William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

The Mutual Duties Of Husbands And Wives Towards Each Other

by Richard Baxter, 16151691

Selfish ungodly persons everywhere enter into all kinds of relationships with a
desire of serving their ownselves, and gratifying their own flesh without
knowing or caring what is required of them. Their desire is for the honour,
profit, or pleasure their relationship will provide them but not for what God
and man requires or expects from them. [Gen 2:18, Prov 18:22] Their mind is
concerned only with what they shall have and not for what they shall be and do. (1)

They know what they want others to do for them, but do not care what their duty
is to do for others. This is the way it is with too many husbands and wives.
We should be very concerned to know what the duties of our relationships are.
And how we can please God in our relationships. Study and do your part, and God
will certainly do his.

Direct. I. The first duty of husbands is to love their wives (and wives their
husbands). Eph 5.25,28,29,33. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also
loved the church, and gave himself for it.So ought men to love their wives as
their own bodies; he that loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever yet
hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the
church.Let every one of you in particular so love his wife, even as himself."
See Gen 2.24.

Some directions for maintaining love are as follows:

1. Choose a good spouse in the first place. A spouse who is truly good and kind.
Full of virtue and holiness to the Lord. (2)

2. Don't marry till you are sure that you can love entirely.

3. Be not too hasty, but know beforehand all the imperfections which may tempt
you to despise your future mate. (3)

4. Remember that justice commands you to love one that has forsaken all the
world for you. One who is contented to be the companion of your labours and
sufferings, and be a sharer in all things with you, and that MUST be your
companion until death. (4)

5. Remember that women are ordinarily affectionate, passionate creatures, and as
they love much themselves, so they expect much love from you.

6. Remember that you are under God's command; and to deny marital love to your
wives, is to deny a duty which God has urgently imposed on you. Obedience
therefore should command your love.

7. Remember that you are "one flesh"; you have drawn her to forsake father and
mother, and to cleave to you; (5)

8. Take more notice of the good, that is in your wives, than of her faults. Let
not the observation of their faults make you forget or overlook their virtues. (6)

9. Don't magnify her imperfections until they drive you crazy.
Excuse them as far as is right in the Lord. Consider the frailty of the sex.
Consider also your own infirmities, and how much your wives must bear with you. (7)

10. Don't stir up the evil of your spouse, but cause the best in them to be
lived out. (8)

11. Overcome them with love; and then they will be loving to you, and
consequently lovely. Love will cause love, as fire kindleth fire. A good husband
is the best means to make a good and loving wife. (9)

12. Live before them the life of a prudent, lowly, loving, meek, selfdenying,
patient, harmless, holy heavenly Christian. (10)

Direct. II. Husbands and wives must live together. 1 Cor 7:25

Direct III. Abhor not only adultery itself, but all that leads to unchasteness
and the violation of your marriagecovenant. [Mat 5.31,32; 19:9; John 8,45, of
adultery; Heb 13.4; Prov 22.14; Hos 4.23; Prov 2.17; 1 Cor 6.15,19; Mal. 2.15;
Prov 6.32,35; Deu 23.2; Lev 21.9; 18:28; Num 25.9; Jer 5.79]

Direct. IV. Husband and wife must delight in the love and company, and lives of
each other. When husband and wife take pleasure in each other, it unites them in
duty, it helps them with ease to do their work, and bear their burdens; and is a
major part of the comfort of marriage. [Prov 5.18,19]

Direct. V. It is your solemn duty to live in quietness and peace. To avoid every
occasion of fierce anger and discord.

[I. Directions showing the great necessity of avoiding dissension.]

1. The duty of your marriageunion requires unity. Can you not agree with your
own flesh?

2. Division with your spouse will pain and upset your whole life ... Just as you
do not wish to hurt your own self and are quick to care for your own wounds; so
you should take notice of any break in the peace of your marriage and quickly
seek to heal it.

