Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4

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Lt 23, 1886

Albert [Vuilleumier?]

Great Grimsby, England

September 23, 1886

Portions of this letter are published in AH 46; LYL 21-22.

Dear Brother Albert:

Willie has spoken to me of some things concerning your relation with Sr. Bowers. While at Basel I had some conversation with Hattie in regard to your attentions to her. I asked her if her mind was fully made up that she loved Albert well enough to link her interests with his for life. She answered that she was not fully settled upon this point. I told her that she should know just what steps she was taking; that she had the example of Edith before her, and that the influence of Edith’s example was not yet at an end; that she should give no encouragement to the attentions of any young man, showing him preference unless she loved him. 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 1

She plainly stated that she did not know as she did love him, but thought if she were engaged to him she might become acquainted with him. But as it was, they had no opportunity to become acquainted. I told Hattie that to become engaged was as binding in this country, or nearly as binding, as the marriage vow, and she must know assuredly the steps she was taking. She should consider whether the marriage with Albert would be for the bettering of the condition of both. 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 2

I had reason to think that she disliked domestic labor, and I knew that you should have a wife that could make you a happy home. I asked her if she had any experience in those duties that make a home. She answered that she had done housework at home in her father’s family. (Why I asked these questions was that as her character had been presented to me she needed special education in practical duties of life, but had no taste or inclination for these things, and was greatly deficient in habits of order, if she herself was required to keep things in order. Everything like taxation in the practical duties of life she had shunned. Labor and perseverance in practical duties she had avoided.) 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 3

When I stated the true importance attached to an engagement, I also said to her, “When you decide to take this step, your proper course will be to disconnect with the office. It will never do for you to manifest your preferences or anything like special attentions in this office. No courtship must be carried on here, because the example we have had, and its deleterious influence in the course pursued by Edith, has left its mark upon more than one or two connected with the office. Lovesick sentimentalism is not religion. While no one is at liberty to say you shall not marry, or to control your preferences in this respect as to whom you will choose as a husband, there are things which must be controlled, and among these is the moral tone of the publishing house; and courtship, which would suit the inclinations and promptings of the natural heart, practiced in the office, cannot be tolerated. You must separate from the office until this matter has run its course and come to a termination.” 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 4

She then answered: “If I am not engaged, how can I get acquainted with him? I think I had better give it all up at once.” 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 5

I told her that on this point I was settled. We had seen courtships extending along weeks and months and years, and then after living, as it were, fascinated, bewitched, and exerting an influence over others, leading them to think that the preference and special attachments were a heaven of bliss, they would break them off. Then mysteries and misunderstandings occur. Both are spoiled for this life, although in time they would attach themselves to another. “No, Hattie,” said I, “you can go from the office; you can carry out your purpose if you think this is your duty; but you shall not, by your example, if we can help it, demoralize others.” 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 6

She told me that she was not decided in anything, that Albert was very urgent and loved her, but she could not say that she loved him, although he was very kind and attentive. Said I, “Then come to an understanding. Do not lead him on as Edith led on young men. I fear you are now following out her example.” 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 7

She told me that Bro. and Sr. Whitney were both opposed to her marrying Albert. I told her she should consider the object of a marriage with you, whether by such a step you could both glorify God; whether you would be more spiritual; and whether your lives would be more useful. These marriages that are impulsive and selfishly planned generally do not result well, but often turn out miserable failures. Both parties find themselves deceived, and gladly would they undo that which they did under an infatuation. It is easier, far easier, to make a mistake in this matter than to correct the error after it is made. 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 8

I told her that now was an important time in the experience of you both, that Albert was a man with stern, noble qualities which, with proper development and firm Christian principles maintained, would place him in high positions of responsibility in connection with the work and cause of God. I stated to her that I had hoped that Albert would be a man who could be depended upon, that he had great firmness which was in danger of working into stubbornness, but that these qualities under the control of the Spirit of God would fit him for the work in which he was engaged. Again I repeated to her, “Be careful not to lead on a young man and encourage him to entertain love for you, when you do not know whether you love him or not. And when you decide to marry, go away from the office for a time, for courtship and lovesick sentimentalism cannot be carried on in this building.” 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 9

