Many marriages can only be productive of misery; and yet the minds of the youth run in this channel because Satan leads them there, making them believe that they must be married in order to be happy, when they have not the ability to control themselves or support a family. Those who are not willing to adapt themselves to each other's disposition, so as to avoid unpleasant differences and contentions, should not take the step.
This question of marriage should be a study instead of a matter of impulse.
Is It True Love?
True love is a high and holy principle, altogether different in character from that love which is awakened by impulse and which suddenly dies when severely tested.
True love is not a strong, fiery, impetuous passion. On the contrary, it is calm and deep in its nature. It looks beyond mere externals and is attracted by qualities alone. It is wise and discriminating, and its devotion is real and abiding.
Love is a precious gift, which we receive from Jesus. Pure and holy affection is not a feeling, but a principle. Those who are actuated by true love are neither unreasonable nor blind.
Mildness, gentleness, forbearance, long-suffering, being not easily provoked, bearing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things--these are the fruit growing upon the precious tree of love, which is of heavenly growth. This tree, if nourished, will prove to be an evergreen. Its branches will not decay, its leaves will not wither. It is immortal, eternal watered continually by the dews of heaven.
Love, A Tender Plant
Love is a plant of heavenly growth, and it must be fostered and nourished. Affectionate hearts, truthful, loving words, will make
happy families and exert an elevating influence upon all who come within the sphere of their influence.
While women want men of strong and noble characters, whom they can respect and love, these qualities need to be mingled with tenderness and affection, patience and forbearance. The wife should in her turn be cheerful, kind, and devoted, assimilating her taste to that of her husband as far as it is possible to do without losing her individually. Both parties should cultivate patience and kindness, and that tender love for each other that will make married life pleasant and enjoyable.
Those who have such high ideas of the married life, whose imagination has wrought out an air-castle picture that has naught to do with life's perplexities and troubles, will find themselves sadly disappointed in the reality. When real life comes in with its troubles and cares, they are wholly unprepared to meet them. They expect in each other perfection, but find weakness and defects; for finite men and women are not faultless. Then they begin to find fault with each other, and to express their disappointment. Instead of this, they should try to help each other, and should seek practical godliness to help them to fight the battle of life valiantly.
The Power of Love
Love is power. Intellectual and moral strength are involved in this principle, and cannot be separated from it. The power of
wealth has a tendency to corrupt and destroy; the power of force is strong to do hurt; but the excellence and value of pure love consist in its efficiency to do good, and to do nothing else than good.
Whatsoever is done out of pure love, be it ever so little or contemptible in the sight of men, is wholly fruitful; for God regards more with how much love one worketh than the amount he doeth.
Love is of God. The unconverted heart cannot originate nor produce this plant of heavenly growth, which lives and flourishes only where Christ reigns....
Love works not for profit nor reward; yet God has ordained that great gain shall be the certain result of every labour of love. It is diffusive in its nature and quiet in its operation, yet strong and mighty in its purpose to overcome great evils. It is melting and transforming in its influence, and will take hold of the lives of the sinful and affect their hearts when every other means has proved unsuccessful.
Wherever the power of intellect, of authority, or of force is employed, and love is not manifestly present, the affections and will of those whom we seek to reach assume a defensive, repelling position, and their strength of resistance is increased.
Pure love is simple in its operations, and is distinct from any other principle of action. The love of influence and the desire for the esteem of others may produce a well-ordered life and frequently a blameless conversation. Self-respect may lead us to avoid the appearance of evil. A selfish heart may perform generous actions, acknowledge the present truth, and express humility and affection in an outward manner, yet the motives may be deceptive and impure; the actions that flow from such a heart may be destitute of the savour of life and the fruits of true holiness, being destitute of the principles of pure love.
Love should be cherished and cultivated, for its influence is divine.
When Love is Blind
Two persons become acquainted; they are infatuated with each other, and their whole attention is absorbed. Reason is blinded, and judgement is overthrown. They will not submit to any advice or control, but insist on having their own way, regardless of consequence.
Like some epidemic, or contagion, that must run its course, is the infatuation that possesses them; and there seems to be no such thing as putting a stop to it. Perhaps there are those around them who realise that, should the parties interested be united in marriage, it could only result in life-long unhappiness. But entreaties and exhortations are given in vain. Perhaps, by such a union, the usefulness of one whom God would bless in His service will be crippled and destroyed; but reasoning and persuasion are alike unheeded.
