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built, which was wanting to the Greek and Roman world, was possessed by every Christian household. There the mother became an educator; because the first lessons bestowed by maternal love unfolded to the child the highest relation in which he stood, the relation which ruled all the rest—his relation as a responsible creature to a rewarding Creator. It was a species of priestly office* which the state of marriage thus fulfilled throughout the wide extent of the Christian Church ; it was a rank created for the bodily multiplication of the divine kingdom, as the proper priestly order was for its spiritual government and increase ;and thus it was at once the material germ of the Church, and the miniature copy of its work.
Let not the commonness of this idea at present disguise from us its infinite value. The mother in the place given to her by Christian marriage begins the children's education, plants in their minds the first and most precious principles of duty; when the mind is most plastic and receptive, “wax to receive, and marble to retain,” she forms and moulds their disposition. It seems like a truism. But the Church's institution has made that common which was before unknown, which outside of its influence is unknown still. The Christian mother alone does this, does it in virtue of the sacramental power of her marriage, and of the position which it bestows on her. The mother in polygamy has never done it, can never do it. The mother where divorce dissolves the nuptial bond can never do it. There the band of the house is broken, there is enmity where there should be love, and the children are the first victims of the parents' guilt. The entire purity of the sacrament is required for the education of the child, as distinct from its instruction, to take effect. It is as a sacrament, not as a civil institution, that marriage is the relation which builds up human society.
* Döllinger, Christenthum und Kirche, b. iii. s. 105.
| “Quantum ad communem Ecclesiæ utilitatem ordinantur duo sacramenta, scilicet ordo et matrimonium. Nam per ordinem Ecclesia gubernatur et multiplicatur spiritualiter, et per matrimonium multiplicatur corporaliter,” S. Thomas.
Now, to comprehend what has been done by the teaching and action of the Church with regard to this primary relation between man and woman, let us briefly sum up what we have said.
The position of woman has been restored in four great points: first, as she is in herself a human creature, wherein she has taken a rank by man's side unknown to the Greek, the Persian, the Roman, the coinheretrix of all his hopes, of all the divine promises; secondly, in her great and primary relation to man as the companion of his life, wherein her subordination has been preserved, while the impress of a glorious likeness, full at once of exaltation and tenderness, has been set upon it; thirdly, as the mother of the family, the creatrix of that home which is almost too dear to man, since it sometimes in its sweetness beguiles him of his promised heaven, that home which Athens in the greatness of her science, and Rome in the glory of her empire, did not possess; and fourthly, as the nurse and nurturer of her race, and man's, in that primary and most precious education which moulds the yet ductile disposition, and infuses principles growing with man's growth and serving for the whole framework of his subsequent thought and action. To know what in these four points the teaching of the Church has done, we must call up the state of things which existed before it began; and I am convinced that whoever does so will come to the conclusion that in these four things the Church has reëstablished the very basis of human society ; that in maintaining them she is maintaining it; that no degree of material wealth and power would preserve it from falling into decay without them, as the Rome of Augustus was falling
Again, marriage is the germ of the human society: the family, tribe, nation are but expansions of it in one line; in another, the village, the town, the city, the league, the empire, are but aggregations of it. It is the spring of man's social growth, the point at which individuals combine to make the race. Accordingly a false idea of it corrupts the whole social structure. Never was there a people great or good in which the marriage-bond was defective.
Further, the inspired records of the Church
declare that the union of man with woman was the act of God Himself at the first creation of the race, not a work of society, or a social compact, or in any way the result of man's forethought. And the original institutions of all nations bear witness to this fact; the marriage-tie becomes the purer and stronger the further it can be traced back. It stands on the first page of historical nations complete and distinct. It is defaced and decayed only when they are perishing. This being so, a dissolution of the marriage-bond by human enactment is a rejection of the divine government of the world in that relation which is the basis of all society. It is the alteration and destruction by man of that which he did not create; the proclamation specifically that he is the maker of society, whose law is thus made to derive its sanction from his consent, not from the will of a superior.
On the contrary, the Church took up the original attributes of marriage, and without addition or alteration revealed the sacrament which supported and consecrated them. And by this her work, carried out in history amid unnumbered difficulties, the foundation of social life in man became visibly a copy of the great master-work of God, which exalts man to union with God. In this work of Christian marriage the Creator and Redeemer were revealed together; the same who established it in innocence restored it after the long night of the Fall as part of his organism for the renewal of all things. Therefore when a nation repudiates the indissolubility of marriage, it repudiates the basis of human society as given to man before the Fall, the basis of human society as restored by God when He became Man. So far as it can it removes the foundation-stone of Christian civilisation, and resumes the errors and immorality of the heathen as to the two sexes. There is but one security against this ; and it is found “in the city among the people of our God,” in whose ears the voice of its legislator is ever sounding, repeating from age to age, “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”