question, some difficulty, whither shall have the priority, and they take it commonly, as it falleth out, or by turns. But where there is an apparent inequality, there it is without question that the inferior is to yield to the superior.

Creation and the Fall.

Now here the husband is the superior, and the wife the inferior, as the Apostle elsewhere proveth, both from the Creation, and since the transgression.

The Authority of the Husband, Proved from the Order, Manner, and End of Creation.

From the Creation, as appeareth by the Order, Manner, End, of it.

1. By the order of it; in that the man was first created, and not the woman (1 Tim. 2:13), and therefore the man hath the birthright as the firstborn in the family. In regard whereof God speaketh of Eve to Adam (Gen. 3:16), as of Abel to Cain (Gen. 4:7), “Thy desire shall be subject to his, and he shall rule over thee.”

2. By the manner of it; in that the woman was made of the man, and not the man of the woman (1 Cor. 11:8). She had her being at first from him, as their children now have from them, and in that regard is the woman said to be the image and glory of the man, as man is the image and glory of God (1 Cor. 11:7).

3. By the end of it; in that the woman was made for the man, and not the man for the woman (1 Cor. 11:9). She was made to be as an help unto him (Gen. 2:18), and it is a general rule that the end is more excellent than that which tendeth thereunto.

The Authority of the Husband, Confirmed by the Fall.

Neither was this order reversed, but confirmed by the Fall, in regard that the woman was as the latter in creation, so the former in transgression—as the Apostle’s words are to be expounded where he speaketh of that point—and so was an instrument to draw the man on unto evil.

Again, the man is as the head, and the woman as the body. Then man is the woman’s head, and Christ the man’s head, and God, Christ’s head. As Christ therefore is subject to God, and the man unto Christ, so the woman to the man (Eph. 5:23-24). The man is the woman’s head, as Christ is the Church’s head. And therefore the wife is to be subject to her husband, as the Church is to Christ. And the husband to rule the wife as the head or soul doth the body. And as it is against the order of nature that the body should rule the head, so is it no less against the course of all good order that the woman should usurp authority to herself over her husband, her head.

Yea the place whence she was taken may teach as much. She was taken from the side, she was framed of the rib (Gen. 2:21-22). In regard whereof it is said of Lamech, who first brought in polygamy (Gen. 4:19), that “he divided one rib into twain” (Jerome, Ep. 79.10) and of the devil tempting Job by his wife (Job 2:29), that “he sought to make passage through the rib to the heart” (Gregory, Morals on the Book of Job 3.12). As it were therefore a thing prodigious and monstrous in nature for the rib in the body to stand either equal with or above the head, so we may well say here that a masculine woman or a masterly wife is even a monster in nature.


The use of this point may be partly for reprehension, and partly for admonition.


For reprehension, to reprove and tax those women that affect mastership; seek to rule and overrule those whom God hath not committed only, but submitted and subjected them unto, and so violate that order which God himself hath established in nature. A course that bringeth commonly, through the just judgment of God, disgrace and contempt upon both parties, yea utter ruin oft of the family and of their whole estate. For howsoever women may think it an honour to them, yet it is indeed rather a dishonor. A masterly wife is as much despised and derided for taking rule over her husband, as he is for yielding it to her—and that not only among those that be godly and religious, but even among those that be but mere natural men and women. Yea it is the next way to bring all to wreck. For where the wife maketh head against the husband, there is nothing but doing and undoing, and so all things go backward, and the whole house runneth to ruin, as by lamentable experience too often appeareth.


Which may serve therefore for admonition, to admonish every Christian woman in holy wisdom and godly discretion to learn to know her place and her part, and to fashion her mind and her will, her disposition and her practice accordingly thereunto. Yea though she be herself of a greater spirit, and in some respect of better parts, though she bring much with her, though the main estate come by her, yet to acknowledge her husband, as God hath appointed him, to be her superior as he is her husband and her head. Which acknowledgment is the ground of the duty here urged, as the contrary conceit cutteth off all conscionable carriage in this kind. That she be willing a to wear the yoke and bear the burden that God in his ordinance hath imposed on her—and not only avoid and forbear, but even hate and abhor the contrary, as a course abominable in God’s sight, odious in man’s eyes, and prejudicial to them both.

2. The Wife’s Particular Duties.

Now that this may be the better performed, it shall not be amiss more distinctly to entreat of such particular duties as spring from the subjection or submission urged by the Apostle on this part.

We must not therefore conceive it, that this submission consisteth in a complimentary crouching and courtesing, or the like, as hypocrites place religion only in ceremonial observances, but rather in a faithful and careful, in a constant and conscionable performance of such duties as issue and flow from the inward acknowledgment of that superiority of power and place, that God hath given to the husband in regard of the wife.

Reverence, Obedience, and Assistance.

And these duties may be referred, or reduced to three heads: Reverence, Obedience, and Assistance.

1. Reverence.

The first duty is reverence; which comprehendeth two things, honor and fear.


First honor, the general duty of all inferiors required in the fifth precept (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Mat. 15:4; Mark 7:10; Eph. 6:2). Wherein, as all inferiors are comprised under one kind, so all their duty under this one term, more specially applied to this particular, in that edict of Ahasuerus, that all women, high or low, do give honor to their husbands (Esther 1:20). And it consisteth in a reverent and respectful carriage towards them. Commended in Sara’s behavior towards Abraham, that thought reverently of him as her head, spake reverently of him as her lord (1 Peter 3:6; Gen. 18:12). That neither when they are kind and familiar together, they grow into gross terms, nor if any jar or offense fall out, they rush into tart and sour words, but take heed of all irreverent and unsavory language of them, of all unseemly and uncomely carriage toward them. Like that of Jezebel to Ahab, “Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel?” (1 Kings 21:7), or of Michal to David, telling him that he played the fool in dancing before God’s Ark (2 Sam. 6:20)—which speech of hers, as it argued a contempt of him in her heart (2 Sam. 6:16), so it was justly plagued in her by God with barrenness as a breach of his ordinance (2 Sam. 6:23), she had no child for it to her dying day.


Secondly, fear (Eph. 5:33). Not a servile or slavish dread, but a liberal, free, and ingenuous fear—like that fear that the godly bear unto God. As the Apostle Peter implieth when excluding the one, he yet exacteth the other (1 Peter 3:2). A fear springing from love, and joined with love (1 Peter 3:6), consisting in a desire to do everything so as may please their husband and give him contentment, and a care to shun and avoid whatsoever may displease him, or minister discontentment unto him.

Where those wives come to be taxed [blamed] and not unjustly condemned, that regard not at all their husband’s pleasure, but their own self will only. If he will be pleased, let him; if he will not, choose him; it is all one to them, he hath his mends [help] in his hands. This is not to cut out the work by the rule, but the rule by the work—to make the wife’s will the rule of the husband’s will—whereas God hath appointed the husband’s will to be the rule and square [pattern of example; guiding principle] of the wife’s will, not the wife’s of his. And as Peter saith of servants, that they are to apply themselves even to their crooked masters (1 Peter 2:18), so here, though the husband’s will shall be crooked, so it be not wicked, the wife’s will is not straight in God’s sight if it be not pliable to his.

