The Special Duties of WIVES
"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." Ephesians 5:22-24
1. The first duty I mention isSUBMISSION. This is enjoined also in the epistle to the Colossians. Peter writes with Paul in the same strain. "You wives be in submission to your own husbands." Before I state the kind of submission here commanded, it is necessary to state the nature of the authority to which it is to be yielded. Here I would observe, that with whatever kind and degree of authority the husband is invested over the wife—it is such as is in no way incompatible with, nor trenches upon the strongest and tenderest affection. And it is worthy of remark, that the apostle does not enjoin husbands to rule, nor instruct them how, but merely to love.
It is such an authority, as is compatible with religion or the claims of God—for no man has a right to enjoin, and no woman is bound to obey, any command which is in opposition to the letter or spirit of the bible.
It is such an authority, as is consonant with sound reason; its injunctions must all be reasonable, for surely it is too much to expect, that a wife is to become the slave of folly, any more than of cruelty.
It is an authority, that accords with the idea of companionship. It was very beautifully observed by an ancient writer, that when Adam endeavored to shift the blame of his transgressions upon his wife, he did not say "the woman you gave to me," no such thing, she is none of his goods, none of his possessions, not to be reckoned among his servants; but he said "the woman you gave to be with me," that is to be my partner, the companion of my joys and sorrows.
Let marital authority be founded upon love, be never exercised in opposition to revelation or reason, and be regulated by the idea of companionship, and then there needs no particular rules for its guidance; for within such limits, it can never degenerate into tyranny; nor can it ever oppress its subjects—to such a power any woman may bow, without degradation, for its yoke is easy and its burden light.
In every society, from that which finds its center in the father's chair, to that which in a wider circle rests upon the throne, there must be authority vested somewhere, and some ultimate authority, some last and highest tribunal established, from the decision of which there lies no appeal. In the family constitution this authority vests in the husband—he is the head, the law-giver, the ruler. In all matters touching the little world in the house, he is to direct, not indeed without taking counsel with his wife, but in all differences of view, he is to decide—unless he chooses to waive his right; and to his decision the wife should yield, and yield with grace and cheerfulness.
No man ought to resign his authority as the head of the family, no woman ought to wish him to do it—he may give up his preferences, and yield to her wishes, but he must not abdicate the throne, nor resign his scepter.
Usurpation of authority is always hateful, and it is one of the most offensive exhibitions of it, where the husband is degraded into a slave of the queen mother. Such a woman looks contemptible even upon the throne. I admit it is difficult for a sensible woman to submit to imbecility, but she should have considered this before she united herself to it—having committed one error, let her not fall into a second, but give the strongest proof of her good sense which circumstances will allow her to offer, by making that concession to the God-given authority of her husband, which there is no opportunity in her case for her to submit to superiority of mind. She may reason, she may persuade, she may solicit—but if ignorance cannot be convinced, nor obstinacy turned, nor kindness conciliated, she has no resource left but to submit—and one of the finest scenes ever to be presented by the family economy, is that of a sensible woman employing her talents, not to subvert—but to support the authority of a weak husband; a woman who prompts but does not command, who persuades, but does not dictate, who influences, but does not compel, and who, after taking pains to conceal her beneficent intervention, submits to the authority which she has both supported and guided.
An opposite line of conduct is most mischievous, for weakness, when placed in perpetual contrast with superior judgment, is rarely blind to its own defects; and as this consciousness of inferiority, when united with office, is always jealous, it is both watchful and resentful of any interference with its prerogative. There must be submission then, and where it cannot be yielded to superior talents, because there are none, it must be conceded to superiority of station. But let husbands be cautious not to put the submission of their wives to too a severe a test. It is hard, very hard to obey a rash, indiscreet, and silly ruler. "If you will be the head, remember the head is not only the seat of government, but of knowledge. If you will have the management of the ship, see that a fool is not placed at the helm. Shall the blind offer themselves as guides?"
The GROUNDS of submission are many and strong. Waving all motives founded upon the comparative strength of mind with which the two sexes may be gifted, I refer my female friends to less questionable matters. Look at the CREATION; woman was made after the man, "for Adam was first formed, then Eve." She was made out of man, "for the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man." She was made for man, "neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man."
