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        Of the Fifth Commandment


          From the Commentary on the Shorter Catechism by Thomas Boston.


Thomas Boston (1676-1732) was a pastor of God's flock in Ettrick , Scotland , whose preaching God abundantly blessed in the saving of many souls. The son of a Presbyterian who knew the Lord and was imprisoned for non-conformity, Boston was raised in times of murderous persecution. Nevertheless, he lived to see God’s people flourish and multiply, as “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47 ). He is perhaps best known for his part in the reprinting of “The Marrow of Modern Divinity”, a book which distinguishes the Covenant of Works from the Covenant of Grace.



Secondly, I come to shew the duties more peculiar to each party. 1. The duties of the husband of this sort may be reduced to this one, viz. that he carry himself towards her as a head for her good, ruling her in the fear of the Lord. It is not a name of power only, but of duty; for he must be such a head to her as Christ is to the church, Ephesians 5:23. And whoso reckon upon the authority of that name without eyeing the duty of it, put asunder what God has joined in his grant, and will join when he calls men to an account. 2. The duties of the wife may be reduced to this one, viz. submitting herself to her husband as her head, Ephesians 5:22,23. She is not to lord it over him, but to be subject to him. And in this respect there is a reverence and fear of the husband enjoined in the wife, Ephesians 5:33. 1 Peter 3:2. which is a due regard in the heart to his character as a husband, seeing in that God has put off his own name upon him, God himself being called our husband; a fear to offend him, flowing from love, venting itself in speaking and carrying respectfully to him, 1 Peter 3:6.

Now the husband as the head of the wife owes her, 1. Protection, so as she may be as safe and easy under the covert of his relation to her as he can make her. For this cause God has given the husband as head to the weaker vessel: and therefore it was an ancient ceremony in marriage for the husband to spread his skirt over his wife, Ruth 3:9. He is to protect her to the utmost of his power from the injuries of others, 1 Samuel 30:18. and particularly from the insults, whether of children or servants in the family, as well as neighbours, Genesis 16:6. And if so, surely he himself is not to bear hard upon her, but to shew her a peculiar tenderness as the weaker vessel, a tenderness to her body and spirit too; and not to suffer her, far less to oblige her, to distress herself above measure. On the other hand, she owes him obedience, a submission to, and compliance with, his admonitions. It is observed of Job's wife, for as ill as she was, when he calls her a fool, she does not give him the same epithet again. Reason itself teaches, that whoso puts himself under the protection of another, must be ruled by that other, and not by himself. 2. Provision, 1 Timothy 5:8. The husband ought to provide for his wife, and cheerfully furnish her with what is needful and convenient according to his station and ability; and lay out himself by all lawful means for her comfortable through-bearing. And this he should have an eye to, not only for the time of his life, but even after his decease. And on the other hand, the wife ought to be helpful to her husband by her frugal management, Proverbs 31:27. And God's word and frequent experiments plainly shew, that a man's thriving or not thriving has a great dependence on his wife's management, Proverbs 14:1. While he, then, is busy without doors, she should be careful within; and therefore it is recommended to women to be much at home, Titus 2:5. Yet she may well go abroad when her business calls her, as Abigail did, 1 Samuel 25: 3. Lastly, Direction, with calmness instructing her, how she should carry in every thing, both with respect to things of this life and of the other, Proverbs 2:17 . He ought to be as eyes to her, which have their place in the head, and so should be capable to guide, 1 Peter 3:7. On the other hand, the wife should be pliable and teachable, 1 Timothy 2:11 . yea, and be ready to seek instruction from her husband, 1 Corinthians 14:35 . She should be obedient to his commands and directions, ver. 34. for in every thing wherein the law of God has not bound her up, the husband's will ought to be complied with, Ephesians 5:24. Genesis 3:16.

 The reasons of the husband's duties are these, 1. Because husbands are appointed to be such heads as Christ is to the church, Ephesians 5:25. And if men would reflect on this, it would make them very dutiful, and bear with many things as Christ doth, else we would be ruined. 2. Because thy wife is thy own flesh, thy second self, ver. 28,29; and so undutifulness is monstrous. 3. Because she is the weaker vessel, 1 Peter 3:7; for it hath pleased the Lord to exercise the woman with a special measure of infirmity, both natural and moral. The reasons of the woman's duty are these. Because the woman was created for the man, 1 Timothy 2:13. compare 1 Corinthians 11:9. 1. Because the woman was the first that sinned, 1 Timothy 2:14. compare Genesis 3:16. 2. Because she is the weaker vessel.

Use 1. Let all such as have been, or are in that relation, be humbled under a sense of their sin in that point, and fly to the blood of Christ for pardon. And let every one look on that relation as a serious matter, in which people must walk with God, and under which they are bound to so many duties, of which they must give an account to the Lord.



Extract from Boston’s “Of the Fifth Commandment,” a part of his Commentary on the Shorter Catechism