What shall we say of them that love to swim, as we say, with the trout, against the stream, that will do things of purpose to cross their husbands, what they know that they cannot, or will not, like of? This is not to cut out the work according to the rule, but to cut out the work directly against the rule. Nothing more likely to breed heart-burning between them, and to make a man carry a stiffer and straighter hand over them—as we see that a man letteth his garments hang loose about him in a calm, which he girdeth closer to him when the wind is boisterous and high. Such women should remember that a meek and a quiet spirit is a thing precious in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:4), and on the other side, a froward and unquiet spirit in a wife is a thing odious and detestable both with God and man.

2. Obedience.

The second duty is obedience; propounded by Peter in the example of Sara, “as Sara obeyed Abraham” (1 Peter 3:6), and it hath reference to two things: Admonition and Advice, and so consequently consisteth in being content to be admonished of him, and to be advised by him.


First for admonition. In being content to be admonished by him, and taking his admonitions in good parts, and being willing to reform and amend what he admonisheth her of as amiss. Not ready to return a snappish answer again, and to give one angry word again for another, nor to be pouting and scowling upon it (as the manner is of many, when they are told of ought), for a long time together, as if they would make him weary of admonishing ought any more. But hearing it with mildness, and hearkening to it with meekness—remembering that when the husband admonisheth, God admonisheth in him, and hearkening to him, she hearkeneth to God in him—as on the other side contemning him, she contemneth God and God’s ordinance in him. Yea though the husband should chance to blame and find fault without cause (as even the best and the wisest sometime may do), it shall be a wise and discreet woman’s part rather to take it quietly and patiently, as if there were just cause of it, than to give any unkind or uncomely language again. Remembering that “it is,” as one saith well, “the property of an ingenuous disposition to acknowledge a fault sometimes, even where there is none“—not by lying or dissembling (for that is altogether unlawful)—but by patient bearing and forbearing, being as ready to alter what is done, as if it had been done otherwise than it ought.


Secondly, for advice. In suffering herself to be advised of him, in taking advice of him, and following advice given by him. In being willing to be directed and advised by him for herself, her attire, her behavior, her carriage, her company, the marshaling and managing of domestic affairs. As Sara would not put away her maid Hagar without Abraham’s consent (Gen. 21:9-10), nor Rebekah send away her son Jacob without Isaac’s advice (Gen. 27:46&43; 28:1-2). In regard whereof the husband is called the wife’s guide (Prov. 2:17), as the person by whom she is mainly to be directed and guided.

The Wife May Admonish and Advise Her Husband.

Which yet we are not so to understand as if the wife might not either admonish the husband on some occasions, or advise him in some cases. For what a servant may sometime do (2 Kings 5:3&13; 1 Sam. 16:15-16), a wife may much more.

But there must be an holy wisdom and discretion used herein. That admonition be given seasonably (not as physic [medicine] in a fit), as by Abigail to Nabal (1 Sam. 25:36-37); and with due respect and regard of the husband’s person and place. That in advice giving, the wife ever remember what is properly her part, and therefore move the matter rather by way of question, or as craving advice—as Rebekah seemeth to move the matter a far of unto Isaac (Gen. 27:46), submit her advice and opinion to his judgment and discretion. As Esther to Ahasuerus shewed herself willing to obey, if he shall think good otherwise (Esther 8:5-6), and withal so carry the matter that even in those things that are done by her advice to good purpose, her husband be honored and not contemned either by others or her—that whatsoever is done by their mutual consent, may seem rather to come from him. As Jezebel sealed all with Ahab’s seal (1 Kings 21:8), and Esther wrote all in Ahasuerus his name (Esther 8:8). For that as the trumpeters own voice is nothing so loved or so strong, as the sound that it yieldeth when it passeth through the trumpet, so every action in the family shall gain itself more weight and procure them both more credit, and carry more authority with it, when it passeth through the husband’s hands and is ratified and sealed as it were with his seal.

Reproof of Error.

And here cometh to be condemned the custom of those women that will do all of their own head, that will have things as they list themselves, and after their own mind. That refuse and think scorn either to ask of their husband’s advice what to do, or to follow it in such things as they are advised unto. And so disobedience breedeth a contempt of the husband in them, and contempt in them causeth wrath in him, which openeth a gap to many grievous evils. Such must know that in disobeying them they disobey God in them and provoke him against themselves. Besides that they procure nothing unto themselves but an evil report abroad, and an unquiet life at home.

And therefore a wise and discreet woman ought to choose rather, when the thing enjoined or advised shall import some difficulty, or carry with it some inconvenience, howsoever she may in good terms propound it by way of excuse. Yet if the husband shall persist in his mind that he will have it so, she ought, I say, to choose rather, and account it better (so long as it import no evil) to buy her own peace and the peace of a good conscience, to purchase peace with God and man by meek and quiet observance, than to break or hazard the breach of either by her peevish resistance.

But of all others the course of those is most vain that will take to themselves the whole commendation of things done by mutual consent and advice, and so seek to honour themselves by discrediting their husbands whom God hath commanded them to honour, and whose honour they should account as their own. For when God saith that “the woman is the glory of the man” (1 Cor. 11:7), and that “a virtuous or industrious wife is the crown of her husband” (Prov. 12:4), he implieth that the wife should use all the gifts and graces of God bestowed on her for the honour of him. And on the contrary she is the contempt and dishonor of him, when she striveth and contendeth to seem wiser than he.

Implications for the Husband’s Duty.

And here by the way let the husband learn his duty in part, ere we come directly unto it. For if the wife be to submit and to subject herself unto him, is to be admonished by him and to take advice of him, then is he to govern and admonish, to give counsel and advice.

And therefore considering that he is called to be a guide to his wife, he must labour for holy wisdom and spiritual discretion, that he may be fit and able to guide and govern in good manner and to good purpose. And he had need be wise and discreet himself that is to be a guide to another. Otherwise as the Apostle asks, How is he fit to govern God’s house that can not govern well his own house? (1 Tim. 3:5; Prov 2:17). So how shall he be fit to guide another, that is not able to guide himself?

Implications for the Parents’ Duties.

In regard whereof parents also, as they must not be overhasty to join their children in that estate, ere they be come to some staidness [sobriety; gravity], so they must be careful (especially where they perceive some want that way) to further them with all convenient helps in that kind. That so by their diligent care and furtherance that may be supplied that is defective on their parts.

Reproof of Negligent Husbands.

