MARITAL AND OTHER PRIVILEGES AND
OBLIGATIONS OF THE NEW CREATION
Various Obligations of the New Creature--"All One in Christ Jesus"-- Promiscuous Association not Implied--Man and Woman in the Divine Order--Man's Headship not Tyranny--Marriage of New Creation-- Advice to the New Creatures in the Varied Conditions of Marital Union--In the Event of Desertion--Conscience the Final Test--Eunuchs, Virgins, Celibacy--"Only in the Lord"--Parental Responsibilities.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus; [for] as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Gal. 3:27,28
THE New Creature consists at first of merely a newly begotten will, which has the promise of a new, perfect, spiritual body in the resurrection if it shall prove loyal to its covenant obligations to the Lord. Its Law of Love obligates it first of all to God, and signifies very hearty obedience to the divine will in all things. Its second obligation is toward its brethren of the New Creation, to do them good. Its third obligation is to do good to all men as it may have opportunity, and as the first two obligations may permit. Although the New Creature, the new will, has not its own proper body through which to operate and exercise itself, it is not without a body, for, as the successor to the will of the flesh and the natural mind, it enjoys, as part of its assets, both the privileges and obligations of the natural body, in which it must temporarily reside, and through which alone it can find expression.
Even if the human body were perfect in every particular the new will would experience difficulties in connection with its use, because it is of the earth, earthy. It is adapted to earthly conditions, and its ambitions and desires are [F486] earthly, however pure and noble they may be; while the ambitions and desires of the new will are heaven-inspired by the exceeding great and precious promises of the divine message. This was exactly the case with our Lord Jesus, whose body was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." He nevertheless, according to his covenant, and according to the conditions in which that new nature would thrive and be ready for the new body in the resurrection, was obliged to crucify the flesh--to cross it, to devote it, to submit and subject it to his new will. Even its proper, natural tastes, preferences and desires must be sacrificed, whenever they came in conflict with the Father's will, the Father's arrangement, the Father's providential leadings; and these included the sacrifice of the flesh, even unto death, as necessary to the full adoption of the New Creature and his glorification on the divine plane.
The under-members of the New Creation, the Royal Priesthood, having imperfect bodies, whose sacrifice would not be acceptable to God because blemished, sinful, imperfect, need first of all to be justified by the sacrifice of their Lord Jesus. By the merit of his atonement the sins and imperfections of their mortal bodies are covered, and no longer imputed, and thus in a reckoned sense their bodies are made acceptable as sacrifices. The Apostle declares this justification saying: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [in the covering of your sins through faith in Christ] that you present your bodies living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God, your reasonable service." Rom. 12:1
It was when this sacrifice of our reckonedly justified flesh took place that we individually were begotten of the Spirit to be sons of God--sons on the spiritual plane, instead of on the human plane. There it was that the consecrated will was accepted as the New Creature and began its existence, which must prosper in proportion as it remains loyal to God and to the covenant of sacrificing the mortal body and its interests. The mortal body thus sacrificed and reckoned [F487] dead with Christ is to be so "quickened," or energized, by the new will (the New Creature), so controlled by it, that the remainder of life is spoken of as figuratively a resurrection life. The New Creature, the new will, acting in and through these mortal bodies, is declared figuratively to be risen with Christ, and living for, seeking, those things which are above. Col. 3:1
The Apostle refers to this newness of life, or figurative resurrection, in which the new will uses the mortal body in the divine service, saying, "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken [energize] your mortal bodies by his Spirit which dwelleth in you." (Rom. 8:11) To the extent, therefore, that the new will thus gains control of our mortal bodies, and uses them in the present life as the best and only substitute it has for the spiritual body, not obtainable before the resurrection--to this extent it might not be improper to consider the mortal bodies of the New Creation temporary substitutes for the spiritual bodies waited for.
But all this matter of reckoning is spiritual, and is understood and appreciated only by such as are begotten of the Spirit, and who thus are enabled to view matters from the divine standpoint. From the world's standpoint all this is untrue, unreal--"foolishness." They see a difference in the aim, ambition and conduct, but they know not how to interpret it. They are apt to consider it a fad, or a mania, or a "holier-than-thou" attitude, or hypocrisy. We cannot deny that to all appearances there are these various counterfeits of the New Creature--tares, having an outward resemblance to wheat, but different at the heart. The New Creature is not to be surprised or disappointed that he is not understood by the world; but is to remember the divine counsel that the world knoweth us not, even as it knew not our Lord. It is a test of our fidelity to God that to follow the footsteps of Jesus we must be disesteemed by those whom we love, and whose esteem it is not unreasonable to desire. [F488] The fact that the friendship of the world and its esteem mean enmity toward God and disloyalty to the consecration covenant must settle the matter with the New Creatures.
"To my Lord I must be true,
Who bought me with his blood."
Our present investigation relates to the proper course of conduct of these New Creatures, these new wills, operating in and through these consecrated bodies, which have certain relationships to other human beings and certain responsibilities, therefore, toward them, according to the flesh. It is the will of God that the New Creature shall respect these obligations of his mortal flesh in all matters of justice--in honesty, in duty, in responsibilities properly devolving upon his mortal flesh. Under present conditions, therefore, the New Creature cannot in all matters do as it would prefer, but must in certain affairs be governed by the obligations of the flesh, because the divine injunction is to "provide things honest in the sight of all men"; and further "He that provideth not for his own hath denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Rom. 12:17; 1 Tim. 5:8
In view of these facts it will be readily seen that the new will has an arduous task before it: (1) To please God in the accomplishment of the sacrifice of the flesh; (2) to discern distinctly which appetites and demands of the fleshly relationship should be considered and allowance made for them; (3) to what extent these demands and concessions may properly be made without infringing upon and invalidating the covenant--which is unto life or unto death-- "For if we live after the flesh we shall die; but if through the Spirit we do mortify [kill] the flesh we shall live"--eventually attain perfection in the resurrection. Here arises another difficulty. The flesh does not voluntarily die: it must be put to death by the will, the mind, the New Creature; and so, finding that there are certain allowances to be made, according to the will of God, the flesh is very apt to take advantage of these allowances, and to claim not only greater allowance than the "things needful," but also liberties [F489] and rights along lines which are not obligations, and which would be interferences with the covenanted sacrifice.
