The 19th Sermon
upon the second chapter of 1 Timothy
A Sermon on 1 Timothy 2:13-15, concerning the true calling of women, the honourableness of housewifery before God, and the purity of God’s ordinance of marriage; and likewise shewing the blasphemy and horrible sins into which those fall who despise this blessed vocation.
“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first made, and after Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and was in transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved through bearing of children, if she abide in faith, and love, and holiness with modesty.“
Deborah (Judges 4-5).
A man might marvel, why God by the mouth of his Apostle forbiddeth women in this place the office of teaching, seeing he bestowed this grace upon some. For we see that Deborah was not only a prophetess, but also ruled the people of God. [Judges 4-5] Therefore it might seem at the first blush, that there were some contradiction here. But we must make a difference between the common order which God will have to be observed amongst men for a rule, and that which is done after a strange sort, and not usually. So then when God maketh a law, which he will have us keep to obey him, he derogateth nothing from his liberty, so that he may not upon occasion work otherwise, yea and that in strange and wondrous sort. For we may not make God subject to a law, because all laws proceed from his will. Not that we may imagine any thing in God but that [which] is right and just. For it is blasphemy to speak of an absolute power, as though it were without rule. Yet doth God’s will stand for a law, and what he establisheth amongst us, neither may nor can be prejudicious to him, but he may do what seemeth him best. And thus we see how God might use a woman to govern his people. And it is to be marked that he did it to despite [vex or offend] men withal, as if he would by this means shame them, because there was none of them meet to be in authority and dignity. As for example, as if he should make stones speak [Luke 19.40], were it not to pervert the order of nature? Yes surely; and yet it is a condemnation that God layeth upon men.
It may sometimes well come to pass, either in a country or city, that there shall be such a confusion of all things, that God will bring it so about even for despite, that there shall be neither wisdom nor equity, but the state shall be utterly turned upside down. If the world hold its peace, and every man stand amazed one at another, so that none of them dare speak, God will raise up some fool to speak. Yet is it not to be said that fools have cunning to be able to profit withal: but by this means God mocketh them which will seem to be wise, because they have their mouths shut, and be dumb when they should speak, and maketh them as blocks of wood, as void of life and heart, as if they were stones. Therefore God mocketh them, and shameth them, when he so openeth the mouth of a dumb man to reprove faults and offences which are committed, and which no man will see unto.
So is it to be marked, that in those days God raised up Deborah, to shew men their slothfulness when the Church was in bondage, and utterly out of hope, but yet his meaning was not to change this common order. That was a miracle, which served for that present time, and without prejudice as we have shewed. Therefore we see in few words, that God is in no wise contrary to himself, in that he maketh a law for us to keep, and in that he worketh extraordinarily of his own power, and doeth things which are not compassed, as commonly things use to be.
Women & the spirit of prophesy.
As for that which in the beginning of the Gospel he poured out the Holy Ghost upon women as well as upon men [Acts 2.17], and there were some that had the spirit of prophesy [Acts 21.9]: neither is this against that which Paul saith. For although God gave the gift of prophecy to Philip’s daughters, yet notwithstanding, they had not the office to speak in the assembly, but God used them to beautify the Gospel, and when they were in the company of women, then did they there lay out the gift that was given them: as it may come to pass in some household, that the woman shall be wiser than the man, and shall use it to the governance of the family. We see that the house of Nabal had been utterly destroyed, had it not been for the wisdom of Abigail. [1 Sam. 25.14] And thus it may sometimes come to pass: and therefore the woman that is endued with such gifts, may well do that which is her duty in all humbleness and modesty, insomuch that if there be a want in her husband, she may supply it. Yet notwithstanding the order that God hath established, must needs be kept. And this is what we have to bear away in this text. And so let us conclude that “the woman ought to be subject, and keep herself in silence,” as Paul appointeth here.
Objection: Pastors are subject to Magistrates, and yet they teach.
