Gouge, William. Building a Godly Home: Volume 1, A Holy Vision for Family Life. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2013 ($9 on Kindle).
This is the first of a three volume release of William Gouge’s Domestical Duties. According to the editors, this book was the most influential Puritan book on marriage and family. It is a work whose value endures. Reformation Heritage has done an excellent job in laying out the text, inserting headings and footnotes, and making the text readable for a contemporary audience. The volumes are nicely casebound.
Regarding content, this is one of the best expositions of Ephesians 5:21-6:4 that I’ve encountered. Gouge does an excellent job of explaining the text, explaining difficulties, and reconciling apparent contradictions. His seventeenth century perspective is an advantage rather than a liability because it enables us to see this text through different cultural eyes. In this regard his comments on equality were especially insightful. He lived in a hierarchical culture; we live in an egalitarian one. As a result we tend to be suspicious of an order of authority whereas Gouge is not. The ability to see our world through other eyes, and then to ask which vision most closely aligns with Scripture is a value one.
This volume provides practical application of the husband and wife’s mutual duties to each other, the wife’s duties toward her husband, and a husband’s duties toward his wife. It is full of careful, biblical guidance. Hermeneutically, Gouge is sometimes over-reliant on biblical examples that should not be taken as normative. Overall, however, his counsel is biblically grounded.
As expected, Gouge presents the biblical teaching of a husband’s leadership in the home and the wife’s submission to her husband. Gouge also sees the wife as holding an exalted position in the home, and his counsel repeatedly calls on the husband to lovingly treat her in way that honors her station. Gouge repeatedly exalts the position of a wife in the eyes of her husband. Egalitarian caricatures of what life in a biblically ordered home fall flat here as would any attempts to misuse the biblical teaching about the husband’s authority in order to demean the wife. Instead, husbands are challenged with the depth of what is called for in loving and honoring their wives.
The overall effect of this volume is to challenge husbands and wives in their daily life to reflect Christ and the church. Gouge writes in a way that is direct and challenging while also being inspiring. These volumes by Gouge may still be the best books on marriage and the family on the market. They certainly are worthy of being as widely read today as they were in Puritan times.
Gouge, William. Building a Godly Home: Volume 3, A Holy Vision for Raising Children. Reformation Heritage, published soon ($16.20 in Hardback).
Unfortunately, this volume was not available in time to allow a review (to be released, September 26). However, it is presented as a further extension of Gouge’s same biblical method to the subject of child-rearing. More information is available from the publisher, and a Kindle edition of the book should be available with time.