The Ill-mated • Drawbacks of Unequal Yoking • Married In The Lord
Extravagant Expectations • Wise Adjustments
The relations of the married state are very different from those considered in the last chapter. Paul recognises this difference in saying "the unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but she that is married careth for the things of the world how she may please her husband." This may have had special applicability in Paul's day, when the outward circumstances connected with the profession of the truth (with regard to persecution) were of a kind to gender greater consecratedness in those unburdened by social ties. It would also be specially applicable where sisters were fettered by union with unbelieving husbands. Doubtless it is on all cases more or less true that the single have advantages peculiar to unmarried life. Still, single life is not always necessarily spiritual in its tendency.
That the married state is such is not incompatible with faithful service to Christ, Paul allows in his advice to young widows (1 Tim. v. 14), also in many other allusions to the same matter in several of his epistles, Peter also acknowledges the same in his exhortation to husband and wife in the truth to walk together according to knowledge, "as being heirs together of the grace of life." The married state doubtless entails "trouble in the flesh;" but with double sorrows, we may count upon double joys where there is union and fellowship in the truth. It is the natural relation of man and woman and does much to broaden the sympathies and break down artificial views of life.
To the married woman, the possession of the truth is an inestimable boon; not that the knowledge of it merely will benefit her; but the possession of it in the sense of an indwelling principle, will be of incalculable value in guiding her affections and sustaining her in the trying and difficult circumstances that are sometimes the peculiar experiences of a wife.
In the ordinary walks of life, and outside of the truth, it not unfrequently happens that a wife fails to constitute a companion to her husband. He may have tastes in certain directions, scientific, literary, or otherwise, in which she cannot keep him company; either because her tastes do not lie in the same direction or because her more limited opportunities prevent her keeping pace with her husband's attainments. She may be possessed of ability, and excel in her own sphere of labour; but the duties connected with this may be so numerous and urgent as to engage her attention, to the exclusion of those matters which especially interest her husband.
Through the effect of this on her mind, she may come to regard his particular bias as a weakness, which will only help to widen the gap which he feels to exist between himself and his wife, because she cannot or does not take any interest in that which to him is the source of the highest pleasure.
Now, in the truth, the chances of such a hitch are greatly lessened. The possession of the truth furnishes a basis upon which, if husband and wife have embraced it from the heart, both may be firmly joined together in one mind. It may be that the sister has not been fortunate enough to be united to a companion in this respect. Married in ignorance, she may have received the truth since entering wedlock, her husband not bearing her company in the matter. Even in this case, the truth will be to her a great advantage. It will prove a solace to her amid the troubles and cares incident to her position. And she can indulge the hope that she may be some day cheered by her husband's acceptance of it.
To this end let her labour, ever mindful of her own deportment, as one professing godliness, and encouraged in her labour of hope by the words of Peter, whose advice is in this direction to those having unbelieving husbands, so that they (the unbelieving husbands), may even "without the word, be won by the conversation of their wives."
DRAWBACKS OF UNEQUAL YOKING.
There are, doubtless, many drawbacks to a sister who finds herself in this position. She is thereby deprived of much encouragement and help, and experiences many obstacles which would not exist with her husband's hearty co-operation in and identification with the truth. Still, even this form of evil may not exist without advantage to the sister so circumstanced, though such advantage will, doubtless, rank among the "forced benefits" of her experience. One of them will be that she will be thrown upon her own resources for spiritual sustenance, and her profiting will, doubtless, appear in her individual intelligence and spontaneity in the truth.
At the same time, there is much danger. Her connection with an unbelieving husband may exclude the atmosphere of the truth, and surround her with adverse influences which she may be unable to resist. She may, if not on her guard, be insensibly and gradually robbed of her enthusiasm for the truth, and having a name to live, may become dead. The simple principle of placing "Christ first," her Lord, in all her course through life, would prove a guiding star out of many a dangerous path into which she might otherwise be led. Better brave the disfavour of husband and friends than imperil a favourable reception from the King of kings, when he comes forth to judge his household.
Of course, she will require to use discretion in such a matter, and not unnecessarily cause trouble; still, if she cannot comply with the commands of Christ without giving offence to her husband, she has no alternative. But let her see to it that it is really the offence of the truth, and not the flesh in some form taking advantage of the liberty wherewith the truth has made us free.
If she have brought herself into this condition of unequal yoking subsequent to her acceptance of the truth, she will have ample reason to repent her folly and her sin, and will, probably, find sufficient retribution in the increased difficulties which she will find around her, in the good fight of faith. If she have arrived at a knowledge of the truth after her union with an unbeliever, she can, at least, rejoice that she has done so, and will make the best of her surroundings, hoping by her faithful endeavours to bring about a better and more harmonious state of things.
MARRIED IN THE LORD.
To those who know by happy experience the blessedness of union and fellowship in the truth, nothing need be said. Their joint labours will show the sweet advantage of being of one accord, and of one mind: fellow helpers into the Kingdom of God, and heirs together of the grace of life; growing up into Christ who is the head-being rooted and grounded in the love of him. To such the truth is a never-failing source of interest. It furnishes them with occupation for all their spare time, and more, and so great is the variety of ways in which it will claim their attention, help and sympathy, that, whether occupying the highest or the lowest or the middle place in society, they will find enough to fill their hands, and will certainly have no time for the genteel frivolities with which it is customary in "society" to fill up the time. Their private studies can hardly be placed on the list of labour. These are to them as resting places where they drink and are refreshed, and strengthened to resume the journey, in which they are firmly united as fellow pilgrims, toiling together with strong purpose for a common end.
