From True Womanhood, Rev. Bernard O’Reilly, 1893
We must not, especially in an age which tends daily more and more to deny that man owes any account to God for the use of the wealth he chances to possess — whether that be inherited from his ancestors, or obtained by his own thrift and industry — be carried away by the torrent of error.
No matter whence derived, all that man has as well as all that he is belongs to God — his Creator and Lord and Judge; and to Him must he return to give an account of the use which he will have made of his being, his life, his time, his property.
Reason, even without the light of supernatural revelation, teaches this truth as fundamental and unquestionable.
The great and the rich will have to account for their stewardship, —for the uses to which they have put their time, their riches, their power, their influence, their opportunities, just as the laboring poor will have to account for their thrift, and the awful uses to which one may see, day by day, our hard-working heads of families put their earnings in drunkenness, gambling, and all manner of vice.
But, as we have said, it is the province of the housewife to be at home a wise steward in the use of her husband’s means, while his chief business is, outside of the home, to procure these means by honorable industry. Both are responsible to God.
The wife’s immediate responsibility however is toward her husband. She is his minister, his eye, his hand, his head and heart, in applying his wealth or the produce of his industry to the ends for which God wills it to be employed.
Of persons of royal, princely, or noble rank, we do not think it necessary to treat in this place. We speak of wealth wheresoever it exists, and of the duties and responsibilities of the wife in its home-uses.
Hers should be a wise economy. Wisdom consists in a clear perception of the ends or uses for which money is to serve, and in the careful adaptation of one’s means to one’s expenditure.
You have so much and no more to spend each week, or each month, or each year; you have so many wants to provide for: let your wisdom be proved by always restraining your outlay so as to have a little balance left in your favor.
We know of a wife,—a young wife too,—who after her bridals was made the mistress of a luxurious home, in which her fond husband allowed her unlimited control. They were more than wealthy, and his business relations and prospects were such as to promise certain and steady increase for the future.
Still the young wife did not allow herself to be lavish or extravagant. She provided generously for the comforts of her home, for the happiness of her servants, for the duties of a generous hospitality; she had an open hand for all charities and good works.
But she was also, young as she was, mindful of the future; and this wise forethought is eminently the characteristic of women.
Without ever whispering a word of her purpose to her husband, she resolved from the beginning of their housekeeping that she would lay by in a safe bank her weekly economies.
The husband, in all likelihood, would have deemed this saving an ill omen, pointing to future calamity. It was, however, only the prophetic instinct of the wise woman, who, in the heat of summer and the overflowing plenty of autumn, looked forward to “the cold of snow,” and made store for the need and warmth and comfort of her household.
The “calamity” came after a good many years ; it came by a fatal chain of circumstances in which the misfortunes or dishonesty of others brought ruin on the upright and prudent and undeserving.
One day the husband came home with heavy heart, and tried in vain to hide his care from the penetrating eyes of love. He had to break to his wife the dreadful news of their utter ruin.
She listened unmoved to his story: “All is not lost, my dear husband,” she said; “I have been long preparing for this. If you will go to such a bank, you will find enough laid up there to secure us either against want or poverty.”
In order to secure this wise and provident economy, even in the midst of wealth, two extremes must be avoided, parsimony, which destroys domestic comfort and makes the mistress of the proudest house despicable in the eyes of her cook, her butcher, and her grocer,—and waste or extravagance, which is ruinous to the largest fortunes and most criminal in the sight of God.
“Waste not—want not,” used to be inscribed on the huge bread-platters of our fathers, both in the servants’ hall and the family dining-room.
“Waste not—want not,” ought to be the rule of every housewife in all departments of household economy.
Waste is always a sin against God, against your husband and children, as well as against the poor, who have a right to what is thus thrown away: and, forget it not,—waste never fails to lead to want, as surely as stripping a tree of its bark is followed by its pining away and withering.
Another rule, which a wise woman will never violate, is to tell her husband when she exceeds her means or allowance.
It is fatal concealment to allow debts to accumulate without one’s husband’s knowledge; it tempts the woman weak enough to do so to have recourse to most unworthy and most dangerous expedients, which are sure to be known in the end, and to lower the culprit or ruin her forever in her husband’s esteem.
The equivocations and the downright falsehoods which are often used as means of concealment, cannot but be considered by every right-minded man as a greater calamity than the accumulation of the largest debt or the loss of an entire fortune.
In this respect, as indeed in every other, no concealment will be found to be the wife’s only true policy; and to secure this policy of no concealment let her make it the study of her life to have nothing to conceal.
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Ah, prudence, it seems to be the virtue sometimes neglected. And to be like in the fable, the ant who gathers in the summer and is safe thru the winter. 🙂