These endeavors of our mortal bodies, sometimes to excuse sin and sometimes to avoid sacrifice, cause the New Creature frequent perplexity, and not infrequently temporary stumbling; until gradually he learns more and more of the deceptiveness of his own flesh and of its weaknesses, and gradually grows in grace and in the wisdom which comes from above, and obtains more and more of a mastery in keeping the body "under"--in subjection to the new mind. (1 Cor. 9:27) Thus, by bitter experience often, the New Creature learns to appreciate the declaration of the Lord's Word, that the natural heart, the will of the flesh, although slain, and not in any sense of the word in control, is "deceitful above all things" and, sometimes, "desperately wicked," and desperately in earnest in its endeavor to overthrow the rule of the new will, and thus to destroy the New Creature-- to the intent that the old creature may revive, and walk after the flesh, and not after the Spirit.
Promiscuous Association Not Implied
The Lord clearly teaches us, through the Apostle, that his preferences and favors are alike to all the New Creatures-- according to their zeal, according to their love for him and the principles represented in him; and that conditions of sex, race, color, etc., of the mortal body have no bearing with him in his judgment of his people, in his estimation of them, and in the distribution of the final rewards. Knowing the Father's view of this matter, all of the New Creation must take a similar view of it, must esteem all New Creatures in Christ Jesus as "brethren," must be kindly affectioned toward all, must seek to serve all, must know no partiality amongst the brethren, except such as the Lord himself showed--in that he favored and honored those who showed the largest measure of zeal for his cause. But all this impartiality, this ignoring of sex, color, race, etc., belongs to us as the New Creation, and only partially affects our mortal bodies, and their relationship with each other and with [F490] the world. Hence, the proprieties of conduct and relationship between the sexes must be maintained by the New Creation.
These, indeed, should have a larger degree of wisdom and prudence than the world, by reason of their being begotten to the spirit of a sound mind. They accordingly should realize that as a New Creation, seeking to walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, it would be appropriate for them to be even more careful than the worldly, the natural man, respecting the weakness of their flesh and respecting the propriety of certain metes and bounds of proper conduct, modesty, reserve, etc., as between the sexes. In proportion as the New Creature is seeking the spiritual life, and in proportion as it realizes that sexual appetites war against the interests of the New Creation, in that same proportion should they endeavor, even more than the world in general, to make straight paths for their feet, and to erect as many barriers and as formidable ones as possible between themselves and temptations.
The same argument applies to racial distinctions. There is a relationship of the Spirit and a unity of the Spirit which is totally different from a relationship and a unity in the flesh. The interests of the New Creation will, we believe, be generally conserved by the preservation of a measure of separation in the flesh, because the ideals, tastes, appetites, dispositions, etc., of one race necessarily are more or less in conflict with the ideals, etc., of another; hence, the several races of humanity will probably find their spiritual interests as New Creatures best conserved by a measure of separateness. There will be no difficulty along these lines if the distinction between the New Creatures and the fleshly bodies is clearly discerned. As the Apostle's words at the beginning of this chapter would give no excuse for a common herding together of males and females, because they are "all one" brotherhood in Christ Jesus, so neither should they be understood to imply anything promiscuous as between different races. It does, however, set for us the standard of spiritual appreciation and relationship, and of [F491] obligation to each and to all in matters both spiritual and temporal.
Man and Woman in the Divine Order
The Apostle declares that "the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God." (1 Cor. 11:3) This is the uniform teaching of the Scriptures. As the Apostle shows, the headship of the man was indicated to be the divine intention in the creation of the man first and of the woman subsequently, as a separated part of him. The Apostle is discussing this very subject, and his words are, "He [man] is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman [to be her helpmate], but the woman for the man [to be his helpmate]. For this cause ought the woman to put a sign of authority on her head." 1 Cor. 11:7-12
It will be observed that this is not an argument as to the relationship existing by contract between husbands and wives, but a still broader one, based upon the relationship of the sexes according to the order of divine creation and intention. There is no suggestion in anything the Apostle says here, or that the Scriptures anywhere enjoin, to the effect that man is a master and woman his slave, which seems to be the mistaken thought sometimes entertained; but never, we believe, by those who have "the mind of Christ." In the divine arrangement the family is the unit in the present time, and every man coming of age is privileged to institute a family, of which he should be the responsible head and representative before God and men.
Man's Headship Not a Tyranny
That headship does not imply tyranny is evident from the Apostle's declaration that Christ is the Head of the Church, the Head of the man; and his further declaration that God, the Father, is the Head over Christ. We find no tyranny either in the Son's relationship toward the Church [F492] nor in the Father's relationship toward the Son. The position of head, however, does imply a responsibility, a charge, a care, a provision. Thus the Heavenly Father made provision for the Son, and a glorious provision it was. True, the carrying out of the divine plan involved suffering and sacrifice on the part of the Son; yet the loving Father made the plan no more severe, no more crucial, than was necessary in the execution of his great and wonderful purpose, in which the Son, now highly exalted far above principalities and powers and every name that is named, is so honorable a sharer. The Son rejoiced in the privilege he enjoyed of rendering sacrifice and obedience to the Father's plan, and he rejoices also in the glories into which he has entered, and in those to come. So with the headship of the Lord Jesus over the Church. So far from his headship signifying to us tyranny, it is the synonym of love and care and helpfulness to all the members of the New Creation. Similarly, the headship of the husband over the wife and children signifies a responsibility, a special care, as provider, foreseer, arranger, protector, guide, example. Oh, that all fathers might properly see their duties, their responsibilities, their privileges by nature, under the divine arrangement; and that seeing these they might use and not abuse them!
When we read in Genesis, as a part of the curse or sentence upon mother Eve, and indirectly upon all of her daughters, the words, "Thou shalt have desire unto thy husband, and he shall rule over thee," and then look to see how this rule has been exercised throughout the world, we find that in many instances it has been a rule of tyranny, and that the strength of mind and of nature of the fallen man has not infrequently been exercised to the injury, instead of to the comfort and advantage of the wife and children. All good, noble men and women must deprecate such a condition of things; nor can we suppose that such an abuse of power is anything but offensive and ignominious in the sight of the Creator.
The misuse of physical and mental strength on the part of some husbands and fathers has undoubtedly reacted to [F493] their own unhappiness and to the general degradation of the race; for though woman is by nature inclined to look to a head and to seek and obey what she recognizes to be a righteous authority ("a desire unto her husband"), yet the abuses of the headship and the bad examples set one another have to a considerable extent turned aside what was, and still is, the substratum of woman's natural disposition. Compelled by necessity to defend herself against unreasonable demands of selfishness and tyranny, the general result has been demoralizing to the whole race; so that while the natural and the Scriptural order is very generally recognized, neither men nor women in general know how to adapt themselves to the present disordered and disarranged condition of social affairs.