3. Fighting chills love, fighting makes your spouse undesirable
to you in your mind. Wounding is separating; to be tied together through marital
bonds while your hearts are estranged is to be tormented. To be inwardly
adversaries, while outwardly husband and wife turns your home and delight into a
prison. (11)

4. Dissension between the husband and the wife disrupts the whole family life;
they are like oxen unequally yoked, no work can be accomplished for all the
striving with one another.

5. It greatly makes you unfit for the worship of God; you are not able to pray
together nor to discuss heavenly things together, nor can you be mutual helpers
to each other's souls. (12)

6. Dissension makes it impossible to manage your family properly.(13)

7. Your dissension will expose you to the malice of Satan, and give him
advantage for many, many temptations. (14)

[II. Directions for avoiding dissensions.]

1. Keep alive your love for one another. Love your spouse dearly and fervently.
Love will suppress wrath; you cannot be bitter over little things with someone
you dearly love; much less will you descend to harsh words, aloofness, or any
form abuse. (15)

2. Both husband and wife must mortify their pride and strong self centered
feelings. (16 ) These are the feelings which cause intolerance and
insensitivity. You must pray and labour for a humble, meek, and quiet spirit. A
proud heart is troubled and provoked by every word that seems to assault your

3.Do not forget that you are both diseased persons, full of infirmities; and
therefore expect the fruit of those infirmities in each other; and do not act
surprised about it, as if you had never known of it before. Decide to be patient
with one another; remembering that you took one another as sinful, frail,
imperfect persons, and not as angels, or as blameless and perfect. (18)

4. Remember still that your are one flesh; and therefore be no more offended
with the words or failings of each other, than you would be if they were your
own. Be angry with your wife for her faults no more than you are angry with
yourself for your own. Have such an anger and displeasure against a fault, as
will work to heal it; but not such as will cause festering and aggravation of
the diseased part. This will turn anger into compassion, and will cause you to
administer care for the cure. (19)

5. Agree together beforehand, that when one of you is sinfully angry and upset
the other shall silently and gently bear it until you have come to your sanity.

6. Have an eye to the future and remember that you must live together until
death, and must be the companions of each other's lives, and the comforts of
each other's lives, and then you will see how absurd it is for you to disagree
and upset each other.(21)

7. As far as you are able, avoid all occasions of wrath and quarreling, about
the matters of your families.(22)

8. If you are so angry that you cannot calm yourself at least control your
tongue and do not speak hurtful and taunting words, talking it out hotly fans
the fire, and increases the flame; (Do not ventilate your anger as you only feed
your fleshly vengenance) Be silent, and you will much sooner return to your
serenity and peace.(23)

9. Let the calm and rational spouse speak carefully and compellingly reason with
the other (unless it be with a person so insolent as will make things worse).

Usually a few sober, grave admonitions, will prove as water to the boiling pot.
Say to your angry wife or husband, "You know this should not be between us; love
must put it to rest, and it must be repented of. God does not approve of it, and
we shall not approve of it when this heat is over. This frame of mind is
contrary to a praying frame, and this language contrary to a praying language;
we must pray together; let us do nothing contrary to prayer now: sweet water and
bitter come not from one spring", etc. Some calm and condescending words of
reason, may stop the torrent, and revive the reason which passion had

10. When you have sinfully acted towards your spouse confess to one another; and
ask for forgiveness of each other, and join in prayer to God for pardon; and
this will act as a preventative in you the next time: you will surely be ashamed
to do that which you have confessed and asked forgiveness for of God and

Direct. VI. One of the most important duties of a husband to his wife and a wife
to her husband is to carefully, skillfully, and diligently help each other in
the knowledge and worship, and obedience of God that they might be saved and
grow in their Christian Life.

1. This is not love, when you neglect each other's soul.(26 ) Do you believe
that you have immortal souls, and an endless life of joy or misery to live? Then
you MUST know that your great concern and business is, to care for those souls,
and for the endless life. Therefore if your love does not help one another in
this which is your main concern, it is of little worth, and of little use. Every
thing in this world is as valuable as it is useful. A useless or unprofitable
love, is a worthless love. It is a trifling, or a childish, or a beastly love,
which helps you but in trifling, childish, or beastly things. Do you love your
wife, and will leave her in the power of Satan, or will not help to save her
soul? What! love her, and yet let her go to hell? and rather let her be damned
than you will be at the pains to endeavor her salvation? Never say you love
them, if you will not labour for their salvation.

