HUSBANDS AND WIVES

"Let every one in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband."—Ephesians 5:33.

All this good advice by a man who never married. He lived on to fifty-eight years of age, in eminent bachelorhood. Indeed, it was better for Paul to remain in single life, because he went on such rapid missionary expeditions that no companion could have endured the hardship. Celibacy in some cases is better. Such persons accomplish under such circumstances that which could not be accomplished in the other style of life.

I have known men who remain unaffianced in order that they might take care of the children of a deceased brother; and what would become of the world without the self-sacrifice and helpfulness of the maiden aunts I cannot imagine.

Among the brightest queens of Heaven will be those who took care of other people's children. Alas for that household which has not within easy call an Aunt Mary! I know that there are caricatures, and ungallant things sometimes said; but so far as [115]my observation goes, they are quite equal in disposition to their married sisters. The state of celibacy is honored again by such persons as Macaulay and Washington Irving in literature, and Florence Nightingale and Miss Dix in philanthropy.

But while Paul remained in the single state, he kept his eyes open, and he looked off upon the calm sea of married life, and upon the chopped sea of domestic perturbation. He comes forth in my text to say, "Let every one in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband;" implying that the wife ought to be lovable, so there might be something to love, and the man ought to be honorable, so there might be something to reverence.

It is

A MOST CONGRATULATORY THOUGHT

that the vast majority of people in the married state are well mated. When the news is first announced in the outside world of the betrothal, there may be surprise and seeming incongruity, but as the years pass by it is demonstrated that the selection was divinely arranged. There may be great difference of temperament, great difference of appearance, great difference of circumstances. That is no objection. The sanguine and the phlegmatic temperaments make [116]appropriate union, the blonde and the brunette, the quick and the slow, the French and the German. In the machinery of domestic life there is no more need for the driving wheel than for the brakes. That is the best union generally which has just the opposites.

The best argument in behalf of marriage as a divine institution is the fact that the vast majority of conjugal relationships are the very best things that could have happened. Once in a while there is a resounding exception to the good rule, the attempt being made to marry fire and gunpowder, with the consequent explosion in the divorce courts; but in the vast majority of instances the conjugal relation is a beautiful illustration of what the Psalmist said when he declared, "God setteth the solitary in families."

Taking it for granted, then, that you are well mated, I proceed to give you some

PRESCRIPTIONS FOR DOMESTIC HAPPINESS;

and, first of all, I remark:

I. A spirit of compromise must be dominant. You must remember that you were twenty or thirty years forming independent habits and having your own way. In the marriage state these habits must be brought into accord, and there may be some ingenuity necessary. Be determined to have [117]your own way, and there will be no peace. Let the rule be: In all matters of moral principle your determination shall be iron, and in all unimportant matters, willow. Whatever you may think of the word compromise in politics, without compromise there is no domestic peace. A great many people are willing to compromise, if you will do just as they want you to do; but there is no compromise in that. The rule ought to be: In all domestic matters, all social matters, all ecclesiastical matters, all political matters, firm adherence to fundamentals, easy surrender in non-essentials. Be not too proud or too stubborn to give up. Compromise! Compromise!

II. I remark, again, that in order to domestic happiness there must be a spirit of

CONSULTATION.

The home ought to be a cabinet, where all the affairs of the household and all the affairs of business life come under comparison, inspection and advisal. That is an absurd rule we hear abroad in the world, that men ought never to take their business home. Ten thousand financial failures would have been avoided if men had consulted with their wives.

In the first place, woman has a capacity to judge of moral character which man has not. Before you invite into your [118]business partnership any man, you ought to introduce him to your wife, and get her judgment as to his capacity and his integrity. After five minutes' conversation she will tell you as much about him as you will know at the close of twenty years, and perhaps you may find out too late.

A man proposes to come into your business partnership. You take him to your home. He tarries a little while, and is gone. You say to your wife, "Well, what do you think of him?" She says, "I don't like him at all." You say, "It's an absurd thing to form a prejudice against him on so short an acquaintance. I have known him for years, and I have never known any bad against him." "Well," she says, "I don't know why I have formed that opinion, but I tell you to beware. Put none of your financial interests in that man's keeping." Ten or fifteen years pass by. You come home some night and say, "Well, my dear, you are right; that man swindled me out of my last dollar." It is not because woman is wiser than man. It is because God has given her that peculiar intuition in regard to human character.

