William Gouge on a Wife’s Submission

William Gouge (1575-1653) was a pastor in London from 1608-1653.  He was known as a great minister of the gospel, preaching three times a week, and an accomplished author. He also was a prominent member of the Westminster Assembly and help to write the Westminster Confession of Faith. Reformation Heritage Books took his book “Domestic Duties” and broke it down into three volumes. The quote below is from the first book, Building a Godly Home.   All italics are original.

The duty required is that a wife must yield a chaste, faithful, matrimonial subjection to her husband. 

A wife must submit herself to her husband, because he is her head. And she must do it “as unto the Lord” because her husband is to her as Christ is to the church.

The metaphor of a head declares both the dignity of a husband and the duty of a husband. As a head is set above the body, so is the husband to his wife.  As a head, by the understanding which is in it, governs, protects, preserves, and provides for the body, so does the husband his wife. At least, he ought to do so, for this is his office and duty. This is noted here to show the benefit which a wife receives by her husband, so that two motives are included under this metaphor.

The first is taken from the husband’s prerogative, from which note that subjection must be yielded to those who are over us. For this is a main end of the difference between party and party. To what end is the head set above the body, if the body be not subject to it?

The second is taken from the benefit which a wife reaps by her husband’s superiority, and it shows that they who will not submit themselves to their superiors injure themselves, like a body would injure itself, if it would not be subject to the head.

Later on he says this:

To direct and provoke wives to their duty, the apostle adds this clause, “as unto the Lord,” which is both a rule and a reason of wives’ subjection. It directs wives by noting the limitation of their obedience and the manner of it. The limitation is that wives ought to so obey their husbands as they obey the Lord, but no further: they may not be subject in anything to their husbands that cannot stand with their subjection to the Lord. The manner is that wives ought to yield such a kind of subjection to their husbands, as may be approved by the Lord….It provokes wives to submit themselves to their husbands by noting that the place of the husband is to be the Lord’s representative, bearing His image, and in that respect having a fellowship and partnership with the Lord. Therefore, wives in right subjection to their husbands are subject to the Lord. On the contrary side, wives, in refusing to be subject to their husbands refuse to be subject to the Lord.