Ver. 22, 24. "Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the
Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head
of the Church: being Himself the Saviour of the body. But as the Church is
subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything."
A certain wise man, setting down a number of things in the rank of blessings,
set down this also in the rank of a blessing, "A wife agreeing with her husband."
(Ecclus. xxv. 1.) And elsewhere again he sets it down among blessings, that
a woman should dwell in harmony with her husband. (Ecclus. xl. 23.) And indeed
from the beginning, God appears to have made special provision for this union;
and discoursing of the twain as one, He said thus, "Male and female created
He them" (Gen. i. 27); and again, "There is neither male nor female." (Gal.
iii. 28.) For there is no relationship between man and man so close as that
between man and wife, if they be joined together as they should be. And therefore
a certain blessed man too, when he would express surpassing love, and was
mourning for one that was dear to him, and of one soul with him, did not
mention father, nor mother, nor child, nor brother, nor friend, but what?
"Thy love to me was wonderful," saith he, "passing the love of women." (2
Sam. i. 26.) For indeed, in very deed, this love is more despotic than any
despotism: for others indeed may be strong, but this passion is not only
strong, but unfading. For there is a certain love deeply seated in our nature,
which imperceptibly to ourselves knits together these bodies of ours. Thus
even from the very beginning woman sprang from man, and afterwards from man
and woman sprang both man and woman. Perceivest thou the close bond and
connection? And how that God suffered not a different kind of nature to enter
in from without? And mark, how many providential arrangements He made. He
permitted the man to marry his own sister; or rather not his sister, but
his daughter; nay, nor yet his daughter, but something more than his daughter,
even his own flesh. And thus the whole He framed from one beginning, gathering
all together, like stones in a building, into one. For neither on the one
hand did He form her from without, and this was that the man might not feel
towards her as towards an alien; nor again did He confine marriage to her,
that she might not, by contracting herself, and making all center in herself,
be cut off from the rest. Thus as in the case of plants, they are of all
others the best, which have but a single stem, and spread out into a number
of branches; (since were all confined to the root alone, all would be to
no purpose, whereas again had it a number of roots, the tree would be no
longer worthy of admiration;) so, I say, is the case here also. From one,
namely Adam, He made the whole race to spring, preventing them by the strongest
necessity from being ever torn asunder, or separated; and afterwards, making
it more restricted, He no longer allowed sisters and daughters to be wives,
lest we should on the other hand contract our love to one point, and thus
in another manner be cut off from one another. Hence Christ said, "He which
made them from the beginning, made them male and female." (Matt. xix. 4.)
For great evils are hence produced, and great benefits, both to families
and to states. For there is nothing which so welds our life together as the
love of man and wife. For this many will lay aside even their arms, for this
they will give up life itself. And Paul would never without a reason and
without an object have spent so much pains on this subject, as when he says
here, "Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord."
And why so? Because when they are in harmony, the children are well brought
up, and the domestics are in good order, and neighbors, and friends, and
relations enjoy the fragrance. But if it be otherwise, all is turned upside
down, and thrown into confusion. And just as when the generals of an army
are at peace one with another, all things are in due subordination, whereas
on the other hand, if they are at variance, everything is turned upside down;
so, I say, is it also here. Wherefore, saith he, "Wives, be in subjection
unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord."
Yet how strange! for how then is it, that it is said elsewhere, "If one bid
not farewell both to wife and to husband, he cannot follow me"? (Luke xiv.
26.) For if it is their duty to be in subjection "as unto the Lord," how
saith He that they must depart from them for the Lord's sake? Yet their duty
indeed it is, their bounden duty. But the word "as" is not necessarily and
universally expressive of exact equality. He either means this, " 'as' knowing
that ye are servants to the Lord"; (which, by the way, is what he says elsewhere,
that, even though they do it not for the husband's sake, yet must they primarily
for the Lord's sake;) or else he means, "when thou obeyest thy husband, do
so as serving the Lord." For if he who resisteth these external authorities,
those of governments, I mean, "withstandeth the ordinance of God" (Rom. xiii.
2), much more does she who submits not herself to her husband. Such was God's
will from the beginning.
Let us take as our fundamental position then that the husband occupies the
place of the "head," and the wife the place of the "body."
Ver. 23, 24. Then, he proceeds with arguments and says that "the husband
is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the Church, being
Himself the Saviour of the body. But as the Church is subject to Christ,
so let the wives be to their husbands in everything."
Then after saying, "The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is
of the Church," he further adds, "and He is the Saviour of the body." For
indeed the head is the saving health of the body. He had already laid down
beforehand for man and wife, the ground and provision of their love, assigning
to each their proper place, to the one that of authority and forethought,
to the other that of submission. As then "the Church," that is, both husbands
and wives, "is subject unto Christ, so also ye wives submit yourselves to
your husbands, as unto God."
Ver. 25. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church."
Thou hast heard how great the submission; thou hast extolled and marvelled
at Paul, how, like an admirable and spiritual man, he welds together our
whole life. Thou didst well. But now hear what he also requires at thy hands;
for again he employs the same example.
"Husbands," saith he, "love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church."
