William Gouges, Domestical Duties (1620)

Excerpt from William Gouge, Domestical Duties (1622)

  1. Of the lawfulness of private functions in a family.

The private vocations of a family, and functions appertaining thereto, are such as Christian’s are called unto by God, and in the exercising whereof, they may and must employ some part of their time. For can we think that the Holy Ghost [who, as the Philosophers speak of nature, doth nothing in vain] would so distinctly set down these private duties, and so forcibly urge them, if they did not well become, and nearly concern Christians? All the places in Scripture which require family-duties, are proofs of the truth of this doctrine.

The reasons of this doctrine are clear, for the family is a seminary of the Church and Commonwealth. It is as a bee-hive, in which is the stock, and out of which are sent many swarms of bees: for in families are all sorts of people bred and brought up: and out of families are they lent into the Church and Commonwealth. The first beginning of mankind, and of his increase, was out of a family. For first did God join in marriage Adam and Eve, made them husband and wife, and then gave them children: so as husband and wife, parent and child, [which are parts of a family] were before Magistrate and subject, Minister and people, which are the parts of a Commonwealth, and a Church….

Besides, a family is a little Church, and a little Commonwealth, at least a lively representation thereof, whereby trial may be made of such as are fit for any place of authority, or of subjection in Church or Commonwealth. Or rather it is as a school wherein the first principles and grounds of government and subjection are learned: whereby men are fitted to greater matters in Church or Commonwealth…..

  1. Of the Apostle’s order in laying down the duties of husbands and wives in the first place.

There being three especial degrees, or orders in a family, [as we heard before] the Apostle placeth husband and wife in the first rank, and first declareth their duties, and that not without good reason: for

First, The husband and wife were the first couple that ever were in the world. Adam and Eve were joined in marriage, and made man and wife before they had children, or servants. So falleth it out for the most part even to this day in erecting, or bringing together a family: the first couple is ordinarily an husband and wife.

Secondly, most usually the husband and his wife are the chiefest in a family, all under them single persons: they governours of all the rest in the house. Therefore most meet it is, that they should first know their duty, and learn to practice it, that so they may be an example to all the rest. If they fail in their duty one to another, they give occasion to all the rest under them to be careless, and negligent in theirs. Let an husband be churlish to his wife, and despise her, he ministreth an occasion to children and servants to contemn her likewise, and to be disobedient unto her: yea, to be churlish and froward one to another, especially to their underlings. Let a wife be untrusty and unfaithful to her husband, let her filch and purloin from him, children and servants will soon take courage, or rather boldness from her example prively to steal what they can from their father, and master. Thus is their breach of duty a double fault: one in respect to the party whom they wrong, and to whom they give occasion of sinning.

Know therefore, O husbands and wives, that ye, above all other in the family, are most bound unto a conscionable performance of your duty. Greater will your condemnation be, if you fail therein. Look to it above the rest: and by your example draw on your children and servants [if you have any] to perform their duties: which surely they will more readily do, when they shall behold you as guides going before them, and making conscience of your joint and several duties.

  1. Of the Apostle’s order in setting down inferiours’ duties in the first place.

….Quest. Why should inferiours’ duties be more fully expressed, and placed in the first rank?

Answ. Surely because for the most part inferiours are most unwilling to undergo the duties of their place. Who is not more ready to rule, than the subject?

I deny not but that it is a far more difficult and hard matter to govern well than to obey well. For to rule and govern requireth more knowledge, experience, wisdom, care, watchfulness, diligence, and other like virtues, than to obey and be subject. He that obeyeth hath his rule laid before him, which is the will and command of his superiour in things lawful, and not against God’s will. But the superiour who commandeth, is to consider not only and every way of the best: yea also he must forecast for the time to come, and so far as he can observe whether that which is now for the present meet enough, may not be dangerous for the time to come, and in that respect unmeet to be urged…..

Now to return to the point, though it be so that Governours have the heaviest burden laid of their shoulders, yet inferiours that are under subjection think their burden the heaviest, and are loathest to bear it, and most willing to cast it away. For naturally there is in every one much pride and ambition, which as dust cast on the eyes of their understanding, puttest out the sight thereof, and so maketh them affect superiority, and authority over others, and to be stubborn under the yoke of subjection: which is the cause that in all ages, both in divine, and also by human laws, penalties and punishments of divers kinds have been ordained, to keep inferiours in compass of their duty: and yet [such is the pride of man’s heart] all will not serve. What age, what place ever was there, which hath not just cause to complain of subjects’ rebellion, servants’ stubborn- ness, children’s disobedience, wives’ presumption? Not without cause therefore doth the Apostle first declare the duties of inferiours.