Now this then condemneth the preposterous practice of some men that—in a kind either of foolish stateliness or fond remissness—will seem to refer all to the wife the weaker, without informing or acquainting her with his mind, in what manner he wishes or thinks fit to have things ordered in the family. And yet will storm and take on, or grow pettish and impatient, if everything be not done to his own mind. Which as it breedeth much disquiet and distraction in the wife’s mind when she knoweth not what will please, but must go all by guess so it taketh away that alacrity and cheerfulness that should be in performance of such duties, and maketh her to go about her business with hanging of the wings. Since it is uncertain, when she hath taken all possible pains, and done her best endeavor, how in the end it will be accepted.

Reproof of Peevish Husbands.

As also it condemneth such peevish and froward persons, as if anything be demanded of them, or their advice asked in ought, are ready by and by to grow into heat and rage, to complain of and cry out on the folly and unwiseness of their wives, that know not how such and such things should be ordered. For to what end hath God given her thee for a guide, but because the woman ordinarily needs the man’s advice? As therefore the priests lips should preserve knowledge for the people, and they are to ask the law of him (Mal. 2:7), so the husband’s head should preserve wisdom and counsel for his wife, and she is to take advice of him (1 Cor. 14:35). Besides, that things in the family many times are to be done, not for the best or the wisest simply, but after the husband’s best liking and to his best contentment. And therefore a wise and discreet husband should rather rejoice that his wife is so careful to know his mind, and to do everything to his mind, than contemn her or miscall her for her carefulness in that kind.

3. Assistance.

The third and last duty on the wife’s part is assistance. For she was made to be an helper or an assistant to her husband (Gen. 2:18)—and that especially in two kinds, in his travels and in his troubles.

1. Help to His Labour and Business.

First in his labour and in his business, in domestic affairs, things especially within the house. In regard whereof the Apostle Paul willeth that women be house-keepers, or “keepers at home,” as we call them housewives (1 Tim. 5:14; Titus 2:5). And the heathen for that one respect among others made the snail or the tortoise an emblem of womanhood. And the Apostle Peter seemeth to imply no less, when he willeth rather, that the husbands dwell with their, wives, than their wives with them (1 Peter 3:7).

The Wife’s Domestic Affairs.

Of this kind of affairs that the wife is to be employed in are:

1. First, the diligent and careful education of such children as it may please God to bless them with all (1 Tim. 2:15, 5:10&14).

2. Secondly, the vigilant and watchful oversight of the whole family instructing and admonishing them, as occasion requireth; assigning them their work and allotting them their allowance (Prov. 31:26).

3. Thirdly, the provident and faithful keeping and preserving of provisions made and brought in by the man, that they be not imbeciled [weakened] or made away, that no waste be made of them, that they be not spoiled and misspent (Prov. 31:11&15).

4. Fourthly, a constant and painful endeavor of doing something, as ability, leisure, and opportunity shall give leave, toward the supporting and upholding, or the raising and advancing of their estate, and the further enlarging of their means. For a wise woman, saith Solomon, helpeth to build up the house (Prov. 14:1), and the good housewife, as his mother describeth her to him, riseth before day, and sitteth up late at night (Prov. 31:15&18). As she suffereth none to be idle in the house (Prov. 31:15), so she is not idle herself (Prov. 31:27). She thinketh not scorn to soil her hands, but girdeth up her loins, and setteth herself to some profitable work—getteth her wool and flax about her, and putteth her hand to the wheel, and her fingers to the spindle (Prov. 31:31:13&19), maketh such things as may serve for the appareling of her husband herself and her household, or may be of use otherwise about the house (Prov. 31:21-23), or if no need of it in the house, to sell and make merchandise of (Prov. 31:13-14, 16, 18, 24). And that no discredit or dis-commendation at all to her neither, or if neither of both be needful, to help to relieve, as good Dorcas did, the poor servants of God with (Prov. 31:20; Acts 9:39).

Reproof of Error.

Where cometh to be condemned, first the soundness of such parents as join their daughters to heads before they are able thus to be helpers, yea oft match them to an head, ere they are able to dress their own head, much less to afford any good help to their married head.

As also of those that bring them up so in idleness and dissoluteness, that they are good for nothing when they are married, but to sit in the shop as a babe on a stall, to see and be seen; or as an image in the house, that hath limbs without use, being altogether unfit to do ought about the house, or to manage anything that appertaineth thereunto.

Again, here cometh to be condemned the practice of such wives as are gadders abroad [who rove about idly]; least acquainted with, or delighting in ought at their own home. Who are rather in that regard the daughters of Dinah (Gen. 34:1) than Sarah (Gen. 18:9), whom we know what befell upon her wandering abroad (Gen. 34:2). And surely as the Apostle joineth chastity and home keeping together, as the one a means of preserving the other (Titus 2:5), so the wise man maketh such gadding abroad a note of a light and a lewd housewife (Prov. 7:12).

Or such as though they keep within, yet sit idle at home; who must have their gossips come and sit with them to tell tales and news, that they may not be idle without company (1 Tim. 5:13), little weighing with themselves, that time the meanwhile runneth on, and work about the house goeth but untowardly forward, while there is none to oversee, or look after it.

As also the practice of such as are wasters, spenders, and spoilers of their husband’s wealth, and of that they bring in. That therein indeed like the tortoise, carry their whole house on their back, which though they feel not the weight of, yet maketh the husband’s back ache, yea and crack too, breaketh the back of their estate. As in that sex commonly there is no halt, when a wasteful humor [temper; disposition] is once in, so far are they from helping to further or advance their estate. Such should remember the saying of Solomon, that as the wise woman helpeth to build up the house, so she is a fool that thus pulleth the house down with her own hands (Prov. 14:1).

2. Help to His Troubles.

Secondly, the wife is to be an assistant and a yoke-fellow to her husband, as in his travels and labours, so in troubles and crosses [trials & afflictions], if any befall (as no man’s life lightly is free from them, no lark without an heel, nor course of life without some cross or other); and that two ways: By bearing part with him, and by being a comfort unto him.

Bearing with his afflictions.

First, by bearing part with him. For whereas married persons are subject to many more crosses and casualties then those that lead a single life, in regard their charge is the greater, howsoever the women themselves are not exposed to so many personal encumbrances as men, because their life is more private. Yet, as the Apostle saith of the faithful Christians, that they were fellow partners with him in his afflictions (Heb. 10:34; Phil. 1:7), so ought the wife to be with the husband in those afflictions that befall him. And surely if all Christians in general, much more married folks in special, ought to bear either others burdens (Gal. 6:2). If all Christians must have a fellow feeling of one another’s sufferings, because they are all members of one body (Heb. 13:3; 1 Cor. 12:26), much more man and wife that are both but one flesh (Mat. 19:5).

Reproof of Error.

Contrary whereunto is the practice of those wives that leave and forsake their husbands when they are fallen into troubles. They are like swallows and other summer-birds, content to reap and enjoy with them the pleasant fruits of prosperity, but unwilling to bear and endure with them the bitter brunt and blasts of adversity. They care not, nor regard what their husbands do, or what becomes of them, what hardness they endure, what misery they abide, so long as by help of friends or other provisions they are able themselves, to shift for themselves. Very unnatural are they that have no fellow-feeling of what their own flesh suffereth; unlike our Saviour Christ, who retaineth still compassion, though free from personal passion, and though freed now from feeling, hath still yet a fellow-feeling of those evils that befall his here (Heb. 4:15; Mat. 25:35-36, 42-43). Yea worse than many heathen women that have shewed worthy precedents on this part and in this kind, and shall therefore rise in judgment at the Last Day against all such Christian women as be faulty this way.