Thou hast seen the measure of obedience, hear also the measure of love. Wouldest
thou have thy wife obedient unto thee, as the Church is to Christ? Take then
thyself the same provident care for her, as Christ takes for the Church.
Yea, even if it shall be needful for thee to give thy life for her, yea,
and to be cut into pieces ten thousand times, yea, and to endure and undergo
any suffering whatever,--refuse it not. Though thou shouldest undergo all
this, yet wilt thou not, no, not even then, have done anything like Christ.
For thou indeed art doing it for one to whom thou art already knit; but He
for one who turned her back on Him and hated Him. In the same way then as
He laid at His feet her who turned her back on Him, who hated, and spurned,
and disdained Him, not by menaces, nor by violence, nor by terror, nor by
anything else of the kind, but by his unwearied affection; so also do thou
behave thyself toward thy wife. Yea, though thou see her looking down upon
thee, and disdaining, and scorning thee, yet by thy great thoughtfulness
for her, by affection, by kindness, thou wilt be able to lay her at thy feet.
For there is nothing more powerful to sway than these bonds, and especially
for husband and wife. A servant, indeed, one will be able, perhaps, to bind
down by fear; nay not even him, for he will soon start away and be gone.
But the partner of one's life, the mother of one's children, the foundation
of one's every joy, one ought never to chain down by fear and menaces, but
with love and good temper. For what sort of union is that, where the wife
trembles at her husband? And what sort of pleasure will the husband himself
enjoy, if he dwells with his wife as with a slave, and not as with a free-woman?
Yea, though thou shouldest suffer anything on her account, do not upbraid
her; for neither did Christ do this.
Ver. 26. "And gave Himself up," he says, "for it, that He might sanctify
and cleanse it."
So then she was unclean! So then she had blemishes, so then she was unsightly,
so then she was worthless! Whatsoever kind of wife thou shalt take, yet shalt
thou never take such a bride as the Church, when Christ took her, nor one
so far removed from thee as the Church was from Christ, And yet for all that,
He did not abhor her, nor loathe her for her surpassing deformity. Wouldest
thou hear her deformity described? Hear what Paul saith, "For ye were once
darkness." (Eph. v. 8.) Didst thou see the blackness of her hue? What blacker
than darkness? But look again at her boldness, "living," saith he, "in malice
and envy." (Tit. iii. 3.) Look again at her impurity; "disobedient, foolish."
But what am I saying? She was both foolish, and of an evil tongue; and yet
notwithstanding, though so many were her blemishes, yet did He give Himself
up for her in her deformity, as for one in the bloom of youth, as for one
dearly be loved, as for one of wonderful beauty. And it was in admiration
of this that Paul said, "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die (Rom.
v. 7); and again, "in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
(Rom. v. 8.) And though such as this, He took her, He arrayed her in beauty,
and washed her, and refused not even this, to give Himself for her.
Ver. 26, 27. "That He might sanctify it having cleansed it," he proceeds,
"by the washing of water with the word; that He might present the Church
to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,
but that it should be holy and without blemish."
"By the washing or layer" He washeth her uncleanness. "By the word," saith
he. What word? "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost." (Matt. xxviii. 19.) And not simply hath He adorned her, but hath
made her "glorious, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." Let
us then also seek after this beauty ourselves, and we shall be able to create
it. Seek not thou at thy wife's hand, things which she is not able to possess.
Seest thou that the Church had all things at her Lord's hands? By Him was
made glorious, by Him was made pure, by Him made without blemish? Turn not
thy back on thy wife because of her deformity. Hear the Scripture that saith,
"The bee is little among such as fly, but her fruit is the chief of sweet
things." (Ecclus. xi. 3.) She is of God's fashioning. Thou reproachest not
her, but Him that made her; what can the woman do? Praise her not for her
beauty. Praise and hatred and love based on personal beauty belong to unchastened
souls. Seek thou for beauty of soul. Imitate the Bridegroom of the Church.
Outward beauty is full of conceit and great license, and throws men into
jealousy, and the thing often makes thee suspect monstrous things. But has
it any pleasure? For the first or second month, perhaps, or at most for the
year: but then no longer; the admiration by familiarity wastes away. Meanwhile
the evils which arose from the beauty still abide, the pride, the folly,
Whereas in one who is not such, there is nothing of this kind. But the love
having begun on just grounds, still continues ardent, since its object is
beauty of soul, and not of body. What better, tell me, than heaven? What
better than the stars? Tell me of what body you will, yet is there none so
fair. Tell me of what eyes you will, yet are there none so sparkling. When
these were created, the very Angels gazed with wonder, and we gaze with wonder
now; yet not in the same degree as at first. Such is familiarity; things
do not strike us in the same degree. How much more in the case of a wife!
