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RELIGION OF THE SAXONS.
"BRITISH ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY," requires some notice of the religion of the Saxons, by whom Britain was conquered in the fifth century. Our young readers cannot but feel an interest in this subject of their national annals, which will not fail to be the means of exciting their gratitude for the blessings of the Holy Scriptures.
1. THE IDOL OF THE SUN, from which Sunday is derived, dies solis, was placed in a temple by the Saxons. Sacrifices were offered to it, as they believed that the sun co-operated with this image. He was represented like a half-naked man, with his face resembling the sun, holding on his breast with both hands a burning wheel, signifying his course round the world; its fiery gleams denoting the light and heat with which he warms and nourishes all things.
2. THE IDOL OF THE MOON, from which comes our Monday, dies luna, anciently Moon-day. This idol ap. pears singularly strange, being habited in a short coat like a man. Her holding a moon is a sufficient distinction; but the reason of her wearing a short coat, and a long-eared cap, is lost in oblivion.
3. Tuisco, the most ancient and peculiar deity of the Germans, is reckoned to have been the grandson of VOL. II.
Japhet, the son of Noah, and to have peopled the north of Europe. He is represented in his garment of skin, according to the ancient manner of clothing by that people. Next to the sun and moon, the Saxons paid their adoration especially to this idol, and dedicated the next day to him, from which Tuesday is derived, anciently Tuis-day. The Romans called this day dies Martis. But this idol is very unlike Mars.
4. WODEN, or ODIN, was the supreme divinity of the Saxons who settled in Britain, and his marvellous exploits formed the greatest part of their mythological creed. He is supposed to have migrated from the east; but from what country is not known. He is represented as the god of battles, and as having slaughtered thousands at a blow. His image was prayed to, for victory over their enemies; which, if they obtained, they usually sacrificed to him the prisoners taken in battle. His palace in the invisible world is called Valhal, situated in the city Midcard, where, according to fable, the souls of heroes, who had bravely fallen in battle, enjoy supreme felicity, feasting on the choicest dainties, and drinking mend out of the skulls of those whom they had slain in the days of their flesh. Our Wednesday is derived from him; anciently called Woden's-day. The northern historians make him the father of THOR. K
5. THOR is reckoned the eldest and the bravest of the sons of Woden, and his wife Frea, or Friga. He was represented as sitting in a large hall, on a bed canopied over, with a crown of gold on his head, and twelve stars over it, holding a sceptre in his right hand. The Saxons and Danes believed that Thor reigned over all the aerial regions, which composed an immense palace, consisting of 540 halls; and that, as he pleased, he launched the thunder, pointed the lightnings, and directed the meteors, winds, and storms; that he sent plagues or health, fair and seasonable weather, causing fertility. To him the fifth day of the week, Thursday, was consecrated, anciently called Thors-deag. Among the Romans this day was called dies Jovis, as this idol may be thought substituted for Jupiter the thunderer.
6. FRIGA, OF FREA, the Venus of the Saxons, represented both sexes, holding a drawn sword in the right hand, and a bow in the left; denoting, that women as well as men should fight in time of need. She was generally taken for a goddess, and was reputed the giver of peace and plenty, the author of love and friendship. Her day of worship was called by the Saxons Fri-deag, now Friday: by the Romans dies Veneris: but the habit and weapon of this figure resemble Diana rather than Venus.
7. SEATER, or CRODO, is represented as standing on the prickly back of a fish, having a visage and his hair long, with a long beard, bare-headed and bare-footed, carrying a pail of water in his right hand, in which are fruits and flowers, and holding up a wheel in his left; his coat being tied with a long girdle. His standing on a fish was designed to signify to the Saxons, that by worshipping him, they should pass through all dangers unhurt; by his girdle flying both ways was shown the Saxons' freedom; and by the pail with fruit and flowers was denoted his care to nourish the earth. From him, or from the Roman divinity Saturn, we have Saturday.
Some learned men have remarked a striking resemblance between these Saxon deities and the seven principal gods of the Romans, from whom their days were also named-Apollo, Diana, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.