And yet a man might move a question: for Paul bringeth this argument to shew that women ought not to have the charge and office of teaching, because they are subject, neither may have authority to speak. Why then it should follow by this, that none might teach, unless he were a King or Prince. Are not the Pastors of the Church, subject to the Magistrates? Yet so it is that God sendeth them, and giveth them this commission, to govern his people, as touching the spiritual government.
The answer to this is, that a man may well in one respect be a subject, and in an other have authority: as we see how God hath separated these two things, the state of earthly governance, and the spiritual government of his Church. The Magistrates, they rule, and sit in seat of Justice, God hath given them the sword to govern his people. And because the Pastors and Ministers be members of the body, they must needs be subject to the Magistrates. Yet notwithstanding this diminish no part of the authority of the doctrine which they bear, but that they are in the virtue and name of God above all earthly highness, as it is said in Jeremiah [1.10], “I have appointed thee over kingdoms, and over all principalities.” Therefore as touching the Ministers of the Word of God, if we consider their persons as they are men, they must needs be subject to laws, they are bound to obey the Magistrates, and do them honour and reverence, but yet let them know that the Master whom they serve, hath authority and is chief Lord over all creatures, and that they speak in his name: and therefore that their doctrine is not subject nor to be bridled by them that would lift up themselves: but rather mark that which Paul saith in the second to the Corinthians: to wit, “to cast down every high thing that would lift up itself against the majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ: and bring into captivity every thought, and keep under all disorderous appetites, which can suffer no obedience nor subjection.” [2 Cor. 10.5] And thus in divers respects may one man be a subject and also be in authority.
God’s vengeance for striving against his ordinance.
But as for women, this reason holdeth which Paul brought before, that God hath set an order which may in no wise be broken, and must continue even to the world’s end. Seeing man is made to be the woman’s head, and the woman is a part and, as it were, an accessory of man, we must follow that order—and as well great as small must submit themselves unto it.
And yet let us know, that if we behave ourselves evil—and there be great confusion not only in houses, but also in the commonwealth, yea as well in the spiritual government, as in the earthly policy—let us know, I say, that God will shame us hereby, and shew us that we are not worthy. He should sit as it were in the midst of us, as only master and governor, but clean forsaketh us. As he saith by his Prophet Isaiah [3.12] that he will cause women and little children to reign, whereby he sheweth that he will cast off the preeminence, and there shall be nothing but utter dissolution and overturning of all. When matters are thus confounded, let us know that it is God’s just vengeance to put us to shame, because we are not worthy, to have him sit as ruler amongst us. Moreover, let every man in the mean season take heed to himself, and be as it were awakened, and let us follow that which is taught us here by Paul, to wit, that we strive not against God’s ordinance.
A comfort: “Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing“
Now let us come to that which followeth: “That the woman shall be saved by bearing of children, so that,” saith he, “she abide in the faith, and charity, and in holy life and modesty.“
It is not without cause, that Paul addeth this comfort, to soften this heaviness which women might have conceived by that which he said before [1 Tim. 2.14], to wit, that they in the person of Eve are the cause of the Fall, which is so miserable, as we see in all mankind. We are cursed of God, we are children of wrath, the devil ruleth over us, we are in slavery to everlasting death, there is nothing but corruption in our nature—to be short, we are clean over head and ears [i.e. hopeless]. And who is the cause of all this? The women: they are made faulty in this matter, and God pronounceth this sentence against them, to make them despair, if they have any fear, or do any[wise] at all apprehend the wrath of God. But as our Lord and God will have his creatures to be humbled, so will he not bring them into desperation, but will always have them to have some remedy. For after that he hath beaten them down, he lifteth them up again, as we have here an excellent example.
The pride of women was well condemned by Paul, when he shewed, that if they will needs brag and boast themselves, they should look upon Eve, who was the cause of all our undoing, and brought us to God’s curse, and under the tyranny of Satan—and that only by her pride. And seeing it is so, let women hold up their noses no more: for all their presumption is sufficiently beaten down here.