The like is to be said of the practice of such as are a means themselves to bring their husbands into decay and distress, and so procure trouble to them by their inordinate courses and excessive expenses. Whereby they cast them behind hand, and that to their utter overthrow and undoing oft times, and so instead of helping to bear his burden with him, are a means to bring such a burden upon him, as neither of them both is well able to bear.

Being a comforter to her husband.

Secondly, by being a cheerer and a comforter, a means of comfort and cheerfulness to him. As Jacob’s children were to Jacob (Gen. 37:35), and so Rebekah to Isaac (Gen. 24:67). And surely if it be the duty of children to comfort their parents in their heaviness, much more the wife’s to comfort her husband in like cases. If a wise child is a joy to his father (Prov. 10:1, 15:20), much more will a good and a wise wife strive to be so to her husband. To be to him as David’s harp was to Saul (1 Sam. 16:23), as a physician to tend him in his sickness, as a musician to cheer him up in his heaviness.

Reproof of Error.

But what a wretched and lamentable case is it then, when she that should be a comfort, proveth a discomfort, that her husband may say of her as Job of his friends, a miserable comforter art thou indeed (Job 16:2). As in Eve, that she, that was given to be an helper to good (Gen. 2:18), should prove a tempter to evil (Gen. 3:6), so here when she that should be the joy and the delight of a man’s eyes (Ezek. 24:16&25), proveth a corrosive to his heart and corruption in his bones. And surely as there is no estate more comfortable where things are wisely ordered according to God’s will and word, so none more dis-comfortable, where things are crossly and crookedly carried. Inward evils are most grievous, in regard whereof one of the ancients compareth not amiss an evil and a guilty conscience to an untoward yoke-fellow. For that is common to either (than which what can be more grievous?) that that proveth with a man the greatest cross, that should be a comfort to him against other crosses. Such women forget or at least are far from that, which Solomon saith of a good wife, “she will do her husband good, and not evil, all the days of her life” (Prov. 31:12), that which every good woman undoubtedly will endeavor herself unto.

Hitherto we have spoken of the main duty on the wife’s part, namely, submission or subjection, together with the particulars or at least the principal of those that thence issue.

2. The Wife’s Manner of Performing Her Duty: “in the Lord.

We come now to the manner of the performance of all the former, and that is, saith our Apostle, “in the Lord“—a phrase used by the Apostle in the like case elsewhere (Eph. 6:1; 1 Cor. 7:39), and it may be taken two ways, as a note of direction, or as a note of limitation.

1. As a note of direction, prescribing the ground and manner of this submission; that it be done in obedience of God and the commandment of God, in conscience of the order and ordinance of God.

2. As a note of limitation, describing the bounds and limits of this submission, assistance, reverence, and obedience; that it extend not itself to anything against the will and word of God.

In the former sense [direction] it seemeth to be used by the Apostle, where he speaketh of children’s duty (Eph. 6:1); in the latter [limitation], where he applieth it to widow’s marriage (1 Cor. 7:39). And the latter followeth upon the former. For a man cannot do ought against God’s will or word out of obedience to his will and word, it implieth a manifest contradiction. And therefore whatsoever is done in obedience to God’s will must needs so far forth be done according to, and not against, his word or will. The former [direction] I take here to be the direct meaning of the words, the latter [limitation] by way of consequence is deduced from it. And so this branch affordeth two points concerning the duty here enjoined:

1. The Ground of the Wife’s Submission.

1. First, that this submission for the ground of it must be a godly, a religious, a conscionable submission; performed not for worldly respects, or for fear of wrath (1 Peter 3:6), but as the Apostle saith of good subjects, for conscience sake (Rom. 13:5); in conscience of God’s ordinance, and in obedience to God’s command.

A. For first, it is godliness alone that hath the promises both of this life and the life to come, and therefore there is no reward for ought that proceedeth not from it.

B. Secondly, as Luther saith well that the first commandment in the Decalogue comprehendeth the whole—because therein is the bond that bindeth us to the obedience of the whole—so it is no less true that the Apostle James telleth us that religion or godliness—which is the ground and bond of all obedience—is to be exercised and practiced through the whole course of our lives (James 1:27). That as all civil duties are to proceed from love unto man (1 Cor. 16:14), so they are likewise to be done in obedience to God.

Which point serveth first to shew a difference between a godly and a worldly wife, a Christian woman and an heathen, a faithful and an infidel. For an heathen woman may do all outward duties that a Christian wife doth, out of a natural or carnal love to her husband, or out of a desire of her own ease and quiet that dependeth thereupon, or out of other natural and civil respects, as fear of anger at home, and of evil report abroad. But the Christian wife doth all on a further ground (though these and the like considerations also may make her the more careful), out of obedience to God and the will and word of God, out of a desire to please God, and to approve herself and her courses unto God. As the heathen subject serveth God for his prince, the Christian subject serveth his prince for God, so the heathen wife obeyeth God but for man, whereas the Christian wife obeyeth her husband for God.

Again it may teach women how to behave themselves in these duties that they may thereby gain as well favor with God, as love with their husbands at home, and a good report abroad. If they shall do all in obedience of God, if they shall do all as unto God (Eph. 5:22), as a Christian servant serveth God and not man (Eph. 6:7, 5; 1 Cor. 7:23; Col. 3:23), so submitting themselves to God, not to man, while they regard God in their husbands, as he doth God in his master (Eph. 6:5-6; Col. 3:22-24), and so do all as unto God (Eph. 5:22, 6:5), because they do all for God, and for conscience of God. Else though they perform all outward duties, they go no further than heathen. If they do not so much, they come short of them, and if they expect and desire to be accepted with God, they must go beyond them, they must not only do all that they do, but do it as they should do, do all for God, and then they do it to God. For as they relieve Christ in the poor, when they relieve them for Christ (Mat. 25:40), so they obey Christ in their husbands, when they obey them for Christ. Not regarding so much what their husbands deserve from them, as what God requireth of them.

As Christian subjects submit themselves to good governors as unto God, to evil governors for God, or rather unto either of them both as unto God and in God, so submit themselves to their husbands be they good or bad, deserve they well or evil of them, as for God, in God, and unto God, in regard of the precept and enjoinment of God (Eph. 5:22). So doing, as the Apostle saith, they shall be saved by child-bearing, so they shall be saved by Christian submission and obedience (1 Tim. 2:15). As the servant that serveth not man but the Lord, shall from the Lord receive the inheritance of a son (Col. 3:23-24), so the woman that submitteth herself to her husband for God, shall for such her submission be eternally rewarded of God.