Dr. Southey, in his "Book of the Church," has some valuable remarks on the religion of the Saxons, and the influence of their conquest in Britain, and upon the state of Christianity as it was professed by many of the Britons. He says, "The Saxons, Angles, and other kindred tribes, to whom we are indebted for the basis and character of our fine language, and of our invaluable civil institutions, were at the time of their establishment here a ferocious people, but not without noble qualities; apt for instruction, and willing to be instructed. The heathenism which they introduced bears no affinity, either to that of the Britons, or of the Romans. It is less known than either; because while it subsisted as a living form of belief, the few writers who arose in those illiterate ages were incurious concerning such things: but it has left familiar traces in our daily speech, and in many of those popular customs which in various parts of the country still partially maintain their ground. They had idols wrought in wood, stone, and metals of different kinds, even in gold: this fact implies considerable proficiency in art, beyond that to which the ancient Britons had attained. One of these idols was designed as standing upon a fish, others as having many heads; a gross but intelligible mode of representing to the senses of a rude people, that the gods whom they worshipped, beheld the actions which were done on all sides. The latter images may be thought to imply by their fashion a Tartaric origin; the former may not improbably be referred through the same channel to India, and perhaps
to the corrupted tradition of the Deluge, which seems to have been preserved wherever ancient traditions are found. They had temples, a ritual worship, and a regular priesthood. The rites were bloody. Saxons on the continent are known to have decimated their prisoners for sacrifice. But there is some reason to infer, that the priests, when they accompanied the conquerors hither, had attained to that stage of intellectual advancement, wherein it became their wish so to direct their influence as to mitigate, rather than increase the evils to which their fellow-creatures were liable in an age of violence and incessant war. From the Saxons it is that we derive the holy name of God; its literal meaning was, the good; and we must acknowledge the propriety of that reverential feeling which induced them thus to express goodness and divinity by the saine word. The enclosures of their temples were held to be profaned if a lance were thrown into them and the priests were not permitted to bear arms; nor to ride like warriors on horseback, upon mares. When the image of their goddess Hertha, or mother earth, was borne abroad in a covered carriage, so long as it continued without the consecrated precincts, all hostilities were suspended, and nothing was thought of but festivity and joy. At the expiration of this festival, which otherwise might seem to have been instituted in favour of humanity, the vehicle, the garment which covered it, and the idol itself, were washed by slaves in a lake which none but the servants of the goddess were allowed to approach, and after this ceremony, the slaves were sacrificed by drowning. They worshipped the Sun and Moon, the Thunderer, and Odin, the favourite god of those who settled in this island, because he was a deified warrior, from whom the kings of the Heptarchy traced their descent. Of the other objects of their mistaken worship, little more than a few names can now be ascertained. That of the goddess Eostre, or Eastre, which may probably be traced to the Astarte of the Phoenicians, is retained among us in the word Easter, her annual festival having been superseded by that sacred day.
"The change produced in Briton by the Saxon conquest was greater than that which took place in any other part of the western empire, when it was broken up, and divided among the Gothic conquerors. Everywhere else they soon conformed to the religion, and intermingled with the inhabitants of the conquered provinces, so that a mixed speech presently grew up, retaining more traces of Roman, than of its Barbaric origin. But the Roman tongue, and the Roman religion, the unfashionable and unpatronized rites of its perishing Paganism, as well as the flourishing forms of its corrupted Christianity, were at once swept away from that largest and finest portion of Britain in which the conquerors fixed themselves; and the Saxons established their heathen superstition and their language, without any compromise or commixture. The Britons themselves were divided into an unknown number of petty kingdoms, and their princes were animated with as much hostility against each other as against the invaders. But they were too high-minded to brook that forced and ignominious incorporation to which the Gauls, and Spaniards, and Italians, had submitted; and gradually retiring to the western penin. sula, to the land of Lakes, and to the Highlands of Scotland, their language ceased to be spoken in that great division of the island which now obtained the name of England, from its Anglian conquerors. The priests and monks withdrew with them, as well as the less placable votaries of the old Druidical faith; and Christianity, as a public establishment, disappeared from the kingdoms of the Heptarchy for about a hundred and fifty years."
BRITISH ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY.
No. V. Christianity in Britain, from the Conversion of
CONSTANTINE THE GREAT publicly professing Chris-
Imperial favour shone upon the ministers of Christ, and wealth and honours were largely heaped upon them. Christianity being now the principal path to preferment, persons of rank sought its dignities and emoluments, and a hierarchy was framed corresponding with the civil government, and consisting of many orders of ministers unknown to the former ages of the church, perverting the divine institutions of the New Testament.
Dr. Henry, in his "History of Great Britain," observes, "After the conversion of Constantine, he and his successors interested themselves greatly in the administration of ecclesiastical affairs, and acted as the supreme heads on earth of the church, as well as of the state. By their authority the hierarchy was brought to an almost perfect conformity with the civil government of the Roman empire. In order to this, several new ecclesiastical dignitaries, as patriarchs, metropolitans, and archbishops, were established in the church, to correspond ro the præfecti, prætorii, vicarii, and presides provinciarum in the state. According to this model, there should have been one metropolitan, and first three, then four, and at last five archbishops in Britain. But it seems probable that this model of church government was never fully established in Britain, on account of the unsettled state of the country, and the poverty of the British churches, which could not well support so many prelates of so high a rank agreeably to their dignity."
