Trivium Pursuit

Duties of Children by William Gouge, Part 1

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. — John 10:1

The following is a modernization and updating of a selection from:

Of Domestical Duties, Fifth Treatise, Duties of Children, by William Gouge, London, 1622.

Regarding Parents’ Consent to the Marriage of Their Offspring

That offspring ought to have their parents’ consent to their marriage is evident beyond all question. Consider the following reasons:

1. God himself has given us this pattern: He first brought the woman to the man (Gen 2:22)

Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. — Genesis 2:22

By this God shows that he who gave human existence to the woman had jurisdiction to give her in marriage, which jurisdiction is now delegated to the parents because, under God, offspring now receive their human existence from them. In this case parents stand in God’s place, and function as God’s agent to join their offspring in marriage.

2. God has given explicit laws concerning this point.

a. The general moral law, which is the foundation for all other duties of offspring.

“Honor your father and your mother.” — Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Matthew 15:4; 19:19; Mark 7:10; 10:19; Luke 18:20; Ephesians 6:2

b. The jurisdiction and directive which God has laid upon parents – to give their daughters to husbands, and to take wives for their sons – has the force of a law to bind offspring from taking wives for themselves or giving themselves to husbands without or against their parents’ consent.

“Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son.” — Deuteronomy 7:3 (Compare Exodus 34:25; Joshua 23:12; Judges 3:6; 1 Kings 11:2; Ezra 9:2; Nehemiah 13:23-27; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

c. This law was not limited to the Jews only, but as a branch of the moral law it is for all men, and it is particularly pressed upon Christians.

But if any man [= the protector**] thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin [= the protected**], if she is past the flower of youth [= of full marriageable age], and thus it must be [= there is no technical restraint], let him [= the protector] do what he wishes [/chooses]. He does not sin [to consent]; let them marry. 37 Nevertheless he [= the protector] who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity [= no compelling obligation], but has power over his own will [literally: possessing authority concerning his own choice], and has so determined in his heart that he will keep [literally: continue protecting] his virgin [= the protected], does well. 38 So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better. — 1 Corinthians 7:36-38

[**Verse 37 explicitly identifies the man as the lawful protector of, and verse 38 explicitly identifies the man as the one possessing authority to give or not to give her in marriage. Men commonly married in their thirties and died in their fifties or early sixties, so frequently enough a father would die before his younger daughters were of full marriageable age. With prospect of his untimely death, a father would duly and lawfully appoint another to be protector for his daughter – ordinarily a close relative, such an uncle as protector of his niece. Hence if Paul had written “father” and “daughter,” he would likely have introduced an unnecessary confusion. Modern life expectancies somewhat obscure this otherwise obvious point. Despite the variable identity of the protector, the constant in this passage is that the man either continues to protect the virgin or he gives her to another man – her husband – to protect her. Her coverture passes from one protector to another, usually from father to husband. She is always under the jurisdiction of one man to protect her choices (Genesis 3:16; 18:12; Numbers 30:1-16; Esther 1:16-20; Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 11:3; 7-10; 14:33-35; Ephesians 5:22-24, 33; Colossians 3:18; 1 Timothy 2:11-13; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1, 5-6). It was the serpent who isolated the perfect woman from her protector and beguiled her to make a life-determining choice on her own though affecting everyone connected to her (1 Corinthians 4:15 with 2 Corinthians 11:2-3; Galatians 1:6 with 4:17; 1 Timothy 2:14). He essentially usurped Adam’s role by introducing doubt with a question about the order and intentions of things. In 1622, an explanatory note such as this was unnecessary. There is really no ambiguity here – it is self-explanatory. Confusion and ambiguity only arise when we try to read modern culture into this Scripture.]

d. To this may be added the judicial law of a parent’s power in giving his daughter, or refusing to give her in marriage to someone who had deflowered her.

“If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.” — Exodus 22:17

3. The practice of God’s people recorded and approved in Scripture agrees with the Law.

a. Isaac married the wife which his father provided.

So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; 4 but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” … Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. — Genesis 24:2-4, 67

b. Jacob both obeyed his father in going to Laban’s house for a wife and also when he came to Laban to ask for his daughter from him.

Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. 2 “Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. — Genesis 28:1-2

Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.” 19 And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her. 21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her.” … 26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 “Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.” 28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. — Genesis 29:18-21, 26-28

c. Though Samson saw a daughter of the Philistines which pleased him well, yet he would not marry her before he had his parents’ consent.

So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” — Judges 14:2

4. The testimony of God’s people shows that offspring had no custom or practice of being married without the consent of their parents.

a. Compare the words of Tamar:

“… Now therefore, please speak to the king [who was her father]; for he will not withhold me from you.” — 2 Samuel 13:13

b. Compare the oath of the Israelites

Now the men of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpah, saying, “None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin as a wife.” — Judges 21:1

5. The ancient fathers of the Church have in their ages taught offspring this duty, and pronounced marriages of offspring without consent of parents to be unlawful.

6. Even the heathen have observed the justice of this.

a. Though Shechem loved Dinah, and had deflowered her, yet he would not marry her without the consent of his and her father.

So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.” … 6 Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. — Genesis 34:4, 6

b. Ishmael had learned as much either by the instruction he had received out of Abraham’s house, or else by the light of nature: for he kept with the choice which his mother had made for him.

… his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt. — Genesis 21:21

One Response to “Duties of Children by William Gouge, Part 1”

  1. Pamela Says:

    I appreciate the explanation of the 1 Corinthians 7 passage. I’m not sure I’ve heard it expounded this unequivocally before.

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