Duties of wives and husbands.
The Apostle Peter, in his First Epistle, after dwelling on the privileges of believers, strongly urges them to have their conversation honest or fair among the Gentiles, exemplifying, by the purity and beauty of their life, the excellence of the principles and privileges of the gospel; and then he branches out into three cases or relations that afford scope for this mode of life—that of subjects to their rulers, that of servants to their masters, and that of wives to their husbands and husbands to their wives. Though Peter and Paul moved in different orbits, yet, from the strength of the convictions held by them in common, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in them both, they were led to enforce wonderfully similar applications of the great principles of the gospel. Paul, like Peter, brings forward three relations, the only difference being that, in place of the relation of subjects to their rulers, he has that of children to their parents, and the corresponding duty of parents to their children. We have the clearest proof of its being the purpose of Christianity to purify and elevate the common relations of life. Much of the visible fruit of true religion lies in its making better subjects, better spouses, better children, better servants. Pagans were struck with the excellence of Christian women. The mother of Chrysostom won golden opinions by remaining a widow from her twenty-first year. "What women these Christians have!" was the exclamation of some. Christian women were wonderful missionaries in the early centuries by their devout, pure, and earnest lives; many was the pagan who, "without the Word, was won by the conversation of the wife." Such lives are doubly blessed—blessed in themselves, and blessed in their influence on the world.
I. THE WIFE 'S DUTY . Submission to the husband as to the Lord ( Ephesians 5:22 ). Reasons for this.
1. The husband is the head of the wife ( Ephesians 5:23 ).
2. There is a parallel between the husband and Christ ( Ephesians 5:23 ).
3. Even in respect of Christ's saving power, the parallel holds to a limited, though very limited, extent ( Ephesians 5:23 ).
4. The parallel is close enough to require the subjection of the wife ( Ephesians 5:24 ).
II. THE HUSBAND 'S DUTY . To love his wife. This is enforced:
1. By the consideration of what Christ felt and did for his Church.
(a) His immediate object ( Ephesians 5:26 ).
(b) His ultimate object ( Ephesians 5:27 ).
2. By the consideration of the closeness of the relation of the wife to the husband as his own flesh. This relation is considered
The Church taken from Christ; given to Christ. The relation of the husband to his wife supersedes (in a manner) the relations of nature. The relation of the Church to Christ does so too ( Ephesians 5:31 ). But the subject is mysterious ( Ephesians 5:32 ). Yet one practical obligation is very clear ( Ephesians 5:33 ).
The constitution of the Church, like that of natural society, involves mutual duties. Nothing can be complete unless each party performs his share. While it is the woman's part to be in subjection, it is the husband's part to love. The one balances the other. It is the duty of the wife to be subject even though the husband does not love, and the duty of the husband to love even though the wife is not subject; but how hard, difficult, almost impossible, such duties thus become! If the husband withhold love, he is wronging his wife, and altogether subverting the relation between them. Let' it ever be observed that, while God has joined husband and wife together, he has joined the husband's love to the wife's subjection; what, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
The duties of wives.
In enforcing relative duties the apostle reminds us that religion takes hold of all possible conditions and callings of men. Religion is the great formative grace for men. We are set in a curiously various scheme of relations, in which the two principles of union and subjection are beautifully blended. The three relations in which these principles are seen in operation are peculiar to family life. The wife is first mentioned, then the children, then the servants. Religion rounds out the life of the family in a lovely completeness. Consider—
I. THE DUTIES OF WIVES . They are all summed up in the one word—subjection . It is singular that the apostle does not command the wife to love her husband as the husband is commanded to love his wife. Her love is commanded elsewhere ( Titus 2:4 ), but not here. It has been observed that what is instinctive is not enforced, but only what is necessary to hallow and direct our instincts. The husband is to be the head; yet he is not commanded to govern; but he is commanded to love, as the means of securing subjection or submission on the part of the wife. She, again, loves more naturally and more passionately than man; her love is no subject of command, it is taken for granted; and the apostle commands her to obey and honor her husband as the best expression of this love. Jeremy Taylor says, "He rules her by authority, she rules him by love; she ought by all means to please him, and he must by no means displease her." Her great duty, then, is subjection. Let us see what it involves.
1. It is not servitude . It is not like the obedience of servants to masters, nor even like that of children to parents. It is a submission that recognizes the husband's rule as just, tender, and wise.
