Even among mean couples, where there is no superiority, true love must nevertheless carry with it a reverence & fear. I cannot love a man, except I bear a reverence towards him. What shall a woman then do, whom God hath put in subjection to her husband? For men see that [many] wives which are fond of their husbands, [do nevertheless] disobey them in all matters, so as they blear out their tongues at them, & their husbands are no more obeyed in their own houses, then the furthest stranger whom they know not. Again, divers times they fall out into such rages as is a pity to see, and their husbands can get no service at their hands. For they run gadding from place to place, & leave their children & household alone. Whereas they should tarry at home with their husbands in good unity, they wander and scoterlope abroad I cannot tell whither. We see then how it is not without cause, that Saint Paul speaketh in this wise of the love of wives towards their husbands. And afterward he addeth immediately their children. For would women set their minds & affections earnestly that way, surely it would withhold them from many vices. What is the cause that women cannot keep themselves quiet in their own houses? That they cannot give themselves to goodness? But are full of vanity, & run gadding here & there, and are so light to receive what soever is put to them? What is the cause thereof, but that they regard not whereunto God calleth them, neither consider that when he did put them into marriage, it was (as ye would say) an appointing of them to a kind of covert, of purpose that they should keep themselves there: & again that when they had children, they should have a care to bring them up & to keep them, and to teach them the fear of God when they come to age? If women could think upon these things: surely there would be seen another manner of agreement in many households, then there is. And therefore let us not suppose that Saint Paul spake here of a needless matter, when he willed women to love their husbands, and children. Furthermore, upon this he setteth down a virtue that is linked & (as ye would say) inseparable from it: that is to wit, That they should be sober: And consequently also, Chaste. For he had said afore, that they should not be given to wine, whereby he condemned, drunkenness & excess.
But here he requireth yet more: that is to wit, that wives should have a stay of themselves, so as they might be sober all their life long. This therefore is not meant all only of wine or of eating: but of the stayedness which is also called sobriety, when women give not heed to their foolish & lewd lusts. And he said as much heretofore when he spake of men: & he will repeat it again hereafter when he speaketh of young folk. But the chief virtue which he requireth in women, is chastity. Notwithstanding, that word extendeth very far: for it signifieth all manner of cleanness. And in good sooth, it is not enough for a woman that she give not her body over unto lechery: but she must also be pure and honest. For if she paint and prick up herself, & draw a train of men after her: although she commit no whoredom at all, yet hath she a sufficient stain wherewith to defame her.
Wherefore let us mark well, that Saint Paul will have women, not only to be chaste in keeping their faith and loyalty which they have plighted to their husbands: but also to maintain themselves in soberness, and to live so honestly, that they may show in all points of their life, and in all their words and countenances, that they be chaste and modest. Were it so, we should have great cause to praise God. And how greatly were it for our behoof that such as vaunt themselves to be Christian women, lead so orderly a life, as Saint Paul sheweth that they ought to do? So much the more then have we cause to be sorry, considering the vices & corruptions that are in us. Wherefore let wives have a care to profit better in the Gospel then they have done: and let those to whom God hath given the grace to put this doctrine in use, labour to draw others thereunto, that they may be good mistresses: and let the younger sort endeavor to profit the better by their example. That is it which we have to bear in mind.
