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The Wedding Ring.

A Series of Discourses for Husbands and
Wives and Those Contemplating
Matrimony.


[Illustration]


By

T. DE WITT TALMAGE.


_Reprinted from THE CHRISTIAN HERALD._


PUBLISHED BY
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD,
LOUIS KLOPSCH, Proprietor,
BIBLE HOUSE, NEW YORK




Copyright, 1896,
BY LOUIS KLOPSCH.




CONTENTS.


The Choice of a Wife, 5

The Choice of a Husband, 24

Clandestine Marriage, 42

Duties of Husbands to Wives, 60

Duties of Wives to Husbands, 78

Costume and Morals, 95

Husbands and Wives, 114

Matrimonial Discords, 136

Hotels Versus Home, 148

Easy Divorce, 166

Maternity, 184

The Children's Patrimony, 198

The Mother of All, 217

Sisterly Influence, 234

Trials of Housekeeping, 252

Woman Enthroned, 268

Old Folks' Visit, 286

Home, Sweet Home, 303




The Wedding Ring.


THE CHOICE OF A WIFE.

"Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or
among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the
uncircumcised Philistines?" - JUDGES 14:3.


Samson, the giant, is here asking consent of his father and mother to
marriage with one whom they thought unfit for him. He was wise in
asking their counsel, but not wise in rejecting it. Captivated with
her looks, the big son wanted to marry a daughter of one of the
hostile families, a deceitful, hypocritical, whining, and saturnine
creature, who afterward made for him a world of trouble till she quit
him forever. In my text his parents forbade the banns, practically
saying: "When there are so many honest and beautiful maidens of your
own country, are you so hard put to for a lifetime partner that you
propose conjugality with this foreign flirt? Is there such a dearth of
lilies in our Israelitish gardens that you must wear on your heart a
Philistine thistle? Do you take a crabapple because there are no
pomegranates? Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy
brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of
the uncircumcised Philistines?"


BEAUTIFUL JEWESSES.

Excuseless was he for such a choice in a land and amid a race
celebrated for female loveliness and moral worth, a land and a race of
which self-denying Abigail, and heroic Deborah, and dazzling Miriam,
and pious Esther, and glorious Ruth, and Mary, who hugged to her heart
the blessed Lord, were only magnificent specimens. The midnight folded
in their hair, the lakes of liquid beauty in their eye, the
gracefulness of spring morning in their posture and gait, were only
typical of the greater brilliance and glory of their soul. Likewise
excuseless is any man in our time who makes lifelong alliance with any
one who, because of her disposition, or heredity, or habits, or
intellectual vanity, or _moral twistification_, may be said to be of
the Philistines.


MODERN FEMALE LOVELINESS.

The world never owned such opulence of womanly character or such
splendor of womanly manners or multitudinous instances of wifely,
motherly, daughterly, sisterly devotion, as it owns to-day. I have
not words to express my admiration for good womanhood. Woman is not
only man's equal, but in affectional and religious nature, which is
the best part of us, she is seventy-five per cent his superior. Yea,
during the last twenty years, through the increased opportunity opened
for female education, the women of the country are better educated
than the majority of men; and if they continue to advance in mentality
at the present ratio, before long the majority of men will have
difficulty in finding in the opposite sex enough ignorance to make
appropriate consort. If I am under a delusion as to the abundance of
good womanhood abroad, consequent upon my surroundings since the hour
I entered this life until now, I hope the delusion will last until I
embark from this planet. So you will understand, if I say in this
course of sermons something that seems severe, I am neither cynical
nor disgruntled.


NO NEED TO MARRY A FOOL.

There are in almost every farmhouse in the country, in almost every
home of the great town, conscientious women, worshipful women,
self-sacrificing women, holy women, innumerable Marys, sitting at the
feet of Christ; innumerable mothers, helping to feed Christ in the
person of His suffering disciples; a thousand capped and spectacled
grandmothers Lois, bending over Bibles whose precepts they have
followed from early girlhood; and tens of thousands of young women
that are dawning upon us from school and seminary, that are going to
bless the world with good and happy homes, that shall eclipse all
their predecessors, a fact that will be acknowledged by all men except
those who are struck through with moral decay from toe to cranium; and
more inexcusable than the Samson of the text is that man who, amid all
this unparalleled munificence of womanhood, marries a fool. But some
of you are abroad suffering from such disaster, and to halt others of
you from going over the same precipice, I cry out in the words of my
text: "Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or
among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the
uncircumcised Philistines?"


MARRIAGE NOT FOR ALL.