Now, you have no right to go into an enterprise which involves the homestead, or the education of your children, or the fate of your entire family, without home consultation. Of course, all this implies that [119]you did not marry a fool. If at the marriage altar you committed suicide, you had better keep all your business affairs in your own heart and head. But let us hope that you have sound common sense presiding in your household.

A BEAUTIFUL INCIDENT.

How much a wife may help a husband's business affairs was well illustrated in the case where the wife saved from the allowance of herself and the allowance of the family, a certain amount of money for a rainy day. After some time the husband, coming home, said: "Well, I'm going to suspend payment to-morrow. A few dollars would get me through, but I can't get the few dollars, and I'm going to ruin." That evening the wife said: "I wish you would hunt up the definition of the word 'independence' in Webster's Dictionary. Hunt it up for me." He opened Webster's Dictionary, and found the word "independence," and right opposite was a $100 bill. "Now," she said, "I would like to have you find the word 'gratitude.'" He turned to the word "gratitude," and there was another $100 bill. And before the evening was past she asked him to read a verse of a certain chapter of the Bible. He opened to the verse in the Bible, and there were $500, and before the evening had passed, the man had financial [120]relief to tide him over his disasters. You call that dramatic. I call that beautifully Christian.

In all expenditures there ought to be consultation. Do not dole out money to your wife as though she were a beggar. Let her know how much you have, or how little. Appeal to her intelligent judgment, and she will be content, and your own disposition will not be irritated. As long as you keep a mystery about your business matters she will wonder that the allowance is so small. No honorable woman wants to spend more money than can be afforded. Come into consultation with her on this matter. Show what are all your necessary outside expenses, all the money you have for cigars and dinners at Delmonico's, and how much it takes for the club-house and for the political campaign, and then have her present all the domestic expenses, and then, after consultation do your best.

It is a bad sign when a man dare not tell his business transactions to his wife. There is something wrong. Suppose you that the gigantic forgeries which have been enacted in this country would ever have taken place if the wife had been consulted? The wife would have said, "Stop! Let us live in one room in the poorest house on the poorest street of the poorest town, and have nothing but dry bread rather than that you [121]should make yourself culpable before God and the law." In the vast majority of cases where there has been exposure of great frauds, the wife has been the most surprised person in the community.

A BANKER

some time ago misused trust funds, and he went from fraud to fraud, and from knavery to knavery, until it was necessary for him to leave home before daylight. His wife said: "Where are you going?" "I am going to New York," said he "I am going on the early train." "Why, isn't this sudden?" she asked. "Oh, no; I expected to go," and then he left the room and went up to the room where his daughters slept, looked upon their calm faces for the last time, as he supposed, and started. He was brought back by the constables of an outraged law, and is now in the penitentiary.

Do you suppose that man, with a good wife, as he had, an honest wife, as he had, a Christian wife, as he had, could have got into such an enormity if he had consulted in regard to her wishes? Consultation is the word—domestic consultation.

III. Again: in order to domestic happiness, there must, in the conjugal state, be

NO SECRETS

kept one from the other. What one knows both must know. It is a bad sign when [122]one partner in the conjugal relation is afraid to have the letters opened or read by the other partner. Surreptitious correspondence is always dangerous. If a man comes to you and says, "I am going to tell you a great privacy, and don't want you to tell anybody, not even your wife," say to him, "Well, now, you had better not tell me, for I shall tell her as soon as I get home."

There must be no secrecy of association. You ought not to be unwilling to tell where you have been, and with whom you have been. Sometimes an unwise wife will have a lady confidante whom she makes a depository of privacies which they are pledged to keep between themselves. Beware! Anything that implies that husband and wife are two and not one implies peril, domestic peril, social peril, mighty peril.

