« PreviousContinue »
be impossible with men, is possible with God. And they can never despair as long as they can approach with humble boldness to a throne of grace, and plead the fulfilment of those promises by which they are assured that Jerusalem will be a praise in the earth—that righteousness and praise will shine forth before all nations.
Do then Christians desire to see the word of God run? Do they wish to see it glorified, rapid and mighty in its progress, as it was at the beginning? If Christians wish to see—if they would see for themselves that the Gospel is not shorn of any of that power with which it commenced its career—let them rely confidently on united, patient, persevering prayer. He who dwelleth on high but hath respect unto the lowly, is never more pleased than when he sees his people thus relying upon him, in their most unceasing and untiring efforts to promote his cause. When we act-when we suffer for Christ, we feel the kindling impulse. The natural love of action may operate as a stimulus in many cases. But the prayer of faith moves none of these sympathies of our common nature. It is wholly an internal work. It is the soul's simple reliance upon the wisdom, the power, the goodness, and the faithfulness of God. With this God is well pleased. · And the 'Church cannot exhibit a surer indication that the “set time to favor Zion” is indeed come, than when it is unitedly engaged in prayer as it was in an upper room in Jerusalem, with a depth and intenseness of feeling which human language cannot express, and with a faith which “ staggers not at the promise through unbelief.”
In conclusion, we observe that Christians do, truly show the mind of their Master, and effectually subserve his cause, by promoting holiness in their own hearts. This cannot be accomplished without great personal effort and self-denial. In making, however, the most strenuous exertions for the promotion of the great work of holiness in their own hearts--in denying themselves for this end-Christians should also recollect that they are preparing themselves for greater usefulness in the Church of God. They who have the clearest views of the glory and beauty of holiness—who see that wherever this Divine principle is implanted the most deeply in the heart, there is to be found the nearest resemblance to the Deity—will feel the strongest desires that all men may become “partakers of the Divine nature." This will stimulate their activity ; while, at the same time, what they do and say will produce the greater effect from the correspondence which exists between their own holy and unblamable lives, and their zealous exertions to advance the cause of their Divine Lord and Master.
In order to send the Gospel with greater speed throughout the world—to cause Satan's kingdom to fall like lightning to the ground -Christians should "lay righteousness to the line, and judgment to the plummet.” They should see whether they show forth in life and spirit the laborious, the watchful, the prayerful, the self-denying mind of Christ, and are endeavoring to “perfect holiness in the fear of God." Let the Church but become “all glorious within"- let holiness of heart and life distinguish all its members—let their offerings, their personal services, their time, their talents, their influence, their prayers, all be employed in the conversion of the world—let not a few labor, while the great body remain in comparative inactivity-let every member of the body of Christ, without a single exception, engage in this cause under a deep sense of his individual responsibility, and the work, already so well begun, will become immediately more general and powerful, and, still extending itself, will quickly “fill the whole earth.”
PROMINENT CEREMONIES OF THE ROMAN CHURCH AT ROME.
BY W. FISK, D, D.
(Concluded from page 355.) THERE were several other features and events connected with Holy Week, or occurring a little before and after, which are worthy of notice. I have omitted some of them in the order of time, that I might not interrupt the account of the great ceremonies of the Church. Some of them I will now notice.
The Flagellation, Some friends informed us that a ceremony of no small interest was to be witnessed every night at a particular church, which they described to us. We mentioned the subject to our valet de place, and requested him to conduct us to the spot. He
gave that peculiar shrug of the shoulders, which, to be understood, must be seen, and which none but an Italian, I believe, can fully enact-and said he was there once, and never wished to go again. It seems that some of the professedly self-inflicted penance had been misdirected, and had fallen upon poor Luigi, the bare recollection of which made him cringe. However, he consented to conduct us to the door, and wait for us there till the fearful devotion was over.
