Colossians 3:18
The apostle next proceeds to enjoin family duties, not in the spirit of those errorists, who imagined that such duties were vulgar and inconsistent with the contemplative aspect of the Christian life. His first practical exhortation is to wives, and is summed up in the single duty - "submit yourselves."

I. THE DUTY OF SUBMISSION. "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands." This duty includes:

1. Honour. They must honour their husbands as their head (1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Peter 3:6).

2. Truthfulness. (Proverbs 2:17.)

3. Obedience. (Ephesians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 7:34.)

4. Cooperation with their husbands in all family affairs. They must "guide the house with discretion" (Titus 2:5).

5. They must not assume authority over their husbands, either in ecclesiastical or in domestic affairs (1 Timothy 2:14).

II. REASONS FOR THIS DUTY. "As it is fit in the Lord." In Oriental countries, woman was the slave rather than the companion of man, but in the Grecized communities of Asia Minor, woman held a higher position, and her new position under the gospel may have led her to carry her freedom to the point of licence. It was, therefore, necessary to define her position accurately. Her subjection to man is "fit in the Lord" on several grounds.

1. From man's priority of creation. (1 Timothy 2:13.)

2. The woman was made for man, not the man for the woman. (1 Corinthians 2:9.)

3. The woman's priority in the original transgression. (1 Timothy 2:14.)

4. The man's headship over the woman. (1 Corinthians 11:3.)

5. Her weakness. She is "the weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7), and therefore stands in need of his greater strength and protection.

6. The subjection to man is placed on the same basis as the subjection of the Church to Christ. (Ephesians 5:22-24.)

7. But the apostle's language in the text implies a limitation upon her submission; for she is to be subject to him "in the Lord." Both husband and wife must have a due consideration for each other's position, because they are "heirs of the grace of life," and they must see that "their prayers are not hindered" (1 Peter 3:7). - T. C.







Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands.
1. In the family, Christianity has signally displayed its power of refining, ennobling and sanctifying earthly relationships. Domestic life as seen in Christian homes is a purely Christian creation, and would have been a new revelation at Colossae as it is in many a mission field to-day.

2. Domestic happiness and family Christianity are made up of very homely elements. One duty is prescribed here for one member of each of the three family groups, and varying forms of another for the other. The wife, child, servant, are to obey; the husband to love, the father to show his love in gentle considerateness, the master to yield his servants their dues. Like some perfume distilled from common flowers which grow on every bank, the domestic piety which makes home a house of God and a gate of heaven, is prepared from these two simples — obedience and love.

I. THE RECIPROCAL DUTIES OF WIVES AND HUSBANDS.

1. The Christian ideal of the wife's duty has for its centre subjection.(1) Some will smile at that as a survival of a barbarous theory of marriage; but turn to Ephesians 5:22-33, and you will find that marriage is regarded from a high and sacred point of view. To Paul all earthly relationships were moulded after patterns of things in the heavens. What the Church's subjection to Christ is, such is the wife's to the husband, a subjection of which love is the very soul. As in the loving obedience of the believing soul to Christ, the wife submits not because she has found a master, but because her heart has found its rest. Thus everything harsh and degrading disappears. It is a joy to serve where the heart is engaged, and that is eminently true of the feminine nature. For its full satisfaction a woman's heart needs to look up, and to serve where it loves. In this nobler, purer, more unselfish love, as much as in physicial constitution, is laid the foundation of the Divine ideal of marriage.(2) The subjection is limited by "We must obey God rather than man," and there are cases in which on the principle of "Tools to those who can use them," the rule falls to the wife as the stronger character. Popular sarcasm, however, shows this to be contrary to the true ideal. And then woman's intellectual and moral qualities render it wise for a man to take her counsel. But all such considerations are consistent with apostolic teaching.