As a consequence we frequently find the fallen men striving for a mastery and a headship for which they are quite incompetent, in order that they may abuse it for selfish interests; at the same time failing to recognize and esteem his proper authority and responsibility as the protector of the family. We see woman, also depraved and selfish, disposed not only to rebel against an unreasonable and improper headship, but even to dispute any and every proposition, and to haggle and quarrel over it; and while not claiming to be the provider for the family, nevertheless attempting, directly or indirectly, to usurp the authority of the head of the home, to take and to hold the control of the purse and of the family. Wherever these conditions prevail, being contrary to the divine intention and arrangement, they bring forth more or less bitter fruitage sooner or later--however wise or necessary they may at the time appear. The peaceable fruits of righteousness are only to be expected in following the divine natural order. It may be argued that, in the present condition of matters, trouble of this kind is unavoidable; that selfish men will overstep the bounds of the divine order and intention, and that selfish women will do the same; that, consequently, the peace and order and blessing designed for the perfect man can never be realized by his fallen children, and that the only remedy in sight for [F494] present family distresses through Adam's fall and disregard of the divine plan, is restitution. To this we assent, and join heartily in the Lord's prayer, "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."
We are not considering now the possibility of bringing order out of disorder amongst humanity, but the proper arrangement and course in life for the New Creation in relation to the home, the family, etc.--and the duties of one to the other as husband and wife, parents and children. We might, properly enough, consider this subject under the head of duties and obligations of Christian men and Christian women, were it not that the term Christian has lost so much of its original meaning that now it is generally understood to mean any individual neither a Jew nor a heathen. Strictly speaking, the word Christian, signifying a believer in and a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, is applicable only to the New Creation. It is because the deflection is so common, so general, that we are particular to differentiate the truly consecrated believers as the New Creation.
The Apostle distinctly points out that the marriage relationship amongst mankind is intended under divine arrangement to be a figure or illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church, his Bride--his body. The language is most explicit:
"Wives, be in subjection to 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 it, having cleansed it by 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. Even so ought husbands also 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: because we are members of his body. 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 [F495] 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." Eph. 5:22-33
The fact that typical unions are generally so imperfect and so unsatisfactory does not annul the thought that marriage was intended as a type, even as many of the sacrifices of the Israelites were imperfect and unsatisfactory, but, nevertheless, constituted types of the true sacrifice. The New Creation should esteem the typical, earthly marriage and its proper duties and responsibilities much more highly because of their appreciation of the antitypical union between Christ and his Church. Thus considered, every Christian man finds the grandest possible exemplification of his duties and responsibilities to his wife in the Lord's care for the Church and her every interest, temporal, spiritual, present and future, to the extent of his sacrifice of life on her behalf. Likewise the wife, as she appreciates the duties and responsibilities of the Church to the Lord, discerns a higher ideal of a wife's duty and relationship toward her husband as his helpmate. But we must not expect that these peculiar relationships and the proper application of them can be discerned clearly except by those who have the mind of Christ. Hence, while urging all who contract the marriage relationship to realize as fully as possible the divine ideal, we, nevertheless, note that none can grasp and appreciate and apply all of the principles and ideals connected with this type except those who have been begotten of the Spirit--the New Creation--because these only have the mind of Christ.
It may be urged that the individuals of the human race not having all fallen to the same degree, it not infrequently happens that the wife possesses superior qualities of mind and of heart to those of her husband. The question then arises, Should they not under such circumstances consider that such a wife, gifted with superior talent, judgment and abilities, should be regarded as the head of the family, and the husband as the helpmate? We answer, No. The divine [F496] order was disregarded in such a marriage; for no woman should marry a man beneath her in character and talents-- one whom she could not properly look up to as her "head." And no man should marry a woman his superior. Neither should one who has become a New Creature in Christ Jesus become unequally yoked with one who is still of the earth, earthy--no matter how noble and honorable the person may be. That the New Creature should marry "only in the Lord" is advice which should not be ignored, and its disregard has brought serious difficulties upon many of the Lord's people.
Marriage of New Creatures
However, when once the marital relationship has been entered into it is too late for regrets, and nothing remains to the child of God except to carry out the marriage covenant implicitly, in letter and in spirit, to the extent of his or her ability. If both are New Creatures, and the mating be a proper one, there should be no difficulty on either side in deciding as to the proper arrangements and regulations of the home: nevertheless, compatibility of natural disposition and tastes should also be carefully considered. The true Christian husband, having the mind of Christ, will love his wife, will remember that he has covenanted to cherish her, to care for her, to provide for her not only as respects physical necessities, but also as respects the nourishing of her heart and affections. Such a husband will not feel that he has discharged his duty in providing merely the necessities and comforts of food and clothing and shelter, but will realize an obligation to his wife to consider her mental, moral and spiritual interests as well. He will not be satisfied that her time be entirely absorbed in family duties and cares, but will, to the extent of his ability, seek the cultivation of her mind, her heart--using his headship in the family in so arranging its affairs that she will have reasonable time for spiritual fellowship and the study of the Truth. Such a husband will not forget that, like all the remainder of the human family, selfishness is more or less intrenched [F497] in his mortal flesh, and as a New Creature he will be on guard that this disposition shall not work hardship or injury to others--especially to his wife and his children, who are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.
Headship in the family, thus exercised in promoting the welfare of those under its care in guiding, counseling, etc., as well as in providing things needful for them, will be far from tyranny. Nor will the spirit of love in such a husband ignore the likes and dislikes of his wife and her properly given advice. He will recognize the fact that while the perfect Adam possessed all the qualities of manhood, the separation of Eve implied the separation of some of these qualities: he will recognize, too, that although the strength of mind and of body by divine arrangement abides with, and constitutes man the head of the family, nevertheless there are qualities of character specially possessed by the woman. The humility which belongs to the spirit of love will hinder him from being blind to the estimable qualities which the Creator apportions to the female, and he will recognize that his own qualities of heart and head need to be supplemented by the other qualities which by nature specially reside in the woman. He will, therefore, in proportion as he has "the spirit of a sound mind," desire the help of his wife, her cooperation, her views, her sympathy, her love, and will appreciate them highly.