Look at the FALL. Woman occasioned it. "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression." She was thus punished for it, "Your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you." Look at her history. Have not the customs of all nations, ancient and modern, savage and civilized, acknowledged her subordination? Look at the light in which this subject is placed in the New Testament. How strong is the language of the text, "the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."
Let me then, my respected female friends, as you would submit to the authority of Christ, as you would adorn the station that providence has called you to occupy, as you would promote your own peace, the comfort of your husband, and the welfare of your family, admonish you, meekly and gracefully to be subject in all things, not only to the wise and good, but to the foolish and ill-deserving. You may reason, as I have said before, you may expostulate, but you must not rebel or refuse. Let it be your glory to feel how much you can endure, rather than despise the institution of heaven, or violate those engagements into which you voluntarily and so solemnly entered. Let your submission be characterized by cheerfulness, and not by reluctant sullenness—let it not be preceded by a struggle, but yielded at once and forever—let there be no holding out to the last extremity, and then a mere compulsory capitulation; but a voluntarily, cheerful, undisputed and unrevoked concession.
2. The next duty enjoined upon the wife isRESPECT.
"Let the wife see that she respect her husband." This duty is nearly allied to the last, but is still some what different. By respect, the apostle means nothing of slavish, or servile homage—but that respect and deference which are due to one whom we are commanded to obey. Your respect will be manifest in your WORDS—for instance, in your manner of speaking of him, you will avoid all that will tend to lessen him in the esteem of others; all exposure of his faults or minor weaknesses; all depreciation of his understanding or family rule. Such gossip is detestable and mischievous, for can anything tend more to irritate him, than to find that you have been sinking him in the esteem of the public?
Respect will be displayed in your manner of speaking to him. "Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord," all flippant pertness, everything of contemptuous consciousness of superiority, of dictation and command, of unnecessary contradiction, of pertinacious and obtrusive disputation, of scolding accusation, of angry, reproachful complaint, of noisy and uncontrollable admonition, should be avoided. Almost all family quarrels begin in words; and it is usually in a woman's power to prevent them by causing the law of kindness to dwell upon her lips, and calming the gusts of her husband's passion, by those soft answers which turn away wrath.
Especially should she be careful how she speaks to him, or even before him, in the company of her family, or of strangers—she must not talk him into silence; nor talk at him; nor say anything that is calculated to wound or degrade him, for a sting inflicted in public is doubly charged with venom; she must not endeavor to eclipse him, to engross the attention of the company to herself, to reduce him to a cipher which is valueless until she stands before him. This is not respect—on the contrary, she should do all in her power to sustain his respectability and dignity in public esteem, and her very mode of addressing him, partaking at once of the kindness of affection, and the deference of respect, is eminently calculated to do this.
And should he at any time express himself in the language of reproof, even though that reproof be causeless, or unjustly severe, let her be cautious not to forget her station, so as to be betrayed into a railing recrimination, a contemptuous silence, or a moody sullenness. Difficult, I am aware it is, to show respect, where there are no other grounds for it to rest upon, than mere station; and as easy to pay it where wisdom, dignity, and piety, support the claims of relationship—but in proportion to the difficulty of a virtuous action, is its excellence; and hers is indeed superior virtue, who yields, to the relationship of her husband, that respect which he restrains her to pay to him, on account of his conduct.
Her respect will extend itself to her ACTIONS, and lead to an incessant desire to please him in all things. It is assumed by the apostle as an indisputable and general fact, that "the married woman cares how she may please her husband." All her conduct should be framed upon this principle, to give him contentment and to increase his delight in her. Let her appear contented with her lot, and that will do much to render him contented with his—while, on the other hand, nothing is more likely to generate discontent in his heart, than the appearance of it in her. Let her by a cheerful good disposition diffuse an air of pleasantness through his dwelling. Let her guard as much as possible against a gloomy and moody disposition, which causes her to move about with the silence and cloudiness of a spectre—for who likes to dwell in a haunted house?
She should always welcome him across his threshold with a smile, and ever put forth all her ingenuity in studying to please him, by consulting his wishes, by surprising him occasionally with those unlooked for and ingenious devices of affection, which, though small in themselves, are the proofs of a mind intent upon the business of giving pleasure. The greater acts of respectful love are often regarded as matters of course, and as such, produce little impression—but the lesser acts of attention which come not into the usual routine of marital duties, and into the every day offices which may be calculated upon with almost as much certainty as the coming of the hour which they are to occupy, these free-will offerings of an inventive and active affection, these extra tokens of respect, and expressions of love, have a mighty power to attach a husband to his wife; they are the cords of kindness and love.
