Margaret E Blackburn.

Things a pastor's wife can do online

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American :©apti0t publication Societi2





Copyright 1898 by the
American Baptist Publication Society

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I. Chosen as a Wife 5

II. Living Within One's Income . . 10

III. Earning Money 15

IV. THE Gift of Silence 20

V. leading Contributors 24

VI. holding Office 28

VII. Making Changes 32

VIII. Giving praise 37

IX. THE Pastor's Study 40

X. Home religion 44

XI. THE Sunday-school and Relig-
ious JOURNAL 50


XIII. On Baptism 57

XIV. On Communion 61

XV. Relation to Other Pastors'

Wives 64

XVI. alabaster Boxes 67

XVII. Our homes and Our intimate

Friends 72

XVIII. THE pastor's Wife a Widow . . 77




A LETTER came to me recently from
a friend who has been asked by a
young pastor to enter our ranks. She
says she feels utterly unfit for the great
responsibilities so soon to be hers, and
that she will often be obliged to ask ad-
vice from those of us who are older and
more experienced. Her letter reminded
me of an article I thought of writing when
I was a young pastor's wife, but my pen
exhausted itself on the title "Pastors'
Wives and Sweethearts," and it has taken
all these years for the accumulation of
courage sufficient to attack this important

The writer of this letter had no thought


of being a pastor's wife until she met
this young minister and their love became
mutual. To my mind she could have no
better fitness. A pastor's wife who car-
ries about her an official air is, to say the
least, a very disagreeable person, and a
minister who marries a woman simply be-
cause he thinks, or is told, that she will
make a good wife for a pastor, makes the
mistake of his life. Any healthy, hope-
ful, happy, devoted Christian girl is capa-
ble of making the ideal pastor's wife. A
pastor should not choose his wife as he
does his pulpit suit, or silk hat, or even as
he does his concordance. Any girl who
has health and education, and loves Christ
more than she does the world, can soon
train into service and need have no fear of

Ministers wives who are failures are few,
and they would have been failures if their
husbands had been in other professions or
in business. The same rules for the choice
of a wife apply in the ministry that are
absolutely necessary for happiness in any
other calling in life.

Two people who are to be intimate

friends for life should have similar tastes.
It is not necessary to agree in everything.
In fact, there is more "spice" in slight
differences where questions are simply
matters of opinion, and right and wrong
are not involved.

We once knew a notable housewife and
exquisite needle woman, but if there had
not been a newspaper in the world she
would not have cared. Her husband, on
the other hand, thought there was no
greater luxury than a book, and he was so
ignorant of practical affairs that in carving
for guests he left the choice meat on the
platter. Who could expect this banker
and his wife to be happy? She longed
for a lover, and he came home simply for
his meals and a quiet place in which to
read. She would have worked or denied
herself anything for a material blessing or
to give to the church, but the money
** wasted in books" wrecked their lives.

No one can tell what disease the future
may hold in store for either the husband
or wife, but a healthy person should not
marry one with frail health. More happi-
ness will come from the union of two inva-

lids, for then they can condole and truly
sympathize with each other. If one is rich
and the other poor, for real happiness the
wife had better be the poorer. Equality
in earthly possessions is to be desired for
the most perfect happiness.

While a pastor does not look for the
label on a girl, he should not utterly disre-
gard common sense in the choice of a wife,
and look for happiness and success in a
flirt, or for a girl whose heart is in the
world, or for one who is utterly selfish.
Worldly men prefer Christian wives. In
choosing, the pastor should pray for this

If the writer has had any share in the
success of her pastor it is not because she
felt called to the place. In fact, a little
scene in her girlhood is recalled with
amusement. A young man called one
afternoon and brought with him an offer
of marriage. He had the reputation of
being a very devout Christian man, and
the offer he presented so surprised her that
silence was accepted as encouragement.
His hope put a ring in his tone as he in-
formed her that he was preparing to enter

the ministry. I cannot recall the young
man's name, and know not if he is on
earth or in heaven, but I can never forget
his look of horror as I exclaimed that I
was too frightened to answer him at first ;
but the information just given settled the
matter, for I would never be a minister's
wife. He left the house no doubt thank-
ing God for his merciful escape from a
girl who could not appreciate the honor.