What then shall we say of them that do not only deny their help, but are
hinderers of the holiness and salvation of each other! [1Kings 11.4, Acts 5.2,
Job 2.9] And yet (the Lord have mercy on the poor miserable world!) how common a
thing is this among us! If the wife be ignorant and ungodly, she will do her
worst to make or keep her husband in the same state as she is herself; and if
God put any holy inclinations into his heart, she will be like water to the
fire, to quench it or to keep it subdued; and if he will not be as sinful and
miserable as herself, he shall have little rest. And if God open the eyes of the
wife of a bad man, and show her the necessity of a holy life, and she resolves
to obey the Lord, and save her soul, what an enemy and tyrant will her husband
be to her ( if God does not restrain him); so that the devil himself will do no
more to prevent the saving of their souls than ungodly husbands and wives do
against each other.

2. Consider also that you are not living up to the design of marriage, if you
are not helping each other's souls.(27)

3. Consider also, if you neglect each other's souls, what enemies you are to one
another, and how you are preparing for your everlasting sorrows: when you should
be preparing for your joyful meeting in heaven, you are laying up for yourselves
everlasting horror.(28)

Therefore without a moment's hesitation determine to live together as heirs of
heaven, and to be a helper to one other's souls. To assist you in this holy
pursuit I will give you these following directions, which if you will faithfully
practice, may make you to be special blessings to each other.

Direct. I. Before you can help to save each other's souls you must be sure of
your own. You must have a deep and living understanding of the great eternal
matters of which you are required to speak to others about. If you have no
compassion for your own soul and will sell it for a moment of ease and pleasure,
surely then you have no compassion for your spouse's soul.(29)

Direct. II. Take every opportunity which your nearness provides to be speaking
seriously to each other about the matters of God, and your salvation.(30 )

Discussing those things of this world no more than required. And then talk
together of the state and duty of your souls towards God, and of your hopes of
heaven, as those that take these for their greatest business. And don't speak
lightly, or unreverently, or in a rude and disputing manner; but with gravity
and sobriety, as those that are discussing the most important things in the
whole world. [Mark 8:36]

Direct. III. When either husband or wife is speaking seriously about holy
things, let the other be careful to cherish, and not to extinguish the

Direct IV. Watch over the hearts and lives of one another, judging the condition
of each other's souls, and the strength or weakness of each others sins and
graces, and the failings of each others lives, so that you may be able to apply
to one another the most suitable help. (32)

Direct. V. Do not flatter one another from a foolish love.(33 ) Neither meanly
critise one another. Do all in true, Godly love. Some are so blinded to the
faults of husband, wife or child that they do not see the sin and wickedness in
them. They are deluded concerning their eternal souls. This is the same as it is
with self loving sinners and their own souls, willfully deceiving themselves to
their damnation. This flattering of yourselves or others, is but the devil's
charm to keep you from effectual repentance and salvation. On the other hand,
some cannot speak to one another of their faults, without such bitterness, or
contempt, which will cause them to refuse the medicine that could save them. If
the everyday warnings you make to strangers must all be offered in love, much
more between the husband and wife.

Direct. VI. Keep up your love to one another, do not grow distant. For if you
do, you will despise each other's counsels and reproofs.

Direct. VII. Do not discourage your spouse from instructing you by refusing to
receive and learn from their corrections.(34)

Direct. VIII. Help each other by reading together the most convicting, cutting,
lifegiving books. The ones most spiritual. Do not waste your time on light,
weak, milktoast ministries and books. Make friendships together with the
holiest persons. This is not neglecting your duty to one another, but that all
the helps working together may be the more effectual.(35)

Direct. IX. Don't Conceal the state of your souls, nor hide your faults from one
another. You are as one flesh, and should have one heart: and as it is dangerous
for a man to be ignorant of his own soul so it is very hurtful to husband or
wife to be ignorant of one another, in those areas where they have need of

Direct X. Avoid as much as possible different opinions in religion.

