William Gouge, edited by Brown, Scott and Beeke, Joel. Building a Godly Home. Vol. 1 Grand Rapids, MI.: Reformation Heritage, 2013. 192 + xiii pp. $18.00
Of Domesticall Duties, originally written in 1622 by Puritan minister William Gouge, was the seminal volume on the Christian home for generations. His thorough exposition of Ephesians 5:21-6:4 provided wise guidance and biblical counsel for those seeking to pattern their home after the Word of God. But due to its sheer size and antiquated language, the work has largely been lost to history. Seeking to introduce Gouge to a new generation of believers, Scott Brown and Joel R. Beeke have taken the monumental task of editing Gouge’s work and modernizing some of the language, while striving to remain faithful to his instruction.
As already written, the book is itself an exposition of Ephesians 5:21-6:4, and stands as an wonderful example of Puritan teaching. It is biblically-grounded, Christ-exalting, and vast in scope. Unlike many contemporary voices who work diligently to bend the Scriptures to tickle politically-correct ears, Gouge does not hesitate to allow God’s Word to speak clearly on the subjects of submission, headship, and authority. In good, Puritan style, Gouge frequently allows the text and the portrait of marriage to lead him into deeper theological discussion concerning baptism, communion, atonement, the nature of the Trinity, and other such doctrines leading the reader to ponder what length and breadth did Gouge’s original work travel without the work of the editors.
The editors ask in the Preface, “Have you ever desired a seasoned friend, thoroughly grounded in Scripture, to help you troubleshoot a family problem?” They then encourage the reader by writing, “In these pages, we hear the voice of a wise and loving mentor, calling us to the old paths laid out for the family in the Bible. Reading it is like sitting down to coffee with a gentle grandfather and wise pastor” (vii). This is a fantastic description of Gouge’s words and helps the reader understand the impetus behind the editing and republishing of such a work. But editing for the modern reader comes at a cost.
At several points in the book, the authors footnote that they are omitting certain grammatical arguments in support of Gouge’s interpretation on particular issues. Though this may seem a slight omission to many (if not most) readers, it leaves those well-versed in Greek wanting for a peek into the study of the author. One particular instance (page 67) cites Latin comments by Erasmus and Theodore Beza. Another occasion (page 112) eliminates a discussion of the genitive case and Greek prepositions. Once more, while seemingly insignificant for most audiences, scholars understand the significance of such discussions. Gouge was not an unlearned pastor and author. He handled the text in the original languages and no point was too minor to emphasize. While such edits are necessary for the sake of brevity, some readers will long that the editors include them in the appendices in future volumes.
At another point in the book, in a digression on the subject of baptism, Gouge expounds the meaning and beauty and wonder of the ordinance while defending a paedo-baptistic view. While it must be noted that this was the majority view in Gouge’s day, and remains such in many modern churches, Baptist readers (such as this reviewer) will be left to question how a man so steeped in Holy Writ could fail to see the inadequacy of his view, and the breath-taking imagery and biblical fidelity that demands the full immersion of believers in baptism.
These few critiques aside, Gouge’s work is one that this reviewer will continue reading as the second and third volumes are released. In a world where the definition of marriage is under attack even in churches, perhaps a voice from the past can help a generation find its way back to “the old paths laid out for the family in the Bible.”
William Gouge, Building a Godly Home, Vol. 1 A Holy Vision for Family Life
I received this book free from the publisher through the Reformation Heritage book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.