But this happy experience does not fall to the lot of all who profess the truth. There are cases in which husband and wife, both professedly in the truth, do not run smoothly together. There are many reasons for this unfortunate state of things, some of which cannot entirely be done away with, though most of them may be modified. The great bulk of the brethren and sisters belong to the class who have to toil most of the time in secular matters-each in their own department, and each having to endure much fatigue and weariedness, which unfits for that cordial manifestation of appreciation which under more easy circumstances would flow from each to the other, rendering daily intercourse a source of mutual happiness and comfort. Still, the fact that some hard working couples get along without strife or jarring, shows that fatigue alone does not constitute a barrier to conjugal felicity in the truth. The probability is that shortcomings on both sides are the direct or indirect cause of the difficulty; or it may be that a high sense of the obligations of the truth on one side is not reciprocated on the other. Now as a life of continual jarring, whatever the cause, must be prejudicial to progress of the truth, it would be well for the sister who finds herself thus placed, to try to discover if she possibly can, how she may by any modification of her own behaviour, bring about a happier and more becoming state of things. It would be better for her to forego even what she might legitimately claim as her right, if the truth would be thereby served, than stand out for it at the cost of a perpetual unpleasantness, which interferes with the work of the Spirit. She will always have the consolation that whatever she loses by the service of the truth now (if incurred willingly) will be repaid her an hundredfold when the Lord returns.
This is taking for granted that she is a true sister-one of Sarah's daughters, willing in all things to be subject to the will of her Lord. Indeed unless she be this, there is no chance for her at all in the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. "Christ first" means self last, or rather, self crucified, and therefore, in a suffering and humble condition. The consecration of self to Christ and his truth, needs daily renewing amid the daily occupations in which we engage, and only in this daily renewal of service and sacrifice, may the true sister hope to attain that spirit of ready obedience in all things to the will of Christ, which will enable her to endure patiently, and avoid the rock upon which others split and flounder who do not endure, but who murmur and dispute about what they ought to endure, as seeing Him who is invisible. If the love of Christ were paramount in each, the troubles that disturb in this manner could not arise. This love of Christ needs continual strengthening by intercourse with him in the word and in prayer. Yesterday's supply will not entirely suffice for today. And in this matter we should be careful not to deceive ourselves. A sister may imagine that she loves Christ supremely; but let her test herself by what she is willing to endure for his sake. She may find that she has overrated her affection; that many things dispute the pre-eminence with him in her mind and affections. She will find it a work of time to gain the mastery over her own natural desires, and to readily and willingly give the first and best consideration to him who alone is worthy of it. Yet let her not lose heart because she finds herself defective. She will, in the end, overcome and conquer, if her faith fail not; and never forget that "faith cometh by hearing," and bearing by "the Word of God." She has special need to fortify herself.
She may find much more to contend with than she had expected on entering the married state. She may have pictured to herself the delightful times she would have when united to one in the truth, who would be to her a continued help and instructor. Perhaps she expected too much from him, and forgot that she would also have to do her part, as having at last to give an account of herself. Perhaps she had pictured to herself the delightful evenings they would spend together when her husband could read aloud to her, as she busied herself with her needle, and how the heavenly dews of spiritual refreshing would continually descend, as the result of her husband's ministrations in things divine.
Her actual experience in married life will greatly disappoint her. She overlooked the fact that her husband also would be in need of ministration; that his arduous struggle with an evil world outside would unfit him in some degree for positive attention, and lead him to look to home as a haven of rest, when each day's toil was ended.
Must not his disappointment be great if he finds his partner more an additional weight than a relief, and not by any means the fellow helper he had fondly anticipated? If there is not great care to exercise forbearance here, a rupture of the happy experience of first-wedded days will take place. It will above all things be necessary first, that both husband and wife be thoroughly in love with the truth, having the fear and hope and love of God richly dwelling in each, independently, inducing in each a willingness to submit to whatever the truth requires at their hands.
It must be remembered that the faithful profession of the truth entails trial in some form or other. It brings many advantages; but that does not render inapplicable to us the intimation of Paul to the believers of his age, that all who will live godly must suffer, according to the circumstances in which they are placed. If the husband is a faithful son of God, the claims of the truth will occupy much of his time, and his sister-wife may be deprived of much of his company in consequence.
She may also in many ways be called upon to forego much that she might legitimately claim as her right and privilege. Her husband's faithfulness to the truth, may decide him on courses that will deprive himself in many respects, and in this he expects, and is entitled to realise, that his wife as a daughter of the same Father will be able to join him. It will be well for her, and for her husband, if this is the case. It may bring deprivations and bitterness in some directions, but let her remember for whose sake she is called upon thus to suffer, not forgetting his promise and abundant reward in the future, if the cross is willingly borne now.
Even if she thinks her husband extreme in his actions, and finds sometimes that his readiness to serve, and liberality in the truth, deprives her of the opportunities she might wish of showing spontaneity in the same direction, let her be comforted with the thought that in his labours and service and sacrifice for the truth, she is a sharer and co- labourer if she readily and unmurmuringly bear the share of disadvantage such service may bring to her, and that in the end she will share the reward of faithful stewardship which her husband seeks to earn by his devotion now.
It is very necessary that a sister-wife should cultivate the powers of self-sustenance in the truth. When she has attained this, she will find herself in the possession of a powerful protection against the disappointments incident to a husband's absence from home, or his occupation when at home to her apparent neglect. It will enable her to bear up with cheerful countenance and hopeful heart, when her immediate surroundings are not such as might inspire that frame of mind. It will be a great help to herself and an aid to her husband, and often supply the first links in the chain that will lead to profitable and happy re-union at the end of a day's toil on both sides.