Direct. XI. If different religious understandings come between you, be sure that
you manage it with holiness, humility, love, and peace, and not with carnality,
pride, uncharitableness, or contention.

Direct. XII. Do not either blindly indulge each others faults nor be too
critical of each other's state, allowing Satan to alienate your affections from
one another.

Direct. XIII. If you are married to one that is an ungodly person, yet keep up
all the love which is due for the relation's sake.(37)

Direct XIV. Join together in frequent and fervent prayer. Prayer forces the mind
into sobriety, and moves the heart with the presence and majesty of God. Pray
also for each other when you are in secret, that God may do that work which you
most desire, upon each other's hearts.

Direct. XV. Lastly, Help each other by an exemplary life. Be yourself, what you
desire your husband or wife should be; excel in meekness, and humility, and
charity, and dutifulness, and diligence, and selfdenial, and patience.(38 )

Direct. VII. Another important duty in marriage is, to help in the health and
comfort of each other's bodies. Not to pamper each other's flesh, or cherish the
vices of pride, or sloth, or gluttony, or the sensual pleasures in each other;
but to increase the health and vigor of the body, making it fit for the service
of the soul and God.

1. In health, you must be careful to provide for each other (not so much
pleasing as) wholesome food, and to keep each other from that which is hurtful
to your health; warning each other from the dangers of gluttony and idleness,
the two great murderers of mankind.(39)

2. Also in sickness, you are to be caring of each other; and not to spare any
costs or pains, by which the health of each other may be restored, or your souls
confirmed, and your comforts cherished.(40)

Direct. VIII. Another duty of husbands and wives is, to be helpful to each other
in their worldly business and estates. Not for worldly ends, nor with a worldly
mind; but in obedience to God, who will have them labour, as well as pray, for
their daily bread, and has determined that in the sweat of their brows they
shall eat their bread; and that six days they shall labor and do all that they
have to do; and that he that will not work must not eat.(41)

Direct IX. Also you must be careful to guard the honour of one another. You must
not divulge, but conceal, the failings of each other; The reputation of each
other must be as dear to you as your own. It is a sinful and unfaithful practice
of many, both husbands and wives, who among their friends are discussing the
faults of each other, which they are required in tenderness to cover up. MANY
peevish persons will aggravate all the faults of their spouse behind their
backs.(42 )

Direct X. IT is your marriage duty to assist one another in the education of
your children.(43)

Direct XI. It is your marriage duty to assist each other in charity.(44)

Direct XII. LASTLY, it is a great DUTY of husbands and wives, to help and
comfort one other in preparing for a safe and happy death.(45)

1. In the time of health, you must often and seriously remind each other of the
time when death will make the separation; and live together daily as those that
are still expecting the parting hour....Reprove everything in one another, which
would be an unwelcome memory at death. If you see each other dull and slow in
heavenliness, or living in vanity, worldliness, or sloth, as if you had
forgotten that you must shortly die, stir up one another to do all without delay
which the approach of such a day requireth.

2. And when death is at hand, oh then what abundance of tenderness, and
seriousness, and skill, and diligence, is needful for one, that hath the last
office of love to perform, to the departing soul of so near a friend! Oh then
what need will there be of your most wise, and faithful, and diligent
help!....They that are utterly unprepared and unfit to die themselves, can do
little to prepare or help another. But they that live together as the heirs of
heaven, and converse on earth as fellow travellers to the land of promise, may
help and encourage the souls of one another, and joyfully part at death, as
expecting quickly to meet again in life eternal.


Some of the following scripture references are found in Baxter's Work, others I
have added in hopes of increasing your edification.

