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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -
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The Wedding Ring.
A Series of Discourses for Husbands and Wives and Those Contemplating Matrimony.
T. DE WITT TALMAGE.
Reprinted from THE CHRISTIAN HERALD.
PUBLISHED BY THE CHRISTIAN HERALD, LOUIS KLOPSCH, Proprietor, BIBLE HOUSE, NEW YORK
Copyright, 1896, BY LOUIS KLOPSCH.
The Choice of a Wife, 5
The Choice of a Husband, 24
Clandestine Marriage, 42
Duties of Husbands to Wives, 60
Duties of Wives to Husbands, 78
Costume and Morals, 95
Husbands and Wives, 114
Matrimonial Discords, 136
Hotels Versus Home, 148
Easy Divorce, 166
The Children's Patrimony, 198
The Mother of All, 217
Sisterly Influence, 234
Trials of Housekeeping, 252
Woman Enthroned, 268
Old Folks' Visit, 286
Home, Sweet Home, 303
The Wedding Ring.
THE CHOICE OF A WIFE.
"Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?"—JUDGES 14:3.
Samson, the giant, is here asking consent of his father and mother to marriage with one whom they thought unfit for him. He was wise in asking their counsel, but not wise in rejecting it. Captivated with her looks, the big son wanted to marry a daughter of one of the hostile families, a deceitful, hypocritical, whining, and saturnine creature, who afterward made for him a world of trouble till she quit him forever. In my text his parents forbade the banns, practically saying: "When there are so many honest and beautiful maidens of your own country, are you so hard put to for a lifetime partner that you propose conjugality with this foreign flirt? Is there such a dearth of lilies in our Israelitish gardens that you must wear on your heart a Philistine thistle? Do you take a crabapple because there are no pomegranates? Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?"
Excuseless was he for such a choice in a land and amid a race celebrated for female loveliness and moral worth, a land and a race of which self-denying Abigail, and heroic Deborah, and dazzling Miriam, and pious Esther, and glorious Ruth, and Mary, who hugged to her heart the blessed Lord, were only magnificent specimens. The midnight folded in their hair, the lakes of liquid beauty in their eye, the gracefulness of spring morning in their posture and gait, were only typical of the greater brilliance and glory of their soul. Likewise excuseless is any man in our time who makes lifelong alliance with any one who, because of her disposition, or heredity, or habits, or intellectual vanity, or moral twistification, may be said to be of the Philistines.
MODERN FEMALE LOVELINESS.
The world never owned such opulence of womanly character or such splendor of womanly manners or multitudinous instances of wifely, motherly, daughterly, sisterly devotion, as it owns to-day. I have not words to express my admiration for good womanhood. Woman is not only man's equal, but in affectional and religious nature, which is the best part of us, she is seventy-five per cent his superior. Yea, during the last twenty years, through the increased opportunity opened for female education, the women of the country are better educated than the majority of men; and if they continue to advance in mentality at the present ratio, before long the majority of men will have difficulty in finding in the opposite sex enough ignorance to make appropriate consort. If I am under a delusion as to the abundance of good womanhood abroad, consequent upon my surroundings since the hour I entered this life until now, I hope the delusion will last until I embark from this planet. So you will understand, if I say in this course of sermons something that seems severe, I am neither cynical nor disgruntled.
NO NEED TO MARRY A FOOL.
There are in almost every farmhouse in the country, in almost every home of the great town, conscientious women, worshipful women, self-sacrificing women, holy women, innumerable Marys, sitting at the feet of Christ; innumerable mothers, helping to feed Christ in the person of His suffering disciples; a thousand capped and spectacled grandmothers Lois, bending over Bibles whose precepts they have followed from early girlhood; and tens of thousands of young women that are dawning upon us from school and seminary, that are going to bless the world with good and happy homes, that shall eclipse all their predecessors, a fact that will be acknowledged by all men except those who are struck through with moral decay from toe to cranium; and more inexcusable than the Samson of the text is that man who, amid all this unparalleled munificence of womanhood, marries a fool. But some of you are abroad suffering from such disaster, and to halt others of you from going over the same precipice, I cry out in the words of my text: "Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?"
MARRIAGE NOT FOR ALL.
That marriage is the destination of the human race is a mistake that I want to correct before I go further. There are multitudes who never will marry, and still greater multitudes who are not fit to marry. In Great Britain to-day there are nine hundred and forty-eight thousand more women than men, and that, I understand, is about the ratio in America. By mathematical and inexorable law, you see, millions of women will never marry. The supply for matrimony is greater than the demand, the first lesson of which is that every woman ought to prepare to take care of herself if need be. Then there are thousands of men who have no right to marry, because they have become so corrupt of character that their offer of marriage is an insult to any good woman. Society will have to be toned up and corrected on this subject, so that it shall realize that if a woman who has sacrificed her honor is unfitted for marriage, so is any man who has ever sacrificed his purity. What right have you, O masculine beast! whose life has been loose, to take under your care the spotlessness of a virgin reared in the sanctity of a respectable home? Will a buzzard dare to court a dove?
THE FIRST STEP.
But the majority of you will marry, and have a right to marry, and as your religious teacher I wish to say to these men, in the choice of a wife first of all seek divine direction. About thirty-five years ago, when Martin Farquhar Tupper, the English poet, urged men to prayer before they decided upon matrimonial association, people laughed. And some of them have lived to laugh on the other side of their mouth.
The need of divine direction I argue from the fact that so many men, and some of them strong and wise, have wrecked their lives at this juncture. Witness Samson and this woman of Timnath! Witness Socrates, pecked of the historical Xantippe! Witness Job, whose wife had nothing to prescribe for his carbuncles but allopathic doses of profanity! Witness Ananias, a liar, who might perhaps have been cured by a truthful spouse, yet marrying as great a liar as himself—Sapphira! Witness John Wesley, one of the best men that ever lived, united to one of the most outrageous and scandalous of women, who sat in City Road Chapel, making mouths at him while he preached! Witness the once connubial wretchedness of John Ruskin, the great art essayist, and Frederick W. Robertson, the great preacher! Witness a thousand
HELLS ON EARTH
kindled by unworthy wives, termagants that scold like a March north-easter; female spendthrifts, that put their husbands into fraudulent schemes to get money enough to meet the lavishment of domestic expenditure; opium-using women—about four hundred thousand of them in the United States—who will have the drug, though it should cause the eternal damnation of the whole household; heartless and overbearing, and namby-pamby and unreasonable women, yet married—married perhaps to good men! These are the women who build the low club-houses, where the husbands and sons go because they can't stand it at home. On this sea of matrimony, where so many have been wrecked, am I not right in advising divine pilotage?
Especially is devout supplication needed, because of the fact that society is so full of artificialities that men are deceived as to whom they are marrying, and no one but the Lord knows. After the dressmaker, and the milliner, and the jeweler, and the hair-adjuster, and the dancing-master, and the cosmetic art have completed their work, how is an unsophisticated man to decipher the physiological hieroglyphics, and make accurate judgment of who it is to whom he offers hand and heart? This is what makes so many recreant husbands. They make an honorable marriage contract, but the goods delivered are so different from the sample by which they bargained. They were simply swindled, and they backed out. They mistook Jezebel for Longfellow's Evangeline, and Lucretia Borgia for Martha Washington.
Aye, as the Indian, chief boasts, of the scalps he has taken, so there are in society to-day many coquettes who boast of the masculine hearts they have captured. And these women, though they may live amid richest upholstery, are not so honorable as the cyprians of the street, for these advertise their infamy, while the former profess heaven while they mean hell.
There is so much counterfeit womanhood abroad it is no wonder that some cannot tell the genuine coin from the base. Do you not realize you need divine guidance when I remind you that mistake is possible in this important affair, and, if made, is irrevocable?
A MISTAKE IRREPARABLE.
The worst predicament possible is to be unhappily yoked together. You see, it is impossible to break the yoke. The more you pull apart, the more galling the yoke. The minister might bring you up again, and in your presence read the marriage ceremony backward, might put you on the opposite sides of the altar from where you were when you were united, might take the ring off of the finger, might rend the wedding-veil asunder, might tear out the marriage leaf from the family Bible record, but all that would fail to unmarry you. It is better not to make the mistake than to attempt its correction. But men and women do not reveal all their characteristics till after marriage, and how are you to avoid committing the fatal blunder? There is only one Being in the universe who can tell you whom to choose, and that is the Lord of Paradise. He made Eve for Adam, and Adam for Eve, and both for each other. Adam had not a large group of women from whom to select his wife, but it is fortunate, judging from some mistakes which she afterward made, that it was Eve or nothing.