All that can be said by men and women of experience proves ineffectual; it is powerless to change the decision to which their desires have led them. They lose interest in everything that pertains to religion. They are wholly infatuated with each other, and
the duties of life are neglected, as if they were matters of little concern.
The good name of honour is sacrificed under the spell of this infatuation, and the marriage of such persons cannot be solemnised under the approval of God. They are married because passion moved them, and when the novelty of the affair is over, they will begin to realise what they have done. In six months after the vows are spoken, their sentiments toward each other have undergone a change. Each has learned in married life more of the character of the companion chosen. Each discovers imperfections that, during the blindness and folly of their former association were not apparent. The promises at the altar do not bind them together. In consequence of hasty marriages, even among the professed people of God, there are separations, divorces, and great confusion in the church.
When it is too late, they find that they have made a mistake, and have imperilled their happiness in this life and the salvation of their souls. They would not admit that any one knew anything about the matter but themselves, when if counsel had been received, they might have saved themselves years of anxiety and sorrow.
But advice is only thrown away on those who are determined to have their own way. Passion carries such individuals over every barrier that reason and judgement can interpose.
Weigh every sentiment, and watch every development of character in the one with whom you think to link your life destiny. The step you are about to take is one of the most important in your life, and should not be taken hastily. While you may love, do not love blindly.
I hope you will have self-respect enough to shun this form of courtship. If you have an eye single to the glory of God, you will move with deliberate caution. You will not suffer lovesick sentimentalism to so blind your vision that you cannot discern the high claims that God has upon you as a Christian.
SEVERAL CHALLENGING QUESTIONS ARE RAISED IN THIS LETTER. IT SEEMS THAT BOTH ARE TOO YOUNG AND IMMATURE TO CONSIDER MARRIAGE. SOME EVIDENCES OF IMMATURITY ARE SUGGESTED.THERE IS THE PROBLEM OF SUPERFICIALITY ON THE PART OF THE GIRL. THE QUESTION OF WHETHER IT IS REAL LOVE OR INFATUATION IS CONSIDERED. ELLEN WHITE URGES THIS YOUNG MAN TO TAKE THE LONG LOOK RATHER THAN TO THINK ONLY OF THE MOMENT.
Salem, Oregon June 8, 1880
I am sorry that you have entangled yourself in any courtship with Elizabeth. In the first place, your anxiety upon this question is premature.
I speak to you as one who knows. Wait till you have some just knowledge of yourself and of the world, of the bearing and character of young women, before you let the subject of marriage possess your thoughts.
Elizabeth will never elevate you. She has not in her the hidden powers which, developed, would make a woman of judgement and ability to stand by your side, to help you in the battles of life. She lacks force of character. She has not depth of thought and compass of mind that will be a help to you. You see the surface and it is all there is. In a little while, should you marry, the charm would be broken. The novelty of the married life having ceased, you will see things in their real light, and find out you have made a sad mistake.
Love is a sentiment so sacred that but few know what it is. It is a term used, but not understood. The warm glow of impulse, the fascination of one young person for another is not love; it does not deserve the name. True love has an intellectual basis, a deep thorough knowledge of the object loved.
Remember that impulsive love is perfectly blind. It will as soon be placed on unworthy objects as worthy. Command such love to stand still and cool. Give place to genuine thought and deep, earnest reflection. Is this object of your affection, in the scale of intelligence and moral excellence, in deportment and cultivated manners such that you will feel a pride in presenting her to your father's family, to acknowledge her in all society as the object of your choice?
Give yourself sufficient time for observation on every point, and then do not trust to your own judgement, and let the mother who loves you, and your father, and confidential friends, make critical observations of the one you feel inclined to favour. Trust
not to your own judgement, and marry no one whom you feel will not be an honour to your father and mother, one who has intelligence and moral worth.
The girl who gives over her affections to a man, and invites his attention by her advances, hanging around where she will be noticed of him, unless he shall appear rude, is not the girl you want to associate with. Her conversation is cheap and frequently without depth.
It will be far better not to marry at all, than to be unfortunately married. But seek counsel of God in all these things, be so calm, so submissive to the will of God that you will not be in a fever of excitement and unqualified for His service by your attachments.
We have but little time to lay up a treasure of good works in heaven; do not make any mistake here. Serve God with your undivided affection. Be zealous, be whole-hearted. Let your example be of such a character that you will help others to take their stand for Jesus. Young men do not know what a power of influence they may have. Work for time and work for eternity.
Your adopted mother,
Ellen G. White.
Letter 59, 1880