This does not mean that seeking the wife's counsel means in all cases obedience to her views: it is for the husband to weigh, to consider, to balance, to decide--giving proper, reasonable, benevolent interpretation to his wife's sentiments. The responsibility of headship is upon the husband, and he must not avoid it. It is of divine imposition, a part of his stewardship, for which he will be called upon eventually to give an account.
Likewise the wife who is a New Creature and who has married "in the Lord," and, having exercised proper discretion, is well mated, should have little difficulty in recognizing the duties and responsibilities and privileges of her position according to the flesh. "Let the wife see that she reverence [F498] her husband," says the Apostle. She is not to wait for outsiders to admonish her that she is deficient in wifely respect toward her husband, nor to wait for her husband to indicate that he thinks she is not treating him with the respect due him according to the marriage covenant and according to the Scriptural delineations of a wife's duty. On the contrary, in looking about her to see what are the responsibilities and duties of a wife, let her see that she reverence her husband and realize that nothing short of this is the meaning of her marriage vow according to the Scriptures --whatever it may mean according to the world and various human conceptions. Reverence toward the husband means much, and really enters into all of life's affairs, and touches and influences every act and word and thought respecting the home and its interests.
The Apostle Peter calls attention to this same matter in somewhat similar language, saying, "Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands;...of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. After this same manner in olden time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord." (1 Pet. 3:1-6) As the man who honors his wife honors himself, so the woman who reverences her husband honors herself. But this reverence of a husband as the lord or master or head of the household does not mean slavery, for the Church does not occupy toward the Lord a slavish position, nor exercise a slavish fear, but a reverence of love, of devotion--and this is the example.
This reverence for the husband does not imply that the wife should not exercise her judgment and bring to her husband's attention trials or difficulties or burdens too heavy for her, etc., but her presentation of her views, her hopes and desires should not be in a mandatory manner, but in a deferential way, which would recognize the headship of her husband and seek to be happy and contented with his decisions after having presented to him her thoughts on subjects of mutual interest. She should seek to be so considerate, so [F499] wise in the management of such of the household affairs as the husband would intrust to her, that she would earn more and more of his confidence, and be able more and more to fulfil in the home, whether large or small, the important duties of a helpmate. The thought that she is a helper, and her desire for her husband's approval, will be seen to be in strict harmony with the Apostle's suggestion respecting the Church's proper attitude toward the Lord, in faithfulness, and desire for his approval. But as in the Church it would be a crime to ignore the Head, the Lord, in any measure in connection with the work and its interests, so the wife should feel that her course would be criminal and in violation of her covenant were she to attempt to regulate the earthly home, and to any extent ignore the one whom she has vowed to reverence as the head of the family.
In the case of two New Creatures not well mated--where the wife is evidently the superior--there is danger of difficulty in adjusting affairs. If the wife has better judgment in respect to the guidance of the home, in respect to the spending of money, in respect to the training of the children, etc., she is not, therefore, at liberty to assume the headship of the family and to order and direct her husband as though he were one of her children or a servant. Such a violation of the divine arrangement is sure to work disadvantage spiritually, if not financially and in temporal matters, not only to the man but also to the woman.
The man under such conditions would gradually lose what little manhood he possessed, gradually drop everything into the hands of his wife, and become merely her tool, her slave, to provide the living and keep her commandments. Such a condition would not be advantageous to the husband as a New Creature; such a degradation of his flesh would surely react unfavorably upon him, dispirit him and hinder his growth in grace, in knowledge and in the service of the Truth. On the wife also the effect would prove injurious to the extent that the wrong course is followed --much or little. If the case be an extreme one the wife--as her husband gradually lets fall upon her, or as she [F500] gradually takes out of his hands, the responsibilities of a husband--feels the weight of this upon her in addition to her motherly duties; and in her attempt to be both husband and wife, both father and mother, she is sure to become more or less of a "business woman," more or less heady and self-conscious. Her friends may admire the strength of character which she displays, and may consider that the course she takes is unavoidable--they may even encourage her and hold her up as a commendable example of a strong-minded woman; but none of them will love her as they would have loved her had she developed along the lines of true womanhood and true wifehood. Moreover, the qualities of the flesh cultivated by such a course would react unfavorably upon her as a New Creature in Christ, and, unwittingly, she would become less spiritual and more self-conscious in things pertaining to the Church.
The proper course to take in such a case of mismating between New Creatures is for the husband to say to himself: I have taken a wife contrary to divine arrangement. I have thus run a great risk of domestic infelicity. My only course, now, is to strive to the best of my ability to reach up to my highest ideal of a true husband--to pattern as much as possible after the Lord's example. I will need to be all the more careful of my every word and act--to seek all the more earnestly the wisdom which cometh from above, that I may the more nearly accomplish the duties of the head of this household, for which I realize I am not naturally qualified.
The wife in such a case should say to herself: I have neglected the Lord's divine regulation and am mismated in that I cannot reverence my husband, but instinctively realize that I am his superior in natural endowment. I must make the best of the matter. I must do my part faithfully; and in proportion as I find my husband deficient, I will seek to use tact and pray for wisdom from on high to know how to help him, to lift him up, to make of him a noble man, and to enlarge his capacity as much as possible, that I may thus increase my love and reverence for him. Nothing short of [F501] this is my duty under my marriage covenant--it shall be faithfully done as unto the Lord. As for his weaknesses and poor judgment, not only will I hide these from outsiders, but so far as possible I will hide them from myself; and in mentioning them to my husband I will seek to avoid any reference to or display of my superior abilities. I will expect that in due time his own failures will commend to him my better judgment, which, however, I will not press upon him nor insist upon, but simply state in a kindly manner appropriate to a helpmate. My expectation will be that ere long he will seek my counsel and give it more and more weight in all his affairs of life, and thus day by day and year by year we may grow up together in harmony with the divine pattern of the relationship between Christ and the Church. I will be blessed as the wife in the cultivation of humility and submission to the divine arrangement: my husband will be blessed by the uplifting influences which I will be enabled to bring to him, and thus the mismating which at first seemed so disadvantageous, may, by the Lord's grace--following the instructions of his Word--result in bringing us both nearer to the divine standard as set forth by the Apostle.
