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them the confession of his incontinence, the privilege of a second wife. And now the growing power of self-will has extended every where in Protestant countries what was once reserved as a privilege for birth and rank to a general permission under the name of divorce from the nuptial bond. Even the Greek and Russian communions allow this; and there is no marriage sacred and indissoluble upon earth, save where, to use again St. Augustine's words, “from the first union of two human beings nuptials carry a sacrament, in the city, among the people, of our God.” As the ancient civilisation was powerless to prevent unspeakable immoralities, so the modern-forthwith when it leaves the sanctuary of the Church-becomes unable to sustain the idea and practice of Christian marriage; and only the one, the holy, the perpetual Spouse of Christ can uphold the nuptial bond, of which she bears the mystery, in herself.
Thus the Church of God succeeded in a task too great for any power but hers, that of basing natural society upon the Incarnation. Let us observe two consequences of the utmost importance which resulted from this.
I. First, she thereby created a fresh family life. In that great apostasy from primitive truth and corruption of original institutions to which we give the collective name of heathenism, though man could never so far degenerate as to be born without the natural affections, yet the family, which is, as it were, the form which receives and sustains them and holds them together, had been broken up by the force of idolatry, slavery, and moral corruption. These affections, instead of being tenderly cultivated and nurtured in their native bed, grew wild and were debased. Strongly as the human family had been marked with a divine likeness at the beginning, it had ceased to be the picture of any divine relation, or to be associated with any divine hope. Such was its state when our Lord entered into the world, borne witness to in numberless writings of Greek and Roman philosophers, historians, poets, and orators. Let us see how the remedy was applied.
What was the spring of the whole divine impulse given to man by the Christian religion? It was 'that act of boundless love which moved God Himself to take man's nature, and in that nature by suffering to redeem it. Now He chose for the visible sign, the ever-present picture, of that act the marriage relation.* This is the point wherein human affection is naturally deepest and tenderest, and this therefore He selected to be the image of an incomparably greater, deeper, and tenderer love, His own love for the race of man. Marriage viewed only as a natural institution is the germ of the human society; but in virtue of the sacrament enfolding and supporting it, every Christian household became a picture of the fact by which Christians were redeemed and made a people. The natural and supernatural society were joined together at the root, and so the natural affections, the love of husband and wife, the love of parent and child, the love of brother and sister, grew up
*"Quum enim Christus Dominus vellet arctissimæ illius necessitudinis, quæ ei cum Ecclesia intercedit, suæque erga nos immensæ charitatis cer. tum aliquod signum dare ; tanti mysterii dignitatem hac potissimum maris et fæminæ sancta conjunctione declaravit,” &c. Cat. Conc. Trid. pars 2, c. viii.q. 15.
and flourished upon a supernatural stock. Thus the wild olive-tree of human nature came to bear the richest and most delicate fruit.
For instance. How do Plato, the ideal legislator, and Augustus, the actual ruler, regard marriage? As a duty which every citizen owes to the state for the rearing of citizens. And to this duty the polished Athenian and Roman must be urged by fines; and when the whole possible system of rewards and punishments has been exhausted, it remains a burden so reluctantly taken up and so inadequately fulfilled, that the population, instead of its natural increase, wastes and dwindles away. But the Apostle, * in strongest contrast, sets the self-denying, the purifying, and sanctifying love of Christ before the husband as his model; and before the wife, the love of the Church for her Bridegroom. The Roman husband had for inany ages the power of life and death over his wife: as a contrast, the Christian husband is the head who is to
* Ephes, v. 25-27.
cherish the wife as his own body; and this not simply, lest even that image might be scarcely worthy of the tenderness of the relationship, but after the pattern of the divine original, as Christ is the Head of the Body. Over this primary relation of man, this germ of all human society, the perpetual operation of a sacrament is diffused, and that so great a sacrament, that it represents the very greatest of all God's works.
Was not this a mould fit for the new creation of the family? And from it accordingly sprang husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, such as the world had never seen before. Are these the fruits of temporal peace, of commerce, industry, art, and science? Not so: such things were at their height-a height which, in many points, we have not yet reached—when the family was decayed and almost destroyed. And such things that very people was obliged to sacrifice during ten generations, in the bosom of which this restoration of the family took place.
What was the school in which Christian parents taught their children obedience? Was it that old Roman school of force, in which the father had power of life and death over the child, as the husband over the wife? · This lay at the bottom of Roman life, as the paternal power did of Chinese; but it was able to preserve neither from degradation. Instead of this, another example lay before the Christian child. There was a vision, fairest of all created things in heaven or earth, on which his imagination and memory ever loved to dwell,—the vision of One performing, from childhood up to the full strength and age of manhood, the meanest tasks of the most ordinary life with undeviating obedience, but with how much tenderer affection. There was One on whom he loved to think as sitting at His Mother's feet, or bearing water for her from the well, sharing a foster-father's toil, or ministering to His parents at their meal. The house of Nazareth was the model of all Christian households: those who dwelt in it examples of father and mother, husband and wife, parent and child, which all generations were to retrace. There the sacrament of marriage found its highest specimen, for there its purity was untouched by the faintest breath of earthly soiling; there the love of Mother and Child shone before every mother and child with a glorifying halo; there the loving obedience of the Christian Son received a consecration which should last to the end of time, the fruitful source of imitations innumerable.
Four natural affections surround man's birthplace, cradle, and home,--the conjugal, parental, filial, and fraternal. Not only are these distinct from each other, but they are further modified in themselves by the difference of sex. Loves which are reciprocal are not identical, as that of husband and wife, brother and sister; and the father's love for his children of the two sexes differs, and so the