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06 September, 2013
A Godly Wife
Excerpt from The Godly Man's Picture & A Godly Wife
.........One of the first essential elements in a wife is faithfulness, in the largest sense. The heart of her husband safely trusts in her. Perfect confidence is the basis of all true affection. A shadow of doubt destroys the peace of married life. A true wife, by her character and by her conduct, proves herself worthy of her husband's trust. He has confidence in her affection; he knows that her heart is unalterably true to him. He has confidence in her management; he confides to her the care of his household. He knows that she is true to all his interests, that she is prudent and wise, not wasteful nor extravagant. It is one of the essential things in a true wife-that her husband shall be able to leave in her hands the management of all domestic affairs, and know that they are safe. Wifely wastefulness and extravagance have destroyed the happiness of many a household, and wrecked many a home. On the other hand, many a man owes his prosperity to his wife's prudence and her wise administration of household affairs.
Every true wife makes her husband's interests her own. While he lives for her, carrying her image in his heart and toiling for her all the days-she thinks only of what will do him good. When burdens press upon him-she tries to lighten them by sympathy, by cheer, by the inspiration of love. She enters with zest and enthusiasm into all his plans. She is never a weight to drag him down; she is strength in his heart to help him ever to do nobler and better things.
All wives are not such blessings to their husbands. Woman is compared sometimes to the vine, while man is the strong oak to which it clings. But there are different kinds of vines. Some vines wreathe a robe of beauty and a crown of glory for the tree, covering it in summer days with green leaves and in the autumn hanging among its branches rich purple clusters of fruit. Other vines twine their arms about it-only to sap its very life and destroy its vigor, until it stands decaying and unsightly, stripped of its splendor, discrowned and fit only for the fire!
A true wife makes a man's life nobler, stronger, grander, by the omnipotence of her love, turning all the forces of manhood upward and heavenward. While she clings to him in holy confidence and loving dependence, she brings out in him whatever is noblest and richest in his being. She inspires him with courage and earnestness. She beautifies his life. She softens whatever is crude and harsh in his habits or his spirit. She clothes him with the gentler graces of refined and cultured manhood. While she yields to him and never disregards his lightest wish, she is really his queen, ruling his whole life and leading him onward and upward in every proper path.
But there are wives also like the vines which cling only to blight. Their dependence is weak, indolent helplessness. They lean-but impart no strength. They cling-but they sap the life. They put forth no hand to help. They loll on sofas or promenade the streets; they dream over sentimental novels; they gossip in drawing rooms. They are utterly useless-and being useless they become burdens even to manliest, tenderest love. Instead of making a man's life stronger, happier, richer-they absorb his strength, impair his usefulness, hinder his success and cause him to be a failure among men. To themselves also the result is wretchedness. Dependence is beautiful when it does not become weakness and inefficiency. The true wife clings and leans-but she also helps and inspires. Her husband feels the mighty inspiration of her love in all his life. Toil is easier, burdens are lighter, battles are less fierce-because of the face that waits in the quiet of the home, because of the heart that beats in loving sympathy whatever the experience, because of the voice that speaks its words of cheer and encouragement when the day's work is done. No wife knows how much she can do to make her husband honored among men, and his life a power and a success, by her loyal faithfulness, by the active inspiration of her own sweet life!
The good wife is a good housekeeper. I know well how unromantic this remark will appear to those whose dreams of married life are woven of the fancies of youthful sentimentality. But these frail dreams of sentimentality will not last long amid the stern realities of life, and then that which will prove one of the rarest elements of happiness and blessing in the household, will be housewifely industry and diligence.
When young people marry they are rarely troubled with many thoughts about the details of housekeeping. Their dreams are high above all such common place issues. The mere mention of such things as cooking, baking, sweeping, dusting, mending, ironing-jars upon the poetic rhythm of the lofty themes of conversation. It never enters the brains of these happy lovers-that it will make every difference in the world in their home life-whether the bread is sweet or sour; whether the oatmeal is well cooked or scorched; whether the meals are punctual or tardy. The mere thought that such common matters could affect the tone of their wedded life, seems a desecration.