A still different case from the above may be suggested as possible, namely, that two New Creatures, well mated according to the flesh, might after years of fellowship and helpfulness become mismated. Such a conclusion to such a favorable beginning would imply that one or the other had lost the holy spirit of love--if not entirely, at least to a very great extent; that one or the other had neglected the apostolic injunction and the entire divine regulation of the duties of husbands toward wives and wives toward husbands. If the fault should be with the husband and he should cease to provide for the wife, cease to cherish her, and, on the contrary, should desert her either in heart or affection or actually, it would imply that he had seriously departed from the Lord, and from the guidance of his Spirit, and from "the wisdom that cometh from above, which is [F502] first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits." Under such circumstances we could not consider such an one approved of the Lord as an "overcomer" until after reformation.
Or the difficulty might be with the wife. She might become heady, highminded, self-opinionated and gradually lose her reverence for her husband--might even misrepresent him and desert him and say all manner of evil against him falsely. Such a condition of things would indicate a very wrong condition of heart, very far removed from that inculcated by the Word and would surely imply spiritual degeneracy, no matter to what degree an outward form of godliness might be maintained. Such an one would surely be in a poor condition to appear before the Heavenly Bridegroom with any hope of his approval; for such a course toward the earthly bridegroom would certainly signify a small appreciation of the duties of the Church toward her Lord. If unfaithful to the earthly husband whom she has seen, it would certainly argue and imply unfaithfulness to the unseen Heavenly Bridegroom.
The earthly relationship as husband or wife between a New Creature and one who is not a New Creature is to some a matter of great perplexity, and there are many in this condition. Where the two are well mated according to the flesh the problem is difficult enough; but where they are mismated both physically and spiritually, the difficulties are multiplied. If the husband is of the New Creation and the wife has the spirit of the world, his true religion and the "spirit of a sound mind" which it gradually gives on all subjects, and the moderation which it inculcates in all affairs, should gradually lift him higher and higher in the esteem of his worldly wife, provided she has a naturally noble character and amiable disposition. His considerate treatment, the full liberty of conscience which he would willingly accord her, and his own devotion to principle, would all tend to make such a union a happy one, except that the husband would lack in his wife that spiritual fellowship which as a New Creature he must appreciate higher than all other fellowships. [F503] But his prayers on behalf of such a noble-minded woman, his example, and his considerate presentation of the Truth will, in all probability, win such a wife to the Lord and make of her a spiritual, as well as a natural helpmate. Thus his patience and faithfulness to his marital obligations might bring a grand recompense while her faithfulness to principle would equally bring blessing and happiness to her life.
If the wife be a member of the New Creation and the husband have the spirit of the world, and they be well mated, the problem will similarly be comparatively easy of solution. The noble-minded husband, even though worldly, will recognize the conscience of his wife in its moderate exercise; and his desire to provide for her mental and moral and spiritual opportunities, as would be his duty as a husband, would give to her all that she could desire as a wife except the desire for spiritual companionship in her husband. To such a noble-minded man as we are discussing, his wife's faithfulness to the Lord, and to himself in all of life's duties, might eventually be blessed by bringing about the husband's consecration to the Lord. The wife might have good desires and ambitions in respect to temporal or even to religious matters which her husband might not be able to appreciate, however noble a natural man he might be. In such case she should consider the counsel of the Lord to his people, to be moderate in all things; she should consider her husband's general liberality, and while not compromising any matter of conscience or principle, she should remember that amongst her wifely duties, recognized by the Lord, is one requiring her to give her husband a measure of her companionship. This might, not improperly, hinder her from attending some of the meetings of the Church; but she should beware lest in her desire to please her husband she should violate her conscience and hinder her responsibilities and obedience to the Lord, her Heavenly Bridegroom. She should remember his injunction that we should not forget the assembling of ourselves together. All we are urging here is that she exercise moderation, consideration [F504] for her husband, etc., so that she might divide the time to some extent with him, giving him a reasonable share of her company.
Where the two are unequally yoked--one an unbeliever and the other a New Creature--and where, additionally, they are mismated according to the flesh, so that the wife is the superior and the husband the inferior intellectually, etc.--the case is much more complicated and requires increased wisdom and grace on the part of the believer. The Apostle specially admonishes those who are so situated, saying: "The woman which hath an unbelieving husband and he be content to dwell with her, let her not leave him. ...But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart: the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O husband, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" 1 Cor. 7:13-16
The one point made clear respecting the duty of the believer is that he shall do his duty, and seek in every honorable, proper manner to conserve the peace of the household and its general welfare, making as few points of contention as proper devotion to principle and conscience will permit. If there be real cause for separation, the believer must see to it that the cause is not in him. The Spirit of Christ in him is to make him more gentle, more humble, more peaceable, more prudent, more wise, more long-suffering, more patient, more loving and more kind day by day. All this, however, will not in every case meet the requirements of the situation. Sometimes the unbeliever is possessed of so mean a natural disposition, and gives way to it to such an extent as to be thoroughly irascible; and as the gracious dealings of God toward Pharaoh only tended to harden his heart, so the Spirit of God in his children, shining out to the very best of their ability in all the graces and fruits of that Spirit, may sometimes meet only with that hatred which the darkness has for the light, and to which our Lord referred saying, "the darkness hateth the light because it is reproved by it." [F505] (John 3:19,20) In such cases separation may follow, as the Apostle points out, whether accompanied by a decree of divorce from earthly courts or not. In any event, however, the New Creature is not at liberty to remarry unless the divorce be granted, and that on the one ground mentioned by our Lord--adulterous unfaithfulness of the mate. Matt. 19:9
In the text quoted above, the Apostle declares, "If the unbelieving [one] depart, let him depart"; but this is not to be understood to signify that desertion by a mate would grant liberty either to a husband or a wife to marry another: it merely indicates that such a desertion should be viewed by the believer as one of the circumstances of life permitted by divine providence, which God is abundantly able to overrule for his welfare--and accepting it as such, corresponding opportunities for usefulness in the Lord's service should be expected. Although the Apostle points out very expressly that the believer shall not be the deserter, we believe that human courts have wisely understood and interpreted in deciding that there is such a thing as "constructive desertion" --namely, that a mate may desert his partner in life most thoroughly without their absolutely parting company. The unbelieving wife might exercise, and in some instances has exercised, so many petty tyrannies in the home as to destroy all of its homelike qualities, to make it a veritable purgatory, destroying her husband's religious literature and striving to make it impossible for him to read or study or think, by reason of the commotion purposely instigated amongst the children, swayed by her to disregard their father's word and counsel and to treat him with indignity.
