By Mrs. E. G. White
As published in The Review and Herald, February 2, 1886
Few have correct views of the marriage relation. Many seem to think that it is the attainment of perfect bliss; but if they could know one quarter of the heartaches of men and women that are bound by the marriage vow in chains that they cannot and dare not break, they would not be surprised that I trace these lines. Marriage, in a majority of cases, is a most galling yoke. There are thousands that are mated but not matched. The books of heaven are burdened with the woes, the wickedness, and the abuse, that lie hidden under the marriage mantle. This is why I would warn the young who are of a marriageable age, to make haste slowly in the choice of a companion. The path of married life may appear beautiful and full of happiness; but why may not you be disappointed as thousands of others have been?
This question of marriage should be a study instead of a matter of impulse. Obedience to the last six commandments requires this. Obedience to the fifth commandment also requires that the young honor the judgment of their parents in the matter. Crimes of every kind may be traced to unwise marriages; then why should ignorant and inexperienced children be allowed to enter the marriage relation blindly? Parents should feel their responsibility to guard the interests of their children, when their own mature judgment teaches them that should they marry unwisely, life-long unhappiness would be the result.
While there are weighty responsibilities devolving upon the parents to guard carefully the future happiness and interests of their children, it is also their duty to make home as attractive as possible. This is of far greater consequence than to acquire estates and money. Home must not lack sunshine. The home feeling should be kept alive in the hearts of the children, that they may look back upon the home of their childhood as a place of peace and happiness next to heaven. Then as they come to maturity, they should in their turn try to be a comfort and blessing to their parents. They should not be too ready to leave the parental roof and give their affections and services to a stranger, at the very time when they are most needed at home.
Parents are entitled to the love of their children; and if the children would manifest in their words and acts more affection for the parents, it would be a blessing to both. Every kind attention is appreciated by parents. Before a marriage contract is made, every young person should look carefully to see how his or her absence from home will affect the happiness of the parents. Do they in their age of feebleness need the help that you alone can give them? Think carefully in regard to who has the strongest claims upon you.
When so much misery results from marriage, why will not the youth be wise? Why will they continue to feel that they do not need the counsel of older and more experienced persons? In business, men and women manifest great caution. Before engaging in any important enterprise, they prepare themselves for their work. Time, money, and much careful study are devoted to the subject, lest they shall make a failure in their undertaking. How much greater caution should be exercised in entering the marriage relation,–a relation which affects future generations and the future life? Instead of this, it is often entered upon with jest and levity, impulse and passion, blindness and lack of calm consideration. The only explanation of this is that Satan loves to see misery and ruin in the world, and he weaves this net to entangle souls. He rejoices to have these inconsiderate persons lose their enjoyment of this world and their home in the world to come.
Many make light of the Heaven-appointed institution of marriage, and after it has been entered into thoughtlessly, without a true sense of its sacredness, the obligations it imposes are often shamefully disregarded. Frequently a man who is entirely ignorant of the wants of one of the opposite sex, of the treatment she should receive, takes her under his proposed protection when his influence and his temperament are to her a desolating hail, beating down her will and her aspirations, and leaving her no freedom of mind or judgment. Ignoring her personal rights, he becomes unkind and authoritative. Her individuality is lost in his, and she becomes the slave of his caprice and passions, as though she had naught to do but to obey his whims.
He may even quote texts of Scripture to show that he is the head, and that he must be obeyed in all things. He feels that his wife belongs to him, and that she is subject to his order and dictation. But who gives him the right to thus dictate and condemn? Is it the law of God, which commands him to love God with all his heart, and his neighbor as himself? No; there is no moral or religious defense for such unjust authority. The same Bible that prescribes the duty of the wife, prescribes also the duty of the husband. It says, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” The husband is to be kind and affectionate. He is to love his wife as a part of himself, and to cherish her as Christ does His Church.
While women want men of strong and noble characters, whom they can respect and love, these qualities need to be mingled with tenderness and affection, patience and forbearance. The wife should in her turn be cheerful, kind, and devoted, assimilating her taste to that of her husband as far as it is possible to do without losing her individuality. Both parties should cultivate patience and kindness, and that tender love for each other that will make married life pleasant and enjoyable.
Those who have such high ideas of the married life, whose imagination has wrought out an air-castle picture that has naught to do with life’s perplexities and troubles, will find themselves sadly disappointed in the reality. When real life comes in with its troubles and cares, they are wholly unprepared to meet them. They expect in each other perfection, but find weakness and defects; for finite men and women are not faultless. Then they begin to find fault with each other, and to express their disappointment. Instead of this, they should try to help each other, and should seek practical godliness to help them to fight the battle of life valiantly. Their daily prayer should be—
“Help us to help each other, Lord,
Each other’s woes to bear.”
Self-denial must be practiced in the home. Every member of the family should be kind and courteous, and should studiously seek by every word and act to bring in peace, contentment, and happiness. All members of the family do not have the same disposition, the same stamp of character; but through self-discipline, and love and forbearance one for another, all can be bound together in the closest union. In many families there is not that Christian politeness, that true courtesy, deference, and respect for one another that would prepare its members to marry and make happy families of their own. In the place of patience, kindness, tender courtesy, and Christian sympathy and love, there are sharp words, clashing ideas, and a criticizing, dictatorial spirit. In every family where Christ abides, a tender interest and love will be manifested for one another; not a spasmodic love expressed only in fond caresses, but a love that is deep and abiding. True love is a high and holy principle, and is altogether different in character from that love that is awakened by impulse, and which suddenly dies when tested and tried.
