John Dod & Robert Cleaver

Excerpts from

A godly form of household government for the ordering of private families, according to the direction of Gods word


Every married man ought also to remember this, that either his wife is wise and religious, or else she is foolish and irreligious. If he be matched with a wife that is sottish, foolish, and ignorant of God and his word, it will little availe or profit him to reprehend or chide her: and if he be married to one that is wise and religious, and knoweth her dutie out of Gods word, then one sharpe and discret word is sufficient: because, if a woman be not corrected by that which is wisely and discretly said, she will never amend by that which is threatned. When the wise shall be inflamed with ire, wrath, malice, or envie, the husband ought to suffer her; and after the heate is somewhat cooled, and the flame quenched, then mildly to admonish her; for if she once begin to lose her shamefastnesse in the presence of her husband, then it is likely that there will often follow brawlings and quarrels betwixt them. And as the husband ought at all times to shun brawlings and quarrellings with his wife, so much more he ought to avoid the same, when they shall be newly married. For if at the beginning she shall have cause to abhorre and hate him, then late or never will she returne to love him faithfully. Therefore at the beginning of their marriage, the wise and discret husband ought to use all good meanes to winne the good liking of his wife towards him: for if then their love be fixed, and truely setled one towards the other, although afterwards they come to some houshold words and grudgings, yet it proceedeth but of some new unkindnesse, and not of old rooted hatred; and therefore the sooner remedied. For love and hatred be mortall enemies, and the first of them that taketh place in the heart, there it remaineth a dweller, for the most part, all the dayes of life: in such wise, that the first love may depart from the person, but yet it will never be forgotten at the heart. But if the wife from the beginning of marriage, do take the heart to loath and abhorre her husband, then a miserable life wil follow to them both.

For although the husband shall have power to force his wife to feare and obey him, yet he shall never have strength to force her to love him. Some husbands do boast themselves to be served, feared, and obeyed in their houses, because the wife that abhorreth doth feare and serve her husband, but she that indeed liketh, doth love him, and cherish him. As the wife ought with great care to endeavour, and by all good meanes to labour to be in favour and grace with her husband: so likewise the husband ought to feare to be in disgrace and disliking with his wife: for if she do once determine to fixe and settle her eyes and liking upon another, then many inconveniences will ensue and follow. The husband ought not to be satisfied with the use of his wives body, but in that he hath also the possession of her will and affections: for it sufficeth not that they be married, but that they be well married, and live Christianly together, and be very well contented. And therefore the husband that is not beloved of his wife, holdeth his goods in danger, his house in suspition, his credite in ballance, and also sometimes his life in perill: because it is [reasonable] to beleeue that she desireth not long life unto her husband, with whom she passeth a time so tedious and irksome.



Now for so much as the Apostle would have Christian wives, that are matched with ungodly husbands, and such as are not yet good Christians, to reverence and obey them: much more should they shew themselves thankfull to God, and willingly, and dutifully performe this obedience and subjection, when they are coupled in marriage with godly, wise, discreet, learned, gentle, loving, quiet, patient, honest, and thrifty husbands. And therefore they ought evermore to reverence them, and to endevour with true obedience and love to serve them; to be loth in any wise to offend them, but rather to be carefull and diligent to please them, that their soule may blesse them. And if at any time it shall happen, that the wife shall anger or displease her husband, by doing or speaking any thing that shall grieve him, she ought never to rest untill she have pacified him, and gotten his favour againe. And if he shall chance to blame her without a cause, and for that which she could not helpe or remedy, (which thing sometimes happeneth even of the best men) yet she must beare it patiently, and give him no uncomely or unkind word for it; but evermore looke upon him with a loving and cheerefull countenance; and so rather let her take the fault upon her, then seeme to be displeased.

Let her be alwaies merry and cheerfull in his  company, but yet not with too much lightnesse. She must beware in any wise of swelling, powting, lowring, or frowning; for that is a token of a cruell and unloving heart, except it be in respect of sinne, or in time of sicknesse. She may not be sorrowfull for any adversitie that God sendeth: but must alwayes be carefull that nothing be spilt, or go to wast through her negligence. In any wise she must be quicke and cleanly about her husbands meate and drinke, preparing  him the same according to his diet in due season. Let her shew herselfe in word and deed wise, humble, curteous, gentle, and loving towards her husband, and also towards such as he doth love; and then shall she leade a blessed life. Let her shew herselfe not onely to love no man so well as her husband, but also to love none other at all but him, unlesse it be for her husbands sake, and the Lords. Wherefore let the wife remember, that (as the Scripture reporteth) she is one bodie with  her husband; so that she ought to love him none otherwise then her selfe: for this is the greatest vertue of a married woman, this is the thing that wedlocke signifieth and commandeth, that the wife should reckon, to have her husband for both father, mother, brother, and sister, like as Adam was unto Eve; and as the most noble and chast woman Andromache said her husband Hector was unto her:

    Thou art unto me both father and mother,
    Mine owne deare husband, and well beloved brother.

