For husbands only!
(J. A. James, "A Help to Domestic Happiness" 1828.)
"And you husbands must love your wives with the same
love Christ showed the church. He gave up His life for
her to make her holy." Ephesians 5:25-26
Christ's love is SINCERE.
He did not love in word only, but in deed, and in truth. In
Him there was no deceitfulness; no epithets of endearment
going forth out of untruthful lips; no actions varnished over
with a mere covering of love. We must be like Him, and
endeavor to maintain a principle of true love in the heart,
as well as a manifestation of it in the conduct.
It is a miserable thing to have to act the part of love, without
feeling it. Hypocrisy is base in everything; but next to religion,
is most base in affection. Besides, how difficult is it to act the
part well, to keep on the mask, and to pretend the character
so as to escape detection! Oh, the misery of that woman's
heart, who at length finds out to her cost, that what she had
been accustomed to receive and value as the attentions of a
lover--are but the tricks of a cunning deceiver!
The love of the Redeemer is ARDENT.
Let us, if we would form a correct idea of what should be the
state of our hearts towards the woman of our choice, think of
that affection which glowed in the bosom of a Savior, when He
lived and died for His people. We can possess, it is true, neither
the same kind, nor the same degree of love--but surely when we
are referred to such an instance, if not altogether as a model,
yet as a motive, it does teach us, that no weak affection is due,
or should be offered to the wife of our bosom. We are told by the
Savior Himself, that if He laid down his life for us, it is our duty to
lay down ours for the brethren; how much more for the "friend that
sticks closer than a brother." And if it be our duty to lay down our
life, how much more to employ it while it lasts, in all the offices
of an affection--strong, steady, and inventive!
She who for our sake has forsaken the comfortable home, and
the watchful care, and the warm embrace of her parents--has
a right to expect in our love, that which shall make her "forget
her father's house," and cause her to feel that with respect to
happiness, she is no loser by the exchange. Happy the woman,
and such should every husband strive to make his wife, who can
look back without a sigh upon the moment, when she left forever,
the guardians, the companions, and the scenes of her childhood.
The love of Christ to His church is SUPREME.
He gives to the world His benevolence--but to the church His
love! "The Lord your God in the midst of you," said the prophet,
"is mighty; He will save you, He will rejoice over you with joy;
He will rest in His love--He will rejoice over you with singing."
So must the husband love his wife, above all else--he must
"rest in his love." He should love her not only above all outside
his house--but above all within it. She must take precedence
both in his heart and conduct, not only of all strangers, but of
all relatives, and also of all his children. He ought to love his
children for her sake, rather than her for their sake.
Is this always the case? On the contrary have we not often
seen men, who appear to be far more interested in their
children than in their wives; and who have paid far less
attention to the latter than to grown-up daughters? How
especially unseemly is it, for a man to be seen fonder of
the society of any other woman, than that of his wife, even
where nothing more may be intended than the pleasure of
her company. Nor ought he to forsake her, in his leisure
hours, for any companions of his own sex, however pleasant
might be their demeanor or their conversation.
The love of Christ is UNIFORM.
Like Himself, it is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Marital affection should have the same character; it should
be at all times, and in all places alike; the same at home
as abroad; in other peoples houses as in our own. Has not
many a wife to sigh and exclaim--"Oh! that I were treated
in my own house, with the same tenderness and attention
as I receive in company!" With what almost loathing and
disgust must such a woman turn from endearments, which
under such circumstances she can consider as nothing but
hypocrisy! Home is the chief place for fond and minute
attention; and she who has not to complain of a lack of
it there, will seldom feel the need or the inclination to
complain of a lack of it abroad--except it be those silly
women, who would degrade their husbands, by exacting not
merely what is really kind, but what is actually ridiculous.
The love Jesus is PRACTICAL and LABORIOUS.
He provided everything for the welfare and comfort of
the church, and at a cost and by exertions of which we
can form no idea.
The business of providing for the family belongs chiefly
to the husband. It is yours my brethren to rise up early,
to sit up late, to eat the bread of carefulness, and to
drink if necessary, the waters of affliction, that you may
earn by the sweat of your brow, a comfortable support for
the family circle. This is probably what the apostle meant,
when he enjoined us to give honor to the wife as to the
weaker vessel--the honor of providing for her, which she
in consequence of the weakness of her frame, and the
frequent infirmities which the maternal relation brings
upon her, is not so well able to procure for herself.
