Recently I read John Knox's First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. If you have not read that book the title alone may scare you away. If you have managed to read it all the way through without throwing it out the window (as I pridefully felt like doing at times) you may have received a healthy dose of Humble Pie. I certainly ate a large portion as I found myself to have had a view of a woman's role laced with some modern feminity. We're not inferior! They NEED us! That makes us atleast equal! I can't say these wicked thoughts have never entered my mind. I thought I had a right view of how a wife was to consider herself, and her husband. Reading Knox was quite good for me to say the least. But! but! I complained to my husband while reading it, who lovingly reminded me of the truth in Knox's words, be they ever so harsh. Maybe I had the right idea somewhere in my head all along, but it had been so shrouded by euphemisms for the words "inferior" and "subject" for the sake of woman's easily bruised feelings that it no longer was the right idea. It was feminism. If only I had been able to put aside my pride and emotions to read Knox, or more importantly Genesis 3:16 in a proper perspective. Consider this quote:
Tertullian, in his book of Women's Apparel, after that he has show many causes why gorgeous apparel is abominable and odious in a woman, adds these words, speaking as it were to every woman by name: "Do you not know that you are Eve? The sentence of God lives and is effectual against this kind; and in this world, of necessity it is, that the punishment also live. You are the port and gate of the devil. You are the first transgressor of God's law. You did persuade and easily deceive him whom the devil durst not assault. For your merit (that is for your death), it behooved the Son of God to suffer the death; and does it yet abide in your mind to deck you above your skin coats?" By these and many other grave sentences, and quick interrogations, did this godly writer labor to bring every woman in contemplation of herself, to the end that everyone deeply weighing what sentence God had pronounced against the holy race and daughters of Eve, might not only learn daily to humble and subject themselves in the presence of God, but also that they should avoid and abhor whatsoever thing might exalt them or puff them up in pride, or that might be occasion, that they should forget the curse and malediction of God. And what, I pray you, is more able to cause woman to forget her own condition, then if she be lifted up in authority above man? It is a thing very difficult to a man, (be he never so constant) promoted to honors, not to be tickled some what with pride (for the wine of vain glory does easily carry up the dry dust of the earth). But as for woman, it is no more possible, that she being set aloft in authority above man, shall resist the motions of pride, then it is able to the weak reed, or to the turning weathervane, not to bow or turn at the vehemency of the unconstant wind. (John Knox. First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women pg 20 )
But so true.
After reading Knox, I wanted to search out other writers to help build up newfound proper view of women and my role. I found William Gouge, who more comprehensively and gently expounded on wives in his Domestical Duties. The rest is some quotes of his (the whole book is rather long but very indepth and well worth the read) that were particularly convicting to me. If you are a wife, I pray they will encourage you as well.
Inward reverence is an awful respect which a wife in her heart hath of her husband, esteeming him worthy of all honor 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 being alone, and thinking of him in her very thought she gave him this title Lord (Gen 18:12). This inward reverence the Scripture compriseth under this word Fear: as where our Apostle saith, Let the wife see that she fear her husband (Eph 5:33) and where Peter exhorteth wives to have their conversation in fear (1 Peter 3:2). 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 Apostle's word] care how she may please him (1 Cor. 7:34). 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 anything that she herself hath done.
Unless this inward reverence and due respect of an 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 unfound, only in show, hypocritical and deceitful: so that as good never a whit as never the better. For according to one's 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 (2 Sam 6:16). Wherefore after the judgment of a wife is rightly informed of an husband's 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 of his place, as knowledge, wisdom, piety, temperance, love, and the like, she ought to take notice thereof, and to think him worthy of double honor.
Contrary to this inward reverence of the heart is a base and vile esteem which many have of their husbands, thinking no better of them than of other men; nay worse than of others; despising their husbands in their heart, like Michal of whom we heard before. This, as it is in itself a vile vice, so is it a cause of many other vices, as of presumption, rebellion, yea and of adultery itself many times: and it is also a main hindrance of all duties.
It commonly riseth either from self-conceit [whereby wives overween their own gifts, thinking them so excellent as they need no guide or head, but are rather fit to guide and rule both their husbands and all the household: of which proud and presumptuous spirit Jezebel seemeth to be, who with an audacious and impudent face said to Ahab her husband, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? Up, I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth (1 Kings 21:7), so also all those wives which are noted to draw away their husband's hearts from the Lord, as the wives of Solomon (1 Kings 11:4), Jehoram (2 Kings 8:18), and others: which they learned of their great grandmother (Gen 3:6) Eve:] or else from some infirmities of mind or body, or of life, which they behold in their husbands [whence it cometh to pass, that many husbands who are highly honored and greatly accounted of by others, are much despised by their wives, because their wives always conversing with them are privy to such infirmities as are concealed from others]: or, which is worst of all, from unjust surmizes and suspicions, suspecting many evil things of their husbands whereof they are no way guilty, and misinterpreting, and perverting things well done, as Michael (2 Sam 6:20) perverted David's holy zeal.
For redress of this enormous vice, wives ought first in regard of themselves to purge out their hearts pride, and self-conceit, thinking humbly and lowly of themselves, and that even in regard of their sex and the weakness thereof: and if the Lord have endued them with any gift above the ordinary sort of women, to note well their own infirmities, and to lay them by their eminent gifts: thus by looking on their black feet, their proud-peacock-feathers may be cast down. Yea also when they behold any infirmities in their husbands, they ought to reflect their eyes on their own infirmities, which it may be are even as many and as grievous, if not more in number, and more heinous in their nature and kind: at least let them consider that they are subject to the same, if God leave them to the sway of their own corruption.
Secondly, wives ought in regard to their husbands to surmize no evil whereof they have not sure proof and evidence: but rather interpret every thing in better part: and follow the rule of love, which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things (1 Cor 13:7). If they note any defects of nature, and deformity of body, or any enormous and notorious vices in their husband, then ought they to turn their eyes and thoughts from his person to his place, and from his vicious qualities to his honourable office [which is to be an husband] and this will abate that vile esteem which otherwise might be occasioned from the forenamed means.
Contrary is pride, which puffeth up wives, and maketh them think there is no reason they should be subject to husbands, they can rule themselves well enough, yea and rule their husbands too, as well as their husbands rule them. No more pestilent vice for an inferiour, than this: it is the cause of all rebellion, disobedience, and disloyalty: only by pride, cometh contention (Prov 13:10).
Herein lieth a main difference betwixt true, Christian, religious wives, and mere natural women: these may be subject on by-respects, as namely, that their husbands may the more love them, or live the more quietly and peaceably with them, or that they may the more readily obtain what they desire at their husband's hands, or for fear of their husband's displeasure and wrath, knowing him to be an angry, furious man, so as otherwise it might be worse with them, they might want many needful things, or carry away many sore blows if they were not subject. But the other have respect to Christ's ordinance, whereby their husbands are made their head, and to his word and will, whereby they are commanded subjection. Thus holy women subjected themselves (1 Peter 3:5); they cannot be holy that do not thus subject themselves: for this is a sweet perfume that sendeth forth a good savour into Christ's nostrils, and maketh the things we do pleasant and acceptable to him.