That marriage is the destination of the human race is a mistake that I
want to correct before I go further. There are multitudes who never
will marry, and still greater multitudes who are not fit to marry. In
Great Britain to-day there are nine hundred and forty-eight thousand
more women than men, and that, I understand, is about the ratio in
America. By mathematical and inexorable law, you see, millions of
women will never marry. The supply for matrimony is greater than the
demand, the first lesson of which is that every woman ought to prepare
to take care of herself if need be. Then there are thousands of men
who have no right to marry, because they have become so corrupt of
character that their offer of marriage is an insult to any good woman.
Society will have to be toned up and corrected on this subject, so
that it shall realize that if a woman who has sacrificed her honor is
unfitted for marriage, so is any man who has ever sacrificed his
purity. What right have _you, O masculine beast_! whose life has been
loose, to take under your care the spotlessness of a virgin reared in
the sanctity of a respectable home? Will a buzzard dare to court a
dove?


THE FIRST STEP.

But the majority of you will marry, and have a right to marry, and as
your religious teacher I wish to say to these men, in the choice of a
wife first of all seek divine direction. About thirty-five years ago,
when Martin Farquhar Tupper, the English poet, urged men to prayer
before they decided upon matrimonial association, people laughed. And
some of them have lived to laugh on the other side of their mouth.


EMINENT BLUNDERERS.

The need of divine direction I argue from the fact that so many men,
and some of them strong and wise, have wrecked their lives at this
juncture. Witness Samson and this woman of Timnath! Witness
_Socrates_, pecked of the historical Xantippe! Witness _Job_, whose
wife had nothing to prescribe for his carbuncles but allopathic doses
of profanity! Witness _Ananias_, a liar, who might perhaps have been
cured by a truthful spouse, yet marrying as great a liar as
himself - Sapphira! Witness _John Wesley_, one of the best men that
ever lived, united to one of the most outrageous and scandalous of
women, who sat in City Road Chapel, making mouths at him while he
preached! Witness the once connubial wretchedness of _John Ruskin_,
the great art essayist, and _Frederick W. Robertson_, the great
preacher! Witness a thousand


HELLS ON EARTH

kindled by unworthy wives, termagants that scold like a March
north-easter; female spendthrifts, that put their husbands into
fraudulent schemes to get money enough to meet the lavishment of
domestic expenditure; _opium-using women_ - about four hundred thousand
of them in the United States - who will have the drug, though it should
cause the eternal damnation of the whole household; heartless and
overbearing, and namby-pamby and unreasonable women, yet
married - married perhaps to good men! These are the women who build
the low club-houses, where the husbands and sons go because they can't
stand it at home. On this sea of matrimony, where so many have been
wrecked, am I not right in advising divine pilotage?


NUMEROUS PITFALLS.

Especially is devout supplication needed, because of the fact that
society is so full of artificialities that men are deceived as to whom
they are marrying, and no one but the Lord knows. After the
dressmaker, and the milliner, and the jeweler, and the hair-adjuster,
and the dancing-master, and the cosmetic art have completed their
work, how is an unsophisticated man to decipher the physiological
hieroglyphics, and make accurate judgment of who it is to whom he
offers hand and heart? This is what makes so many recreant husbands.
They make an honorable marriage contract, but the goods delivered are
so different from the sample by which they bargained. They were simply
swindled, and they backed out. They mistook Jezebel for Longfellow's
Evangeline, and Lucretia Borgia for Martha Washington.

Aye, as the Indian, chief boasts, of the scalps he has taken, so
there are in society to-day many coquettes who boast of the masculine
hearts they have captured. And these women, though they may live amid
richest upholstery, are not so honorable as the cyprians of the
street, for these advertise their infamy, while the former profess
heaven while they mean hell.

There is so much counterfeit womanhood abroad it is no wonder that
some cannot tell the genuine coin from the base. Do you not realize
you need divine guidance when I remind you that mistake is possible in
this important affair, and, if made, is irrevocable?


A MISTAKE IRREPARABLE.

The worst predicament possible is to be unhappily yoked together. You
see, it is impossible to break the yoke. The more you pull apart, the
more galling the yoke. The minister might bring you up again, and in
your presence read the marriage ceremony backward, might put you on
the opposite sides of the altar from where you were when you were
united, might take the ring off of the finger, might rend the
wedding-veil asunder, might tear out the marriage leaf from the family
Bible record, but all that would fail to unmarry you. It is better not
to make the mistake than to attempt its correction. But men and women
do not reveal all their characteristics till after marriage, and how
are you to avoid committing the fatal blunder? There is only one Being
in the universe who can tell you whom to choose, and that is the Lord
of Paradise. He made Eve for Adam, and Adam for Eve, and both for each
other. Adam had not a large group of women from whom to select his
wife, but it is fortunate, judging from some mistakes which she
afterward made, that it was Eve or nothing.