Yet it was to be feared (as I said) that women might despair, and be utterly cast down, as though God shut them out clean from salvation, as though he made them utterly unfit to trust in him. Therefore Paul addeth a good remedy, and meet for this purpose, and saith, that notwithstanding the evil that came from Eve, yet God will not put women clean out of hope. He thinketh it enough to bridle them, that they lift not up themselves, but rather humble themselves, and yet he calleth them unto him, and giveth them a means to return to the state from whence they fell—that is to say, saith he, “If they know their calling.“
“Childbearing“—synecdoche for the woman’s particular calling.
True it is that Paul setteth down one kind, which is “bearing of children,” but under this he comprehendeth that which he saith also precisely of the curse of the woman, in that she is subject to such pains. For we know that when women have conceived, they are not without pain and trouble. We see how often they are out of taste, and they have beside many other by-things and that more is, they know what pain it is to bear children. Cometh their time to lie down? They know what the curse of God importeth, which we have already touched. Then must they afterward have care and trouble both night and day, to nourish their children, that the meat which they take, may be turned into milk. I speak of women which are nurses—for Paul speaketh not here of these fine dames, which will be exempt from the condition of women—but of faithful women, which do their duty, and when they are mothers know what God hath made them subject unto, and take it patiently. So then we see that under one kind, Paul advertiseth women in this place, how that if they submit themselves willingly and patiently to that which God hath commanded them, and their state requireth, it is an acceptable sacrifice to God, and the curse which was laid upon all women in Eve’s person, is as it were taken away, for God receiveth them to his favour and love.
“Faith, charity, holiness, & modesty“—her general calling.
Yet notwithstanding, because there are good mothers to be found even amongst the Heathen women and Infidels, and will willingly take pains for their families, Paul thought it not enough to set down that which may be common to women that have no fear of God and religion. But saith that “they must have faith and charity, they must live godly, and have that modesty,” which was spoken of before. So then we may gather good doctrine out of this text, and profitable for all, as well men as women, to wit: that God meaneth not to confound us, when he layeth our sins before our faces, but only to humble us, seeing the presumption, which otherwise would be in us. Therefore God must needs pair the nails, as well of us men as women, and use violence against us, seeing it is otherwise hard to correct the pride and loftiness that is in us.
But yet notwithstanding, God doth always appease his rigour and mixeth it with some sweetness, so that he will not have us out of heart. And how doth he this? In giving us hope, in promising us, that what faults soever we have, yet will he not cast us away, as we see here a notable example. And therefore although women be of a fearful nature, so that a man might make them die for sorrow, if he would beat them down with this, and set his feet in their necks, yet Paul giveth them no occasion to disquiet themselves and be cast down utterly. Although it might be cast in their teeth, that they were the occasion of the utter undoing of all mankind, yet he layeth before them here the goodness of God, to shew them that this shall hinder their salvation no whit at all, so that they become not obstinate and rebellious.
Apprehend the grace of God in this punishment.
Therefore let us mark well that Paul useth here a very proper comfort, in that he sheweth women, that salvation is laid forth before them, even in the condemnation which they suffer for their sins: and this is a great matter. For if God should punish women, and then shew them hope of salvation afar off, it were enough for them: but this is more a great deal, when they may behold the goodness of God and his grace in the punishment which they suffer and feel for their sin. For (as we have said already), why do women bear their children with so much trouble? Why suffer they so great griefs in travail and being brought to bed? Why is it so painful a matter unto them to nurse their children? All this cometh from God’s curse. Now Paul giveth them here a looking glass on the contrary side, to wit, that in this punishment they may apprehend the grace of God. And wherefore? For if they be patient, peaceable, and strive not against this punishment which God hath sent them for their salvation, when they suffer pain and travail, when they take pains to nurse their children, this is a sacrifice that God well accepteth, and is well pleased withal. And women must think themselves happy in this behalf, that God would not so shew forth his wrath for the offence which was committed in Eve’s person, but he would remain their Father notwithstanding, and shew them a token of fatherly love. Therefore let us mark well: that it is not without cause that Paul maketh here express mention of the travail which women have in bringing forth children, and the rest of doing their duty, to wit, of governing their household [cf. Titus 2:5].