There is in all the world some one who was made for you, as certainly as Eve was made for Adam. All sorts of mistakes occur because Eve was made out of a rib from Adam's side. Nobody knows which of his twenty-four ribs was taken for the nucleus. If you depend entirely upon yourself in the selection of a wife, there are twenty-three possibilities to one that you will select the wrong rib. By the fate of Ahab, whose wife induced him to steal; by the fate of Macbeth, whose wife pushed him into massacre; by the fate of James Ferguson, the philosopher, whose wife entered the room while he was lecturing and willfully upset his astronomical apparatus, so that he turned to the audience and said: "Ladies and gentlemen, I have the misfortune to be married to this woman;" by the fate of Bulwer, the novelist, whose wife's temper was so incompatible that he furnished her a beautiful house near London and withdrew from her company, leaving her with the dozen dogs whom she entertained as pets; by the fate of John Milton, who married a termagant after he was blind, and when some one called her a rose, the poet said: "I am no judge of flowers, but it may be so, for I feel the thorns daily;" by the fate of an Englishman whose wife was so determined to dance on his grave that he was buried in the sea; by the fate of a village minister whom I knew, whose wife threw a cup of hot tea across the table because they differed in sentiment—by all these scenes of disquietude and domestic calamity, we implore you to be cautious and prayerful before you enter upon the connubial state, which decides whether a man shall have two heavens or two hells, a heaven here and heaven forever, or a hell now and a hell hereafter.
By the bliss of Pliny, whose wife, when her husband was pleading in court, had messengers coming and going to inform her what impression he was making; by the joy of Grotius, whose wife delivered him from prison under the pretence of having books carried out lest they be injurious to his health, she sending out her husband unobserved in one of the bookcases; by the good fortune of Roland, in Louis' time, whose wife translated and composed for her husband, while Secretary of the Interior—talented, heroic, wonderful Madame Roland; by the happiness of many a man who has made intelligent choice of one capable of being prime counsellor and companion in brightness and in grief—pray to Almighty God, morning, noon, and night that at the right time and in the right way He will send you a good, honest, loving, sympathetic wife; or if she is not sent to you, that you may be sent to her.
At this point let me warn you not to let a question of this importance be settled by the celebrated matchmakers flourishing in almost every community. Depend upon your own judgment divinely illumined. These brokers in matrimony are ever planning how they can unite impecunious innocence to an heiress, or celibate woman to millionaire or marquis, and that in many cases makes life an unhappiness. How can any human being, who knows neither of the two parties as God knows them, and who is ignorant of the future, give such direction as you require at such a crisis?
Take the advice of the earthly matchmaker instead of the divine guidance, and you may some day be led to use the words of Solomon, whose experience in home life was as melancholy as it was multitudinous. One day his palace with its great wide rooms and great wide doors and great wide hall was too small for him and the loud tongue of a woman belaboring him about some of his neglects, and he retreated to the housetop to get relief from the lingual bombardment. And while there he saw a poor man on one corner of the roof with a mattress for his only furniture, and the open sky his only covering. And Solomon envies him and cries out: "It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman in a wide house." And one day during the rainy season the water leaked through the roof of the palace and began to drop in a pail or pan set there to catch it. And at one side of him all day long the water went drop! drop! drop! while on the other side a female companion quarrelling about this, and quarrelling about that, the acrimonious and petulant words falling on his ear in ceaseless pelting—drop! drop! drop! and he seized his pen and wrote: "A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike." If Solomon had been as prayerful at the beginning of his life as he was at the close, how much domestic infelicity he would have avoided!
But prayer about this will amount to nothing unless you pray soon enough. Wait until you are fascinated and the equilibrium of your soul is disturbed by a magnetic and exquisite presence, and then you will answer your own prayers, and you will mistake your own infatuation for the voice of God.
If you have this prayerful spirit you will surely avoid all female scoffers at the Christian religion; and there are quite a number of them in all communities. It must be told that, though the only influence that keeps woman from being estimated and treated as a slave—aye, as a brute and a beast of burden—is Christianity, since where it is not dominant she is so treated, yet there are women who will so far forget themselves and forget their God that they will go and hear lecturers malign Christianity and scoff at the most sacred things of the soul. A good woman, over-persuaded by her husband, may go once to hear such a tirade against the Christian religion, not fully knowing what she is going to hear; but she will not go twice.
A woman, not a Christian, but a respecter of religion, said to me: "I was persuaded by my husband to go and hear an infidel lecturer once, but going home, I said to him: 'My dear husband, I would not go again though my declinature should result in our divorcement forever.'" And the woman was right. If after all that Christ and Christianity have done for a woman, she can go again and again to hear such assaults, she is an awful creature, and you had better not come near such a reeking lepress. She needs to be washed, and for three weeks to be soaked in carbolic acid, and for a whole year, fumigated, before she is fit for decent society. While it is not demanded that a woman be a Christian before marriage, she must have regard for the Christian religion or she is a bad woman and unworthy of being your companion in a life charged with such stupendous solemnity and vicissitudes.
TWO ESSENTIAL QUALITIES.
What you want, O man! in a wife, is not a butterfly of the sunshine, not a giggling nonentity, not a painted doll, not a gossiping gadabout, not a mixture of artificialities which leave you in doubt as to where the humbug ends and the woman begins, but an earnest soul, one that cannot only laugh when you laugh, but weep when you weep. There will be wide, deep graves in your path of life, and you will both want steadying when you come to the verge of them, I tell you! When your fortune fails you will want some one to talk of treasures in heaven, and not charge upon you with a bitter, "I told you so." As far as I can analyze it, sincerity and earnestness are the foundation of all worthy wifehood. Get that, and you get all. Fail to get that, and you get nothing but what you will wish you never had got.
BEAUTY A BENEDICTION.
Don't make the mistake that the man of the text made in letting his eye settle the question in which coolest judgment directed by divine wisdom are all-important. He who has no reason for his wifely choice except a pretty face is like a man who should buy a farm because of the dahlias in the front dooryard. Beauty is a talent, and when God gives it He intends it as a benediction upon a woman's face. When the good Princess of Wales dismounted from the railtrain last summer, and I saw her radiant face, I could understand what they told me the day before, that, when at the great military hospital where are now the wounded and the sick from the Egyptian and other wars, the Princess passed through, all the sick were cheered at her coming, and those who could be roused neither by doctor nor nurse from their stupor, would get up on their elbows to look at her, and wan and wasted lips prayed an audible prayer: "God bless the Princess of Wales! Doesn't she look beautiful?"
But how uncertain is the tarrying of beauty in a human countenance! Explosion of a kerosene lamp turns it into scarification, and a scoundrel with one dash of vitriol may dispel it, or Time will drive his chariot wheels across that bright face, cutting it up in deep ruts and gullies. But there is an eternal beauty on the face of some women, whom a rough and ungallant world may criticise as homely; and though their features may contradict all the laws of Lavater on physiognomy, yet they have graces of soul that will keep them attractive for time and glorious through all eternity.
There are two or three circumstances in which the plainest wife is a queen of beauty to her husband, whatever her stature or profile. By financial panic or betrayal of business partner, the man goes down, and returning to his home that evening he says: "I am ruined; I am in disgrace forever; I care not whether I live or die." It is an agitated story he is telling in the household that winter night. He says: "The furniture must go, the house must go, the social position must go," and from being sought for obsequiously they must be cold-shouldered everywhere. After he ceases talking, and the wife has heard all in silence, she says: "Is that all? Why, you had nothing when I married you, and you have only come back to where you started. If you think that my happiness and that of the children depend on these trappings, you do not know me, though we have lived together thirty years. God is not dead, and the National Bank of Heaven has not suspended payment, and if you don't mind, I don't care a cent. What little we need of food and raiment the rest of our lives we can get, and I don't propose to sit down and mope and groan. Mary, hand me that darning-needle. I declare! I have forgotten to set the rising for those cakes!" And while she is busy at it he hears her humming Newton's old hymn, "To-Morrow:"
"It can bring with it nothing But He will bear us through; Who gives the lilies clothing Will clothe His people too; Beneath the spreading heavens No creature but is fed; And He who feeds the ravens Will give His children bread.
"Though vine nor fig-tree either Their wonted fruit should bear, Though all the fields should wither Nor flocks nor herds be there; Yet God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice; For while in Him confiding I cannot but rejoice."