It may help some one else for me to say
that I once had so little reverence that I
told the Lord that he was unfair, that it
was not right, to lead me to love a man
with all my heart, and then call him into
the ministry after marriage. But I see
now I was very ignorant in those days and
saw only the dark side. It is true the
trials of a pastor's wife are often sharp
and peculiar to the place ; but it is just as
true, that no other woman can have the ex-
quisite joys that God gives alone to the
pastor and his wife.



IT is said by some that the first three
months of a young convert's life will
determine his future usefulness. The sweet
halo of the winning time is over. The
church-members rejoice in possession and
begin wisely, or unwisely, to impose bur-
dens on the young Christian and look now
to him to help thdm in winning others. If
the burdens and privileges of the new life
are accepted in the right spirit there will
be growth and development; but if re-
jected there will come great loss and often
utter ruin of all future usefulness.

This crisis comes sooner or later in the
home life of every young man and his
bride, and as the pastor and his wife are,
or should be, an example for all other
young people, it is doubly needful that
they do not fail. There are ministers to-
day seeking in vain for pastorates, be-



cause some time in their lives they failed
to adjust their expenses to their incomes,
and although repentant, their reputation
follows them. God has just given me the
power, assisted by others, to very materi-
ally aid a pastor, who last year received
less than three hundred dollars in cash,
and yet saved eleven dollars ! This story
seems incredible, but I know it to be true.
No doubt the fuel and food sent this pas-
tor by his people made his real income
larger than that of others whose environ-
ments make a larger expenditure seem to
be absolutely necessary; but no matter
what the demands are, or how small the
income, success in the pastorate requires
that self-denial shall be exercised until the
money received will pay for everything
purchased. We do not believe this self-
denial should be required only of the wife,
and in order that it be equalized it might
be a good plan to pay all the general bills
and then divide the remainder between the
two who should be equally interested. As
every one is to give an account of himself
to God, the pastor will in this way allow
his wife the privilege of being accountable


to the church, society, and God for the way
in which she divides what is her own.

One large factor in our own happy life
has been the account book kept by the
pastor since the wedding day. Every day
his money is counted before he sleeps and
the book shows every penny expended.
At the end of the month everything is
classified — rent, fuel, food, missions, and
charities, and the allowances to each mem-
ber of the home. This perfect frankness
between the pastor and his wife will bring
peace to the new home and merry hearts
over denials that would otherwise sour and

One of the charms of courtship was in
the constant surprise of the little gifts ex-
changed. This division of the amount left
after the general expenses are paid will
make the continuance of this custom pos-
sible, and on it much of the happiness of
married life depends.

A young pastor we know is soon to
marry a lady who has for some years re-
ceived a very fine salary. We know this
pastor's income is very small, but they are
both sensible young people, and we cannot


believe that this devoted lover will allow
his bride's income to cease entirely, and
she, in the greater treasure of his love and
in her new work, will not sorrow over the
luxuries she must lose with her present
salary. A long experience proves that
happiness does not depend upon a large
salary. When a church gives to the pas-
tor all it can, the all may be little, but the
hearts of love in it will still find many ways
of supplementing the small salary, inex-
pressibly touching to those who receive.
These gifts almost entirely cease in many
of our larger churches, so that it was not
strange to see a pastor's wife weep when
receiving the gift of a Thanksgiving turkey.
It reminded her of that little first church of
long ago. It is too true, with everything
gained there is some loss, and for all those
difficult denials of early life in the pastor-
ate there are compensations so sweet that
they are never valued until lost in the
"greater blessings" we all crave.