Despisers of this blessed vocation.
1. The World.
True it is notwithstanding, that such as are scoffers and scorners of God, will think it strange, that Paul speaking here of the salvation of women, bringeth them to this, that if when they be with child and take their grief patiently, and also the travail, and bring up their children, this is to come again into favour with God. But what? Let it be sufficient for us that the Holy Ghost who is a Judge good enough, hath so given sentence. And therefore let us not think it strange: for although men will judge vices and virtues according to their own fancy, yet it is God alone that must value our works, and tell what they are worth. Hath God condemned any thing? It is a wise matter for us to praise, it will serve to much purpose. On the other side, that which we set nothing by, God esteemeth it highly, and setteth much by it. As for example, the travail that women have in child bearing: it is true that to the world, it is a matter of no great price: but yet if they have an eye to God, that he hath made them subject to it, and that they are the traces of Eve’s sin, if in such a combat, they sigh and groan to him, he receiveth such an obedience. To be short, we must bear away this lesson, That obedience is better than all the sacrifices in the world. [1 Sam. 15.22]
Yea and this is not only to beat back the scoffs and scorns of profane fellows and such as contemn God, but also to beat down the pride of Hypocrites, which forge and build I know not what dreams, as they list [desire] to exempt themselves from marriage. As amongst the Papists, to have an household, seemeth to be a polluted state of the world: and thus use that Nuns and Friars, and all the rabble of hellhounds to speak, This man is of the world, that is to say, he is married: This man is of the Church, that is to say, Spiritual. And while they use these kind of speeches they account marriage as a profane and filthy thing.
And this is a shameful thing that a Pope [Siricius], that Antichrist durst spew out this devilish blasphemy, that “they which are in the flesh, can not please God” [Rom. 8.8]: that is to say, they that are married. These are the good expounders of the Scripture, that came out of this hellish cave. But what is taught us here by God’s authority and from him? To wit, that, if Nuns and Friars boast themselves of their chastity, and to live in idleness, and call this a spiritual state, God sheweth that it is a detestable and cursed kind of life. Let us learn therefore, that if a woman be among her household, and be busied about her children, to wipe them, and comb them, and dress them: or if she be a nurse, and be up day and night, and suffer cold and heat to give them suck, if she bear it patiently, knowing that it is God’s good appointment, and he alloweth of it, this is a sweet smelling sacrifice to him.
Let the Nuns therefore tarry still in their convents and cloisters, and in their brothel houses of Satan. Yea I put the case they were not whores as they are, yea and worse than that, vile and shameful Sodomites, committing such heinous and abominable acts, that it is horrible to think of, I put the case I say, there were none of all these villainies, yet all the chastity they pretend is nothing before God, in comparison of that which he hath appointed, that is to say, that albeit it seem but a vile thing, and a matter of none account, for a woman to take pains about housewifery, to make clean her children when they be arrayed, to kill fleas, and other such like, although this be a thing despised, yea and such, that many will not vouchsafe to look upon it, yet are they sacrifices which God accepteth and receiveth, as if they were things of great price and honourable.
Housewifery is service unto God.
Therefore let women study this lesson day and night that first of all they may play the housewives. And if women were the most negligent in the world, yet is there here matter enough to awaken them, and to correct this idleness. And how? If we take pains, we serve God, and not men. Again, when a man seeth his wife employ herself all the day long to do her duty, let him also consider whereunto God hath called him, that he also for his part may do his duty. For a man is not born to idleness, nor a woman.
