« VorigeDoorgaan »
Would it be a great thing, if any one were to rise half an hour earlier than usual, to engage in this sublime study? What a beautiful augury for life would it be, for those who are in its morning, thus to consecrate the morning of each day! What a fit exercise for true manly dignity, for woman's gentleness and piety, for the parent's charge, for the citizen's trust, for the duties and destinies of immortal creatures! Could we now, with the breath of a word, make the reader feel that he is immortal, the work of persuasion were done. But we must be humble in our hope to persuade. Would any one but surround himself with the simple and natural aids of which we have spoken; would he but pause a little at any season of the day most convenient to him; would he but read a little, in a manner howsoever informal and free; would he but think a little;
sure we are that sometimes he would pray; the presence of God would come around him, visions of diviner things would open to him; and he would become a new and nobler creature!
But howsoever this great conviction and this great blessing come, we would say, let every man see to it, as he values his soul's well-being, that they come in some way. If we cannot persuade him to engage in that special study and meditation which we recommend, yet let him lay upon himself the charge, as he has a spiritual and immortal nature, to penetrate through this universe of symbols which surrounds him, to the great Reality which they shadow forth. If he demands a freer mode of communion with it, only let him be sure that he resorts to that. Freedom he must have. Our special design in speaking of a time and a place and a mode has been, so to speak of them as to remove all irksome restraint, to throw off the shackles of superstitious bondage, to open the way to a willing and happy meditation. We are certain that this will never be attained without some special attention, and we fear that it never will be, without the consecration to it of some particular time and season.
What a grandeur and charm would this practice impart to life, and to the daily action of life! What a stability to principle ! What a sweetness to the affections! What a gayety and gladness in the daily walk! What a conquest over nature and over the world! Are not these things, and
such as these, to be desired, -joy unspeakable, full of glory, full of satisfaction; sacred freedom from wearing anxieties about property and fame and a place and position in society; holy calmness amidst the tumults of life, noble generosity amidst its rivalships, sustaining consolation in its sorrows. There in its single self, there in its loneliness, would the soul so favored feel that it was endowed with infinite treasures. It would be overwhelmed with thoughts of the infinite beneficence of God, amidst the uttermost poverty of the world.
Our minds want some stimulus, notwithstanding all that is said of the eagerness of human pursuits. They want some noble impulse. We have often remarked how happy a man seems to be made by an enthusiasm for music, or for art, or for some branch of science, even though it be the science of insects or flowers or of stones by the wayside. What then would it be, to strive with holy enthusiasm to realize in one's self the ideals of all pure art and wisdom, and to approach and commune with the living Fountain of all holy beauty and goodness!
It is such a mournful thing—that a man should be thirsting, starving, fainting, amidst an ocean of good; that he should live in selfish isolation and pain, while he is embosomed in an infinitude of love; that he should wander darkly amidst boundless light; that he should feel himself to be destitute and forlorn, to whom life, existence, earth, heaven, open their unbounded resources; that there should be but an "aching void" in this crowding plenitude of blessings; and that a poor, mourning complainer should walk abroad upon the earth, feeling himself alone, uncared for and unpitied, wanting companionship, friendship, help, who walks in the presence of the infinite God! We describe now - every reader knows that we describecommon state of mind. And really, not according to some peculiar religious appreciation, but according to a true and sober judgment of things, there is nothing on earth so lamentable, so mournful, as this state of mind. If we would escape from it, some purpose must be formed, and some exertion must be made. The greatest good in existence is not to be attained by idle hands and careless hearts. There must earnest seeking. There must be a distinct object. There must be study, reading, meditation, prayer.
Jo ART. III.-FESTIVALS OF THE ANCIENT CHRISTIANS.*
It would be difficult to find a solitary corner or nook in the broad field of historical theology or religion, which has not been trodden by the Germans. The festivals of the Church have not been neglected. Augusti has devoted three of his twelve volumes on Christian Archæology, published between 1817 and 1831, to the subject. As this work is sometimes referred to as an authority, we will introduce what we have to say on the festivals of the ancient Christians by a few remarks upon its character and merits. It is not a critical work, nor was meant to be. It was not written for the learned, but to afford help to religious teachers, preachers especially, and to furnish the intelligent reader with such information as might subserve the purpose of devout culture. This fact explains its somewhat miscellaneous character, and the introduction in the first three volumes of a number of homilies of various degrees of merit, translated from the Greek and Latin fathers, from Venerable Bede, Bernard and others, rendering the volumes a sort of "magazine" for "festival-preaching." The object being thus entirely practical, the writer did not feel called upon to engage in any critical historical inquiries, or to attempt to settle disputed points of Christian antiquities. All this is honestly stated in the preface, and must be kept in view by the student of ecclesiastical history who may use the work, or he will seek in it what he will not find, especially if his researches relate to an early period of the Christian Church.
