Of a Wife’s Fear of Her Husband and Of a Wife’s Obedience to her Husband

Of a wife’s inward fear of her husband.

Hitherto of a wife’s acknowledgement of her husbands superiority. It followeth to speak of that answerable respect which she ought to bear towards him.

A wife-like respect of her husband consisteth in two points:

1. Reverence.

2. Obedience.

The reverence which she oweth to him is

1. Inward.

2. Outward.

Inward reverence is an awful respect which a wife in her heart hath of her husband, esteeming him worthy of all honour for his place, and office sake, because he is her husband. Doubtless Sarah had in her heart a reverend respect and honourable esteem of her husband, when a being alone, and thinking of him in her very thought she gave him this title Lord. This inward reverence the Scripture compriseth under this word Fear: as where our Apostle saith, Let the wife see that she fear her husband: and where St. Peter exhorteth wives to have their conversation in Fear. It is no slavish fear of her husband which ought to possess the heart of a wife, dreading blows, frowns, spiteful words, or the like; but such an awful respect of him as maketh her (to use the Apostles word) declare how she may please him. This wife-like Fear is manifested by two effects: one is joy, when she giveth contentment to her husband, and observeth him to be pleased with that which she doth: the other is grief, when he is justly offended and grieved, especially with any thing that she her self hath done.

Unless this inward reverence and due respect of a husband be first placed in the heart of a wife, either no outward reverence and obedience will be performed at all, or if it be performed, it will be very unsound, only in shew, hypocritical and deceitful: so that as good never a whit as never the better. For according to ones inward affection and disposition will the outward action and conversation be framed. Michal first despised David in her heart, and thence it followed that she uttered most unreverend and vile speeches of him, even to his face. Wherefore after the judgement of a wife is rightly informed of a husbands superiority, and her will persuaded to account her own husband her head and guide, it is very needful that her heart and affection be accordingly seasoned with the salt of good respect, and high esteem, which breedeth fear: and that thus her heart may be seasoned, she ought oft and seriously to meditate of his place and office, and of that honour which the Lord by virtue thereof hath planted in him. And if he have gifts worthy his place, as knowledge, wisdom, piety, temperance, love, and the like, she ought to take notice thereof, and to think him worthy of double honour.

-Westminster divine William Gouge, Of Domestical Duties

Of a wife’s obedience in general.

Hitherto of a wife’s reverence, it followeth to speak of her obedience: The first law that ever was given to woman since her fall, laid upon her this duty of Obedience to her husband, in these words, “Thy desire shall be to thine husband, and he shall rule over thee. How can a husband rule over a wife, if she obey not him? The principal part of that submission which in this text, and in many other places is required of a wife, consisteth in obedience: and therefore it is expressly commended unto wives in the example of Sarah who obeyed Abraham. Thus by Obedience doth the Church manifest her subjection to Christ.

The place wherein God hath set a husband; namely, to be a head; the authorities which he hath given unto him, to be a Lord and Master; the duty which he requireth of him to rule, does all require obedience of a wife. Is not obedience to be yielded to a Head, Lord, and Master? Take away all authorities from a husband, if ye exempt a wife from obedience.

Contrary is the stoutness of such wives as must have their own will, and does what they list, or else all shall be out of quiet. Their will must be done, they must rule and over-rule all, they must command not only children and servants, but husbands also, if at least the husband will be at peace. Look into families, observe the estate and condition of many of them, and then tell me if these things be not so. If a husband be a man of courage, and seek to stand upon his right, and maintain his authorities by requiring obedience of his wife, strange it is to behold what an hurly burly she will make in the house: but if he be a milk-sop, and basely yield unto his wife, and suffer her to rule, then, it may be, there shall be some outward quiet. The ground hereof is an ambitious and proud humour in women, who must needs rule, or else they think themselves slaves. But let them think as they list: assuredly herein they thwart Gods ordinance, pervert the order of nature, deface the image of Christ, overthrow the ground of all duties, hinder the good of the family, become an ill pattern to children and servants, lay themselves open to Satan, and incur many other mischief which cannot but follow upon the violating of this main duty of Obedience, which if it be not performed, how can other duties be expected?

-Westminster divine William Gouge, Of Domestical Duties


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