When we arrived we found one single light glimmering near the altar; the church itself seemed badly kept, compared with most Roman churches, and the worshippers appeared coarse and squalid. None but males were admitted for a very good reason, as the reader will presently see. Every thing around looked suspicious, and if some of our countrymen had not been there before us and described the scene, we might have supposed ourselves in dangerous circumstances. For myself, I passed back of some broken forms that lay near the wall, behind which I entrenched myself at a little distance from the theatre of action. The door was then bolted. The single candle was carried to a small temporary platform, beside which stood a crucifix, and a palmerlike gloomy ecclesiastic ascended and commenced an impassioned harangue, the tenor and burden of which were the sufferings of Christ, and an exhortation to the people to be willing to suffer with him; that, as Christ. was chastised, and suffered for their sins, much more should they be willing to chastise themselves for their manifold transgressions. The solitary light was removed, and in the midst of Egyptian darkness the tragedy commenced. It was as though you had been suddenly ushered into one of the chambers of Pandemonium. The first thing we heard after the extinguishing of the light was the cracking of whips or thongs, and the sound of scores of simultaneous lashes well laid on. Then followed the most bitter groans and wailings, as from miserable wretches writhing under the torture. The sounds became commingled—the strokes fell thick as hail—and groans and howlings filled the temple. It was an awful scene! After it had continued for several minutes there was a pause, and the same voice resumed the exhortations to the assembly. It was perfect darkness still, and the sharp voice of the preacher, keyed up almost to a falsetto, rung through the invisible arches of the church, and died away in the distance. He paused, and again the flagellation and the howlings were resumed. At the second pause the light was re-stored—a person went around and collected the thongs or ropes, to preserve them I suppose, for future penance, and the assembly broke up. Whether they lashed themselves, or each other, or the floor, I cannot say. I had intended, when the flogging commenced, to have put myself in a situation to have received some of the blows, being willing to run some risk of a lash or two, to determine for myself whether the blows were laid on with effect or otherwise. But the light was extinguished unexpectedly, and I had made no arrangements that would have enabled me, situated as I was, to make the experiment satisfactorily. I can only say that there were blows enough, and they were sufficiently loud to have done good execution; and they were accompanied by enough of wailing and of wo, to have indicated an indescribable amount of suffering —and this is religious worship! in a Christian assembly, and at the very seat of the infallible Church!!
The Pilgrims. The Hospital of the Trinity is a place for the entertainment of the pilgrims who visit Rome on great festive occasions for religious purposes. Here they are washed, fed, and lodged for a term of time not exceeding three days for the greater portion, although those who come from a great distance, as from Spain, Portugal, &c., are entertained four or five days. The institution is a charitable one, and supported chiefly by donations and contributions from the more wealthy. A long list of names of the more prominent benefactors are recorded on public tablets at the hospital. There are two grand divisions to the apartments of the hospital, one section being set apart for the females, and the other for the males. In the male apartments alone they make up, as we were informed by one of the attendants, two thousand beds. On Holy Week, especially, great numbers of both sexes are expected at this hospital, and ample provision is made for their entertainment. One of the rules of the institution is, that all who come in the course of the day must have their feet washed at night, which washing is performed partly by the regular attendants, and partly by the nobility of Rome and of other countries, who volunteer their services on this occasion as a kind of voluntary humility, as well as a sort of religious rite, showing by this their readiness to “wash the saints' feet," and to serve their poorer brethren in the humblest offices of life. The pope himself, we were told, sometimes officiates in this menial service. The evening we were at the hospital, however, the highest dignitary that officiated at the tub was the ex-king of Portugal, Don Miguel. We had, also, Lord Gifford, of England, and a number of the Roman nobles.
As we brought no tickets we had a little difficulty at first in getting admittance. This being settled, I left Mrs. F., whom I conducted to the entrance of the female department, and went down into the bathing room of the males, where a number presented themselves to be washed, not as many, however, as on former occasions, for it was approaching toward the last of the week. There was a range of foot baths quite around the room, with pipes to conduct hot and cold water, and a rail extending quite around in front of the baths, to prevent spectators from crowding upon them. After standing until we were weary, the ceremony commenced by a short religious service read as usual. What followed was no more of an exhibition than any other case of washing dirty feet, except as to the number and quality of the actors and spectators. There was a large room full of gentlemen from all parts of the world to see kings and noblemen perform the work of ablution upon the lower extremities of some of the dirtiest, roughest looking subjects that Italy can produce. Some of them had sore feet from the badness of their shoes, and their pedestrian journey; for these, plasters were prepared and applied. The thick rough boots of some were drawn with great difficulty, and their stockings, when they wore any, looked as though they needed washing as much as the feet they covered, without which, to wash the latter would be of little avail. The Don had a hard case; however he scrubbed away with might and main, and when he got to the skin he wiped it, kissed the foot, and ensconced it again in its former sheath. All kissed the feet when they had finished washing them.
