Christianity confirmed and strengthened this religious aspect of matrimony; and from Paul's words—sacramentum hoc magnum est—the present dogma of Catholicism, as well as the more enlightened sentiment of the Anglican and dissenting churches, was gradually evolved, marriage assuming the position it today occupies of a sacramental union, rather than a mere civil contract.
If the Creator thought it wrong for Adam to remain single, what shall be said in defence of religious celibacy, or of our ever growing army of bachelors?1 Men get tired of everything in time; can it be that they are getting tired of matrimony? And, if such be the case, what are the causes which thus conspire to destroy one of the oldest instincts, as well as institutions, of the world, and what part have women themselves in its destruction? This is not a work on social economy. If it were I might be induced to attempt answering these difficult questions, even at the risk of being thought both egotistical and ungallant; but as matters stand, I can only thank heaven that I am relieved from a responsibility which has wrecked many a wiser man, and permitted to follow the subject in my own sweet way; though, like Peter following his Master, it may sometimes be "afar off."*
1 Aa an offset, however, to the mountains of abuse which have been heaped upon bachelors as a class, in recent years, may be cited the opinion of Hieronymus—nuptue reptent terrant, virginitas Paradisum—that if marriage replenishes earth, virginity peoples heaven. Certain it is that few married persons, from the Savior Himself downward, figured largely in the great work of Human Redemption. But let not the bachelor exalt his horn on that account, nor point to Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist and the majority of the Apostles, as illustrious prototypes of his sacred character. These had reference entirely to a spiritual ministry; the peopling of the earth, equally as divine a propaganda, being conditioned primitively on the business of marrying and multiplying. And let not the old maid plead, as a cause of singleness, the case of Daphne, who was turned into a green bay-tree to show that virginity is immortal; nor that of Joan of Arc; nor Queen Elizabeth; nor the Blessed Virgin; nor Susan B. Anthony. A virgin at eighteen is a flower, a lily, the fairest and sweetest thing in God's creation; but the same virgin at forty,lasciva el petulant puello virgo, is a beanstalk, a withered chestnut burr, when the frost has struck it. And all reach forty—in time. In Italy, says Are-tine's Lucrctia, a woman is old at twenty-four; in Turkey, at twenty; and in Africa, Leo Ager tells us, "you will scarce find a maid at fourteen, they are so forward." (Lib. 3, fol, 126). Therefore take warning, girls. As both Herrick and Ausonius say: "Fair maids, go gather roses in your prime, And think that, as a flower, so fadeth time."
Mark xiv, 54.
As sexual union is an instinct with both men and animals, so marriage, in some form, appears to have been one of the most primitive impulses of mankind. Animals are either monogamous or polygynous by instinct; but man, as I have said before, appears to be the only one who drinks when he is not thirsty and is ready to copulate at all seasons.