Dr. Henry remarks, "While the churches of Christ were obnoxious to the civil power, and every moment in danger of persecution, they performed the rites of their religious worship with much privacy and little pomp. This was most agreeable to the pure and spiritual nature of the Christian worship, and most conducive to real piety. But after they came to enjoy security, wealth, and royal favour, they began to embellish their worship with many new-invented ceremonies, and even adopted some of the Pagan rites and practices with little alteration. Great numbers of magnificent churches were built, and adorned with the pictures of saints and martyrs, in imitation of the Heathen temples; the Christian clergy officiated in a variety of habits, not much unlike those of the Pagan priests; fasts, festivals, and holidays, were multiplied; and, in one word, an ostentatious and mechanical worship, hardly to be distinguished in its outward appearance from that of their heathen neighbours, was introduced in the place of pure and rational devotion. The Christian clergy were betrayed into this criminal and fatal imitation of their Pagan predecessors, partly by their vanity and love of pomp, and partly by their hopes of thereby facilitating the conversion of the heathens. There was, indeed, an almost infinite variety in the forms of religious worship
in the Christian church at this time, and almost every
Corruption in every form, both in doctrine and worship, sprung up among the Christians, from the time of Constantine especially. Some affirm that the British churches were infected with Arianism, which now arose; and that some bishops from Britain were present at the council at Nice, A. D. 325, in which that system was considered and condemned.
Pelagianisin certainly prevailed among the British Christians. Its author was Pelagius, or Morgan, a native of Wales. It is not necessary to enumerate all the opinions of Pelagius; but the most important and plau"That Adam sible we here state, which were these: was mortal by his creation, and would have died though he had not sinned: that Adam's sin affected only himself, but not his posterity; and that children at their birth are as pure and innocent as Adam was at his creation that the grace of God is not necessary to enable men to perform their duty, to overcome temptation, or even to attain perfection; but they may do all this by the freedom of their own wills, and the exertion of their natural powers." These notions, so soothing to the pride of man, were disseminated in Britain by Agricola, whose father, Severianus, was a bishop; while Pelagius himself, and his coadjutors, Celestus a Scotsman, and Julianus a Campanian, were employed in the same work at Rome, about A. D. 430.
The orthodox bishops perceiving the increase of these opinions, sent to their brethren in Gaul to assist them in rooting out the pernicious infection. Touched with sympathy for their brethren, the Gaulish bishops assem bled in council appointed Germanus bishop of Auxerre, and Lupus bishop of Troyes, to proceed to Britain. Extravagant accounts are given of the miracles which "Germanus had, it they are said to have wrought. brought with him a seems," as Dr. Henry remarks, " very large and valuable cargo of relics of all the apostles, and of many martyrs, which he deposited in the tomb of St. Alban!
These zealous bishops are said to have preached sometimes in the churches, and sometimes in the highways and fields; and so filled the whole island with the fame of their virtues, learning, and eloquence. At Verulam they held a conference with the Pelagians, and
confuted their opinions; but after their departure, the condemned sentiments revived. Aged Germanus undertook a second voyage into Britain, accompanied by Severus bishop of Troyes: but despairing to convince the Pelagians by argument, he caused them to be condeinned as obstinate heretics, and to be banished by the edict of Valentinian III.
Germanus, before he left Britain, is said to have founded several schools, which afterwards produced many bishops famous for their piety and learning. But the country being ravaged by the Caledonians, called Scots and Picts, and the Saxons, the natives entreated the assistance of Germanus and his colleagues: many of them, being instructed, desired baptism, and a great part of the army received that ordinance at Easter, in a church which they made of boughs of trees twisted together. The festival being over, they marched against the enemy with Germanus at their head; and he, having been a captain in early life, posted his men in a valley through which the enemy were to pass, surprized aud defeated them; after which they returned to the continent.
From this period to the arrival of the Saxons, we have no account of religion in Britain; but the Scots and Picts, ravaging the northern parts of the country, out of enmity to the Britons and their new religion, destroyed many of the churches. By this means much corruption of manners arose among the clergy, who had declined from the purity of their faith. Gildas and Bede however state, that the peace with these marauders, and the consequent plenty, occasioned much depravity among the people, and that gluttony, drunkenness, avarice, and luxury, reigned among the ecclesiastics, so that they no longer preached the gospel to their flocks, nor regarded the claims of their professed religion.
Britain thus became an easy prey to the Saxons, the character of whose idolatry we have shown in the preceding article.
THE BIRMINGHAM APPRENTICE.