Therefore (as I said) let women cast their eyes hither, for there is occasion enough to correct their slothfulness, when they shall see that the question is of serving God. And how? When they fall to kneading (as the proverb is) and apply themselves to good use, and flee not the subjection which God hath set them in: for this is to strive against God, when a man doth not follow his vocation, which is our true rule, that is to say, that which we have to do, and what God appointeth every one of us, according to the state whereunto he is called. Therefore let women have this mark to shoot at, and say, “well, although the world have no regard of me, yet must I find myself occupied here, for so God commandeth me.” And thus much touching the first, how women have to take occasion to be diligent—and moreover also they have to consider, that when they do their duty and execute their office, God accepteth well of it, although men despise it.
And if men say, “What is this? A woman playeth the housewife, she spinneth on her distaff, and this is all that women can do.” As indeed there are a number of fools that when they speak of women’s distaffs, of seeing to their children, will make a scorn of it and despise it. But what then? What saith the heavenly Judge? That he is well pleased with it, and accepteth of it, and putteth it in his reckoning. So then let women learn to rejoice when they do their duty, and though the world despise it, let this comfort sweeten all respect they might have that way, and say, “God seeth me here, and his Angels, who are sufficient witnesses of my doings, although the world do not allow of them.” And this have women to note.
But yet (as I said), men for their parts must also learn a lesson hereby. For if women be saved when they give suck to their children with their own breasts, when they wipe them, and make them clean, when they have been troubled in bearing them—in like sort, the men when they take pains to nourish their family, when they travail, according as it is said, “Thou shalt live by the sweat of thy brow” [Gen. 3.19], when men (I say) take pains every one in his trade and his degree, and be painful therein, and if there be troubles about their family, they bear with their wives, encourage them, and help them as much as they can, as God hath joined them together with an inseparable knot. When they are caused to wake for their children, they have a care that way, so that they bear it patiently, and rejoice, seeing God bless their labour, these are as many sacrifices to him, as we have shewed.
Profanation of holy matrimony.
If this were well printed in the heart, no doubt there would appear a better shew in marriage than there doth. But what? There be very few that know what this meaneth, “to serve God,” and that ground themselves upon that point. And that it is so, when there is a marriage made here in the company of the faithful, do they for the most part which come to pass such an obligation and so solemn, know that God sitteth as chief amongst us, and that these promises are made in his name? Do they know this? No no: But the most part of them come hither like calves, and like beasts. Are they before the pulpit? They are so well instructed, that they can not tell what they say. If we speak of the husband’s office, and of the wife’s, they understand no more than beasts do. And if they hear any one word whereby they may be edified, we see that as soon as our backs be turned, there is nothing but all kind of looseness, and those that are the veryest naughty packs, those are the bravest fellows.
Therefore when holy marriage is so profaned, we may not marvel if there be so great discords as we see, and God withdraw himself. For when we compare that which is written here, with the state that we see so corrupted in the world, we have to sigh so much the more—and in sighing, to gather ourselves under the obedience of our God. For if the greatest part mock at that which is shewed us here by Paul, if men be given to all dissoluteness, and women be idle, and seek nothing else but to be exempt from all labour, and all come to naught, let us take heed we be not like to such people. But let every one of us employ himself to that wherein God hath set him on work. And if the oxen bear the yoke when they are accustomed to it, let us that know to what end we are made learn to bear the yoke which God hath laid upon us, that is to say, let every one of us follow his vocation. This is in sum that we have to mark touching this word which Paul saith: “That women shall be saved by bearing of children.“
“If they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.“
Now let us come to that which he setteth down touching faith, and charity, sanctification, and modesty. I said before that this was to put a difference between the faithful and the heathen. For there have been found virtuous women among the heathen, yea, more virtuous (as touching the outward shew), than we shall oftentimes see among them which term themselves to be the Church of God. And therefore if women do their duty only as touching their housewifery, and taking pains about the house, it is not enough. For there are many (as I said) which had no religion, and yet notwithstanding, left not to have this virtue, which is praiseworthy, as touching the world. Therefore let us mark that this is not the chiefest matter, that women take such pains about their housewifery: but faith and charity must go before. And again they must be holy women, that is to say, they must be governed by the fear of God, and have such modesty as we spake of before. Such a modesty I say, that they desire not any superfluity or pomp, but have this shame which Paul spake of before. And this is the sum of that which is here set down for the conclusion.