And this withal may again serve well to take away that objection of faulty performance on the other part. “If he do not his duty to me, why should I do mine to him?” True, if thou oughtest it to him only, or principally to him. But it is “in the Lord,” and for him that this duty is required of thee. Him thou owest it unto, whither thy husband do his or no, whither he deserve it, or no, at thine hands. Neither shall his faultiness excuse thy fault, if thou shalt refuse to perform what God hath imposed on thee, and so shall fail in thy duty that thou owest unto God, because man faileth in his, that he likewise oweth unto God, whither thou dost thine, or no, to him.

2. The Extent of the Wife’s Submission.

2. Secondly this submission, for the extent of it, must not be in ought against God. And therefore when the Apostle maketh it general, “in all things” (Eph. 5:24), it must be conceived by way of opposition between her own will and her husband’s will (as the Apostle is said to “please all men in all things,” 1 Cor. 10:33, that is, even to the displeasing of himself, not regarding his own profit, but respecting their pleasure, Rom. 15:1-3), not by way of opposition between God’s will and man’s will. For when they cross, God is rather to be obeyed than man, his will is rather to be regarded than man’s will (Acts 5:29)

And the reason is apparent. For:

1. This submission is God’s ordinance. And God’s ordinance cannot be against God, but for God.

2. The husband’s power, as of all superiors, is subordinate to God’s power. And the subordinate power ought ever to yield to the supreme power (Rom. 13:1).

And therefore first let men look unto it and take heed how they take upon them to advise, persuade, induce, or urge their wives to ought against God and godliness or good conscience. For by so doing they shall but abuse their power and place, and lessen their authority and credit, as every one doth that goeth beyond the bounds and limits of his office.

As also women must know that it shall be no sufficient excuse for them, if they shall suffer themselves to be led by their husbands unto ought that is evil. No more than it was for Adam to be seduced and misled by Eve (Gen. 3:12), or for Ahab to be provoked and egged on by Jezebel unto evil (1 Kings 21:25). Neither will it serve to allege, that the woman is the weaker (1 Peter 3:7). But they must consider who it is from whom the man hath his right, his power, and his place, even he that hath power equally over either, and will undoubtedly punish either, if either the one shall persuade, or the other upon persuasion yield to ought against his will.

Hitherto we have entreated of the former part concerning the wives duty, we come now to the a latter part concerning the husbands.

The Husband’s Duty to His Wife.

And the husband’s duty is propounded partly in the affirmative, and partly in the negative.

1. In the affirmative, “husbands love your wives.
2. In the negative, “and be not bitter unto them.

1. The Main Duty of the Husband.

The main duty required on the man’s part is love, that which the Apostle ever inculcateth when he entreateth of the husband’s duty (Eph. 5:25, 33). The equity whereof we may easily conceive, if we shall but consider the precept of love and in what terms it runneth.

Thou art commanded therefore by God to love thy neighbor as thyself (Lev. 19:18; Mat. 22:39; Mark 12:31; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8). And what nearer neighbor than thy wife, who is taken by thee into the society and communion of thy whole life, to be a perpetual companion with thee at board and in bed (Mal. 2:14)? To dwell and abide with thee continually, to converse with the most inwardly; yea, as our Saviour himself speaketh, to be glued unto thee inseparably (Mat. 19:5; Eph. 5:31; Gen. 2:24), and that by God’s own appointment and ordinance (Mat. 19:6).

Again thy neighbor, thou art commanded to love as thyself, but the Apostle goeth further and saith, “he that loveth his wife, loveth himself” (Eph. 5:28). So that thy wife is thyself, not as thyself only. Our flesh, say the poor speaking of the rich, is as their flesh (Neh. 5:5), and therefore a man should not, saith the prophet, turn his face from his own flesh (Isa. 58:7). But here man and wife they make but one flesh (Mat. 19:5-6), this knot being once knit, they are no more twain, but one flesh. And “no man,” saith the Apostle, “ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (Eph. 5:31).

What is more natural than for parents to love the children that come of them? What more equal than for children to love their parents that bred and bare them (Isa. 49:15)? But behold a nearer conjunction between married persons, man and wife, than between children and parents: in regard whereof God saith, that a man shall leave the one, yea, if he cannot help both, he shall neglect the one, to adhere, and cleave to the other. “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24; Mat. 19:5-6; Eph. 5:31).

For children indeed are part of their parents, because they come out of their bowels (2 Sam. 16:11), they are part of their flesh, but severed from them. But man and wife, they are one flesh—conjoined, not severed. By original creation, as she came of the man, she is part of his flesh, flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone (1 Cor. 11:8; Gen. 2:21-23), but severed as it were now from him, but by nuptial conjunction being joined to him as his wife, she becometh not only part of his flesh, as taken from him, but one flesh conjoined with him (Gen. 2:24; Mat. 19:5-6; Eph. 5:31). For as body and head, or flesh and soul make one man, so man and wife make one flesh.

Again children are said to be part of their parents, but parents cannot be said properly to be part of their children. But here reciprocally the wife is part of the husband, and the husband is part of the wife, both parts of the same flesh, because both making but one flesh. Parents are as a fountain or the body of a river, children as streams derived from it, and flowing apart. Man and wife are as two springs meeting and so joining their streams, that they make but one current, and run both in one channel, that the water of the one and the other cannot be severed. Parents are as a stem or a stock, children as grafts or slips taken from it, and ingrafted or planted elsewhere. Man and wife are as those two branches in the prophet’s hand, enclosed in one bark, and so closing together that they make but one piece, and the same fruit cometh of either (Ezek. 37:17).

If nearness of bond therefore be a good ground of love—there being such a nearness between man and wife, as none between man and man can go nearer—it must needs bind the husband not only to love, but to love his wife with a love above all other love.


To make use then of this point.

1. Wives must also love their husbands.

First, if a man be thus to love his wife, then the wife is no less to love her husband. For love, we say, is love’s lodestone [magnet], and there is the like reason for either. There is no action or affection so reciprocal as love, as between God and man, so between man and man. For example, if God be angry with us, we are not to be angry with him again, he may have just cause to be angry with us, we can have no just cause to be angry with him. If God hate us, yet we ought not to hate him, he may justly hate us, we cannot justly hate him. If he shew mercy on us, we cannot shew mercy to him, we stand in need of his mercy, he hath no need of our mercy, for he is subject to no misery. If he be good to us, we can not be good again to him, for all our goodness is nothing to him (Psa. 16:2; Job 22:2, 35:6-8). But God loveth us, and we are to love him again (1 John 4:19), we stand bound to love him though he hate us, but are bound in a double bond to love him when he loveth us.