The husband looks up in amazement, and says: "Well, well, you are the greatest woman I ever saw. I thought you would faint dead away when I told you." And as he looks at her, all the glories of physiognomy in the court of Louis XV. on the modern fashion plates are tame as compared with the superhuman splendors of that woman's face. Joan of Arc, Mary Antoinette, and La Belle Hamilton, the enchantment of the court of Charles II., are nowhere.
A WIFE'S DEATH.
There is another time when the plainest wife is a queen of beauty to her husband. She has done the work of life. She has reared her children for God and heaven, and though some of them may be a little wild they will yet come back, for God has promised. She is dying, and her husband stands by. They think over all the years of their companionship, the weddings and the burials, the ups and the downs, the successes and the failures. They talk over the goodness of God and His faithfulness to children's children. She has no fear about going. The Lord has sustained her so many years she would not dare to distrust Him now. The lips of both of them tremble as they say good-bye and encourage each other about an early meeting in a better world. The breath is feebler and feebler, and stops. Are you sure of it? Just hold that mirror at the mouth, and see if there is any vapor gathering on the surface. Gone! As one of the neighbors takes the old man by the arm and gently says: "Come, you had better go into the next room and rest," he says: "Wait a moment; I must take one more look at that face and at those hands!" Beautiful! Beautiful!
My friends, I hope you do not call that death. That is an autumnal sunset. That is a crystalline river pouring into a crystal sea. That is the solo of human life overpowered by hallelujah chorus. That is a queen's coronation. That is heaven. That is the way my father stood at eighty-two, seeing my mother depart at seventy-nine. Perhaps so your father and mother went. I wonder if we shall die as well?
THE CHOICE OF A HUSBAND.
"The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband."—RUTH 1:9.
This was the prayer of pious Naomi for Ruth and Orpah, and is an appropriate prayer now in behalf of unmarried womanhood. Naomi, the good old soul, knew that the devil would take their cases in hand if God did not, so she prays: "The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband."
In this series of sermons on "The Wedding Ring" I last Sabbath gave prayerful and Christian advice to men in regard to the selection of a wife, and to-day I give the same prayerful and Christian advice to women in regard to the selection of a husband, but in all these sermons saying much that I hope will be appropriate for all ages and all classes.
I applaud the celibacy of a multitude of women who, rather than make unfit selection, have made none at all. It has not been a lack of opportunity for marital contract on their part, but their own culture and refinement, and their exalted idea as to what a husband ought to be, have caused their declinature. They have seen so many women marry imbeciles, or ruffians, or incipient sots, or life-time incapables, or magnificent nothings, or men who before marriage were angelic and afterward diabolic, that they have been alarmed and stood back. They saw so many boats go into the maelstrom that they steered into other waters. Better for a woman to live alone, though she live a thousand years, than to be annexed to one of these masculine failures with which society is surfeited. The patron saint of almost every family circle is some such unmarried woman, and among all the families of cousins she moves around, and her coming in each house is the morning, and her going away is the night.
A BENEFICENT SPINSTERHOOD.
In my large circle of kindred, perhaps twenty families in all, it was an Aunt Phoebe. Paul gave a letter of introduction to one whom he calls "Phoebe, our sister," as she went up from Cenchrea to Rome, commending her for her kindness and Christian service, and imploring for her all courtesies. I think Aunt Phoebe was named after her. Was there a sickness in any of the households, she was there ready to sit up and count out the drops of medicine. Was there a marriage, she helped deck the bride for the altar. Was there a new soul incarnated, she was there to rejoice at the nativity. Was there a sore bereavement she was there to console. The children, rushed out at her first appearance, crying, "Here comes Aunt Phoebe," and but for parental interference they would have pulled her down with their caresses—for she was not very strong, and many severe illnesses had given her enough glimpses of the next world to make her heavenly-minded. Her table was loaded up with Baxter's "Saints' Rest," Doddridge's "Rise and Progress," and Jay's "Morning and Evening Exercises," and John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," and like books, which have fitted out whole generations for the heaven upon which they have already entered.
A GLIMPSE OF HEAVEN.
"De Witt," she said to me one day, "twice in my life I have been so overwhelmed with the love of God that I fainted away and could hardly be resuscitated. Don't tell me there is no heaven. I have seen it twice." If you would know how her presence would soothe an anxiety, or lift a burden, or cheer a sorrow, or leave a blessing on every room in the house, ask any of the Talmages. She had tarried at her early home, taking care of an invalid father, until the bloom of life had somewhat faded; but she could interest the young folks with some three or four tender passages in her own history, so that we all knew that it was not through lack of opportunity that she was not the queen of one household, instead of being a benediction on a whole circle of households.
At about seventy years of age she made her last visit to my house, and when she sat in my Philadelphia church I was more embarrassed at her presence than by all the audience, because I felt that in religion I had got no further than the A B C, while she had learned the whole alphabet, and for many years had finished the Y and Z. When she went out of this life into the next, what a shout there must have been in heaven, from the front door clear up to the back seat in the highest gallery! I saw the other day in the village cemetery of Somerville, N.J., her resting-place, the tombstone having on it the words which thirty years ago she told me she would like to have inscribed there, namely: "The Morning Cometh."
Had she a mission in the world? Certainly. As much as Caroline Herschel, first amanuensis for her illustrious brother, and then his assistant in astronomical calculations, and then discovering worlds for herself, dying at ninety-eight years of age, still busy with the stars till she sped beyond them; as much as had Florence Nightingale, the nurse of the Crimea; or Grace Darling, the oarswoman of the Long Stone Lighthouse; or Mary Lyon, the teacher of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary; or Hannah More, the Christian authoress of England; or Dorothea Dix, the angel of mercy for the insane; or Anna Etheridge, among the wounded of Blackburn's Fort; or Margaret Breckenridge, at Vicksburg; or Mary Shelton, distributing roses and grapes and cologne in western hospital; or thousands of other glorious women like them, who never took the marriage sacrament. Appreciate all this, my sister, and it will make you deliberate before you rush out of the single state into another, unless you are sure of betterment.
A DIFFICULT BUSINESS.
Deliberate and pray. Pray and deliberate. As I showed you in my former sermon, a man ought to supplicate Divine guidance in such a crisis; how much more important that you solicit it! It is easier for a man to find an appropriate wife than for a woman to find a good husband. This is a matter of arithmetic, as I showed in former discourse. Statistics show that in Massachusetts and New York States women have a majority of hundreds of thousands. Why this is we leave others to surmise. It would seem that woman is a favorite with the Lord, and that therefore He has made more of that kind. From the order of the creation in paradise it is evident that woman is an improved edition of man. But whatever be the reason for it, the fact is certain that she who selects a husband has a smaller number of people to select from than he who selects a wife. Therefore a woman ought to be especially careful in her choice of life-time companionship. She cannot afford to make a mistake. If a man err in his selection he can spend his evenings at the club, and dull his sensibilities by tobacco-smoke; but woman has no club-room for refuge, and would find it difficult to habituate herself to cigars. If a woman make a bad job of marital selection, the probability is that nothing but a funeral can relieve it. Divorce cases in court may interest the public, but the love-letters of a married couple are poor reading, except for those who write them. Pray God that you be delivered from irrevocable mistake!
PARTNERS TO AVOID.
Avoid affiance with a despiser of the Christian religion, whatever else he may have or may not have. I do not say he must needs be a religious man, for Paul says the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife; but marriage with a man who hates the Christian religion will insure you a life of wretchedness. He will caricature your habit of kneeling in prayer. He will speak depreciatingly of Christ. He will wound all the most sacred feelings of your soul. He will put your home under the anathema of the Lord God Almighty. In addition to the anguish with which he will fill your life, there is great danger that he will despoil your hope of heaven, and make your marriage relation an infinite and eternal disaster. If you have made such engagement, your first duty is to break it. My word may come just in time to save your soul.
HUSBANDS SELDOM REFORM.
Further, do not unite in marriage with a man of bad habits in the idea of reforming him. If now, under the restraint of your present acquaintance, he will not give up his bad habits, after he has won the prize you cannot expect him to do so. You might as well plant a violet in the face of a northeast storm with the idea of appeasing it. You might as well run a schooner alongside of a burning ship with the idea of saving the ship. The consequence will be, schooner and ship will be destroyed together.
The almshouse could tell the story of a hundred women who married men to reform them. If by twenty-five years of age a man has been grappled by intoxicants, he is under such headway that your attempt to stop him would be very much like running up the track with a wheelbarrow to stop a Hudson River express train. What you call an inebriate nowadays is not a victim to wine or whiskey, but to logwood and strychnine and nux vomica. All these poisons have kindled their fires in his tongue and brain, and all the tears of a wife weeping cannot extinguish the flames. Instead of marrying a man to reform him, let him reform first, and then give him time to see whether the reform is to be permanent. Let him understand that if he cannot do without his bad habits for two years he must do without you forever.
