“AN HELP MEET . . .”
An old friend has told me of a conversation he had with a young brother who was presumably to be counted of the modern type. The young man mentioned that he was engaged to be married, and when the natural question was asked which sister it was with whom he hoped to link his life, he answered very airily that it was not a sister at all—nothing to do with the ecclesia. He gave the impression that he regarded this as of very little consequence, and considered that the brethren and sisters as a whole were narrow and old fashioned in their view.
I don’t know whether many view the matter in this light; but if there are any, I confess that to me it is one of the most surprising of opinions in this rather surprising day. No doubt there are some elders more astonished to find any who have once known the way of life to drift away into unbelief. That is surprising, too, but there is an explanation. Faith calls upon us to believe in things which are not seen, and faith is a living thing, a matter of feeling as well as of mental conviction. If it so happens that in spite of all our reasons for having faith, one does not feel that confidence which ought to come, there is a very great danger that in the absence of feeling there will not be a real interest, and without the interest there will not be study, and without the study there will not be development; and as faith is a living thing it obeys the laws of all living things. It requires nourishment, and if it does not get the nourishment it is apt to languish and die. So I can understand one drifting away into unbelief. It seems to me much more astonishing that one who claims to live for Christ should regard it as legitimate to marry an unbeliever.
We all know that in the past God has always insisted that His people should be separate. We know from the history in the Bible that there were some departures from that rule with very grievous and disastrous results. We remember the laws laid down in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah with regard to mixed marriages. Going on to the New Testament, we remember the very strict instructions of the Apostle, where, speaking of the position of an unmarried woman, he says “she is free to marry whomsoever she will, only in the Lord”. We remember the admonition, “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers”, and the very strong terms in which the apostle emphasizes the injunction. We read: “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespass and sins”. Quickened means “made alive”, and implies a very great change of which we have been the subjects. To be married to an unbeliever is for the living to be made one flesh with the dead. We know the facts quite well. They ought to be all sufficient; but I am going to attempt a little general consideration of the subject which may perhaps appeal more to our young people.
First of all a word to those who are older. There are many who have lived their lives and are getting on to the last stage of the journey. To such I would say, “Do not be unsympathetic toward the very young, whose point of view may be very different from yours now, but perhaps very similar to the point of view you once had”. There are some elders who were very sentimental in their young days who become in later life most intolerant of the same amiable weakness in the next generation.
Marriage is a divine institution. It was stated at the beginning that it was not good for man to be alone. The woman was provided by God. The man who finds a real wife “finds a good thing, and obtains favour of the Lord”. There have been times of distress in which it may have been better to remain single, but as the apostle says, “every man hath his proper gift of God”. For normal life, marriage is good, and it is as right now as it ever was. I have no sympathy with those who advocate a monastic life because we are drawing near to the end of Gentile times. The principle laid down by Christ covers the ground, “Occupy till I come”. Disciples must try to make a wise choice in all things, whether to go into business or to remain servants, whether to marry or remain single. An enterprise that was ever legitimate is legitimate now. I cannot agree with the idea that because we are living at the end of Gentile times there is a change in the divine laws. Some of us are growing old, and the advancing years makes a change in us. That is all. There is no change in the underlying principles. It is perfectly right and in harmony with the will of God that a man should desire a woman and children born of a woman, but let him remember God in it all. The wise man puts the matter well in the book of Ecclesiastes when he tells the young man to live joyfully with the wife whom he loves all the days of his life, and when he tells him again to rejoice in his youth, but to remember that for all these things God will bring him into judgment. So let us always remember the Lord God, and this once again emphasizes those ideas which come from the passages of Scripture mentioned earlier.
Now for the general things to make a successful marriage. I do not think that differences in temperament matter, but it is very important that there should be a fair amount of agreement in tastes. Husband and wife should have similar tastes, or they tend to pull in opposite directions instead of pulling together. That is where courtship comes in. It gives opportunity to put this to the test: to see whether tastes would so clash as to offer little hope of a successful and proper union. It has been in my experience that young people have started to go together, and after a while have come to the conclusion that they were not well matched. They have mutually agreed to part, and later have found other more suitable partners in life. That is much better than making a mistake and being tied to the wrong mate.
