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festival on which Christmas could be engrafted, and this, and the circumstance that it was not customary in the early ages to celebrate the birthdays, but only the deaths of distinguished individuals, accounts for its late origin. The “ Natalia” of the martyrs were kept on the anniversary of their death, — their birth into an immortal existence.
We have no complaint to make of the selection of the twenty-fifth of December as the day for commemorating the birth of the Saviour. It is as good as any other day, it being understood, as we suppose it is, by every one even moderately acquainted with the writings of Christian antiquity, that the true date of the nativity is irrecoverably lost.* For ourselves, we like this festival of Christmas, and would let it stand where it is and where it has stood ever since the days of Chrysostom, at least, a period of fourteen centuries and a half. It matters not in the least that we are ignorant of the real date of the Saviour's birth.
We can be just as grateful for his appearance in the world as we could be, did we know the precise day or moment of his entrance into it. Of what consequence is it for us to know the particular day, or the year even, when this light
late origin of the festival of the Nativity, that the Manicheans, who were separated from the Church, as we have said, in the third century, did not observe it, though they observed both the old feasts of Easter and Pente
Yet the argument has some weight, if any subsidiary evidence were needed in a matter so plain. In their forms, as well as their general idea of worship, the Manicheans retained much of the old simplicity, and from the time of their being excluded from the Church they became an independent witness of its more ancient customs. They allowed of no " sensible aids” to worship, which among them consisted, like the old Christian worship, in prayers and singing, to which were added reading from their sacred books and an address or exhortation, and they preserved the old congregational discipline. They had, as we have just seen, neither temples, nor altars, nor statues; they baptized both adults and infants; they did not offer prayers to the dead, and rendered to the martyrs only those honors which were commonly rendered them at the end of the second century; they celebrated the eucharist, though substituting water for wine, the use of which was forbidden by their ascetic principles: the festivals they celebrated with the simplicity of olden time. With the exception of the wine at the eucharist, the omission of which is readily explained, we have here as faithful a picture of Christian worship, and the ideas connected with it, in the early part of the third century, as could well be drawn. The entire absence of every trace of the festival of the Nativity only renders it the more exact.
*“I do not believe,” says Beausobre, (T. ii. p. 692,)“ that the Evangelists themselves knew it. It is evident that St. Luke, who tells us that he began to be about thirty years of age, when he was baptized, did not know his precise age.'
first shone upon the earth, since we know that it has arisen and we enjoy its lustre and warmth ? Of just as little consequence, for all practical purposes, as for the voyager on one of our majestic rivers to be informed of the exact spot in the remote wilds on which the stream takes its rise, since his little bark is borne gaily on by its friendly waters; or for any of us, if our affairs have been long prosperous, to be able to tell how or when, to the fraction of a minute, our prosperity commenced. If we have been in adversity, and light has broken in upon our gloom, and continues to shine upon us, it imports little whether or not we can fix on the exact point of time at which the clouds began to break and scatter. Just so with this Star of Bethlehem, which “shines o'er sin and sorrow's night;" the exact moment at which its beams began to be visible over the hills and valleys of Judea is not a subject about which we need perplex ourselves. No royal historiographer was present to chronicle the Saviour's birth, yet if his spirit be in our hearts, we can, if we approve the observance, commemorate his advent with all the kindlings of devout affection and gratitude, at our homes, or in our houses of worship, where we have so often met to seek comfort and strength from his words, on any day which the piety of past ages has set apart for so holy a purpose.
There is no need of jealousy between the lovers of the old New England Thanksgiving and the lovers of Christ
We are not aware of a disposition on the part of any to substitute the former for the latter. There is no opposition between them, nor does the early history of the New England Thanksgiving show that there was ever intended to be any, or that there was any reference to Christmas in its appointment. The two festivals are totally distinct in their nature, and their objects different. The one is the festival of the ingathering of the harvest, and the other elevates the mind to the spiritual blessings flowing from him whose coming it celebrates — the blessings of peace and love. There is no opposition, no rivalship of any kind between them. It is true we honor the New England Thanksgiving not the less because we view it as a relic of Pilgrim piety; we honor it the more. But we do not put the observance of it on this ground, but on the ground of its intrinsic fitness and propriety, its religious and social
We of this age and country are in little danger of unnecessarily multiplying festivals. We have been charged with being too plodding and solicitous, of making life too serious a business, being too intent on gain or interest, allowing too little time for recreation, and partaking too grudgingly of the enjoyments of the present moment. And certain it is we are as a people sufficiently serious in our worldly occupations; we have few enough intervals of repose. A spirit of feverish anxiety, an intense application of the thoughts to purposes of accumulation or aggrandizement, a hurry and excitement, are manifest enough. We need not labor to augment them. The few unexceptionable festivals we have, should, we think, be observed and cherished, and that of Thanksgiving as one of them, set apart as it is to religious gratitude for the harvest, and to family and social greetings. Nor can we conceive how any
can be the less fitted to hail the joyful morn of Christ's nativity for having first thanked God for the common blessings of the year on this old New England day. With regard to the objection that one is of civil and the other ecclesiastical appointment, it is an objection which will weigh least with those who are best acquainted with the early history of Christian festivals, or who look deepest beneath the outside and letter of religion.
ART. IV. - BEAUTY.
At the natal dawn of creation's morn
I 'rose in the pride of my charms,
Received the embrace of my arms ;
Oft seen on the face of the storm,
In the rainbow's expanded form.
The silvery light of the queen of night
Is reflected from my bright eye,
As I watch with care a being so fair
On her lonely course through the sky;
I a starry banner unfurled,
Shall surround an admiring world.
In the gorgeous dyes of the sunset skies
Is portrayed my exquisite skill, For the placid lake a copy I make,
To glow on its bosom so still ;
In an atmosphere pure and rare,
Dwells my spirit forever there.
My smile may be seen in each landscape serene
With which nature enrobes the earth,
Is by me endowed with its worth.
And their delicate forms I designed,
I their splendid array combined.
From founts on the hill, where the crystal rill
Gushes forth to refresh the plain,
Whence their springs are supplied again.
I painted and polished each shell,
I in loveliness long shall dwell.
A holy desire of love I inspire
In the depths of each mortal heart; When 'tis truly felt, then the soul will melt
With the raptures I there impart.
Midst its loveliest scenes first trod,
In the glorious image of God.
An essence refined, I pervade the mind
Of those gifted beings of earth,
Perfection to what I give birth.
In death's stern and icy embrace,
What I once delighted to grace.
Let virtue control the immortal soul,
And a holier triumph I claim :
Through eternity ever the same.
And to him let gratitude flow;
Through the universe bright to glow.
ART. V.- THE CONNECTION BETWEEN INTELLECTUAL
AND MORAL CULTURE.*
We had not the pleasure of hearing either the Address or the Oration, the titles of which are given below, and are therefore particularly indebted to the authors for affording us an opportunity of reading them. The Address, as might be expected from the well-known character of its author, is rich in that wisdom which comes of much learning, long reflection, and a Christian spirit. And though Judge White, in the introductory paragraph, would lead his hearers to expect a discourse all prose, — “fruit, but no flowers,' — it is by no means deficient in tasteful and poetic
* 1. An Address delivered before the Society of the Alumni of Harvard University on their Anniversary, August 27, 1844. By DANIEL APPLETON WHITE. Published at the request of the Society. Cambridge: John Owen. 1844. 8vo. pp. 42.
2. An Oration delivered at Cambridge before the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Harvard University, August 29, 1844. By George Putnam. Boston : Little & Brown. 1844. 8vo. pp. 36.