MEN WEDDED TO THE WORLD.
Avoid union with one supremely selfish, or so wound up in his occupation that he has no room for another. You occasionally find a man who spreads himself so widely over the path of life that there is no room for any one to walk beside him. He is not the one blade of the scissors incomplete without the other blade, but he is a chisel made to cut his way through life alone, or a file full of roughness, made to be drawn across society without any affinity for other files. His disposition is a lifelong protest against marriage. Others are so married to their occupation or profession that the taking of any other bride is a case of bigamy. There are men as severely tied to their literary work as was Chatterton, whose essay was not printed because of the death of the Lord Mayor. Chatterton made out the following account: "Lost by the Lord Mayor's death in this essay one pound eleven shillings and six-pence. Gained in elegies and essays five pounds and five shillings." Then he put what he had gained by the Lord Mayor's death opposite to what he had lost, and wrote under it: "And glad he is dead by three pounds thirteen shillings and six-pence." When a man is as hopelessly literary as that he ought to be a perpetual celibate; his library, his laboratory, his books are all the companionship needed.
Indeed, some of the mightiest men this world ever saw have not patronized matrimony. Cowper, Pope, Newton, Swift, Locke, Walpole, Gibbon, Hume, Arbuthnot, were single. Some of these marriage would have helped. The right kind of a wife would have cured Cowper's gloom, and given to Newton more practicability, and been a relief to Locke's overtasked brain. A Christian wife might have converted Hume and Gibbon to a belief in Christianity. But Dean Swift did not deserve a wife, from the way in which he broke the heart of Jane Waring first, and Esther Johnson afterward, and last of all "Vanessa." The great wit of the day, he was outwitted by his own cruelties.
PREDESTINATION IN MARRIAGE.
Amid so many possibilities of fatal mistake, am I not right in urging you to seek the unerring wisdom of God, and before you are infatuated? Because most marriages are fit to be made convinces us that they are divinely arranged. Almost every cradle has an affinity toward some other cradle. They may be on the opposite sides of the earth, but one child gets out of this cradle, and another child gets out of that cradle, and with their first steps they start for each other. They may diverge from the straight path, going toward the North, or South, or East, or West. They may fall down, but the two rise facing each other. They are approaching all through infancy. The one all through the years of boyhood is going to meet the one who is coming through all the years of girlhood to meet him. The decision of parents as to what is best concerning them, and the changes of fortune, may for a time seem to arrest
THE TWO JOURNEYS;
but on they go. They may never have seen each other. But the two pilgrims who started at the two cradles are nearing. After eighteen, twenty, or thirty years, the two come within sight. At the first glance they may feel a dislike, and they may slacken their step; yet something that the world calls fate, and that religion calls Providence, urges them on and on. They must meet. They come near enough to join hands in social acquaintance, after awhile to join hands in friendship, after awhile to join hearts. The delegate from the one cradle comes up the east aisle of the church with her father. The delegate from the other cradle comes up the west aisle of the church. The two long journeys end at the snow-drift of the bridal veil. The two chains made out of many years are forged together by the golden link which the groom puts upon the third finger of the left hand. One on earth, may they be one in heaven!
But there are so many exceptions to the general rule of natural affinity that only those are safe who pray for a heavenly hand to lead them. Because they depended on themselves and not on God there are thousands of women every year going to the slaughter. In India women leap on the funeral pyre of a dead husband. We have a worse spectacle than that in America—women innumerable leaping on the funeral pyre of a living husband.
THE ADVERTISING BRUTE.
Avoid all proposed alliances through newspaper advertisements. Many women, just for fun, have answered such advertisements, and have been led on from step to step to catastrophe infinite. All the men who write such advertisements are villains and lepers—all, without a single exception. All! All! Do you answer them just for fun? I will tell you a safer and healthier fun. Thrust your hand through the cage at a menagerie, and stroke the back of a cobra from the East Indies. Put your head in the mouth of a Numidian lion, to see if he will bite. Take a glassful of Paris green mixed with some delightful henbane. These are safer and healthier fun than answering newspaper advertisements for a wife.
MARRY INDEPENDENT MEN.
My advice is: Marry a man who is a fortune in himself. Houses, lands, and large inheritance are well enough, but the wheel of fortune turns so rapidly that through some investment all these in a few years may be gone. There are some things, however, that are a perpetual fortune—good manners, geniality of soul, kindness, intelligence, sympathy, courage, perseverance, industry, and whole-heartedness. Marry such a one and you have married a fortune, whether he have an income now of $50,000 a year or an income of $1000. A bank is secure according to its capital stock, and not to be judged by the deposits for a day or a week. A man is rich according to his sterling qualities, and not according to the mutability of circumstances, which may leave with him a large amount of resources to-day and withdraw them to-morrow. If a man is worth nothing but money he is poor indeed. If a man have upright character he is rich. Property may come and go, he is independent of the markets. Nothing can buy him out, nothing can sell him out. He may have more money one year than another, but his better fortunes never vacillate.
AVOID PERFECT MEN.
Yet do not expect to find a perfect man. If you find one without any faults, incapable of mistakes, never having guessed wrongly, his patience never having been perturbed, immaculate in speech, in temper, in habits, do not marry him. Why? Because you would enact a swindle. What would you do with a perfect man who are not perfect yourself? And how dare you hitch your imperfection fast on such supernatural excellence? What a companion you would make for an angel! In other words, there are no perfect men. There never was but one perfect pair, and they slipped down the banks of paradise together. We occasionally find a man who says he never sins. We know he lies when he says it. We have had financial dealings with two or three perfect men, and they cheated us wofully. Do not, therefore, look for an immaculate husband, for you will not find him.
PLENTY OF GOOD HUSBANDS.
But do not become cynical on this subject. Society has a great multitude of grand men who know how to make home happy. When they come to be husbands they evince a nobility of nature and a self-sacrificing spirit that surprise even the wife. These are the men who cheerfully sit in dark and dirty business offices, ten feet by twelve, in summer time hard at work while the wives and daughters are off at Saratoga, Mount Desert, or the White Sulphur. These are the men who, never having had much education themselves, have their sons at Yale, and Harvard, and Virginia University. These are the men who work themselves to death by fifty years of age, and go out to Greenwood leaving large estate and generous life-insurance provision for their families.
There are husbands and fathers here by the hundreds who would die for their households. If outlawry should ever become dominant in our cities they would stand in their doorway, and with their own arm would cleave down, one by one, fifty invaders face to face, foot to foot, and every stroke a demolition. This is what makes an army in defence in a country fight more desperately than an army of conquest. It is not so much the abstract sentiment of a flag as it is wife, and children, and home that turns enthusiasm into a fury. The world has such men by the million, and the homunculi that infest all our communities must not hinder women from appreciating the glory of true manhood.
FIDELITY IN ADVERSITY.
I was reading of a bridal reception. The young man had brought home the choice of his heart in her elaborate and exquisite apparel. As she stood in the gay drawing-room, and amid the gay group, the young man's eyes filled with tears of joy as he thought that she was his. Years passed by, and they stood at the same parlor on another festal occasion. She wore the same dress, for business had not opened as brightly to the young husband as he expected, and he had never been able to purchase for her another dress. Her face was not as bright and smooth as it had been years before, and a careworn look had made its signature on her countenance. As the husband looked at her he saw the difference between this occasion and the former, and he went over to where she sat, and said: "You remember the time when we were here before. You have the same dress on. Circumstances have somewhat changed, but you look to me far more beautiful than you did then." There is such a thing as conjugal fidelity, and many of you know it in your own homes.
But, after all the good advice we may give you, we come back to the golden pillar from which we started, the tremendous truth that no one but God can guide you in safety about this matter that may decide your happiness for two worlds, this and the next. So, my sister, I put your case where Naomi put that of Ruth and Orpah when she said: "The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband."
I imagine the hour for which you pledged your troth has arrived. There is much merry-making among your young friends, but there is an undertone of sadness in all the house. Your choice may have been the gladdest and the best, and the joy of the whole round of relatives, but when a young eaglet is about to leave the old nest, and is preparing to put out into sunshine and storm for itself, it feels its wings tremble somewhat. So she has a good cry before leaving home, and at the marriage father and mother always cry, or feel like it. If you think it is easy to give up a daughter in marriage, though it be with brightest prospects, you will think differently when the day comes. To have all along watched her from infancy to girlhood, and from girlhood to womanhood, studious of her welfare, her slightest illness an anxiety, and her presence in your home an ever-increasing joy, and then have her go away to some other home—aye, all the redolence of orange-blossoms, and all the chime of marriage bells, and all the rolling of wedding march in full diapason, and all the hilarious congratulations of your friends cannot make you forget that you are suffering a loss irreparable. But you know it is all right, and you have a remembrance of an embarkation just like it twenty-five or thirty years ago, in which you were one of the parties; and, suppressing as far as possible your sadness, you say, "Good-bye."
