Hast thou a wife? Thou must consider how thou oughtest to behave thyself under that relation: and to do this aright, thou must consider the condition of thy wife, whether she be one that indeed believeth or not.
First, If she believeth, then,
1. Thou art engaged to bless God for her: ‘For her price is far above rubies, and she is the gift of God unto thee, and is for thy adorning and glory’ (Prov 12:4; 31:10; 1 Cor 11:7). ‘Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised’ (Prov 31:30).
2. Thou oughtest to love her, under a double consideration: (1.) As she is thy flesh and thy bone: ‘For no man ever yet hated his own flesh’ (Eph 5:29). (2.) As she is together with thee an heir of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). This, I say, should engage thee to love her with Christian love; to love her, as believing you both are dearly beloved of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as those that must be together with him in eternal happiness.
3. Thou oughtest so to carry thyself to and before her, as doth Christ to and before his church; as saith the apostle: So ought men to love their wives, ‘even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it’ (Eph 5:25). When husbands behave themselves like husbands indeed, then will they be not only husbands, but such an ordinance of God to the wife, as will preach to her the carriage of Christ to his spouse. There is a sweet scent wrapped up in the relations of husbands and wives, that believe (Eph 4:32); the wife, I say, signifying the church, and the husband the head and saviour thereof, ‘For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church’ (Eph 5:23). and he is the Saviour of the body.
This is one of God’s chief ends in instituting marriage, that Christ and his church, under a figure, might be wherever there is a couple that believe through grace. Wherefore that husband that carrieth it undiscreetly towards his wife, he doth not only behave himself contrary to the rule, but also maketh his wife lose the benefit of such an ordinance, and crosseth the mystery of his relation.
Therefore, I say, ‘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:’ (Eph 5:8, 29). Christ laid out his life for his church, covereth her infirmities, communicates to her his wisdom, protecteth her, and helpeth her in her employments in this world; and so ought men to do for their wives. Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter had the art of thus doing, as you may see in the book of Canticles. Wherefore bear with their weaknesses, help their infirmities, and honour them as the weaker vessels, and as being of a frailer constitution (1 Peter 3:7).
In a word, be such a husband to thy believing wife, that she may say, God hath not only given me a husband, but such a husband as preacheth to me every day the carriage of Christ to his church.
Second, If thy wife be unbelieving or carnal, then thou hast also a duty lying before thee, which thou art engaged to perform under a double engagement: 1. For that she lieth liable every moment to eternal damnation. 2. That she is thy wife that is in this evil case.
Oh! how little sense of the worth of souls is there in the heart of some husbands; as is manifest by their unchristian carriage to and before their wives! Now, to qualify thee for a carriage suitable,
1. Labour seriously after a sense of her miserable state, that thy bowels may yearn towards her soul.
2. Beware that she take no occasion from any unseemly carriage of thine, to proceed in evil. And here thou hast need to double thy diligence, for she lieth in thy bosom, and therefore is capable of espying the least miscarriage in thee.
3. If she behave herself unseemly and unruly, as she is subject to do, being Christless and graceless, then labour thou to overcome her evil with thy goodness, her forwardness with thy patience and meekness. It is a shame for thee, who hast another principle, to do as she.
4. Take fit opportunities to convince her. Observe her disposition, and when she is most likely to bear, then speak to her very heart.
5. When thou speakest, speak to purpose. It is no matter for many words, provided they be pertinent. Job in a few words answers his wife, and takes her off from her foolish talking: ‘Thou speakest,’ saith he, ‘as one of the foolish women. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?’ (Job 2:10).
6. Let all be done without rancour, or the least appearance of anger: ‘In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if—peradventure they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will’ (2 Tim 2:25, 26). ‘And how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife’ (1 Cor 7:16).
John Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 557–558.