And if moreover disease come too, all is at once fled. Let us seek in a wife
affectionateness, modest-mindedness, gentleness; these are the characteristics
of beauty. But loveliness of person let us not seek, nor upbraid her upon
these points, over which she has no power, nay, rather, let us not upbraid
at all (it were rudeness), nor let us be impatient, nor sullen. Do ye not
see how many, after living with beautiful wives, have ended their lives pitiably,
and how many, who have lived with those of no great beauty, have run on to
extreme old age with great enjoyment. Let us wipe off the "spot" that is
within, let us smooth the "wrinkles" that are within, let us do away the
"blemishes" that are on the soul. Such is the beauty God requires. Let us
make her fair in God's sight, not in our own. Let us not look for wealth,
nor for that high-birth which is outward, but for that true nobility which
is in the soul. Let no one endure to get rich by a wife; for such riches
are base and disgraceful; no, by no means let any one seek to get rich from
"For they that desire to be rich, fall into a temptation and a snare, and
many foolish and hurtful lusts, and into destruction and perdition." (1 Tim.
vi. 9.) Seek not therefore in thy wife abundance of wealth, and thou shall
find everything else go well. Who, tell me, would overlook the most important
things, to attend to those which are less so? And yet, alas! this is in every
case our feeling. Yes, if we have a son, we concern ourselves not how he
may be made virtuous, but how we may get him a rich wife; not how he may
be well-mannered, but well-monied: if we follow a business, we enquire not
how it may be clear of sin, but how it may bring us in most profit. And
everything has become money; and thus is everything corrupted and ruined,
because that passion possesses us.
Ver. 28. "Even so ought husbands to love their own wives," saith he, "as
their own bodies."
What, again, means this? To how much greater a similitude, and stronger example
has he come; and not only so, but also to one how much nearer and clearer,
and to a fresh obligation. For that other one was of no very constraining
force, for He was Christ, and was God, and gave Himself. He now manages his
argument on a different ground, saying, "so ought men "; because the thing
is not a favor, but a debt. Then, "as their own bodies." And why?
Ver. 29. "For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth
That is, tends it with exceeding care. And how is she his flesh? Hearken;
"This now is bone of my bones," saith Adam, "and flesh of my flesh." (Gen.
ii. 23.) For she is made of matter taken from us. And not only so, but also,
"they shall be," saith God, "one flesh." (Gen. ii. 24.)
"Even as Christ also the Church." Here he returns to the former example.
Ver. 30. "Because we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones."
Ver. 31. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall
cleave to his wife, and the twain shall become one flesh."
Behold again a third ground of obligation; for he shows that a man leaving
them that begat him, and from whom he was born, is knit to his wife; and
that then the one flesh is, father, and mother, and the child, from the substance
of the two commingled. For indeed by the commingling of their seeds is the
child produced, so that the three are one flesh. Thus then are we in relation
to Christ; we become one flesh by participation, and we much more than the
child. And why and how so? Because so it has been from the beginning.
Tell me not that such and such things are so. Seest thou not that we have
in our own flesh itself many defects? For one man, for instance, is lame,
another has his feet distorted, another his hands withered, another some
other member weak; and yet nevertheless he does not grieve at it, nor cut
it off, but oftentimes prefers it even to the other. Naturally enough; for
it is part of himself. As great love as each entertains towards himself,
so great he would have us entertain towards a wife. Not because we partake
of the same nature; no, this ground of duty towards a wife is far greater
than that; it is that there are not two bodies but one; he the head, she
the body. And how saith he elsewhere "and the Head of Christ is God "? (1
Cor. xi. 3.) This I too say, that as we are one body, so also are Christ
and the Father One. And thus then is the Father also found to be our Head.
He sets down two examples, that of the natural body and that of Christ's
body. And hence he further adds, Ver. 32. "This is great mystery: but I speak
in regard of Christ and of the Church."
Why does he call it a great mystery? That it was something great and wonderful,
the blessed Moses, or rather God, intimated. For the present, however, saith
he, I speak regarding Christ, that having left the Father, He came down,
and came to the Bride, and became one Spirit. "For he that is joined unto
the Lord is one Spirit." (1 Cor. vi. 17.) And well saith he, "it is a great
mystery." And then as though he were saying, "But still nevertheless the
allegory does not destroy affection," he adds, Ver. 33. "Nevertheless do
ye also severally love each one his own wife even as himself; and let the
wife see that she fear her husband."
For indeed, in very deed, a mystery it is, yea, a great mystery, that a man
should leave him that gave him being, him that begat him, and that brought
him up, and her that travailed with him and had sorrow, those that have bestowed
upon him so many and great benefits, those with whom he has been in familiar
intercourse, and be joined to one who was never even seen by him and who
has nothing in common with him, and should honor her before all others. A
mystery it is indeed. And yet are parents not distressed when these events
take place, but rather, when they do not take place; and are delighted when
their wealth is spent and lavished upon it.--A great mystery indeed! and
one that contains some hidden wisdom. Such Moses prophetically showed it
to be from the very first; such now also Paul proclaims it, where he saith,
"concerning Christ and the Church."
However not for the husband's sake alone it is thus said, but for the wife's
sake also, that "he cherish her as his own flesh, as Christ also the Church,"
and, "that the wife fear her husband." He is no longer setting down the duties
of love only, but what? "That she fear her husband." The wife is a second
authority; let not her then demand equality, for. she is under the head;
nor let him despise her as being in subjection, for she is the body; and
if the head despise the body, it will itself also perish. But let him bring
in love on his part as a counterpoise to obedience on her part. For example,
let the hands and the feet, and all the rest of the members be given up for
service to the head, but let the head provide for the body, seeing it contains
every sense in itself. Nothing can be better than this union.