Now, my brother, I cannot say that it is my business to say that you shall not marry Hattie Bowers; but I will say that I have an interest in you. Here are things which should be considered: Will the one you marry bring happiness to your home? Is Hattie an economist, or will she if married not only use up all her own earnings, but all of yours to gratify a vanity, a love of appearance? Are her principles correct in this direction? Has she anything now to depend upon? Has she means that she has reserved to pay her expenses in coming to Europe? Are these debts canceled? I know that to the mind of a man infatuated with love and thoughts of marriage these questions will be brushed away as though they were of no consequence. But these things should be duly considered now, for they have a bearing upon your future life. 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 10

I do not think Hattie knows what self-denial is. If she had the opportunity she would find ways to spend even more means than she has done. With her, selfish gratifications have never been overcome, and this natural self-indulgence has become a part of her life. She desires an easy, pleasant time. She desires to be cared for, to receive attention and be an object of attraction. She has no idea of wrestling with the stern duties of life. Self-serving, self-pleasing have been brought into the life experience. I must speak plainly. I know, my brother, that should you marry her you would be mated, but not matched. There would be something wanting in the one you make your wife. And as far as Christian devotion and piety is concerned, that can never grow where so great selfishness possesses the soul. 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 11

I will write to you, Albert, just as I would write to my son. There is a great and noble work lying just before us, and the part we shall act in this work depends wholly upon our aims and purposes in life. We may be following impulse. You have the qualities in you to make a useful man, but if you follow inclination this strong current of self-will will sweep you away. Place for yourself a high standard, and earnestly strive to reach it. If you make of yourself all that God would have you, each day the battle with you will go on. It must be a constant striving for something better than you have reached. 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 12

Those who work for their own happiness in this life find at last that their lives are a sad failure. You may reach a higher standard, doing something each day to help you to a larger life of the soul. Every one who has heaven in view will keep his eye fixed upon the mark of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus. He will move steadily forward. He will have his eyes, his ears, his tongue consecrated to God. He will not be turned aside from his purpose by objects ever so attractive. He will have a fixedness of purpose to succeed, and this purpose will govern all his plans and his conduct in life. 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 13

Our probation is short. Let it become the ruling purpose of your heart to grow to a complete man in Christ Jesus. In Christ you can do valiantly; without Christ you can do nothing as you should. You have a determination to carry out that which you purpose. This is not an objectionable feature in your character if all your powers are surrendered to God. We would not have you less firm nor less determined, but we would have all these impulses and strong points of character so wholly sanctified that they will be agents in the hands of the Lord, of great usefulness to your fellow men, a blessing to your parents, a power for good to advance the cause of God. Please bear this in mind, that you are not at liberty to dispose of yourself as your fancy may dictate. Christ has purchased you with a price that is infinite. You are His property, and in all your plans you must take this into account and so relate yourself in association with others that you will have no drawbacks. 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 14

Especially in your marriage relations, be careful to get one who will stand shoulder to shoulder with you in spiritual growth. Your parents must be taken into consideration. The cares of life bow the form, and parents must lean on their children much earlier than is imagined. As years pass, the children gain experience and strength; but with parents, cares tell upon them. The once strong grow weak, and then it is the duty of the children to show their nobleness of character, not merely to make a home for them, but to make them comfortable, to give them expressions of love that are due them. Many parents hunger for love; their hearts are constantly yearning for love. Express your love for them, be not ashamed to love your parents. Parents never outgrow their desires for affection and love from their children. Every little thoughtful affection you can show your mother brings a throb of joy to her heart. The father needs these tokens of respect also and will appreciate them. All these acts are observed by the angels in heaven and are written in the books there. For them is a promise annexed to the fifth commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” [Exodus 20:12.] Yes, every act of fidelity to parents is registered in the books of heaven. 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 15

In your choice of a wife, study her character. Will she be one who will be patient and painstaking? or will she cease to care for your mother and father at the very time when they need a strong son to lean upon? and will she withdraw him from their society to carry out her plans and to suit her own pleasure, and leave the father and mother who, instead of gaining an affectionate daughter, will have lost a son? Albert, I want you to consider all these things. God help you to pray over this matter. Angels are watching this struggle. I leave you with this matter to consider and decide for yourself. 4LtMs, Lt 23, 1886, par. 16