Such a woman may not desert her husband actually, but with a meaner spirit may prefer to use him as her slave-- that by his energy she may enjoy life's comforts. Human laws have construed such a course to be desertion--desertion of the marriage covenant and obligations and of the proper and reasonable duties of life. Such an one becomes a hinderer and injurer instead of a helpmate. In such a case we believe a husband thoroughly justified in considering [F506] himself deserted, and in taking up a separate home to which he could take such of the children as had not been thoroughly poisoned by the mother's wrong course. His obligations toward such a wife have already been terminated by her course: it is she that has deserted and broken the marriage contract; and in withdrawing her support he is merely acceding to the demands of her course. If, however, she is repentant at any time, he should be generous to a fault in forgiving her and in re-establishing upon a proper basis the family arrangement. Nothing in this advice should be understood to cultivate impatience or a readiness to take offense and feel injured. Love demands that all bearable treatment shall be borne; and that if evil has been rendered for the evil, in word or deed, the wrong shall be considered offset and condoned.
In other cases the desertion may be on the part of the unbelieving husband. The meanness of his depravity may make of him a brutal tyrant, regardless of the health and happiness of his wife, and especially hostile to her religious views. As we have already pointed out, the believer is to seek and to attain the grace of the spirit of love which will enable the endurance of practically "all things," and to be profited thereby--to grow in grace under such conditions; by cultivating the Spirit of the Lord and its various graces. But there is a limit to all things, and beyond that limit it would not be proper to go. Beyond that limit the influence upon the unjust companion would be injurious instead of helpful. Each must decide for himself what is the proper limitation of submission in such matters. His own conscience must decide, after that conscience has been educated by both the letter and the spirit of the divine Word. As growth in grace is attained the trials may become the more severe; but there should be the larger capacity for endurance with meekness and the larger amount of "the spirit of a sound mind" with which to determine when the point of unendurable severity and injury has been reached. Grace from on high is needed, is promised, and should be earnestly sought under such conditions. Jas. 1:5 [F507]
There are ignoble, brutish husbands who have no proper conception either of a husband's duties or of a wife's proper liberties--whose only conception of a wife is that of a drudging slave, better than any he could hire, or that of a cheap substitute for a harlot. Such treatment from a husband is a desertion on his part, and the law of God as expounded here by the Apostle properly interpreted is, we believe, fully in accord with human laws, which declare that for such a man the name husband is a misnomer--that if he ever did intelligently and really make a marriage contract with his wife he has most thoroughly and decidedly broken it, and by such treatment has most convincingly proved this. A wife so circumstanced is at liberty to consider herself deserted and to make as much better conditions for herself as she can; but she is not on this account permitted, either by human or divine laws, to remarry. In such a case she should look to the Lord either to mitigate her condition, or, possibly, to open a way of escape from it. She should take into consideration the ages of her children and what provision could be made for them as well as for herself, and should weigh the circumstances carefully and prayerfully before taking the step. But if her conditions are endurable, let her remain, as the Apostle says; and let her hope that in showing forth the spirit of meekness, gentleness, patience, love, she may win back again the heart of her spouse and possibly also win him to the Lord.
We have dealt with this subject at considerable length, realizing from a wide private correspondence that very many of the Lord's most faithful children live in a matrimonial furnace of affliction. Under the terms of the call of the New Creation, none should expect that the present life would be a smooth and pleasant dream of earthly felicity, for our Lord specially declared of such, "A man's foes shall be they of his own household." (Matt. 10:36) They should not be surprised to be called upon to endure much for the Truth's sake, and thus to evidence to the Lord their faithfulness to him and to his Word; their willingness to endure all the fiery trials which he sees best they should have for the [F508] development in them of the graces of the Spirit. They should realize, too, that they are not to choose the kind of fiery trials that shall develop them and prepare them and make them meet for the Kingdom, but are to leave the entire matter in the hands of the Lord. It is our duty, however, to point out to all such suffering ones that they, after reasonable trial and development, should be on the lookout for divine deliverance and the opening to them of a way of escape from things too difficult for them to endure. This is in line with our Lord's admonition and example: "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." Matt. 10:23; 2:13; 4:12; 12:15
Conscience, the Final Test
We have referred to conscience in connection with these matters, and it may be appropriate here to call attention to what we mean by that term. We mean conviction as to what is right, what is duty. With the perfect man conscience would be an absolute guide and he would know right and duty instinctively; but the six thousand years of falling have brought our race to a condition in which conscience is certainly out of order--perverted by wrong views. The basis of Christian conscience is faith in God, and acceptance of his will as being absolutely right, and acknowledgment of our proper obligation to be thoroughly and heartily obedient to the divine will. Conscience, therefore, needs just such education as the Word of God affords, and the developed New Creature is for this reason to have "the spirit of a sound mind"--his conviction as to what is right and what is wrong expanding and clarifying in proportion as he grows in grace and in knowledge and in the spirit of love. To obey conscience is to do what he believes the Lord would have him do; and he is not to jump to a conclusion on this matter, but is to weigh carefully the testimony of the divine Word and to decide accordingly. There are people who permit fear and servility to dominate their conscience and to vitiate it as a true monitor. A proper course for the Lord's [F509] people is to guide their consciences--that is, to guide their convictions as to what is right and what is wrong by the Golden Rule and all the collateral instruction which the Scriptures afford.
Eunuchs, Virgins, Celibacy
The questions of sexology are amongst those which certainly give the New Creation considerable perplexity; and should, therefore, not be ignored here. Those begotten of the Spirit to spiritual joys and blessings, fellowship and communion, instinctively realize that fleshly or carnal intercourse is not spiritually elevating, but that its tendency is rather in the reverse direction. It is well that all the unmarried of the Lord's consecrated ones should weigh this subject thoroughly before entering the marriage relationship and undertaking its responsibilities. The Lord seemed to refer to the celibate state approvingly when he said, "Some are born eunuchs, some are made eunuchs by men and some [figuratively] have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake." (Matt. 19:12) That is, some by the exercise of their wills, after their consecration to the Lord, have determined not to marry but to maintain their virginity by living celibate lives. The Lord himself was one of these, and is surely our noblest example, in all of whose steps as closely as possible we should follow. The Apostle urges this matter upon our attention saying:
"Now concerning virgins [males and females] I have no commandment of the Lord, but I give my judgment as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I think, therefore, that this is good by reason of the present distress [that is to say, under present conditions--our own imperfections and the imperfections of others on the one hand, and the special duties, privileges and opportunities of those who have made a full consecration to the Lord on the other hand]--namely, that it is good for a man to be as he is [to remain in the condition in which the Truth may find him, married or single]. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to [F510] be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a [female] virgin marry she hath not sinned.
