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"But what is it?" "O, a very fine thing. But go yonder, and you will see.”
He pointed to a group, which we approached, having first learned that the village was celebrating the fête of its patron, called Onuphre, and renowned for thirty miles round as mighty in working cures. We found fifteen hundred or two thousand sticks united in the form of a sheaf, around which the suffering were uttering mournful words, women counting their beads, some kissing the ground, some kissing the sticks; these muttering prayers, those making the sign of the cross. We learned that these sticks had been brought by the pilgrim-believers in St. Onuphre; that, at five o'clock, twelve Priests would come to light the fire; and that the saint would perform, as usual, some miracles. We asked what was the special virtue of the patron of Biville, and learned that he protected from thunder, and attended to cold humours, sharp pains, and paralysis. They told us of a person who had come with crutches, and left them in the fire. They were inexhaustible in praise of St. Onuphre, especially two female devotees, whom that saint ought to have sent to his neighbour, St. Acaire, who is the patron of the peevish. "I do not know who is St. Onuphre," said I, raising my voice; "but I have a saint to whom I devote myself, and before whom yours is less than nothing." Every look was fastened on me. "My saint," I continued, "has eyes that see, while yours has not, any more than the sticks you dedicate to him: mine makes me believing, yours makes you superstitious." At these words the attention redoubled, and my two devotees looked at me angrily,-"It's plain you don't love St. Onuphre." "You are right; and I deplore that you abandon the true saint, called Jesus Christ, to trust in a sinful creature." Had we been in England, it was just the time to preach in the open air. What an audience! Perhaps six thousand persons; and what hearers! The thought occurred to us-but we were in France, the land of liberty, as every one knows, and especially for Protestant Evangelists! as prove all the prosecutions concerning which the great political press maintains an indifference altogether infidel. I greatly longed to make a pulpit of a heap of stones; but with a prudence for which many Protestants will be indebted to me, I did nothing.
We visited the church, decked out as in its most noted days of solemnity. A Priest of Cybele would have thought himself at home; but I will spare you the description, in order to speak only of the hero of the day, St. Onuphre. He was in a niche, round which were little tapers burning, and a few persons praying devoutly, and kissing him with extraordinary ardour. St. Onuphre is eight inches high; he is of wood or of stone, I am not sure which, for hair and a beard as black as ink cover his figure to the mid-leg; a sword as long as himself is all his arms; his face, about the size of an egg, consists almost entirely in a nose highly pointed, like an acacia-thorn. As to his original physiognomy, he has lost it under the dissolving action of Norman kisses.
We looked on that sad scene, thinking of the terrible account which the Priests would have to render of the generations they were leading to the abyss, by closing against them the Scriptures. At the same time we blessed God for having, by his glorious Gospel, delivered ourselves from that humiliating yoke.
At five o'clock the bells began to ring: thousands of spectators were ranged on the two sides of the road; all the invalids for ten leagues round formed the head of the procession which issued from the church; it was a
hideous sight, the club-footed, the maimed, the paralytic, the blind, the disfigured, all going to see lighted the fire of St. Onuphre, slowly marching, and singing ditties. I went backwards and forwards to hear everything. I watched every countenance. I studied Popery in its clearest expression: I wished to see with my own eyes the working of a system which I regard as the most dangerous enemy which the religion of the Son of Mary ever had. Everything in the crowd was characteristic. France had that day in that village retrograded six centuries.
Under a canopy surrounded with banners, preceded and followed by a gendarme in full dress, a Priest (doubtless the Curé of the place) carried devoutly on his cap St. Onuphre, on whom was fixed every eye; for he it was who was about to work the miracles. Right and left of the canopy were four Priests and seven penitents in white, singing at the top of their voice, like the Priests of Baal in the days of Elijah. A huge serpent accompanied them with its hoarse tones; and all this was done with an air of good faith, which astonished me more than the thing itself.
We walked slowly, sometimes stopping on account of the excessive crowd at length we reached the pile. I had the advantage of a heap of stones, from the top of which I could see all that passed. It was the solemn moment the infirm formed a circle round the mysterious sticks: among them was a little boy eight years of age, carrying crutches, with a rosary round his neck; his mother placed him as near the pile as possible. A gendarme made the circle he formed as large as possible; and the Priests and penitents, entering it, began to sing bare-headed Kyrie eleëson and Exaudi Then came a moment of silence, during which the Priests carried St. Onuphre, placed him on the sticks, muttered some prayers, lighted the fire, and retired singing and bearing St. Onuphre. Scarcely had he turned his back, when the people threw themselves on their knees and worshipped the sticks; for there was nothing else to worship.
