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that she could have no other spouse than her Lord Jesus Christ; when, finding their importunities were rejected, they barbarously accused her of being a Christian, and the rack and every species of torture were displayed before her, which she looked upon with indifference. She was so far from betraying the least symptom of fear, that she even expressed her joy at the sight, and offered herself to the rack. Being dragged before the idols, and commanded to offer incense, she resolutely refused, and, waving her hand, made the sign of the cross: this enraged her persecutors, who immediately sentenced her to die. She heard the decree with composure, and, bowing down her head to adore God, met her fate with a transport of delight.
Maria. Poor girl! her sufferings must have been most severe; and nothing but the support of a Superior Power could have been sufficient on such a trying occasion. Under what emperor was she executed ?
WILLIAM. She suffered in the year 306, under the magistracy of one Galerius, who continued the cruelties which had previously been commenced by the Emperor Dioclesian, who was stimulated by his mother, a bigoted pagan, to commence the tenth persecution against the Christians. The body of St. Agnes was buried near Rome; and a church, built on the spot in the time of Constantine the Great, which was repaired in the seventh century, was standing within the last thirty years.
Mrs. CONSTANCE. In all the representations of St. Agnes, we observe she is portrayed with a lamb by her side; emblematic, I presume, of her youth and innocence. The ladies of Rome used to visit her altar on the 21st of this month, taking with them two of the purest white lambs they could procure, as a presentation; which the Pope directed should be put into the choicest pastures till the time of sheep-shearing, when a beautiful white cloth was
manufactured from their wool; which, being consecrated by the Pope, was afterwards purchased by the archbishops, at an enormous expense. But now, William, please to proceed to the next particular noted in the calendar, which I perceive is commemorative of St. Vincent.
WILLIAM. Yes : another worthy martyr in the cause of Christianity, a native of Saragossa, in Spain, and whose pious disposition had, very early in life, obtained for him a deaconship; but he was soon after put to death in the most cruel manner, under the persecution of the Emperor Dioclesian, on the 22d of this month, in the year 303. The manner of his martyrdom is too horrible to relate, for his sufferings greatly exceeded those of the lovely St. Agnes. His amiable and exemplary conduct, and firm adherence to his faith, justly entitle him to the veneration of all Christians.
MR. CONSTANCE. The 25th of this month is a day set apart by our church, in remembrance of the miraculous Conversion of St. Paul, the writer of fourteen Epistles, full of learning, argument, and practical instruction; and who, for upwards of thirty years, was the eloquent and successful propagator of Christianity, although, in his early days, his wonderful abilities were violently directed against its supporters. He was born at Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, of Hebrew parents. In his youth he is said to have learnt the art of tent-making; and while yet young, the Jewish law was his favourite study. He became, early in life, distinguished for his literary attainments, which qualified him, in an eminent degree, for the converting of the refined people of Rome and Greece. Previously to his conversion, he assisted at the stoning of St. Stephen; and the approbation of the Jews for his conduct upon that occasion so urged him to fresh persecutions, that he appeared determined to overwhelm all those who dared to express their belief in Christianity,--when
the Almighty ordained that he, who had before been an inveterate enemy to his Word, should be the instrument of its spreading both far and wide. On his way to Damascus, for the purpose of further persecuting the Christians, his conversion was effected in a wonderful manner. For a full and interesting account of that important occurrence, I direct you to St. Paul's own narration, as delivered by him to king Agrippa, and Festus, the Roman governor. It will be found in the 22d chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
WILLIAM. After his conversion, it is generally believed that he spent three years in quiet study at Damascus, although this interval is not mentioned in the New Testament. He then returned to Jerusalem, and was introduced, by his friend and fellow-student, Barnabas, to the apostles Peter and John; and afterwards continued indefatigable in his pious labours, until he was imprisoned for two years in Rome. Little is known of his actions after this period; but it is stated that he visited Spain and Britain, and again returned to Rome, where he underwent a second imprisonment, and was finally put to death by Nero; which was a striking instance of one of the best and wisest of men becoming the victim of the most cruel and detested tyrant. · MARIA. Nero's enmity to St. Paul was, no doubt, partly of a private nature, as the apostle's crime consisted in converting Poppea Sabina, one of the emperor's mistresses, as well as his cup-bearer. When about to suffer, three of Nero's guards, who attended St. Paul, also became converts ; and in a few days resigned their lives, to satisfy the revenge of the imperial monster.
Mrs. CONSTANCE. If you wish to be fully instructed in St. Paul's history, you will peruse the Acts of the Apostles, from the 8th chapter; as well as the whole of his Epistles. So much importance has been attached,
by some writers, to the conversion and apostleship of St. Paul, (or Saul, as be was originally called,) that they have deemed them alone a sufficient demonstration to prove Christianity a divine revelation. Of all the apostles, he stands pre-eminent for the peculiar circumstances of his life, and for the display of a greater portion of ability than was possessed by any of his fellow-labourers..
MARIA. He was a man of very singular appearance, I believe.
WILLIAM. Yes: he is said to have been of low stature, not more than four feet six inches high; somewhat crooked, of a pale complexion, and appearing older than he really was. His complexion was fair; his countenance grave; his head small ; his eyes possessed a kind of beauty and sweetness in thein ; his nose long, and bending gracefully; his beard thick, and like his hair, mixed with gray.
ANGELINA. Is it true that the sword with which he was beheaded is still in existence ?
WILLIAM. At a convent in Spain, a sword-blade is shown as the identical one used on the occasion of the saint's martyrdom; but as that event took place so far back as the year 68, I should rather suspect this to be an imposition upon the credulity of the people.
CHARLES. Is there any day observed in commemoration of St. Paul's death; or is it his conversion only which is celebrated by the church? And why are not the saints' birthdays kept, in preference to the days of their martyrdom ?
Mr. CONSTANCE. I am glad you have asked those questions, Charles, since it gives me an early opportunity to explain. St. Paul's conversion is particularly chosen for the day of his commemoration, because, as it was wonderful in itself, so it was highly advantageous to the church of Christ; for, while the other apostles had. only the churches of particular provinces under their care, to St. Paul was assigned the general superintendence of them; and, by his indefatigable labours, he contributed very greatly to the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world. His conversion, therefore, being the most remarkable circumstance of his life, has been commemorated accordingly. With regard to your other question, why the death of saints is observed in preference to the days of their birth,-I answer: because, as those saints were martyrs, they were on those days said to be born to heaven; therefore, notwithstanding it is their death which is commemorated, the day is not unfrequently --called their birthday. This, however, is not always the case, as I shall hereafter notice.
Arthur. Pray, papa, what is the meaning of the word martyrdom?
MR. Constance. It means, the suffering of death in witness of the truth; the Greek word martyr meaning nothing more than a witness. I am glad to hear my little boy ask a question ; because it not only proves that he is paying attention to what is said, but also shows that he is desirous of understanding what he hears.
ANGELINA. What is the meaning of Septuagesima Sunday?
WILLIAM. It is a Sunday dependent upon Lent, as Lent is upon Easter. Its observance was first instituted by Pope Gregory the Great, for the purpose of qualifying the people for the fasting and humiliation of the Lent season. Septuagesima Sunday is one of the moveable feasts, but is always the ninth Sunday before Easter. .
- MR. CONSTANCE. But, in order to understand the meaning of the word septuagesima, you must be informed, that the fast of Lent was called in Latin by a word denoting a fast, or observance of forty days: that word' is