Now he addeth, That they should also be tarriers at home, that they should be gentle and subject to their husbands. Whereas he saith that they should be tarriers at home: it appeareth to be a virtue that women ought to like well enough of, without any exhorting of them thereunto. For nature showeth it: and even the heathen men could well tell the same, insomuch that they made a great lesson of it in painting, (as a man would do of the shepherds Calendar,) likening a wife to a Tortoise or Snail, which carrieth his shell always with him on his back: even so, wives, ought not to desire to be gadding abroad. For why? If they be disposed to occupy themselves as God commandeth them: surely they shall always find enough to keep them occupied. For though they have never so small a house to look unto: yet shall they find business enough, so they be not willing to be idle. If they have a great household, then must they take the greater pains, if they mind to do their duty as they should do. [p 1160.a.8]
But it is a pity that this point is so ill observed nowadays. For vainglory, and curiosity, and I wot not what a sort of vain bibblebabbles drive women out of their houses, and make them to rove here and there, and yet notwithstanding the world seeth how a thousand inconveniences spring of such unquietness. We have seen heretofore, that when Saint Paul spake of women, he told them that if they were idle, they would be busybodies, & therewithall give themselves to pratling & to inquire of this & that, to report it again. [I Tim.5.13.] And thereby he showed that if women did not set their hand to the distaff (as we say,) idleness would provoke them to be busybodies, so as they must be medling in every matter & therewithall have their ears open to harken after all things & their tongues loose to talk of them again. For such women are like a tunne full of holes: & when they have much wind within them, they must needs have a vent. So that for every word which they know, they must speak four: What will they do then, when they have gotten up all the news of a whole city? Is it possible for them to refrain themselves from cackling? No, they should burst then. And again when they fall once to babbling after that fashion, there is no ho with them. Therefore ought they to take the better heed of this doctrine. For (as I have said already) ye shall find that one such babler shall kindle infinite fires, & debates, which will cause a number of heart-burnings and ranchors at home in mens houses: and afterward the same spreadeth abroad to the neighbors, insomuch that it breedeth great store of troubles and variances, which draw an ungracious tail after them. Since it is so, let a woman believe she hath profited in the Gospel, when she can occupy herself quietly at home in her own house, & can keep herself at home diligently. Yet doth this not serve to exempt women from helping their neighbors, & such as have need of their succour. For if a woman say, I have enough to do at home, I have not to meddle with other folks: where is the charity become which we should have towards our neighbors? But when Saint Paul saith, the women must be tarriers at home: his meaning is to hold them as it were fettered, that they have not the one foot ever ready to lift over the threshold at all hours, to seek news, and to gad here and there, & to set folk at variance and debate. [1160.b.40]
To the intent then to repress all these curiosities which are over common: he will have women to be occupied in looking to their houses. Furthermore, he commandeth them also be both gentle and subject to their husbands. And he saith purposely that they must be gentle or mild, for otherwise what will become of the love which they owe to their husbands? How may their husbands hold them in subjection and obedience? If a woman be stubborn, & have a frantic head: how may her husband deal with her? So then if a woman intend to submit herself to the order which nature sheweth her that she ought to keep, and which God commandeth, she must first of all come to so much reason, as to subdue her own wicked lusts that they bring her not a hard heart to be willful and stubborn against Godís ordinance. All such geer must be laid aside, so as no pride nor selfwill may hinder the doing of her duty towards God and her husband. This, this I say, is the mild spirit that Saint Paul speaketh of here. Again, there is a subjection that must follow after. He had spoken of the love that the women should bear to their husbands: and he addeth their subjection also. For although women cannot love their husbands without yielding reverence unto them: yet is there somewhat more: that is, that they must not be overwise, to desire to rule their husbands, but consider that their husbands are appointed to be their heads, and that they themselves must not bear rule. If men had put forth themselves of their own head to usurp that authority, it might be said that they had sought their own advantage. But seeing that God hath ordained it, and nature sheweth it: what should there be any striving about it? Yet notwithstanding it is a hard thing, as it appeareth, and specially the proof thereof sheweth it. Therefore let not women vex their husbands in vain, but let them show that the gospel hath done them good in that behalf, that is to wit, by yielding themselves quiet & loving, and being subject as the Lord hath commanded them. For if a woman be stubborn and have a wicked head of her own, so as she will needs have the sovereignty and cannot be governed quietly, but will always have the forend and the staff: all her other virtues will be turned into vice. For our Lord condemneth that as filthiness. [1161.b.32]
Wherefore let women learn to know that they cannot please God, nor have their life acceptable to him, except they first yield unto the subjection that Saint Paul speaketh of here. Indeed he treateth not of the duty of husbands in this text: nevertheless, if we understand his drift, he meant not to exempt men from the yielding of their duty to their wives, as though they had an unbridled and measureless dominion over them: Saint Paul meant not so, as is to be seen by other texts. But for as much as the matter stood not upon the numbering of all particular duties: he is contented with the setting down of the examples that are contained here. And of them every man may gather what his own duty is. For, seeing he hath commanded wives to be quiet: their husbands must think thus with themselves: Go to, God hath honoured us in making us heads over our wives. But what though? Is it to the intent we should use tyranny towards them? Is it to the intent we should set our feet upon their throats (as they say?) No: for they nevertheless are our companions. It is not said that a wife should be a slave: but it is said expressly that she is the companion of her husbands life: it is said that she is as a portion of his body and of his person.