It was pitiable to see ; and I said to myself, "O, if Jesus Christ were here, He would certainly take those sticks, the object of superstition, and break them on the backs of the Priests, as formerly he laid stripes of the whip on the changers and dealers in the temple." Alas! the temples of the present time are no better. On the 19th of June at Biville, the fair was in the temple; it was there in the sight and knowledge (au vu et au su) of every For several hours the Priests reaped pieces of money in return for kisses given to St. Onuphre! A porter gravely held the image in his two hands, and presented it to the kisses of the people, who put the coin into a box. Close by was one Priest who muttered prayers, and another who, for a consideration of two sous, placed the end of his stole on the heads of those who paid to have a gospel read to them.
While this impious scene was passing in the church, the assembly was immense. A fortune-teller had a circle round her; singers were chanting their ditties; mountebanks were beating the drum; and a great bear appeared and displayed his prettiest tricks to attract a company.
I returned to the fire, and saw that the sticks were going as they had come: each person took one, that it might bring him good fortune; for the flame only blackened them. I took one also, and, as my whip was broken, used it to beat my horse.
I hand over this detail, which I certify to be exact, to the Editors of the Gazette and the Univers. P.
DECORUM IN THE HOUSE OF WORSHIP.
ATTENDING a place of devotion a few evenings since, I could not but notice the concluding manner of their exercises, which appeared to me peculiarly appropriate, and I wish it might be adopted in all our places of religious worship. After the Preacher had pronounced the benediction, there was perfect stillness for a few moments, as though the audience were silently sending up their petition that the blessing which had been invoked might descend and rest upon them. The pew-doors were then opened, and the assembly quietly retired. What a contrast between this mode, and that which has been seen in some of our churches! The apparent haste which is sometimes exhibited by adjusting the apparel, putting on gloves, overcoats, and opening the pew-doors before and while the benediction is pronounced, indicates thoughts at variance with that solemnity of feeling which we have a right to expect should be cherished and evinced in the house of God. I would have the charity to believe that this conduct rather proceeds from thoughtlessness on the subject; and hope that the suggestion of its impropriety will influence those who are not aware of it, to pursue a course more consistent with reverential feeling.-C. G.
THE ECONOMY OF GRACE, AND THE SPIRITUAL
(To the Editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine.)
EVERY one who is conversant with the writings of St. Paul, must have observed how he loves to dwell on the spiritual blessings imparted to believers in Christ, and on the glorious prospects which open to their view. In adverting to these themes, he puts forth all the vigour of his great and comprehensive mind, and he manifests the deepest emotions of gratitude and admiring awe. His conceptions, inspired as they were by the Holy Spirit, appear sometimes to have risen to a sublimity, which even to him was almost overpowering; and in giving utterance to them, he seems to labour for expressions sufficiently emphatic and powerful to set forth the grandeur of the divine arrangements, or the condescending love of God to man, as shown in the scheme of our redemption.
In referring to the privileges of believers, St. Paul repeatedly gives prominence to the consideration, that they are bestowed according to a plan, formed in the divine mind, and cherished through all the ages of this world's history, but the full development of which was reserved to this last dispensation of his truth and grace. This plan comprehends the gift of the Son, as the great sacrifice for sin,-the exaltation of the Redeemer as the head of his church, and the universal Sovereign and Lord,-the attracting of mankind to him as their common centre, and the union in him of all believers,—and the communication, to all who penitently trust in his atonement, of inward peace and purity, forming the earnest of eternal life. The Apostle shows us, that it is the purpose of God to pardon, sanctify, and bless mankind in Christ, and through the exercise, on their part, of an active faith in him. This, he reminds us, is emphatically "the counsel of the divine will;" and he leads us to contemplate it, as involving the greatest depths of wisdom, and as affording to the heavenly hosts the most instructive and affecting views of the character and government of God, while it is preparing those who actually come to Christ, and are constituted his saints, for an eternal union with all the pure and good.