In the vast majority of cases of domestic infelicity coming to exposure in the courts, the trouble began by the accidental opening of a letter which implied correspondence which was never suspected. In the conjugal relations, secrets kept one from another are nitro-glycerine under the hearthstone, and the fuse is lighted!

IV. Again: in order to your happiness there must be a spirit of

FORBEARANCE.

In the weeks, the months, the years that [123]you were planning for each other's conquest, only the more genial side of your nature was observable, but now you are off guard, and the faults are all known the one to the other. You are aware of your imperfections, unless you are one of those self-conceited people who are quickly observant of faults in others, but oblivious to faults in yourself; and now having found out all of each others imperfections, forbear.

If the one be given to too much precision, and the other disorderly in habits; if the one be spendthrift and the other oversaving; if the one be loquacious, and the other reticent, forbear. Especially, if you both have inflammable tempers, do not both get mad at once. Take turn about! William Cowper put it well when he said:

"The kindest and the happiest pair
Will find occasion to forbear;
And something every day they live
To pity, and perhaps forgive."

V. Again: in order to your happiness, let there be no interfering with each other's peculiar

RELIGIOUS SENTIMENTS.

If you are a Baptist and your wife a Pedo-Baptist, do not go to splashing water into each other's faces! If you are a Presbyterian and your husband is a Methodist, when he shouts "Hallelujah!" do not get nervous.

If you have strong denominational [124]proclivities, one of you had better go to one church, and the other had better go to another church; or, surrendering some of your intensity on that subject, as in hundreds of cases, come to some such church as the Brooklyn Tabernacle, where, while we adhere to the fundamentals of the Gospel, we do not care a rye straw for the infinitesimal differences between evangelical denominations—putting one drop of water on the brow, if that is enough baptism, and if not, then plunging the candidate clear out of sight, if that is preferred—not caring whether you believe you have been foreordained to be saved or not, if you are only saved; nor whether you believe in the perseverance of the saints or not, if you will only persevere; nor whether you prefer prayer by Episcopal liturgy or extemporaneous supplication, if you only pray.

Do not let there be any religious contests across the breakfast table or the tea table. It makes but little difference from what direction you come toward the riven heart of Christ, if you only come up to the riven heart. Yet, I know in many families there is constant picking at opposite religious beliefs, and attempt at proselytism. You, the father, fight for Episcopacy, and you, the mother, fight for Presbyterianism, and your children will compromise the matter and be Nothingarians!

[125]VI. Again: I counsel you, in order to your domestic happiness, that you

CULTIVATE EACH OTHER'S RELIGIOUS WELFARE.

This is a profoundly agitating thought to every fair-minded man and woman. You live, together on earth; you want to live together forever. You do not want ten, or twenty, or fifty years to end your association, you want to take your companion into the kingdom of God with you. If this subject is irritating in the household, it is because you do not understand Christian stratagem.

Every Christian companion may take his or her companion into glory. How? Ask God, and he will tell you how. Perhaps by occasional religious remark. Perhaps by earnest prayer. Perhaps by a consistent life. More probably by all these things combined. Paul put it forcefully when he said: "How knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" In this house, how many have been remarried for the skies!

It has become so much the general rule that when in my congregation, as I often do, I find a family in which the wife is a Christian, and the husband is not, I just say frankly to him: "Now you have got to come in. You [126]might just as well try to swim up against Niagara rapids as against the tide of religious influence which in this church is going to surge you into the kingdom of God. You must come in. You know that your wife is right in this matter of religion. She may be quick of temper, and you may sometimes lose your patience with her, but you know she is better than you are, and you know when she dies she will go as straight to heaven as a shot to a target.

"And, if to-day, on the way home, a vehicle should dash down the street, and she should fall lifeless, with no opportunity for last words, you might have a doubt about what would become of you, and a doubt about what would become of the children, but you would have no doubt about her eternal destiny. Somewhere under the flush of her cheek, or under the pallor of her brow is the Lord's mark. She is your wife, but she is God's child, and you are not jealous of that relationship. You only wish that you yourself were a son of the Lord Almighty. Come and have the matter settled. If I die before you, I will not forget in the next world how you stood together here, but I will expect both of you. You must come.

