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Letters from an Ancient Mind

My dear young friend,

It is most kind of you to ask the advice of an old man. I presume from the invitation that you are an orphan, for which you have my condolences. But as you ask, I will give you this old Christian’s advice on the selection of a wife.

All depends upon one rule, and one principle. The rule is simply this: for the Christian, there is no divorce. One cannot change wives as one changes one’s garments. The principle is likewise simple: your marriage is a portrayal of how Christ loves the church. If you will remember these in all your thinking, you will not go far astray.

As a primary example, ask yourself this: “Am I willing to deal with her faults, as Christ dealt with the faults of the church?” It is a grave mistake to believe that you can produce a change of character by the methods of this world. If you beat her, does not this harden her faults into pride? Can you by force make her gentle? Will threats bring about willing hands? It is absurd even to think it.

No, you must be willing to deal with her faults by the methods of Jesus. Are you prepared to sacrifice for her sake, knowing that she is the offender? Jesus did so for us. Will you grant her forgiveness, no matter how often she offends you? Jesus will. Will you treat her from a heart of pure love, as Jesus does?

You may think, “These are questions she might ask of me – but what have they to do with selecting her?” The matter is simple: if you cannot endure her faults and correct them as Jesus does, then should you bind yourself to those faults? Consider your own strength of character. You must always seek her restoration and purity, striving ever for harmony in your home. If the task is beyond your strength, why would you attempt it?

I must give you some words of warning, as an old Christian to a new one. You may think this foolishness, but bear with an old soul. You must learn what factors should not be considered in choosing a wife.

First, there is the matter of her appearance. Nothing so bedazzles the male mind as a beautiful wench. But consider: there is no divorce. Beauty soon fades. If the matter is important to you, how will you treat her when it does? Will you rail against her for her faded beauty? She has no recourse in the matter, for God causes all mankind to age. If you are not willing to love her in old age, do not marry her.

It may be that you have learned that lesson. If so, then I must caution you about another great abyss: money. Often a young man finds a rich wife – and a new master. Money is an excellent servant, but a poor master. He who marries money marries that master. Would you have your life ruled by your wife’s ambition and pride?

What then should a man look for? Many things; but here are four that seem most important to me.

First, there is gentleness. Has the woman a younger brother? Does she cuff him about as if he were a dog? Then she will soon cuff you. Look rather for a woman of gentle spirit, with kindness in her heart.

Then there is the matter of chastity. By this I mean two things. First, that she have no bed partner but you, and that after the wedding. For if she will have relations with you outside of marriage, you will know that she does not honor marriage – and you will ever suspect her virtue. More than this, she should be one who is modest, especially in dress. This betokens a woman who knows herself to be worthy in God’s sight, and therefore in yours.

Third, ask this: is she willing to aid one and all? Is her life one of Christian charity? If so, you will be housed in a generous heart. There is no finer accommodation.

Last – in sequence, not in importance – is she pious? Does she honor God in her conduct? Then she will have no trouble in honoring the one whom God has set over her, especially as you will take pains to rule over her as God commands.

Do remember that this woman shall be flesh of your flesh, your own flesh in another body. There is no closer bond. Are you willing to sit by her sick bed and watch her die slowly? Knowing that she is your very own body, that your own flesh is going down to the grave? Or, should God be so gracious as to grant you many years, will you watch her gray with age and love her? Love her in her old age even more than in her youth?

These are tests by which you might measure your intended bride. They are also measures of yourself. Take an old man’s warning. If you are not prepared for these things, then remain as you are. If you are to be roped together for the rest of your lives, it is best to know what is on the other end of the rope.


Trusting this to be of assistance,

I remain,

Isaac the Alchemist

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