Christian Fellowship

By John Angell James, 1822


A station so honorable, so important, so responsible, must necessarily be attended with duties—numerous, difficult, and of great consequence. As a wife, she should be a bright pattern of all that tender affection, that unsuspicious confidence, that cheerful obedience, that undivided devotedness to her husband's comfort, which such a relationship implies—a lovely, spotless exhibition of marital virtue. No man is in greater need of all the force of marital sympathy and love, than a faithful minister!

As the female head of the family, she should direct her household affairs with judgment, and be a model of order, neatness, and domestic discipline. A minister derives some degree of respectability from the state of his family. Home scenes, according as they are lovely or repulsive, form a beauteous halo around—or dark specks upon, the orb of his public character. It is required of him that he should rule well his own household—but in this he is dependent upon his wife. What a disgrace is it that his house should be such a scene of disorder, as to disgust, by its confusion, the more respectable part of his friends! Some people, if we were to judge from their habits, and their homes, seem to have been born out of due time; they look as if the era of their existence were the reign of chaos. ORDER is heaven's first law, and the laws of heaven certainly should govern the habitations of its ministers.

If a mother, a minister's wife should strive to excel in every maternal excellence. How often is it the case, that a minister's children are talked of almost to a proverb, for their rudeness, ill behavior, and wickedness! In such instances, much blame must be attached to the mother!

In her own personal character, there are two traits which should appear with peculiar prominence, and shine with attractive luster in a minister's wife; these are PIETY and PRUDENCE.

Her piety should not only be sincere—but ardent; not only unsuspected—but eminently conspicuous. Her habits, her conversation, her whole deportment, should bear the deep, bright impress of heaven. She should be the holiest, most spiritual woman in the church! Her prudence should equal her piety. Without the former, even the latter, however distinguished, would only half qualify her for her important station.

Her prudence should display itself in all her conduct towards her husband. She should be very careful not to make him dissatisfied with the situation he occupies. Many a minister has been rendered uncomfortable in a situation of considerable usefulness, or has been led to leave it against the convictions of his judgment, by the capricious prejudices of his wife; whose ambition has aspired to something higher, or whose love of change has coveted something new.

A minister's wife should consult her husband's usefulness, and be willing to live in any situation, however self-denying its circumstances may prove, where this is promoted. And considering the influence she has over his decisions, she should be very careful how she employs it in those seasons when a change is contemplated. Her prudence should render her extremely careful, not to prejudice her husband's mind against any individual who may have, designedly or unintentionally, injured her. In not a few cases, have pastors been drawn into contention with some of their friends, by the imprudent conduct of their wives, who, possessing a morbid sensibility to be easily offended—have reported, amid much exaggeration, affronts which they ought not to have felt—or, feeling, ought to have concealed. Instead of acting as a screen, to prevent these petty vexations from reaching his ear, they have rendered their tongues a conductor, to convey them to his bosom! They should hide many things of this kind, which it is not important he should know; and soften others things, of which he cannot be ignorant.

In all cases where her husband is the direct object of a supposed or real injury, a minister's wife should be very cautious how she acts. Intended by nature, and inclined by affection, to be a partisan and an advocate in her husband's cause, so far as truth and holiness will allow—she should, at the same time, endeavor rather to mitigate than exasperate the displeasure of his mind. Her breath, in such cases, if imprudently employed, may fan a flame which, in its progress, may consume all the prosperity of the church, and half the reputation of her husband. Let her therefore govern her own spirit, as the best means of aiding to govern his. Let her calm, conciliate, and direct his mind—which may be too much enveloped in the mist of passion, to guide itself. Let her not go from house to house, dropping sparks and scintillations from a tongue set on fire by hell. If her husband be the head of a faction, let her not envenom their minds with bitter words, which are sure to be rendered still more bitter, by the lying gossipers who carry them to the opposite party. Prudence in a pastor's wife would have often saved a church from division!

A minister's wife should never betray the confidence reposed in her by her husband, and report the opinions, views, and feelings, which he has communicated in the seasons of their private conversation. The secrets lie as deposits in her bosom, are to be as sacredly preserved and guarded, as the ring, which, on the morning of their union, he placed upon her finger.

Prudence is to be displayed in all her conduct towards the church. Probably, the chief part of this virtue lies in a proper government of the tongue! A very large proportion of the disturbances which agitate the surface, and extend their influence to the very depths of society, arise from imprudent language. There appears to be, in one half of society, an incurable propensity to tattle what is to the disadvantage of their neighbors; and in the other half, an indestructible appetite to relish the slander, when it is gossiped. Now a minister's wife should most anxiously guard against this propensity in herself, and most assiduously labor to abate this appetite in others. Let her, wherever she goes, remember, that there are many waiting and watching for her words, which they will be sure to reverberate with the mimicry, though not with the fidelity—of an 'echo'.

Let her tongue never deal in sarcasm, satire, invective, censure, or slander. Let it be an invariable rule with her, to speak badly of no one! She should never appear fond of receiving ill reports from others. If she has a taste of this kind, gratification enough will be found for her. Like a queen bee, she has no need to roam abroad in quest of honey—she may sit at home in indolent repose, while the whole hive of gossips and tattlers will collect for her an exuberant supply! Let her rather discourage these humming, 'busy bees'—and convince them that she has neither ear for their buzz, nor taste for their honey!

Let her never betray a secret, which she has been compelled to receive; nor become umpire between two contending parties, since, in whatever way her decision is pronounced, she is almost sure to offend one of them. She should avoid, as much as possible, the appearance of favoritism. Some there must be, with whom she will be more intimate than others—but this fact, if it be known, would be but little understood.

Her friends should be always such, as by the common consent of the church, would be allotted to her. Of course, they should not be 'mere minions' selected to sustain the character of fawning flatterers, purveyors of tattle, or tools of selfishness. In all her deportment towards the church, she should maintain a dignified consciousness of her station, blended with the greatest affability and affection. The law of kindness should be on her lips, and all her conduct should be so many displays of the meekness of wisdom. Her dignity should prevent the wealthiest people from being intrusive with her. Her kindness should make the poorest people feel that she is accessible.

Without being a busy-body, and meddling with the concerns of others, she should make the interests of her friends her own. Her advice and assistance should always be granted when asked—but never distributed in a way that would render it unwelcome and little valued. Her influence should be discreetly exerted in forming the general piety, and godly habits of the younger women. She should be the friend of the poor, and be often seen in the chambers of those who are visited with sickness. With so much to engage her attention, she will have little leisure for visits of useless show—or expensive get togethers. Such she ought not to be expected to keep up, for her time can be more usefully and piously employed. For visits of mere gossip, or etiquette, she ought not to be put in requisition—and if she is, she should resist the attempt which is thus made to enslave her, by the "chains of fashion or of folly." She is the wife of a man—whose master is God; whose business is the salvation of souls; whose scene of labor is the church of Christ—and the consequences of whose exertions, whether they succeed or fail, are infinite and eternal! Let her act accordingly!