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Solomone. Abigail took better care of Nabal's house than he did himself. They that have a joint interest, and are one flesh, must have a joint part in government; although their
power be not equal, and one may better oversee some business, and the other, other business; yet in their places they must divide the care, and help each other; and not as it is with many wicked persons, who are the most unruly part of the family themselves, and the chiefest cause that it is ungoverned and ungodly, or one party hindereth the other from keeping order, or doing any good.
Direct. xi. ‘Another part of their duty is, to help each other in works of charity and hospitality f.' While they have opportunity to do good to all, but especially to them of the household of faith ; and to sow to the Spirit, that of the Spirit they may reap everlasting life: yea, to sow plentifully that they may reap plentifully, that if they are able their houses may afford relief and entertainment for the needy; especially for Christ's servants for their master's sake; who hath promised that “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward : and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man's reward : and whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones, a cup of cold water, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward h.” The woman of Shunem lost nothing by the entertainment of Elisha, when she said to her husband, “ Behold, now I perceive that this is an holy man of God which passeth by us continually: let us make him a little chamber I pray thee on the wall, and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither i.” But now how common is it for the people to think all too little for themselves; and if one of them be addicted to works of charity, the other is covetous and is always hindering them.
Direct. XII. * Lastly, it is a great part of the duty of husbands and wives, to be helpers and comforters of each other in order to a safe and happy death.' 1. In the time of health, you must often and seriously remember each other of the time when death will make the separation; and live together in your daily converse, as those that are still expecting the parting hour. Help to awaken each other's souls, to make ready all those graces which then will prove necessary, and to live in a constant preparation for your change. Reprove all that in one another, which will be unsavoury and ungrateful to your review at death. If you see each other dull and slow in your preparations, or to live in vanity, worldliness, or sloth, as if you had forgotten that you must shortly die, stir up one another to do all that without delay which the approach of such a day requireth. 2. And when death is at hand, O then what abundance of tenderness, and seriousness, and skill, and diligence, is needful for one, that hath the last office of love to perform, to the departing soul of so near a friend! O then what need will there be of your most wise, and faithful, and diligent help! When nature faileth, and the pains of flesh divert the mind, and temptations are strongest while the body is weakest; when a languishing body, and a doubting, fearful, troubled mind, do call for your compassion and help, O then what skill and holy seriousness will be necessary! O what a calamity is it to have a carnal, unsanctified husband or wife, which will neither help you to prepare for death,
e Prov. xxxi. i.
f Heb. xiii. 2. Gen. xviii. 6, &c. Ro xii. 13. 2 Cor. ix. Luke xvi. 9. 1 Tim. ii. 2. v. 10. Prov. xi. 20. 28. Neh. viii. 10. Prov, xix. 17. Job xxix. 13. xxxi. 20. Acts xx. 35. & Gal. vi. h Matt. x. 41, 42.
i 2 Kings iv. 9, 10.
can speak a serious word of counsel or comfort to you at a dying hour: that can do nothing but stand by and weep over you; but have not a sensible word to say, about the life that you are going to, nor about the duty of a departing soul, nor against the temptations and fears which then may be ready to overwhelm you. They that are utterly unprepared and unfit to die themselves, can do little to prepare or help another. But they that live together as the heirs of heaven, and converse on earth as fellow-travellers to the land of promise, may help and encourage the souls of one another, and joyfully part at death, as expecting quickly to meet again in life eternal.
Were it not lest I be over-tedious, I should next speak of the manner how husbands and wives must perform their duties to each other: as 1. That it should be all done in
such entire love, as maketh the case of one another to you as your own. 2. That therefore all must be done in patience and mutual forbearance. 3. And in familiarity, and not with strangeness, distance, sourness, nor affected compliment. 4. And in secrecy; where I should have shewed you in what cases secrecy may be broken, and in what not. 5. And in confidence of each other's fidelity, and not in suspicion, jealousy, and distrust. 6. And in prudence to manage things aright, and to foresee and avoid impediments and inconveniencies. 7. And in holiness that God may be the first and last, and all in all. 8. And in constancy that you cease not your duties for one another until death. But necessary abbreviation alloweth me to say no these.
The special Duties of Husbands to their Wives.