And yet how can there ever be love, one may say, where there is fear? It
will exist there, I say, preeminently. For she that fears and reverences,
loves also; and she that loves, fears and reverences him as being the head,
and loves him as being a member, since the head itself is a member of the
body at large. Hence he places the one in subjection, and the other in authority,
that there may be peace; for where there is equal authority there can never
be peace; neither where a house is a democracy, nor where all are rulers;
but the ruling power must of necessity be one. And this is universally the
case with matters referring to the body, inasmuch as when men are spiritual,
there will be peace. There were "five thousand souls," and not one of them
said, "that aught of the things which he possessed was his own" (Acts iv.
32), but they were subject one to another; an indication this of wisdom,
and of the fear of God. The principle of love, however, he explains; that
of fear he does not. And mark, how on that of love he enlarges, stating the
arguments relating to Christ and those relating to one's own flesh, the words,"
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother." (Ver. 31.) Whereas
upon those drawn from fear he forbears to enlarge. And why so? Because he
would rather that this principle prevail, this, namely, of love; for where
this exists, everything else follows of course, but where the other exists,
not necessarily. For the man who loves his wife, even though she be not a
very obedient one, still will bear with everything. So difficult and
impracticable is unanimity, where persons are not bound together by that
love which is founder in supreme authority; at all events, fear will not
necessarily effect this. Accordingly, he dwells the more upon this, which
is the strong tie. And the wife though seeming to be the loser in that she
was charged to fear, is the gainer, because the principal duty, love, is
charged upon the husband. "But what," one may say, "if a wife reverence me
not?" Never mind, thou art to love, fulfill thine own duty. For though that
which is due from others may not follow, we ought of course to do our duty.
This is an example of what I mean. He says, "submitting yourselves one to
another in the fear of Christ." And what then if another submit not himself?
Still obey thou the law of God. Just so, I say, is it also here. Let the
wife at least, though she be not loved, still reverence notwithstanding,
that nothing may lie at her door; and let the husband, though his wife reverence
him not, still show her love notwithstanding, that he himself be not wanting
in any point. For each has received his own.
This then is marriage when it takes place according to Christ, spiritual
marriage, and spiritual birth, not of blood, nor of travail, nor of the will
of the flesh. Such was the birth of Christ, not of blood, nor of travail.
Such also was that of Isaac. Hear how the Scripture saith, "And it ceased
to be with Sarah after the manner of women." (Gen. xviii. 11.) Yea, a marriage
it is, not of passion, nor of the flesh, but wholly spiritual, the soul being
united to God by a union unspeakable, and which He alone knoweth. Therefore
he saith, "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." (1 Cor. vi. 17.)
Mark how earnestly he endeavors to unite both flesh with flesh, and spirit
with spirit. And where are the heretics? Never surely, if marriage were a
thing to be condemned, would he have called Christ and the Church a bride
and bridegroom; never would he have brought forward by way of exhortation
the words, "A man shall leave his father and his mother "; and again have
added, that it was "spoken in regard of Christ and of the Church." For of
her it is that the Psalmist also saith, "Hearken, O daughter, and consider,
and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house.
So shall the king desire thy beauty." (Ps. xlv. 10, 11.) Therefore also Christ
saith, "I came out from the Father, and am come." (John xvi. 28.) But when
I say, that He left the Father, imagine not such a thing as happens among
men, a change of place; for just in the same way as the word "go forth" is
used, not because He literally came forth, but because of His incarnation,
so also is the expression, "He left the Father."
Now why did he not say of the wife also, She shall be joined unto her husband?
Why, I say, is this? Because he was discoursing concerning love, and was
discoursing to the husband. For to her indeed be discourses concerning reverence,
and says, "the husband is the head of the wife" (ver. 23), and again, "Christ
is the Head of the Church." Whereas to him he discourses concerning love,
and commits to him this province of love, and declares to him that which
pertains to love, thus binding him and cementing him to her. For the man
that leaves his father for the sake of his wife, and then again, leaves this
very wife herself and abandons her, what forbearance can he deserve?
Seest thou not how great a share of honor God would have her enjoy, in that
he hath taken thee away from thy father, and hath linked thee to her? What
then, a man may say, if our duty is done, and yet she does not follow the
example? "Yet if the unbelieving departeth, let him depart; the brother or
the sister is not under bondage in such cases." (1 Cor. vii. 15.)
However, when thou hearest of "fear," demand that fear which becomes a free
woman, not as though thou wert exacting it of a slave. For she is thine own
body; and if thou do this, thou reproachest thyself in dishonoring thine
own body. And of what nature is this "fear"? It is the not contradicting,
the not rebelling, the not being fond of the pre minence. It is enough that
fear be kept within these bounds. But if thou love, as thou art commanded,
thou wilt make it yet greater. Or rather it will not be any longer by fear
that thou wilt be doing this, but love itself will have its effect. The sex
is somehow weaker, and needs much support, much condescension.