In all her personal and family habits, her first care then, next to that of pleasing God, must be to please her husband, and thus hold to herself that heart, which cannot wander from her without carrying her happiness with it; and which when once departed, cannot be restored by any power short of Omnipotence itself.
3.MEEKNESS is especially mentioned by the apostle Peter, as a disposition which it is the duty of every wife to cultivate.
He has distinguished and honored this temper by calling it the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. If there be some virtues, which seem pre-eminently to suit the female character, meekness bears a high place among such. No one stands in greater need of this disposition than the wife in a family—either the petulance and waywardness of children, or the neglects and misconduct of servants, or the sharp words of a husband, are almost sure, if she be easily provoked, to keep her in a state of irritation all the day long. How trying is a peevish woman, how odious a brawling one. "It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and angry woman." The 'graces' were females, says Mr. Jay, so were the 'furies' too.
It is astonishing the influence which meekness has sometimes had in a family—it has quenched the sparks and even coals of anger and strife, which but for this would have set the house on fire—it has mastered the tiger and the lion, and led them captive with the silken thread of love. The strength of woman lies not in resisting, but in yielding; her power is in her gentleness; there is more of real defense, yes and more of that which effectually disarms a foe, in one mild look, or one soft accent—than in hours of flashing glances, and of angry tones. When amid family strife she has been enabled to keep her temper, the storm has been often scattered as quickly as it has arisen; or her meekness has served as a conductor to carry off its dreadful flashes, which otherwise would have destroyed the dwelling.
Put on then, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. Pay less attention to the decoration of the person, more to that of the mind. "Don't be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God." 1 Peter 3:3-4. The language of another apostle on this subject is no less striking. "And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do." 1 Timothy 2:9, 10. Two apostles, who both wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, in such language as this, have denounced as improper, and as unbecoming a profession of godliness, a taste for immodest, expensive, or highly decorative dress.
Surely then, the subject is worthy the most serious attention of all Christian women. By what sophistry can the letter, much more the spirit, of two passages of holy writ, so very plain and express in their terms as these, be set aside? That they are set aside, is evident by the appearance of almost every church into which we could enter. The race of folly, one should really suppose, is at length almost run, for it does seem well near impossible for the women of our age to render themselves more supremely ridiculous than many of them have lately appeared. What with the gaudiness of styles, and extravagance of fashion, our religious assemblies present everything at once to disgust our taste, and to distress our piety.
It is high time for the Christian teacher, to call back the women "professing godliness," from their wanderings in the regions of fashionable folly, to the Holy Scriptures—for the Holy Scriptures, it should be remembered, have laid down a general law for regulating the dress of the body, as well as that of the mind. I do hold then, that these passages of Scripture, are parts of revelation, and as such are still binding upon the conscience—if not, show me when they were cancelled.
I contend that Christian women ought to abstain from expensive, showy, and extravagant fashions in dress, jewelry, and all kinds of unsuitable personal decoration. I am not arguing for a sectarian apparels, for a religious uniform, for canonical shapes and colors—nothing of the sort, but for simplicity, neatness, economy; for, what the apostle calls, modest apparel, decency, and sobriety; for the spirit of the passages, if not the very letter; for a distinction between those who profess godliness, in their comparative inattention to such things, and those who make no such profession; for a proof that their minds are not so much engaged on these matters, as the minds of the people of the world are.
I am not for extinguishing taste; alas, in matters of dress, this is already done; but for resisting the lawless 'dominion of folly', under the name of fashion. I am not for calling back the age of gothic barbarism, or vulgarity; no! I will leave ample room for the cultivation of both taste and genius, in every lawful department, but I am protesting against 'the desolating reign of vanity'; I am resisting the entrance of vanity and frivolity into the church of God; I am contending against the glaring inconsistency of rendering our religious assemblies like the audience convened in a theatre.