In like manner here, if the husband be angry with the wife, she is not by and by to be hasty and angry again with him. If he control her, she is not therefore to control him, but he is to love her, and she is likewise to love him. Yea though he should hate her, yet ought she to love him (for she may not fail in her duty because he faileth in his). How much more when he loveth her is she to love him? For love requireth love, and love must requite love (Prov. 18:24). Yea therefore is she to love him, the rather to draw love from him. That which the Apostle also sometime expresseth, though for the most part he presumeth it; as the love of parents to their children, a thing grounded in nature, as is also the other, in regard whereof the Apostle Paul hath coupled them together (Titus 2:4). Now as things often inculcated should make us more careful, so things taken for granted should make us more fearful. As the husband therefore must see to it that he love his wife, because he is so oft called upon for it, so the wife must take heed how she be faulty and defective that way, when God taketh it as granted. And therefore accounteth them as monsters in nature that are wanting in it, as those that want bowels of love toward their own birth.

2. Men must chose a spouse they can love and have affection for.

Secondly, if a man be bound to love his wife in this sort, then men must take heed how they match with those whom they cannot thus love and affect, whom they cannot thus link their hearts and affections unto (Isa. 48:15). For there is no affection freer than love, as there is nothing more forcible, so nothing that can be less forced (Song 8:6-7). This is a fault in many, who to satisfy friends or to advance their estates, or for some other worldly by-respects, match in that manner. And so cast themselves foolishly into a fearful snare, which they are never able after to wind themselves out of again. Men and women therefore are to be admonished here that they look ere they leap. And that they remember that one had need to deliberate long, and advise well on that which but once can be determined, to pause thoroughly upon that that but once can be concluded. That being once concluded concludeth them, being once done cannot be undone again. And those that have already overshot themselves in this kind, they must now strive even to enforce their affections, and crave grace at God’s hand, whereby they may be enabled to bring themselves to that disposition that God now requireth of them. In a word, he that is free, may frame his choice to his mind but he that hath chosen must frame his heart to his choice. Before he might conform his actions to his affection, now he must endeavour to frame his affection to his action.

3. Men must have a singular affection for their wives.

Thirdly, if the husband must in this manner love his wife, then must he draw home his affections from loving any other in that sort. For if such a singularity of love be here required, then it can be but one that in this sort is affected. As we reason well, that there can not be two Gods, because there cannot be two chief goods, so here there ought not to be two wives or two husbands, because two can not have the principality and chieftainry in our love. Or rather, because such love as this is, is or ought to be peculiar and proper to one, but the branches and streams of love are dispersed among many; whereas the whole current of it runneth one way between twain.

Monogamy confirmed by two arguments.

This may further be confirmed unto us.

1. By the law of nature. God at the first took but one rib from the man (Gen. 2:21), and therefore he, as we said, that first took two wives, is said to have cut one rib into twain (Gen. 4:19). He made of that one rib, but one woman. Though he had spirit enough to have made more, he brought but one wife, Eve, to Adam (Mal. 2:15). He reserved each man but one in the Flood (Gen. 7:7, 8:16-18; 1 Peter 3:20). And therefore, “let every man,” saith the Apostle, “have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2).

2. By the analogy of faith. My beloved is but one, saith Christ in the Canticles (Song 6:9). Though naturally many and of many sorts, yet they make but one seed (Gal. 3:16), they are mystically all one in him (Gal. 3:28). The wife is to her husband, as the Church is to Christ (Eph. 5:23-24). Christ hath but one Church, and he must have but one wife. “Choose whither Adam thou will to imitate,” saith one of the ancients, “the old or the new—the one had but one wife, the other hath but one Church.

The married man therefore is to take heed not only of embracing the bosom of a stranger (Prov. 5:20), but of admitting or giving way now to any ranging affections. He must know that that which was lawful for him before, is now no more lawful. Not that any sinful act or desire was ever lawful, but that such desire was not sinful in thee then, as is sinful in thee now, because it is by God now determined and restrained to an object.

4. The husband’s duty of inward affection unto his wife.

Fourthly, let the husband take heed of being faulty in this duty of love in this inward and entire affection toward his wife, which the Apostle of Christ, and by him, the Spirit of God in so special manner requireth and exacteth of him. Some duties there are, though generally required of all, yet in more special sort of some, and so this duty of love of all in general, but of married persons more specially, who are therefore more faulty if therein they fail. Yea such therefore must take heed not only of ceasing simply to love, but of leaving their first love (Rev. 2:4), of suffering their love to grow lukewarm (Rev. 3:15-16), not key-cold [lifeless] only, that was fervent at the first. Howsoever as complements abate between friend and friend, the more familiar they grow, so some kind of dalliance between new married folks may after be less usual. Yet their love is to be no less, rather to increase than decrease. As we see it is in parents towards children, who the longer they have them, the more they affect them, and the loather they are to leave and forgo them, though it may be they are not so fond on them, as at first.

2. The Husband’s Particular Duties.

And here the better to further the practice of this duty, it shall not be amiss, taking the same course we did in the former, to lay down some particular effects and fruits of this love.

1. Cohabitation.

The first is cohabitation, living and dwelling peaceably and quietly together (1 Peter 3:7). Friends, we know, love to be oft together, and are loath to be sundered. Love as it linketh in heart, so it longeth after the bodily presence of them whom the heart is thereby linked unto (Phil. 1:8; 1 Thes. 3:10). And it is a sweet sight, saith the Psalmist, to see brethren dwell together in one (Psa. 133:1)—how much more man and wife? They make but one body, and it is against nature for one body to be in two places at once. For the man is the head, the woman is as the body (1 Cor. 11:3), for head and body to be sundered, it is present death unto either (Eph. 5:28). Not that a man may not be absent, yea and long absent too sometime, from his wife, upon necessary occasions, but that there be no giving of way to unnecessary. And surely where love is, there grief will be that occasions of long or oft absence should be offered. And where grief is, that such occasions (though necessary) should be offered, there will be no taking of occasions but such as are necessarily offered.

Reproof of Error.

Where cometh to be taxed the foolish and preposterous course that is taken by diverse parents who match their sons young to wives, and then send them a traveling, so that they part as soon as they meet, ere their affections be well fastened. And so oft either return with them estranged on their part, or at return find them estranged on the other part; while their absence hath made way for some strangers enticement (Prov. 7:19).

As also the practice of those cometh here justly to be condemned, who after marriage upon every light jar or discontent are ready by and by to sequester themselves either from other [from each other], to break up house and part families and so to live apart. Take heed, oh man, how thou leavest the wife of thy youth (Mal. 2:14), and breakest a bond knit by thy God: take heed, oh woman, how thou “forsakest the guide of thy youth, and forgettest the covenant of thy God” (Prov. 2:17).


Yea, but will some say, her behavior is such as can not be endured. And we may serve God asunder better than we can being together. I am the quiet in my conscience, the further I am from her.