There is in all the world some one who was made for you, as certainly
as Eve was made for Adam. All sorts of mistakes occur because Eve was
made out of a rib from Adam's side. Nobody knows which of his
twenty-four ribs was taken for the nucleus. If you depend entirely
upon yourself in the selection of a wife, there are twenty-three
possibilities to one that you will select the wrong rib. By the fate
of Ahab, whose wife induced him to steal; by the fate of Macbeth,
whose wife pushed him into massacre; by the fate of James Ferguson,
the philosopher, whose wife entered the room while he was lecturing
and willfully upset his astronomical apparatus, so that he turned to
the audience and said: "Ladies and gentlemen, I have the misfortune to
be married to this woman;" by the fate of Bulwer, the novelist, whose
wife's temper was so incompatible that he furnished her a beautiful
house near London and withdrew from her company, leaving her with the
dozen dogs whom she entertained as pets; by the fate of John Milton,
who married a termagant after he was blind, and when some one called
her a rose, the poet said: "I am no judge of flowers, but it may be
so, for I feel the thorns daily;" by the fate of an Englishman whose
wife was so determined to dance on his grave that he was buried in the
sea; by the fate of a village minister whom I knew, whose wife threw a
cup of hot tea across the table because they differed in sentiment - by
all these scenes of disquietude and domestic calamity, we implore you
to be cautious and prayerful before you enter upon the connubial
state, which decides whether a man shall have two heavens or two
hells, a heaven here and heaven forever, or a hell now and a hell
hereafter.


NOBLE WIVES.

By the bliss of Pliny, whose wife, when her husband was pleading in
court, had messengers coming and going to inform her what impression
he was making; by the joy of Grotius, whose wife delivered him from
prison under the pretence of having books carried out lest they be
injurious to his health, she sending out her husband unobserved in one
of the bookcases; by the good fortune of Roland, in Louis' time,
whose wife translated and composed for her husband, while Secretary of
the Interior - talented, heroic, wonderful Madame Roland; by the
happiness of many a man who has made intelligent choice of one capable
of being prime counsellor and companion in brightness and in
grief - pray to Almighty God, morning, noon, and night that at the
right time and in the right way He will send you a good, honest,
loving, sympathetic wife; or if she is not sent to you, that you may
be sent to her.


AVOID MATCHMAKERS.

At this point let me warn you not to let a question of this importance
be settled by the celebrated matchmakers flourishing in almost every
community. Depend upon your own judgment divinely illumined. These
brokers in matrimony are ever planning how they can unite impecunious
innocence to an heiress, or celibate woman to millionaire or marquis,
and that in many cases makes life an unhappiness. How can any human
being, who knows neither of the two parties as God knows them, and who
is ignorant of the future, give such direction as you require at such
a crisis?

Take the advice of the earthly matchmaker instead of the divine
guidance, and you may some day be led to use the words of Solomon,
whose experience in home life was as melancholy as it was
multitudinous. One day his palace with its great wide rooms and great
wide doors and great wide hall was too small for him and the loud
tongue of a woman belaboring him about some of his neglects, and he
retreated to the housetop to get relief from the lingual bombardment.
And while there he saw a poor man on one corner of the roof with a
mattress for his only furniture, and the open sky his only covering.
And Solomon envies him and cries out: "It is better to dwell in the
corner of the housetop than with _a brawling woman_ in a wide house."
And one day during the rainy season the water leaked through the roof
of the palace and began to drop in a pail or pan set there to catch
it. And at one side of him all day long the water went drop! drop!
drop! while on the other side a female companion quarrelling about
this, and quarrelling about that, the acrimonious and petulant words
falling on his ear in ceaseless pelting - drop! drop! drop! and he
seized his pen and wrote: "A continual dropping in a very rainy day
and _a contentious woman_ are alike." If Solomon had been as prayerful
at the beginning of his life as he was at the close, how much domestic
infelicity he would have avoided!

But prayer about this will amount to nothing unless you pray soon
enough. Wait until you are fascinated and the equilibrium of your soul
is disturbed by a magnetic and exquisite presence, and then you will
answer your own prayers, and you will mistake your own infatuation for
the voice of God.


AVOID SCOFFERS.

If you have this prayerful spirit you will surely avoid all female
scoffers at the Christian religion; and there are quite a number of
them in all communities. It must be told that, though the only
influence that keeps woman from being estimated and treated as a
slave - aye, as a brute and a beast of burden - is Christianity, since
where it is not dominant she is so treated, yet there are women who
will so far forget themselves and forget their God that they will go
and hear lecturers malign Christianity and scoff at the most sacred
things of the soul. A good woman, over-persuaded by her husband, may
go once to hear such a tirade against the Christian religion, not
fully knowing what she is going to hear; but she will not go twice.