It is a pity to dash away such exquisite dreams-but the truth is, they do not long outlast the echo of the wedding peals-or the fragrance of the bridal roses! The newly married are not long within their own doors, before they find that something more than tender sentimentality is needed to make their home-life a success. They come down from the clouds-when the daily routine begins and touch the common soil on which the feet of other mortals walk. Then they find that they are dependent, just like ordinary people, on some quite commonplace duties. One of the very first things they discover is the intimate relation between the kitchen and wedded happiness. That love may fulfill its delightful prophecies and realize its splendid dreams-there must be in the new home, some very practical elements. The palace that is to rise into the air, shooting up its towers, displaying its wonders of architecture, flashing its splendors in the sunshine-to the admiration of the world, must have its foundation in commonplace earth, resting on plain, hard, honest rock. Love may build its palace of noble sentiments and tender affections and sweet romances-rising into the very clouds, and in this splendid home two souls may dwell in the enjoyment of the highest possibilities of wedded life; but this palace, too, must stand on the ground, with unpoetic and unsentimental stones for its foundation. That foundation is good housekeeping. In other words, good breakfasts, dinners and suppers, a well-kept house, order, system, promptness, punctuality, good cheer-far more than any young lovers dream-does happiness in married life depend upon such commonplace things as these!
Love is very patient, very kind, very gentle; and where there is love no doubt the plainest fare is ambrosia; and the plainest surroundings are charming. I know the wise man said: "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a good roast-beef dinner, with hatred!" But herbs as a constant diet will pall on the taste, even if love is ever present to season them. In this day of advanced civilization, it ought to be possible to have both the stalled ox-and love. Husbands are not angels in this mundane state, and not being such they need a substantial basis of good housekeeping, for the realization of their dreams of blissful home-life!
There certainly have been cases in which very tender love has lost its tenderness, and when the cause lay in the disorder and mismanagement of the housewifery. There is no doubt that many a heart-estrangement, begins at the table where meals are slipshod, and food is poorly prepared or served. Bad housekeeping will soon drive the last vestige of romance out of any home! The illusion which love weaves about an idolized bride, will soon vanish if she proves lazy or incompetent in her domestic management. The wife who will keep the charm of early love unbroken through the years, and in whose home the dreams of the wedding day will come true-must be a good housekeeper!
In one of his Epistles Paul gives the counsel that young wives should be "workers at home," signifying that home is the sphere of the wife's duties, and that she is to find her chief work there. There is a glory in all the Christian charities which Christian women, especially in these recent days, are founding and conducting with so much enthusiasm and such marked and abounding success. Woman is endowed with gifts of sympathy, of gentleness, of inspiring strengthfulness, which peculiarly fit her to be Christ's messenger of mercy to human woe and sorrow and pain.
There is the widest opportunity in the most fitting service for every woman whose heart God has touched to be a ministering angel to those who need sympathy or help. There are many who are free to serve in public charities, in caring for the poor, for the sick in hospital wards, for the orphaned and the aged. There are few women who cannot do a little in some one or more of these organizations of Christian beneficence.
But it should be understood, that for every wife the first duty is the making and keeping of her own home! Her first and best work should be done there-and until it is well done-she has no right to go outside to take up other duties. She is to be a "worker at home!" She must look upon her home as the one spot on earth, for which she alone is responsible, and which she must cultivate well for God-even if she never does anything outside. For her the Father's business is not attending benevolent societies, and missionary meetings, and mothers' meetings, and bible conventions, or even teaching a Sunday-school class-until she has made her own home all that her wisest thought and best skill can make it!
There have been wives who in their zeal for Christ's work outside, have neglected Christ's work inside their own doors! They have had eyes and hearts for human need and human sorrow in the broad fields lying far out-but neither eye nor heart for the work of love close about their own feet. The result has been that while they were doing angelic work in the lanes and streets-the angels were mourning over their neglected duties within the hallowed walls of their own homes! While they were winning a place in the hearts of the poor or the sick or the orphan-they were losing their rightful place in the hearts of their own household. Let it be remembered that Christ's work in the home is the first that he gives to every wife, and that no amount of consecrated activities in other spheres, will atone for neglect or failure there.
The good wife is generous and warm-hearted. She does not grow grasping and selfish. In her desire to economize and add to her stores-she does not forget those about her who suffer or are in poverty. While she gives her wisest and most earnest thought and her best and most skillful work to her own home, her heart does not grow cold toward those outside who need sympathy. I cannot conceive of true womanhood ripened into mellow richness, yet lacking the qualities of gentleness and unselfishness. A woman whose heart is not touched by the sight of sorrow, and whose hands do not go out in relief where it is in her power to help-lacks one of the elements which make the glory of womanhood.