Without faith it is impossible to please God.
Now we have to mark that when the heathen and infidels played the good housewives, they had no regard to God, and therefore it never came in reckoning—neither doth it deserve to be counted for—a virtue. True it is that the world will always take it so but God maketh no account of it. And why so? We said before, that if a woman take pains about her children, either to bear them or to nurse them, and submit herself wholly to God’s will, it is a sacrifice. And wherefore? Because she humbleth herself, knowing that they are so many chastisements for sins, knowing that seeing God pronounced such a sentence, it is good reason, no man reply against it, and if this obedience be not, all the rest is but smoke. As for example, a woman that was never instructed in the faith, and never received any good doctrine, so that which she could never set her mind upon God, it is true, that she will fear this ignominy, that she be not pointed at with the finger, that she be not mocked at, for not playing the good housewife, or for giving any evil example. But because she passeth not for God, all this will become as nothing, as indeed it is not to be accounted for any virtue.
So then let us mark well, that the best works we can do shall be of no value, but God will reprove them if they proceed not from faith. For this is the root from whence good fruits come, and without that root there is nothing but a goodly shew, which hath no steadfastness in it. And thus we have to mark that Paul addeth not here the word, “Faith,” in vain—to shew us what virtues soever we commend, shall not be commended of God (as indeed they deserve no commendation), unless they be grounded on faith, and proceed from thence.
The fruits of faith.
And after that Paul hath spoken of faith, he sheweth the things which are always joined with faith, and are as it were unseverable, to wit, charity and holiness. How do we shew that we renounce the abominations of this world, and dedicate ourselves to God? Is it not by faith? What causeth us to join ourselves thus together in one, as brethren and sisters? Is it not when we know that God hath chosen us for his children? What is also the cause of that modesty, that we are not given to these follies of the world? Is it not because God hath called us to the heavenly inheritance, and sheweth us that they which cleave to this world never knew what true life and salvation meant? So then, let us mark, that both charity, holiness, and modesty proceed from faith.
Works are not meritorious unto salvation.
And yet to make an end we must mark also in one word, that Paul meant not here to establish merits, as if he should say that the cause of our salvation standeth in good works and women save themselves when they apply themselves to their duty. No, no: For Paul entereth not here into disputation, whether God shall be bound to men, if they do well, and whether he be bound to recompense them: there is no such matter. But he meaneth only to comfort us, yea and to encourage us when we take pains to the end that we may know that God vouchsafeth to regard that which is of no value, unless he accept it of his free mercy.
Therefore let us mark that Paul’s meaning was not in this place to keep a reckoning. As who should say, God were bound to us? But his meaning was only to shew us that both men and women must faithfully employ themselves to do that which is their charge and duty. Seeing that our Lord is so liberal and so gentle, as to vouchsafe to look upon what they do, and to allow of it, although they be not worthy. This is Paul’s meaning. And it were to pervert the text, if we should establish merits by this place, and justify men by their works.
Let it suffice us then to have the salvation which was purchased for us through the mercy of God, and by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed to wash all our filthiness and take pains courageously knowing that our Lord and God doth by this means conduct us to salvation. When he leadeth us to it, it is not to be said that therefore we deserve it, but it is the means which he hath appointed. Therefore let every one of us present himself to God, and take the bit in our teeth. But yet let our conversation be peaceable in the mean season, and let us be ready to submit ourselves to all good policy seeing it is for our benefit and profit, because God hath appointed it.
Now let us fall down before the face of our good God,
acknowledging of our faults, and pray him
that he would cause
us to feel them,