After the washing we ascended to the Salle à manger, to witness the feeding. Here the crowd of spectators was still greater, and here too were assembled all the pilgrims that had been congregated for several days. Truly they were a motley group, some with their long pilgrim's staves, some with shells of scallops and other seafish fastened upon their breasts and shoulders, many of them ragged and wo-begone, although the greater part are supposed to come from cities of Italy not far distant. They gathered around the long tables, and those who washed their feet prepared to serve them. I got a position near the ex-king. He is a middle aged man, of rather a small stature, and possessing a countenance by no means indicative of that cruelty and thirst for blood which seem to have marked his public life. He is as great a stickler for Romanism as his brother, Don Pedro, was an opposer.
Their course in this matter has undoubtedly been shaped very much by their political interests. While Don Pedro was thwarted and opposed in all his plans by the priests, these have been the partisans of Don Miguel, and sustained his course, and he, in his turn, has sustained theirs. It is this that has led the pope to patronize the Don in his exile, by giving him a refuge and a salary of $3,000 per annum ; and this, on the other hand, has led the ex-king to be very officious in matters of religion, and specially active during holy week in all the self-denying duties of the occasion. At this time he was very active in helping the pilgrims, in cutting their bread, and serving their fish, vegetables, and wine, and at the same time was very social, now with the pilgrims, and
now with one of the attendants, and then again with some of his fellow servants. He left, however, in time to be introduced into the ladies' apartments. When the company had satisfied their appetites, and some of these poor fellows ate as if they had eaten nothing for a long time before, they began to fill their handkerchiefs and sacks with the fragments and remains, and to pour their wine into their leather bottles. These were their perquisites, and they laid in liberally-sufficiently so, I should think, to last them a considerable distance in their homeward journey. They then all rose, and in single file, chanting or singing as they went, marched up to their lodgings.
Mrs. F. found the ceremonies in the female apartments much the same as above described, except that the ladies who waited upon the pilgrims were more minute and assiduous in their attentions than the gentlemen. The noble ladies, as they entered the room, went to a table on which lay a quantity of red and white aprons, the former with waists, and the latter without waists. The red apron was first put on; and then the other, which was furnished with two large pockets to hold their napkins, &c., was tied on over the former. They then proceeded to wash the feet, after which each lady took a pilgrim by the arm, and led her to the table, and waited upon her as before described, filling her wallet and her wine sack with what remained, and taking as they retired a large pile of plasters up to their lodging rooms, to dress their sore feet, &c. One old woman, who had the appearance of extreme old age, and was bowed down with the weight of years, had nevertheless walked fifty miles to witness this festival. For her, the ladies in attendance made up a purse to cheer her heart and relieve her wants.
In all this there is certainly much of kindness and Christian courtesy exhibited, that were well worth the imitation of Protestants. In the ceremonies before us, however, there is a drawback upon the credit we might otherwise be disposed to give to the parties concerned, from the consideration that the whole is a set form or kind of exhibition, and a stated public observance, which has in it much of show and ostentation, much of fashion, and perhaps of superstition.
There is much more of the spirit of our holy and benevolent religion where the meek Christian, unobserved and unattended by the pomp of form and ceremony, seeks out the poor and the squalid, and with his or her own hands washes the saints' feet, and cheers the heart of the fainting-a spirit which, to the reproach of our common Christianity, is too little prevalent both in the Catholic and Protestant Churches. I cannot, however, but concede that, in my opinion, the Catholic takes the lead in charities of this kind; and perhaps ceremonies, such as those I have already described, may have kept alive among them a sense of duty on this point. For such ceremonies cannot but have their influence, especially upon the young, who are thus trained, at times at least, to think of, and feel for the poor and the wretched. Here young girls of ten or fifteen years of age are seen bounding along with laughing eyes and mantling cheeks, bearing the large trays of refreshments to the tables, while their mothers and older sisters distribute those refreshments to the hungry and weary pilgrims. The impressions of one such scene upon the mind of the young might be as lasting as life,