2. What of the husband's duty? He is to love.(1) Because he loves he is not to be harsh. He is to be as patient and self-sacrificing as Christ, that he may bless and help. That solemn example lifts the whole emotion and carries the lesson that man's love is to evoke the woman's subjection, just as in the heavenly pattern Christ's love melts and moves human wills to glad obedience which is liberty.(2) Where there is such love there will be no tenacious adherence to rights. Love uttering a wish speaks music to love listening, and love obeying the wish is free and a queen.

3. The young are to remember that the nobleness and heart repose of their whole lives may be made or marred by marriage, and to take heed where they fix their affections. If a man and woman love and marry in the Lord, He will be in the midst, a third who will make them one, and that threefold cord will not be quickly broken.

II. THE RECIPROCAL DUTIES OF CHILDREN AND PARENTS — Obedience and gentle authority.

1. The injunction to children is laconic and universal.(1) The only limitation is when God's command is contradicted.(2) The enforcement is that it is "well pleasing in the Lord." To all who can appreciate the beauty of goodness is filial obedience beautiful. In Ephesians it is regarded as "right" appealing to the natural conscience.(3) The idea of a father's power and a child's obedience has been much softened by Christianity, but rather from the greater prominence given to love, than from the limitation given to obedience. There is now great laxity in reaction from the tee great severity of past times. Many causes lead to this. Children are better educated than their parents, and a sense of inferiority often makes a parent hesitate to command, as well as a misplaced tenderness makes him hesitate to forbid. But it is unkind to place on young shoulders "the weight of too much liberty." Consult your children less, command them more.(4) And as to children, here is the one thing God would have you do, and which is moreover pleasing to those whose approbation is worth having, and will save many a sting of conscience now which may tingle again when all too late. Remember Dr. Johnson standing bareheaded in Lichfield market-place, in remorseful remembrance of boyish disobedience.

2. The law for parents is addressed to fathers, partly because mothers have less need of it and partly because fathers are the head of the household.(1).How do parents provoke their children? By unreasonable commands, by capricious jerks at the bridle alternating with capricious dropping of the reins altogether, ungovernable tempers, frequent rebukes and sparing praise. And what follows? "Wrath," as Ephesians has it, and then apathy. "I cannot please, whatever I do," leads to a rankling sense of unjustice and then to recklessness, "it is useless to try." Paul's theory of the training of children is connected with his central doctrine, that love is the life of service, and faith the parent of righteousness. When a child loves and trusts, he will obey. Children's obedience must be fed on love and praise.(2) So parents are to let the sunshine of their smile ripen their children's love to fruit of obedience, and remember that frost in spring scatters the blossoms on the grass. Many a father drives his child into evil by keeping him at a distance. He should make his boy a companion and a playmate, and try to keep him nearer to himself than to any one else; then his opinions will be an oracle, and his lightest wish a law.(3) Parents would do well, too, to remember Ephesians 6:4, and Deuteronomy 6:6-7, and not relegate religious instruction to others. Children drift away from a faith which their parents do not care enough about to teach.

III. THE RECIPROCAL DUTIES OF MASTERS AND SERVANTS. Obedience and justice.

1. These servants are slaves. Paul recognized that "sum of all villainies," but his gospel had principles which cut up slavery by the roots. Christ and His apostles did not war against it nor against any existing institutions — "First make the tree good," etc. Mould men, and the men will mould institutions. And so slavery has died in all Christian lands now. But the principles laid down here are applicable to all forms of service.

2. Note the extent of the servant's obedience.(1) "In all things," the limit again being God's command, but inward completeness is insisted on, "not with eye service," etc. We have a proverb about the worth of the master's eye, which bears witness that the same fault clings to hired service, and thus darkens into theft. All scamped work, all productions which are got up to look better than they are, all fussy parade of diligence when under inspection and slackness afterwards are transfixed here, "But in singleness of heart," etc., with undivided motive, which is the antithesis and cure for eye service — and fearing God, which is opposed to pleasing men.(2) Then follows the positive injunction, lifting obedience to an earthly master into a religious duty, and transfiguring the slave's lot. This evokes new powers, and renewed consecration.(3) The stimulus of a great hope is added. Whatever their earthly masters failed to give them, if they are Christ's they will be treated as sons and receive the son's portion. Christ remains in no man's debt.(4) The last word is a warning against neglect of duty. The wrongdoer will receive retribution, but it does not warrant an inferior's breach of moral law. Two blacks do not make a white — a lesson to oppressed peoples and their champions.