There have been many instances of failure in marriage through clash of tastes, so it is desirable from every point of view, even among those who are not at all religious, that there should be a similarity of taste between man and wife. Marriage is an association which lasts until death. In this it differs from all other relationships. You very rarely find a family the members of which continue to live together for very long. Soon the children go their several ways, and presently they are all scattered. When men and women get married it is for life, and that is why it is so desirable that they shall know where they stand in this matter of taste. In the abstract no doubt you will all agree. Does it not come round then with tremendous force to that phase of the matter that is most important, and I hope most interesting, to us? If it is very desirable that there should be agreement in taste in the ordinary affairs of human experience, is it not a thousand times more so in religion? It is one of the saddest of tragedies for human beings to be devoid of hope. We truly have a very real hope going far beyond anything that mortal life can offer. Surely it would be tragic to have a life partner who could not share in this hope. Only when there is agreement on such foundations can we have peace, quietness, tranquility, and happiness at the end of a day’s work, that we may develop our characters at our own fireside. I like to think of the words of Browning:
“God be thanked, the meanest of His creatures
Boasts two soul-sides—one to face the world with,
One to show a woman when he loves her!“
One side that is sturdy and strong, and another side that is very different, to be shown at home, perhaps only seen by those who are permitted to enter the family circle. It is very desirable to have a haven of rest and peace at home.
What is the most important book we have in the home? From our point of view there is no question what we should answer. Do we both agree? Surely it is a terrible tragedy if we do not. What about our prayers? Is it prayer to the same God? What about our ambitions? Are they ruled by Christ and his commands? If there is a serious clash of tastes in any matter it is bad; but in these supremely important matters it is tragic; and that is why it is so desirable that those who live their lives together should be agreed on this fundamental matter of religion—of their attitude towards God, of their hopes in life, and of that which they regard as their guiding influence.
What a blessing it is when it is possible for husband and wife to have their readings together, to discuss them and look up matters together, that they may extend their knowledge. The apostle says, “Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge”. We need to be adding to our knowledge all the time, and it can be done in the pleasantest possible circumstances at the family hearth if a man and his wife are in agreement. It is tragic if this basis of harmony is lacking. As a side thought, this raises another point which I will mention in passing. I fear there are some homes where although there has been no failure to recognize elementary scriptural principles in the matter of marriage, where the partner is in the fold, but for some reason husband and wife hardly ever have their readings together. I do not think that any young brother should give himself so many lecturing appointments or be so buried in books that he cannot find time to have the readings with his wife. Let him read to his wife, and have some quiet discussions with her. He may learn from her sometimes. If I may venture on a reminiscence, I can remember a sister who put many questions and who smilingly called to mind the apostolic instruction that if the wives desired to know anything they should ask their husbands at home. She was quite capable of putting such questions that if she had been dealing with one of those brethren who insist rather too much on womanly subjection, he might soon have wished that he had not been born a man. It is easier to ask questions than to answer them, and in trying to deal with a succession of questions one may easily make a painful exposure of ignorance. It is, however, a splendid way of learning. I believe that some of those young brethren who have devoted too much time to solitary study, and have neglected their wives, would learn a good deal if they would get down to quiet discussion at home. They must find the answers to the wife’s questions, if they can.
In Eph. 2 the apostle speaks of our being built into a living temple for a habitation of God through the Spirit. We are built on the foundation of prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone. If we have taken note of apostolic instruction regarding the ordinary matters of life we shall be well equipped. If men have reasoned on modern lines it is difficult to see how they can expect to be built into this temple for the habitation of God. We do well to have before us this very great idea. We do well to associate it in our minds with other references to the same line of thought: the one body with Christ as the head, the perfect man of Eph. 4:13, the Spirit man seen in vision by Daniel and by John, the many hints in the prophets of a coming manifestation of divine power on earth which will reveal the full significance of the Covenant name.
The better we are acquainted with these great things, the more fully we shall realize the height of our calling, and the more determined we shall be to bring ourselves into subjection to the divine will. In courtship and matrimony, and in all other matters, we shall seek to act wisely.
The popular idea in the world that love is a passion that cannot be influenced by reason is manifestly untrue. Even in the world, certain restrictions are recognized, or human life would sink below the level of the brutes. The higher human beings are in the social scale, the more severe are the rules which check their freedom. If ordinary men and women can rule out certain things because they are condemned by the conventions of society, surely it is possible for us to be constrained by the love of God. If we are buoyed up by the wonderful idea of being constituted members of that living temple for a habitation of God through the Spirit, surely we can be wise and obedient in the choice of our companions now. We can rule out the wrong thought before it lays hold of us, and we can use all the opportunities given to us for spiritual growth. So we may say to all young brethren: Rejoice in your strength and in the happy companionship which God allows, remembering that for all that you make of your life, God will bring you into judgment.
Islip Collyer.
Source: The Christadelphian : Volume 90.  pp. 103-105.

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