To this I answer: First with the Apostle, Art thou married? seek not to be loosed: abide in the calling God hath called thee in (1 Cor. 7:20, 24, 27). Thou must keep thy station that God hath placed thee in (Ecc. 10:4). As the soldier must keep the place that his general hath assigned him, though it prove an hot piece of service, yea though he think he might do more good elsewhere. It is but the devil turning himself into an angel of light, that persuadeth thee in this sort (2 Cor. 11:14). For if cohabitation be of God, then the contrary unto it, separation, is of Satan. He that forbiddeth thee to leave an infidel, an idolater, as long as she is willing to live with thee, and keepeth herself loyal to thee, whom will he license thee to leave (1 Cor. 7:13)?

2. Covering the wife’s infirmities.

Secondly, I answer further with the Apostle—and so come to the second duty of love, the concealing and covering of the wife’s infirmities, and bearing patiently with them—love is long-suffering, and love covereth, much more fervent love, a multitude of offenses (1 Cor. 13:4; 1 Peter 4:8). There is no man or woman without infirmities, as no life without troubles. And this is one special act and exercise of love, to love those that we bear, and to bear with those that we love (1 Cor. 13:7). To seek to cover and conceal their infirmities, though they be many, remembering with all that God hath called us, as to peace in Christ, so to patience in the world, and to the exercise of patience; which therefore in these cases men must earnestly crave (1 Cor. 7:15; John 16:33; Luke 21:19).

Where they are also to be taxed that are so far from covering and concealing the infirmities of their wives, that they delight in nothing more than in blasing [proclaiming] them abroad and that even to strangers. Had they some loathsome sore about their own body, they would be loath to disclose it, unless it were to some special friend for advice, or to the surgeon for help. And surely as loath would they be to disclose their wives’ infirmities, did they esteem them as their own flesh. Or if, as love requires they should, they held their wives’ reputation as dear to them as their own, and they were as tender of her credit as they are of their own.

Now further if moral defaults must not diminish love, much less natural defects. If children be sickly, we are the more tender over them. If any part of the body be evil-affected, we are the more charie [careful] over it. Neither is the weakly wife therefore the less to be regarded, but the rather to be tendered and tenderly entreated in regard of her weakness (1 Peter 3:7). As the more brittle a Venice glass is, the more gingerly we handle it, and the more tender-edged a knife is, the more charity we use it. Jacob may not forbear Leah’s company because she is bleary-eyed (Gen. 29:17). Neither must Elkanah love Hanna the less because she is barren and beareth not (1 Sam. 5, 8). Neither loved he Rachel less when she grew aged and was now decayed with years, and broken with bearing, than he did when she was fresh at first. No more than he less affected the last child she bare, than the first (Gen. 35:18-20).

Reproof of Error.

Which condemneth their practice that cast off the wife of their youth, when she grows aged or diseased; are content to enjoy the flower of their fresh years, but as favor and freshness decayeth in them by age or disease, so abateth their favor and love toward them withal (Mal. 2:14). Such love shews itself to have been never well grounded. For had it been grounded on conference of God’s ordinance and their own covenant, and not upon natural, worldly, or fleshly respects, it would continue as God’s ordinance and their covenant continueth, and not cease or abate as such by-respects fail.

3. Mutual concord and agreement.

The third duty of love is mutual concord and agreement, and to this purpose a condescending to the wife in things equal and fit. The husband must not think that because the wife is to submit her will to his will, therefore he is not to regard her pleasure and contentment. He may say that that liketh me, must content her, and there is an end. For thy wife is not with thee as a servant or a slave (Gen. 3:16), but as a companion, as a yoke-fellow (Mal. 2:14; Phil. 4:3), standing on even ground with thee, though drawing on the least side.

A master may well make his business be done after his own mind, not regarding his servant’s pleasure, because it is his own business, not his servant. But it is not so with thy wife. Thou art to regard her pleasure as well as thine own will, because the business is as well her’s as thine. And surely as love seeketh the things of others as well as a man’s own (1 Cor. 13:5; Phil. 2:4), yea oft before a man’s own, it seeketh another man’s gain with a man’s own loss. So it will make a man regard the will, and pleasure, and contentment of another as well as his own (1 Cor. 10:33), yea prefer it sometime even before his own (Rom. 15:1-3). And undoubtedly if thou lovest thy wife and accountest her one flesh with thee, the same with thyself, her pleasure will be thy pleasure, her contentment will be thy contentment. Thou wilt to account it, there will be no true contentment to thee while thou perceivest discontentment in her, and therefore wilt not needlessly cross her, to cause discontentment to her.

4. The banishing of all bitterness.

The fourth duty of love is (that which the Apostle here expresseth in the negative, and we have put off to this place) the banishing of all bitterness (Col. 3:19). And surely if all bitterness must be abandoned and put away among Christians, much more among Christian man and wife. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” saith the Apostle (Eph. 4:31). If no root of gall and bitterness must be endured among Christians in the Church (Deut. 29:18; Heb. 12:15), that is the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15), no more between man and wife in the house or family that is to be as a Church of God (1 Cor. 16:19; Phil. 2).

And therefore among the heathen the gall of the sacrifice that was slain and offered at weddings was thrown out at doors, thereby to signify that the married folks should be to each other as doves without gall (Plutarch, Conjugalia Praecepta, 27). And surely if among Christian men all things must be done in love (1 Cor. 16:14), much more must all things be done in love, and much love, between Christian man and wife, that are tied by a double, yea by a triple band of love to each other. A natural band as neighbors and nigh in nature (Luke 10:17, 20, 36-37). A spiritual bond as fellow members of the mystical body of Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 12:27; Rom. 12:4-5). And a civil, but yet an holy and honorable bond, as one flesh by marriage (1 Tim. 4:4; Heb. 13:4; Mat. 19:6). And therefore the husband, when he admonisheth, he must admonish in love and loving manner. When he adviseth, he must advise in love and loving manner. If he reprove, he must do that likewise out of love and in loving sort, with as much sweetness and mildness, and with as little severity and harshness as may be, but in any wise without bitterness, knowing that there is nothing more contrary to love than it.

5. Joy and delight in his wife.

The fifth duty of love toward the wife is joy and delight in her. “Drink,” saith the wise man, “the water of thine own cistern” (Prov. 5:15). “Let thy fountain be blessed“—esteem it as a blessing of God, for so a good wife is indeed, a good blessing and a great—”and rejoice in the wife of thy youth” (Prov. 5:18). “Let her be unto thee as the loving hind, and the pleasant roe; let her breasts or her bosom content thee at all times” (Prov. 5:19), and delight continually, or as the word there is, even dote on the love of her. As if the Holy Ghost did allow some such private dalliance and behavior to married persons between themselves as to others might seem dotage. Such as it may be was Isaac’s sporting with Rebekah, which Abimelech unawares to them overlooked (Gen. 26:8). In this regard as the wife is said to be unto her husband’s eyes delight, and his heart’s joy and desire (Ezek. 24:16, 25), so the bridegroom is said to rejoice in his bride as God doth in his chosen children and in his Church (Isa. 62:5).