The evils of an improper attention to fashion are great and numerous:
1. Much precious time is wasted in the study, and arrangements, and decisions of this matter.
2. The attention is taken off from the improvement of the mind and the heart, to the decoration of the person.
3. The mind is filled with pride and vanity, and a deteriorating influence is carried on upon what constitutes the true dignity of the soul.
4. The love of 'ostentation' infects the character.
5. Money is wasted which is needed for relieving the misery, and improving the condition of mankind.
6. Examples are set to the lower classes, in whom the propensity is often mischievous in many ways.
I am aware it might be, and is said, that there may be the pride of singularity, as well as of fashion; the pride of being covered with sober autumnal tints, as well as of exhibiting the brilliant hues of the rainbow; the pride of quality and of texture, as well as of color and of form. I know it, and I do not justify the one more than I do the other; I condemn all kinds—but at any rate there is a little more dignity in one kind than in another. I will leave opportunity for the distinctions of rank, for the inventions of true taste, and for the modest and unobtrusive displays of natural elegance and simple beauty; but I cannot allow the propriety of Christian women yielding themselves to the guidance of 'fashion'—however expensive, extravagant, or gaudy.
As to the employment of our artisans by the various changes of fashion, I have nothing to do with this, in face of an apostolic injunction. The silversmiths who made shrines for the worshipers of Diana might have pleaded the same objection against the preachers of the gospel, who certainly did, so far as they were successful, ruin this trade. I am only speaking to professors of religion, who form so small a portion of society, that their abstinence from folly would do but little in diminishing the employment of the work people; and if it did, let them make it up in some other way.
What I contend for, then, is not baseness, not ugliness, not unvarying sameness—no! but neatness as opposed to gaudiness; simplicity as opposed to extravagance; purity as opposed to immodesty; economy as opposed to expensiveness. Whether what I contend for is characteristic of the age in which we live, let any spectator determine.
I am anxious to see professors of religion displaying a seriousness and spirituality, a dignity and sobriety of mind, a simplicity of habits, and a sedateness of manners, befitting their high and holy profession; and all this, united with an economy in their personal expenses, which will leave them a greater fund at their disposal, for relieving the miseries and promoting the happiness of their fellow-creatures.
But, perhaps after all, many women may plead, that the gaiety and expensiveness of their dress, is more to please their husbands than themselves—but even this must have its limits. And I really pity the folly of that man, who concerns himself in the arrangement of his wife's wardrobe and make-up; and who would rather see her go forth in all the gorgeousness of splendid apparel, to display herself in the drawing rooms of her friends—than in dignified neatness, to visit the cottages of the poor, as the messenger of mercy—and who rejoices more to contemplate her moving through the circles of fashion, the lustful object of one sex, and the envy of the other—than to see her holding on her radiant course in the orbit of benevolence, clad in inexpensive simplicity—and with the savings of her personal expenditure, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, healing the sick; and thus bringing upon herself the blessing of him who was ready to perish, and causing the widow's heart to sing for joy.
Let it be remembered, that not only the clothing, but the person which it adorns, is corruptible. Accidents may distort the finest form, diseases deteriorate the loveliest body, time disfigure the smoothest face, and death, the spoiler of beauty, work a change so awful and appalling, as to turn away the most impassioned admirers in disgust. How soon will every other dress be displaced by the shroud! and every other decoration be stripped off to make way for the flowers that are strewed in the coffin upon the corpse—as if to hide the deformity of death! But the graces of the heart, and the beauties of the character, are imperishable. Such internal lovelinesses, let a wife be continually seeking to put on; "for she must entice her husband to an eternal happiness, by the veil of modesty, and the robes of chastity, the ornaments of meekness, and the jewels of faith and charity. She must have no painted face but blushings; her brightness must be her purity, and she must shine round about with sweetness and friendship, and then she shall be pleasant while she lives, and desired when she dies."
5.ECONOMY and ORDER in the management of her personal and family expenditure, are the obvious duty of a wife.
You are to preside in the direction of household affairs; and much of the prosperity and comfort of the little community, will depend upon your skillful and prudent arrangements. There is a manifest disposition in this age, in all classes of society, to come as closely as possible to the standards of those financially above them. The poor are imitating the middle classes; and the middle classes are copying the upper ranks. A showy, luxurious, and expensive taste is almost universally cherished, and is displayed in innumerable instances—where there are no means to support it. A large house, a country residence, splendid furniture, a top-quality carriage, and large parties, are the aim of many, whose creditors pay for all.
