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processions were abolished, but even alf religious opinions were looked upon by the French with indifference. She says that it is now regularly repeated every year, and that the ceremony includes certain games and pastimes, intended as allegorical representations of the triumph of Christianity over Paganism. Have you read the account, William ?
William. Yes, I have; and as the fair author observes, I think it one of the most extraordinary among the many extraordinary exhibitions which, at various times, and in various countries, have been introduced under the idea of religious ceremonies. It is called the Féte Dieu, and consists of an immense procession of the most extravagant masquerade characters; such as deinons, covered all over with rattles, which are continually clattering, to scour the streets, and clear them of all obstructions; men with pasteboard horses; a figure of death ; representations of Moses and the Queen of Sheba ; and numerous others. And these characters are attended by the whole body of law officers, clergy, civil magistrates, and a vast concourse of people. The streets are also fresh gravelled, and tapestry and other ornaments decorate the fronts of the houses. After the cavalcade has passed, combats, and a variety of strange ceremonies are performed.
Mrs. CONSTANCE. It appears, from the accounts we have already heard of these religious ceremonies abroad, that jack-puddings, mountebanks, merry-andrews, and strolling musicians, are the principal actors in all festivals, even in the present day. And as different nations have different methods of expressing their joy and devotion, it would perhaps appear invidious to point out any as deserva , ing censure; but I feel happy that our country remains at present uncontaminated.
MARIA. - I perceive that St. Augustine's name stands
opposite the 26th of this month; he is styled the English Apostle : an account of his life will no doubt prove interesting.
William. St. Augustine, or St. Austin, as he is also named, was the chief of the forty persons sent into this country by Pope Gregory the Great, already mentioned, for the purpose of converting our Saxon forefathers to Christianity; and he appears to have been a man every way qualified for his important mission. The place of his birth is not related, nor any notice where he received his education, though it is more than probable that he was the compatriot of Pope Gregory. He landed in the Isle of Thanet in the year 596 ; from which place he sent to Ethelbert, king of Kent, signifying that he was come from Rome, bringing him a happy message, with an assured divine promise of a kingdom which would never have an end. After some deliberation, the King went in person to the isle,when he was met by the missionaries in procession, carrying for their banner a silver cross, and an image of our Saviour painted on a board ; and, singing the Litány as they walked, made humble prayer for themselves, and for the souls of those to whom they came. His Majesty listened attentively to Augustine's exposition of the Christian creed, and answered: “Your words and promises are fair; but because they are new and uncertain, I cannot entirely yield to them, and relinquish the principles which I and my ancestors have so long maintained. You are welcome, however, to remain here in peace; and, as you have undertaken so long a journey, solely, as it appears, for what you believe to be our advantage, I will supply you with all necessaries, and permit you to deliver your doctrine to my subjects.” This sensible and gracious reply encouraged Augustine to proceed in his good work of conversion ; in which he was assisted by Bertha, the consort of Ethelbert, who, at her marriage with that monarch, had stipulated that she should freely enjoy the exercise of the Christian religion.
Maria., I wonder that the Queen had not possessed such influence over the mind of her husband, as to induce him to become a convert to Christianity. 1. WILLIAM. He did become a convert ; but whether from the persuasive eloquence of Bertha, or from the mild tenets of the gospel, displayed in their full force by St. Augustine, we are not informed; perhaps, from both, However, the effect produced on his mind was strong; for he soon after became a zealous advocate for the dissemination of the principles of Christianity, 1 CHARLES. Then the county of Kent was the first part of Britain which received the Christian religion, I suppose? - Mr. Constance. Several attempts had been made to introduce Christianity into this island, prior to the time of Augustine, but with no particular success. (E) It is asserted that Joseph of Aramathea first visited us with that laudable intents and even built a house or church for the reception of his hearers : but all accounts agree in bestowing the honour of our conversion to St. Augustine, through whose care Christianity became firmly rooted, and spread both far and wide. The county of Kent was the first place that profited by Augustine's visit; though, by his exertions, the adjoining counties appear immediately to have acceded to his wishes. He induced Sabert, the nephew of Ethelbert, to embrace his cause, who ultimately became so ardent and devoted a supporter, as to build St. Paul's, in the city of London, and St. Peter's; in Westminster. Ethelbert also appears, at this time, to have held in subjection most of the English princes, and was enabled, therefore, to assist Augustine in a particular degree before remarked, when speaking of Ascension Day, that it was thought advisable not to infringe upon the ancient customs and recreations of the Saxon people. In order,
therefore, to make the change as agreeable as possible, St. Augustine, with the advice and concurrence of Pope Gregory, who had been greatly instrumental in our conversión, endeavoured to blend the new creed with the old form of worship, in such a manner ås that no feeling of regret should be occasioned in the minds of the new converts for the loss of their idolatrous indulgences. Thus, their usual festive meetings were continued ; and although the idols were removed, the places of worship remained the same: and instead of sacrifices being offered to their heathen deities, days of relaxation and amusement were instituted, when booths were erected, and innocent recreations allowed. · WILLIAM. I have also understood that, in order to render the service of the numerous churches which St. Augustine had established more interesting, he introduced chanting, which was no doubt a similar mode of worship to that practised by his worthy master, Gregory. It had å good effect in this country, and was enthusiastically ad mired by the Saxons.
MARIA. Did St. Augustine end his days in Britain ?
MR. CONSTANCE. It is not known: the accounts of his birth and demise are lost in the obscurity of time. It is more than probable that his death must have occurred between the years 604 and 612. The knowledge of these facts, however, are but of small consequence, when compared with the blessings which are known to have arisen from his life; though we of course feel a laudable curiosity to learn the most minute particulars of those who have, bý their abilities and private worth, distinguished themselves among their fellow men. We shall, therefore, be pleased to hear an account of Bede, the historian, to whom the present age is particularly indebted, and whose death is noted in our calendar on the 27th of this month.
WILLIAM. Bede, or Venerable Bede, as he is styled in the calendar, was born at Yarrow, in Northumberland, in the year 672. At the early age of seven he was committed to the care of St. Benedict, and soon acquired a proficiency in the Greek and Latin languages. When only nineteen he was ordained deacon, and instructor of the youth of the monastery; and at thirty was elected ta the office of the priesthood. The number of years that he lived is not recorded; but, from the many works which he wrote, it is very probable that he attained to a good old age. His death happened on the 26th of May, but the anniversary is kept on the 27th, in consequence of the former day being appropriated to St. Augustine.
Mr. CONSTANCE. Amongst the many historians who have flourished at different periods of the world, few, if any, have attained greater celebrity than Bede. His Ecclesiastical History of the Saxons, which he composed from nearly every manuscript extant, is considered to be his.chief work, and has obtained for him the appellation of the “ wise Saxon.” In the year 731, the fame of that work spread throughout this country and on the Continent. It was translated into various languages; and King Alfred, the more strongly to mark his respect for it, rendered it into Latin. Soon after the invention of printing, it appeared both in Saxon and Latin ; and so late as the year 1722, it was re-edited at the University of Cambridge.
CHARLES. Did he perform any miracles ?
Mr. CONSTANCE, Oh, yes; it is related by the monks, that he received the appellation of Venerable from the power he possessed of making stones to speak. “When blind,” say some of these authors, “ he preached to a heap of stones, thinking himself in a church ; and the stones were so much affected by his eloquence and piety, that they answered, " Amen, venerable Bede, amen!”
WILLIAM. There's a miracle for you, Charles! Do you believe it?