Page images

of the single life to the general, is of such vast consequence to the entire plan and structure of the moral world, that it must be secured by an invincible guaranty in the constitution of the world itself. It is curious and instructive to see accordingly, how the law of society, lying as it does at the foundation of all ethics, is here made to take root, as it were, “ in the lowest parts of the earth;" illustrating on a grand scale, the proposition affirmed in the beginning of this article, that all morality has its basis in nature, and is to be regarded as genuine only as it shows itself to be in very truth the efflorescence of this lower life, bursting upwards into the ethereal region of the spirit.

The bond by which the sexes are thus-drawn together is lodg. ed, in the first instance, deep in the physical constitution of those who are under its power. In this form it is the sexual appetite or instinct, a purely natural tendency, which has for its object the preservation of the race, as the instinct of hunger is designed to secure the preservation of the single individual. It is the power of the general nature over its own constituent factors or parts, by which these are urged to seek, each in the other the full sense of their proper being, and thus to constitute, in the way of reciprocal appropriation, a living union that may fairly represent both.

But pature here as elsewhere is required to lose itself always in the power of a higher life, in which its action shall no longer be blind and unfree, but the product of the spirit itself in its own true form. As the sexual relation extends to the whole person, the union for which it calls can never be complete excepi as it is made to embrace this in its full totality, under a strictly central and universal form. It must be a union of mind and will, a process of mutual apprehension and reciprocal personal appropriation, in the farthest depths of the soul. In no other form can it be truly normal, and answerable to the high purposes it is designed to serve. The sexual tendency ethicised in this way, and sublimated into the sphere of personaliiy, becomes love. This is always in its very nature something moral and spiritual, springing from the will, and having regard to the inmost person. Still in the case before us, it is in the fullest sense also sexual. It rests throughout on the distinction of sex, and regards the spirit only as beheld and apprehended under such modification. Hence the legitimate power of beauty, as constituting on the side of either sex to the eye of the other, the outward image and expression of the inward life in its sexual form. All true beauty, of course, in this view, falls back upon the spirit, while at the same time its proper revelation is to be sought in the outVOL. II.-NO. VI.


ward person. A sexual interest that includes no regard to beauly, must necessarily be immoral, as falling short of the high spiritual region in which only love finds its suitable home. The merely aniinal nature, in such case, is suffered to prevail over the human. It belongs to love, not to overthrow absolutely indeed the power of mere sense, but still so to cover it at every point with ils own superior presence, that it shall not be permitied to come into separate view.

Love, as now described, includes in itself always a regard to the sexual character as such ; and so far there is truth and force in the observation of Sterne, that no man ever loves any one woman as he should, who has not at the same time a love for her whole sex. This however is only one side of the subject. Love, to be complete, must be also strictly and distinctly individual, determined towards its object as a single person to the exclusion of all others.

The single plant is only a specimen of its kind, the particular animal a copy of the tribe to which it belongs. But it is not thus in the human sphere. The individual man is vastly more than a passing exemplification simply of the generic life that flows through his person. He comprehends in himself an independent specific nature, that can be properly represented by no other. His individuality is always at the same time personal, and as such something universal and constant; as on ihe other hand his personality is always individual, taking its special complexion from the living material nature out of which it springs. Every such individual personality is a world within itself, existing under given relations to other worlds of corresponding nature around it. No two of these are exactly alike, and all by these differences fall short of the measure that belongs to humanity as a whole. This is constituted only by the society and union of the individual personalities into which is falls, joined together morally, not with indiscriminate conjunction, but according 10 specific reciprocal correspondence, in the way of inward want and supply. The general law of moral association then being such, it must extend of course in full power to the primary and fundamental union which we have now under consideration. It lies in the very conception of love, as already explained, that it should concentrate itself upon the spirit, as revealed under a sexual form ; but to do this fully, it must be carried by inward elective affinity towards its object as a particular person. It is not simply the general attraction of sex, that can satisfy its demands; it requires besides that this attiaction shall lodge itself in the presence of a specific personal life, which is felt to be as

such the necessary complement of its own nature. Under no other form can the union here in question, be regarded as moral. It is not every woman that is adapted, physically or spiritually, to be a help-meet for every man; but as ihe sexes are formed for each other in a general way, so each individual of either sex may be said to be formed for some corresponding individual of the other, and it is of the highest consequence of course, for themselves and for the race also, that they should be able to find and know each other in the confused wilderness of the world's life.