Christian families are in most imminent peril of worldly conformity in the present day; and the line of demarcation between the church and the world is fast wearing out. It is true they have no cards, they do not frequent the theatre, or the ballroom, and perhaps they have no midnight parties—but this is all—for many are as anxious about the splendor of their furniture, the fashion of their habits, the expensiveness of their entertainments, as the greatest worldling can be! Now a wife has great influence in checking—or promoting all this.
It has been thought that this increasing disposition for 'family ostentation' and gaiety, is to be attributed chiefly to 'female vanity'. It is woman that is generally regarded as the presiding genius of such a scene—she receives the praise and the compliment of the whole, and she therefore, is under the strongest temptation to promote it. But let her consider, how little all this has to do with the happiness of the family, even in its most prosperous state; and how a recollection of it aggravates the misery of adversity, when a reverse takes place. Then to be found in debt for finery of fashion, or furniture; then to have it said that her extravagance ruined her husband; then to need that, for bread, which was formerly wasted on luxury; then to hear the whispered reproach of having injured others by her own thoughtless expenditure! Avoid, my female friends, these miseries! Do not go on to prepare wormwood and gall to embitter still more, the already bitter cup of adversity!
Endeavor to acquire a skilfulness in family management, a frugality, a prudence, a love of order and neatness, a midway course between baseness and luxury, a suitableness to your station in life, to your Christian profession; an economy which shall leave you more to spare for the cause of God and the miseries of man. Rather check than stimulate the taste of your husband for expense; tell him that it is not necessary for your happiness, nor for the comfort of the family; draw him away from these adventitious circumstances, to the mental improvement, the moral culture, the religious instruction, of your children. Let knowledge, piety, good sense, well-formed habits, harmony, mutual love, be the sources of your family pleasures—what is splendor of furniture, or dress, or entertainments, to these?
6. A wifeSHOULD BE MOST ATTENTIVE TO ALL THAT CONCERNS THE WELFARE AND COMFORT OF THE CHILDREN, if there are any.
For this purpose, she must be a keeper at home.—"The older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to be keepers at home, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God." Titus 2:4-5
And how can the duties that devolve upon the female head of a family be well discharged, if she be not a keeper at home?—On this I have dwelt already in a former chapter, but its importance will justify my returning to the subject again. How much has she to attend to, how many cares to sustain, how many activities to support, where there is a young family? Whoever has leisure for gossiping, she has none—whoever may be found wandering from house to house, "hearing or telling some new thing," she must not. A mother's place is in the midst of her family; a mother's duties are to take care of them. Nothing can excuse a neglect of these; and yet we often see such neglect.
Some are lovers of reading, and the welfare of the household is neglected for books. Not that I would debar a female from the luxury of reading, or sink her to a mere family drudge, whose ceaseless toils must have no intermission nor solace from literature; far from it—but her taste for literature must be kept within due bounds, and not be allowed to interfere with her household duties. No husband can be pleased to see a book in the hands of a wife, while the house is in confusion, and the children's welfare unprovided for.
Much less should a taste for company be allowed to draw a wife too much out of the circle of her responsibilities and duties. To be wandering from house to house in the morning, or to be engaged until a late hour evening after evening, in socializing, while the family at home are left to themselves, is certainly disgraceful.
Even attention to the public duties of religion must be regulated by a due regard to family claims. I am aware that many are apt to make these claims an excuse for neglecting the public means of grace almost entirely—the house of God is unfrequented—sermons, and all other religious meetings, are given up, for an absorbing attention to household affairs. This is one extreme; and the other is, such a devotedness to religious meetings, that the needs of a sick family, the cries of a hungry infant, or the circumstances of some extraordinary case of family care, are not allowed to have any force in detaining a mother from a weekday sermon, a prayer meeting, or the anniversary of some public institution. It is no honor to religion for a wife, under such circumstances, to be seen in the house of God; duties cannot be in opposition to each other; and at such a time, her responsibility lie at home.
It must be always distressing, and in some cases disgusting, for a husband, on his returning to a scene of family confusion, and seeing a neglected sick child, to be told, upon enquiring after the mother, that she is attending a sermon or public meeting. There is great need for watchfulness in the present age, when female agency is in such requisition, lest attention to public institutions should most injuriously interfere with the duties of a wife and a mother.
