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equally befitting a Christian, expressed in the following (copied literatim from the Lapidarian Gallery).
PEACE. * This grief will always weigh upon me: may it be granted me to behold in sleep your revered countenance. My wife Albana, always chaste and modest, I grieve, deprived of your support, for our Divine Author gave you to me as a sacred (boon). You, well-deserving one, having left your (relations), lie in peace-in sleep-you will arise-a temporary rest is granted you. She lived forty-five years, five months, and thirteen days : buried in peace. Placus, her husband, made this.'
“Nor was the hope of the Christians confined to their own bosoms. They published it abroad to all the world, in a manner which, while it provoked the scorn and malice of many, proved also a powerful inducement to others to join their community. The dismal annihilation of the soul taught by the Pagans, or the uncertain Elysium, which, though received by the uneducated, was looked upon as mere matter of superstition by the learned, had in it something so utterly unsuited to the wants and longings of mankind, that the spectacle of a Christian, thoroughly assured of a future state, so blessed and so certain as to have power to draw him irresistibly towards it through the extremest tortures, must have awakened in the heart of many a wishing, doubting Pagan, a feeling in favour of Christianity not easily suppressed." (pp. 42–44.)
These " sermons in stones," as our author in another place felia citously calls them, strike us as most edifying ones. We only regret that he has not given us the fuller illustration he is so abundantly competent to give, of the state of the ancient heathen mind on the subject of death; in order that the contrast with the touching simplicity of these primitive Christian epitaphs may be perfect. We shall find that the condition after death was a subject of care and anxiety which tormented every individual mind in the ancient world, from the highest to the lowest. Even amongst the philosophers and sages of antiquity, though we are lost in admiration at their stupendous intellectual efforts to demonstrate the immortality of the soul, and the rewards of virtue; yet the very magnitude of those efforts only shows the depth of their conviction of the importance of these questions, and the distressing doubts that torment them, that after all they have reached nothing beyond approximations and probabilities. The mind needs certainty upon these questions, and that certainty the reasoning powers cannot supply. It is thus, that we account for the air of boisterous
of their studesages of cate to the individual mine udentom of the soundous intellectuity, though. Even
loquacity which always seems to us to mar, by its want of harmony with the matter in hand, the most brilliant passages of Plato and Cicero upon the immortality of the soul. The writer is evidently “ whistling aloud to keep his courage up.” The Gemella of our epitaphs was probably enough,--some poor old woman, the wife of a slave who was knocked in the head during an outbreak of popular violence against the Christians. Yet Gemella dormit in pace embodies a tone of quiet assurance, of comfortable certainty of hope, for which we shall search in vain in the pages of Cicero de senectute.
This was the condition of philosophers and sages, of intellects of the higher order; what then must the fear of death have been, among the mass of mankind in the ancient world, with whom what we are wont to term the fictions of the poets, were the only articles of faith regarding the future state? We have but scanty records of their sorrows, for they were far beneath the notice of philosophers and poets, whose works alone could have transmitted them to us. We get but a very dim shadow of their woes in the frantic ravings of the wretched woman who had lost her son, in Apuleius, who shrieking and cursing both gods and men, finds consolation in beating with a cudgel the entirely unoffending ass, from whose back her worthless son had been torn by a bear. Passages of similar import might also be selected from Terence and Plautus, whence it would abundantly appear that the utmost ambition of the bulk of mankind in Greece and Rome was to forget altogether the subject of death; and that when by any accident the consideration of it was forced upon them, they were in uncontrollable agonies. They could indeed adopt the inimitable language of our own poet ;
" Aye but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
To what we fear of death."
in the shriekiwretched dim shard could he noticecant
· Lib. 7, ad finem.
ii.e. deprived of light, in darkness.
during the band on the heat it became state after
upon this subject by the common people of Greece and Rome, by considering the Egyptian mythology, which became so exceedingly popular both in Rome and the other great cities of the empire, during the period that immediately preceded the introduction of Christianity : and on the express testimony of Plutarch, (de Iside et Osiride) we know that it became so, solely on account of the clearness of its teaching regarding the state after death. With the nature of his doctrine we are now in some measure acquainted, through the hieroglyphic exposition of it, which is often found in the tombs of Egypt. The mode of deciphering this strange writing is now understood ; and though our acquaintance with it is far from complete, enough is known to enable us to give a general idea of the purport of any passage. The exposition consists of a number of precatory hymns addressed to the deities presiding over the world under ground by the dead, who were most probably impersonated during the funeral ceremonies. The doctrine of existence after death is certainly stated in it clearly enough, as Plutarch had told us; but what were the promises held out by this idolatry to its dying votaries? During the forty days that were occupied in embalming, the deceased, both body and soul, underwent actual death or non-existence: but this ceremony rightly performed, the spirit of the gods entered into the mummy, - which became a divinity and the proper object of worship. It was removed to the place of burial in a procession similar to those which accompanied the images of the gods, and had acts of devotion addressed to it and hymns sung in its praise, to which the deceased impersonated by an attendant) responded. But, once deposited in the tomb, and a new and fearful vitality returned to it; the body and the soul parted, and each set out on a series of separate adventures. The soul descended into the abyss in the bark of the setting sun, and propitiated an endless succession of manifestations of Thoth or Hermes, the god of speech, constantly exposed to the assaults of the apes, the ministers of vengeance, from which the god alone could protect it. While the body pursued its still drearier way through caverns in the bowels of the earth,— climbed precipices, crossed rivers, encountered demons, fought with dragons, oryxes, and monsters of every shape, until it reached the region in the nether world where, reunited to the body, it appeared before the unexorable bar of the deified Sun or Osiris. There the deceased stood, while his own heart was poised in the balance against that unerring justice, or truth, to which the conscience of every child of Adam tells him that his actions during life are amenable ! Upon the issue of this fearful trial depended the eternal destinies of the immortal man! This was all the consolation that the reli
gion of Egypt had to offer to the dying sinner. Yet even this thorny pillow was madly sought after by the masses of classical antiquity of the later periods,-many forsaking the Greek mythology altogether and becoming worshippers of Serapis and Isis, while others endeavoured to combine the two systems; but all, or nearly all, seem to have more or less favoured the Egyptian system,-expending enormous sums in the erection of temples, the sculpture of votive statues and tablets, and the presenting of costly offerings; and all, because this tissue of coarse and clumsy falsehood spoke with authority and certainty concerning the future life. It is with such a creed as this before us, and after we have endeavoured to realize to ourselves the feelings of a votary of it at the thought of dying, that we can best understand the depth of our obligations to Him who came into the world “ that through death He might deliver them who, through the fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage;" and then it is also that these short and simple annals of the first believers who sleep in Jesus, make their most touching appeal to the heart and the affections.