We may go so far as to say, perhaps, that in a perfectly normal state of the world, this pairing and matching of individual natures would be so complete as to exclude, in every case, all possibility of different choice. Each would be for each, by absolute singularity of mutual suitableness and want, in such a way as to shut out the whole world besides. Of course our actual life, disordered as it is by sin, cannot be expected or required to conform strictly to this rule of ideal perfection. But still it should include at least an approximation towards it; and it must be regarded as defective, in proportion precisely as it is found to fall short of such high measure. In a state of barbarisın, but small account comparatively is made of individual personality, in the commerce of the sexes; which however is simply itself an expression of the barbarous life to which it belongs, showing it to border close on the merely animal existence below it, in which as there is no personality so there is no room also for the idea of love in any form. The savage takes his wife, very much as a specimen simply of her sex, just as he selects his dog, in the same view, to accompany him in the chase. It is remarkable too, that in such low stage of moral development, the individual nature itself stands out to view for the most part, only under dim and indistinct lines. It is the sense of personality in the end, that advances the single life to its legitimate rights and claims, investing it with clearly marked distinction under its own form, and challenging towards it in this way the attention and respect it is entitled to receive. We are furnished here accordingly with an unerring standard of civilization and social culture, which in the case before us especially is always of plain and easy application.

The sexual union, representing thus the general relation of the sexes to each other on the one hand, and involving the elective personal affinity of individual natures on the other, mediated throughout by the sacred power of love, comes to its proper expression in the idea of marriage; whose nature at the same time is defined and explained, by the whole analysis through which we have now passed. This is simply the true and normal power of that commerce and communion, in which the distinction of sex comes at last to its full sense, as the necessary completion of humanity, and the primitive basis of all history and society. The attributes that belong of right to this union, are the true and proper attributes also of marriage; which is not therefore something joined to our nature, as it were, from abroad, and in the way of outward order or device, whether human or divine; but should be considered rather as part of our nature itself, a simple fact in its organic constitution, without whose presence it must cease to exist altogether.

Marriage, of course then, is the process of reciprocal appropriation, by which the sexes according to their original destination, become one, and so complete themselves each, in the power of a single personal life. In the nature of the case, this double appropriation is required to extend to the entire being of the parties concerned in the transaction : for the sexual difference is such, as we have already seen, that each side of the relation requires the opposite, not in part only but in full, to make itself complete. This implies, at the same time, a corresponding act of self-abandonment, on each side, in favor of the other, as the necessary condition of full mutual appropriation in return. Each yields itself up to be the property of the other, in the very act of embracing this again as its own property. So as regards the merely outward and natural life. The parties are made “one flesh.” This of right, however, only in virtue of the inward spiritual embrace, by which the personality of each is brought to rest in that of the other, by the deep mysterious power which belongs to love. The case, in its own nature admiis of no compromise or reserve. Marriage calls solemnly for the gift of the whole being, on the altar of love, and can never be satisfied with any sacrifice that is less full and entire. In proportion as the relation comes short of such inward, central, community of soul and life, it must be regarded as an imperfect approximation only to its own true idea.

There is a difference indeed in the form of this mutual selfsurrendry on the part of the two sexes, corresponding with the order of their general relation as already noticed. As the united person constituted by marriage is required to centre ultimately in man, it follows that the union calls for the largest measure of such free sacrifice on the side of woman. For this also she is happily disposed by her whole constitution. Love is emphatically the element of her life. She needs the opportunity of going fully out of herself in this way, in order that she may do

[ocr errors]

full justice to her own nature. There is nothing in life accordingly more deep, and beautiful, and full of moral power, than the devotion of woman's love. It goes beyond all that is possible, under the same form, on the side of the other sex.

The perfection of marriage so far as she is concerned, turns on the measure in which she is prepared to make herself over, in body, mind, and outward estate, without limit or reserve, to him whom she has chosen to be her head. The husband is not required to quit himself, exactly to the same extent and in the same way. He may not resign the sense of his more central and universal character, by which precisely he is qualified to become the personal bearer of the united life involved in the marriage bond. All this however gives him no right to exercise his independence in a selfish way.

It lays him under obligation only, te make himself over, in this character, to the possession of his wife, answering thus with full unbounded fidelity and truth, the full unbounded measure of her confidence and trust. "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies: he that loveth his wife loveth himself.”

The idea of marriage, as now presented, clearly excludes, not only all promiscuous concubinage, but all polygamy also and divorce. In its very nature it is the full and enduring union of one man with one woman, according to the law of sexual difference and correspondence. Many outward reasons may be urged against the irregularities now mentioned; but the grand argument in the case at last is just this, that they contradict the true conception of the sexual union itself. This can never take place normally, except in the way of mutual self-surrendry and whole appropriation of each other, on the part of those who are its subjects, that is in the way of marriage. Polygamy necessarily violates this law, and the same is true also of divorce, which is tolerated by Christianity accordingly only where the marriage bond has been already nullified, in fact, by the crime of adultery.

We cannot bring the whole subject to a conclusion better perhaps, than by making use of it to expose, in a direct way, as has been done in some measure indirectly already, the entire theory of what is sometimes styled the emancipation of woman, as held with various modification, by our modern Fourierites and Socialists of every description, Of all forms of agrarianism, this is to be counted, as it is in some respects the most plausible, 80 also the most mischievous and false. No maxim universally taken, can be more impudently untrue, than that which asserts the general liberty and equality of the human race, in the sense


« PreviousContinue »