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and to regard that in choosing a wife, which may and ought especially to induce them constantly to love the wife. And thus we have explained to you the precept which enjoins love: Now we must proceed to the injunction, which forbids bitterness.
2. Be not bitter against them.] The word is a metaphor, drawn from unpleasant and bitter food, by the taste of which men are offended. By this expression therefore, the Apostle intimates, that the conversation of the husband towards his wife ought to be pleasant and kind; not unsavoury and harsh : Yea, (as says Ambrose in Hexæm, 5. 7.) although naturally he may be rigid, yet he ought to mitigate it by the very contemplation of marriage. Which also was the opinion of the heathen : For (as Plutarch relates) they who did sacrifice at the rites of Juno, took out the gall of the victim, and threw it away, signifying by the ceremony, that it was not fit that bile and bitterness should enter into the married state.
The bitterness here prohibited is wont to shew itself in three things : the affections, the words, and actions.
1. First, in the very affections of husbands. For as far as the affections are bitter, they who are exasperated against their wives for light causes, and failures however small, both begin from thence either to hate them, or at least remissly and languidly to love them. They who are affected in this manner, although they neither do nor say any thing evil against their wives, yet often render the fellowship of the conjugal state unpleasant and disagreeable. That this bitterness is to be avoided, is gathered,
1. From the precept itself of loving their wives, which is imposed upon husbands : For it does not admit that exception, If they shall be, or whilst they shall be free from all faults: For God, who gave this precept of loving the wife, knew well that no mortal is free from his faults and imperfections : Therefore by this truly impossible condition being added or understood, the precept would be superfluous (and ridiculous). As, then, the wife is bound to obey her husband, notwithstanding his many imperfections ; so also the husband is bound to love his wife. If for light causes he even remits the affection of love, it must be ascribed to bitterness.
2. This also is plain from the example of Christ, who is proposed as an example to husbands by the Apostle. For he is not wont to hate or despise his church for her many faults and sins; but he rather studies to amend and cover her sins, whilst no odium is cast upon her person : Such ought to be the affection of the husband towards his wife. No fault or sin of the wife ought then to extinguish that matrimonial affection, unless it be of that kind as to extinguish and dissolve matrimony itself: for the wise remains, whilst matrimony continues, one flesh with her husband : But no one never haled his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church, Ephes. v. 29.
3. From the confession of the very heathen. For Aristotle himself, imbued with the light of nature, saw that the husband ought not for any fault immediately to alienate his mind from his wife ; but, as he says, Oecon. i. 8, he should forgive willingly little faults, rá név Helspå tało alalo nátwy, although they should be voluntary ; but even if through ignorance she should offend in those which are of greater moment, he should be satisfied to have advised and instructed her, not to have hated her. And thus you see all bitterness is to be banished afar off from the very mind and affection of the husband.
2. Secondly, this bitterness seems to be placed in bitter, contumelious, or any other words opposed to conjugal love. For a tender mind is wounded no less by bitter words, than the body is by sharp weapons: Hence words are sometimes compared by the Psalmist to darts and swords. Psal. lv. It does not therefore become the husband to wound his wife by these swords. (Arist. Rhet.) As to contumelious words, they are most foreign from duty and from matrimonial love. For the design of contumely is, that one may rejoice in the disgrace of him who is treated contumeliously : but it is barbarous to rejoice in the disgrace of his own wife. But neither is that bitterness of passionate men to be suffered, which breaks out into hard words, and threats, although there may be no VOL. II.
intention either of contumely or injury. For if any one who is angry with any brother, and breaks forth into bitter words, shall be guilly of hell fire, Matt. v. 22, then how much more he who does so against his wife? Therefore, that all bitterness may be banished from the wedded state, let that precept in Prov. v. 18, be kept in remembrance : Rejoice with the wife of thy youth: not strive, revile, threaten; but rejoice.
