Page images
PDF
EPUB

redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ ; with the means of grace, and the hope of glory :" next the beings who ought to praise him are specified ; namely, all creatures here below, and the heavenly hosts above: and, finally, rising beyond the mere recognition of God, according to the lights of what is called "natural religion,” as a Creator, Governor, and Benefactor, we are invited to praise Him as he has revealed himself in his inspired word, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; thus acknowledging the doctrine of the divine Trinity in Unity; adverting mentally to the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the communion of the Holy Ghost ; and these as connected with our redemption and sanctification ; with pardon, peace, and everlasting glory. And all this cluster of gems within the compass of a single stanza !

POPERY AND PAGANISM.

To the Editor of the Christian Obserrer. In no work with which I am acquainted (not excepting Mildleton's “ Letters from Rome,") is the conformity between Popery and Paganism so fully and distinctly set forth as in Evans' “ Modern Classical Tour through Italy and Sicily.” The subject is often alluded to by Protestant writers ; and as it is become absolutely necessary in these days to use the same weapons which have been used in a former age, I trust that the following extracts from the volumes of Mr. Evans, which are not generally known, will not be deemed antiquated or uninteresting. The passages which I have at present selected refer to the worship of Saints, and of the Virgin Mary; but I purpose adding a few on some other points. Let your readers bear in mind, that the system, which, in its prominent features is so nearly akin to paganism, has been pronounced by a Tractarian critic to possess “imperishable claims upon our gratitude Rome is our elder sister in the Faith ; nay, she is our mother . . . May we never be provoked to forget her, or cease to love her, even though she frown upon us, and to desire, if it were possible, TO BE AT ONE WITH HER!" —British Critic for July, 1841.

It is much to be wished that all such idolizers of “ The Apostate Church” would well consider the true origin of most of her rites and ceremonies. They would then, perhaps, abate somewhat of their zeal for the mummeries which they are endeavouring to mix up with our Protestant forms of worship.

D. D. W.

OF SAINTS.

If we consider the number of the Romish Saints, their reputed lives, the places and objects over which they preside, their miraculous powers, together with some other circumstances relating to them, we shall find in them a wonderful resemblance to the gods of old Rome. It was a complaint made by the Roman Satirist, that deities had been so much multiplied as to become a burden to Atlas almost greater than he could bear. (Juv. Sat. xiii 46.) Hence that enormous profusion of temples and altars with which the towns of ancient Italy abounded ; while the country was filled with chapels to the rural powers, not less numerous than those now erected to a Saint or a Madonna. These gods were called Viales. Their little altars decked with flowers were thus placed at convenient distances in the public ways, for the benefit of travellers, who used to step aside to pay their devotions at these rural shrines, and beg a prosperous termination of their journey.

“ Invoco vos, Lares viales, ut me bene juvetis." Plaut. Indeed they seem to have been no uncommon places of shelter for the shepherds and their flocks. Thus one of them exclaims,

“ Da veniam culpæ, &c."-Ovid.
(Forgive the crime, if midst the wintry rain,

My flock I've sheltered in thy rustic fane.) And as the heathens used to paint the rude statues of their gods with red, or some such showy colour, so have I often observed the coarse images of Catholic saints so bedaubed with a gaudy red, as to resemble exactly Virgil's description of the god Pan :

“Sanguineis ebuli baccis minioque rubentum."

(His cheeks and temples of vermilion hue.) In passing along the road nothing is more common than to see travellers on their knees before these rustic shrines. None presume to approach them without some mark of reverence ; and even those who are most in haste, or at a distance, seldom fail to take off their hats in token of respect. Besides these images and altars, we frequently see erected by the road side huge wooden crosses decked with flowers, and the trifling offerings of the country people. On viewing these, one can hardly help calling to mind the superstitious veneration paid by the heathens to certain old trunks of trees, or posts, set up in the high-ways ; or that venerable oak in Ovid, covered with garlands and votive offerings :

“Stabat in his ingens annoso robore quercus, &c.”
(Reverend with age a stately oak there stood,
Its branches widely stretch'd, itself a wood,
With ribbons, garlands, pictures covered o'er,

The fruits of pious vows from rich and poor.)

