The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
T. T. Eaton
From Talks on Getting Married, 1891
"Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself, and the wife see that she reverence her husband." (Eph. 5:33)
Having spoken to you about the obligations of marriage, and the points to be considered by both wife and husband before entering into this relation, it remains for me to add a few words respecting the after duties of the married pair to each other.
The ideal marriage is the union of a perfect man, who loves and honors his wife, with a perfect woman, who reverences her husband and submits to him in the Lord. But in this fallen world we find no perfect men and no perfect women, and so there are no ideal marriages. The best are but approximations. How then shall an imperfect husband and wife treat each other after marriage?
The first thing is for them to realize what they have done in getting married. They have solemnly chosen each other out of all the world as life companions in the most intimate and binding of all human relationships. They have assumed new and solemn obligations. They are to forsake all the world for each other's sake, that they may live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony. In entering upon this new and solemn relation, it is important that they begin rightly.
Often have mistakes, committed soon after the wedding, done harm all through the married life. That was not a bad custom of the old Venetians to have a special sermon on the duties of husband and wife preached to each couple immediately after the wedding. And seventy-five years ago in Kentucky special instruction was given to each newly married pair. A friend has given me a poem which it was the custom to read at every wedding.
THE FAMILY ALTAR
First then, after marriage, erect a family altar, and pray to God together for his blessing and guidance. The great Robert Hall is credited with saying that family prayer "is the hem and border that prevents wedded life from unraveling," and the hem should be there when the garment is first made. It can never be so well put on after the unraveling has progressed. Do you say, "Yes, but I never prayed aloud in my life?" Alas, that this should be true; but, if true, immediately after marriage is the best time to begin. It will be easier then than ever afterward.
Many a man who has not maintained a family altar has bitterly regretted that he did not begin at the commencement of his married life. You may answer, “But I do not know what to say." Think of your needs, remember God's willingness to bless, and ask him to enable you to live rightly. You can at least read a selection of Scripture, and then kneel down and pray about it.
And to you who have been married for years, and for all this time have had no family altar, I would say, set up one at once. You cannot undo the past, but by God's grace you can take care of the future. You can find no greater help to right living and to domestic happiness. God will honor the families which honor him. If you will honestly do the best you can, God will accept it and will graciously bless you. You need it, and your children need it. John Randolph said he was saved from atheism by the remembrance of the prayers in his childhood home.
Alas! In this world of temptation and sin, our children need all the safeguards which our love and faith can throw around them. Give them, then, that most precious of all legacies, the remembrance of praying parents. Ah! You can never know how sadly your sons may need such recollections when in after years vice allures them and your forms lie sleeping beneath the graveyard grasses.
BEAR AND FORBEAR
You will find after marriage that your companion is not perfect. Things seen from a distance may seem faultless, but a closer inspection shows many blemishes. The intimacy of marriage reveals many little defects which were not visible in the rosy glow of courtship. Happy are you if you discover your own faults with those of your companion. If you are disappointed in your wife — if you thought she was an angel and now find her only a woman — consider that she, in all probability, is still more disappointed in you. She finds to her dismay that you are by no means the noble hero which before marriage her imagination pictured. Then is the time to act upon the old adage, "Bear and forbear."
See that you do your duty faithfully. Do not be exacting. Let not your love degenerate into a mere demand for attention. Be careful about indulging in reproaches of any sort, and do not make comparisons. Be reasonable. Remember that you have taken each other for better or for worse till death shall part you, and so everything must be done to brighten the home and strengthen the ties of affection — nothing to cast a shadow or weaken the bonds.
If, sir, you discover faults in your wife, remember that it was you who asked her to marry you, and the arrangement is of your own making. You have taken her happiness into your hands, while, if you had let her alone, she might have married a better man. You are under the highest obligations to love and cherish her. She has committed herself to your keeping for life; her happiness is entrusted to your care, and if you have a spark of honor you will not treat her unkindly. The highest compliment a woman can pay a man is to marry him, and the man who cares so little for his solemn vows and is so false to his obligations as to be cruel to his wife, should not be tolerated in a decent community.
And when I speak of cruelty I do not mean simply brutality. There are many refined sorts of cruelty which are the hardest of all to bear, and which are even baser than the more violent and brutal forms. There is no danger of your beating your wife, but is there no danger of your treating her with coldness and neglect? If you find her lacking in qualities you desire your wife to possess, think that with all her faults she is a better wife than you deserve to have. I am sure there are many more good wives than good husbands in the world.
WOMAN - THE WEAKER VESSEL
Woman is the “weaker vessel,” and is peculiarly susceptible to influences from a man she loves and who she knows loves her. Love your wife even as you love yourself, and you will find her development under that love like a beautiful flower under the sunshine. She is to be your helpmeet, and you are to make her the best helpmeet possible. And for this it is indispensable that you should have full confidence in her, and take her fully into your confidence. You should make her acquainted with all that concerns and interests you. Let her know all about your plans and your business. Let her enter fully into your life. Frequent no place you would be ashamed to have her go, and engage in no pleasure which you cannot ask her to share. Nowhere will you find truer sympathy than with her, and you will receive from her that support which only a true wife can give.