VISIT THE OLD HOME.
I hope that you, the departing daughter, will not forget to write often home; for, whatever betide you, the old folks will never lose their interest in your welfare. Make visits to them also as often, and stay as long as you can, for there will be changes at the old place after awhile. Every time you go you will find more gray hairs on father's head and more wrinkles on mother's brow; and after awhile you will notice that the elastic step has become decrepitude. And some day one of the two pillars of your early home will fall, and after awhile the other pillar of that home will fall, and it will be a comfort to yourself if, when they are gone, you can feel that while you are faithful in your new home you never forget your old home, and the first friends you ever had, and those to whom you are more indebted than you ever can be to any one else except to God—I mean your father and mother. Alexander Pope put it in effective rhythm when he said:
"Me let the tender office long engage To rock the cradle of reposing age; With lenient arts extend a mother's breath, Make languor smile, and smooth the bed of death; Explore the thought, explain the asking eye, And keep awhile one parent from the sky."
And now I commend all this precious and splendid young womanhood before me to-day to the God "who setteth the solitary in families."
"Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there."—PROVERBS 9:17, 18.
The Garden of Eden was a great orchard of fruit-bearing trees, bushels and bushels of round, ripe, glorious fruit; but the horticulturist and his wife having it in charge hankered for one special tree, simply because it was forbidden, starting a bad streak in human nature, so that children will now sometimes do something simply because they are forbidden to do it. This
KINK IN THE HUMAN RACE
is not easily unsnarled. Tell a company that they may look into any twenty rooms of a large house except one, and their chief desire is to see that one, though all the others were picture-galleries and that a garret. If there were in a region of mineral springs twenty fountains, but the proprietor had fenced in one well against the public, the one fenced in would be the chief temptation to the visitors, and they would rather taste of that than of the other nineteen. Solomon recognized this principle in the text, and also the disaster that follows forbidden conduct, when he said: "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there."
In this course of sermons on "The Wedding Ring," I this morning aim a point-blank shot at "Clandestine Marriages and Escapades."
Yonder comes up through the narrows of New York harbor a ship having all the evidence of tempestuous passage: salt water-mark reaching to the top of the smoke-stack; mainmast, foremast, mizzenmast twisted off; bulwarks knocked in; lifeboats off the davit; jib-sheets and lee-bowlines missing; captain's bridge demolished; main shaft broken; all the pumps working to keep from sinking before they can get to wharfage. That ship is the institution of Christian marriage, launched by the Lord grandly from the banks of the Euphrates, and floating out on the seas for the admiration and happiness of all nations. But free-loveism struck it from one side, and Mormonism struck it from another side, and hurricanes of libertinism have struck it on all sides, until the old ship needs repairs in every plank, and beam, and sail, and bolt, and clamp, and transom, and stanchion. In other words, the notions of modern society must be reconstructed on the subject of the marriage institution. And when we have got it back somewhere near what it was when God built it in Paradise, the earth will be far on toward resumption of Paradisaical conditions.
Do you ask what is the need of a course of sermons on this subject? The man or woman who asks this question is either ignorant or guilty. In New England, which has been considered by many the most moral part of the United States, there are two thousand divorces per year. And in Massachusetts, the headquarters of steady habits, there is one divorce to every fourteen marriages. The State of Maine, considered by many almost frigid in proprieties, has in one year four hundred and seventy-eight divorces. In Vermont swapping wives is not a rare transaction. In Connecticut there are women who boast that they have four or five times been divorced. Moreover, our boasted Protestantism is, on this subject, more lax than Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism admits of no divorce except for the reason that Christ admitted as a lawful reason. But Protestantism is admitting anything and everything, and the larger the proportion of Protestants in any part of the country, the larger the ratio of divorce. Do you not then think that Protestantism needs some toning up on this subject?
Aye, when you realize that the sacred and divine institution is being caricatured and defamed by clandestine marriages and escapades all over the land, does there not seem a call for such discussion? Hardly a morning or evening paper comes into your possession without reporting them, and there are fifty of these occurrences where one is reported, because it is the interest of all parties to hush them up. The victims are, all hours of the night, climbing down ladders or crossing over from State to State, that they may reach laws of greater laxity, holding reception six months after marriage to let the public know for the first time that a half year before they were united in wedlock. Ministers of religion, and justices of the peace, and mayors of cities, willingly joining in marriage runaways from other States and neighborhoods; the coach-box and the back seat of the princely landau in flirtation; telegrams flashing across the country for the arrest of absconded school misses, who started off with arm full of books, and taking rail trains to meet their affianced—in the snow-drifts of the great storm that has recently passed over the country some of them, I read, have perished—thousands of people in a marriage whose banns have never been published; precipitated conjugality; bigamy triumphant; marriage a joke; society blotched all over with a putrefaction on this subject which no one but the Almighty God can arrest.
We admit that clandestinity and escapade are sometimes authorized and made right by parental tyranny or domestic serfdom. There have been exceptional cases where parents have had a monomania in regard to their sons and daughters, demanding their celibacy or forbidding relations every way right. Through absurd family ambition parents have sometimes demanded qualifications and equipment of fortune unreasonable to expect or simply impossible. Children are not expected to marry to please their parents, but to please themselves. Given good morals, means of a livelihood, appropriate age and quality of social position, and no parent has a right to prohibit a union that seems deliberate and a matter of the heart. Rev. Philip Henry, eminent for piety and good sense, used to say to his children: "Please God and please yourselves, and you shall never displease me."
A MATRIMONIAL TRAGEDY.
During our Civil War a marriage was about to be celebrated at Charleston, S.C., between Lieutenant de Rochelle and Miss Anna, the daughter of ex-Governor Pickens. As the ceremony was about to be solemnized a shell broke through the roof and wounded nine of the guests, and the bride fell dying, and, wrapped in her white wedding robe, her betrothed kneeling at her side, in two hours she expired. And there has been many as bright a union of hearts as that proposed that the bombshell of outrageous parental indignation has wounded and scattered and slain.
If the hand offered in marriage be blotched of intemperance; if the life of the marital candidate has been debauched; if he has no visible means of support, and poverty and abandonment seem only a little way ahead; if the twain seem entirely unmatched in disposition, protest and forbid, and re-enforce your opinion by that of others, and put all lawful obstacles in the way; but do not join that company of parents who have ruined their children by a plutocracy of domestic crankiness which has caused more than one elopement. I know of a few cases where marriage has been under the red-hot anathema of parents and all the neighbors, but God approved, and the homes established have been beautiful and positively Edenic.
But while we have admitted there are real cases of justifiable rebellion, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred—yea, in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand, these unlicensed departures and decampments by moonlight are ruin, temporal and eternal. It is safer for a woman to jump off the docks of the East River and depend on being able to swim to the other shore, or get picked up by a ferry-boat. The possibilities are that she may be rescued, but the probability is that she will not. Read the story of the escapades in the newspapers for the last ten years, and find me a half dozen that do not mean poverty, disgrace, abandonment, police court, divorce, death, and hell. "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there." Satan presides over the escapade. He introduces the two parties to each other. He gets them to pledge their troth. He appoints where they shall meet. He shows them where they can find officiating minister or squire. He points out to them the ticket office for the rail train. He puts them aboard, and when they are going at forty miles the hour he jumps off and leaves them in the lurch; for, while Satan has a genius in getting people into trouble, he has no genius for getting people out. He induced Jonah to take ship for Tarshish when God told him to go to Nineveh, but provided for the recreant prophet no better landing-place than the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
THE DIME NOVEL.
The modern novel is responsible for many of these abscondings. Do you think that young women would sit up half a night reading novels in which the hero and heroine get acquainted in the usual way, and carry on their increased friendliness until, with the consent of parents, the day of marriage is appointed, and amid the surrounding group of kindred the vows are taken? Oh, no! There must be flight, and pursuit, and narrow escape, and drawn dagger, all ending in sunshine, and parental forgiveness, and bliss unalloyed and gorgeous. In many of the cases of escapade the idea was implanted in the hot brain of the woman by a cheap novel, ten cents' worth of unadulterated perdition.
