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The intelligent and pious hearer, anxious to compass the spirit and bearing of all Scripture, would surely be thus better enabled to accomplish his desire; and at the same time, through this means, attended with the operations of the Holy Ghost, would feel his heart equally refreshed and sanctified. Suppose, again, that another minister conceives the design of delivering a course of sermons or lectures on either of the gospels, say that of St. Matthew. Even Mr. B. would not, perhaps, deny that there are many important sections in this inspired narrative, which derive their spirit and significant character from the civil relations and the social habits of the Jewish people. These sections appear strange and almost unintelligible. We are conscious of nothing, we have met with nothing, in our own practices, at all corresponding to the matters of which they treat. A reference is probably made to the other gospels, if haply any elucidation can be drawn from thence; but the case is just the same with them. Each is alike covered with darkness. Thus surrounded with perplexity, he learns that there are several historical works which depict the character, the situation, and the habits of this people at the very time when the Son of God tabernacled among men. He carefully reads them, enters into their spirit; and having imbued his mind with the essence of what is found in the writings of Philo, of Josephus, and of one or two of the Roman historians, he is able to apprehend the design and the exact force of those portions of this gospel, which before seemed to defy all satisfactory understanding. He weaves the substance of what has been thoughtfully perused into his lectures, and the devout hearer is cheered and edified whilst the Scriptures are thus opened before him. Imagine, once more, that another minister wishes to expound to his flock the two Epistles addressed by St. Paul to the church at Corinth. There are plainly many singular features in them not to be found in the other epistles. If this labour were undertaken by one who had neither read nor deeply reflected upon the moral complexion of Corinthian society previously to the introduction of the Gospel into that renowned city, it surely could not be completed with any thing like tolerable success. No doubt there are certain texts in both epistles from which sermons might be preached with much ability, and with the most delightful results : but this is not the question. A stated pastor should comprehend the spirit, the design, the force and beauty of the whole, and should be ready to present them to the minds of his hearers in a lucid and impressive manner. Ere, however, he can do this, it is indispensable that he become familiar with the history and character of the place and of its inhabitants. He must obtain a clear view of the extraordinary magnificence of the city, of the pride and love of splendour, the dispntations and blinding philosophy, the wealth, the luxury, and the vice which distinguished its population ; and having done this, he must contemplate the operations of divine truth and grace upon the hearts of persons of such character, and then will he find a key to those dimly apprehended peculiarities which are scattered through the epistles. And let not Mr. B. think that all this would amount to no more than
what he seems to regard as the unimportant, if not contemptible, office of explaining a few allusions, &c. &c. · Now then, I would ask, is it wrong for the christian minister to attempt any such expositions? Is it an improper and reprehensible thing in the cultivated and pious members of a church to desire them? Can they be delivered with any becoming clearness and solidity, or with any fair hope of profit, without these preparatory aids ? Or when they have been given by ministers qualified to avail themselves of all the proofs and elucidations supplied from the original languages of the Bible, or from the literature of antiquity, have they turned out to be cold, fruitless, and bewildering exercises ? To all these questions I venture to answer, No. Can Mr. B., after mature consideration, give any other answer ?
But all these needful helps are to be drawn from the study of the Hebrew, the Greek, and the Latin languages, in which alone they are to be found in their purest form and fullest extent. In order, therefore, that the minister may derive them from these sources, he must become a man of learned education. Thus much to evince and illustrate the correctness of my second proposition. The unprejudiced reader must judge for himself.
I will not now, Mr. Editor, further trespass upon the pages of your highly valuable journal, as I intend to beg the favour of a place for a second and concluding letter on the same subject to which this refers. Fervently trusting that your journal may circulate still more widely, I beg to remain, yours very truly,
A VILLAGE PASTOR.
LETTERS FROM ROME.—No. V. State of Education in general-of Females-- Antiquarian Lorem of Society- Lent-Palm Sunday-Mercoledi Santo.
