William Perkins, “Christian Oeconomy”
While Bullinger advocates the holiness of the marital institution, William Perkins, one of the most significant preachers of the sixteenth century, evokes Chrysostom in his admonitions of lust in “Christian Oeconomy.” Perkins approves of consummation also if the sexual act is understood in its holy purpose: as a means of procreation and as an act of reverence for the divine spirit.

The Work of William Perkins, ed. and intro. Ian Breward, Courtenay Library of Reformation Classics (Appleford, Abingdon, Berkshire, England: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1990).

Chapter X
Of the communion of married folks and of due benevolence [689]

THE COMMUNION OF MAN AND WIFE is that duty whereby they do mutually and willingly communicate both their persons and goods to each other, for their mutual help, necessity and comfort (Eph. 5. 28). This duty consisteth principally in the performance of special benevolence one to another, and that not of courtesy but of due debt (1 Cor. 7. 3.). Due benevolence must be showed with a singular and entire affection one towards another, and that three ways principally.
First, by the right and lawful use of their bodies or of the marriage bed, which indeed is an essential duty of marriage. The marriage bed signifieth that solitary and secret society which is between man and wife alone. And it is a thing in its own nature indifferent—neither good nor bad (1 Cor. 7. 27). . . . This coming together of man and wife, although it be indifferent, yet by the holy usage thereof it is made a holy and undefiled action (Heb. 13. 4). And it is (as all other creatures and ordinances of God are) sanctified by the word and the prayer (1 Tim. 4. 3-4). In which place it is to be observed how the apostle applieth the point of sanctification directly to marriage.
The word of God giveth direction to married folks two ways. First, by giving them warrant that they may lawfully do this action, because whatsoever is not done of faith (which faith must be grounded on God’s word) is a sin. Secondly, by prescribing the right and holy manner of doing the same.
The holy manner stands in these particulars. First, that it be done in moderation. For even in wedlock, excess in lusts is no better than plain adultery before God. This is the judgement of the ancient church, that intemperance, that is, immoderate desires even between man and wife are fornication. Secondly, that it be used in an holy abstinence. Abstinence from this secret society must be used in two cases. First, while the woman is in her flowers (Lev. 18. 19; Ezek. 18. 6). Secondly, in the time of solemn fast when some grievous calamity is imminent. Then they are to give themselves by mutual consent to fasting and prayer (1 Cor. 7. 5; 2 Sam. 11. 11; Zech. 12. 12).
Next unto the word, this action may be sanctified by prayer, for a blessing upon it. Children are the gift of God and therefore married folks are not only to use the means, but also to pray for the obtaining of them (Psa. 113. 9; 127. 3; Gen. 25. 21; 1 Sam. 1. 26-27). Now the fruits which are reaped and enjoyed by this holy usage of the marriage bed of three: the having of a blessed seed (Duet. 28. 1; Mal. 2. 15); [690] the preservation of the body in cleanness that it may be a fit temple for the Holy Ghost to dwell in (1 Thess. 4. 3-4); the holy estate of marriage is a lively type of Christ and his church; and this communion of married persons is also a figure of the conjunction that is between him and the faithful (Hos. 2. 19; Eph. 5. 23).
Contributing author: Michelle Ephraim, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Responding to William Perkins, “Christian Oeconomy”

Answer the following question in your notebook—this will be collated so that you can print or e-mail your work when you are finished.

1). Chrysostom, Bullinger, and Perkins refer to Paul's description of the church as the bride of Christ. How does each speaker manipulate the literal and metaphoric aspects of this allusion to suit different purposes?


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