3. Masters are bidden to give their slaves what is equitable. A start ling injunction respecting those who were chattels and not persons.(1) The apostle does not define what is just and equal. The main thing was to drive home the conviction that there are duties owing to slaves and employes. We are far from: a satisfactory discharge of these yet, but everybody admits the principle — and we have mainly to thank Christianity for that. Paul does not say, "Give them what is kind and patronizing." Charity likes to come in and supplies wants which would never have been felt had there been equity.(2) The duty of masters is enforced by the fact that they have a Master who is to be their pattern. Give your servants what you expect and need to get from Christ.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The duty of the latter is put first, because obedience is more difficult and distasteful than love, and because the love of the husband largely depends on the subjection of the wife.

I. AS TO WIVES.

1. The proposition that wives ought to be subject to their husbands.(1) In general this subjection is a Divine disposition whereby the more imperfect are subordinate to the more perfect, in order to their government and preservation. Without this, neither natural affairs, nor political societies, nor even the world could subsist. From whence follow —(a) The author of creatures would not have them confounded through disorder (1 Corinthians 14:13).(b) It is not the mark of a base but of a generous mind to be subject to his superiors. "Every man in proportion to his depravity bears a ruler with rude impatience.(c) Those who shake off the yoke of due subjection are blind to their own interests. "Obedience is the mother of prosperity."(2) In particular this subjection consists in —(a) The internal act of the heart and the acknowledgment of the mind (Ephesians 5:33; 1 Peter 3:6).(b) Conformity of manners and affections. As a mirror adorned with gems and skilfully polished is nothing unless it express a true likeness of the person looking into it; so a wife, however endowed and beautiful, is nothing un less she render herself conformable to the manners of her husband (1 Corinthians 7:37).(c) Performance of wifely duties — conjugal love (Genesis 2:18; Titus 2:4; Proverbs 31:12) — care of the children and the house (Titus 2:4-5). The Egyptian women had no shoes, that they might learn to keep at home.(3) The reasons for this subjection.

(a)The Divine appointment (Genesis 3:16).

(b)The natural imperfection of the woman (1 Peter 3:7).

(c)The order of creation. Woman was created after, out of, and for man (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).

(d)The transgression of the woman (1 Timothy 2:14).(2) The disadvantage of refusing this subjection. The violation of natural order every where is productive of disastrous disturbances.(4) The hindrances to this subjection.(a) Pride, which makes the wife disesteem her husband as unworthy to command her. To obviate this evil let her remember that her husband's dignity and her own inferiority are not to be estimated from virtues, figure, nobility, or riches; but from Divine ordination; that pride is of the devil, who, as he incited Eve, instills the same poison into her daughters.(b) Defect of love. She studies not to please her husband who is displeased with him. This evil will be avoided if parents would not compel their daughters to odious nuptials (Genesis 24:57-58); if women would beware of marrying for honour and riches; and if after marriage they would avoid all occasions of offence.(c) Foolish vanities, such as an immoderate desire of appearing in public, extravagance in dress, etc.

2. The limitation of the proposition — "As it is fit in the Lord;" as far as God permits, and as far as it is befitting women who are in the Lord. The occasion of this arose from the circumstance that many believing women were united to unbelieving husbands. If their husbands should strive to compel them to idolatrous worship they must resist (Acts 5:29). The foundation for this is that all authority is derived from God and subordinate to Him. From whence it follows —(1) That thus wives render a sub mission grateful to God Himself.(2) That the wife is bound to be a companion of her husband in everything but sin.(3) That it is impious to choose a husband who is likely to persuade his wife to do such things as are not fit in the Lord.