In the places and things over which the gods and the saints have been alike made to preside, a third parallel is discovered. It would be endless to reckon up the mountains which were thought to be the resort of particular deities. Jupiter Latialis had a favourite seat on the Alban Mount; he had another on the promontory of Anxur. Faunus often quitted Lycæus for Lucretilis. Indeed Juvenal speaks of the hilly country as the ordinary retreat of the gods.... This prejudice in favour of the sanctity of high places, continues in undiminished force. There is hardly a rock or precipice, however difficult of access, that has not an oratory, or altar, or crucifix on the top of it.

Again, fountains were no less under the protection of the gods ; an uch as had medicinal qualities, were supposed to derive their salutary powers from the interference of the deity who presided over them. Proofs of their sacred character abound in almost every page of classical authors

This prejudice in favour of the sanctity of fountains also still continues : I have seen a tablet fixed over one, in which an indulgence was proclaimed to such as would there repeat an Ave Maria. At the three foun. tains, a couple of miles distant from Rome, said to have sprung from the ground when St. Paul's head rebounded as many times after his decapitation, there are three churches ; whilst the waters, called by the early Christians Aquæ Salviæ, are thought to have favourable effects on the constitution, no doubt through the intervention of St. Paul.

The various supernatural powers with which the saints of the Italians and gods of the Romans have been respectively endowed, furnish a fourth parallel. Whatever worship was paid by the ancients to their inferior deities, the same do the Catholics now pay to their saints and martyrs ; as their own inscriptions plainly testify. These inscriptions, like that of the Pantheon, generally signify, that the honours which of old had been impiously given in that place to the false god, are now piously and properly transferred to the Christian saint.”... Every where throughout İtaly may you see sacred inscriptions, speaking the pure language of paganism, and ascribing the same powers, characters, and attributes to their saints, as had formerly been ascribed to the heathen gods. Witness the following examples : Catholic Inscriptions.

Pagan Inscriptions. “ Maria et Francisce

“Mercurio et Minerva Tutelares Mei."

Diis Tutelarib." “Divo Eustorgio

“Dii Qui Huic Templo
Qui Huic Templo

Præsident."
Præsidet.
" Numini

“ Numini
Divi Georgii

Mercurii sacr.
Pollentis. Potentis

Herculi. Victori.
Invicti."

Pollenti. Potenti.

Invicto,"

[ocr errors]

ܪ

One purpose for which figures of the heathen gods were employed, was to guard the entrances of houses : accordingly statues of Janus, of Cardea, of Forculus, were fixed near the doors. And still a niche, occupied by a Saint or Madonna, is generally seen on each side the great gate by which the house of an Italian is approached. This is particularly the case in the neighbourhood of Bologna. The prodigious number of small images and household gods which are still in existence, shows the extent to which they were adopted in the domestic system of the Romans : for them a corner was reserved in their principal living rooms ; and there is scarcely a single house or shop in Pompeii in which there is not a niche for their reception. Now to this day the shops and houses of Italy and Sicily are no less scrupulously provided with a figure, or painting, of a Madonna or Saint ; whose good offices it is not unusual further to propitiate, by keeping a lamp burning before them without intermission.

