Many philanthropists commend early marriages as a means of preventing evil associations, from twenty to twenty-three in men, and seventeen to twenty in women. If there is possible in such marriages any conscientious or enforced restraint upon each other, they are better than reckless, vicious living, but not desirable otherwise. Immature bodies or brains can not afford the loss of power caused by a precocious, and, at best, imperfect paternity. The bony frame work and the brain do not reach mature growth before twenty-five or twenty-six years. If vigor is wanting, and development is slow, a year or two ad ditional is desirable for the work of consolidation. With women who have married at sixteen, or even eighteen, we find ever after a limitation of cerebral vigor, often not at all in keeping with a fully devel oped physical frame. Child-wives, chosen as toys, are likely to become, in the natural wear and tear of life, broken toys, which are hard to mend and keep mended. No man is kind to the woman he selects-to be the mother of his children, if he places upon her the duties of a wife before twenty-two or twenty-four years, and, if not vigorous, a year or two later is more desirable. Love for her, as well as his own future happiness, should lead him to wait for her; and if she seeks to grow strong, and better prepared for mar riage, for his sake, he will be doubly rewarded for waiting.
Disparity in Age.
No man should marry a woman more than two or three years his senior, and only then for every good reason of fitness, mental and physical; for he cannot know, in early life, how much he may desire children later, and from forty-five to fifty-five he may have his finest children if married to a wife of suitable age. The natural difference in the attainment of the age of puberty, in boys and girls of varying tempera ments in our climate, is only a year or two, — a plain indication that much disparity in years, in marriage, was not the intended order.
If the husband is five or seven years his wife's senior, and the children are born at the fullest matu rity of the parents, the youngest child in the family will have nearly or quite reached majority when the father is seventy, and it is only a fair assumption of a father's obligation that he should be the intelligent guide and counsellor of his children to that age.
After fifty-five or sixty years of age, at the latest, even in the most vigorous man, the creative office should be relinquished, as it cannot longer be perfectly fulfilled. Great disparity of age in marriage is a mis fortune to both parents and children. A lady, the wife of a gentleman of wealth and position, was twenty-two years younger than her husband, being fifty-five when her husband was seventy-seven years of age; the children, a son and daughter, ten and thirteen. The father was in good health, fond of his children and wife, and enjoyed them, if undisturbed, in the quiet of his home; but young society, the active sports of youth, and their care and training, were wearisome to him at that advanced age, so their care fell upon the mother, who was obliged to keep the children from giving him annoyance. Though
both parents were most excellent people, belonging to the higher types of manhood and womanhood, the mother said, frankly, " I have a most worthy, noble husband; no one could be kinder than he has been; yet I would not advise any one to marry where there is great disparity in age, as there is something so unnatural about it." If God's order in nature is closely followed, it will be found by far the wisest way. Where there is great difference in age, sexual revulsion and antagonism is the sure consequence to the younger, whether man or woman, and this is but an instinctive protest against an unnatural and unfit alliance. An old man who marries a young wife cannot make her happy with all the gold he can place at her feet, and she must be, at best, the mother of children of enfeebled vitality, or avoid maternity altogether; either, in itself, being a great wrong.
There is no plan in nature wiser than that which has fixed the wonderful results of creative power, both in its true and perverted exercise. The potent and universal dominion of sexual love is seen and acknowledged everywhere, both in its exalting and baleful influences. Unwise and sensual marriages, unhappy homes, broken hearts, and moral wrecks, are known to every one. The horrible lessons from crimi nal records show, from generation to generation, not only the entailment of pauperism and vagrancy, but of villainy and vice in every form, which have been inherited and cultivated characteristics of the parents, and with these, necessarily, all the wretchedness and degradation which are the natural consequences of crime. In all this train of misery we find the work ing of sexual love without law, save that of self gratification. In their twofold organization, abundant provision has been made, not only against the deterio ration and degradation of mankind, but for almost unlimited elevation to the fairest types of manhood and womanhood the world has ever known.
Subjection of sexual love to the law of God in na ture, as truly interpreted in the Decalogue and in our Saviour's teachings, is alone the secret of its power for good in each individual life, in every family, and in all the life of nations.
If the truths I have tried to state so simply shall aid some, even in the humblest walks of life, to the better fulfilment of the sacred duties of father and mother, both in the bestowal of existence, and in edu cating their children so to guard the creative trust that not one dishonorable or vile descendant shall be found in all their posterity, I shall be deeply grateful.