And again, for as much as God hath so honoured the husbands: it is a double unkindness in them, if they cannot find in their hearts to behave themselves gently towards their wives, so that they bear with them as with the weaker vessels, as Saint Peter saith [I Pet.3.7.] that therewithall they may be linked together in such an holy friendship as we have seen in another text to Timothy [1st Ep. 3.2], to the Ephesians [5.28.], and elsewhere [Col.3.19.]: insomuch that Saint Paul showeth that if husbands abide not in good agreement with their wives, they dishonour Christ. For (saith he) we have a looking-glass of that unity that ought to be between man and wife, in that Jesus Christ is as it were married unto us. For the holy union that is between him and us, in that we be partakers of his body, so as we be flesh of his flesh and bones of his bones, is a spiritual marriage. For look what was said of Adam & Eve, was fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ [Eph 5.30.].
Then if a man have not regard to love his wife: he showeth that he never tasted what the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ nor what the Gospel is. And therefore let us mark that when Saint Paul directed his talk & exhortation unto the wives: he meant not to lay the bridle lose in the husbands necks, to give them leave to do what they list: for they also have their rule. And so ye see whereunto we must refer all. When we once know that this doctrine is needful for us: we shall never be weary of having our ears beaten with it, nor of having the remembrance thereof renewed: Saint Paul addeth: That God's word be not evil spoken of.
And this must be taken generally, as applied to all that had been spoken of afore. For his meaning in effect is, that if such as vaunt of Jesus Christ and are baptised in his name, do not behave themselves holy and uncorruptly, and give good example: it turneth to the slander of the Gospel, and all men will laugh the religion to scorn, which we profess [saying:] See I pray you these men brag of the having of God's word, and of the having of his Law which is the rule of all perfection: and in the meanwhile we see how they rush out into all naughtiness, we see there is nothing but cause of offense and lewdness in them: and therefore that is a goodly Law, that is a goodly reformation: who governs them after that fashion? Lo how the wicked sort will have their mouths open to rail upon GOD and his word and we be the cause of it, in that we live not as becometh us.
Therefore let us mark, that our honest and holy conversation is as an ornament, I say, as an ornament to the Gospel, as he himself saith in another place, and as wee also have seen. Is it not a wonderful honour that God doeth unto us, when he will have his word garnished and beautified with our good manners, and by our holy and well ruled life? For what can he find in us? [Again,] what is his word? It is his image wherein his glory shineth forth: there is his majesty known: It is the scepter wherewith it is his will to govern the world: to be short, the wisdom, the might, the power, the righteousness, and the goodness that is in God, do show themselves forth in his word. And how then can we beautify it? We that are as wretched frogs, crawling here beneath in dung and mire, we that are stained with so many sins and spots, can we do honour to God's word? What for that? God vouchsafeth to call us to such dignity, that when we live holily, his word receiveth honour and estimation by it. Had we but one drop of kindness in us, ought not this to soften our hearts? And thereunto ought it not to kindle an affection and zeal in us? or rather to ravish us wholly to give our selves to goodness? Therefore let us learn, that whereas it is said that GOD is blasphemed through our vices, and his word made subject to the reproach and mockage of the unbelievers: we be worse then guilty, and there is no excuse for us why we should not be condemned. For what shall we answer before the Angels of heaven, when the image of God shall have been so beraied & spit at by reason of us. If it were said to a man, Look well about thee that thou behave thyself honestly, for if thou follow the trade that thou hast begun, thou wilt dishonour thy parents, thou wilt shame thy whole stock: if a man (say I) should hear thus much: although he were very far past grace, yet would he be ashamed, and it would make him say, I will not dishonour my father nor my house. And what are we on our side? But seeing that God hath printed his mark in us, and we know that his glory shineth forth in his word, and that it is the doctrine of salvation: if we be still an occasion that men blear out their tongues at it, & that it be blamed and scoffed at, and men say, it is but a fantastical religion, it is but a fantastical reformation of Asses & horses: if we (say I) be guilty of such reproach done unto God, and of the light esteeming of his image: what shall we say? And therefore seeing that our Lord will have a certain tunableness between the doctrine that he setteth down for us, and our life: let every of us learn to apply himself thereunto, let it be our whole study, and let us labour to fashion ourselves thereafter, according also as we had need to fight by the power of God's Spirit, & not in our own strength. Truly we ought not to give ourselves to naughtiness, though God's word were not preached unto us. But here Saint Paul intendeth to make them ashamed which misbehave themselves, thinking not that their sin is doubled when they give men cause to dishonour God, and to slander his word. If it be despised by reason of us, although there be no witness to reprove us, yet ought it to be sufficient unto us, that nothing is hid from God.