But what will they say, who are knit together in second marriages? I speak
not at all in condemnation of them, God forbid; for the Apostle himself permits
them, though indeed by way of condescension.
Supply her with everything. Do everything and endure trouble for her sake.
Necessity is laid upon thee.
Here he does not think it right to introduce his counsel, as he in many cases
does, with examples from them that are without. That of Christ, so great
and forcible, were alone enough; and more especially as regards the argument
of subjection. "A man shall leave," he saith, "his father and mother." Behold,
this then is from without. But he does not say, and "shall dwell with," but
"shall cleave unto," thus showing the closeness of the union, and the fervent
love. Nay, he is not content with this, but further by what he adds, he explains
the subjection in such a way as that the twain appear no longer twain. He
does not say, "one spirit," he does not say, "one soul" (for that is manifest,
and is possible to any one), but so as to be "one flesh." She is a second
authority, possessing indeed an authority, and a considerable equality of
dignity; but at the same time the husband has somewhat of superiority. In
this consists most chiefly the well-being of the house. For he took that
former argument, the example of Christ, to show that we ought not only to
love, but also to govern; "that she may be," saith he, "holy and without
blemish." But the word "flesh" has reference to love--and the word "shall
cleave" has in like manner reference to love. For if thou shalt make her
"holy and without blemish," everything else will follow. Seek the things
which are of God, and those which are of man will follow readily enough.
Govern thy wife, and thus will the whole house be in harmony. Hear what Paul
saith. "And if they would learn any thing, let them ask their own husbands
at home." (1 Cor. xiv. 35.) If we thus regulate our own houses, we shall
be also fit for the management of the Church. For indeed a house is a little
Church. Thus it is possible for us by becoming good husbands and wives, to
surpass all others.
Consider Abraham, and Sarah, and Isaac, and the three hundred and eighteen
born in his house. (Gen. xiv. 14.) How the whole house was harmoniously knit
together, how the whole was full of piety and fulfilled the Apostolic injunction.
She also "reverenced her husband"; for hear her own words, "It hath not yet
happened unto me even until now, and my lord is old also." (Gen. xviii. 12.)
And he again so loved her, that in all things he obeyed her commands. And
the young child was virtuous, and the servants born in the house, they too
were so excellent that they refused not even to hazard their lives with their
master; they delayed not, nor asked the reason. Nay, one of them, the chief,
was so admirable, that he was even entrusted with the marriage of the
only-begotten child, and with a journey into a foreign country. (Gen. xxiv.
1-67.) For just as with a general, when his soldiery also is well organized,
the enemy has no quarter to attack; so, I say, is it also here: when husband
and wife and children and servants are all interested in the same things,
great is the harmony of the house. Since where this is not the case, the
whole is oftentimes overthrown and broken up by one bad servant; and that
single one will often mar and utterly destroy the whole.
MORAL. Let us then be very thoughtful both for our wives, and children, and
servants; knowing that we shall thus be establishing for ourselves an easy
government, and shall have our accounts with them gentle and lenient, and
say, "Behold I, and the children which God hath given me." (Isa. viii. 18.)
If the husband command respect, and the head be honorable, then will the
rest of the body sustain no violence. Now what is the wife's fitting behavior,
and what the husband's, he states accurately, charging her to reverence him
as the head, and him to love her as a wife; but how, it may be said, can
these things be? That they ought indeed so to be, he has proved. But how
they can be so, I will tell you. They will be so, if we will despise money,
if we will look but to one thing only, excellence of soul, if we will keep
the fear of God before our eyes. For what he says in his discourse to servants,
"whatsoever any man doeth, whether it be good or evil, the same shall he
receive of the Lord"
(Eph. vi. 8); this is also the case here. Love her therefore not for her
sake so much as for Christ's sake. This, at least, he as much as intimates,
in saying, "as unto the Lord." So then do everything, as in obedience to
the Lord, and as doing everything for His sake. This were enough to induce
and to persuade us, and not to suffer that there should be any teasing and
dissension. Let none be believed when slandering the husband to his wife;
no, nor let the husband believe anything at random against the wife, nor
let the wife be without reason inquisitive about his goings out and his comings
in. No, nor on any account let the husband ever render himself worthy of
any suspicion whatever. For what, tell me, what if thou shall devote thyself
all the day to thy friends, and give the evening to thy wife, and not even
thus be able to content her, and place her out of reach of suspicion?
Though thy wife complain, yet be not annoyed--it is her love, not her folly--they
are the complaints of fervent attachment, and burning affection, and fear.
Yes, she is afraid lest any one have stolen her marriage bed, lest any one
have injured her in that which is the summit of her blessings, lest any one
have taken away from her him who is her head, lest any one have broken through
her marriage chamber.
There is also another ground of petty jealousy. Let neither claim too much
service of the servants, neither the husband from the maid-servant, nor the
wife from the man-servant. For these things also are enough to beget suspicion.