A woman, not a Christian, but a respecter of religion, said to me: "I
was persuaded by my husband to go and hear an infidel lecturer once,
but going home, I said to him: 'My dear husband, I would not go again
though my declinature should result in our divorcement forever.'" And
the woman was right. If after all that Christ and Christianity have
done for a woman, she can go again and again to hear such assaults,
she is _an awful creature_, and you had better not come near such a
reeking lepress. She needs to be washed, and for three weeks to be
soaked in carbolic acid, and for a whole year, fumigated, before she
is fit for decent society. While it is not demanded that a woman be a
Christian before marriage, she must have regard for the Christian
religion or she is a bad woman and unworthy of being your companion in
a life charged with such stupendous solemnity and vicissitudes.


TWO ESSENTIAL QUALITIES.

What you want, O man! in a wife, is not a butterfly of the sunshine,
not a giggling nonentity, not a painted doll, not a gossiping
gadabout, not a mixture of artificialities which leave you in doubt as
to where the humbug ends and the woman begins, but an earnest soul,
one that cannot only laugh when you laugh, but weep when you weep.
There will be wide, deep graves in your path of life, and you will
both want steadying when you come to the verge of them, I tell you!
When your fortune fails you will want some one to talk of treasures in
heaven, and not charge upon you with a bitter, "I told you so." As
far as I can analyze it, _sincerity and earnestness_ are the
foundation of all worthy wifehood. Get that, and you get all. Fail to
get that, and you get nothing but what you will wish you never had
got.


BEAUTY A BENEDICTION.

Don't make the mistake that the man of the text made in letting his
eye settle the question in which coolest judgment directed by divine
wisdom are all-important. He who has no reason for his wifely choice
except a pretty face is like a man who should buy a farm because of
the dahlias in the front dooryard. Beauty is a talent, and when God
gives it He intends it as a benediction upon a woman's face. When the
good _Princess of Wales_ dismounted from the railtrain last summer,
and I saw her radiant face, I could understand what they told me the
day before, that, when at the great military hospital where are now
the wounded and the sick from the Egyptian and other wars, the
Princess passed through, all the sick were cheered at her coming, and
those who could be roused neither by doctor nor nurse from their
stupor, would get up on their elbows to look at her, and wan and
wasted lips prayed an audible prayer: "God bless the Princess of
Wales! Doesn't she look beautiful?"

But how uncertain is the tarrying of beauty in a human countenance!
Explosion of a kerosene lamp turns it into scarification, and a
scoundrel with one dash of vitriol may dispel it, or Time will drive
his chariot wheels across that bright face, cutting it up in deep ruts
and gullies. But there is an eternal beauty on the face of some women,
whom a rough and ungallant world may criticise as homely; and though
their features may contradict all the laws of Lavater on physiognomy,
yet they have graces of soul that will keep them attractive for time
and glorious through all eternity.

There are two or three circumstances in which the plainest wife is a
queen of beauty to her husband, whatever her stature or profile. By
financial panic or betrayal of business partner, the man goes down,
and returning to his home that evening he says: "_I am ruined_; I am
in disgrace forever; I care not whether I live or die." It is an
agitated story he is telling in the household that winter night. He
says: "The furniture must go, the house must go, the social position
must go," and from being sought for obsequiously they must be
cold-shouldered everywhere. After he ceases talking, and the wife has
heard all in silence, she says: "Is that all? Why, you had nothing
when I married you, and you have only come back to where you started.
If you think that my happiness and that of the children depend on
these trappings, you do not know me, though we have lived together
thirty years. God is not dead, and the National Bank of Heaven has not
suspended payment, and if you don't mind, I don't care a cent. What
little we need of food and raiment the rest of our lives we can get,
and I don't propose to sit down and mope and groan. Mary, hand me that
darning-needle. I declare! I have forgotten to set the rising for
those cakes!" And while she is busy at it he hears her humming
Newton's old hymn, "To-Morrow:"

"It can bring with it nothing
But He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing
Will clothe His people too;
Beneath the spreading heavens
No creature but is fed;
And He who feeds the ravens
Will give His children bread.

"Though vine nor fig-tree either
Their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the fields should wither
Nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice;
For while in Him confiding
I cannot but rejoice."

The husband looks up in amazement, and says: "Well, well, you are the
greatest woman I ever saw. I thought you would faint dead away when I
told you." And as he looks at her, all the glories of physiognomy in
the court of Louis XV. on the modern fashion plates are tame as
compared with the superhuman splendors of that woman's face. Joan of
Arc, Mary Antoinette, and La Belle Hamilton, the enchantment of the
court of Charles II., are nowhere.


A WIFE'S DEATH.

There is another time when the plainest wife is a queen of beauty to
her husband. She has done the work of life. She has reared her
children for God and heaven, and though some of them may be a little
wild they will yet come back, for God has promised. She is dying, and
her husband stands by. They think over all the years of their
companionship, the weddings and the burials, the ups and the downs,
the successes and the failures. They talk over the goodness of God and
His faithfulness to children's children. She has no fear about going.
The Lord has sustained her so many years she would not dare to


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