Besides, the Apostle would hereby teach those who are under authority, how to move them that are in authority over them, to deal equally and kindly, not hardly and cruelly with them, namely, by endeavouring to perform their own duty first. For what is it that provoketh to wrath, rage, and fury in Governours? What maketh them that have authority, to deal roughly, and rigorously? Is it not for the most part disobedience, and stoutness in those that are under government? Though some in authority be so proud, so savage, and inhumane, as no honor done to them, no performance of duty can satisfy and content them, but they will [as David’s enemies (Psa 38:20)] reward evil for goodness, yet the best general direction that can be pre- scribed to inferiours, to provoke their Governours to deal well with them, is, that inferiours themselves be careful and con- scionable in doing their duty first. If their Governours on earth be nothing moved therewith, yet will the highest Lord in heaven graciously accept it.

Lastly, men must first learn to obey well, before they can rule well: for they who scorn to be subject to their Governours while they are under authority, are like to prove intolerably insolent when they are in authority.

Learn all that are under authority, how to win your Governour’s favor: how to make your yoke easy, and your burden light: how to prevent many mischiefs which by reason of the power of your superiours over you may otherwise fall upon you: First do ye your duty….

  1. Of the reasons why wives’ duties are first taught.

Quest. Why among other inferiours are wives first brought into the school of Christ to learn their duty?

Answ. Many good reasons may be given of the Apostle’s order even in this point. First, of all other inferiours in a family, wives are far the most excellent, and therefore to be placed in the first rank. Secondly, wives were the first to whom subjection was enjoined: before there was child or servant in the world, it was said to her, thy desire shall be subject to thine husband (Gen 3:16). Thirdly, wives are the fountain from which all other degrees spring: and therefore ought first to be cleansed. Fourthly, this subjection is a good pattern unto children and servants: and a great means to move them to be subject. Fifthly, I may further add as a truth, which is too manifest by experience in all places, that among all other parties of whom the Holy Ghost requireth subjection, wives for the most part are most backward (see Treatise 3, Section 4) in yielding subjection to their husbands. But ye wives that fear God, be careful to your duty: and though it may seem somewhat contrary to the common course and practise of wives, yet follow not a multitude to do evil (Exo 23:2). Though it be harsh to corrupt nature, yet beat down that corruption: yea though your husbands be backward in their duties, yet be ye forward, and strive to go before them in yours: remembering what the Lord saith (Matt 5:46,47). If you love them which love you, what singular thing do ye? Yea remembering also what the Apostle saith, (1 Tim 2:14) The woman was first in the transgression (Gen 3:16), and first had her duty given unto her, and was made for the man, and not man for the woman (1 Cor 11:9).

Thus shall ye deserve that commendation of good wives, Many have done virtuously, but ye excel them all (Prov 31:29).

Having hitherto handled the forenamed general instructions, I will proceed to a more distinct opening of the words; and collect such observations as thence arise, and then particularly declare the several duties which the three orders in a family owe each to other.

  1. Of wives’ subjection.

Ephesians 5:22. Wives subject your selves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

The word by which the Apostle hath noted out the duties of wives, is of the middle voice, and may be translated passively as many have done, or actively as our English doth [submit your selves] and that most fitly: for there is a double subjection.

  1. A necessary subjection: which is the subjection of order. 2. A voluntary subjection: which is the subjection of duty.

The necessary subjection is that degree of inferiority, wherein God hath placed all inferiours, and whereby He hath subjected them to their superiours, that is, set them in a lower rank. By virtue thereof, though inferiours seek to exalt themselves above their superiours, yet are they subject unto them, their ambition doth not take away that order which God hath estab- lished. A wife is in an inferiour degree, though she domineer never so much over her husband.

The voluntary subjection, is that dutiful respect which inferiours carry towards those whom God hath set over them: whereby they manifest a willingness to yield to that order which God hath established. Because God hath placed them under their superiours, they will in all duty manifest that subjection which their place requireth.