He that will expect duty or comfort from his wife, must be faithful in doing the duty of a husband. The failing of yourselves in your own duty, may cause the failing of another to you, or at least will some other way as much afflict you, and will be more bitter to you in the end, than if an hundred failed of their duty to you. A good husband will either make a good wife, or easily and profitably endure a bad one.
I shall therefore give you directions for your own part of duty, as that which your happiness is most concerned in.
Direct. 1. * The husband must undertake the principal part of the government of the whole family, even of the wife herself.' And therefore I. He must labour to be fit and able for that government which he undertaketh : this ability consisteth 1. In holiness and spiritual wisdom, that he may be acquainted with the end to which he is to conduct them, and the rule by which he is to guide them; and the principal works which they are to do. An ungodly, irreligious man is both a stranger and an enemy to the chiefest part of family-government. 2. His ability consist
eth in a due acquaintance with the works of his calling, and the labours in which his servants are to be employed. For he that is utterly unacquainted with their business, will be very unfit to govern them in it: unless he commit that part of their government to his wife or a steward that is acquainted with it. 3. And he must be acquainted both with the common temper and infirmities of mankind, that he may
know how much is to be burne with, and also with the particular temper, and faults, and virtues of those whom he is to govern. 4. And he must have prudence to direct himself in all his carriage to them; and justice to deal with every one as they deserve; and love to do them all the good he can, for soul and body. II. And being thus able, he must make it his daily work, and especially be sure that he govern himself well, that his example may be part of his government of others.
Direct. 11. “The husband must so unite authority and love, that neither of them may be omitted or concealed, but both be exercised and maintained.' Love must not be exercised so imprudently as to destroy the exercise of authority : and authority must not be exercised over a wife so magisterially and imperiously, as to destroy the exercise of love. As your love must be a governing love, so your commands must all be loving commands. Lose not your authority; for that will but disable you from doing the office of a husband to your wife, or of a master to your servants. Yet must it be maintained by no means inconsistent with conjugal love; and therefore not by fierceness or cruelty, by threatenings or stripes (unless by distraction or loss of reason, they cease to be incapable of the carriage otherwise due to a wife). There are many cases of equality in which authority is not to be exercised; but there is no case of inequality or unworthiness so great, in which conjugal love is not to be exercised ; and therefore nothing must exclude it.
Direct. 111. It is the duty of husbands to preserve the authority of their wives, over the children and servants of the family. For they are joint governors with them over all the inferiors. And the infirmities of women are apt many times to expose them to contempt: 80 that servants and children will be apt to slight them, and disobey them, if the husband interpose not to preserve their honour and authority. Yet this must be done with such cautions as these: 1. Justify not any error, vice or weakness of your wives. They may be concealed and excused as far as may be, but never owned or defended. 2. Urge not obedience to any unlawful command of theirs. No one hath authority to contradict the law of God, or disoblige any from his government. You will but diminish your own authority with persons of any understanding, if you justify any thing that is against God's authority. But if the thing commanded be lawful, though it may have some inconveniences, you must rebuke the disobedience of inferiors, and not suffer them to slight the commands of your wives, nor to set their own reason and wills against them, and say, 'We will not do it. How can they help you in government, if you suffer them to be disobeyed.
Direct. iv. 'Also you must preserve the honour as well as the authority of your wives. If they have any dishonourable infirmities, they are not to be mentioned by children or servants. As in the natural body we cover most carefully the most dishonourable parts (for our comely parts have no need a), so must it be here. Children or servants must not be suffered to carry themselves contemptuously or radely towards them, nor to despise them, or speak unmannerly, proud or disdainful words to them. The husband must vindicate them from all such injury and contempt.
Direct. v. “The husband is to excel the wife in knowledge, and be her teacher in the matters that belong to her salvation.' He must instruct her in the Word of God, and direct her in particular duties, and help her to subdue her own corruptions, and labour to confirm her against temptations; if she doubt of any thing that he can resolve her in, she is to ask his resolution, and he to open to her at home, the things which she understood not in the congregation b. But if the husband be indeed an ignorant sot, or have made himself unable to instruct his wife, she is not bound to ask him in vain, to teach her that which he understandeth not himself. Those husbands that despise the Word of God, and live in wilful ignorance, do not only despise their own souls, but their families also ; and making themselves unable for their duties, they are usually themselves despised
a i Cor, xii. 23, 24.
1 Cor. xiv. 35.