Rome, April, 1834. MY DEAR FRIEND,—Before saying any thing of the ceremonies of the holy week, which occurred during the last month, and which I know you will be anxious to have some account of, I shall resume the subject of my last letter, and say a few words more regarding the state of society among the Romans.
The poorer classes, and the small shopkeepers, seldom send their children to any other than the parochial schools, and the information afforded by these does not amount to more than teaching to read and write. Writing, indeed, is not learnt at all, by a great many, and among the peasantry I have met with more who could not read than who could. As far as I have been able to learn, the books in use in these schools are merely elementary spelling-books, and collections of tales from the Scriptures, which are most of them mixed up with monkish legends and illustrations. There is a trifling sum paid per week by the children; but even this sum is, in many cases, sufficient to deter the parents from sending their children. The higher schools, or colleges, are generally connected with ecclesi
astical institutions. The College of Rome, one of the principal institutions for the education of boys, is a very large establishment, and usually contains a great number of pupils. In these colleges, Latin and Greek are taught, together with the usual routine of general education. History, and those branches of education, an acquaintance with which is so necessary in other parts of the world, in consequence of the rapid forward movement that society is everywhere making, are here very imperfectly taught. This is felt by many foreign Catholics to be a serious objection to bringing their children to Rome to be educated, which, for other reasons, they would often be glad to do. Latin, however, is taught with considerable success, and the boys learn not merely to make use of it as a dead, but also as a living language. The constant use of Latin by the Roman Church, and also in the courts of law, necessarily keeps up a considerable acquaintance with the language, and renders a facility in writing and speaking it very general. The pleadings in the higher courts are written in Latin, and submitted to the decision of the judges. Hence, at the bar, the language of ancient Rome is written and spoken with considerable purity and with much of the facility of a living language. Modern languages are very little studied, and even French, which all continental nations are obliged to use to a certain extent, is not generally understood here, and not well spoken by those who do understand it. With the exception of those persons whose occupations constantly bring them into contact with foreigners, and some among the nobility, I question whether a dozen Romans could be found who know any thing of English or German. At the university, or the “ Sapienza” as it is called, regular courses of lectures are delivered by the various professors, some of whom are very zealous in the pursuit of their respective sciences. They complain bitterly, however, of the want of books and apparatus, and their science is consequently very much behind that of their neighbours. There is a museum of natural history attached to the University, containing good collections in some branches, especially in Entomology.
The education of the females is conducted almost exclusively in the nunneries of different religious orders, with many of whom education constitutes a principal part of their duties. They of course do not fail to inculcate on their pupils the duties of catholicism, and the merits and advantages of taking the veil, and thus the various orders are kept up. If, however, we are to judge of the education afforded in these institutions, by the conversational powers of the ladies, as we meet them in society, it must be of the most limited description. Your choice of topics for conversation is confined to music, the local news of the day, and the fine arts, and in these you must address them in their native language. Their manners are extremely agreeable, and remarkably graceful and ladylike. Music is their chief occupation and delight, and under the influence of this, their natural serious character vanishes, and they display all the vivacity, gaiety, humour, and passionate feeling, which contrast so forcibly with other features of their character.
It has been truly said by an old French writer, that modern Italy places a great part of her present glory in discovering the ruins of her former glory. There are many among the Romans who are extremely learned in antiquarian lore, and who pursue the study of the antiquities of their country with great zeal and industry. Love for the fine arts is general. Sculptors, painters, engravers, intaglio, and cameo cutters, and the manufacturers of mosaic work, constitute a large proportion of the inhabitants, and their occupations the principal business of the city. Those families that possess paintings and other works of art, prize them exceedingly, and nothing but dire necessity induces them to part with them, so that many fine collections exist in palaces, the owners of which are too poor to inhabit more than a few rooms, the rest being either entirely unoccupied, or appropriated to the reception of the pictures.
