Every one of you in particular must so love his own wife as himself, and the wife must see to it that she reverence her husband.
Solomon in the Proverbs mentions;
An eye that mocketh at his father and despiseth to obey his mother:
Indeed by the eye it is that the soul doth much express itself in mocking and despising, and there are too easily to be observed eyes that despise their husbands,women of proud and scornful behavior not only towards their neighbours but husbands.
Nor are only the eyes but the tongues of many in fault, by reason of sharp, passionate, presumptuous and impetuous speeches, while they speak either chidingly like Jezebel, railingly like Zipporah, scoffingly like Michal, or reproachfully like Job's wife; nay, so little regard have they of their husbands, that they care not in discourse before others to divulge their faults, and (it may be) load them with calumnies.
So that, what Jacob saith to his sons, Simeon and Levi, in regard of their cruel exploit, you have made me to stink amongst the inhabitants of the land, may many men say to their wives, you make me to stink amongst my neighbours and friends by your reviling words and opprobrious speeches.
To carry it on a little further, I would to God there were not a generation of women in the world who tread Jezebel-like to this duty, instead of fearing their husbands they would make their husbands stand in fear of them; whose study is not to please but cross their husbands wills, who will either have the mastery, or wage a continual war with them; aspiring shoulders that will not content themselves to have a room under their head.
Monsters of their sex inverting the order in which nature, or rather the God of nature hath set them, as if the woman were not made for the mans comfort, but the man to be at the womans command.
But I am persuaded better things of you, though I thus speak, only I beseech you accept a word of exhortation to the practice of this duty.
Our English Translation here supplies a word see, which is not in the original; but yet it is implied in a verb that must signify as much as see, let the wife look to it that she fear her husband. It is then a strict charge that is here laid upon the woman by the Apostle, so give me leave from him to give it you.
You have a care that this duty of fear be not omitted; it is not an arbitrary thing which you may do or leave, but a necessary work to be performed by you; I know you are ready to say with them in the Gospel, This is an hard saying, who can bear it? but be it never so hard in your apprehension, it is but just and right according to God's Ordination, and to repine at it is no less then to murmur at God himself.
Oh therefore see, beware that you grudge not at this precept; and again see, look that you cheerfully perform it: and indeed were it seriously considered that it is not a servile but an ingenuous fear which is here commanded, and that this fear from the wife is allied with a precept of honour from the husband, nay, that where this is practiced, it doth regain a mutual respect from the man, while by obeying she commands, for so the mother told her daughter, Do thou minister to thy husband, and he shall do the like to thee; be thou his handmaid and he shall be thy servant; and thus as Sarah called Abraham Lord, so he called her Sarai.
These meditations could not but sweeten the bitterness of this precept to them. In a word, let there be but a cordial love in the wife to her husband, and this command of fear will not be grievous to her: as fear is the spring of subjection, so love is the rise of fear; in which respect it is fitly stated , if love be present, fear will follow after it and attend upon it; and as the mans love engages him to honour and protect, so the wives will no less oblige her to fear and subjection.
I shut up this, yea both the man and the womans part with one admonition to them both: As the one desires to love his wife,and the other to fear her husband, let both strive to have the love and fear of God rooted in their hearts. It is very considerable, that fear God and the King are put together by Solomon,and fear God and honour the King by Peter, to intimate, that the former always inclines to the latter: the like I may say here, to the wife, fear God and thy husband, to the husband, fear God and honour thy wife, since he that is faithful in his duty to God, cannot but be careful of his duty to man.
Nothing but the fire of malice in the mans heart, the fire of pride in the womans, and the fire of contention between them both is to be expected, when God is not loved, feared, served and honored by them.
And thus much be spoken of the obligation layed upon the man and the wife, I hasten in a word to the punctual application to be made of these duties, Let every one of you in particular. And this is done two ways: by a word of generical comprehension,every one; and words of individual specification, of you in particular: both which though expressed only in the mans part, yet are by a parity of reason to be supplied the wives, every one in particular, both man and woman being obliged to the practice of their duty.
1. The first word is of a generical comprehension, every one, of what degree, quality, condition soever is concerned in these precepts; yea every one is bound to their wife or husband, be their condition or qualification what it will. It is, though very sad, yet too common for both sexes to plead excuses for their non-observance of these divine injunctions.
On the one hand many a man is apt to say, I could love my wife were she a person of quality, but she was my servant; were she wealthy, but she brought me nothing; were she meek and quiet, but she is froward and perverse. It is true indeed wisdom teacheth thee beforehand to take care that there be virtuous qualities, and some proportionable equality of estate and degree in the person whom thou choosest for thy wife; but having once entered into that relation, justice obligeth thee to give her the love due to a wife. On the other hand many a wife is ready to pretend, I could reverence my husband were he not a mean person, one whose fortune hath been raised by my estate; not considering, that how superior soever she were before, yet by marriage she becometh his helper.
And again, I could reverence him were he not a man of a debauched , profane and vicious life. Indeed I could wish that many men did not give too much occasion by their loose lives of that contempt they find in the eyes not only of their wife, but others; but still be the husband never so faulty, and his practices licentious, yet in respect of his place and relation, the wife oweth him reverence: the truth is, none is excepted, let none of either sex dare to exempt themselves.
2. Because what is spoken to every one, is accounted as spoken to none, our Apostle bringeth down the general to individuals, every one of you in particular; or according to the Greek, one by one: Take this as spoken to him and her, and so each apply their own duty to themselves. It is that which concerns ministers in all their doctrines, not to shoot at random but aim at the mark; like David's, Thou art the man and Peter's, You have crucified; and here Paul's, You in particular. It is that which all hearers are enjoined, to mix faith with what they hear, and that by a particular application of the word to their own hearts and lives; and yet more closely to the text, it is that which man and wife, each one in regard of themselves ought to take notice of, and square their own practice by.
And well were it if this were duly thought upon, and accordingly perfomed. But alas, we every one look to anothers, not our own duty; and to speak my thoughts freely, I fear this will be the use or rather abuse which too many will make of this sermon. It is very likely that when you come home, the husband will read his wife a lecture of her duty, and the wife ring a peal in the husbands ears concerning his, and so while each upbraid the other, both forget what belong to them in particular. Oh how preposterous a course is this! as if a scholar should only mind how his school fellow learneth his lesson, and not look on his own: or a man should take notice what is good for his neighbours, but not his own disease; and therefore whereas the Apostle in another case most justly adviseth, look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others, my counsel in this case is, look not so much on the duties of others, as every man on his own.
And so much the rather would this be considered in the present matter, because it is so frequent for both the man and the wife to excuse their own neglect by the others default. What apologies more usual then these? the man saith, I could love my wife did she reverence me; and the wife I would reverence my husband did he love me: both are ready to say, let him do his, or she her duty, and I will do mine. But oh how vain is this plea, since neither is the man only obliged in case the woman perform hers, nor the woman if the man perform his part, but both because God hath enjoined each particular to fulfill their own work whatsoever the other do.
Excellent counsel to this purpose is put forth in the following question and answer; What if the woman do not fear thee, yet do thou love her, and so perform thy part; and likewise the woman though she be not beloved, yet let her reverence her husband: Surely, as our blessed Saviour was used to say, it is better to give then to receive, so in this case it is better to pay then to require; if another fail in duty to thee it is thy cross, but if thou fail in duty to another it is thy curse: assure thy self oh man or woman, it is more acceptable to God and commendable amongst men,that thou shouldst do thy own part, then challenge that which is anothers towards thee: and let me add one word more, That man or woman who seeth not more faults in themselves then in the other, is either arrogant,or ignorant, or both. Nate Hardy