Page images

stance of his life; and he so venerated and loved the man who first convinced him of the errors of Paganism, as ever afterwards to look upon him with the affection of a son, and even to adopt his name

: MARIA. Pray who was his tutor ?

WILLIAM. A Christian minister of Carthage, named . Cæcilius ; Cyprian, from the love he bore his preceptor, was called Cæcilius Cyprian. Our saint was early educated in the principles of Gentilism; and inheriting a considerable fortune, he lived in great splendour, participating in all the fashionable amusements of the city. From his eloquence and general ability, he became the admiration of his countrymen, which appeared so to flatter his vanity, as to exalt him above all modest propriety. Gorgeous in attire, luxurious, and vain of a numerous retinue, he gave himself up to pleasure, and seemed to fancy that his fellow-men were born to gratify all his appetites. Cæcilius, however, gained sufficient influence over him, as not only to convince him of the impropriety of his mode of living, but also to point out the absurdity of the Pagan superstitions.

MRS. CONSTANCE. What age was he at the time of his conversion ?

WILLIAM. He must have been near forty : it occurred in the year 246. Prior to his baptism, and for the purpose of satisfying the doubts which had been created in his mind by Cæcilius, he studied the Scriptures with care'; and being struck with the beauties of the truths they contained, he determined to practise the virtues they recom-, mended. He immediately disposed of his estate, distributed the money among the poor, and assumed the plain attire and mode of living practised by the most humble Christians.

MR. CONSTANCE. In his works, which are highly esteemed by Latin scholars, for the purity of their composition, St. Cyprian makes mention of the disposing of

his estate, discharging of his retinue, and fitting himself, both in body and mind, for the humble practice of the unostentatious religion of Jesus. He speaks of the diffculties he had to encounter, and of his early conviction that it was impossible to resign the vanities of an exalted station. Notwithstanding which, he proved, in a striking manner, that the most inveterate habits may be eradicated ; and that where pride, and other vices have been nourished, humility, frugality, and the milder virtues, may be made to abound. Meekness was, I believe, a prominent virtue in St. Cyprian.

WILLIAM. After his conversion it was, Sir; for although he is stated to have been the most eloquent man of his time, a perfect master of rhetoric and logic, and deeply versed in the principles of philosophy, he never, it is said, attempted any thing of importance, without first consulting his partisans, and at all times showing a humble disposition to receive advice. In the year 248 he was elected Bishop of Carthage, and in two years afterwards was publicly proscribed by the emperor Decius. He retired from the fury of the Pagans, and returned when the rigour of the persecution abated, having made the interval of his seclusion serviceable to his people, by the writing of thirty epistles to them. In 257 he was called on by Aspasius Paternus, to conform to the religion of the empire. He of course refused, and was therefore sent into exile; but being recalled in less than a year, he was condemned to be beheaded, in September 258.

MR. CONSTANCE. St. Cyprian, during his flight from the persecution of Decius, was charged with cowardice, and abandonment of his duties. This, however, from his general character, would appear to be unwarranted; for in a few years afterwards, when the pestilence was raging in Carthage (which affliction was, as usual, attributed to the Christians), he set the amiable example of visiting and


ministering to the afflicted citizens, while the heathens, deaf to the cry of distress, sought their own safety in flight. At the time of execution also, Cyprian gave noble proof of undaunted courage, inspiring confidence in his fellow Christians, and proving to his persecutors, that a confidence in the gospel promises was alone sufficient to support him in the trying hour of torture. Indeed, the whole conduct of St. Cyprian, from the time of his conversion to that of his death, appears to have been one uniform course of virtuous benevolence and Christian practices; which, together with his martyrdom, fully justify the retention of his name in our calendar, though his memory be not otherwise honoured.

Mrs. CONSTANCE. The next day you will notice (the 29th), is rather of an unusual character, since it is to celebrate the blessings received by mankind through the instrumentality of angels. St. Michael, the reputed guardian of the church, is considered, I believe, the chief of the angelic host; to him, therefore, and to all his angels, this day is devoted, as also to supplicate a continuance of divine favour, already bestowed upon us, through their blessed means. But can you tell us, William, why the title of Saint has been added to an angelic being ? .

WILLIAM. It does not appear to be misapplied, as it simply means Holy. Constantine the Great erected a church near Constantinople, which he dedicated to the holy angel Michael, who was thus termed Saint, with the view of dignifying his character; and there are now many churches called after his name, most of which stand on elevated stations. The festival of St. Michael (observed by our church with an appropriate collect) has given rise to many learned discussions as to the identity of the being whom we are called upon to reverence. The consideration of such a subject comes not, I imagine, within the scope of our Conversations ; but, with the desire of giving you every information on the persons named in the calendar, it will be necessary to inform you that St. Michael is represented in Scripture (where his name is several times mentioned) as the guardian protector of both the Jewish and the Christian churches. His name, interpreted from the Hebrew, means “ Who is like unto God” --from which, together with other particular notices of him, it has been inferred, that Michael is the Son of God himself. It has been well observed, by a modern writer that “ this festival will not lose any dignity by the adoption of such an interpretation, but will demand a more conscientious observance from those, who celebrate in it, not only the host of friendly Angels, but likewise (under the title of Michael) Jesus Christ, the common Lord both of angels and men.” The word angel in its primitive sense, signifies " a Messenger" under the employ and direction of God.

ARTHUR. From St. Michael is derived the name of Michaelmas Day (the 29th of this month); and there is a popular saying, that “ if you eat goose on Michaelmas Day, you will never want money all the year round :"_ what was the origin of the custom, William ?

WILLIAM. As to not wanting money all the year after having partaken of goose on this day, I leave to your own good sense to explain; but the custom most probably originated from that hospitality which characterized our ancestors, and obtained for this country the name of “merry Old England.” On all rent-days it was customary for. landlords to feast their tenants at the mansion-house; and the Martinmas dinner, on the 11th of November, was always distinguished by the luxury of a goose ; but the autumn being considered the best season of the year for them, most families partake of one on the Michaelmas rent-day. · CHARLES. That is one explanation of its origin, but . there is also another mentioned. Formerly a goose was

considered a rare and expensive dish; and when Queen Elizabeth was on her way to Tilbury Fort, on the 29th of September, 1588, she dined off one at the seat of Sir Neville Umfreville, and afterwards drank a half-pint bumper of Burgundy to the destruction of the Spanish Armada. Her wishes being subsequently fulfilled, it is said she commemorated the day by annually having a goose for dinner, and which custom of course soon became fashionable.

Mr. ConstaNCE. And that, Charles, is your explanation; which, as no doubt exists of the queen’s having dined with Sir Neville, would probably have passed as the origin of the present custom, but from the fact that it is of much older date, as well on the Continent as in England; of the precise time of its origin, however, nothing certain is known. Some authors assert that the presentation of a goose at Michaelmas was formerly the condition of a tenure; and that this opinion is confirmed by a record 80 early as the time of king Edward the Fourth, wherein some person is bound to pay to his landlord, for a parcel of the demesne land in the county of Hereford, one goose, fit for the lord's dinner, on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel. But as little importance is attached, in the present day, to the origin as to the observance of this custom.

WILLIAM. St. Jerome, a learned and eloquent man, is next named in the calendar. He was born of Christian parents, who gave him a liberal education, befitting the priestly office, which he afterwards filled with much honour. Jerome had observed, with regret, that the doctrines of Christianity had not received the attention which they deserved, from the manner in which they were expounded by some of its unlearned disciples ; he, therefore, during the course of his studies, paid particular attention to rhetoric, in the hope that he might be enabled to

« PreviousContinue »