THE HUSBAND - INDEBTED TO THE WIFE
Many a great man's success in life has been due to his wife, though the world gave all the credit to him. It would be a long list, and would contain the names of many of the earth's greatest and best, that would tell of the successes of men which were in a great measure due to their wives. Erasmus tells us of the home of Sir Thomas Moore, and we see there the secret of his power. Luther acknowledged his obligations to his wife, and so, did Bunyan and Baxter and Edmund Burke and Buckland and Niebuhr and Sir William Hamilton and Fichte and Guizot and Carlyle and many others. Listen to Dr. Livingston saying on the death of his noble wife: "I never was anything till I knew you, and I have been a better, happier, and more prosperous man ever since."
In a church on Fleet street, London, there is a tablet with an inscription to the memory of Sir Samuel Romilly, whose devotion to his wife was such that seven days after her death he died of a broken heart. He described her as a woman of strong understanding, noblest sentiments, warmest affection and utmost delicacy. These are but few of many cases, and we get bright glimpses of these great women incidentally. None of them sought notoriety as good wives. It has been well said, "The best women are necessarily the most difficult to know; they are recognized chiefly in the happiness of their husbands and the nobleness of their children; they are only to be divined, not discerned, by the stranger."
THE HUSBAND CAN MAKE THE WIFE
It is always a loving husband who makes such a wife, and where a wife is lacking in intelligent sympathy it is likely the husband is lacking in love. Away with the foolish notion, which poets have written about, that a wife is to be like a vine growing about her husband, who is the tree supporting her, while she beautifies him. What help does the vine give the tree? It would grow better and flourish better without the vine, while a wife is to be a helpmeet for her husband, and a man cannot rightly do his life work unaided by the intelligent sympathy and loving tact of his wife. Do not look upon your wife as a vine. Women are not designed merely to be attractive; they are to be helpful. And the man who regards his wife as an ornament simply, as an object to be admired, like a beautiful painting, decking her, it may be, with silks and jewels, but making no life companion of her, asking no intelligent sympathy from her, he need not be disappointed if she becomes frivolous and vain, and in time of trial is found wanting.
“Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter against them." (Col. 3:19) This is a complete summing up of marital duty. Love here is “the fufilling of the law." (Rom. 13:10) So “love your wife even as yourself," (Eph. 5:33) for she is to be part of your very self, heart of your heart, mind of your mind, and soul of your soul. The man, who is not as careful to please his wife after marriage as before, is taking cruel advantage of the fact that the marriage tie is indissoluble.
Your love after marriage ought to be better and stronger than ever, and it should express itself in a hundred delicate ways. I do not mean that you should be uxorious and live for the sake of your wife. Great as is your obligation to be a good husband, your wife has no right to absorb your time and thoughts to the neglect of the great life-work that lies before you. "The man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man;" (1 Cor. 11:9) but you ought to love her as yourself, and never give her the slightest reason to doubt your affection. Be not bitter against her; that is to say, do nothing that shows irritation or that will provoke it. Always be gentle, kind, and considerate. Do not go home annoyed by business cares, and be sour at your family because things have gone wrong with you during the day. Never tease or annoy your wife. The word "bitter" in the passage I have quoted carries the idea of being provoking. Say and do nothing which will distress her. Love her as you love yourself, and thus you will make her more lovely as the years go by, and more helpful.
Be careful about making an exhibition of selfishness to your wife. To be self-absorbed and to care for your own pleasure more than for her happiness, to put upon her cares you ought yourself to bear, will injure you in her estimation in a way she can never entirely overcome. It is your duty to provide for her and to protect and cherish her, and if you fail here you can never be the same to her again. You are the head of the family, and this God-given responsibility you cannot shirk. You are responsible for the right training of your children, and you must not put the entire care of them upon your wife while you go off to seek your pleasure. Whatever you do which makes her believe that you are selfish and care more for your gratification than for your vows to her, will mar her reverence for you, and while, if she be a true woman, it saddens her life, it will also take away her power to be helpful to you. It is not in woman's nature to be a helpmeet to a man who does not love her.
THE WIFE SHOULD HELP, NOT MANAGE, HER HUSBAND
And to the wives let me say, see that you reverence your husbands. (Eph. 5:33) This means that you shall recognize him as the head of the family, and that you cherish toward him a spirit of submission in all things which do not involve moral wrong. Do not try to manage him. God has declared, "He shall rule over thee." (Gen. 3:16) This ruling over men is the one thing which is forbidden to women in the Bible, and it seems to be the one thing a certain sort of woman is most of all determined to secure.