In most barbarous countries, and in some half-civilized
ones, the burden of manual labor falls upon the woman,
while her tyrant husband lives in indolence, feeding upon
the industry of the hapless being whom he calls a wife--
but treats as a slave! And are there no such idle tyrants
in our age and country, who so as they can live in indolence,
and gratify their appetites, care not how they oppress their
wives--wretches who do little or nothing for the support of
the family? How utterly lost to every noble and generous
sentiment must that man be, whose heart cannot be moved
by the entreaties or tears of his own wife, and who can hear
in vain her pleadings for his child at her bosom, and his child
by her side, and who by such appeals cannot be induced to
give up his daily visits to the tavern, or his habits of
sauntering idleness, to attend to his neglected business,
and hold off the approaching tide of poverty and ruin.
Such a creature is worse than a brute--he is a monster! And
it seems a pity that there is no law and no prison-ship to
take him away to a land where, if he will not work, so neither
could he eat!
A practical affection to a wife extends to everything! It should
manifest itself in the most delicate attention to her comfort,
and her feelings; in consulting her tastes; in concealing her
failings; in never doing anything to degrade her, but everything
to exalt her before her children and others; in acknowledging her
excellencies, and commending her efforts to please him; in meeting,
and even in anticipating all her reasonable requests; in short, in
doing all that ingenuity can invent for her substantial happiness
and general comfort.
Christ's love to His church is DURABLE and UNCHANGEABLE.
"Having loved His own, He loved them to the end"--without
abatement or alteration. So ought men to love their wives, not
only at the beginning; but to the end of their union; when the
charms of beauty have fled before the withering influence of
disease; when the vigorous and sprightly frame has lost its
elasticity, and the step has become slow and faltering--when
the wrinkles of old age have followed the bloom of youth, and
the whole person seems rather the monument, than the
resemblance of what it once was. Has she not gained in mind,
what she has lost in exterior fascinations? Have not her mental
graces flourished amid the ruins of personal charms? If the 'rose'
and the 'lily' have faded on the cheek--have not the 'fruits of
righteousness' grown in the soul? If those blossoms have
departed, on which the eye of youthful passion gazed with so
much ardor, has it not been to give way to the ripe fruit of
Christian excellence? The woman is not what she once was--
but the wife, the mother, the Christian--are better than they
For an example of marital love in all its power and excellence,
point me not to the bride and bridegroom displaying during the
first month of their union, all the watchfulness and tenderness
of affection--but let me look upon the husband and wife of fifty,
whose love has been tried by the lapse and the changes of a
quarter of a century, and who through this period and by these
vicissitudes, have grown in attachment and esteem; and whose
affection, if not glowing with all the fervid heat of a midsummer's
day, is still like the sunshine of an October noon--warm and
beautiful, as reflected amid autumnal tints!
"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies--he who
loves his wife loves himself." A man's children are parts of himself;
his wife is himself--"for the two shall be one flesh." This is his duty
and the measure of it too; which is so plain, that, if he understands
how he treats himself, there needs nothing be added concerning his
demeanor towards her. For what tender care does he take of his body,
and uses it with a delicate tenderness, and cares for it in all
contingencies, and watches to keep it from all evils, and studies to
make for it fair provisions. So let a man love his wife as his own body.
Husbands! It is in your power to do more for your wife's happiness,
or misery, than any other being in the universe! An unkind husband
is a tormentor of the first class. His victim can never elude his grasp,
nor go beyond the reach of his cruelty, until she is kindly released by
the 'king of terrors', who, in this instance, becomes to her an angel of
light, and conducts her to the grave as to a shelter from her oppressor!
For such a woman there is no rest on earth--the destroyer of her
peace has her always in his power, for she is always in his presence,
or in the fear of it. The circumstances of every place, and every day,
furnish him with the occasions of cruel neglect or unkindness, and it
might be fairly questioned, whether there is to be found on earth a
case of greater misery, than a woman whose heart daily withers
under the cold looks, the chilling words, and repulsive actions of
a husband who loves her not. Such a man is a murderer, though in
this world he escapes the murderer's doom; and by a refinement
of cruelty, he employs years in conducting his victim to her end,
by the slow process of a lingering death.