For consider, I say, that righteous household I spoke of. Sarah herself bade
the patriarch take Hagar. She herself directed it, no one compelled her,
nor did the husband attempt it; no, although he had dragged on so long a
period childless, yet he chose never to become a father, rather than to grieve
his wife. And yet even after all this, what said Sarah? "The Lord judge between
me and thee." (Gen. xvi. 5.) Now, I say, had he been any one else would he
not have been moved to anger? Would he not also have stretched forth his
hand, saying as it were, "What meanest thou? I had no desire to have anything
to do with the woman; it was all thine own doing; and dost thou turn again
and accuse me?"--But no, he says nothing of the sort;--but what? "Behold,
thy maid is in thy hand; do to her that which is good in thine eyes." (Gen.
xvi. 6.) He delivered up the partner of his bed, that he might not grieve
Sarah. And yet surely is there nothing greater than this for producing affection.
For if partaking of the same table produces unanimity even in robbers towards
their foes, (and the Psalmist saith, "Who didst eat sweet food at the same
table with me"); much more will the becoming one flesh--for such is the being
the partner of the bed--be effectual to draw us together. Yet did none of
these things avail to overcome him; but he delivered Hagar up to his wife,
to show that nothing had been done by his own fault. Nay, and what is more,
he sent her forth when with child. Who would not have pitied one that had
conceived a child by himself? Yet was the just man unmoved, for he set before
everything else the love he owed his wife.
Let us then imitate him ourselves. Let no one reproach his neighbor with
his poverty; let no one be in love with money; and then all difficulties
will be at an end.
Neither let a wife say to her husband, "Unmanly coward that thou art, full
of sluggishness and dullness, and fast asleep! here is such a one, a low
man, and of low parentage, who runs his risks, and makes his voyages, and
has made a good fortune; and his wife wears her jewels, and goes out with
her pair of milk-white mules; she rides about everywhere, she has troops
of slaves, and a swarm of eunuchs, but thou hast cowered down and livest
to no purpose." Let not a wife say these things, nor anything like them.
For she is the body, not to dictate to the head, but to submit herself and
obey. "But how," some one will say, "is she to endure poverty? Where is she
to look for consolation?" Let her select and put beside her those who are
poorer still. Let her again consider how many noble and high-born maidens
have not only received nothing of their husbands, but have even given dowries
to them, and have spent their all upon them. Let her reflect on the perils
which arise from such riches, and she will cling to this quiet life. In short,
if she is affectionately disposed towards her husband, she will utter nothing
of the sort. No, she will rather choose to have him near her, though gaining
nothing, than gaining ten thousand talents of gold, accompanied with that
care and anxiety which always arise to wives from those distant voyages.
Neither, however, let the husband, when he hears these things, on the score
of his having the supreme authority, betake himself to revilings and to blows;
but let him exhort, let him admonish her, as being less perfect, let him
persuade her with arguments. Let him never once lift his hand,--far be this
from a noble spirit,--no, nor give expression to insults, or taunts, or
revilings; but let him regulate and direct her as being wanting in wisdom.
Yet how shall this be done? If she be instructed in the true riches, in the
heavenly philosophy, she will make no complaints like these. Let him teach
her then, that poverty is no evil. Let him teach her, not by what he says
only, but also by what he does. Let him teach her to despise glory; and then
his wife will speak of nothing, and will desire nothing of the kind. Let
him, as if he had an image given into his hands to mould, let him, from that
very evening on which he first receives her into the bridal chamber, teach
her temperance, gentleness, and how to live, casting down the love of money
at once from the outset, and from the very threshold. Let him discipline
her in wisdom, and advise her never to have bits of gold hanging at her ears,
and down her cheeks, and laid round about her neck, nor laid up about the
chamber, nor golden and costly garments stored up. But let her chamber be
handsome, still let not what is handsome degenerate into finery. No, leave
these things to the people of the stage. Adorn thine house thyself with all
possible neatness, so as rather to breathe an air of soberness than much
perfume. For hence will arise two or three good results. First then, the
bride will not be grieved, when the apartments are opened, and the tissues,
and the golden ornaments, and silver vessels, are sent back to their several
owners. Next, the bridegroom will have no anxiety about the loss, nor for
the security of the accumulated treasures. Thirdly again, in addition to
this, which is the crown of all these benefits, by these very points he will
be showing his own judgment, that indeed he has no pleasure in any of these
things, and that he will moreover put an end to everything else in keeping
with them, and will never so much as allow the existence either of dances,
or of immodest songs. I am aware that I shall appear perhaps ridiculous to
many persons, in giving such admonitions. Still nevertheless, if ye will
but listen to me, as time goes on, and the benefit of the practice accrues
to you, then ye will understand the advantage of it. And the laughter will
pass off, and ye will laugh at the present fashion, and will see that the
present practice is really that of silly children and of drunken men. Whereas
what I recommend is the part of soberness, and wisdom, and of the sublimest
way of life. What then do I say is our duty? Take away from marriage all
those shameful, those Satanic, those immodest songs, those companies of
profligate young people, and this will avail to chasten the spirit of thy
bride. For she will at once thus reason with herself; "Wonderful! What a
philosopher this man is! he regards the present life as nothing, he has brought
me here into his house, to be a mother, to bring up his children, to manage
his household affairs." "Yes, but these things are distasteful to a bride?"