THE SCHEME OF BAD MEN.
These evasions of the ordinary modes of marriage are to be deplored for the reason that nearly all of them are proposed by bad men. If the man behave well he has a character to which he can refer, and he can say: "If you want to inquire about me there is a list of names of people in the town or neighborhood where I live." No; the heroes of escapades are nearly all either bigamists, or libertines, or drunkards, or defrauders, or first-class scoundrels of some sort. They have no character to lose. They may be dressed in the height of fashion, may be cologned, and pomatumed, and padded, and diamond-ringed, and flamboyant-cravatted, until they bewitch the eye and intoxicate the olfactories; but they are double-distilled extracts of villainy, moral dirt and blasphemy. Beware of them. "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there."
Fugitive marriage is to be deplored because it almost always implies woman's descent from a higher social plane to a lower. If the man was not of a higher plane, or the marriage on an equality, there would be no objections, and hence no inducement to clandestinity. In almost all cases it means the lowering of womanhood. Observe this law: a man marrying a woman beneath him in society may raise her to any eminence that he himself may reach; but if a woman marry a man beneath her in society she always goes down to his level. That is a law inexorable, and there are no exceptions. Is any woman so high up that she can afford to plot for her own debasement? There is not a State in the American Union that has not for the last twenty years furnished an instance of the sudden departure of some intelligent woman from an affluent home to spend her life with some one who can make five dollars a day, provided he keeps very busy. Well, many a man has lived on five dollars a day and been happy, but he undertakes a big contract when with five dollars a day he attempts to support some one who has lived in a home that cost twenty thousand per annum. This has been about the history of most of such conjunctions of simplicity and extravagance, the marriage of
OX AND EAGLE.
The first year they get on tolerably well, for it is odd and romantic, and assisted by applause of people who admire outlawry. The second year the couple settle down into complete dislike of each other. The third year they separate and seek for divorce, or, as is more probable, the man becomes a drunkard, and the woman a blackened waif of the street. "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there."
These truant marriages are also to be deplored because in most instances they are executed in defiance of parental wisdom and kindness. Most parents are anxious for the best welfare of a child. If they make vehement and determined opposition, it is largely because it is a match unfit to be made, and they can see for their daughter nothing but wretchedness in that direction. They have keener and wiser appreciation, for instance, of the certain domestic demolition that comes from alcoholism in a young man. They realize what an idiot a woman is who marries a man who has not brains or industry enough to earn a livelihood for a family. No bureau of statistics can tell us the number of women who, after marriage, have to support themselves and their husbands. If the husband becomes invalid, it is a beautiful thing to see a wife uncomplainingly, by needle, or pen, or yard-stick, or washing-machine, support the home. But these great, lazy masculine louts that stand around with hands in their pockets, allowing the wife with her weak arm to fight the battle of bread, need to be regurgitated from society.
There are innumerable instances in these cities where the wife pays the rent, and meets all the family expenses, and furnishes the tobacco and the beer for the lord of the household. No wonder parents put on all the brakes to stop such a train of disaster. They have too often seen the gold ring put on the finger at the altar turning out to be the iron link of a chain of domestic servitude. What a farce it is for a man who cannot support himself, and not worth a cent in the world, to take a ring which he purchased by money stolen from his grandmother's cupboard, and put it on the finger of the bride, saying: "With this ring I thee wed, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow."
It is amazing to see how some women will marry men knowing nothing about them. No merchant would sell a hundred dollars' worth of goods on credit without knowing whether the customer was worthy of being trusted. No man or woman would buy a house with encumbrances of mortgages, and liens, and judgments against it uncancelled; and yet there is not an hour of the day or night for the last ten years there have not been women by hasty marriage entrusting their earthly happiness to men about whose honesty they know nothing, or who are encumbered with liens, and judgments, and first mortgages, and second mortgages, and third mortgages of evil habits. No wonder that in such circumstances parents in conjugating the verb in question pass from the subjunctive mood to the indicative, and from the indicative to the imperative. In nearly all the cases of escapade that you will hear of the rest of your lives there will be a headlong leap over the barriers of parental common sense and forethought. "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there."
We also deplore these fraudulent espousals and this sneaking exchange of single life for married life because it is deception, and that is a corroding and damning vice. You must deceive your kindred, you must deceive society, you must deceive all but God, and Him you cannot deceive. Deception does not injure others so much as it injures ourselves. Marriage is too important a crisis in one's life to be decided by sleight of hand, or a sort of jugglery which says: "Presto, change! Now you see her, and now you don't."
Better to wait for years for circumstances to improve. Time may remove all obstacles. The candidate for marital preferences may change his habits, or get into some trade or business that will support a home, or the inexorable father and mother may be promoted to celestial citizenship. At the right time have the day appointed. Stand at the end of the best room in the house with joined hands, and minister of religion before you to challenge the world that "if they know of any reason why these two persons shall not be united, they state it now or forever hold their peace," and then start out with the good wishes of all the neighbors and the halo of the Divine sanction. When you can go out of harbor at noon with all flags flying, do not try to run a blockade at midnight.
In view of all this, I charge you to break up clandestine correspondence if you are engaged in it, and have no more clandestine meetings, either at the ferry, or on the street, or at the house of mutual friends, or at the corner of the woods. Do not have letters come for you to the post-office under assumed address. Have no correspondence that makes you uneasy lest some one by mistake open your letters. Do not employ terms of endearment at the beginning and close of letters unless you have a right to use them. That young lady is on the edge of danger who dares not allow her mother to see her letters.
CONFIDE IN PARENTS.
If you have sensible parents take them into your confidence in all the affairs of the heart. They will give you more good advice in one hour than you can get from all the world beside in five years. They have toiled for you so long, and prayed for you so much, they have your best interests at heart. At the same time let parents review their opposition to a proposed marital alliance, and see if their opposition is founded on a genuine wish for the child's welfare, or on some whim, or notion, or prejudice, or selfishness, fighting a natural law and trying to make Niagara run up stream. William Pitt, the Prime Minister of England in the reign of George III., was always saying wise things. One day Sir Walter Farquhar called on him in great perturbation. Mr. Pitt inquired what was the matter, and Sir Walter told him that his daughter was about to be married to one not worthy of her rank. Mr. Pitt said: "Is the young man of respectable family?" "Yes." "Is he respectable in himself?" "Yes." "Has he an estimable character?" "Yes." "Why, then, my dear Sir Walter, make no opposition." The advice was taken, and a happy married life ensued. Let ministers and officers of the law decline officiating at clandestine marriages. When they are asked to date a marriage certificate back, as we all are asked, let them peremptorily decline to say that the ceremony was in November instead of January, or decline to leave the date blank, lest others fill out the record erroneously. Let a law be passed in all our States, as it has already been in some of the States, making a license from officers of the law necessary before we can unite couples, and then make it necessary to publish beforehand in the newspapers, as it used to be published in the New England churches, so that if there be lawful objection it may be presented, not swinging the buoy on the rocks after the ship has struck and gone to pieces.
And here it might be well for me to take all the romance out of an escapade by quoting a dozen lines of Robert Pollock, the great Scotch poet, where he describes the crazed victim of one of these escapades:
"... Yet had she many days Of sorrow in the world, but never wept. She lived on alms, and carried in her hand Some withered stalks she gathered in the spring. When any asked the cause she smiled, and said They were her sisters, and would come and watch Her grave when she was dead. She never spoke Of her deceiver, father, mother, home, Or child, or heaven, or hell, or God; but still In lonely places walked, and ever gazed Upon the withered stalks, and talked to them; Till, wasted to the shadow of her youth, With woe too wide to see beyond, she died."
UNDER THE LIGHT.
But now I turn on this subject an intenser light. We have fifteen hundred lights in this church, and when by electric touch they are kindled in the evening service it is almost startling. But this whole subject of "Clandestine Marriages and Escapades" I put under a more intense light than that. The headlight of a locomotive is terrible if you stand near enough to catch the full glare of it. As it sweeps around the "Horseshoe Curve" of the Alleghanies or along the edges of the Sierra Nevadas, how far ahead, and how deep down, and how high up it flashes, and there is instantaneous revelation of mountain peak and wild beasts hieing themselves to their caverns and cascades a thousand feet tall, or clinging in white terror to the precipices! But more intense, more far-reaching, more sudden, swifter and more tremendous is the headlight of an advancing Judgment Day, under which all the most hidden affairs of life shall come to discovery and arraignment. I quote an overwhelming passage of Scripture, in which I put the whole emphasis on the word "secret." "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil."