In doing right and keeping out of debt
we must deny ourselves often much that
we enjoyed before marriage ; but there is
one comfort that can never be taken from


the true heart, for "your Heavenly Father
knoweth that ye have need of all these
things," and if we fulfill the conditions,
"all these things shall be added."



THE question often comes to a pastor's
wife : Shall I do anything to earn
money? It is a delicate subject, and one
that demands serious consideration. There
are some who apply the same rule to the
wife that they do to the pastor: "Even
so hath the Lord ordained that they which
preach the gospel should live of the gos-
pel." The disaster that is sure to come
to the man who will not abide by the rule
may well cause the wife to think twice
before she makes a new one for herself.
Wisdom teaches that we must count the
cost before we begin to build.

Any woman who begins her married life
earning money outside of her own home
will always be expected to do it, and there
will be a sense of loss in the mind of her
husband as well as in her own if she does
not. The home and church life of a pas-



tor's wife is more taxing than that of the
majority of the other women in the church.

The pastor's wife who draws a salary for
work she may do throws a searchlight on
all her other duties in her home and in the
church. Dust or finger marks on the door,
or furniture, that would not otherwise be
observed, will attain gigantic proportions.
Absence from any meeting will be accred-
ited to the outside work, and the refusal
to do anything, no matter how unjust the
request, will have the same motive applied.
If the home and church work of a pastor's
wife is all she can do well, does it not nat-
urally follow that it is not best to shorten
one's life by any burden that is needless?

* * Needless ! " I hear as a united exclama-
tion from many voices, "you know noth-
ing about it." But I do. My husband's
first salary as a pastor was ten dollars a
week, in the suburb of one of our largest
cities. The ladies in the city churches
overestimated my talents, and brought me
into a prominence that taxed my slender
resources to the utmost. My husband is
now pastor of a large city church where the
salary might look large to many who have

less, but I can say truthfully, we are just
as poor now as we were then, and the
reasons are two-fold.

A small church will rally around a pas-
tor's family as a large one will not. I
recall with pleasure a dressmaker in that
little church who made my gowns without
charge, and another lady who had been a
tailoress in her youth, as beautiful work
on my children's clothes testified, gave
substantial aid. No such assistance comes
in a large church ; and in such a church
the demands upon the purse of the pastor
are a hundred-fold greater. The charity
work sometimes falls entirely upon his
shoulders, so that large and small churches
can unite in the same prayer: "Lord,
keep him humble, and we will keep him

There is occasionally found in a church
some lady who appreciates the work of the
pastor's wife. She sees that the extra
work put into the church would realize for
her as a teacher or in some other vocation
a handsome salary and much leisure, and
this observant Christian makes her appre-
ciation practical. It has been my good

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fortune to find in all these years one such
woman. She is very wealthy and is an
invalid, and with my superb health I have
been hands and feet for her among the
sick and desolate. In these years she has
given me many dollars. If there were
such women in every church the burden
of the pastor's wife would be lifted, and
she could sing, instead of sighing, her way
into heaven.

No useful talent should be neglected, no
matter if the searchlights of the world
should be drawn upon it, but never let the
world pay you for something you would
not do for it without recompense. Better
write for the Christian press under your
own name, than for money, what you would
blush to have your friends know to be

Perhaps you have left the life of a suc-
cessful teacher to cast in your lot with a
poor theologian. Do your very best work
in the Sunday-school, and if he has neither
time nor inclination for indoctrinating the
young people, do not leave it undone
through your neglect.

Whatever your peculiar talent, let it shine


for Christ. If you can cultivate it quietly
at home while other women are doing
fancy work, looking out of the window, or
aimlessly tossing over drygoods, so much
the better for you and the church. If it
brings you money, it is their gain as well
as yours. Ere long the church and the
whole Christian world will wake up to an
appreciation of their own, and while they
do good to all men it will be especially to
the household of faith.