Just for the first or second day;--but not afterwards; nay, she will even
reap from them the greatest delight, and relieve herself of all suspicion.
For a man who can endure neither flute-players, nor dancers, nor broken songs,
and that too at the very time of his wedding, that man will scarcely endure
ever to do or say anything shameful. And then after this, when thou hast
stripped the marriage of all these things, then take her, and form and mould
her carefully, encouraging her bashfulness to a considerable length of time,
and not destroying it suddenly. For even if the damsel be very bold, yet
for a time she will keep silence out of reverence for her husband, and feeling
herself a novice in the circumstances. Thou then break not off this reserve
too hastily, as unchaste husbands do, but encourage it for a long time. For
this will be a great advantage to thee. Meanwhile she will not complain,
she will not find fault with any laws thou mayest frame for her. During that
time therefore, during which shame, like a sort of bridle laid upon the soul,
suffers her not to make any murmur, nor to complain of what is done, lay
down all thy laws.
For as soon as ever she acquires boldness, she will overturn and confound
everything without any sense of fear. When is there then another time so
advantageous for moulding a wife, as that during which she reverences her
husband, and is still timid, and still shy? Then lay down all thy laws for
her, and willing or unwilling, she will certainly obey them. But how shalt
thou help spoiling her modesty? By showing her that thou thyself art no less
modest than she is, addressing to her but few words, and those too with great
gravity and collectedness. Then entrust her with the discourses of wisdom,
for her soul will receive them. And establish her in that loveliest habit,
I mean modesty. If you wish me, I will also tell you by way of specimen,
what sort of language should be addressed to her. For if Paul shrank not
from saying, "Defraud ye not one the other" (2 Cor. vii. 5), and spoke the
language of a bridesmaid, or rather not of a bridesmaid, but of a spiritual
soul, much more will not we shrink from speaking. What then is the language
we ought to address to her? With great delicacy then we may say to her, "I
have taken thee, my child, to be partner of my life, and have brought thee
in to share with me in the closest and most honorable ties, in my children,
and the superintendence of my house. And what advice then shall I now recommend
But rather, first talk with her of your love for her; for there is nothing
that so contributes to persuade a hearer to admit sincerely the things that
are said, as to be assured that they are said with hearty affection. How
then art thou to show that affection? By saying, "when it was in my power
to take many to wife, both with better fortunes, and of noble family, I did
not so choose, but I was enamoured of thee, and thy beautiful life, thy modesty,
thy gentleness, and soberness of mind." Then immediately from these beginnings
open the way to your discourse on true wisdom, and with some circumlocution
make a protest against riches. For if you direct your argument at once against
riches, you will bear too heavily upon her; but if you do it by taking an
occasion, you will succeed entirely. For you will appear to be doing it in
the way of an apology, not as a morose sort of person, and ungracious, and
over-nice about trifles. But when you take occasion from what relates to
herself, she will be even pleased. You will say then, (for I must now take
up the discourse again,) that "whereas I might have married a rich woman,
and with good fortune, I could not endure it. And why so? Not capriciously,
and without reason; but I was taught well and truly, that money is no real
possession, but a most despicable thing, a thing which moreover belongs as
well to thieves, and to harlots, and to grave-robbers. So I gave up these
things, and went on till I fell in with the excellence of thy soul, which
I value above all gold. For a young damsel who is discreet and ingenuous,
and whose heart is set on piety, is worth the whole world. For these reasons
then, I courted thee, and I love thee, and prefer thee to my own soul. For
the present life is nothing. And I pray, and beseech, and do all I can, that
we may be counted worthy so to live this present life, as that we may be
able also there in the world to come to be united to one another in perfect
security. For our time here is brief and fleeting. But if we shall be counted
worthy by having pleased God to so exchange this life for that one, then
shall we ever be both with Christ and with each other, with more abundant
pleasure. I value thy affection above all things, and nothing is so bitter
or so painful to me, as ever to be at variance with thee. Yes, though it
should be my lot to lose my all, and to become poorer than Irus, and undergo
the extremest hazards, and suffer any pain whatsoever, all will be tolerable
and endurable, so long as thy feelings are true towards me. And then will
my children be most dear to me, whilst thou art affectionately disposed towards
me. But thou must do these duties too." Then mingle also with your discourse
the Apostle's words, that "thus God would have our affections blended together;
for listen to the Scripture, which saith, 'For this cause shall a man leave
his father and mother, and cleave to his wife.' Let us have no pretext for
narrow-minded jealousy. Perish riches, and retinue of slaves, and all your
outward pomps. To me this is more valuable than all." What weight of gold,
what amount of treasures, are so dear to a wife as these words? Never fear
that because she is beloved she will ever rave against thee, but confess
that thou lovest her. For courtezans indeed, who now attach themselves to
one and now to another, would naturally enough feel contempt towards their
lovers, should they hear such expressions as these; but a free-born wife
or a noble damsel would never be so affected with such words; no, she will
be so much the more subdued. Show her too, that you set a high value on her
company, and that you are more desirous to be at home for her sake, than
in the market-place. And esteem her before all your friends, and above the
children that are born of her, and let these very children be beloved by
thee for her sake. If she does any good act, praise and admire it; if any
foolish one, and such as girls may chance to do, advise her and remind her.