What a time that will be in which the cover shall be lifted from every home and from every heart. The iniquity may have been so sly that it escaped all human detection, but it will be as well known on that day as the crimes of Sodom and Gomorrah, unless for Christ's sake it has been forgiven. All the fingers of universal condemnation will be pointed at it. The archangel of wrath will stand there with uplifted thunderbolt ready to strike it. The squeamishness and prudery of earthly society, which hardly allowed some sins to be mentioned on earth, are past, and the man who was unclean and the woman who was impure will, under a light brighter than a thousand noonday suns, stand with the whole story written on scalp, and forehead, and cheek, and hands, and feet; the whole resurrection body aflame and dripping with fiery disclosures, ten thousand sepulchral and celestial and infernal voices crying, "Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!"
All marital intrigues and all secret iniquities will be published, as though all the trumpets spoke them, and all the lightnings capitalized them, and all the earthquakes rumbled them. Oh, man, recreant to thy marriage vow! Oh, woman, in sinful collusion! What, then, will become of thy poor soul? The tumbling Alps, and Pyrenees, and Mount Washingtons cannot hide thee from the consequences of thy secret sins. Better repent of them now, so that they cannot be brought against thee. For the chief of sinners there is pardon, if you ask it in time. But I leave you to guess what chance there will be for those who on earth lived in clandestine relations, when on that day the very Christ who had such high appreciation of the marriage relation that He compared it to His own relation with the Church, shall appear at the door of the great hall of the Last Assize, and all the multitudes of earth, and hell, and heaven shall rise up and cry out from the three galleries: "Behold, the bridegroom cometh!"
DUTIES OF HUSBANDS TO WIVES.
"And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming."—GENESIS 24:63.
A bridal pageant on the back of dromedaries! The camel is called the ship of the desert. Its swinging motion in the distance is suggestive of a vessel rising and falling with the billows. Though awkward, how imposing these creatures as they move along, whether in ancient or modern times, sometimes carrying four hundred or four thousand travelers from Bagdad to Aleppo, or from Bassora to Damascus! In my text comes a caravan. We notice the noiseless step of the broad foot, the velocity of motion, the gay caparison of saddle, and girth, and awning, sheltering the riders from the sun, and the hilarity of the mounted passengers, and we cry out: "Who are they?" Well, Isaac has been praying for a wife, and it is time he had one, for he is forty years of age; and his servant, directed by the Lord, has made a selection of Rebekah; and, with her companions and maidens, she is on her way to her new home, carrying with her the blessing of all her friends.
THE NUPTIAL MEETING.
Isaac is in the fields, meditating upon his proposed passage from celibacy to monogamy. And he sees a speck against the sky, then groups of people, and after a while he finds that the grandest earthly blessing that ever comes to a man is approaching with this gay caravan.
In this my discourse on "The Wedding Ring," having spoken of the choice of a lifetime companion, I take it for granted, O man, that your marriage was divinely arranged, and that the camels have arrived from the right direction and at the right time, bringing the one that was intended for your consort—a Rebekah and not a Jezebel. I proceed to discuss as to how you ought to treat your wife, and my ambition is to tell you more plain truth than you ever heard in any three-quarters of an hour in all your life.
THE RESPONSIBILITY UNDERTAKEN.
First of all, I charge you realize your responsibility in having taken her from the custody and care and homestead in which she was once sheltered. What courage you must have had, and what confidence in yourself, to say to her practically: "I will be to you more than your father and mother, more than all the friends you ever had or ever can have! Give up everything and take me. I feel competent to see you through life in safety. You are an immortal being, but I am competent to defend you and make you happy. However bright and comfortable a home you have now, and though in one of the rooms is the arm-chair in which you rocked, and in the garret is the cradle in which you were hushed and the trundle-bed in which you slept, and in the sitting-room are the father and mother who have got wrinkle-faced, and stoop-shouldered, and dim-eyesighted in taking care of you, yet you will do better to come with me." I am amazed that any of us ever had the sublimity of impudence to ask such a transfer from a home assured to a home conjectured and unbuilt.
A RISKY VOYAGE.
You would think me a very daring and hazardous adventurer if I should go down to one of the piers on the North River, and at a time when there was a great lack of ship captains, and I should, with no knowledge of navigation, propose to take a steamer across to Glasgow or Havre, and say: "All aboard! Haul in the planks and swing out," and, passing out into the sea, plunge through darkness and storm. If I succeeded in getting charge of a ship, it would be one that would never be heard of again. But that is the boldness of every man that proffers marriage. He says: "I will navigate you through the storms, the cyclones, the fogs of a lifetime. I will run clear of rocks and icebergs. I have no experience and I have no seaport, but all aboard for the voyage of a lifetime! I admit that there have been ten thousand shipwrecks on this very route, but don't hesitate! Tut! Tut! There now! Don't cry! Brides must not cry at the wedding."
THE WIFE'S TEMERITY.
In response to this the woman, by her action, practically says: "I have but one life to live, and I entrust it all to you. My arm is weak, but I will depend on the strength of yours. I don't know much of the world, but I rely on your wisdom. I put my body, my mind, my soul, my time, my eternity, in your keeping. I make no reserve. Even my name I resign and take yours, though mine is a name that suggests all that was honorable in my father, and all that was good in my mother, and all that was pleasant in my brothers and sisters. I start with you on a journey which shall not part except at the edge of your grave or mine. Ruth, the Moabitess, made no more thorough self-abnegation than I make, when I take her tremendous words, the pathos of which many centuries have not cooled:
Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.' Side by side in life. Side by side in the burying-ground. Side by side in heaven. Before God and man, and with my immortal soul in the oath, I swear eternal fidelity."
ENTITLED TO ADMIRATION.
Now, my brother, how ought you to treat her? Unless you are an ingrate infinite you will treat her well. You will treat her better than any one in the universe except your God. Her name will have in it more music than in all that Chopin, or Bach, or Rheinberger composed. Her eyes, swollen with three weeks of night watching over a child with scarlet fever, will be to you beautiful as a May morning. After the last rose petal has dropped out of her cheek, after the last feather of the raven's wing has fallen from her hair, after across her forehead, and under her eyes, and across her face there are as many wrinkles as there are graves over which she has wept, you will be able truthfully to say, in the words of Solomon's song: "Behold, thou art fair, my love! Behold, thou art fair!" And perhaps she may respond appropriately in the words that no one but the matchless Robert Burns could ever have found pen or ink, or heart or brain to write:
"John Anderson, my jo, John, We clamb the hill thegither; And mony a canty day, John, We've had wi' ane anither. Now we maun totter down, John, But hand in hand we'll go; And sleep thegither at the foot, John Anderson, my jo."
If any one assail her good name, you will have hard work to control your temper, and if you should strike him down the sin will not be unpardonable. By as complete a surrender as the universe ever saw—except that of the Son of God for your salvation and mine—she has a first mortgage on your body, mind and soul, and the mortgage is foreclosed; and you do not more thoroughly own your two eyes or your two hands than she owns you. The longer the journey Rebekah makes and the greater the risks of her expedition on the back of the camels, the more thoroughly is Isaac bound to be kind, and indulgent, and worthy.
LOVERS' PROMISES BINDING.
Now, be honest and pay your debts. You promised to make her happy. Are you making her happy? You are an honest man in other things, and feel the importance of keeping a contract. If you have induced her into a conjugal partnership under certain pledges of kindness and valuable attention, and then have failed to fulfill your word, you deserve to have a suit brought against you for getting goods under false pretences, and then you ought to be mulcted in a large amount of damages. Review now all the fine, beautiful, complimentary, gracious and glorious things you promised her before marriage and reflect whether you have kept your faith. Do you say, "Oh, that was all sentimentalism, and romance, and a joke," and that "they all talk that way!" Well, let that plan be tried on yourself! Suppose I am interested in Western lands, and I fill your mind with roseate speculation, and I tell you that a city is already laid out on the farm that I propose to sell you, and that a new railroad will run close by, and have a depot for easy transportation of the crops, and that eight or ten capitalists are going to put up fine residences close by, and that the climate is delicious, and that the ground, high up, gives no room for malaria, and that every dollar planted will grow up into a bush bearing ten or twenty dollars, and my speech glows with enthusiasm until you rush off with me to an attorney to have the deed drawn, and the money paid down, and the bargain completed. You can hardly sleep nights because of the El Dorado, the Elysium, upon which you are soon to enter.
A WESTERN EDEN.