ONE of the doctrines of the Roman
Catholic Church, the celibacy of
the priesthood, is founded on the supposi-
tion that a wife cannot control her tongue.
We do not say this is the only excuse for
the doctrine in the Roman Church, but it is
one of them. In our so-called Protestant
churches there is often the gravest neces-
sity for a pastor's wife to exercise the
golden gift of silence, and we rejoice that
so large a majority are not found wanting
when weighed in the balances.

Sometimes a pastor assumes that his
wife cannot be trusted with the knowledge
in hand. This we believe to be a great
mistake on his part. Unless his wife is
insane or idiotic she is worthy of trust.
From the very nature of affairs she must
know something of every subject that can
come under consideration, and knowing all


she is less apt to make a blunder than she
would be to know but a part. The object
of this writing is to urge upon the wives
of pastors to cultivate to the highest de-
gree the power of being trusted not only
by their husbands but by others.

Often silly children go about among
their playmates with the boast * * I know a
secret but I won't tell you." It is possi-
ble for a pastor's wife to allow the confi-
dence given her to lie as near the surface
and her manner say as plainly as words,
"I know something you don't know."
Eyes as well as tongues must be under
complete control.

Children should be trained in the home
from their earliest years not to tell every-
thing they know. They should be taught
to say to one who pries too closely: "I
would rather you would ask father or
mother about it."

But suppose one had not been trained
in childhood to control the tongue. The
case is not hopeless. Experience is a
costly teacher but she is a good one, and if
a mistake has been made let the pastor
and his wife look it bravely in the face.


Be patient and helpful with each other and
progress will be made. Sometimes the
very best pastor and one who is the truest
and most devoted husband, will assume
when a criticism is made that his wife is
to blame, just as he would, in his humility,
assume that he was to blame if the criti-
cism had been made upon himself. Never
let a wife be depressed if blamed unjustly
— a judicious patient silence will generally
bring everything around all right.

We remember with the profoundest
gratitude the pastor's wife of our girlhood.
Into her ear was poured all our love affairs
and our ambition for an education, and it
was through her influence that we were
given the very best opportunities at home
and abroad. In the love affairs we did
not then see her guiding hand and it was
all the stronger that we did not see it —
and by the way there is just where the
power of a husband or wife lies in guiding
without the other knowing it.

A good pastor's wife and a pastor's
good wife will not need to go about seek-
ing the confidence of people. She will
draw those who need such help as surely


as a magnet draws. No matter how
highly gifted a pastor's wife may be by
education and natural endowments, she
must always remember that she is the
pastor's wife and not the pastor. A pas-
tor's confidence in his wife is certainly
misplaced if it causes her to assume the
lead or in any way insist that her opinion
on a subject shall be preferred to the pas-

No matter how utterly the pastor con-
fides in his wife or how worthy she is of
his confidence, she is in the pew and he is
in the pulpit, and for this very reason she
can be of the utmost use to her husband.

The ideal church prays for its pastor,
bears his burdens, and lifts him up to his
own ideal and its for him, although all
churches do not fulfill their mission. But
no pastor need despair who has down in
in the pew a noble, true-hearted wife who
is working and praying for him ; and let
him remember that * ' a little leaven leav-
eneth the whole lump."


PASTORS' wives should be leading con-
tributors in the churches of which
they are members, not only to the mission-
ary and charitable societies but to church
finances, including their husbands' salaries.
We may not be able to give the largest
amount each week, or month — according
as the custom of the church may be — but
we can give the largest proportion of our

The old-time idea that the pastor is an
object of charity has passed away even in
the most benighted regions. This fact is
due largely to our religious press. There
are countless other transformations due to
this same agency, if we had but patience to
make a study of the facts.

Between the very few who are still men-
dicants, and the number who give cheer-
fully "as the Lord hath prospered," we


have the great majority of pastors' wives.
Somebody must lead in this ideal effort
now before the religious world. Who can
do it better than we?