So then, although God's word were not blamed for our sakes: yet ought our consciences to restrain us, and to make us walk uprightly & purely before God. Besides this, we must appear before the Angels of heaven, and things that are now hidden shall be brought to light, so as our dishonesty must be laid open in the sight of heaven and earth. Seeing then that we cannot escape the knowledge of so many judges: Alas, ought it not to be enough to withhold us from giving any occasion of slander against the Gospel? But if the wicked have their mouths still open, and take occasion to scoff at God through our misbehavior: besides that we shall be convicted before God, and our own consciences shall be our judges to condemn us: what will become of us then? Now if we thought well upon these warnings, we should be better restrained then we be. For we see how the enemies of God's truth do nowadays lie watching and spying of us. And if the Papists find any vices in us, by and by they rake abroad all our dung. And to what end? Even to have some apparent colour of railing against God and the true religion. Now then we know it well enough, God setteth us here upon a scaffold, he will have us to be lightsome to the end we may be seen afar off: and yet notwithstanding we forbear not to rush out into all naughtiness, & it seemeth that we be minded to defy God and the world. Although he tell us of it, although he cease not to cry out at us daily for it, and although he send us witnesses of his holy doctrine to ratify it to us: yet we not only make none account of it, but also go about to defame it and to deface it in our whole life, as much as we possibly can. Is it not a detestable traitorousness that the gospel should in these days be had in such reproach through our defaults? not only the Papists seek to rail upon us, but even they that boast of the having of the Gospel, are well appayed when they may find any occasion to scoff at us and to mock us, though it be wrongfully. Forsomuch then as we see ourselves so watched, we ought to be so much the wiser, and better advised. But what? There is nothing that can hold us back: so drunken soothly are we in our fleshly affections. [1165.a.38.]
We see well that men seek nothing else but to gird us: and although there be no cause why, yet do not men cease to speak evil of us. Now then, if we willfully give matter of misspeaking and of backbiting us: is it not all one as if we confederated ourselves with Satan, to make men to lift up themselves against God, and to provoke his ministers, to say that the gospel ought not to be made account of?
This is to be seen commonly, and would God it were not so well known. So much the more then doeth it stand us on hand to mark well this text, where Saint Paul telleth us, that God's doctrine must not be blasphemed through our default: according as he addeth anon after, and I will join that unto this so far forth, as it concerneth the doctrine. For although he mingle and interlace other matters, yet it is best to join them both together. He saith, To the intent that the adversary may be confounded, finding none evil to say of us. As touching the word Adversary, it betokeneth him that is contrary to us. The word that he useth, signifieth one that is set full butt against us, or right over against us: that such an one (saith Saint Paul) may be confounded. And by that word he doeth us, to wit, that it is for our behoof to stand upon our guard. And why? For the enemies of God's truth press upon us, and are always watching to take us in a trip, and to find some fault in us.
It hath been so in all times, and it hath been God's will to sharpen his servants by that mean. For the pagans and unbelievers have had still enough to say, that our enemies do oftentimes profit us more then our friends. And why? For our friends flatter us, they play the blinkards at our vices, they make countenance to see nothing at all, and moreover they maintain us in them, and hold always on our side, though we have an evil cause: and that leadeth us to destruction. Contrariwise our enemies have the skill to examine our vices and to inquire of them, & they frame our indictment for us, and that serves to warn us, that if we have any vice in us, it must be amended.
If we be warned to take heed to ourselves, and the very heathen men teach us so to do, what excuse will there be for us, if we can not put the thing in use which is showed us by all the Apostles? Now then, when as Saint Paul saith, that we shall make our enemies ashamed if they can find not fault in us: he showed that if we mind to serve God it cannot be but that men will mark us, & toot at us to the end to speak evil of us, and by that means will God quicken us up as I said before.