2. It is a wise and loving obedience . Wives are "to be obedient to their own husbands" ( Titus 2:5 ). Sarah is quoted by another apostle as an example of this obedience ( 1 Peter 3:1-6 ). It was necessary to emphasize this duty at a time when Christianity gave woman a new position of dignity and privilege, and when there might have been a temptation on the part of Christian wives who had unbelieving husbands to assert an authority over them inconsistent with the original institution of marriage. There is to be no dual authority in the family. The gospel made them both "heirs together of the grace of life," as it made "both male and female one in Christ," yet, even in religious or ecclesiastical matters, she was not to usurp authority over the man, but "to be in silence" ( 1 Timothy 2:12 ).
3. It is an obedience within limits , though the wives are enjoined to be subject to their husbands "in everything," that is, in everything within the due sphere of a husband's authority, for they are not to obey him in anything contrary to God and his Law. They are to obey God rather than man.
4. It is an obedience fashioned in its conditions and spirit upon the subjection of the Church to Christ . "As the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." This implies that the wife's obedience is not to be forced or feigned, but springing naturally out of her affection to her husband, her dependence upon him, and her recognition of the just grounds of his superiority.
5. It implies fear , or reverence . "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband" ( Ephesians 5:33 ), not despising him in her heart, as Michal despised David ( 2 Samuel 6:16 ), but, like Sarah, calling her husband "lord" ( 1 Peter 3:6 ). The chaste conversation of the wife is to be "coupled with fear" to assert its own power.
II. THE REASONS FOR THIS SUBMISSION .
1. The husband ' s recognized headship in the original institution of marriage . "The head of the woman is the man" ( 1 Corinthians 11:3 ). Her obedience, therefore, while a religious duty, has its foundation in nature.
2. Her dependent position . As the " weaker vessel ," she needs protection, while he far excels her in those qualities which entitle to command. Yet his superiority in these respects is consistent with his inferiority to the woman in gentleness, patience, sympathy, love, delicacy of sentiment.
3. The fitness of things . She is "to be subject to her own husband." This expressive phrase points to the closeness, exclusiveness, and specialty of the relationship. It is thus a great mischief to unsex woman by denying or disregarding the superiority of man.
4. The similarity of the relation to that between the Church and Christ . "As the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." As Christ is the Source of authority and direction to the Church, as he exercises both with meekness and gentleness, so is the husband to the wife. She is bound, therefore, to give him the obedience the Church gives to Christ, limited, of course, by the nature of the relation and the authority of God. She is not to identify her husband's claims with Christ, as if her Savior could supersede or weaken the just authority of her husband over her. A religious wife loves and honors her husband all the more from the very intenseness of her love to Christ. Her very obedience, too, fashioned upon the obedience of the Church to Christ, becomes tributary to her influence over her husband. Christianity has lifted woman to a high place, but without unsexing her. The old pagan writer, Libanius, might well exclaim, "Oh what women these Christians have!"—T.C.
What husbands and wives owe to Christ.
In exhorting the Ephesians to purity and enthusiasm of life, Paul is naturally led to the family institution and the relations to be found there. In the heathen world the relations between men and women were degrading. As Pressense says, in his most suggestive book, 'La Famille Chretienne,' "One found in the pagan family neither purity nor love. At the moment when Jesus Christ came, it had reached the last degree of degradation, and one can apply to the family itself those words of the Gospel, 'He has come to seek and to save that which was lost.'" In this passage of Ephesians we have an insight into what Christ has done for the family. He has made of marriage the choice symbol of his own relation to the Church, and so family life is lifted into a Divine and spiritual light. The consideration of Christ for his people regulates the consideration husband should show to wife; and the loyalty of Christ's people to their Master indicates the loyalty the wife should show the husband. Husbands and wives thus owe to Christ the purification of their relations and the sanctification of the home!