I know very well that an active woman, may by habits of order, punctuality, and delegation, so arrange her more direct and immediate duties at home, as to allow of sufficient leisure to assist the noble societies which solicit her patronage, without neglecting her husband and children—but where this cannot be done, no society, whether humane or religious, should be allowed to take her away from what is after all, her first and more appropriate sphere. She must be a keeper at home, if anything there demands her presence!
Such appear to me to be the leading duties of a wife. Motives of a very high and sacred character may be offered for a diligent performance of them. Her own comfort, and that of her husband, is of course most vitally connected with a fulfillment of her obligations—and the welfare of her children is also deeply involved. And then, her godly character will shine forth with peculiar luster! A godly wife is a high attainment in female excellence—it is woman in her brightest glory since the fall.
But there is one consideration of supreme importance mentioned by the apostle, to which I shall direct your attention.—"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the godly behavior of their wives. Don't be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. That is the way the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and were submissive to their husbands." 1 Peter 3:1-5. Powerful and yet tender consideration! Mark, my female friends, the implied eulogy passed by the apostle on your sex, where he seems to take it for granted, that if one party be destitute of religion, it is the husband. And facts prove that this assumption was correct. Religion flourishes most among the female part of our species—in our congregations, and in our churches, the greater portion of them is female. Can we account for this by natural causes? Partly. They are more at home, and therefore more within the means of grace—they are more susceptible—they are less exposed to those temptations that harden the heart through the deceitfulness of sin; they are subject to more affliction, which softens the heart and prepares it for the seed of the kingdom. But all this is not enough, for without grace all these advantages are unavailing—we must resolve it therefore into divine purpose, divine interposition, and the arrangements of divine wisdom.
Female influence in all civilized states is great; and God has generally made much use of this wherever the gospel has come, as one of the means for spreading religion. He pours his grace on them, that their influence may be employed with others, especially their husbands and their children. If then, in any case, a Christian woman be united to an unconverted man, she must cherish and display a deep, and tender, and judicious solicitude for his salvation—and "How do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?" 1 Cor. 7:16.
I would not encourage marriage to an unbeliever—I would not have the single woman try the doubtful and dangerous experiment of marrying an irreligious man, in the hope of converting him; in such cases the conversion is often the other way; but where the union is formed, there I say, nourish the concern, and employ every discreet exertion for his eternal welfare. Many instances have occurred, in which the unbelieving husband has been sanctified by the wife. She has drawn him with the cords of a tender and judicious love, to a consideration of the subject of personal religion. Think of the value of a soul, and of the ineffable glory of being the instrument of its salvation! But O! to be the means of saving the soul of a husband! Think how it will strengthen the bond, and sanctify and sweeten it, which unites you on earth and in time; and at the same time add to it a tie, by which you shall "not lose one another in the valley of the shadow of death," but be reunited as kindred spirits, though not as man and wife, in heaven, and through eternity.
"Think, O wife, of the happiness—the honor that awaits you. What is the triumph you have acquired over him by your charms, compared with the victory you will obtain over him by your religion?—What pleasure will attend you the remainder of your days—now you are of 'one heart and one mind;' now you 'take sweet counsel together.' The privileged language of prayer now is OUR Father—of every motion made to go and seek the Lord Almighty there is a ready acceptance—'I will go also.' And what will be your joy and crown of rejoicing in that day, when before assembled men and angels, your husband will say—O blessed be the Providence which attached us in yonder world and has still more perfectly united us in this. The woman you gave to be with me, led me to the tree of life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." (Mr. Jay.)
But how is this solicitude to be employed? The apostle tells us—"In the same way, you wives must be submissive to your husbands. Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words! They will be won over by watching your pure, godly behavior." Your religion must be seen embodied in your whole character and conduct. It must commend itself to their judgment by what they perceive, as sincere. It must be consistent; for a lack of uniformity, however earnest it may in many respects and at many times appear, will produce disgust. You must "let your light so shine before them, that they seeing your good works, may glorify God." You must ever appear invested with all the beauty of a lovely example, which, silent though you be as it respects your tongue, is living eloquence.