In society, the Romans are extremely agreeable; they are naturally amiable and good natured ; and it is only when under the influence of the extreme excitability of their passions, that they manifest that violent vindictive spirit, which often leads to fearful results. They have a quick perception of the humorous, and this among the lower orders often displays itself in a most amusing way. The suppleness of their character is also remarkable; they are at one moment grave, and the next gay; and one moment they are in a violent passion, which the next instant is calmed down to the most quiet good nature.
I have taken advantage of the season of Lent, to give you a very slight sketch of the state of society; for during this period, there are no public amusements, nor any ceremonies of much importance. Strangers quit the city in great numbers at this time, and do not return till the holy week, or that preceding Easter. During this week, every day of which is occupied by some public ceremony, people are expected to appear in mourning, and wherever the Pope officiates, the ladies must appear in black veils. All the churches are in mourning, the pictures concealed, and the crucifixes covered. The King and Queen of Naples have come this year, to be present at the various ceremonies.
On “ Dominica d'Olivi,” or Palm Sunday, there is a service in the Sistine Chapel, at which the Pope presides, and blesses and distributes palm-branches. The palm-leaves used on this occasion, are brought from San Remo, a small place on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the kingdom of Sardinia, where they are cultivated expressly. to supply the ceremonies of the papal church at Rome. The leaves forming the head of the palm tree, are tied together in order to etiolate them, so that the leaves, as they are used at Rome, are of the colour of straw. They are fantastically platted, and ornamented with ribbons, and crosses formed by platting strips of the leaves. The Pope, seated on a throne at the side of the altar, sprinkles the palm-leaves with holy water, and supplicates a blessing on them; he then distributes them to the cardinals and others, who go up to him in rotation, to receive them at his hands; they then return to their seats, holding their palm-branches in their hands, during the rest of the service. The Pope is then carried in solemn procession out of the Sistine Chapel, into the Paoline Chapel,
in another part of the palace. This procession of the palm-leaves, is intended to represent the entrance of the Saviour into Jerusalem. The Pope personifies the Redeemer. On the procession quitting the Sistine Chapel, the doors are closed, and the quire is divided into two parties, the one remaining within the chapel, and the other being on the outside ; the two parties chaunting this part of the service in responses to each other. This is meant to show, that the angels in heaven joined in the hosannas sung on the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem. The procession returns in the same way to the chapel, and thus the service terminates. On the Wednesday or Mercoledi Santo the “ Tenebræ" and the “Miserere" are sung in the Sistine Chapel. This service, which is repeated on the two following days, takes place in the evening, and commemorates the passion of the Saviour. The service consists of a series of prayers, psalms, and passages from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, which are beautifully chaunted by the quirc. A triangular candelabra stands on one side of the altar, and holds fifteen candles, the middle one being placed on the apex of the triangle. These are extinguished at intervals during the service, till at length the centre one alone is left burning. All the other lights in the place are also put out. The explanation given of this by the “ Officium Hebdomadæ Sanctæ,” is as follows. The gradual extinction of the lights is intended to represent the desertion of the disciples, and the dark and miserable state of the world when Christ, the true light, was killed by the Jews. The single candle, which is merely taken down, and concealed for a time behind the altar, and then brought forth again, is intended to show that Christ merely died as man, but continuing to live as God, he rose again from the dead, to enlighten the world. Towards the close of the service, when all is dark, and in the midst of the most profound silence, the quire bursts forth with Allegri's sublime Miserere. This is the 50th Psalm, beginning with “ Miserere mei Deus," and the music by Allegri, composed centuries ago, is more solemnly impressive than any thing I ever heard. Indeed, it is quite impossible to describe the effect produced by the singing of this beautiful music, by such a quire, in such a place, and at such a moment. At the close of the “ Miserere," a rumbling noise like thunder is made, intended to represent the tumultuous manner in which the Jews seized the Saviour in the garden of Gethsemane, and with this the service terminates.