OF THE VIRGIN.
Micat inter omnes,
-Velut inter ignes

Luna minores.-Hor. Few phenomena in the Christian world appear more extraordinary than that the Madonna should have usurped in all Roman Catholic countries, but particularly in Italy and Sicily, so much of that reverence which is only due to the three Persons of the Trinity. To pay such respect to the memory of the mother of our Lord as we owe to a creature selected by the Spirit of God for the mysteries of the incarnation, is highly proper ; and by the better informed Catholics, perhaps such respect is all that is offered. At the same time none can be so blind as not to perceive that the honours assigned to the Madonna by the Italians in general, are of a very different description. Are they in danger? Upon her they call for help. Have they experienced any signal deliverance? To her influence it is ascribed. The most splendid of their processions are dedicated to her glory—the oaths they utter in conversation are commonly in her name—their first exclamation of wonder or of grief is, Santa Maria! Whence does all this proceed? Perhaps it is only to be accounted for by the nature of the religion of ancient Rome. Gentilism comprehended a vast variety of female deities, some of which were not less powerful, not less the objects of propitiation, and not placed in a lower rank in the scale of divinity, than the greatest of the gods of the other sex. On the contrary, the superiority of females was established in Egypt as a civil and religious institution, and the same order is observed in Plutarch's treatise of Isis and Osiris. A precedence thus given to the female deities in Egypt, would probably have its operation in Italy also; a proposition of which no person will entertain much doubt who has observed the proportion which the gods of the Nile bear in every museum of Italian antiquities, to those of Greece and Rome. Indeed, when Isis and Serapis were united in one temple in the capital of Italy, priority of place was assumed by THE QUEEN. It is natural therefore to suppose that mankind, long retaining a propensity to relapse into idolatry, would endeavour to find some substitute for an important class of beings, which had for so many years exercised undisputed sway over the minds and passions of men, who, from climate and temperament, were perhaps peculiarly disposed to render the fair portion of the inhabitants of heaven a chivalrous obedience. Christianity, however, as it was taught by our Saviour and his immediate followers, afforded no stock on which this part of heathen mythology could be grafted.... On the other hand, the Virgin presented such an opportunity as could hardly escape the penetration of any age, much less of one which could call “ Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.” And indeed we find that a sect of persons, named Colyridians, arose amongst the Arabians, before the end of the fourth century, who offered cakes to the Virgin Mary as a goddess, and the Queen of heaven. (Vid. Jortin's Eccles. Rem. Vol. i. 332.) When we consider, therefore, on the one side, the natural disposition of converts from Paganism to mingle and confound the religion they had quitted with that they had espoused ; and, on the other, the willingness which sincere but illjudging Christians, such as Gregory Thaumaturgus displayed, to come to an accommodation with the Pagans, in hopes that time and improved knowledge might lead them to a purer faith, we shall not be surprised to find that many of the rites, and much of the reverence which attached to the several deities of old, should have been concentrated in favour of the Madonna. An error so likely to arise in the common course of things, was perhaps confirmed by the title of 60Toxos and Mater Dei, which was assigned to the Virgin without scruple, till the famous Nestorian controversy brought the subject into debate, and occasioned the council of Ephesus in 428, which, after all, decided that the term might be used with propriety. As

this epithet in Pagan times was applied to Cybele, and as that goddess was held in peculiar honour in the capital of the world, and celebrated there with a magnificence agreeable to the importance of her character

“ Illa Deos peperit-cessere parenti,

Principiumque dati mater honoris habet."-Ov. Fast. iv. 360.
(The gods she bore-to her the immortal race

Resign'd the honours of the foremost place.) so does it seem inevitable that some confusion in the minds of half-enlightened persons would ensue, in consequence of so singular an identity of name.

- The old Romans,” says Spence, “called Cybele, Domina; Mater; Divina Mater; Alma Parens Deum; Sancta Deúm Genetrix; et Mater Deúm. As to the titles given to the Virgin Mary in Italy at present, some that resemble these will occur to every one; and to reckon them all up, might make this note longer than my whole book.” (Polymetis.) The number of beggars in Italy and Sicily, being very great, as well from the general poverty of the countries, as from the mendicant religious orders with which they are filled, a proportional variety has been introduced into the forms of supplication. Thus some beg " for the Church," some “ for the souls in purgatory;" whilst another class, at least as comprehensive as the former, request charity "for the Madonna.” Now it is not a little curious, that it was an ancient practice to beg for the mother of the gods. Aristoxenus is applauded for an answer which he once made to one of these applications : ou tpotw, replied he, την μητερα των θεων, ήν οι θεοι τρεφουσιν. (Clemens Alexandr.) «I feed not the mother of the gods, whom the gods themselves support.” And it is a striking circumstance, that a law is mentioned by Cicero, allowing persons in the service of Cybele the exclusive privilege of collecting alms. (Cic. de Leg. 2.)

There is yet another coincidence equally singlar. Our Lady Day, or the Day of the blessed Virgin of the Roman Catholics, was heretofore dedicated to Cybele. It was called “ Hilaria,” says Macrobius, on account of the joy occasioned by the arrival of the Equinox, when the light was about to exceed the darkness in duration ; and from the same author, as well as from Lampridius, it appears that it was a festival of the Mater Deùm. Moreover, in a Greek Commentary upon Dionysius, cited by Dempster in his Roman Antiquities, it is asserted, that “the Hilaria was a festival in honour of the mother of the gods, which was proper to the Romans.” (Dempster. Antiq.)

