Of the Wife’s Mildness, Courtsey, Obeisance to her Husband and Proper Titles She should give to Him

Westminster Divine William Gouge wrote an excellent book entitled “Of Domestical Duties”. Here are three excellent sections that I transcribed from his old English to more modern English for easy readability. These are areas that are highly neglected among modern Christian women and they should be highly read and carefully considered.

Of wife-like mildness

“Mildness in a wife hath respect also to the ordering of her countenance, gesture, and whole carriage before her husband, whereby she manifest a pleasingness to him, and a contentedness and willingness to be under him and ruled by him. Excellently is this set forth in the spouse of Christ whose eye’s are said to be as doves eyes, her lips to drop as honey combs, and she her self every way pleasant: whereupon it is noted that she appeared to her husband as the bright morning, and that his heart was wounded with her. Assuredly the clear skies is not more pleasant in time of harvest, then a mild and amiable countenance and carriage of a wife in her husbands presence. And though her husband should be of an harsh and cruel disposition, yet by this means might he be made meek and gentle. For the keepers of Lions are said to bring them to some tameness by handling them gently and speaking to them fairly.

Contrary to this mildness is a frowning brow, a lowering eye, a sullen look, a pouting lip, a swelling face, a deriding mouth, a scornful cast of the arms and hands, a disdainful turning of this side and that side of the body, and a fretful flinging out of her husbands presence: all which and other like contemptuous gestures are as thick clouds overspreading the heavens in a Summers day, which make it very uncomfortable. They oft stir up much passion in the man, and bring much mischief upon the wife herself.”

Of Wife like Courtesy and Obeisance

“Courtesy is that virtue whereby a wife taketh occasion to testifies her acknowledgment of her husbands superiority by some outward obeisance to him. Rebekah, so soon as she saw Isaac, whom she had taken for her husband, lighted from her Camel and came to him on foot, which was a kind of obeisance. This is not so to be taken as if no difference were to be made betwixt the carriage of a servant, or child, and a wife: or as if a wife should bow at every word that she speaketh to her husband. Though in the kind and extent of many duties the same things are required of wives which are required of children and servants, because God hath made them all inferiors, and exacted subjection of all: yet in the manner and measure of many duties there is great difference: as in this, the obeisance of children and servants ought to be more submissive, and more frequent. Yet because God hath placed authority in the husband over his wife, she is every way to testify her reverend respect of her husband, and therefore at some times, on some occasions (as when he is going on a journey for a time from her, or when he returneth home again, or when she hath a solemn and great suit (a pursuit, action of pursuing) to make unto him, or when he offereth an especial and extraordinary favor unto her, or (as I have observed such wives as know what beseemeth their place, and are not ashamed to manifest as much) when she sitteth down or riseth up from table) to declare her reverence by some obeisance. This cannot but much work on the heart of a good and kind husband, and make him the more to respect his wife, when he beholdeth this evidence of her respect to him. Yea it cannot but be a good pattern to children * and servants, and a motive to stir them up to yield all submissive obeisance both to her husband and to herself. For it may make them thus to reason with themselves, shall we scorn or think much to yield that to our father or master which our mother or mistress thinketh not much to yield to her husband? shall-she bow to him, and shall not we much more bow to her? Thus a wives honoring of her husband by yielding obeisance to him, maketh both him and herself to be more honored of others.

Contrarily minded are they, who not only altogether omit this duties, but also gibe and scoff at the very hearing thereof, saying, thus wives shall be made no better then children or servants. But though scornful dames deride these outward evidences of their subjection, yet such wives as fear the Lord ought not to be hindered thereby from doing their duties: for by such evil examples they might be discouraged from every good duties. It is sufficient that such holy women as trusted in God so behaved themselves. But for this particular, we know that equals scorn not upon occasions to perform this kind of courtesy in making obeisance one to another: how much less ought wives, who are their husbands inferiors?”

Of the titles which wives give their husbands.

“As their words must be few, so those few words must be reverend and meek: both which are also implied under the forenamed word a silence: which in the original signifieth also a quietness.

Reverence hath respect to the titles whereby a wife nameth her husband. Meekness to the manner of framing her speech to him.

For the titles which a wife in speaking to her husband, or naming him, giveth unto him, they must be such as signify superiority, and so savor of reverence. Such are the titles wherewith husbands are named in the Scripture; they are titles of honor. Such also are the titles which the Church (who by our Apostle is made a pattern for wives in all subjection) giveth to her Spouse Christ Yesus, as may be gathered out of the Song of songs. It is likely that Sarah did usually give this title Lord to her husband. For having occasion to think of him, presently this title Lord was in her heart: which would not so suddenly have risen up, if she had not ordinarily used it. According to the usual titles which we give to any, do we in our hearts name them, when we have occasion to think of them. Among all other titles the name husband, as it is the most usual, so it is the fittest and meetest title. It intimates reverence, and savoreth not of niceness & singularity, as these titles, Head, Guide, Master, Man, and the like does: which though they be lawful titles, because the Scripture attributeth them to husbands, and they signify superiority, yet because they are unusual and savor of singularity, they are not so meet. Common use and practice hath made the addition of the husbands surname to this title Master, more met.

Saint Peter by this argument proveth that Sarah obeyed Abraham, because she called him Lord.

Contrary are those compellation which argue equalities or inferiority rather then superiority, as Brother, Cousin, Friend, Man, &c. if a stranger be in presence, how can he tell by this manner of compellation, that he whom thou speakest unto is thy husband? If he especial any matrimonial familiarities betwixt you, what can he judge of it otherwise to be, lightness and wantonness? Remember the fearful issue that had like to have fallen out by reason of such compellations given by Sarah and Rebekah to their husbands. Not unlike to those are such as these, Sweet, Sweeting, Heart, Sweet-heart, Love, Joy, Dear, &c. and such as these, Duck, Chick, Pigsny, &c. and husbands Christian names, as John, Thomas, William, Henry, &c. which if they be contracted (as many use to contract them thus, Jack, Tom, Will, Hall) they are much more unseemly: servants are usually so called.

But what may we say of those titles given to an husband by his wife, not seldom in passion, but usually in ordinary speech, which are not fit to be given to the basest men that be, as Grub, Rogue, and the like, which I am even ashamed to name, but that the sins of women are to be cast as dirt on their faces, that they may be the more ashamed?

Obiect. Many of the forenamed titles are titles of amity and familiarity.

Answ. Subjection is that mark which wives are directed to aim at in their thoughts, words, deeds, and whole conversation towards their husband. Such tokens of familiarity as are not withall tokens of subjection and reverence, are unbeseeming a wife, because they swerve from that mark.”

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