It remained for Christianity to be the savior of woman. But it took even Christianity, with all its sexually uplifting precepts, and ennobling principles, nearly two thousand years to accomplish the divine task. It found her " a movable ware, a thing of lust, an object of barter and Bale and gift and work;"1 and it has transformed her, by processes which are as inscrutable as that writing of the Savior's finger in the sands of Olivet,* into a being who, while preserving all that glory and beauty of body with which she first came from the hand of the Creator, has added to both those qualities of heart, mind and soul, which not only fit her to be the equal partner, and life companion, but in many instances the guide and monitor, of man. But this transformation has not been effected easily, nor without effort. The moral elevation of the sexual factor, which refined and spiritualized the bond of love between man and woman, making it a religio-moral institution, and marriage a divine sacrament, was opposed at its very inception by that traditionary history of Genesis, which made woman not only the author of the primitive curse—a curse which became the very comer-stone of the whole structure of early ecclesiastical teaching—but imposed upon her a secondary part in creation, and the specific command—" thy will shall be to thy husband."
Indeed it was not until the Council of Trent, in the middle of the sixteenth century, that the church, by definite decree, took steps to raise woman to her rightful position in society as the peer and companion of man. Nor is this to be wondered at. The Gospels, with the possible exception of the text forbidding the putting away of a wife, saving for the crime of " fornication," contain absolutely nothing favoring the social or legal recognition of woman. The Savior's tenderness to the repentant Magdalene, already alluded to, conveyed less a desire on His part to establish a question of right, than to teach a lesson of mercy; while the Epistles of Paul explicitly taught that there was nothing in the New Dispensation to alter in the slightest the status of woman as laid down in the Old.'
1 Psychopathia Sexualis, p. 2 * John's Gospel, vin, fl.
' 1 Timothy, ii, 12, Ephesians, v, 33. Colossians, in, IS. 1 Peter, in, 1.
The Canonical Law of the primitive church expressly declares—"only man was created in the image of God, not woman; therefore woman should serve man, and be his maid;" while the Provincial Council of Macon, in the sixth century, debated seriously the question whether woman has a soul. Furthermore, polygyny, which is one of the most clearly recognized institutions of the Old Testament, is nowhere definitely interdicted in the New, to any, at least, except bishops of the church; while in the writings of the early Fathers many passages may be pointed out, illustrating the prejudice existing in their minds against woman, through the original guilt of Eve.1
As a consequence of these ideas in the peoples who had embraced Christianity, among the Germans, according to Folke, (Die RUterlicke GeseUschaft, p. 49), the weregeld, or purchase price of a wife, was materially decreased; the Merovingian kings of France lived in open polygyny, to which the Church made little opposition, (Weinhold, "Die Deutschen Frauen in Mittelalter," ii, 15); and divorces were far easier of procurement than in the later, and present, administrations of the Church of Rome. As to the relative values of the sexes among the Jews, the reader is referred to the twenty-sixth chanter of Leviticus.