"Nevertheless, such [as are married] shall have tribulation in the flesh: and I would spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none [ignoring earthly relationships as much as possible, and setting the affections specially upon heavenly things]; and they that weep [who are in earthly trouble] as though they wept not [endeavoring to forget the trials and disappointments and difficulties of the earthly state in the joy and rejoicing of the better promises that are ours for the future]; and they that rejoice [in earthly prosperity] as though they rejoiced not [their rejoicing in spiritual things quite overshadowing all earthly sources of joy]; and those that buy as though they possessed not [not setting their affections upon the earthly things]; and they that use this world as not misusing it [permitting moderation and the interests of the New Nature to exercise a controlling influence in all of life's affairs]; for the fashion of this world passeth away [we are as New Creatures to live in accord with our new hopes, and not to be continually making provision for the flesh; but rather seeking at every cost to make our calling and election sure and thus to be joint-heirs with our Lord in the glorious dispensation and world to come].
"But I would have you free from care [of an earthly kind; and hence, in addition to the foregoing admonition of change of affections and transformation of mind, I now call your attention to certain unquestionable facts]. He [fully consecrated] that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married is careful of the things of the world, how he may please his wife. [He will find himself in continual danger of a division of his affections and a continual need to be on his guard, lest the earthly affections shall absorb all of his time and love and interest, and that to a violation of his covenant with the Lord; and the interests of the Truth must be [F511] paramount if he would be an overcoming disciple and a joint-heir in the Kingdom]. And there is [likewise] a difference between [the condition of] a wife and a virgin. The unmarried [fully consecrated] woman careth for the things of the Lord that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
"And this I say for your own profit [not as seeking to bring you under bondage or in any manner to add to your burdens, but that you who are unmarried may carefully weigh the matter and consider your spiritual interests and the privileges you will be losing by marrying]: not that I would cast a snare upon you [to restrain you from the exercise of your liberties], but for that which is comely [most favorable to you as New Creatures], and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. But if any man think [that in remaining unmarried] he behaveth himself improperly toward his virgin [toward a female friend whom he had given reason to expect he would marry her], if she be past the flower of her age [so as to have lost other matrimonial opportunities through her engagement to him], and if need so require [if she needs a protector or supporter] let him do what he will [marry or not]; he sinneth not; let them marry [if the necessities of the case seem so to dictate]. Nevertheless, he that standeth fast in his heart, having no necessity, but having power over his own will [to exercise self-control and to live a celibate life, that he might give himself more fully to the Lord and his service], and hath so determined in his own heart to keep his own virgin [his own virginity or purity] doeth well. So then he that giveth her [his virginity] in marriage doeth well, but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.
"A wife is bound for so long a time as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead she is free to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord. But she is happier if she abide as she is, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the spirit of God [the mind of the Lord on this subject, which I have already declared. I am not speaking by commandment [F512] or under direct inspiration, but according to my conviction or judgment of the divine will.]" 1 Cor. 7:25-40
After marriage is too late for one to decide for himself whether or not he prefers to live a celibate life. The Apostle points this out most distinctly, declaring that neither the husband has sole control of his own body, neither the wife the sole control of her own body; but that in marriage each has given himself to the other in such a degree that any refusal of moderate reasonable marital rights would amount to an injustice and violation of the marriage contract. The Apostle speaks of such a course as "defrauding one another." (1 Cor. 7:5) The time to consider such matters is before marriage. Neither would it be proper that either should attempt to bind the other, nor that they should together vow a life of celibacy in the bonds of wedlock. Moderation in this as in every other earthly matter must be the law, the brake by which the New Nature will seek to maintain its ascendancy over the flesh*--bringing even the very thoughts of the heart into subjection to the Lord. Absolute continence, however desirable it may be, the Apostle points out, must not be enforced by either one against the other, lest it become a snare and temptation to a violation of the marriage obligations. He says:
"Only in the Lord"
How reasonable, how wise are the Lord's injunctions!-- how much to the profit of those who have an ear to hear them and who are obedient to their counsel! That the Lord's people should marry "only in the Lord," may at first appear a limitation, a restraint, a bondage: but no--it is merely advice. Whoever follows the advice will eventually find that he has been blessed thereby, and whoever disregards the advice will generally learn the unwisdom of his course through severe experiences later.
No other contract or arrangement pertaining to the things of this present life is so important as the marriage contract: yet people of fairly well-balanced minds seem to treat it in a light and frivolous manner. Some parents seem to consider more carefully and with sounder judgment the matter of the purchase of a farm, the breeding of their cattle, sheep, horses, dogs and hogs, than they consider their share in the propagation of the human species. Such unwisdom is difficult to account for except on the supposition that they regard matrimony as a kind of lottery, guided by chance instead of reason; or that they regard God as the Creator of each individual member of the human race--failing to discern that God's perfect work, as respected our race, was accomplished in the first pair, to whom he gave procreative powers which have descended to their offspring. The right view of human nature is that it is the highest type of animal creation, and, like the rest, has been endowed by the Creator with the power of producing each after his own kind. From this standpoint it becomes evident at once that God is not the direct Creator of any of the human family now living, and that the various weaknesses and imperfections and imbecilities under which the race suffers are not properly chargeable to imperfection in his work, but to the fall of our race into sin, and to the natural operations of sin--which tend more and more downward into imperfection, degradation, death.
Even the natural man and woman, then, should take thought carefully respecting the question of mating, so that [F514] they would do their part in offsetting, so far as possible, the degrading influences affecting the race. They should realize, for instance, the necessity for laws of consanguinity-- that the marriage of those of close blood relationship should be avoided. Such regulations were unnecessary in the beginning, when Adam's sons and daughters intermarried freely and without injury, because, the race being still nearly perfect, no particular weaknesses would be entailed upon the children; but now, since the race has become greatly demoralized, and since not only diseases, but also mental characteristics and traits and idiosyncrasies, run by heredity in families, it is a part of wisdom--yea, more, a part of duty, of justice, to the children they would bring into being--that they should not only avoid close blood relationships, which might intensify the mental and physical peculiarities and idiosyncrasies, but, additionally, they should so far as possible recognize the appropriateness of choosing a mate of different temperament from their own. Nature seems to assist to some extent in this matter, so that decided blondes or decided brunettes usually and naturally prefer mates of contrary temperament.
