Imatges de pÓgina

But we see no reason why we should extend the reverence due to those holy persons to those portentous legends called the Acts of the Martyrs, which are generally hideous cari. catures rather than faithful portraits, and more calculated to excite the speers of the infidel by their absurdity and falsehood than to edify the true believer by examples of rational and genuine piety.

The story now before us, may be despatched in a few words. No contemporary writer says a word about Lucia or her martyrdom ; nor, indeed, do we find her mentioned by any author, older than our countrymen Aldhelm, who survived the beginning of the eighth century, and Bede, who died about fifty years later, and who seems to have taken from Aldhelm what he says respecting her. The complete narrative of which the Lesson in the Breviary is a very meagre and tame abridgement*--appears in the Golden Legend, and in the collections of Surius and Mombritius; and every discerning person who takes the trouble to read it through, will allow that it is well worthy of a place in those wholesale repositories of falsehood. The Roman correctors have, as usual, attempted to reduce this monstrous production to something like true human proportions, in which they have succeeded about as well as if they had endeavoured to convert a negro into an European by arraying him in a flaxen wig, and painting his cheeks red and white. By way of giving our readers a specimen of the taste prevalent in those good old times, when the framers of devotional offices, as well as those who used them, indiscriminately swallowed every thing which came in their way, -we transcribe what the old Roman Breviary says about the virgin's miraculous immobility when the Prefect ordered her to be dragged from his presence.

“ The Holy Spirit fixed her with such a weight, that when a multitude of persons endeavoured to thrust her forward, they could not so much as stir her. They then tied ropes to her hands and her feet, and strove to draw her by pulling all together, but she remained as immoveable as a mountain. Then the magicians and soothsayers tried their skill upon her, but all in vain. After this, they brought a great many pairs of oxen, which, with all their drawing, were unable to make her stir. Paschasius, astonished at this, said

Mr. Alban Butler, who is very shy of talking about the authorities for the story, professes to take his life of the saint from the original acts, which he inakes a faint attempt to prop up by asserting that they are " older than Aldhelm.” It is, however, nothing but a still further dilution of the Lesson in the present Breviary--the mere shadow of a shade of a grotesque chimera of the dark ages.

“ How comes it that a tender virgin drawn by a thousand men cannot be moved out of her place ?” Lucia replied, - Though thou shouldst employ ten thousand men, thou shalt hear the Holy Spirit saying on my behalf— A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand!” This notable instance of vis inertie does not indeed

appear quite so astounding in the modern Breviaries, which simply say, that “no violence could remove her from the place," but in reality there is no difference between the old falsehood and the new one, except that the latter is more cautiously worded. The bad faith of the Roman correctors is still more glaringly manifested in the turn which they have given to Lucia's prediction respecting the future tranquillity of the Church. The original statement is, that the virgin, just before her death, said to the by-standers" I announce to you the restoration of peace to the Church, Maximian is dead this very day, and Diocletian is driven from his throne.” This clumsy ex post facto attempt at a revelation, plainly betrays the falsehood of the whole legend, and invincibly proves it to be the fabrication of an ignorant fabulist of a barbarous and unlettered period; it being well known to every smatterer in history that Diocletian was not driven from his throne, but made a voluntary abdication, and that the death of Maximian was so far from being a contemporaneous event, that it took place full six years later. This unlucky slip has long been a stumbling-block in the way of the better-informed sort of Romanists; but it has been happily removed by a bold conjectural emendation of the correctors of Pius V., who have set their wits to work, and given us an entirely new version of the story, namely, that Lucia predicted the tranquillity which the Church would enjoy after the death of Diocletian and Maximian. Our readers will, we trust, join us in admiring the generosity of those worthy prelates, in thus lending their aid to screen a convicted liar from a too open exposure, as well as their honesty in varnishing and trimming up his bungling falsehoods in order to make them pass current with the unwary for certain and edifying truths! *

• We think it not amiss to point out another piece of juggling of a somewhat different nature, as a specimen of the care which modern biographers of the saints take to reduce all ancient practices to the present standard of orthodoxy. In the old Roman martyrology we learn that Lucia received the body and blood of our Lord before her death. Ribadeneyra and others, well aware that the formal administration of both elements to a person in such circumstances would be a strong practical argument against communion in one kind, prudently drop all mention of the blood, and think it quite suficient to inform their readers that she devoutly received the body of our Lord.