1 Luk 6:3132; 1Cor 10:24; Gal 6:2; Phil 2:4; 2tim 3:2; Jam 2:15; 1Joh 3:17; Gen
4:9; 1 Sam 25:311; Esth 6:6; Isa 56:11; Joh 6:26
2 Pro 18:22; Pro 19:1314
3 Pro 18:13
4 Mat 5:32; Mat 19:9; 1Cor 7:39; Col 3:19; Gen 2:24
5 Mat 19:5; Mar 10:7
6 1 Cor 13:7; Phil 2:3
7 Psa 103:14; 1Cor 13:7
8 Pro 10:12
9 Rom 12:21; 1Pet 3:9
10 Eph 4:1; Col 1:10; 1The 2:12; Pro 11:30; 1Tim 4:16; Jam 5:1920; 1Pet 3:12
11 Pro 19:13
12 Mat 5:23; 1Sam 15:22
13 Mat 12:25; Mar 3:25; Luk 11:17
14 Jam 1:13; 1Cor 7:5; Job 2:9
15 Lev 19:8; Psa 133:1; Pro 15:17; Rom 12:10; Rom 14:19; Rom 15:1; 1Cor 13:47
16 Luk 9:23; Psa 101:5; Prov 16:5; Prov 21:4; Prov 28:25; Mat 23:12; 1Pet 5:6
17 Psa 10:4; Hos 7:10; Prov 13:10; Prov 28:25
18 Jer 17:9; Rom 7:24; 1Joh 1:8
19 Eph 4:26; Eph 4:32; Jam 1:19
20 Eph 4:2; 1Cor 13:4
21 Ecc 9:9; Rom 7:2
22 Gen 2:24
23 Gal 5:15; Jam 3:5,6,8
24 Pro 15:18; Mat 5:9; Psa 85:8
25 Eph 4:32; Jam 5:16
26 2Cor 2:4; 2Cor 12:15; 1The 2:8
27 Gen 2:18 1The 5:11; Eph 4:16; Heb 12:15; 1cor 7:5; Col 2:19; Gen 35:2; Gen
35:4; Lev 19:17; Num 16:27; Num 16:32
29 Gen 2:18; 2Cor 13:5; Gal 6:3; Gen 25:29; Gen 25:34
30 Col 3:16; Heb 3:13; Heb 10:24
31 Pro 27:6; Pro 15:12; Pro 15:31; Pro 15:32
32 Heb 10:24
33 Eph 4:15; Eph 4:265:9
34 Pro 29:1
35 Eph 4:1116
36 Jam 5:16; Eph 5:2732
37 1Cor 7:1314
38 1Pe 3:1; Joh 13:15; 1Tim 4:12; 1Cor 11:1; 1The 1:6; 2The 3:79;
Tit 2:6; Jam 3:17; 2Pe 1:58
39 1Cor 6:19; Deu 21:20; Pro 23:21; Pro 19:15; Pro 6:9; Pro 10:4;
2Th 3:10 Pro 19:24; Pro 20:13; Pro 23:21; Pro 24:33; Isa 56:10;
1Tim 5:13
40 Eph 5:29, Job 19:17
41 Pro 31; Tit 2:5; 1Ti 5:14; 1Ti 5:8; Ex 20:9,11; Ge 3:19; 1Th 3:1012
42 Jam 4:11; Pro 17:9; 1Pet 4:8
43 Gen 18:19; Gen 35:2; Jos 24:14; 1Tim 5:14; Prov 31:1
44 Heb 13:2; Gen 18:6; Rom 12:13; 2Cor 9:6; Luk 16:9; 1Tim 3:2; 1Tim 5:10; Pro
11:20; Pro 11:28; Neh 8:1; Pro 19:17; Job 29:13; Joh 31:20 Acts 20:35
45 Deu 32:29; Psa 39:4; Psa 90:12; Rom 14:8; Heb 13:14; 1Pe 1:17; Psa 3:5; Psa
37:37; Psa 49:15; Psa 73:24; Psa 116:15; Pro 14:32; Ecc 7:1; Luk 16:22; Luk
23:43; 1Cor 15:5157; 2Cor 5:1; 2Cor 5:4; 2Cor 5:8; Phi 1:2023; 1The 5:9; 2Pe
1:11; 2Pe 1:14; Rev 14:13; Psa 23:4


Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Discovery of the Americas