II. AS TO HUSBANDS.

1. The precept enjoining love.(1) The affection of love itself is required. This gives the heart to the thing loved, which is the most precious gift, and that in which all else is given.(2) This affection will express itself(a) In living at home, delighted with the wife's presence and company, and not seeking others in preference (Proverbs 5:18-19). This effect we see in Christ's love toward His Church (Matthew 28:20).(b) In direction and instruction in all those things which relate to this life and the next (1 Corinthians 14:35), because both are partners in earthly things and heirs together of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).(c) Provision of all necessary things, in imitation of Christ's care of His Church. He who neglects this, subjects himself to heavy censure (1 Timothy 5:8).(3) In order to perform this duty let a man beware of marrying —(a) By the eyes alone, i.e., choosing for mere external beauty. Love which rests on such an unstable foundation cannot be firm and constant.(b) By the fingers, i.e., choosing for money. The man who does this seeks not a wife but a money porter, and after he has laid his claws on the money, he regards not of a straw the porter.

2. The injunction forbidding bitterness. Plutarch says, "They who sacrificed at the rites of Juno, took out the gall of the victim, signifying by the ceremony that it was not fit that bile and bitterness should enter into the married state." The bitterness here prohibited shows itself —(1) In the affections. Without saying or doing anything injurious a husband embittered against his wife can make her life exceedingly bitter. That this is to be avoided we gather(a) from the precept itself, which admits of no exception. As a wife is bound to obey her husband in spite of his many imperfections, so the husband is bound to love the wife notwithstanding hers.(b) From the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:29).(2) In words. A tender mind is wounded no less by bitter words, than the body is by sharp weapons.(3) In actions. God gave not Eve to Adam as a slave but as a companion and helpmeet. This tyranny is exercised(a) when the wife is removed from domestic rule and degraded to the rank of a maid, even perhaps subjected to one of them, (Proverbs 31:27; Titus 2:5).(b) When things pertaining to her dignity or necessity are denied.(c) When she is treated with cruelty.

(Bp. Davenant.)

The root of all society is the family. (Genesis 2:18; Psalm 68:6). The real strength and virtue of a nation consist to a great extent in the purity of family ties; and in this, more than anything else socially, has the religion of Christ blessed the world. Of the domestic institution, conjugal life and love are the very element and fountain (Ephesians 5:25-33; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7).

I. THE DUTY OF THE WIFE.

1. The subjection is not that of a drudge or slave, to be ruled by force. It means that in the home, as everywhere else, "order is heaven's first law." If there is to be peace and happiness in the home there must not be two co-ordinate authorities. The husband is to be the house-band — the strength and bond of the family. The submission required of a wife involves —(1) A sense of dependence. In many things this is unavoidable, she being the weaker vessel, and created in a condition of dependence (1 Corinthians 11:8-9). When she tried to lead her husband and undertook to govern, the issue was disastrous for both. This dependence is touchingly illustrated in the social sympathy for, and Divine promises to widows, because she is deprived of her earthly prop and stay.(2) A feeling of deference. "Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord." Many husbands, it may be said, do not deserve this, and the wife may sometimes take advantage of a husband's weakness for his good. If a woman has married a man she cannot respect, she may have herself to blame; but his weakness does not exempt her from the duty of honouring him as her husband. If he abdicate hie position, she may be obliged to take the lead, yet the true wife will strive to do it in such a way as not to wound him.(3) A spirit of devotedness. It is beautiful to see a loving wife clinging hopefully and prayerfully to a bad husband. Just as forbidding is it to hear a wife complaining all round the parish. A good wife will care for her husband's comfort and character as her own; and when he is harassed will do her best to make him forget his anxieties (Proverbs 31:10-12).

