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cap. 4. This is indeed difficult; but the more difficult it is, the more laudable; because all cherish their own manners, indulge their own affections, and hate the contrary:
The melancholy do the merry hate,
Horat. Epist. lib. i. ep. 18. It is, therefore, laborious, to strip off as it were her own disposition, and put on another's. But this is necessary to the wife, and is before all other things to be commended in her. For as a mirror adorned with gems, and skilfully polished, is nothing, unless it express a true likeness of the person looking into it; so a wife, however endowed and beautiful, is nothing, unless she render herself conformable to the manners of her husband. This study of conforming herself to the disposition of her husband, I think the Apostle has respect to in 1 Cor. vii. 37, where he says, that the married woman careth how she may please her husband. She often and seriously thinks,
And turns her rapid thought, now here now there, that she may find out the way of pleasing her husband : this is the most ready way, if she study to accommodate her manners and affections themselves, and frame them to his.
Lastly, this subjection consists in performing those duties and offices which are incumbent upon her. The first duty is, to love her husband religiously, to minister to him obligingly, and to be his help and solace in every condition of fortune: Gen. ii. 18. Love your husbands, says the Apostle, Tit, ii. 4. She will do him good all the days of her life, Prov. xxxi. 12. The duties connected with this are those of taking care of the family and children, and administering other domestic matters according to the established laws, as says Aristotle. On this account Paul bids wives to love their husbands, to be keepers at home, Tit. ii. 4, 5. And Plutarch relates, that the Egyptian women did not make use of shoes, that they might learn to keep at home, and be ready for domestic offices. All these things pertain to the subjection of the wife: which let it suffice to have discussed lightly: for it is not our purpose to discourse largely on each of these particulars.
3. We must now come, in the third place, to those reasons which ought to excite and impel all good and pious matrons to perform these duties of subjection.
1. The first is derived from the Divine appointment; which it is wicked for a pious mind to resist: for religious obedience does not discuss the commands of God, but performs them. But God most clearly has sanctioned this female subjection, Gen. iii. 16, Thy desire shall be to thy husband, sub viri potestate eris, in the Vulgate; and he shall rule over thee.
2. The second is derived from the natural imperfection of the woman: For hy nature she is more infirm than the man, and more unsuited for her own government and protection. This both the sacred Scriptures and philosophy testify. Women are said to be the weaker vessels, 1 Pet. iii. 7. And Aristotle affirms, that they have indeed the power to determine, but without authority; and that it is the leading quality of the woman to subserve, not to direct. Polit. lib. i. cap. 8.
3. The third is derived from the order of creation. For the woman was created after the man, out of the man, and for the man. But the end for which any thing exists, is better and more noble than the thing itself. This is urged by the Apostle, 1 Cor. xi. 8,9.
4. The fourth is derived from the transgression of the woman. For she being seduced, violated the Divine command, and allured her husband into a participation of her transgression : Now it is just, that from thenceforward the wife should hearken to her husband, because the husband was ruined by hearkening to the wife. The Apostle makes use of this argument, 1 Tim. ii. 14.
6. The fifth is derived from the disadvantage of refusing this subjection, and disturbing the Divine ordination. For as in physical things, the disturbance of natural order yields many and great disadvantages, storms, floods, and earthquakes; so by the order of the due subjection of the wife towards her husband being disturbed, brawlings and clamours are heard in the house, like thunder; their bosoms are shaken by fear and mutual suspicions, as by earthquakes ; in fine, their whole life is overwhelmed with miseries and tears, as with inundations. It would be easy to bring in more reasons; but we shall be content with these.
4, It now remains to shew, in the last place, the usual hindrances to this subjection, and in the way of advice lay down, not all, but some of the principal of those things which ought to be avoided.
1. The first is pride: which makes the wife think highly of herself and all things belonging to her, as her figure, her prudence, her family ; on the other hand, to despise and disesteem her husband, as unworthy to command such a woman. To obviate this evil; 1. Let her remember, that the dignity of her husband and her own inferiority is not to be estimated from virtues, figure, nobility, or riches; but from the Divine ordination alone : The authority of the husband, and the subjection of the wife, is founded in this, which neither ought nor can be abrogated or changed from such accidental causes. 2. Let her also consider; that it is the veriest proof of folly and vanity, to presume upon her own worth and prudence : for all those things which are easily inflated are empty. 3. Lastly, let her also understand ; that this motion of pride proceeds from the devil, who, as he incited Eve to eat that fruit forbidden by God by infusing this poison ; so, by instilling the same poison into the daughters of Eve, he daily tampers with them to throw off the subjection prescribed by God.