"I say it in all Christian love and emphasis, as a brother talks to a brother. You must come. You have been united so long, [127]you cannot afford to have death divorce you. How long it is since you began the struggle of life together! You have helped each other on the road, and what you have done for each other God only knows. There have been tedious sicknesses, and anxious watching, and here and there a grave, short but very deep; and though the blossoms of the marriage day may have scattered, and the lips that pronounced you one may have gone into dust, you have through all these years been to each other true as steel.

"Now, to-day, I am going to remarry you for heaven. This is the bridal day of your soul's peace. Here is the marriage altar. Kneel side by side, take the oath of eternal fidelity, clasp hands in a covenant never to be broken. I pronounce you one on earth, I pronounce you one for eternity. What God by His grace hath joined together, let not earth or hell put asunder. Hark! I hear a humming in the air—an anthem—a wedding march—organs celestial played upon by fingers seraphic."

I do not think I ever read anything more beautiful and quaintly pathetic than

COTTON MATHER'S DESCRIPTION

of the departure of his wife from earth to Heaven: "The black day arrives. I had never seen so black a day in all the time of my pilgrimage. The desire of my eyes is [128]this day to be taken from me at a stroke. Her death is lingering and painful. All the forenoon of this day she was in the pangs of death, and sensible until the last minute or two before her final expiration. I cannot remember the discourse that passed between us, only her devout soul was full of satisfaction about her going to a state of blessedness with the Lord Jesus Christ. As far as my distress would permit, I studied to confirm her satisfaction and consolation.

"When I saw to what a point of resignation I was called of the Lord, I resolved, with His help, to glorify Him. So, two hours before she expired, I knelt by her bedside and took into my hands that dear hand, the dearest in the world, and solemnly and sincerely gave her up to the Lord. I gently put her out of my hands and laid away her hand, resolved that I would not touch it again. She afterward told me that she signed and sealed my act of resignation, and though before that she had called for me continually, after it she never asked for me any more. She conversed much until near two in the afternoon. The last sensible word she spoke was to her weeping father: 'Heaven, Heaven will make amends for all!'"

Now let us be faithful in this relation of which I have been speaking. Do you want to know

[129]

WHAT THE LORD THINKS OF IT?

Read the sixty-second chapter of Isaiah, where he says: "As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." There is a wedding coming which will eclipse all the princely and imperial weddings the world ever saw. It was a great day when Napoleon took Josephine; it was a great day when Henry VIII. led Anne Boleyn over the cloth of gold on the street, the cloth of gold reaching up to the palace; it was a great day when the King of Spain took Mercedes; but there will be a greater time when the Lord shall take His bride, the Church, to Himself.

Long time ago they were affianced, but she has been down in the wilderness. He has written her again and again, and the day of marriage is fixed. She has sent word to Him. He has sent word to her. But, oh! was there ever such a difference in estate? The King on the one side, the bride of the wilderness, poor and persecuted, on the other. The wealth of the universe on the one side, the obscurity of the ages on the other. The pomp of heaven on the one side, the poverty of earth on the other. But He will endow her with all His wealth, and raise her to sit with Him on a throne forever.

Come, thou bridal morn of the ages! [130]Come! and there shall be the rumbling of great wheels, great chariot wheels down the sky, and there shall be riders ahead and mounted cavalry behind, the conquerors of heaven on white horses. Clear the way! A thousand trumpets blare. "Behold! the bridegroom cometh: go ye out to meet Him."

Then the charioteers shall rein in their bounding steeds of fire, and the King shall dismount from the chariot, and He shall take by the hand the bride of the wilderness, all the crowded galleries of the universe, the spectators. Ring all the wedding bells of heaven. The King lifts the bride into the chariot and cries, "Drive on! drive up!" and the clouds shall spread their cloth of gold for the procession, and the twain shall go through the gates triumphant, and up the streets, and then step into the palace at the banquet, where ten thousand potentates and principalities and dominations, cherubic and archangelic, with ten thousand gleaming and uplifted chalices, shall celebrate the day when the King of Heaven and earth brings home His bride from the wilderness. Make haste, my beloved. Be thou like to a roe, or a young hart upon the mountains of spices.