Gouge (1575-1653): Naming a Child

From Domestical Duties. 

Some headings are not the author’s.  There have also been some minor updating of old English words and punctuation.

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Be careful in giving a fit name to your child

It belongs to parents to give the name to their child: for so holy parents (whose pattern in Scripture is in this respect commended unto us) have done from time to time: and for their warrant to do it, it is worthy to be noted, that when God was pleased to appoint a name to a child, he gave in charge to the parent so to name him, saying to him, Thou shalt call his name thus and thus (Gen 17:19; Matt 1:21; Luke 1:13).

It is also evident, that the time of baptism is the fittest time for giving the name. Under the Law, children’s names were given at their circumcision (Luke 1:59; 2:21), and so under the Gospel it has in all ages been used, and that for these reasons.

  1. That their names may be a testimony of their baptism.
  2. That so oft as they hear their names, they may be put in mind of their baptism.
  3. That they might know how by name they are given to Christ to be his soldiers, and therefore there must be no starting from him.
  4. That they may also be assured, that being baptized with water and the Spirit, by name they are registered in heaven.

Now because names are so solemnly given, and of so good use, most meet [i.e., appropriate] it is that fit names should be given to children. And for proof hereof, let the names which in Scripture are recorded to be given by God himself, and by such holy men and women as were guided by his Spirit, be observed; and we shall find them to be holy, sober, and fit names.

Examples

For direction to parents in this duty, I will set down some sorts and kinds of names as be fit, and beseeming Christians.

  • Names which have some good signification: and among them such as are warranted by the Scripture, as:
    • John [the grace of God],
    • Jonathan [the gift of God],
    • Andrew [manly],
    • Clement [meek],
    • Simeon [obedient],
    • Hannah [gracious],
    • Prudence [wife]
    • and such like: that thus their name may stir them up to labour after the virtue signified thereby.
  • Names which have in times before us been given to persons of good note, whose life is worthy our imitation, as
    • Isaac,
    • David,
    • Peter,
    • Mary,
    • Elizabeth,
    • and such like: that the names may move them to imitate those worthies.
  • Names of our own and ancestors and predecessors, to preserve a memory of the family: which appeareth to have been an ancient practice even among God’s people, in that the friends would have had Zachariah’s son named Zachariah (Luke 1:59); and when the mother had just cause to name him John they answer, none of thy kindred is called by his name.
  • Usual names of the country, which custom hath made familiar, as
    • Henry,
    • Edward,
    • Robert,
    • William,
    • and such like among us.