Your religion must diffuse its luster over your whole character, and impress itself most deeply on your responsibilities as a wife, and a mother. Your religion must be a new motive to all that respect, and devotedness, and meekness, which have been laid before you, and it must lead you to carry every marital and maternal virtue to the highest degree of perfection. It must be attended with the most profound humility, for if there be any spiritual pride, any conscious and manifest sense of superiority, anything approaching to the pharisaic temper, which says, "stand aside, I am holier than you," anything like contempt of your husband, as an unconverted sinner, you will excite an inveterate prejudice not only against religion, but against yourself; religion will be hated by him for your sake, and you for religion's sake.
When you venture to speak to him on the subject of piety, it should be as remotely as possible from all lecturing, all dictation, all reproach, all conscious superiority; and with all possible tenderness, meekness, humility, and persuasive affection. Never talk to him of his lost state in the presence of others, and never talk at him. Nor is it likely to accomplish the object you have in view, to weary him by continual badgering. Many defeat their own end, by an incessant introduction of the subject, and sometimes with an rigor which increases the revulsion, which its own nature is calculated, in such a mind to produce. An occasional 'hint', and that of the most tender, respectful, and delicate kind, is all that you should attempt—and then leave your example to speak. Occasionally you may put an instructive volume in his way, and solicit his perusal of it. Do not bring your religious friends too much about you, so as to annoy him—especially keep away as much as possible, any that may have a less portion of discretion than the rest; and confine yourself to the more judicious, and best informed.
Never rudely interfere with his pursuits, his reading, or his company, although they may not be what you can cordially approve. Until he is enlightened from above, he will not see the evil of these things, and to attempt to interrupt him, in any other way, than by the mildest, and most respectful admonition, will only do harm.
Should he wish to draw you from the high pursuit of eternal life, you are not, of course, in this case, to yield to his persuasion, nor in anything to concede, where your conscience is decidedly concerned in the matter. You must be firm, but mild. One concession granted by you, would only lead to another. But still, even in this extremity, your resistance of his attempts to interfere with your religion, must be maintained in all the meekness of religion, and must be attended with fresh efforts to please him, in all things which are lawful. If such a line of conduct should subject you to reproach, anger, and persecution—a most painful, and by no means an uncommon case—you must possess your soul in patience, and commit your way to Him who judges righteously. Many a persecuting husband has been subdued, if not to true religion, yet to kinder conduct, by the meek and uncomplaining temper of his wife.
To conclude. Let us all seek after more of the spirit of true religion—the spirit of faith, of hope, of prayer—a faith, that really believes the word of God, and looks habitually to the cross of Christ by which we obtain salvation, and to the eternal world where we shall fully and forever enjoy it—a hope that lives in the expectation and desire of glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life—and a spirit of prayer which leads us daily and hourly to the throne of divine grace, for all that aid of the Holy Spirit, which we need, for the duties which devolve upon us, in consequence of our relationships in this world. "Godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come."
The same principle of divine grace which unites us to God, will bind us closer to each other. Religion contains in it not only the seeds of immortal virtues, but of such as are mortal—not only the germs of excellences which are to flourish in the temple of heaven, but which grow up in the house of our pilgrimage upon earth, to enliven with their beauty, and to refresh with their fragrance, the family circle. A good Christian cannot be a bad husband, or father; and other things being equal, he who has most piety, will shine most in all the relationships of life. A bible placed between man and wife as the basis of their union, the rule of their conduct, and the model of their temper, will make up many a difference, comfort them under many a cross, guide them in many a strait, wherein flesh and blood will be confounded and at a loss, support them in their last sad parting from each other, and reunite them in the world where they shall go no more out.
"Those married pairs who live, as remembering that they must part again, and give an account how they treat themselves and each other, shall at the day of their death, be admitted to glorious espousals; and when they shall live again, be married to their Lord, and partake of his glories. All those things that now please us, shall pass from us—or we from them. But those things that concern the eternal life, are permanent as the numbers of eternity—and although at the resurrection, there shall be no relation of husband and wife, and no marriage shall be celebrated but the marriage of the Lamb, yet then shall be remembered how men and women passed through this state, which is a type of that; and from this sacramental union, all holy pairs shall pass to the spiritual and eternal, where love shall be their portion, and joys shall crown their heads, and they shall lie in the bosom of Jesus, and in the heart of God to eternal ages." Amen!
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