Condemn out and out all riches and extravagance, and gently point out the
ornament that there is in neatness and in modesty; and be continually teaching
her the things that are profitable.
Let your prayers be common. Let each go to Church; and let the husband ask
his wife at home, and she again ask her husband, the account of the things
which were said and read there. If any poverty should overtake you, cite
the case of those holy men, Paul and Peter, who were more honored than any
kings or rich men; and yet how they spent their lives, in hunger and in thirst.
Teach her that there is nothing in life that is to be feared, save only offending
against God. If any marry thus, with these views, he will be but little inferior
to monks; the married but little below the unmarried.
If thou hast a mind to give dinners, and to make entertainments, let there
be nothing immodest, nothing disorderly. If thou shouldest find any poor
saint able to bless your house, able only just by setting his foot in it
to bring in the whole blessing of God, invite him. And shalt I say moreover
another thing? Let no one of you make it his endeavor to marry a rich woman,
but much rather a poor one. When she comes in, she will not bring so great
a source of pleasure from her riches, as she will annoyance from her taunts,
from her demanding more than she brought, from her insolence, her extravagance,
her vexatious language. For she will say perhaps, "I have not yet spent anything
of thine, I am still wearing my own apparel, bought with what my parents
settled upon me." What sayest thou, O woman? Still wearing thine own! And
what can be more miserable than this language? Why, thou hast no longer a
body of thine own, and hast thou money of thine own? After marriage ye are
no longer twain, but are become one flesh, and are then your possessions
twain, and not one? Oh! this love of money! Ye both are become one man, one
living creature; and dost thou still say "mine own"? Cursed and abominable
word that it is, it was brought in by the devil. Things far nearer and dearer
to us than these hath God made all common to us, and are these then not common?
We cannot say, "my own light, my own sun, my own water": all our greater
blessings are common, and are riches not common? Perish the riches ten thousand
times over! Or rather not the riches, but those tempers of mind which know
not how to make use of riches, but esteem them above all things.
Teach her these lessons also with the rest, but with much graciousness. For
since the recommendation of virtue has in itself much that is stern, and
especially to a young and tender damsel, whenever discourses on true wisdom
are to be made, contrive that your manner be full of grace and kindness.
And above all banish this notion from her soul, of "mine and thine." If she
say the word "mine," say unto her, "What things dost thou call thine? For
in truth I know not; I for my part have nothing of mine own. How then speakest
thou of 'mine,' when all things are thine?" Freely grant her the word. Dost
thou not perceive that such is our practice with children? When, whilst we
are holding anything, a child snatches it, and wishes again to get hold of
some other thing, we allow it, and say, "Yes, and this is thine, and that
is thine." The same also let us do with a wife; for her temper is more or
less like a child's; and if she says "mine," say, "why, everything is thine,
and I am thine." Nor is the expression one of flattery, but of exceeding
wisdom. Thus wilt thou be able to abate her wrath, and put an end to her
disappointment. For it is flattery when a man does an unworthy act with an
evil object: whereas this is the highest philosophy. Say then, "Even I am
thine, my child; this advice Paul gives me where he says, ' The husband hath
not power over his own body, but the wife.' (1 Cor. vii. 4.) If I have no
power over my body, but thou hast, much more hast thou over my possessions."
By saying these things thou wilt have quieted her, thou wilt have quenched
the fire, thou wilt have shamed the devil, thou wilt have made her more thy
slave than one bought with money, with this language thou wilt have bound
her fast. Thus then, by thine own language, teach her never to speak of "mine
and thine." And again, never call her simply by her name, but with terms
of endearment, with honor, with much love. Honor her, and she will not need
honor from others; she will not want the glory that comes from others, if
she enjoys that which comes from thee. Prefer her before all, on every account,
both for her beauty and her discernment, and praise her. Thou wilt thus persuade
her to give heed to none that are without, but to scorn all the world except
thyself. Teach her the fear of God, and all good things will flow from this
as from a fountain, and the house will be full of ten thousand blessings.
If we seek the things that are incorruptible, these corruptible things will
follow. "For," saith He, "seek first His kingdom, and all these things shall
be added unto you." (Matt. vi. 33.) What sort of persons, think you, must
the children of such parents be? What the servants of such masters? What
all others who come near them? Will not they too eventually be loaded with
blessings out of number? For generally the servants also have their characters
formed after their master's, and are fashioned after their humors, love the
same objects, which they have been taught to love, speak the same language,
and engage with them in the same pursuits. If thus we regulate ourselves,
and attentively study the Scriptures, in most things we shall derive instruction
from them. And thus shall be able to please God, and to pass through the
whole of the present life virtuously, and to attain those blessings which
are promised to those that love Him, of which God grant that we may all be
counted worthy, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ,
with Whom, together with the Holy Ghost, be unto the Father, glory, power,
and honor, now, and ever, through all ages. Amen.