This is not the place to speak of woman as a ministering angel. If it were, it would be easy to fill many pages with the bright records of most holy deeds of self-sacrifice. I am speaking now, however, of woman as wife; and only upon so much of this ministry to the suffering-as she may perform in her own home, at her own door and in connection with her housewifely duties-is it fit to linger at this time. But even in this limited sphere, her opportunities are by no means small.
It is in her own home-that this warmth of heart and this openness of hand are first to be shown. It is as wife and mother-that her gentleness performs its most sacred ministry. Her hand wipes away the teardrops when there is sorrow. In sickness she is the tender nurse. She bears upon her own heart every burden that weighs upon her husband. No matter how the world goes with him during the day-when he enters his own door he meets the fragrant atmosphere of love. Other friends may forsake him-but she clings to him with unalterable fidelity. When gloom comes down and adversity falls upon him-her faithful eyes look ever into his like two stars of hope shining in the darkness. When his heart is crushed, beneath her smile it gathers itself again into strength, "like a wind-torn flower in the sunshine." "You cannot imagine," wrote De Tocqueville of his wife, "what she is in great trials. Usually so gentle, she then becomes strong and energetic. She watches me without my knowing it; she softens, calms and strengthens me in difficulties which distract me-but leave her serene." An eloquent tribute-but one which thousands of husbands might give.
Men often do not see the angel in the plain, plodding woman who walks quietly beside them-until the day of trial comes; then in the darkness-the glory shines out. An angel ministered to our Lord when in Gethsemane he wrestled with his great and bitter sorrow. What a benediction to the mighty Sufferer, was in the soft gliding to his side of that gentle presence, in the touch of that soothing, supporting hand laid upon him, in the comfort of that gentle voice thrilling with sympathy as it spoke its strengthening message of love! Was it a mere coincidence that just at that time and in that place, that the radiant messenger came? No, it is always so. Angels choose such occasions to pay their visits to men.
So it is in the dark hours of a man's life, when burdens press, when sorrows weigh like mountains upon his soul, when adversities have left him crushed and broken, or when he is in the midst of fierce struggles which try the strength of every fiber of his manhood-that all the radiance and glory of a true wife's strengthful love shine out before his eyes! Only then does he recognize in her-God's angel of mercy!
In sickness-how thoughtful, how skillful, how gentle a nurse is the true wife! In struggle with temptation or adversity or difficulty-what an inspirer she is! In misfortune or disaster-what lofty heroism does she exhibit and what courage does her bravery kindle in her husband's heart! Instead of being crushed by the unexpected loss, she only then rises to her full grandeur of soul. Instead of weeping, repining and despairing, and thus adding tenfold to the burden of the misfortune-she cheerfully accepts the changed circumstances and becomes a minister of hope and strength. She turns away from luxury and ease-to the plainer home, the simpler life, the humbler surroundings, without a murmur!
It is in such circumstances and experiences, that the heroism of woman's soul is manifested. Many a man is carried victoriously through misfortune and enabled to rise again-because of the strong inspiring sympathy and the self-forgetting help of his wife! And many a man fails in fierce struggle, and rises not again from the defeat of misfortune-because the wife at his side proves unequal to her opportunity.
But a wife's ministry of mercy reaches outside her own doors. Every true home is an influence of blessing in the community where it stands. Its lights shine out. Its songs ring out. Its spirit breathes out. The neighbors know whether it is hospitable or inhospitable, warm or cold, inviting or repelling. Some homes bless no lives outside their own circle; others are perpetually pouring out sweetness and fragrance. The ideal Christian home is a far-reaching blessing. It sets its lamps in the windows, and while they give no less light and cheer to those within, they pour a little beam upon the gloom without, which may brighten some dark path and put a little cheer into the heart of some poor passer-by. Its doors stand ever open with a welcome to everyone who comes seeking shelter from the storm, or sympathy in sorrow, or help in trial. It is a hospice, like those blessed refuges on the Alps, where the weary or the chilled or the fainting are sure always of refreshment, of warmth, of kindly friendship, of gentle ministry of mercy. It is a place where one who is in trouble may always go confident of sympathy and comfort. It is a place where the young people love to go, because they know they are welcome and because they find there inspiration and help.........