2. The reason for this injunction — "as it is fit in the Lord." It is God s will that it should be so, and also the dictate of common sense. Where there are two wills seeking for mastery there will be wrangling and bitterness. But the wife is not a slave to do the bidding of a taskmaster, losing in a mechanical obedience the sense of responsibility. No! she may not do wrong to please her husband. Her own relation to God will determine the standard of right and limit of duty. How much has a Christian wife in her power I By submission she may gain conquests for Christ, and commend the Lord whom she supremely loves.

II. THE DUTY OF THE HUSBAND. The sum and fountain of all other duties is love.

1. Positively — "love your wives."

1. Paul does not say as the complement of submission, "Rule your wives wisely, keep them in their position." The rule of love is sweet and easily borne. Either side is, perhaps, apt to forget its own special obligation: the wife is not so likely to forget her love as her subjection, nor the husband his authority as his love. But he will most surely and fully receive the acknowledgment due to him who truly loves; and she will be most tenderly loved who shows most heartily deference. Let the love which won the youthful bride be continued and augmented.

2. This love must be manifested. It is too often taken as a matter of course. Contact with the world often deadens the susceptibilities, and love is left to care for itself and struggle for a precarious existence. But the wife craves for love, and a tone of tenderness will make her soul brighten for days amid the manifold cares of home. It is one thing to be silly in the expression of a rapturous fondness and quite another to be manly in the exhibition of a sincere affection. If a man is not ashamed of being married he ought not to be ashamed of showing his love, in, e.g., preferring his wife's society, in seeking to please her, in taking an interest in those things which specially occupy her thought. And she has a right to expect it amidst the monotony of her household cares.

2. Negatively — "Be not bitter against them." It is possible to have a general sentiment of affection and yet to be bitter. This spirit is grossly wrong in a Christian man to the woman who has given up all for him. It may be exhibited in surly silence as well as in sharp words. There will be need of forbearance on both sides. Some homes, alas, are in a state of chronic conflict. He commands imperiously; she resists proudly. Some men are pleasant and genial abroad, but churlish at home. Marriage is left us as a wreck saved from Paradise; according to our spirit and conduct it will be either a reminder of "paradise lost," or a help towards "paradise regained."

(J. Spence, D. D.)

It literally means a weaver. The wife is the person who weaves. Before our great factories arose, one of the great employments in every house was the fabrication of clothing; every family made its own. The wool was spun into thread by the girls, who were therefore called "spinsters"; the thread was woven by their mother, who was accordingly called the weaver or the wife; and another remnant of this old truth we discover in the word heirloom, applied to any old piece of furniture which has come down to us from our ancestors, and which, though it may be a chair or bed, shows that a loom was once the most important piece of furniture in the house. Thus in the word wife is wrapped up a hint of earnest, indoor, stay-at-home occupations, as being fitted for her who bears this name.

— A good wife should be like three things; which three things she should not be like.

1. She should be like a snail, to keep within her own house; but she should not be like the snail to carry all she has upon her "back.

2. She should be like an echo, to speak when spoken to; but she should not be like an echo, always to have the last word.

3. She should be like a town clock, always to keep time and regularity; but she should not be like a town clock, speak so loud that all the town may hear her.

(Old writer.)

A pleasure-loving husband boasted of the good temper of his wife; and a wager was laid that she would rise at midnight and give the company a supper with perfect cheerfulness. It was put to the test, and the boast of the husband was: found true. One of the company thus addressed the lady, "Madam, your civility fills us with surprise. Our unreasonable visit is in consequence of a wager which "we have certainly lost. As you cannot approve of our conduct, give me leave to ask what can possibly induce you to behave with so much kindness to us?" "Sir," she replied, "When I married, my husband and myself were both unconverted. It has pleased God to call me out of that dangerous condition. My husband continues in it. I tremble for his future, and therefore try to make his: present as comfortable as possible." "I thank you for the warning, my dear," said her husband, "by the grace of God I will change my conduct." From that time he became another man.