We were once fortunate enough to be
members of a church where the rule recorded
on the books was "that every member of
the church should either contribute to the
support of the church or be supported by
the church." This rule was a good one
as far as it went. We would have added :
" Those supported by the church must
return a proportion as their own contribu-

This ideal rule was interpreted in a
peculiar way. When we offered what they
considered a generous subscription, we
were told that we were supported by the
church and were thus exempt. The free-
dom offered was neither appreciated nor
accepted. We replied that our husband's
salary was earned, and should be paid as
the salaries of their school teachers were
paid, and that we were under as much
obligation to the church and to God to
contribute to the expenses of the church as
the teachers or any one else in the church.


They acknowledged that we had the better
of the argument, and during a long pastor-
ate we gave with joy as we had received.
We have not been a single day without a
salary in all these years, and we count that
the promise has been fulfilled, "Give
and it shall be given," etc.

The testimony of countless pastors'
wives could be given to prove the joy and
healthful influence of this systematic giving
by pastors' families ; for our work is not
done unless all under our roof share in this
duty. My Protestant cook may have more
money in the bank than I shall ever have,
and if she is a church-member or a regular
attendant, it is mine to influence her to
generous giving. I may only be permitted
to give my hundreds ; a child in my home
may yet be able to give his thousands and
tens of thousands. Will he look back
and bless me that his first thought and
love of giving came from my precept and

If your own experience does not echo
the thought, will you not try it just as you
would accept from me a new pattern for
a garment, or a recipe for cooking? If


you do not feel that you owe it to your
church or to your denomination, will you
not acknowledge that you do owe it to
your God, and do it heartily unto hini if
not unto men?



SOME of the most important things a
pastor's wife can do are the most
difficult to describe. In some way she
should always be found among the soul
winners in the church. In order to have
the strength and time for this most impor-
tant work, it would be well to accept as
few official positions as possible.

It is the custom when a new pastor
comes to the church to offer his wife the
presidency of the Ladies' Society or so-
cieties. I can think of many reasons why
she should not accept these tender over-
tures of love and honor.

There are in every church, no matter
how small, women who are by nature fitted
for these offices and the ideal pastor's
wife should delight in the discovery of such
workers, and she will be longer and better
loved for helping to train such women than


if she filled the office herself. Again, the
most successful pastors are those who can
leave a church in the best running order,
and his wife should so regulate her work
that their leaving should jar as few inter-
ests as possible. But the most important
reason for not accepting these offices is
that both the time and attention they absorb
are too much for any pastor's wife who has
before her the aspiration of being the very
best she possibly can be.

Twice only, and then under the strong-
est protest, have I accepted the presidency
of any existing society I found on coming
to a church. The first time it was on
the condition that I be released at the end
of the year if I found a woman to take my
place. I found the woman and so im-
pressed my thought upon the members
that I think no pastor's wife has since been
president of the society. The second
time, I found upon coming to an old and in-
fluential church that a lady had been presi-
dent of one of the missionary societies for
a number of years. Her influence with the
ladies was so great that once again I was
overpowered and became president ** for


one year only." Of course I had pride
enough to do my best, and the money
given that year was more than any previous
year, but after a year's rest this lady so
eminently fitted for the office was induced
to take it again.

There are doubtless exceptions to all
rules but a good general one to have,
taught me by experience and a wide obser-
vation, is that to be a teacher in the Sun-
day-school and a member of the Sunday-
school Library Committee are all the offices
a pastor's wife ought to accept. This rule
should not apply to new work in the church
that a wide-awake pastor sees ought to be
taken up.

It may then seem absolutely necessary
for a pastor's wife to come into prominence,
but even then she should in her own mind
be on the keenest search for some one to
take her place.

It has been my fortune or misfortune,

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Online LibraryMargaret E BlackburnThings a pastor's wife can do → online text (page 1 of 3)