Such sentiments are found in many parts of the writings of St. Paul; they are, indeed, interwoven with all his statements of Christian doctrine, and privilege, and duty. But there is one passage which we may select, as exhibiting these views with peculiar clearness and power. We refer to that which occurs in the opening of his Epistle to the Ephesians, immediately after his salutation to that church,- —a passage which is in perfect accordance with the precious declaration, that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life;" while it places many points of deep interest in a strong and affecting light. It is as follows:-"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him:-in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ." (Eph. i. 3-12.)
It is to be feared that this passage, and others of a similar character, in the Pauline epistles, are not sufficiently regarded by many sincere Christians. They have been accustomed to dwell, with deep interest, on the explicit statements which occur in the divine word, of God's universal love to man; and they have rejoiced to find it written, in terms which admit of no dispute, that Jesus Christ "by the grace of God tasted death for every man,”—that “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,”—that the Gospel, the glad tidings of salvation through his blood, is to be preached, by his express injunction, "to every creature,”—and that "God would have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." These declarations are justly dear to them, since they authorize that personal reliance on Christ, that individual coming to him as our Saviour, on which our peace and holiness depend; and since they afford the most influential and attractive views of the divine character, while they encourage every benevolent effort made to bring others to the knowledge and enjoyment of Christ. It is also a cause of sincere though reverent joy, that these declarations abound in the holy Scriptures, and, we may add, in the writings of that eminent Apostle, whose letters form so interesting and instructive a portion of the New Testament: and many Christians, firmly established in the truths which they set forth, pass over such passages as that which we have adduced from the Epistle to the Ephesians, leaving the mystery which they involve, as one which the human mind cannot, with its present knowledge, unfold, or resting in the general conclusion, that they have a special reference to the calling of the Gentiles to become partakers of Christian privileges.
But is it wise not to ponder such passages? Should we not seriously
endeavour to enter into the sentiments of the inspired Apostle, to follow him in the trains of thought which he pursues, and to cherish those emotions of devout gratitude to God which filled his breast in the contemplation of the truths which he sets forth? Here is an Epistle, sent by Paul to the church at Ephesus, and copies of which were probably sent to several other churches, an Epistle which contains important statements of Christian doctrine, and powerful exhortations to the duties of the Christian profession; and in the very commencement of this Epistle, we find an elaborate statement relative to the eternal purposes of God, in regard to the Christian economy, and the glorious privileges of which believers in Christ should be partakers. It is a statement, also, in which the mind of St. Paul seems to put forth all its energy, and to rise to the sublimest conceptions ; while there is a depth of feeling pervading it, which commends it to every one accustomed to sympathize with those high and pure emotions which evangelical truth is calculated to call forth and to sustain. Surely such a statement demands our most careful and earnest attention; and the truths which it contains must be eminently adapted to nourish piety, and to promote the maturity of the Christian character.
It would be to sink the passage below its true dignity and grandeur, and to overlook, or at least to render subordinate, the grand idea which pervades it, were we to regard it as intended to assure the Ephesian Christians of their individual election to the blessings of the Christian salvation. The excellent Dr. Doddridge has remarked, in his note on the fourth verse:"I think the Apostle here cannot be understood to intimate that every one of the persons who belonged to the church of the Ephesians, (or elsewhere to other Christian societies,) in the bonds of external communion, was by a particular decree of God personally chosen to eternal life, and to persevering holiness as the way to it. For he could have no evidence that this was the case with regard to each, without such a revelation as I think none have pretended, and as would very ill agree with other passages relating to the apostasy of some who once made a very forward profession, and with the many exhortations and cautions which everywhere occur in his writings, or with the declarations Christ had made concerning the final ruin that would in fact attend many who called themselves Christians, and some who bore the highest offices in the church, and wrought the most extraordinary works. (Compare Matt. vii. 22, 23, and Luke xiii. 26, 27.) I conclude, therefore, that he speaks of whole societies in general, as consisting of saints and believers, because this was the predominant character, and he had reason, in the judgment of charity, to believe the greater part were such." Nor can we assent to the opinion, that the Apostle, in using the term "us," in the fourth and subsequent verses, refers specially to the Gentiles, as distinguished from the Jews. There appear to us to be several reasons of weight against this method of interpretation; and some who adopt it in the former part of the passage, feel compelled to abandon it when they come to the twelfth verse,-" that we should be to the praise of his glory who first trusted in Christ,"-followed, as that verse is, by a direct statement relative to the conversion and religious experience of the Ephesian Christians: "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." We hold, with Mr. Wesley and Mr. Benson, that the passage is to be understood of all true believers in Christ, whether Jews