(E. Foster.)

When Mr. Disraeli retired from office he was offered an earldom. He declined it with the intimation that if there was any reward thought to be deserved, he wished it to be conferred upon his wife, to whom he attributed all his success. His wife therefore became Viscountess Beaconsfield. On the day, long before this, when he was to unfold the Budget, he entered the carriage absorbed in thought, his wife quietly taking her seat beside him. In getting in, her finger was caught by the door, which shutting upon it held it so fast that she could not withdraw it. Fearful of driving figures and arguments from his head, she uttered no cry nor made any movement until they reached the House; nor did Disraeli hear of it till long after. All that evening the faithful wife sat in the gallery, that her husband's quick eye might not miss her from it, bearing her pain like a martyr, and like a woman who loves.

(E. Foster.)

It means literally "the band of the house," the support of it, the person who keeps it together, as a band keeps together a sheaf of corn. There are many married men who are not husbands, because they are not bands of the house. In many cases the wife is the husband, who by her prudence and economy keeps the house together. The man who by his dissolute habits strips his house of all comfort, is only a husband in a legal sense. He is not a houseband; instead of keeping things together he scatters them.

(E. Foster.)

Tiberius Gracchus, the Roman, finding two snakes in his bed, and consulting with the soothsayers, was told that one of them must be killed; yet, if he killed the male, he himself would die shortly; if the female, his wife would die. His love to his wife, Cornelia, was so great, that he killed the male, saith Plutarch, and died quickly.

(G. Swinnock, M. A.)

Rowland Hill often felt much grieved at the false reports which were circulated of many of his sayings, especially those respecting his publicly mentioning Mrs. Bill. His attentions to her till the close of life were of the most gentlemanly and affectionate kind. The high view he entertained of her may be seen from the following fact: — A friend having informed Mr. Hill of the sudden death of a lady, the wife of a minister, remarked, "I am afraid our dear minister loved his wife too well, and the Lord in wisdom has removed her." "What, Air?" replied Mr. Hill, with the deepest feeling, "can a man love a good wife too much? Impossible, sir, unless he can love her better than Christ loves the Church."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christian Age.
Xenophon relates, that when Cyrus had taken captive a young prince of Armenia, together with his beautiful and blooming wife, of whom he was remarkably fond, they were brought before the tribunal of Cyrus to receive their sentence. The warrior inquired of the prince what he would give to be reinstated in his kingdom, and he replied that he valued his crown and his liberty at a very low rate; but if the noble conqueror would restore his beloved wife to her former dignity and possessions, he would willingly pay his life for the purchase. The prisoners were dismissed, to enjoy their freedom and former honours; and each was lavish in praises of the conqueror. "And you," said the prince, addressing his wife, "what think you of Cyrus?" "I did not observe him," she replied. "Not observe him!" exclaimed her husband; "upon whom, then, was your attention fixed?" "Upon that dear and generous man," she replied, "who declared his readiness to purchase my liberty at the expense of his life."

(Christian Age.)

The tear of a loving girl, says an old book, is like a dewdrop on a rose; but one on the cheek of a wife is a drop of poison to her husband. Try to appear cheerful and contented, and your husband will be so, and when you have made him happy, you will become so, not in appearance but in reality. The skill required is not so great. Nothing flatters a man so much as the happiness of his wife: he is always proud of himself as the source of it.

(J. Moser.)

N. Y. Observer.
As I was conversing with a pious old man, I inquired what were the means of his conversion. For a moment he paused. I perceived I had touched a tender string. Tears gushed from his eyes, while, with deep emotion, he replied, "My wife was brought to God some years before myself. I persecuted and abused her because of her religion. She, however, returned nothing but kindness, constantly manifesting an anxiety to promote my comfort and happiness; and it was her amiable conduct, when suffering ill treatment from me, that first sent the arrows of conviction to my soul."

(N. Y. Observer.)

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