This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
Thus Christianity, which came not to do away with the Mosaic law, still less to do away with the evils that law was given to correct, reiterates and defines the warnings and the instructions of the Old Testament on the relations of the sexes. It elevated the bond of marriage, increased the stringency of the lien, lessened the causes of divorce, and ordained the principle of monogamy, which previously had been an approved custom but not an obligatory enactment.
The precepts inculcated by the Apostles on these points, and on the sins of uncleanness, were required at a time when the weight of the examples of men high in station and eminent in intellect was thrown in favor of vicious indulgence.
The rigidity of the early Christians on these points, maintained as it was amid the temptations of a lascivious pagan state enormously wealthy and incredibly dissolute, naturally passed into austerity, and from austerity to asceticism.
They reversed the example of the Oriental nations, and instead of regarding the instincts of procreation as natural and proper when controlled and enlightened, they looked upon it as the sure proof and sign of man's moral degradation, the one greatest foe to his spiritual advancement, the peculiar stronghold of Apollyon and his imps, and that which beyond all else it behooved the seeker after righteousness to utterly crush and stamp out of his nature.
These false and exaggerated notions, the product of an ignorance of the physical nature of man, gave rise to sad results. A morbid fear of sexual excitement, a constant turning of the thoughts to dangers from this source, are precisely calculated in some temperaments to weaken and not to strengthen the resolution. There is a fatal attraction to some constitutions in the forbidden. Nititur in vetitum, nature seeks what is not allowed, and the result of overstrained terrors manifests itself occasionally in fearful scenes of violence.
Mr. Lecky, in his "History of European Morals," gives some striking illustrations of the dangers of this code of morals. He remarks:-
"Most terrible at times were the struggles of young and ardent men through whose veins the hot blood of passion flowed, who were borne on the wave of enthusiasm to the life of the anchorite in the desert. In the arms of Syrian or African brides, whose soft eyes answered love with love, they might have sunk to rest; but in the lonely desert no peace could ever visit their souls. Multiplying with frantic energy the macerations of the body, beating their breasts with anguish, the tears forever streaming from their eyes, imagining themselves continually haunted by forms of deadly beauty, their struggles not unfrequently ended in insanity and suicide. When St. Pachomius and St. Palaemon were once conversing together in the desert, a young monk rushed into their presence in a distracted manner, and, convulsed with sobs, poured out his tale. A woman had entered his cell, and had seduced him, and then vanished, leaving him half dead upon the ground; then, with a wild shriek, the monk broke away, rushed across the desert till he arrived at the next village, and then leaping into the open furnace of the public baths, he perished in the flames."
This narrative is but one of numbers which could be brought forward illustrating the dangers of ignorance and prejudice on the important topics we have discussed in the present volume, and the close relations they bear to the moral part of man's nature. Here was a misguided young man crazed and driven to self-murder by the phantom which his own imagination, diseased by long dwelling upon one function of his system, had conjured up.