The work certainly has defects. The references are copious enough, but the author does not always give evidence of a very nice appreciation of the comparative value of the testimony he adduces, as affected by the time of the writer, or the suspicion of forgery or interpolation which attaches to the writing. Then again, he is not always careful to
* Denkwürdigkeiten aus der Christlichen Archäologie; mit beständiger Rücksicht auf die gegenwärtigen Bedürfnisse der Christlichen Kirche, von D. JOHANN CHRISTIAN WILHELM AUGUSTI. B. 12. Leipz. 1817-1831. -The author has given a double title to the first three volumes, which constitute a complete work in themselves. The appropriate title of the three volumes is "Die Feste der Alten Christen. Für Religions-Lehrer und gebildete Leser aus allen Christlichen Confessionen," etc.
refer events and usages to the times to which they properly belong. In presenting the idea underlying the several festivals he refines and systematizes, we think, more than the simplicity of antiquity warrants. Nor does he sufficiently mark what may be called the different epochs of these festivals, or point out with sufficient clearness the distinction between their earlier and later character. This we regard as a defect certainly, and a similar defect is visible in other parts of the work. It is a defect incident, perhaps, to its plan and object; which led the author to look at the usages, ceremonies, and whatever else belongs to the Church, rather as they appeared when they had attained their highest point of completeness and perfection, than in their crude beginnings. As a consequence he unreasonably, as we think, extends the period included under the term antiquity. In a Text-book for Academical Lectures, published in 1819, on which the Archæology is a sort of commentary, he seems not quite so extravagant, but in the Archæology itself he comes down to the period of the Reformation. It is obvious that when the signification of the term is made thus comprehensive, much will be related as belonging to Christian antiquity which, so far as authority and precedent are concerned, is of little value, and the less informed reader will find himself sometimes perplexed and confused, and will be sometimes led into error.
For ourselves, we should assign a much narrower limit to Christian antiquity, especially if we are to seek precedents in it. We take our stand much nearer to the age of the Apostles. We cannot allow a father of the fifth, and still less of the sixth or seventh century, to testify to early opinions and usages. He can be a witness only in what relates to his own times, and to a precedent taken from those times we do not attribute much importance, though we may find there helps to devout culture, if that be all we seek. A usage of the fourth, or even the third century, we do not call a primitive usage, nor do we take it as decisive evidence of what the primitive usage was. We should call those primitive Christians who belonged to the age of the Apostles and the disciples of the Apostles, and ancient Christians those who lived between that period and the early part of the third century. In a looser sense, indeed, we might use the term to embrace the period which termi
nated with the Council of Nice, A. D. 325, when Christianity became a State religion. We should certainly exclude from our list of earlier fathers those who wrote subsequently to that period. More than a hundred years before this, Christian usages had undergone great changes, and these and the changes which subsequently took place are not, as we have intimated, exhibited by Augusti with sufficient distinctness. But the work, we repeat, was not designed to be a critical one, and, learned as it is, therefore, he who should take it up without a previous acquaint-、 ance with the original writings of Christian antiquity would be liable to receive from it some erroneous impressions. Still the work is one of great merit, and the author is, no doubt, right in saying, that it is the first of the kind which, on a more comprehensive plan and with greater completeness, has been given to the public since the similar work of Bingham.* It has met with a favorable reception, and is said to have had an influence in reviving the study of ecclesiastical antiquity both in and out of Germany.
In speaking, as we promised,† of the Festivals of the Ancient Christians, we have no intention of putting ourselves in an attitude of hostility towards any of our brethren in the faith of Jesus. We have no hostile feeling to gratify, and shall not write as sectarians, but simply narrate facts as they are. We are not opposed to Christian festivals as such. The primitive festivals were few, and putting the observance of them on the ground on which antiquity placed it, we have no objection to them. Nay more, we would willingly retain them.
We do not dislike the custom of, in some way, connecting the more important events of the Gospel histories with the exercises of Christian worship, at such seasons as were of old set apart for their commemoration. To our minds it seems a pleasant and hallowed custom. Without attributing any peculiar sanctity to such seasons, we may still, with advantage, make some use of them. They furnish a
In the "Handbuch der Christlichen Archäologie," published by Augusti, in 1836, will be found some notice of the principal works on Christian Antiquities from the Reformation, when attention was first awakened to the subject, down to 1830.-Einleit. pp. 6—13.
+ Christ. Exam. 4th Ser. Vol. I. p. 370.
VOL. XXXVIII. -4TH S. VOL. III. NO. I.