2. The second is the defect of true and genuine love. For she studies not to please her husband, whose greatest displeasure is that she has got such a husband : on the other hand, true love is a perpetual monitor, and the best teacher of obedience. Retain love, says Augustine; for all duties depend upon it; by it you will possess what you have learnt, and what you have not learnt. If, therefore, love be wanting, the wife neither knows how to please her husband, nor cares about it. This evil will be avoided; 1. If parents would not compel their daughters to odious nuptials; but before they give them in marriage, to do what we read
in Gen, xxiv. 57, 58, was done to Rebecca. Then they said, We will call the damsel, and inquire at her mouth. And they called Rebecca, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go. 2. If they would beware in contracting matrimony, lest they choose husbands for the sake of honour or riches, who, they are sure, do not love them cordially. 3. Lastly, if after contracting marriage, they carefully avoid even the most trifling occasions of offence : for as things cleaving together in the beginning are rent asunder by any sudden blow ; so also is it with the fresh love of those just united in marriage. But God also should be constantly invoked, that he would pour the bond of true and holy love into their bosoms : for lascivious and vague love is what arises from the flesh alone; chaste and constant love draws its origin from the Holy Spirit.
3. The third is a foolish affectation of divers vanities. For she cannot perform the domestic duties which respect her conjugal subjection, who is wholly drawn aside by the study of foibles most foreign to the office of a matron. Hither I refer that immoderate desire of appearing in public, to see, and be seen ; which is ever found in connexion with a dislike of household care. From this source also springs extravagance in dress, painting the face, in short, a sort of external theatric parade in the whole tenor of life, Prov. vii. 10. They who are mad of this disease of vanity, care neither for husband, nor children, nor family. As, therefore, they would withstand this evil, let wives refect, that they should please not the eyes of the people, but of the husband alone. For (as says Clemens, Pædag. 2.) It is dishonest to make the beauty of the body a man-trap. It is, as says Augustine, De doctr. Christ. 4. 21, more dishonest to meditate by adultery of the countenance, the adultery of chastity. If, therefore, they will study ornament, they should hear Tertullian, De cultu fæmin. Let them borrow from simplicity, fairness of the skiir, and from chastity the blush of the countenance ; and let them hang in their ears the pearls of the word. But the Apostle also recals them from these vanities to their true ornaments, in 1 Tim. ij. 9. Let the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness und sobriety, not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array ; &c.
As it is fit in the Lord.] These words contain either the reason of the aforesaid injunction, or rather the limitation. If the reason, they must be explained in this manner; Be subject to your own husbands, because Christ your Lord has so commanded you, whose ordination it is just that Christians should obey. But concerning this Divine ordination we have spoken. If, therefore, these words contain a limitation, (which I rather approve) then they are to be explained thus; Be subject to your husbands, not absolutely, and promiscuously in all things, but as far as God permits, or as far as it is befitting women who are in the Lord, that is, believers and Christians.
The occasion of this limitation springs from the circumstance, that many believing women were united to unbelieving husbands, whom they were bound to obey, so far as it could be done, without the violation of their faith and the Christian religion. For if an unbelieving husband should attempt to compel his wife to an idolatrous worship, she must resist, and be governed by that rule of Peter, Acts v. 29, We must obey God rather than man. There is the same reason, if the husband attempt to entice his wife into any sin: for it is not fit that those who are in the Lord, should obey in such things. The foundation of this exception is, That all authority and superiority is derived from God; and subordinate to the Divine authority: The command of the inferior power, therefore, does not oblige us to obedience when it is contrary to that of the superior, as Durandus well observes, lib. 2. dist. 39. qu. 5. That saying of Gregory, therefore, is always to be retained, The wife should so please the will of her husband, as not to displease the will of her Creator.
Corollaries from this limitation. 1. Wives obedient to their husbands by this due subjection, render a submission grateful to God himself; because they are subject not only for their own sake, but much more in the Lord and for the Lord's sake.
2. The wife is bound to her husband to be a companion