In one of the churches of Rome they show a picture of the Virgin, which, as their writers affirm, was brought down from heaven with great pomp, and after having hung awhile with surprising lustre in the air, in the sight of all the clergy and people of Rome, was delivered by angels into the hands of Pope John the First, who had marched out in solemn procession to receive it! And what is this but a revival of the story of Numa, who in this same city issued from his palace with priests and people at his heels, and with public prayer and solemn devotion, received the “ Ancile," or heavenly shield, which, in the presence of all the people of Rome, was sent down to him from the clouds with much the same formality? And as that wise prince, for the security of his heavenly present, ordered several others to be made so exactly like it, that the original could not be distinguished; so the modern priests have thence taken the hint to form, after each celestial pattern, a number of copies so perfectly resembling each other, as to occasion endless disputes among themselves about their several pretensions to the divine original.

KENSAL GREEN CEMETERY.

For the Christian Observer. The crowded state of a large number of the burial grounds in and around many of our populous towns, and especially London and its suburbs, has attracted of late years much of public attention ; and strenuous efforts have been made, in parliament and elsewhere, to remedy the evil ; for a serious evil it is, both physical and moral. We will not recite the revolting facts which have been collected upon the subject, and with which our readers are doubtless painfully familiar. They have probably been exaggerated by those who have a pecuniary interest in transferring burials from the old church-yards to new places of sepulture; but the main facts are undeniable, and a very extensive desire has been expressed for a legislative prohibition of all interments of the dead amidst the haunts of the living. It is not, however, easy to adjust the details of an Act of Parliament which shall fully meet and remove the evil; and yet not go beyond the necessity of the case, or press unjustly upon individuals, or sever ties which even the grave itself seemed in some measure to respect, while households were allowed to lie together near the scenes of their living intercourse. A general unbending law would cause much inconvenience and expence in removing funerals from some localities in which practically no inconvenience has arisen; it would also operate to the serious loss of many clergymen in populous places, a considerable portion of whose income for ministering among the living arises from their fees for burying the dead; nor would it be wise, humane, or Christian, to destroy the fondly cherished associations of individuals, so far as they can be consulted without endangering the health, or revolting the feelings, of society. But subject to all proper exceptions, a general law has long been wanted, to prohibit sepulture in crowded vicinities.

The most successful of the new joint-stock cemeteries has been that of Kensal Green, on the Harrow Road, near London. It was of course a commercial speculation ; and therefore not founded upon those principles which should apply to grave-yards; which ought to be, like those of parishes, the common property of all who expect to lie there, and are locally attached to the spot ; the place of their home, their church, and their affections. If grave-yards upon a larger scale are necessary, we should desire to see something of the same principle acted upon, several parishes or neighbourhoods possessing a place of common sepulture. We say not this in disparagement to the Kensal Green cemetery, the management of which, we believe, has been conducted with proper care and solemnity ; but we dislike the system. A wholesale catacomb for persons from all localities, cannot generate the affecting and salutary associations which cluster around a church-yard, where lie the remains of friends and neighbours, to whom their successors are about to be gathered. We certainly do not wish to see the joint-stock system widely extended : and one feature of it is peculiarly painful; for the severances of life are carried in these burial-grounds into the abode of death; a portion of the site being appropriated for those who did not wish-or their friends do not wish them--to lie in ground set apart by a Bishop. There is apt also to be much of affectation, of tinsel, of unreal sensibility, in a Père la Chaise place of public resort; and from which Kensal Green is not free. It however contains already many inscriptions, remarkable in themselves, or relating to remarkable persons, or remarkable events; and it may be interesting to our readers to glance over some of them, which we select from Mr. Clark's “ Handbook for Visitors.” The collector has interspersed the inscriptions with biographical notices and appropriate serious remarks. The passages present strange combinations, according to the principles and taste of the composers of the epitaphs, and the professions, habits, character, or remarkable circumstances in the life or death of the deceased. We can only give them as we find them. Some present scope for distressing comment; but we are unwilling to remark upon the case of individuals who have newly gone to appear before their Maker and Judge, leaving no scriptural ground for hope that they lived and died faithful disciples

« PreviousContinue »