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was in all its parts a copy of that great fact. It was not enough that man and woman as creatures were restored and exalted by it in themselves, but the condition of their living together was for ever linked to it, associated with it, consecrated by it. This is the transition-point from man as an individual to man as a race, as a society, and therefore the seal of the Incarnation is set upon it. This meaning the ancient Fathers saw in the presence of our Lord at the marriage-feast of Cana. He came thither, says St. Cyril, to bless the beginning of human life, and being the joy and delight of all men to reverse the former punishment of woman that she should bear children in sorrow. to St. Cyril's remark, that thus it was most fitting that He should perform that first miracle at the intercession of a Virgin Mother, whose own childbearing had introduced the blessing in virtue of which her sex was henceforth to have joy instead of sorrow in the production of the race, and to be saved in that wherein it had suffered.
To set forth a doctrine in theory and to carry it out in practice are things as widely different as precept and example. Had these statements concerning marriage been merely written in the sacred records of the Church, they might have served to gain the admiration of the student, and the praise of the philosopher, but they would not have been
Τετίμηκε τη παρουσία τον γάμον, ή πάντων ευθυμία και χαρά, ίνα της τεκνογονίας την αρχαίαν εξελάση κατήφειαν, In Joan, c. ii. 1, tom. iv. 135.
imprinted on the minds and actions of men, nor have formed the tissue of every-day life. But this was what had to be done. Marriage is an act; and its laws and conditions affect not only the State as a whole, but every family, every individual in it. Any change in these touches the most universal condition of social life. The grafting, therefore, the natural properties of marriage upon a divine sacrament could only be carried out by the Church as a society. It was a direct matter of spiritual rule to lay down that the marriage of Christians was indissoluble. It brought the Church at once into collision with the habits of society in the Roman empire, under which wives might be repudiated, and even husbands. For whilst the Roman civil life was rigidly built upon monogamy, so that the taking two wives at once brought with it the civil punishment of infamy, it was open both to husband and wife to repudiate the marriage-bond; and it was the most ordinary occurrence to do so. And the unity of marriage was broken in another way by the universal license practised at least by the stronger sex with slaves and others; a license which did not offend a heathen. In these two points then the Christian society had to impress on all its members a rule of life at variance with the civil law and the universal custom. It had to subdue therein and tame and bring under obedience the most powerful appetite of man, in races which had long yielded to it unrestrained indulgence.
During three centuries it had to do this, while scattered, concealed, oppressed, under a persecution always possible by the mere application of standing laws, often actual. It had to control its members in matters most sensitively felt, which occurred not exceptionally, not intermittingly, but entered into almost every man's life every day. Public opinion, universal custom, degraded nature, the most powerful of human passions, rose up in force against it. I think it is impossible to imagine any stronger test of a society's power and influence than this. It attempted this task, and it succeeded. When it began this great work, not only was the unity of marriage broken by repudiation of the bond, and perpetual violation of its sanctity, but in the background of all civilised life lurked a host of abominations, all tending to diminish the fertility of the human race, and to destroy life in its beginning or in its progress.
Of course, the power which guarded the unity of marriage protected it likewise from this still-worse desolation. Let us take the sum of that long engagement with civilised heathenism, and, calculating only the result of the battle, judge thereby of the force put forth in it, a moral force alone, exerted against the utmost possible preponderance of material power, wealth, and authority. That destructive superstition, the members of which Tacitus* described, at the end of the first century, as detested for their domestic crimes, and convicted of hating the human race, had succeeded not only in rolling back the tide of pollution, but in establishing the basis of all social life, the unity and indissolubility of marriage. And this work, so far beyond the power of Augustus and the imagination of Tacitus, had been done, as it were, without hands, by taking each soul in the secret of its conscience, holding up before it a divine original, making it love an uncreated beauty, and imitate a transcendant example. The power of a sacrament had silently been insinuated into the decayed, the almost pulverised foundations of social life, and built them up with the solidity of a rock, which would bear the whole superstructure of the City of God. Three centuries after Tacitus had denounced Christians, and despaired of Rome's moral life, St. Augustine tells us: “A marriage once entered upon in the City of our God, where, even from the first union of two human beings, nuptials carry a sacrament, can in no way be dissolved save by the death of one.” And again, “ The good of marriage consists, among all nations and all men, in the generation of children as its cause, and in the fidelity of chastity; but as respects the people of God likewise in the sanctity of the sacrament, by virtue of which it is a crime even for a repudiated woman to marry another whilst her husband lives, though it were done only to have offspring; for this being the only object of marriage, yet even
* Tacitus, Annals, xv, 44.
if it do not ensue, the nuptial bond is not dissolved save by the death of the spouse.
Let us now vary the scene of trial. One of the contending forces has changed, the other remains the same. The Roman empire has been broken up; but the divine society lies unbroken amid its ruins. In Gaul, Spain, Germany, and Italy the invading northern tribes and the old population, formed and trained in the civil rights of Rome, are struggling together, surging up and down in a ceaseless conflict. The long-haired kings appear, not only disregarding the sanctity of marriage, but with strong leanings to polygamy. At least every thing is full of the crimes and violence of a half-civilised life among perpetual warfare. All things are in fluctuation, save the Church's divine hierarchy, her teaching, and her sacraments. Not only has the majesty of the “Roman peace” departed for ever, but a great part of the Roman civilisation. Races mix, languages change, Europe is in the throes of birth, and cries in her travail; literature and the fine arts almost perish amid the struggle for hearth and field. It is a period as long, or longer, than the last; no one can trace its details, but we have its issue. These long-haired kings, once raised on the shields of their soldiers, whose sovereignty is only on the field of battle, have come to wear Christian crowns, and to be anointed within cathedrals; and in spite of their
* St. Aug. de Bono Conjugii, 17 and 32.