And this is a necessary effect of love. For what a man loveth most, he desireth most, and what he desireth and affecteth most, that he most delighteth in. Which that a man may the better do, he must remember that as every Christian man may assure himself that this present estate, whatever it be, is best and fittest for him (Rom. 8:28). So a Christian married man is bound to believe and to persuade himself, not that his wife is the wisest, or the fairest, or the best conditioned woman in the world, but that she is the fittest wife for him, that God hath allotted him. And therefore rest himself contented in her and satisfied with her, and live with as much alacrity and cheerfulness with her as may be. And as parents love and delight in their children, not because they are fair or wise and witty, but because they are their children and therefore howsoever seeing better parts in others, they could be content to change quality for quality, yet they will not exchange child for child. So a man is to love and delight in his wife even for this cause because she is his wife. And howsoever it may be he could wish some of her parts bettered, yet to rejoice in her as they are.

Reproof of Error.

Wherein those are to be taxed that a delight rather in the company of others than of their own wives (Prov. 2:20). Think what they have at home is all too comely, and what is usual with them is unsavory. Like children, that think the bread and butter they get abroad sweeter and better than that, though indeed better, that they are fed withal at home. Or like queasy stomached persons that growing weary of their daily diet, delight more in some fond trifle though neither so toothsome [pleasant] nor wholesome. Such must know that this is an unwarrantable and a preposterous affection in them, and such preposterous affections commonly as they argue an evil humor, so they breed no good blood.

6. Provision for his wife.

The sixth duty of love is the allowance of all necessaries that her need shall require and their estate may afford. It is that “honour,” as some understand it, and it may well be one part of it, that is, honest means and maintenance, that the Apostle exacteth for them. For so is the word [τίμιοςhonour] oft taken (Col. 2:23; 1 Tim. 5:8, 17), and under that term doth our Savior Christ shew it to be comprehended elsewhere (Mat. 15:4-6). And surely if he be condemned as worse than an infidel, that provideth not for his family (1 Tim. 5:8), then undoubted he that provideth not for his wife the chief in the family next himself, is no better. If a Christian man therefore must labour that he may have wherewith to relieve others, much more that he may have wherewith to maintain himself and his wife, that is and ought to be one with himself. In regard whereof as the wife is compared to the vine (Psa. 128:3), so the husband ought to be as the elm to uphold her. And the Moon shineth with light received from the Sun, so is she to be furnished with fit supplies allowed her by him. And surely where love is abounding, there will nothing be wanting that may be for her comfort and necessary contentment, that their ability may well afford.

Reproof of Error.

And here are such to be condemned as being blessed by God with a liberal estate, carry too strict and niggardly an hand toward their wives. Who think all lost that is bestowed on them to whom God hath given an equal interest in the things of this life with them. For how hath she not all thine with thee, when she hath thee (1 Cor. 7:4)? And therefore as denying to the poor, whom God hath enjoined us to relieve, what we may spare, and their necessity requiring it giveth them a kind of interest unto it, we deny them their own (Prov. 3:27). So much more in denying her what is needful for her, thou deniest her her own, thou withholdest from her her own, that which the marriage bond hath given her a special right unto.

Again those are here to be condemned that live like drones on their wives’ labours, wasting all that is gathered together by their industry. Of whom we cannot say that the Moon shineth with the Sun’s light, but the Sun shineth with the Moon’s light. That is, the husband shines with the spoils of his wife, whom he ought to maintain as the Sun enlighteneth the Moon.

As also those that spend riotously the portion they have with their wives, and then leave them to the wide world to shift for themselves. Like those that climb and take pains to get nuts, which having cracked and eaten the kernel out of, they cast the shells under board.

And generally all that misspend that though earned with their own hands, or left them by friends, that should maintain house and wife with. Such must know that they rob wife and children and themselves of what they waste in that sort, and so are no better than such as rob by the highway side. For it is no less sin to rob them, than to rob a mere stranger whom a man is more nearly tied unto than he is to any stranger. And therefore as he that robbeth his father and mother, so he that robs wife and children, and saith it is no sin, is companion to a destroyer, or next neighbor to a murderer, as the word used there may well signify (Ex. 12:23).

7. Diligent endeavoring of the wife’s spiritual good.

The last, but not the least, office of love is the diligent endeavoring of the wife’s spiritual good. Which if he love her as he ought, he cannot, nor will not neglect. In regard hereof the Apostle saith, that husbands must love their wives as Christ loveth his Church (Eph. 5:25). Whose love to his Church tendeth to this: to sanctify and purify it by water and the word, to make it gracious here, and glorious without spot or wrinkle hereafter (Eph. 5:26-27). And therefore this is a special thing that the husband should aim at in his love and in all duties of love to his wife, to bring her on unto God, or to help her on in the good ways of God.

For what knowest thou, O wife,” saith Paul, “whether thou shalt save thy husband?” (1 Cor. 7:16), and women, saith Peter, must so behave themselves, that by their holy conversation their husbands may be won (1 Peter 3:1). And surely if the wife must seek to win her husband being averse, how much more the husband to win her in like case? Whose office it is more specially to teach and instruct her (1 Cor. 14:35). Or if they be both won, and in a good way already, they must live together, saith the Apostle Peter, as fellow heirs of salvation (1 Peter 3:7), and so as fellow furtherers of each other in the way thereunto. Else what difference shall there be between Christian and heathen married persons, if they be not furtherers of each other, as in the things of life, so in things tending to a better life?

Besides, faith and the fear of God and godliness are to be exercised (James 1:27), as well in the special duties of our several callings, as in the general duties of Christianity. And to run through our whole life, as the woof through the web, and so among other, through all offices of the married estate.

All marriage duties must be done unto the glory of God.

Lastly, whatsoever we do, saith the Apostle, we must do all to God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31). Now then, are things done to God’s glory when they are referred to a spiritual end, to a further end than the fruition of some corporal good? And to here married persons then love and live together to the glory of God, when they have a further end of their mutual conversation, their loving and living together, than their outward solace and contentment only, or their furtherance in the things of the world and this present life alone.

But alas! How approve they themselves in this kind, and their carriage in this estate unto God, that never dream once of this aim, never aim once at this end, never have once any thought at all tending this way? He that regardeth not the temporal good of his family is worse than an infidel (1 Tim. 5:8). He that goeth no further, is no better. So those married persons that live together untowardly, discontentedly, impatiently, in gall and bitterness, in dissension and discord, in want of mutual and natural love, refusing to be helpful to each other in the things of this life are worse than infidels. On the other side those that be never so careful of performing the former duties and of shunning and avoiding the contrary evils, but have no care and conscience of the helping forward and furthering each other in the good ways of God, they are no better than infidels, they go no further than they.

In a word to conclude, if Christian men are to observe one another, that they may whet on each other to godliness and good works, then much more should Christian man and wife so do. That having lived together for a time as co-partners in grace here, they may reign together forever as co-heirs in glory hereafter.



3 thoughts on “Marriage Duties

  1. Hello. If you do not mind, I would translate this whole article to my language if you approved. Into Hungarian. I would like to share this to my married fellows in printed form.


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