No, you, as a wife, must exercise a great influence over your husband, but so far from ruling him you are to help him rule well in whatever direction his authority extends. You are a helpmeet for him, and while he works on the world, you are to work on him, to make him purer, wiser, and better. With loving tact you are to labor to correct his thoughts and to win him more and more into the right way. What path of life he will choose, what avocation he will follow, or what lifework he will undertake — these he must decide, and it is yours to make yourself as helpful to him as possible. Is he a lawyer? Then see to it that he is a better and more successful lawyer because you are his wife. And so for all other pursuits. You have no right to remain in ignorance of your husband's affairs. Your highest earthly obligation is to give him the intelligent sympathy he needs, and which he cannot get so well from any other source. To fail in this is to fail to be a true wife.
If you find your husband lacking in some important quality, then you are to strive to make good the defect, so that his lifework shall not suffer because of it. Do not imagine that his interests and yours are separate. You best help yourself in helping him. Think not that if he will only attend to his business you will attend to yours, for husband and wife have no separate business. Marriage is the closest corporation and the completest co-partnership in the world. There should, therefore, be a full understanding and a state of perfect confidence between the husband and wife.
It is your husband's duty to love you, and you need his love; then be lovely; cultivate loveliness of disposition, for this will give you power to mold his character. Do not let him see any exhibition of ill temper, whether it be in the form of scolding or sulking. You may, by showing anger, get his consent to something you wish to do, or get him to do something you desire, but believe me, the gain is not worth the cost. You injure his love for you and lessen your power to be a helpmeet for him. If he is unreasonable, the remedy is not in answering back. That may silence him, to be sure, but it injures him. If you will but watch your opportunity, you can say to him without irritation all that he needs to hear from you. Strive by God's grace to make yourself as helpful to him temporally--and above all, spiritually — as you are capable of becoming. This is your highest earthly duty. You cannot begin too soon or work at it too long or too vigorously. Woe to you if you neglect it.
Husband and wife are joined together for life, to strengthen each other in all labor, comfort each other in all sorrow, and minister to each other in all need, till they go out into eternity "equal to the angels." (Luke 20:36) The wife is to hold and increase her husband's love, and to make herself more and more lovely in his eyes. The husband is to cherish his wife as his choicest treasure, and to become more and more worthy of her reverence and love.
Perfect confidence, perfect frankness, and perfect good will should characterize the home. If at any time any differences of opinion should arise, and it is to be expected they will arise, let each party be careful to give the other the last word. And do not let your children know of your differences. Let neither imagine the other is guilty of neglect when doing his or her proper work.
It is not true love which is constantly demanding attention that is selfishness, Simple Simon pure. You did not marry to promote your convenience, but to fulfil the great design of your Father in Heaven. If the wife, for example, is ever demanding attentions from her husband, and feeling hurt if he takes time for his lifework which she prefers he should devote to her, then, so far as being a helpmeet for him, she will be a millstone about his neck. Let the husband also remember that his wife is to do, not what he likes to have done, but what he needs to have done, and he is not to translate his convenience into her duties.
I have been asked about the duties of husband and wife when they belong to different churches. Shall either give up to the other, and if so, which one? In religion "there is neither male nor female," (Gal. 3:28) and each one is to "give an account of himself unto God." (Rom. 14:12) If no question of conscience is involved, as, for example, if both churches are of the same denomination, the wife should go with her husband. But if points of conscience are involved, then each must do what he or she regards as duty. It is very desirable, especially where there are children, for the husband and wife to belong to the same church.
I would, therefore, recommend the following course: With an earnest prayer to God for guidance, and a perfect willingness to go wherever the Holy Spirit shall lead, let husband and wife take up the New Testament and carefully study together its teachings on the questions at issue. Let this be patiently and conscientiously done, and then let them, if they can agree, join that church whose doctrines come nearest the New Testament teaching. But if, after this investigation, they cannot agree, then it only remains for them to agree to disagree, and let each be as faithful a church member as possible.
It has been said that marriage is the bird of Paradise that flew over the walls of Eden, and has through all the centuries, blessed the world by its presence. In this institution lies the hope for the future of the world. The family is the one government God established in the earth, and whose perpetuity he decreed. In these days it is fiercely attacked by infidelity, as in the cases of Hume and Strauss, and by false religion, as Mormonism and Mohammedanism. It is also assailed by lax laws concerning divorce. The family is the foundation of all that is good in government and all that is worth saving in society. Nothing is more plainly written in the records of history and on the pages of revelation.
A true home is the fairest flower Christianity has planted in the garden of the world; a place where the husband loves and honors the wife, while she reverences him with true devotion, and the children are dutiful and obedient to both, as they are being trained "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Eph. 6:4) "There is no place like home," we are fond of singing, but, thank God, there is a place which home is like—a place of which our brightest and happiest home on earth is but the shadow and symbol — the home of "Our Father which art in Heaven." (Matt. 6:9)