( Originally Published 1879 )
ALL the blessedness, all the utility, efficacy, and happiness of the married state, depends upon its truth fulness, or the wisdom of the union. Marriage is not necessarily a blessing. It may be the bitterest curse. It may sting like an adder and bite like a serpent. Its bower is as often made of thorns as of roses. It blasts as many sunny expectations as it realizes. Every improper marriage is a living misery, an undying death. Its bonds are grated bars of frozen iron. It is a spirit prison, cold as the dungeon of ruin. An illy-mated human pair is the most woeful picture of human wretchedness that is presented in the book of life; and yet, such pictures are plenty. Every page we turn gives us a view of some such living bondage. But a _proper marriage, a true interior, soul-linked union is a living picture of blessedness, unrivaled in beauty. A true marriage is the soul's Eden. It is the portal of heaven. It is the visiting-place of angels. It is the charm indescribable of a spirit in captivation with all imaginable beauty and loveliness. It is a constant peace-offering, that procures a continual Sabbath day sweetness, rich as the quietude of reposing angels. It is not given to words to express the refinement of pleasure, the delicacy of joy and the abounding fullness of satisfaction that those feel whom God hath joined in a high marriage of spirit. Such a union is the highest school of virtue, the soul's convent, where the vestal fires of purity are kept continually burning.
Marriage, then, should be made a study. Every youth, both male and female, should so consider it. It is the grand social institution of humanity. Its laws Ind relations are of momentous importance to the race. Shall it be entered blindly, in total ignorance of what it is, what its conditions of happiness are?
"Marriage is a lottery," exclaim so many men and women you meet. And why is it so? Simply because courtship is a grand scheme of deception. Is it not so? Who courts honestly? Some, it is true; but few, indeed. Let us see, it is conducted something like this: A young man and woman meet at a party, ball, school, or church. The young man sees something in the lady that attracts his attention; it may be her pretty face, her golden curls, her flashing eyes, her delicate hand or slender waist, or snowy neck, or graceful carriage, or more likely, the plumage in which the bird shines. He looks again, and then again, and without one particle of sense or reason for it, save that he has caught the fair one's eye, his attraction rises into captivation. He seeks an introduction. A little parley of nonsense ensues, about fashion, parties, beaux and belles, and a few jokes pass about "invitations," "captivations," "runaway matches," etc.; then an appointment for another meeting, a walk, a visit to a saloon, a neighbor, or something of the kind, follows, and they part, both determined, in the utmost desperation, to catch the prize, if possible. They dream, and sing, and make verses about each other, and meditate ways and means to appear captivating at the next meeting, till it arrives, when, to ! they meet, all wreathed in smiles and shining in beautiful things. How can it be otherwise than that their captivation shall become absolute adoration now. The afternoon and evening are spent together, each in perfect delight. They talk about flowers, and stars, and poetry, and give hints, and signs, and tokens, till each understands the other's captivations.
` They are engaged and get married.
Married life now comes and ushers in its morning glory, and they are happy as a happy pair can well be for a while. But "life is real," and character is real, and love is real. When life's reality comes they find things in each other's characters that perfectly startle them. Every day reveals something new and something unpleasant. The courtship character slowly fades away, and with it the courtship love. Now comes disappointment, sorrow, regret. They find that their characters are entirely dissimilar. Married life is a burden, full of cares, vexations, and disappointments. But they must make the best of it, and BEAR it through. Yes, marriage is a lottery. They know it. Some may get prizes, and some may not. No one knows before he draws, whether he will draw a blank or a prize. This is their conclusion. They did not court in the right way. They courted by impulse, and not by judgment; it was a process of wooing, and not of discovery; it was an effort to please, and not a search for companionship; it was done with excitement, and not with calmness and deliberation; it was done in haste, and not with cautious prudence; it was a vision of the heart, and not a solemn reality; it was conducted by feeling, and not by reason; it was so managed as to be a perpetual blandishment of pleasure, the most intoxicating and delightful, and not a trying ordeal for the enduring realities of solid and stubborn life; it was a perpetual yielding up of every thing, and not a firm maintaining of every thing that belongs to the man or woman. In almost every particular it was false, and hence must be followed by evil consequences. All similar courting is bad.
Courtship, as it is generally conducted, is a game at "blind-man's-buff," only that both parties are blinded. They voluntarily blind themselves, and then blind each other; and thus they "go it blind," till their eyes are opened in marriage. It is necessary for the youth of both sexes to be perfectly honest in their intercourse with each other, so as to exhibit always their true character and nature. Dishonesty is, perhaps, a greater barrier even than ignorance to a proper understanding of the real character of those with whom we contem plate matrimonial alliances. Young men and women are not true to themselves. They put on false characters. They assume airs not their own. They shine in borrowed plumes. They practice every species of deception for the concealment of their real characters. They study to appear better than they are. They seek, by the adornments of dress and gems, by the blandishments of art and manner, by the allurements of smiles and honeyed words, by the fascination of pleasure and scenes of excitement, to add unreal, unpossessed charms to their persons and characters. They appear in each others society to be the embodiment of goodness and sweetness, the personification of lofty principle and holy love,when, in fact, they are full of human weaknesses and frailties.
We have remarked that the ostensible object of court-ship is the choice of a companion. It is not to woo; it is not to charm or gratify, or please, simply for the present pleasure; it is not for the present sweets of such an intimate and confiding intercourse. It is simply and plainly for the selection of a life companion; one who must bear, suffer, and enjoy life with is in all its frowns and smiles, joys and sorrows; one who can walk pleasantly, willingly, and confidingly, by our side, through all the intricate and changing vicissitudes incident to mortal life. Now, how shall courtship be conducted so as to make marriage a certainly and not a lottery ? This is the question.
Now let us ask what is to be sought? You answer, a companion. What is a companion ? A congenial spirit, one possessed of an interior constitution of soul similar to our own, of similar age, opinions, tastes, habits, modes of thought, and feeling. A congenial spirit is one who, under any given combination of circumstances, would be affected, and feel and act as we ourselves would. It is one who would enjoy what we would enjoy, dislike what we would dislike, approve what we would approve, and condemn what we would condemn, not for the purpose of agreeing with us, but of his or her own free will. This is a companion; one who is kindred in soul with us who is already united to us by the ties of spiritual harmony; which union it is the object of courtship to discover. Courtship, then, is a voyage of discovery; or a court of inquiry, established by mutual consent of the parties, to see wherein and to what extent there is a harmony existing. If in all these they honestly and inmostly agree, and find a deep and thrilling pleasure in their agreement, find their union of sentiment to give a charm to their social intercourse, if now they feel that their hearts are bound as well as their sentiments in a holy unity, and that for each other they would live, and labor, and make every personal sacrifice with gladness, and that without each other they know not how to live, it is their privilege, yes, their duty, to form a matrimonial alliance. And it will not be a lottery. They know what they are to give and what they are to get. They will be married in the full blaze of light and love, and be married for a happy, virtuous, and useful union, to bless themselves and the world with a living type of heaven.