3. Thirdly, Bitterness, and that the most bitter, is found in the actions; namely, when the husband, plainly unmindful what the conjugal relation is, shews himself a tyrant, and treats his wife as his servant. The very institution of marriage repels this bitterness : For God gave not Eve to Adam as a servant or a slave, but for a companion or help-meet. Thou art not a lord, but a husband; thou hast not got a maid-servant, but a wife: God would have thee the guide of the inferior sex, not the tyrant, says Ambrose, Hexæm. 5. 7. But this tyranny is exercised over the wife in many ways:
1. When she is removed from all domestic rule, and is degraded as it were to the rank of a maid, even perhaps subjected to one of them. But the institution of marriage, in which the wife is taken to the supreme administration of the family under her husband, opposes this. Whence Xenophon calls the wife the guardian of the domestic laws; and Aristotle says, that she is to preside over the inmates. Moreover, the sacred Scriptures assign this to her, Prov. xxxi. 27 ; Tit. ii. 5. Although, therefore, it ought to be pleasant to the wife to obey her husband ; yet it is bitter if he compel her to be subject to his own servant, or if he do not suffer her to preside. Abraham was unwilling to be bitter in this respect against Sarah, and on that account cast out the bondmaid from his house, who began to be disobedient and troublesome to her mistress; as you may gather from Gen. xvi.
2. It is a branch also of this tyranny, when those things which pertain either to her necessity or even to her dignity are denied or taken away by the husband. For she, by virtue of the matriinonial contract, ought to be a partner
with the husband of all his goods: It is therefore injustice if he consume on himself more than his circumstances allow, and in the mean time withdraws from his wife what is just and good. This is esteemed bitterness in the doer, and it necessarily savours of bitterness to the sufferer: For all persons deprived of their proper privileges are deeply grieved, says Aristotle, Econom. i. cap. 8.
Lastly, It is the height of this bitter tyranny, to act cruelly towards the wife by stripes or blows; which we do not read that any one among the heathen did, unless he was drunk or mad. Hence the civil law permits the wife to avail herself of a divorce, if she can prove that her husband has beaten her: and it gives as a reason, that blows are foreign to a stale of freedom, Cod. lib. 5. tit. 17. De repudiis; and in Novell. constit. 117. For no superiority whatever gives the power of coercing the inferior by blows. If two persons enter into a league of friendship on the condition that the younger shall obey the elder, and be directed in all things by his wisdom and discretion; he is bound to obedience by virtue of this contract: but if he refuse to do that, he cannot be forced to his duty by blows. The same must be said with regard to the matrimonial contract : for in this the husband and wife agree to a certain amicable fellowship in life, so that the wife is to be subject to her husband, and directed by him ; but as a companion, not as a slave; by advice, not by stripes.*
Aristotle gives this reason ; because it is not fit to instil such fear into the wife, which may be injurious both to respect and love : but that servile fear which is instilled by blows is subversive of both.
Neither is it fit that any one should exercise power over another by constraint supported by no law; but that power
• It is one of the glories of Christianity that it gave woman her proper place in society. Under the Jewish dispensation, woman was perpetually reminiled that she was first in the transgression. In republican Athens, man was every thing, and woman nothing. In most heathen countries she is little more than a slave. It is in Christian nations she has been raised to an equality with man. It is Christianity that has conferred upon her liberty and heaven.
of chastising a wife by stripes is supported by no law either Divine or human.
Finally add, That is not to be done which cannot be done without sin, and what always derives its origin from this sin of bitterness. For although parents often chastise their children from love ; yet both the experience and conscience of every one will testify, that no one proceeds to beat his wife except from anger, bitterness, or hatred; all which are unlawful things, and diametrically opposite to the matrimonial state. Therefore, let all bitterness be done
So far we have spoken of the duty of wife and husband. In the next place the duty of children and parents follows; among which the second domestic relation is placed.
Vers. 20. Children, obey your parents in all things : for this is well
pleasing unto the Lord.
between parents and children : therefore the Apostle endeavours now to imbue these with wholesome instructions in this place. And as he began in that relation ordained to be prior, from the duty of the wives; so now he begins from that of children (as I conceive) for the same reasons, or at least not much unlike. The Apostle, then, follows this order; both because children oftener fail in the duty of obedience, than parents in that of love; as because this duty of obedience rightly discharged, cannot but draw parents to the discharge of their duty. But let us come to the words.
We have in them a precept; Children, obey your parents, &c. and the reason of the precept; for this is acceptable to the Lord.