I. JESUS LEFT HIS HEAVENLY HOME TO BE UNITED TO HIS BRIDE , THE CHURCH .
(Verse 31.) It is evident that the parallel between the son leaving father and mother that he may cleave unto his wife, and Jesus leaving the bosom of the Father to be united to the bride, the Church, is what is in the apostle's mind. He says that he speaks of Christ and the Church (verse 32). And in no more beautiful way can the self-denial of Jesus in leaving heaven be presented. Heaven had been from all eternity the happy home of the only begotten Son. He had lain in the Father's bosom and enjoyed ineffable bliss. But thoughts of marriage came, and the Father favored the Son's idea. The morning dawned when Jesus must leave the homestead, and go forth to win his bride. Angels may well have wondered at the step and doubted its wisdom. But the step is taken. The home is left, and never again can it be what it once was. It is to be tenanted in due time with a bride, the Lamb's wife, composed of a multitude that no man can number, happy souls, each and all in deepest unity with the Son. We do not sufficiently appreciate the magnificent design of God in the marriage of his only Son, or the condescension of the Son in forming such an alliance as he has done. For no condescension in earthly marriages can more than feebly illustrate the condescension of the Divine Son in taking a human bride. Princes may marry paupers, but the difference between poverty and princely wealth is as nothing compared with the difference between human nature and what is Divine. But besides, the human nature was not pure upon which he set his love; it was sinful, lost, ruined. Imagine a prince, out of pure as distinguished from passionate love, singling out some poor, abandoned woman, and arranging for her education and health and elevation in thought and feeling, until at last he can fairly marry her and give her share of his glories and his home;—this is but a faint image of what Jesus the Son of God has done in selecting as a bride the ruined human race. He determined to win his bride, and so he took sinless human nature on him, and arranged for the union of once sinful, but through grace sanctified, human nature with himself.
II. THE CARE OF JESUS FOR THE CHURCH IS THE IDEAL AT WHICH HUSBANDS SHOULD AIM IN CARING FOR THEIR WIVES . (Verses 25-33.) This is Paul's idea in this whole passage. Let us notice the order of the thought.
1. Christ loved the Church . This sovereign and yet most unselfish love led to the whole history of Christ's devotion. His great heart recognized the possibilities of love when manifested to lost souls, and determined to realize them.
2. He gave himself for it . Here was heroic love. In the nature of things husbands cannot give themselves to death for their wives and afterwards enjoy their confidence . But Christ was able to give himself for the Church and then to enter into union with it. But it surely shows that a husband who truly loves his wife should be ready to die for her.
3. His self-sacrifice was to secure the Church ' s sanctification . The Church was naturally polluted, sinful, degraded; but the whole history of Christ's devotion goes to show that he had our sanctification in view. While setting his love on sinful souls, he hated our sin, and provided blood to cleanse our sin away. And the sanctification Christ secures for his bride is to be perfect. She is to be without "spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;" she is to be "holy and without blemish." In other words, the sanctification is to be thorough. And is this not to show that husbands who are true to their wives should keep their sanctification steady as a star before them? If a husband does all in his power to promote his wife's holiness, she can never be the victim of any unholy lust, but sanctification will characterize every relation.
4. The love thus lavished on the wife is the love of a man ' s "better self ." To encourage this gallant and holy devotion to women, Paul further shows the compensation. The husband and wife are one, just as Christ and the Church are one. In loving his wife a man is really loving himself. It is self-love as distinguished from selfishness. It is the love of a man's "better self." A man is not expected to hate his own flesh, but to nourish and cherish it; self-preservation dictates such a course; in the same way husbands should love their wives, cherishing them as really their " better halves ," or rather, "better selves," and feeling assured that a man's real interests all lie in the direction of tender consideration towards his wife. It thus appears that Jesus has furnished the true ideal of devotion. We go not to belted knights or tales of chivalry for our ideas about devotion to our wives, but to the foot of the cross, that we may see in Jesus our perfect Example!
III. THE CHURCH 'S REVERENTIAL LOVE TO CHRIST IS THE IDEAL OF WIFELY DEVOTING .
(Verses 22-25.) If Paul would summon husbands up to the heights of consecration by the example of Christ, he would also summon wives up to a corresponding return of reverential devotion. The Church, in her love and obedience to Christ, is the pattern of wifely devotion. Now, this leads us to consider how Christ rules in his Church. It is not an inconsiderate despotism, but an intelligent, considerate rule of love. His wishes are expressed with infinite tenderness. There is no fury in his commandments. The Church feels and finds that they are not grievous. And so believers are loyal to the Lord from the heart. Nothing is so delightful as to obey him. Suppose, then, that such a spirit characterized the wife's relations to her husband; that she saw in his every expressed wish the outcome of love, and obeyed him in the belief that obedience was her privilege as well as duty,—what Edenic homes men and women would possess on earth! And here it may be well to notice a fact brought out in Pressense's volume already referred to, and it is this, that the New Testament has evidently entered into many more details about the family than about the constitution of the Church . The reason is obvious. The battle of the faith is to be won through the family. The family is God's unit. The Church is but a family enlarged; heaven, again, is only a family still more enlarged. God as a Father overshadows all! If Christianity ensures a holy family; if she wins families from worldiness to holiness of life;—then she may indeed lift up her head assured that redemption is drawing nigh. Christian homes on earth, paradise restored,—these are really the creations which we look for; and beyond the shadows a still statelier home arises in "the Father's house with its many mansions" prepared for the reception of the bride. The family on earth is sanctified that the family in heaven may be prepared for; the heavenly home is but the perfection of the earthly, if this is Christian to its core.—R.M.E.