And if it be true that men. do say, that friendship maketh one heart of two: much more truely and effectually ought wedlocke to do the same, which farre passeth all manner both of friendship and kindred. Therefore it is not said, marriage doth make one man, or one minde, or one body of two, but clearely one person; wherefore matrimonie requireth a greater dutie of the husband towards his wife, and the wife towards her husband, then otherwise they are bound to shew to their parents.

  A good wife therefore is knowne, when her words, and deeds, and countenance, are such as her husband loveth. She must not examine whether he be wise or simple, but that she is his wife, and therefore being bound she must obey: as Abigail loved her husband, though he were a foole, churlish, and evill conditioned. For the wife is as much despised for taking rule over her husband, as he for yeelding it unto her. Therefore one saith, that a mankind woman is a monster, that is, halfe a woman & halfe a man. It beseemeth not the mistresse to be maister, no more then it becommeth the maister to be mistresse: but both must saile with their own wind, and both keepe their standing.

Lastly, we call the wife huswife, that is, housewife, not a street-wife, one that gaddeth up and downe, like Thamar: nor a field-wife, like Dinah: but a house-wife: to shew that a good wife keepes her house: and therefore Paul biddeth Titus to exhort women that they be chast, and keeping at home: presently after chast, he saith,   keeping at home, as though home were chastities keeper. And therefore Salomon depainting and describing the qualities of a whore, setteth her at the doore, now sitting upon her stall, now walking in the streets, now looking out of the window, like cursed Jezabel, as if she held forth the glasse of temptation, for vanity to gaze vpon. But chastitie careth to please but one, and therefore she keepes her closet as if she were still at prayer.

The second point is, that wives submit themselves, and be obedient unto
their owne husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is by Gods ordinance the wives head, that is, her defender, teacher and comforter: and therefore she oweth her subjection to him, like as the Church doth to Christ: and because the example of Sarah the mother of the faithfull, which obeyed Abraham and called him Lord, moveth them thereunto. This point is partly handled before in the first point, as also in the duty of the husband to the wife. As the Church should depend upon the wisedome, discretion and will of Christ, and not follow what itselfe listeth: so must the wife also submit and apply herselfe to the discretion and will of her husband: even as the government and conduct of every thing resteth in the head, not in the bodie. Moses writeth, that the Serpent was wise above all beasts of the field: and that he did declare in assaulting the woman, that when he had seduced her, she might also seduce and deceive her husband. Saint Paul noting, this, among other the causes of the womans subjection, doth sufficiently shew, that for the avoiding of the like inconveniences, it is Gods will that she should be subject to her husband, so that she shall have no other discretion or will, but what may depend upon her head. The Lord also by Moses saith the same: Thy desire shall be subject to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. This dominion over their wives will doth manifestly appeare in this, that God in old time ordained, that if the woman had  vowed any thing unto God, it should notwithstanding rest in her husband to disavow it: so much is the wives will subject to her husband. Yet it is not meant, that the wife should not employ her knowledge and discretion which God hath given her, in the helpe, and for the good of her husband: but alwayes it must be with condition to submit herselfe unto him, acknowledging him to be her head, that finally they may so agree in one, as the conjunction of marriage doth require.

The obedience that the wife oweth to her husband, dependeth upon this subjection of her will and wisedome unto him: as 1. Peter 3. 6. Ephesians. 5. 33. Ester. 1. 12. So that women may not provoke their husbands by disobedience, in matters that may be performed without offence to God: neither presume over them, either in kindred or wealth, or obstinately to refuse in a matter that may trouble household peace and quiet. For disobedience begetteth contempt of the husband, and contempt wrath, and is many times the cause of troubles betweene the man and the wife. If the obedience importeth any difficultie, she may for her excuse gently propound the same: yet upon condition to obey (in case the husband should persist in his intent) so long as the discommoditie importeth no wickednesse. For it is better to continue peace by obedience, then to breake it by resistance. And indeed it is naturall in the members to obey the conduct and government of the head. Yet must not this obedience so farre extend, as that the husband should command any thing contrary to her honour, credit, and salvation, but as it is comely in the Lord: Colos. 3.16. Ephes. 5. 13. Therefore, as it were a monstrous matter, and the meanes to overthrow the person, that the body should in refusing all subjection and obedience to the head, take upon it to guide itselfe, and to command the head: so were it for the wife to rebell against the husband.