But while these rules, which belong to the natural man, would apply to the New Creature, if he decided that it was wisest and in every way best for him to marry, there is still one further admonition of the Apostle to guide the New Creation mating according to the flesh--he should choose "in the Lord." Then he would be mated in spiritual matters as well as in natural. It might be urged by some that if close relationship according to the flesh might produce extremes in the children, so close relationship according to the spirit might also prove injurious--be calculated to produce eccentric children in respect to moral and religious matters. We answer, No: that in proportion as the new mind is received, its influence is contrary to the eccentricities of the flesh. The Apostle declares, "We have the mind of Christ," "the spirit of a sound mind"--we view matters from the standpoint of Christ. The New Creation is begotten of his Spirit, although still imperfect according to the flesh; and is guided [F515] by the Spirit through the Word in the understanding of the divine mind in all matters.
True, this new mind must exercise itself through the mortal body and its imperfect thinking apparatus; nevertheless, although the imperfections of the flesh may color the new mind to some extent and distort it out of its grand and beautiful symmetry, the will is superior, and the flesh is more or less influenced by it, shaped, molded, guided and gradually transformed, so that whoever receives the mind of Christ is sure to become, in the same proportion, sounder and yet more sound in his reasonings on all the matters and interests of life. This may not mean that he will be esteemed by the world as wiser than before; but it does mean that he will be really wiser, and that the world's failure to discern his increasing wisdom will be because the world is blind, is unwise, has not the mind of Christ, and sees things generally from a distorted standpoint of depravity and selfishness. The wisdom we want is that which cometh from above, which the Apostle explains will make us more pure, more peaceable, more merciful, more kind toward the brethren, toward the family, toward mankind in general-- yea, and also to the brute creation. The wisdom of this world, as the Apostle explains, is earthly, sensual, devilish. Not that all worldly men and women are sensual and devilish, but that the general trend of worldly wisdom is in this direction; and that mankind, however blinded, is striving against the laws of selfishness with which it is bound, though it may continually seek to hide the chains of its slavery from itself as well as from others.
"In the Lord" should be understood to mean much more than a merely nominal belief in the Lord, much more than a mere membership in the nominal church. Worldly people should marry worldly people; nominal church people should marry nominal church people; mere believers, trusting in the meritorious blood of Christ, should marry similar companions. But those who have taken the step of full consecration and become members of the body of Christ, of the New Creation, begotten again, should marry only of their [F516] own kind--only New Creatures--only such as are "in the Lord" as accepted members of the body of Christ, partakers of his spirit of holiness; and additionally, as already shown, each should see to it that the proper sex relationship be maintained. The woman should see to it that she marry only such a man "in the Lord" as she can look up to morally, intellectually, spiritually, as the head of the family-- one whom she can "reverence." The man should see to it that he marries one "in the Lord" who would be, so far as he is able to judge, a true helpmate, pure-minded, loving, gentle, helpful--one not his superior, to whom he would naturally be obliged to look up and esteem as the proper head of the family. These rules of mating should all be observed by the New Creation, possessed of the spirit of a sound mind, however they may be disregarded by the world, who are not guided by the mind of the Lord but disposed to take their own way, to be guided by their own whims or fancies, or by the mutual deception of each other. If doubts arise, settle them on the safe side--wait until they are solved.
It might be argued that if marriage were considered from so particular a standpoint, matches would be less frequent. We reply that this may be so; but that a large proportion of those who are now married, especially those who have by the Lord's grace come to a clearer understanding of their relationship to the Lord as New Creatures, and to an acquaintance with his counsel in the interests of their spiritual development in matters pertaining to the flesh, would not again marry as they have done--they are wiser now. With many of the worldly the possibility, according to earthly courts and usages, of a full divorce and of another marriage, may seem to make them less particular, less careful in respect to mating. But the New Creature should remember that his marriage contract is similar to that between the Lord and the Church--perpetual; that it is not canceled by any earthly court to such an extent as to permit marriage to another, except upon the one cause specified. (Matt. 19:9) To the Lord's people, "in the Lord," marriage is therefore a [F517] very weighty contract, and should be undertaken only after prayerful, thoughtful consideration and examination of every feature bearing upon the situation as far as can be discerned.
The New Creation has another protection in this matter. According to their covenant with the Lord they have given up their own wills and accepted instead the will of their Head, the Lord; and if this be their attitude of mind--a sincere desire to know the will of Christ (1) respecting whether or not they should marry at all, and (2) respecting the Lord's choice for them, they will, after exercising their best judgment and discretion, commit the whole matter to the Lord and pray for his overruling of affairs according to his wisdom, resting their hearts contentedly on whatever shall be the subsequent leadings of divine providence--whether favorable or contrary to that which their best judgment had approved. Thus and not otherwise can the Lord's people be sure that they are taking the right course. In view of the foregoing, how important it is that the New Creation should have clearly in mind the instructions of the Lord's Word on this subject; that they should have the very spirit of the Truth; and that they keep continually in mind the fact that they are New Creatures--not living as the world, simply to enjoy the present life, simply to rear families according to the flesh, but that their highest aim, object, endeavor, should be to walk after the Spirit, and to follow the directions of the Lord in all matters temporal as well as spiritual. They should always have in view the fact that they are consecrated to the Lord, dead with Christ as respects this world; and that their chief aim and object henceforth should be to use the present life and earthly vessels as sacrifices in the wisest possible way in the interest of the New Creature and its general work of serving and glorifying the Lord and building up itself and others of like precious faith in spiritual graces! How important that the married and the unmarried, and those contemplating marriage, should remember that their all is laid upon the altar, and that their victory and attainment of the glorious things [F518] promised can only come through the consuming of the sacrifice; and, hence, that all the affairs of the present life should be ordered, so far as they are able, in such a manner as will minister best to their own spiritual welfare, to the welfare of the brethren and to the glory of our Head!
"He knows the way I take--
What matter then if dark it be,
Or rough, or hedged about--
His staff shall comfort me.
"And should His love withhold
What seems so near, so dear, so sweet,
I'll humbly take this thing
And lay it at His feet.
"How sweet to know He knows,
And cares, and holds me by the hand--
Will safely guide until
I reach the Heavenly Land!"