Mr. Alban Butler observes, that St. Lucia's festival was kept in England till the change of religion, as a holiday of the second rank, in which no work but tillage or the like was allowed. This might be the case immediately before the Reformation, but we doubt whether any such restriction existed before the fifteenth century. In a constitution of Simon Islip, who was made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1349, and died in 1366, a list is given of the festivals on which no servile work is allowed to be performed-twentyfive of which are the same great festivals and days of the Evangelists and Apostles now observed in our Churchand, in addition to them, the martyrdom and translation of Thomas á Becket, the Invention and Exaltation of the Cross, Corpus Christi, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Lawrence, the Assumption, Nativity and Conception of the Virgin, St. Nicholas, the Anniversary of the Consecration of the Church, and the feast of the particular saint to whom any church was dedicated. “On other saints' festivals,” adds the archbishop, “all customary work may be freely performed.” Two subsequent ordinances by Archbishop Chichley, dated towards the commencement of the fifteenth century, direct St. George's day, and a few others not mentioned by his predecessor Islip, to be kept holy, but do not say a word about St. Lucia. It seems, then, that the artizans of that period were not compelled to be idle in honour of this saint, unless they happened to live in her parish. This is, indeed, a point of no great consequence to ourselves, but it was no trifling matter before the Reformation. Romish saints were in those days rigid and punctilious assertors of their honours and prerogatives, and as vindictive as the heathen Apollo or Diana in chastising those who were guilty of treating them with any sort of disrespect. To do any sort of work upon their festivals was esteemed an unpardonable offence, and seldom failed to subject the offender to some signal punishment. Sometimes they contented themselves with turning the brewer's beer sour, or the baker's bread into chips, or making the hands of the overbusy ploughman stick fast to the stilts; but on other occasions, pothing less would satisfy them than striking the offender with the dead palsy, causing his profane hands to mortify and drop off, or tearing his skin from his body. This seems to shew that if they were useful as friends, they were no less dangerous as enemies ; and that though they had suffered persecution, they had not learnt mercy. This may be an erroneous conclusion, but it is one which is directly deducible from premises furnished by their own panegyrists and biographers.

We might, if our leisure allowed of it, trace the successive additions made to the calendar in the middle ages, and thus shew the progress of superstition, and of the burdens imposed by the Church of Rome upon her votaries; but as this would carry us too far, we shall at present content ourselves with contrasting the practice of the eighth century with that of the fifteenth. In the first book of Charlemagne's Capitularies, twenty-four days in the year are directed to be observed as festivals, being, with few exceptions, the same which are now observed by the Church of England.* But in the calendar of an old Roman Missal, printed in 1490, we find no less than two hundred and ten dayst distinguished as festivals, ninety-eight of which are red letter days, and the remaining one hundred and twelve of an inferior class. On many of those no work whatever was allowed by the Church, and on most of the others, people were compelled to suspend their labours one third or one half of the day. They who remember that time is money, especially to a poor man, and that the only true source of a country's wealth is the productive labour of the inhabitants, will easily conceive what a paralyzing effect such a system must have had upon national industry and the habits and

Those exceptions are—the octave of the Epiphany, eight days (instead of three) at Easter, the great Litany, and St. Martin. Respecting the Virgin's Assumption, the capitulary says—“We leave it out for the sake of enquiring further into it;" which shews that the superstitious belief of the Virgin's Assumption had not then got firmly rooted in the west of Europe.

+ This enormous number of festivals was long looked upon as an intolerable grievance, and loud complaints of it were made in almost every part of Europe in the earlier part of the sixteenth century. Pius V. remedied the evil in some measure; but since his time, upwards of sixty new festivals have been added to the Roman calendar, so that the matter bids fair to return to its former state; in which case it might be advisable to re-model the fourth commandment thus :-Three days shalt thou labour and do all thy work." It may not be amiss to lay before our readers an authentic exposition of the sentiments of a modern dignitary of the Romish Church on this subject. In September, 1826, a barony meeting was held at Murisk, in the county of Mayo, on which occasion the Rev. Dr. Kelly, titular Archbishop of Tnam, made an inflammatory address to the assembled multitude, from which the following is an extract :-"On every side to which we turn, there are pains and penalties for the persecuted Catholic. Is he not compelled to break through the ordinances of his Church, or be dismissed from his employment ? Must he not work at factories not far from where we now stand, on days on which he should worship his God, or be turned out of employment, and stigmatized by the name of Papist? My friends, such things are quite familiar to us; if any other nation suffered as we have suffered, --if our English friends were to endure such oppression-[qu. do not English Roman Catholic cotton-spinners, &c. endure the very same oppression ?) do you not imagine that they would long since be removed ?” This short passage speaks volumes as to the views and feelings of the Roman Catholic prelacy in Ireland.

morals of the people, and will be inclined to think, that, notwithstanding all which Mr. Charles Butler and his brother writers have said about the weight of Protestant taxation, we have never been half as heavily burdened by our rulers as the dutiful Roman Catholics of the fifteenth century were by good mother Church.


To the Editor of the Protestant Guardian. Sir,—The following Epistle Interrogatory, with the ex. ception of the notes and a few trivial verbal alterations, appeared in the Blackburn Mail of April 2nd ; but as it refers to several topics involving considerations of a higher interest than those of a merely personal, local, or temporary nature, I venture to forward it to you, presuming that you may not consider its insertion inconsistent with the plan or the principles of your publication. I remain, Sir, Yours, &c.

Q. To the Rev. James Sharples, Blackburn. REVEREND SIR, THE attention with which you were pleased to honour the queries and remarks of some other correspondent, in your last lecture, induces me to forward a few observations, which I hope you will not consider legs worthy of your notice, especially if they appear to refer to matters of equal, if not higher importance. I am rendered somewhat more sanguine in this hope by the frequency of your direct appeals to Protestants, and by the anxiety which you uniformly profess, to render your “Instructions” conducive to their edification no less than to that of “ the faithful.” The manifestation of this disposition on your part, coupled with your declaration that «

every man who claims credit for purity of motive, is bound to concede the same claim to others," frees me from all apprehension that you will either misinterpret my motives, or impute my present communication to any other than those in which it has originated, a spirit of inquiry, and a consequent desire of a little further explanation on some few points, which seem at present to require it.

I have attended the Lectures which you have been giving on the two different rules of faith, advocated respectively

« AnteriorContinua »