In an age of mental and spiritual unrest, when even the most hallowed and ancient of Institutions are submitted to criticism, It is well to read the words of those whose experience and unselfish efforts on behalf of humanity entitle them to respectful hearing. On the subject of the sanctity of marriage few can speak with greater authority than Lady Chichester, whose position as a president of the world-wide Mothers' Union gives peculiar weight to this article which she has contributed to Every Woman's Encyclopaedia amily life is being assailed on many sides. Open as well as insidious attacks are being made upon it, while the height of luxury and the depth of poverty alike tend to its disintegration. Add to this the legislative measures and the benevolent adventures which constantly encroach on it, and the erroneous ideas of education which tend to subvert it, and they and many more reasons will press home to the thoughtful reader the fact that it is high time to bring every resource to bear upon our one duty and privilege as women, to guard the integrity of "the family," and uphold the Divine institution of "holy marriage."
It is the argument of one of our leading men of science (Sir J. Crichton Browne) that "there are certain points in its progress at which the human soul seems to have reached its highest elevation, equivalent to that perfection towards which, in all departments of its activity, it has been striving and straining. It is inconceivable that we shall ever advance upon our present creed as to the obligation of absolute veracity and honesty between man and man, and so I believe it to be inconceivable that we shall ever arrive at anything higher, purer, nobler, more contributing to human welfare than that indissoluble mono-gamic marriage to which we have climbed through many struggling stages, and which should be jealously guarded against disintegration and decay. Out of the curious marriage customs of lower races and of our ancestors has slowly emerged that form of matrimony which we now possess, which has been proved to be far the best guarantee of human integrity, and which has created that high standard of morality which is the crowning glory of the modern civilised woman."
It was by falling from this standard, by marriage becoming unfashionable, and by a declining morality, that the gifted Greek race decayed.
So, too, was it with Rome. As long as her cult of ancestor veneration and of patriotism, not unlike that of Japan at the present day, was maintained, the sanctity of home and the power of the family withstood the enormous drain of men necessitated by the conquests of that vast empire. But when that cohering power failed, and the birth-rate diminished, in a few generations Rome fell.
So much for the scientific point of view of this question. What about the religious side?
As Mr. Lilly has finely said: "There are few things in history more astounding than the fact that a few words spoken in Syria 2,000 years ago by One 'despised and rejected of men 'should have brought about the vast change which has done so much to purify and ennoble modern civilisation." is not simply a relation of contract, established to secure the orderly transmission of special rights in due order, "it is the sacred fulfilment of life," nothing less than the union of man and woman in their developed diversity, which gives us the image of a perfect human being and raises our thoughts to a higher existence than that upon divided personalities.
Let us reflect that sacred marriage has secured to woman the recognition of her spiritual equality with man; has delivered her from servitude and seclusion; has filled the home, that Divine institution in the continuity of the human race, with the glad presence of children, ever to sweeten and renew its life.
Therein is set forth the pattern, or, as it has been called, "the sacrament of authority" - fatherhood; and of reverence - son-ship. There also brotherhood, the Divine pattern of equality.
Thus, built upon the sure foundation of the indissoluble and sacred marriage tie, the life of the family in the home widens out, in its continuity and its breadth, in the life of the nation.
It is for the wives and mothers of England to defend "holy marriage," which has been described as "woman's Magna Charta," the lifelong union of two equal personalities, equal but different, consecrated by religion.