I. DUTY OF WIVES . "Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands."
1. Ground of subjection .
2. Manner and extent of subjection .
II. DUTY OF HUSBANDS . Husbands, love your wives. As the husband excels in the governing qualities, so she excels in the lovable qualities.
"For softness she, and sweet attractive grace."
If it can be said that he has more power , it can be said that (by her pure and modest feeling, her deep tenderness and devotion) she has more influence .
1. Manner . Christian analogy . "Even as Christ also loved the Church." We are to think of the love of Christ here only under the special aspect in which the apostle presents it, viz. his conjugal love , or love of espousals.
(a) Immediate purpose (process of sanctification). "That he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of baptism. The water with the Word. The language is taken from the ordinance of fact is pointed to that the Church needs cleansing . Baptism goes upon the supposition that we are all by nature defiled with sin. It says this, "We are all as an unclean thing." The Church was in this state of impurity when the Son chose her for his bride. To this the words apply—He loved her foul that he might make her fair. Washed certainly she must be, to be fit for associating with the highest purity. The blessed fact is also pointed to that there is what has cleansing power . "By the washing of water," it is said here. It is the water used in baptism that we are to think of, and that water in what it signifies, viz. the purifying influences of the Spirit. As water washes defilement from vessels, from the person, so the Spirit washes moral defilement from our hearts. This washing of water must be accompanied with the Word . For the Spirit cannot purify alone, but only through what the Word reveals, especially that blood of Christ which is said to cleanse from all sin.
(b) Remote purpose (result of sanctification). "That he might present the Church to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." By this we are to understand that Christ is to have in the Church a bride of incomparable beauty. When the cleansing process has been completed, the Church will be glorious ("all-glorious" is the language of the forty-fifth psalm, and the effect of the description here), more glorious than any material substance can be, more glorious than the sun in the heavens. There will not be spot or trace left of her former defilement. There will not be wrinkle or sign appearing of coming age (such as come. s to an ordinary bride). To make it more emphatic, it is added that there will not be any such thing, nothing whatever to mar her beauty. But still the description proceeds ; she will be holy. Her beauty (as it will not be imperfect or fading) will not be outward, but will be the beauty of holiness. And she will be without blemish, so transcendently beautified that to add to her beauty would be (in things that are less)
"To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet."
At present the Son's bride has many a spot, many a wrinkle (her cleansing must still go on, her beauty needs bringing out), but the time is coming (in the Divine purpose which cannot fail, in the conception of Christ which must be realized) when she will be a fit bride for him. And then it is that, as is said here, he is to present her to himself. tie is to leave it to no other (say, angelic attendants) to present her, but he is to take it into his own hand (notwithstanding the double character in which it requires him to act). And this done, then, as is said in the Prophet Zephaniah, he will rejoice over her with joy, He will rest in his love; he will joy over her with singing. This , then , is the ideal which is put before husbands . It is what we could not have dared to have put before us of ourselves. It would have seemed profanity to have conjoined things so far apart. But thus it has been dictated for us by the Spirit of inspiration: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church." The husband is to possess, to cherish, and to manifest devoted love toward his wife. And if his is the position of authority, yet is he (an all-requiring love being also his) to forget himself in services rendered to her. And specially is he taught from the high model that he is not to pamper his wife, but he is to regard her as given him for a higher end, and to seek that she may possess all spiritual beauty.
2. Ground . "Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies." The ground of the duty is that the wife is one flesh with the husband. There are two points (not immediately connected, but brought up afterward) which go to prove this. The first is that woman derived her being from man. Eve was taken out of Adam, and the language was used regarding her by Adam: "This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." The second point is that, in the marriage union, man and woman are said to become one flesh. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh." The wife, then, being one flesh with the husband, there comes into operation (in support of the duty of the husband) the principle of self-preservation. "He that loveth his own wife loveth himself: for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it." The Christian analogy . "Even as Christ also the Church." Christ bestows a fostering care on the Church; and this is not only lovely, but it is thoroughly natural . For:
III. RECAPITULATION (order of duties inverted). Duty of husband . "Nevertheless [ i . e . not to press the mystical bearings of the subject] do ye also severally love each one his own wife even as himself." It is again an ideal of very difficult attainment. What a fostering care is conjoined with his authority! And this to be Christ-like (in that fostering care which he is now bestowing upon his Church, and which he will one day bring to a mature result)? Duty of wife . "And let the wife see that she fear her husband." He may personally be deficient (in comparison with her) in those qualities which fit him for being head, but nevertheless she is to show deference to him in respect of the position which he holds. In the precept here it is supposed that he has Christian worth (which is what the representative of Christ should have, what is the adornment of his position). And even when a Christian wife cannot look to Christian worth in her husband, yet must she preserve reverence toward him, while at the same time seeking to win him over to Christ. Two lessons may be learned here .
