Love and Excellence

Earlier this week, a homeschooling friend mentioned that she was going to have a busier-than-normal afternoon. She was babysitting kids for her neighbor, whose husband just left her for another woman. I don’t know how the marriage got to that point, but it reminded me of something I read years ago:

“‘Having loved his own, he loved them to the end,’ without abatement or alteration: so ought husbands to love their wives, not only at the beginning but to the end of their union; when the charms of beauty have fled before the withering influence of disease: when the vigorous and sprightly frame has lost its elasticity, and the step has become slow and faltering; when the wrinkles of age have succeeded to the bloom of youth, and the whole person seems rather the monument than the resemblance of what it once was. Has she not gained in mind what she has lost in exterior fascinations? Have not her mental graces flourished amidst the ruins of personal charms? If the rose and lily have faded on the cheek, have not the fruits of righteousness grown in the soul? If these blossoms have departed, on which the eye of youthful passion gazed with so much ardour, has it not been to give way to the ripe fruit of Christian excellence? The woman is not what she was, but the wife, the mother, the Christian, are better than they were…Husbands, call to recollection the wakeful assiduities, and the tender affections by which you won the affection and the confidence of the woman who forsook her father and her mother, and the home of her childhood, to find a resting place for her heart in your attachment; and will ye falsify the vows you plighted, and disappoint the hopes you raised? Is it accounted a disgraceful stigma on a man’s reputation to forfeit the pledges of a lover? Oh, how much more dishonourable, to forget those of a husband!” – John Angell James, A Help to Domestic Happiness

Husbands must “love to the end”, and wives must help them by cultivating “Christian excellence”.