A Husband's Prayer
By George Swinnock (1627–1673)
I pray that my love to my wife may be like Christ’s to His church, as well in its goodness as in its greatness; I mean, that my chiefest endeavor may be that she may be sanctified and cleansed and at last be presented to the blessed and beautiful bridegroom, a gracious and glorious spouse without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
Oh, how industriously did my Redeemer endeavor His church’s renovation and sanctity! How affectionately doth He beseech her to be holy! How fervently doth He beg of His Father to make her holy! How willingly did He broach His heart and pour out His blood to wash her from her unholiness! How plentifully doth He pour down His Spirit to work her to holiness! His birth was that she might be born again, and born holy; His life was to set her a copy of holiness; His death was to purchase for her a new stock of holiness. He gave Himself for her that He might redeem her from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. His precepts, His prayers, His tears, His blood, His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, His intercession are all for her holiness and purity. His name is called Jesus because He saves His people, not in, but from, their sins and unholiness. He doth not think Himself [complete] until His body [the church] be in heaven.
O my soul, when wilt thou imitate this lovely, lively pattern, and work hard in thy petitions to God, and woo hard in thy persuasions to thy wife that she may be pure! Doth not thine heart ache to think that the object of thy dearest love and favor should be the object of God’s greatest hatred and fury? that the companion of thy youth, who hath lain in thy bosom, whom thou hast so often embraced, should be a companion of frightful devils and lie in the lake of fire and brimstone forever and ever? Canst thou see thy wife posting in the way of perdition, hastening to hell, and never warn her of her danger, or ask her why she doth so? Is this thy kindness to thy friend? Ah, where [is thy heart]?
Lord, since Thou hast called me to be the head, help me to guide and direct, to see and speak, both to Thy Majesty in humble supplications, and to her in hearty and serious expostulations, that I may be ministerially what Thy Son is meritoriously—the savior of my body. I have found a costly feast in my Father’s family; the house is not so full but still there is room. There is nothing lacking but comers and company, and shall I suffer one so near me to starve for lack of knowledge where it is to be had? Oh, let Thy goodness to me cause me to persuade, and let Thy goodness to her enable me to prevail that she may taste and see that Thou art gracious!
I wish that I may naturally give the honey of sweetness and love, yet when provoked by sin against God, the sting of reproof that I may bear with my wife in all things save wickedness. If I nourish her natural diseases, I kill her body. If I cherish her spiritual distempers, I damn her soul. And shall I, through cursed fondness, flatter her into the unquenchable fire? Lord, cause me not only to wink at her weaknesses and to hide them from the world’s eye, but also to observe any wickedness she shall be guilty of and to set it so in order before her eyes that Thou mayest cast it behind Thy back. Yea, Lord, help me to hearken to all her holy counsels and to hear Thee speaking by her, as well as to desire her to hearken to me; but let me never submit to any wicked advice, lest Thou judge me at last, as Thou didst Adam at first, for hearkening to the voice of my wife.
I wish that I may not [be] as some husbands, who dwell with their wives as brutes, understanding nothing in marriage but the meaning of carnal desires and the language of lust, yet deal worse with the wives of their bosoms than with their beasts and deny them what is convenient for their outward wellbeing; but that both my person and portion may be for her comfort in health, for her cordial in sickness, and employed upon all occasions, though not for the pampering of her pride or nourishment of any sin, yet in a moderate way for her service.
When my God gave Himself to my soul, He gave me all He had also and thought nothing too much for me. And shall I, who have not spared myself from her, think everything too good for her? If she brought a portion, what is become of it? Was it laid out to purchase her misery and poverty? If she did not, yet she is my wife, and both nature and Scripture command me to allow her answerable to my wealth and her [needs]. Oh, that I might be as Elkanah to Hannah, better to her than ten sons, than all relations. Lord, whilst I live, make me so loving and industrious that rather myself than my wife may lack. Let her body never want food and raiment, nor her soul the gospel feast, or the robes of Thy Son’s righteousness. And when I die, whomsoever I neglect, if by Thy providence I am able, let me make for her a comfortable provision that when I am happy in heaven, my other half may not, through my unworthiness, be miserable on earth. If it be Thy pleasure that I shall die poor—for my portion, through infinite grace, is not in this life—then let it please Thy Majesty to grant me this mercy: that I may leave my fatherless children with Thee and bid my widow trust in Thee. Let not my Lord be angry, and I will speak further on her behalf. In what need soever I shall leave this world, let me leave my wife the poor, or rather the rich, Levite’s portion, that though she hath no part or inheritance here below, (Num 18:20), yet Thou Thyself mayest be the portion of her cup and the lot of her inheritance. Oh, then the lines will fall to her in pleas- ant places, and she will have a goodly heritage.
Behold, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes. Let not my Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Do Thou so adorn me with grace, suitable to this relation as a bridegroom is decked with ornaments, that when I cease to be a husband, I may know what it is to be the bride, the Lamb’s wife (Hos 2:19), not as I do in this imperfect condition, where Thou hast only betrothed me unto Thyself in righteousness and judgment, and in lovingkindness and in mercy, and so whilst I am present in the body I am absent from the Lord; but in the highest degree, in that place where Thou wilt marry me to Thyself forever. Kiss me with the sweetest kisses of Thy lips, lodge me all night between Thy breasts, where is the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the true bridegroom and the voice of the true bride; where is the voice of them that say and sing, “Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (Jer 33:11). Amen.
From The Works of George Swinnock, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol, James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1868), 497-502, in the public domain.