Finally it is certain, that do what we can, we shall never keep ourselves from the misreport of wicked tongues. For we be sure that the devil who is the father of lying, will stir up his ministers continually to such rage as to backbite us. And if the Son of God was not spared, what shall men be, in whom there are always too too many imperfections? If a man compare us with Saint Paul, yea or with the Prophets and Apostles: Alas, we be far off from the soundness that was seen in them. For they were as Angels in this world, and yet men ceased not to rail upon them, so as they were defamed and slandered by it. And what manner a ones were the Apostles? Specially Saint Paul above the rest, who was unblameable even before he was converted unto Jesus Christ: He had led such a life, as he seemed no more to be of the company of men: and when Jesus Christ had called him to his gospel, ye see he did so renounce himself, that he was as good as rapt up from the earth, and ceased not to take pains for the Church.
It appeared that he had no regard of himself, but that he forgat himself and all his own commodities. To be short, he minded nothing but the advancing of God's kingdom, and the magnifying of Jesus Christ. And yet for all that, scaped he without reproach and backbiting? No: but he was fain to be railed at everywhere. For (as he himself saith) he did not only bear injuries and suffer men to rail upon him as a wicked person: but also that he and such like as he was were as the offscourings of the world [I Cor.4.13.], and as the paunches, guts, and filth that is cast away, when men kill beasts. Saint Paul useth such similtudes to show how God humbled him. And therefore it is certain, that do the best we can, we can not stop wicked mouths, but must be subject to many wrongs and reproaches. Nevertheless, let us live in such wise, as we may appeal to God and his Angels for the maintainance of our innocency, and to show that there is no cause of offense in our life. In so doing we shall follow the Apostles and Prophets, and be well accompanied. And in the meanwhile, though our enemies cease not to speak evil of us, yet shall they not fail to be put to the foil. And why? For our own consciences answer for our uprightness, and in the end our foes shall be convicted that they find none evil in us. True it is that they will spew out mischief enough & too much.
Well, that passeth and slippeth away, it is but a brut that men have sown, it must have full scope for a time: but in the end ye see it is but a shadow that passeth and vanisheth away, & that it was but a mockery before. True it is that many men seek nothing else but to bring Christians in slander, & though they known not what is said of them, yet they spread abroad the bruite everywhere, even of the things which they know not, and backbite God's children even of a certain malice & spite. Now since we see this, let us run to our safeguard which is in heaven, and in any wise let our life answer for us, let that serve to daunt the wicked sort, which backbite us so without any shame. And when they open their mouths to speak evil of us, let our good life and conversation so shut them up, as the world may see their dishonesty.
Therefore when the devil stirreth up his underlings in that manner to rail upon us: and to put us to shame, let us look to ourselves that we have wherewith to repulse them: and when the malicious sort shall have sown any evil rumors and slanders of us, let it always return upon their own heads, & let the world perceive that we be innocent. That (say I) is the thing which we must do, yea and we must do it in such sort, as we be not turned from it, no though there be such unkindness in the world, that we be misreported of for our well doing. Surely it will grieve a man, that when he shall have taken pain to do well, he shall have so slender recompense as to be misreported & backbitten for his labour. Howbeit let us always resort to this point, that if men be so froward as to speak evil of us when we do well, it ought to suffice us that we have our warrant in heaven, to whom we many appeal. The Prophets endured such battles as well as we. You can call me a deceiver (saith Jeremiah [20.7.]) then it is GOD that hath deceived me: go talk with him. For if I bee a deceiver and a cousiner, God is so before me.
Again, when Isaiah [50.6.] speaketh of the slanders that were spewed
out against him, well (saith he) I must now hold up my cheeks and be
on both sides. As if he should say, I must have all the reproach in the
world done to me, I must be torn in pieces, I must be a scoffingstock at
all feasts and banquets, and every man must step up to be my judge, and
to condemn me. Well, when men have spewed out all their spite after that
sort, yet have I my warrant in heaven, & he will save me from all
After the same manner must we do: so that if we see wicked men rail upon
us, our own conscience must always answer for us before God, as being pure
and clean from all blame that can be laid upon us: and let us not pass
though the world render us so slender a recompense, as to blame us for
our well doing: but let us be contented that God alloweth of us, and let
us never turn away from him howsoever we speed, but follow still our
to his glory. And when we have profited ourselves by this doctrine, let
us labour to draw other folk to the same, & to the knowledge of the
gospel which God hath given us: and in the mean while let all such as list
to speak evil of us, be put to shame & their mouths stopped spite of