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.
The composite character of the nature of our species does not allow us to answer this in one sentence. We are formed of organic, terrestrial bodies, and of subtle spirits. To the former portion of our nature, marriage is the condition best adapted to the perpetuation of the species: it is a union of two persons of opposite sexes which calls into play the peculiar functions of each, thus furnishing the necessary factors for the production of a third individual of the same species. The physiologist sees this and nothing more. He may even dare to say that there is nothing more.
In this he egregiously errs. Were this all, it would have little booted the legislators of all time, and the divine voice itself, to have enacted stringent and numerous regulations having reference to the married state. Such a union extends its influence throughout the whole fabric of social and political life, and strikes its roots deep into the moral nature of the race. If we are asked for a specific definition, we have found none better than that given some years since by the Count of Portalis in the French legislative body. It runs as follows : " Marriage is the union of a man with a woman, who associate themselves in order to perpetuate the species, to aid each other by mutual assistance, to support together the chances of life, and to endure the same fate." In this clear and practical statement we perceive precisely what every one who proposes to form this relation should feel himself or her. self thoroughly prepared to assume.
It is only in the most abject members of the human race that we find the marriage tie almost obliterated, and in none, we believe, is it wholly null. There are, indeed, tribes in East India where the practice of polyandry, or of one woman having several husbands, is usual, but even among these, promiscuous intercourse is prohibited. The rudest savages respect and enforce fidelity, they believe that adultery is a crime, and hold the family circle to be sacred.
In proportion as morality and civilization advance, bo to the sanctity of marriage, and the appreciation of the beauty of marital chastity. The Roman Catholic and Greek churches consider the rite one of the holy sacraments of the church, and the apostles and the early fathers of the church unanimously refer to the married condition as honorable, pure, and praiseworthy; while no denunciations were too scathing for those lewd men and women who seek to degrade it by violating its ordinances. Just in proportion as such elevated sentiments as these are abroad in a community, just in proportion as love is pure, marriage honored, and the bed undefiled, will all the other Christian and patriotic virtues be admired and practised. And no more ominous sign of decay and deep corruption in a nation can be seen, than when there is a wide-spread aversion to marriage, an oft-repeated sneer at the happiness it brings, a current doubt as to the fidelity of those who are united in its bonds.
We believe and hope that perhaps excepting one or two of our largest and most profligate cities such a state of thought does not exist in our land. Most young persons of both sexes look forward to marriage as a desirable condition, and when they have entered it, they accept cheerfully its burdens, observe honorably its injunctions, and are far happier than if they had remained single. Few matters give more anxiety than the fear that for some reason this favored condition may never be reached, that some disability exists which disqualifies one from its acceptance. This is not unfrequently a fruitful source of disquietude to young men, and therefore we deem it well to discuss here the