What duties Maisters and Mistresses owe to their servants.
This dutie teacheth them, that they are become in stead of parents unto their servants, which dutie consisteth in foure points.
1. First, that they refraine and keepe their servants from idlenesse.
2. Secondly, that by diligent instruction and good example, they bring up their servants and housholds, in honestie and comely manners, and in all vertue.
3. Thirdly, that they ought to instruct their apprentices and servants in the knowledge of their occupations and trades, even as parents would teach their owne children, without all guile, fraud, delaying, or concealing.
4. Lastly, when correction is necessary, that then they giue it them with such discretion, pitie, and desire of their amendment, as loving parents use to deale with their deare children; remembring alwayes that they haue a maister in heauen, before whom they must make an account for their doings. For so much as maisters and housholders are to their servants and apprentises in place of fathers, they are hereby admonished, that they ought not to with-hold and keepe back their due wages, to exact of them, to oppresse them, or to reward their well-doing and good deserving  slenderly: but to be carefull of their servants good estate as of their owne, not onely in providing for them wholsome meate, drink, and lodging, and otherwise to helpe them, comfort them, and relieve and cherish them, as well in sickness as in health liberally to reward their good deservings, as farre as Christianity, liberality, and equality shall binde them: but also that they be carefull that they live honestly, vertuously, and Christianly.
And further, they may not grieue their servants with too much labour, but alwayes remember that they are not beasts, but men: so that they ought quietly to governe them, and also quietly to chide them, when they shall neglect their duty, lest they be provoked with their hard words: remembring that they also have a Lord and maister in heauen, with whom there is no respect of persons, Ephes. 6. 9. And let them bountifully reward the just and faithfull labour of their servants, and pay their covenants in a fit and convenient time, lest being compelled by necessitie they should steale. Maisters ought not (as tyrants) to use their servants as their horses and asses: but to deale with them lovingly & Christianly, because they are all members of one body, whereof Christ Jesus is the head.

The Servants dutie towards their Maisters.
This dutie consisteth in three points:
1. First, that servants and apprentises do from their hearts, cheerefully, and willingly, performe the labours and workes that their maisters, mistresses, or dames, shall command them.
2. Secondly, that they be faithfull in things committed to them by their maisters, mistresses or dames, that so they may keepe their goods.
3. Thirdly, that they be carefull to observe uprightnesse of manners, that
the wife, sonnes and daughters, or other fellow servants, be not corrupted
by their bad counsels, or lewd behaviour.
These points are plainely proved by these places of Scripture whereby servants are straightly charged, reverently, and faithfully to obey their bodily maisters, mistresses, and dames, in all things which may be done without offence to God. And this obedience and service must be done with feare and trembling, in singlenesse of heart, as unto Christ, they being with a reverence to Godward, as though they served God himselfe, and that as well in the absence of their maisters, mistresses or dames, as in their presence: not constrainedly, as it were forced or compelled thereto, but heartily and with good will, as they that serve the Lord, and not men: not onely in respect of the earthly reward, but because they know, and are assured, that of the Lord they shall receive the reward of inheritance, in as much as they serve the Lord Christ. So that hereby all godly servants, may in few words learne what dutie they owe to their maisters, mistresses, and dames: namely, to love them, and to be affectioned towards them, as a dutifull child is to his parent : to be reverent  and lowly to them in their words and gestures, to suffer and forbeare them: to obey with readie and willing mindes all their lawfull and reasonable commandements: to feare them, and to be loth to displease them: to be faithfull and trustie to them and theirs: in deedes and promises, to be diligent and serviceable: to speake cheerefully: to answer discreetly: not over boldly to dallie with their maisters wife, daughters, or maidens: to be loyall and dutifull to their maisters, mistresses and dames: as Iacob was towards Laban, and Ioseph towards Potiphar. And they must carefully endevour to do and procure, to the uttermost of their abilitie, that which may be to their maisters, mistresses, and dames honestie, credit and profit, and that as well when they are absent and out of sight, as when they be present and looke on. This is a qualitie and propertie belonging to every good servant, both men and maides: to wit, that whatsoever goods or necessaries of their maisters, mistresses, or dames, they shall have charge of, as committed to their trust and keeping; they carefully see such things so well and orderly placed, and laid up, that if there shall be at any time any just occasion to use any necessary in their custodie: yea, if it be in the night season, and that without a light, they then not onely can say, in such a place it lyeth, but also, if they be required, they can presently fetch the same.
Servants must take heede that they do not knowingly and willingly anger or displease their maisters, mistresses, or dames, which if they do, then they ought incontinent and forthwith to reconcile themselves unto them, and to aske them forgivenesse. They must also forbeare them, and suffer their angrie and hastie words, and in no wise answer againe spitefully or scornefully, neither yet upon any such occasion run away For the Angell taught and willed Hagar the servant of Sarah, when she fled from her mistresse, that she should returne and humble her selfe under the hands of her mistresse. So did Saint Paul make agreement betwixt Onesimus a vagabond and theevish seruant, and sent him againe to his maister Philemon, from whom he was fled away: and it is probable that he admonished Onesimus to submit himselfe to his maister.
Servants & apprentices therefore according to the rule of Gods word, must patiently beare, and forbeare their maisters, mistresses, and dames, & do whatsoever lawfull thing they shall command them, not being against a good conscience. And therefore they must remember, how farre foorth they are bound to obey their maisters, that is, Usque ad aras: so farre as Christian religion suffereth, and so far forth as they may do it with an upright conscience: for otherwise, if their maisters shall command them to do any thing that is unhonest, unlawful, wicked, unjust, or ungodly, then they must in no wise obey it, 1. Sam. 20. 28. &c. and 22. 17. Dan. 3. 18. Act. 4. 19. and 5. 29.