Because it is a duty which is here required, the voluntary subjection must needs be here meant: and to express so much, it is thus set down, submit your selves.

Though the same word be here used that was in the former verse, yet it is restrained to a narrower compass, namely to subjection of reverence (see Section 3. I. Observe).

Here learn that to necessary subjection, must voluntary subjection be added: that is, duty must be performed according to that order and degree wherein God hath set us. This is to make a virtue of necessity.

Under this phrase [submit your selves] all the duties which a wife oweth to her husband are compassed, as I shall afterwards (see Treatise 3, Section 2) more distinctly show….

  1. Of the persons to whom wives must be subject.

….It is unlawful for a wife to have more than one husband at once.

A wife must submit her self only to that one, proper husband, and to no other man [as she is a wife and yieldeth the duty of a wife] so as the subjection of adulteresses is here excluded: and the duty required is, that

A wife must yield a chaste, faithful, matrimonial subjection to her husband…..

The restraint in that wives ought so to obey their husbands as withal they obey the Lord; but no further: they may not be subject in any thing to their husbands, that cannot stand with their subjection to the Lord.

The manner in that wives ought to yield such a kind of subjection to their husbands, as may be approved of the Lord. Thus the Apostle himself expoundeth this phrase, chapter 5, verse 5, 6.

It provoketh wives to submit themselves to their husbands, by noting the place of an husband, which is, to be in the Lord’s stead, bearing His image, and in that respect having a fellowship and partnership with the Lord, so as

Wives in subjection themselves aright to their husbands are subject to the Lord. And on the contrary side,

Wives in refusing to be subject to their husbands, refuse to be subject to the Lord.

  1. How an husband is his wife’s head.

Ephesians 5:23. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: and he is the Savior of the body.

The place of an husband intimated in the last clause of the former verse, is more plainly expressed, and fully explained in this verse. His place is expressed under the metaphor of an head: and amplified by his resemblance therein unto Christ.

The particle of connection [For] showeth that this verse is added as a reason: which may fitly be referred both to the duty itself: and to the manner of performing it.

The metaphor of an head enforceth the duty.
The amplification thereof by the resemblance that is made to Christ, enforceth the manner of performing the duty.

A wife must submit her self to an husband, because he is her head: and she must do it as unto the Lord, because her husband is to her, as Christ is to the Church.

The metaphor of an head declareth two points:

The dignity of an husband.

The duty of an husband.

As an head is more eminent and excellent than the body, and placed above it, so is an husand to his wife.

As an head, by the understanding which is in it, governeth, protecteth, preserveth, provideth for the body, so doth the husand his wife: at least he ought so to do: for this is his office and duty: this is here noted to show the benefit which a wife receiveth by her husband: so as two motives are included under this metaphor.

The first is taken from the husband’s perogative, whence note that

Subjection must be yielded to such as are over us. For this is a main end of the difference between party and party. To what end is the head set above the body, if the body be not subject to it?

The second is taken from the benefit which a wife reapeth by her husband’s superiority: and it showeth that

They who will not submit themselves to their superiours are injurious to themselves: as the body were injurious to it self, if it would not be subject to the head (see Treatise 3, Section 73)

  1. Of the resemblance of an husband to Christ.

The more to enforce the forenamed reason, the Apostle addeth the resemblance that is betwixt an husband and Christ , as this note of comparison [even as] showeth: whence it followeth that

It is meet for a wife to submit her self to her husband, as for the Church to submit it self to Christ. This amplification is especially added for Christians. Heathens may be moved to subject themselves to their Governours, by the resemblance taken from a natural body. How much more ought Christians to be moved by the resemblance taken from the mystical body of Christ?

These words [and he is is the Saviour of the body] as they do declare the office of Christ, and the benefit which the Church reapeth, so they note the end why an husband is appointed to be the head of his wife, namely that by his provident care he may be as a saviour to her. It is here noted rather to show the benefit which a wife reapeth by her husband, than the duty which he oweth: for that the Apostle declareth afterwards, verse 25, etc. The meaning then is, That as Christ was given to be an head of the Church which is his body, that he might protect it, and provide all needful things for it, and so be a Saviour to it, even so for that very end are husbands appointed to be head of their wives.