You give up your home at the East, you bid good-bye to your old neighbors, and take the train, and after many days' journey you arrive at a quiet depot, from which you take a wagon thirty miles through the wilderness, and reach your new place. You see a man seated on a wet log, in a swamp, and shaking with the fifteenth attack of chills and fever, and ask him who he is. He says: "I am a real estate agent, having in charge the property around here." You ask him where the new depot is. He tells you that it has not yet been built, but no doubt will be if the company get their bill for the track through the next legislature. You ask him where the new city is laid out. He says, with chattering teeth: "If you will wait till this chill is off, I will show it to you on the map I have in my pocket." You ask him where the capitalists are going to build their fine houses, and he says: "Somewhere along those lowlands out there by those woods, when the water has been drained off." That night you sleep in the hut of the real estate agent, and though you pray for everybody else, you do not pray for me. Being more fortunate than many men who go out in such circumstances, you have money enough to get back, and you come to me, and out of breath in your indignation, you say: "You have swindled me out of everything. What do you mean in deceiving me about that Western property?" "Oh," I reply, "that was all right; that was sentimentalism, and romance, and a joke. That's the way they all talk!"
But more excusable would I be in such deception than you, O man, who by glow of words and personal magnetism induced a womanly soul into surroundings which you have taken no care to make attractive, so that she exchanged her father's house for the dismal swamp of married experience—treeless, flowerless, shelterless, comfortless and godless. I would not be half so much to blame in cheating you out of a farm as you in cheating a woman out of the happiness of a lifetime.
My brother, do not get mad at what I say, but honestly compare the promises you made, and see whether you have kept them. Some of you spent every evening of the week with your betrothed before marriage, and since then you spent every evening away, except you have influenza or some sickness on account of which the doctor says you must not go out. You used to fill your conversation with interjections of adulation, and now you think it sounds silly to praise the one who ought to be more attractive to you as the years go by, and life grows in severity of struggle and becomes more sacred by the baptism of tears—tears over losses, tears over graves. Compare the way some of you used to come in the house in the evening, when you were attempting the capture of her affections, and the way some of you come into the house in the evening now.
DON'T BE PREOCCUPIED.
Then what politeness, what distillation of smiles, what graciousness, sweet as the peach orchard in blossom week! Now, some of you come in and put your hat on the rack and scowl, and say: "Lost money to-day!" and you sit down at the table and criticise the way the food is cooked. You shove back before the others are done eating, and snatch up the evening paper and read, oblivious of what has been going on in that home all day. The children are in awe before the domestic autocrat. Bubbling over with fun, yet they must be quiet; with healthful curiosity, yet they must ask no questions. The wife has had enough annoyances in the nursery, and parlor, and kitchen to fill her nerves with nettles and spikes. As you have provided the money for food and wardrobe, you feel you have done all required of you. Toward the good cheer, and the intelligent improvement, and the moral entertainment of that home, which at the longest can last but a few years, you are doing nothing. You seem to have no realization of the fact that soon these children will be grown up or in their sepulchres, and will be far removed from your influence, and that the wife will soon end her earthly mission, and that house will be occupied by others, and you yourself will be gone.
Gentlemen, fulfill your contracts. Christian marriage is an affectional bargain. In heathen lands a man wins his wife by achievements. In some countries wives are bought by the payment of so many dollars, as so many cattle or sheep. In one country the man gets on a horse and rides down where a group of women are standing, and seizes one of them by the hair, and lifts her, struggling and resisting, on his horse, and if her brothers and friends do not overtake her before she gets to the jungle, she is his lawful wife. In another land the masculine candidate for marriage is beaten by the club of the one whom he would make his bride. If he cries out under the pounding, he is rejected. If he receives the blows uncomplainingly, she is his by right. Endurance, and bravery, and skill decide the marriage in barbarous lands, but Christian marriage is a voluntary bargain, in which you promise protection, support, companionship and love.
THE TERMS OF THE CONTRACT.
Business men have in their fire-proof safes a file of papers containing their contracts, and sometimes they take them out and read them over to see what the party of the first part and the party of the second part really bound themselves to do. Different ministers of religion have their own peculiar forms of marriage ceremony; but if you have forgotten what you promised at the altar of wedlock, you had better buy or borrow an Episcopal Church-Service, which contains the substance of all intelligent marriage ceremonies, when it says: "I take thee to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge thee my troth." Would it not be a good idea to have that printed in tract form and widely distributed?
The fact is, that many men are more kind to everybody else's wives than to their own wives. They will let the wife carry a heavy coal scuttle upstairs, and will at one bound clear the width of a parlor to pick up some other lady's pocket-handkerchief. There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men—namely, husbands in flirtation. The attention they ought to put upon their own wives they bestow upon others. They smile on them coyly and askance, and with a manner that seems to say: "I wish I was free from that old drudge at home. What an improvement you would be on my present surroundings!" And bouquets are sent, and accidental meetings take place, and late at night the man comes to his prosaic home, whistling and hilarious, and wonders that the wife is jealous. There are thousands of men who, while not positively immoral, need radical correction of their habits in this direction. It is meanness immeasurable for a man by his behavior to seem to say to his wife: "You can't help yourself, and I will go where I please, and admire whom I please, and I defy your criticism."
Why did you not have that put in the bond, O domestic Shylock? Why did you not have it understood before you were pronounced husband and wife that she should have only a part of the dividend of your affections; that when, as time rolled on and the cares of life had erased some of the bright lines from her face, and given unwieldiness to her form, you would have the reserved right to pay obeisance to cheeks more rubicund, and figure lither and more agile, and as you demanded the last pound of patience and endurance on her part you could, with the emphasis of an Edwin Forrest or a Macready, have tapped the eccentric marriage document and have said: "It's in the bond!" If this modern Rebekah had understood beforehand where she was alighting she would have ordered the camel drivers to turn the caravan backward toward Padan-aram. Flirtation has its origin either in dishonesty or licentiousness. The married man who indulges in it is either a fraud or a rake. However high up in society such a one may be, and however sought after, I would not give a three-cent piece, though it had been three times clipped, for the virtue of the masculine flirt.
The most worthy thing for the thousands of married men to do is to go home and apologize for past neglects and brighten up their old love. Take up the family Bible and read the record of the marriage day. Open the drawer of relics in the box inside the drawer containing the trinkets of your dead child. Take up the pack of yellow-colored letters that were written before you became one. Rehearse the scenes of joy and sorrow in which you have mingled. Put all these things as fuel on the altar, and by a coal of sacred fire rekindle the extinguished light. It was a blast from hell that blew it out, and a gale from heaven will fan it into a blaze.
Ye who have broken marriage vows, speak out! take your wife into all your plans, your successes, your defeats, your ambitions. Tell her everything. Walk arm in arm with her into places of amusement, and on the piazza of summer watering places, and up the rugged way of life, and down through dark ravine, and when one trembles on the way let the other be re-enforcement. In no case pass yourself off as a single man, practicing gallantries. Do not, after you are fifty years of age, in ladies' society, try to look young-mannish.
RESPECT HER PIETY.
Interfere not with your wife's religious nature. Put her not in that awful dilemma in which so many Christian wives are placed by their husbands, who ask them to go to places or do things which compel them to decide between loyalty to God and loyalty to the husband. Rather than ask her to compromise her Christian character encourage her to be more and more a Christian, for there will be times in your life when you will want the help of all her Christian resources; and certainly, when you remember how much influence your mother had over you, you do not want the mother of your children to set a less gracious example. It pleases me greatly to hear the unconverted and worldly husband say about his wife, with no idea that it will get to her ears: "There is the most godly woman alive. Her goodness is a perpetual rebuke to my waywardness. Nothing on earth could ever induce her to do a wrong thing. I hope the children will take after her instead of after me. If there is any heaven at all I am sure she will go there."
THE PRIEST OF THE HOUSEHOLD.
Ay, my brother, do you not think it would be a wise and a safe thing for you to join her on the road to heaven? You think you have a happy home now, but what a home you would have if you both were religious! What a new sacredness it would give to your marital relation, and what a new light it would throw on the forehead of your children! In sickness, what a comfort! In reverses of fortune, what a wealth! In death, what a triumph! God meant you to be the high priest of your household. Go home to-day and take the Bible on your lap, and gather all your family yet living around you, and those not living will hear of it in a flash, and as ministering spirits will hover—father and mother and children gone, and all your celestial kindred. Then kneel down, and if you can't think of a prayer to offer I will give you a prayer—namely: "Lord God, I surrender to Thee myself and my beloved wife, and these dear children. For Christ's sake forgive all the past and help us for all the future. We have lived together here, may we live together forever. Amen and amen." Dear me, what a stir it would make among your best friends on earth and in heaven.