My heart is drawn out for the young. God has given them talents, which, if improved, would be of great service in his cause. Satan knows this, and therefore seeks in every possible way so to occupy their minds that they will have no time or inclination to devote themselves to the service of God. There needs to be a great change in the home life of some. They need to overcome the defects in their characters, if they would become useful workers for God and useful members of society. They do not realize that the inconsistencies in their characters are great drawbacks to their usefulness, and that unless they war against those tendencies which have controlled them to a greater or less degree, they will surely fail of attaining the future life.
Many are seeking for happiness, but they know not how to obtain it. If such would find true happiness, their minds must first receive the right discipline. They must learn to have faith and confidence in God. Those who have not learned to subdue self, to control impulse, and to bring themselves into obedience to the principles of the law of God, will not, cannot be happy, or at peace and rest. They need the meekness and lowliness of Christ. They need to learn daily in his school, to wear his yoke, to lift his burdens, to deny inclination, to sacrifice a seeming present good for a future good, a personal advantage for a general advantage. The fountain of content must spring up in the soul. He who seeks happiness by changing his outward surroundings without changing his own disposition, will find that his efforts will produce only fresh disappointments. He carries himself with him wherever he goes. His unrest, his impatience, his uncontrollable thoughts and impulses, are ever present. The great trouble is in himself. Self has been cherished. He has never fallen upon the Rock and been broken. His will has never been trained to submit; his unyielding spirit has never been brought into subjection to the will of God.
There are many youth, who, because they cannot find happiness in plans of their own devising, will not accept it in God’s appointed way. They wonder over their unhappiness, and count their best friends, those who discern and point out their deficiencies, their enemies. They cling with tenacious grasp to their impressions, and their ideas of what they must have and what they must do in order to be happy; but they lose sight of the fact that it is the Lord who rules, and that it is he who shapes circumstances. He says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Finite beings should be humble and submissive in their desires, realizing that God uses many influences which it is beyond their power to control. It is for them to subdue self, bringing it under the control of intelligent reason. And in faithfully doing this work, peace, rest, and happiness will surely come. “Learn of me,” says the Great Teacher, “for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls; for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Time is valuable. Now is our time of probation. There is an eternity of bliss to gain, a perdition to shun. Do not, my young friends, fritter away your God-given opportunities by trying to accomplish your own desires. Up to duty and to work for the Master! Many of you have lessons to learn that you have not yet dreamed of. The books of heaven reveal many things that you can have blotted from their pages by coming to God with a truly repentant heart, and exercising faith in the blood of Christ as the atoning sacrifice. The life that was once lived to the flesh must now be lived by faith on the Son of God. You may now be passing through a critical experience; but, I entreat of you, be not hasty, be not discouraged, but submit your case to God. Wait upon the Lord and do his will, and in this hour of trial he will work for you, and you will obtain a precious experience. Lie low at the foot of the cross. Give God a chance to work, and he will teach you precious lessons.
Ask yourselves the questions, What education am I receiving at the present time? What advancement am I making in the divine life? Some are training in the school of vice and deception, receiving an education that will unfit them for this life and for the future immortal life. Others are educating themselves for lofty positions where they may receive the praise and honor of men. Still others are educating themselves in Christ’s school, seeking goodness and truth, aiming to meet God’s great moral standard of righteousness, and fitting for the high school above. Every day we are learning lessons in good or evil. Every thought cherished, every impulse indulged, leaves its impression on the mind.
We are under obligations to God to be constantly learning of Christ how to guide and control our thoughts, our feelings, and our passions. Oh, how fearfully lax we are in our duty to ourselves, in allowing our ideas to be molded by our own faulty will, and in allowing ourselves to be controlled by circumstances. We must study the pattern Jesus Christ. Self-culture and divine grace will strengthen us in moral power. Every faculty should be employed to make of us all that Christ has made provision that we should become. How many are losing the balance of their minds for want of heart culture! All goodness commences in the heart.
God has entrusted the young with the ability to do a good work for the Master, if they will consecrate themselves wholly to his service. But there must first be a transformation of character, an overcoming of obstinacy and self-sufficiency, and a cultivation of kindness and affection. The critical and censorious spirit that is ever ready to find occasion for reproof and condemnation in others, shows a narrow mind, and plainly reveals that its possessor has never carefully studied and correctly read the pages of his own heart.
Our home here on earth is the place in which to prepare for the home above. If there are such temperaments in the family that they cannot live in harmony here, they would not, unless converted, be in harmony in the heavenly family. There is altogether too much careless talking, censuring, fault-finding, in families that profess to love and serve God. The unkind words, the irreverence and disrespect, found in many families make angels weep. What a record is made upon the books of heaven of unkind looks and words that bite and sting like an adder. And this is not the record of one day in the year merely, but of day after day. Oh that these families would consider that angels of God are taking a daguerreotype of the character just as accurately as the artist takes the likeness of the human features; and that it is from this that we are to be judged!
All should cultivate patience by practicing patience. By being kind and forbearing, true love may be kept warm in the heart, and qualities will be developed that Heaven will approve. He who goes forth from such a family to stand at the head of a family of his own, will know how to advance the happiness of the one whom he has selected as a companion for life. There will be mutual love, mutual forbearance. Marriage, instead of being the end of love, will then be as it were the very beginning of love.
If those who are contemplating marriage would not have miserable, unhappy reflections after marriage, they must make it a subject of serious, earnest reflection now. This step taken unwisely is one of the most effective means of ruining the usefulness of young men and women. Life becomes a burden, a curse. No one can so effectually ruin a woman’s happiness and usefulness, and make life a heart-sickening burden, as her own husband; and no one can do one hundredth part as much to chill the hopes and aspirations of a man, to paralyze his energies and ruin his influence and prospects, as his own wife It is from the marriage hour that many men and women date their success or failure in this life, and their hopes of the future life.