In these days of painted windows and tabernacle-work, when Institutes and Associations are formed, apparently with the express design of disinterring the idols of Popery from the moles and the bats to which they were most justly cast at the Reformation, in order to set them up again to be worshipped, what can be more seasonable than the following extract ?
" It has been assumed by antiquarians as a matter of certainty, that the ancient Christians employed symbols to distinguish the tombs of their martyrs. History being profoundly silent on this point, abundant room has been left for the exercise of imagination, in deciding what symbols would have been proper, and likely to be so used. Antiquarians have fixed upon several, which can only be disproved by direct evidence; and this is furnished in many cases by the dates of interment, and in others by the name or condition of the person deceased. The history of the 'Symbols of Martyrdom' is consequently little more than a description of superstitions reluctantly abandoned from time to time: from being almost numberless, they have been reduced to one-a cup of blood beside the grave. To give the reader an idea of the signs formerly considered decisive of saintship and of martyrdom, it will be necessary to quote a few instances from the antiquarians of the three last centuries.
“ The learned Benedictine, Mabillon, while engaged in turning over the papers in the Barberini library, met with some correspondence relative to a pseudo-saint supposed to have been discovered in Spain. Some well-meaning persons had there met with an ancient stone, inscribed with the letters iS. VIAR.' and concluded it to be the epitaph of a Saint Viar. Nothing daunted by the singularity of the name, or the total want of evidence in support of his sanctity, they boldly established his worship. But the zeal of his admirers, though it had conferred the honours of saintship, was unable to secure his immortality; for, on their application to Urbanus for indulgences, the Roman antiquarians required some proof of his existence. The stone was therefore forwarded to Rome, where it was immediately seen to be the fragment of an inscription to a Præfectus. VIARum, or Curator of the Ways. We are apt to pity the condition of those who wasted their prayers and praises on the imaginary Viar, but in what respect were they worse off than the supplicants at the altars even of St. Peter and St. Paul ?
“A remarkable instance of carelessness in the manufacture of saints is mentioned by Mabillon, as having occurred at Tolosa very shortly before he wrote. An inscription was found in the Roman Catacombs, running thus:
QVAE · VIXIT. ANNIS · LXX
“Upon the strength of this epitaph, raised by Julia Euodia to her chaste and well-deserving mother, containing no signs of Christianity, but rather the reverse, the bones found in that grave were esteemed holy, and were attri. buted to St. Julia Euodia, instead of her chaste mother.' From the number of Pagan tomb-stones applied to Christian purposes in the later times of the emperors, we require some specific evidence to assure us of the Christian origin of any tablet found in the catacombs.
" The romance of the eleven thousand virgins is said to owe its existence to the inscription,
which was read, 'Ursula and eleven thousand virgins;' instead of eleven virgin martyrs.'
o The history of St. Veronica exceeds all other legends of pseudo-saints in the pertinacity with which it has been supported by the Roman Church, in opposition to the learned of her own communion, and in the entire absence of traditional evidence. Its origin and progress have been brought to light by the researches of Romanist antiquarians.
“ About the darkest time of the middle ages arose the custom of painting the countenance of our Saviour upon pieces of cloth : the accuracy of the supposed likeness, or icon as it was called, was attested by inscribing beneath it the words “ Vera icon,' gradually corrupted into Veronica. Many writers mention these veronico; as observed by Mabillon, who has cited passages from Romanus, Petrus Casinensis, and Augustinus Patricius. Mabillon also mentions the petition of a certain Cistercian abbess, dated 1249, to Jacobus de Trecis, the Pope's chaplain, that he would send her a copy of the picture contained in St. Peter's." He complied with her request, and begged her to receive the copy as a holy Veronica, Christ's true image or likeness. The next stage in the growth of the legend (for it does not seem to be of older date), was the discovery that the original Veronica was an actual_impression of our Saviour's features, miraculously taken at some time or other : according to Mabillon, during the Agony in the garden; to Ducange, on the way to Calvary; and by another class of persons, as noticed by Baronius, supposed to haye been left upon the head-dress in the sepulchre. But the story still wanted something, and Veronica was at length found to be the name of a holy woman who followed our Lord to Calvary; and wbo, while piously wiping the Redeemer's brow with a cloth, received as a reward the miraculous impression of His countenance. Of this wonian, whom Baronius calls Berenice, there is a colossal statue in St. Peter's at Rome; and what is worse, her image occupies a prominent place in the hearts of an igno. rant people.
“ The authorities, so far from discountenancing the fiction, have offered a premium upon its belief: John XXII. who assumed the tiara in 1316, issued a prayer,' by repeating which devoutly, looking meanwhile upon the face of Christ, an indulgence of 10,000 days may be obtained.' In this 2846.