1. Marriage is a Christian ordinance . It is not, indeed, to be raised (as it is by the Roman Catholics) to the rank of a Christian sacrament; but neither is it to be reduced to a mere civil arrangement. It is here associated with the sublimest Christian thought. This, and the presence of Christ at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, give it a thoroughly Christian character and throw a Christian halo around it of the brightest nature.
2. It is not to be lightly entered into , but in a Christian manner . Man and woman must belong to the Lord before they belong to each other, and are to enter into the married state that they may help each other to be more entirely the Lord's. A Christian is not at liberty to marry one who is not a Christian (even in the hope of making him or her a Christian). A Christian even among Christians is to seek from the Lord.
"And now, before the word we speak
That knits the bond man must not break,
We fain would know thy mind.
Lord, be the sweet conviction given
To both that thou thyself in heaven
The hallowed bond hast twined."
It is in that spirit that it ought to be contemplated. Without this there can be no security for happiness or for Christ being honored in connection with the union formed,—R.F.
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church: and he is the Savior of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband." The subject of this passage is Ideal matrimony ; or , God ' s idea of the marriage state . As we look into it, our convictions will deepen that the Divine idea is but very partially, if at all, developed in the matrimonial alliances of modern society. What is marriage? It comes not within the limits of our purpose or space to enter into a full discussion of the grand subject of human marriage. Our readers will find a very learned and exhaustive treatment of this question in Dr. William Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible.' Our remarks must be confined entirely to those phases of the subject which the passage under review suggests. On all hands it is admitted that marriage—that is, the union of one man to one woman—is a Divine ordination. Some philosophers see the principle of matrimony running through all nature, not only in the sexual distinction of all animals, but in the sexual form of all kinds of vegetable life. But the Bible is our authority. The Divine institution of marriage is clearly taught, both in the Old and the New Testaments. In the opening pages of the Divine volume we read these words, "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." And in the New Testament we have these words from the lips of the Son of God himself, "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" ( Matthew 19:4-6 ). What does the text teach concerning marriage? It teaches—
I. That marriage implies MORAL ROYALTY ON THE PART OF THE HUSBAND . Wives are here commanded to submit themselves unto their husbands "as unto the Lord." The husband is here called the "head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church," and the apostle concludes the paragraph by saying, "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband." The idea of supremacy, therefore, on the part of the husband is manifest throughout the passage. But what is the rule to be? Not the rule of superior muscular force or intellectual power. Such a rule would be despotism and nothing less. The apostle teaches here that the husband's rulership should be similar to that rulership that Christ holds over the Church.
1. The husband is to rule by moral influence. How does Christ rule the Church? Not by force, but by love; by the royalty of his character, the sublimity of his thoughts, the Divine grandeur of his aims. The Church bows lovingly to his authority, because of the supremacy of his excellence. Thus the husband is to rule the wife, for "the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church." It is only as the wife sees in her husband true moral grandeur that she can bow loyally to his scepter and feel a loving reverence in her heart.
2. The husband is to rule for beneficent ends.
II. That marriage implies MORAL LOVABLENESS ON THE PART OF THE WIFE . "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies." If the wife is to be loved, she must be lovable, for it is as impossible for the human mind to love the morally unbeautiful as it is to believe a mathematical contradiction. There are women who are morally hideous, and from whom all manly natures must revolt with disgust. What is the truly lovable in a wife? Personal beauty? This may fascinate the eye for a short time, but it has no power to generate moral esteem. Brilliant genius or sparkling accomplishments? No; these may charm the fancy, but never evoke the true germ of manly love. What is the lovable? The text suggests two of its elements.
1. A vital sympathy with the spirit of a true husband . "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church." The true husband we have described: he is a royal man, who rules by moral influence for beneficent ends in the spirit of self-sacrificing love; and the true wife must have such a vital sympathy with that high moral spirit of his as to make the "twain one flesh." His aims are elevated, his spirit is Christ-like, and her whole heart being in vital accord with his, they are "no more twain, but one flesh." God, not priests nor hireling registrars, has joined them together.
2. A love-centralizing power of character . There must be that fascination and bewitchment of moral spirit about her that will draw the affections of her husband from all the dearest of other objects, and center them on herself. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." He should discover in her virtues so numerous and strong as to draw his sympathies even from the nearest of his other relations and center them on her, feeling that he can repose in her his utmost confidence and bestow on her his choicest love.
CONCLUSION . It is obvious that the world abounds with spurious marriages. The popular idea of marriage is a legalized union of one man to one woman. Though the union may be formed by mere sensual impulses and selfish considerations, it is still called a marriage. Though it be formed, not only without any relative fitness between the parties conjoined, but with a painful discrepancy in temper, age, health, education, it is still called a marriage. Though it be formed without any element of moral excellence as a foundation, and without mutual love for virtue—simply because no mutual virtue exists—still it is called a marriage. The woman may be destitute of every high quality, immersed in sensuality and pride, still at the altar the man pledges to her his love; and the man may be a little soul, in every respect inferior to the woman, yet at the altar she pledges him reverence and obedience. Nothing is more baneful to a country than the corruption of the marriage institution. The law of England, alas l unites brutes and fiends together as well as saints.
"For marriage is a matter of more worth
Than to be dealt in by attorneyship:
For what is wedlock forced, but a hell,
An age of discord and continual strife?
Whereas the contrary bringeth forth happiness,
And is a pattern of celestial bliss."
Husbands and wives.
I. CHRISTIANITY CONSECRATES AND ELEVATES THE UNION OF HUSBAND AND WIFE .
1. Christianity sanctions marriage . St. Paul, though an unmarried man, casts no slight on marriage. It is true that he discourages it under temporary trying circumstances ( 1 Corinthians 7:1 ), but it is also true that he plainly teaches, not only the lawfulness, but especially the dignity of Christian marriage in itself. The ascetic view of celibacy as a more holy state than marriage is not found in the New Testament. "Let marriage be had in honor among all" ( Hebrews 13:4 ).
2. Christianity elevates marriage . St. Paul compares it with the union of Christ with his Church. He does not take the marriage relation to illustrate that union—an illustration that was familiar with the prophets in explaining the relation of God to Israel. He makes the comparison in the opposite way, taking the union of Christ and the Church as the true and perfect union, and therefore as the type of what marriage should be, viz.
Further, it is to be observed that Christianity elevates marriage
II. THE HIGH CHRISTIAN IDEA OF MARRIAGE LAYS GREAT RESPONSIBILITIES ON HUSBANDS AND WIVES . Care and effort are necessary to realize so magnificent an ideal as a human copy of the mystical union of Christ and the Church. Care should be given in particular to the following requisites:—
1. Mutual sympathy . It is not right that husbands and wives, in dividing the home life into separate departments, should fail to take interest in one another's cares and works. The husband should show sympathy for the wife's domestic hopes, and fears, and joys, and troubles, and the wife for the husband's schemes and achievements and disappointments.
2. Mutual confidence . This is essential to mutual sympathy. There should be no secret between husband and wife. Surely it is a mistake for a husband to hide his trouble from his wife out of a desire to spare her pain, and equally so for the wife to do the same in regard to her husband. The separation thus caused is a more serious evil than the pain that is prevented.
3. Mutual forbearance . Each must be prepared to meet with faults in the other. But each would be less provoked by those faults if the husband would think rather of what his wife has to endure in him than of what he may be annoyed at in her, and if the wife would reflect in the same way on her own failings.
4. The consecration of marriage through union with Christ . Such a truly Christian marriage is safe from shipwreck. It is sad to see how rarely the Christian idea of marriage is realized; but little better can be expected till men and women are aiming throughout at a higher life than what is now prevalent in society—a life of spiritual union with Christ.—W.F.A.
Ephesians 6:9 .— EXHORTATION TO RELATIVE DUTIES .
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Though Christianity emancipates and elevates woman, it does not release her from the duty of subjection. The relation to the husband is intensified in order to enforce the duty: "your own husbands," τοῖς ἰδιοῖς ἀνδράσι : as we say, "she deserted her own child." The "as to" denotes a parallel duty: as it is your duty to be subject to Christ, so also to your husbands (see next verse).