His Mental Improvement, continued. TRANSACTIONS of trade in Birmingham, brought William into contact with some of the disciples of the late Dr. Priestley. Though, after the "disgraceful riots," he had removed to America, where he died, many who had attended his ministry in Birmingham, cherished a high degree of respect for his memory, as a man of vast learning, as a great philosopher, and as a diligent instructor of the youth in his congregation. The splendid medal of their friend, engraved by Mr. Halliday, one of his pupils, is a worthy memorial of their veneration. Some of these were diligent in training their young people in the anti-scriptural principles of that great philosopher. With several of these Unitarians, who soon noticed the serious disposition of William, he was occasionally drawn into conversation on religious subjects. They were persons of considerable intelligence, and of courteous, gentlemanly manners; but decidedly hostile to those articles of faith which William had embraced as the doctrines of his salvation. They made repeated attacks upon his principles, apparently for the sake of triumph; their objectious were new, and threw a temporary gloom over his spirit. Being unaccustomed to that kind of controversy, he felt incapable of answering their objections to their conviction, or to his own satisfaction. On one occasion he was affected even to tears, on reflecting upon their insinuations and declarations against those doctrines which he believed to be the very truths of God.
Although at first William was unable to defend him
self in ready argument against his Socinian friends, he perceived that their sentiments rendered it impossible for them, in their conversations upon religion, to adopt the common expressions and uniform language of the New Testament writers. The wonderful love of Christ in coming into our world, giving himself_for sinners, eternal redemption by his atoning blood, -regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and free salvation by his grace, were sentiments which they derided, and the terms used by apostles when speaking on these things, they could by no means employ. Besides, he reflected, that the principles which supported the martyrs in their controversies with the papists, and in their painful sufferings and triumphant deaths, were the very opposite to the doctrines of these Unitarians; and on these grounds he concluded they must be
But the awakened and inquisitive mind of William was not satisfied with this general conclusion. He wished to understand the subject better. He implored the direction and blessing of God upon his inquiries relating to the controversy, which he determined, as he might be able, on examining thoroughly for himself. He consulted a worthy Christian friend, with whom he became acquainted very seasonably at that period, by whom he was introduced to the THEOLOGICAL LIBRARY, which was being commenced. United with the founders of that most valuable institution in Birmingham, he became interested in its treasures, and read Dr. Pye Smith's "Discourse on the Sacrifice of Christ;" "Dr. Outram on Sacrifices," translated by Allen; Dr. Magee on the "Atonement and Sacrifice of Christ;" Mr. A. Fuller's "Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Compared," Dr. Wardlaw's Discourses on the Socinian Controversy;" Dr. Pye Smith's "Scripture Testimony to the Messiah;' Dr Nares's "Review of the Socinian Version of the New Testament; " and Mac Gowan's "Twenty Letters to Dr. Priestley," besides several other works of the same class, with the liveliest interest, from which he derived the most substantial edification, and the most delightful satisfaction. In these inestimable volumes, he found, not only the momentous sentiments of the word of God, but the glorious truths, which, as themselves declared in their writings, sustained and consoled the martyrs in prison and at the stake; and feeling their adaptation to the necessities of his own mind, as a transgressor, guilty before God, he was persuaded they were the "principles of the doctrines of Christ," the pure essentials of the gospel, the doctrines of salvation.
Besides these works on those great subjects of controversial divinity, William read many volumes of the standard writings of Owen, Hervey, Leighton, Bunyan, Witherspoon, Newton, Cecil, and others of that class, with Middleton's Evangelical Biography," by which his mind became established in the great doctrines of Protestant Theology.
Ecclesiastical History was a branch of knowledge with which William desired to become familiar. He read "Fox's Book of Martyrs," which at once produced astonishment in his mind, at the power of divine grace in their triumphs, and a determination to search the records of the church through successive ages. This subject also he found involved, and strongly recommended, in most of the works on the Evidences of Christianity which he had read; indeed, works of that class constitute, as he found, a very considerable portion of those evidences. This study, therefore, appeared to him of the greatest possible importance to Christians, especially as giving an exhibition of true religion in the holy lives and triumphant deaths of its most distinguished ornaments, from the apostles downwards, and as pointing out the origin and progress of the
various errors and corruptions, which have disgraced the Christian name.
The Theological Library in Birmingham contained several valuable works in that department, and William read them with his accustomed avidity and interest. Among the works of this class, he read Milner's Church History; in which he was delighted to see an edifying exhibition of the power of the gospel, through successive ages, from the ascension of Christ to the Reformation in Germany. Dr. Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History he found equally valuable with Milner's, but written upon a different plan. He had met with a remark of Dr. Johnson, in which he pronounced it, in his day, the only work of the kind that deserved that title. Though it speaks far less of the peculiarities of spiritual religion, it seemed a necessary companion to Milner's; as he exhibits more fully the rise and progress of the innumerable abominations, which have been practised by an ambitious and worldly priesthood, under the abused name of Christianity. Mosheim brings down the history of the church to the early part of the eighteenth century. "Dr. Haweis's Impartial Church History," he found more brief than either of the others; but it appeared in most respects worthy of its title, and it carries down the history to the opening of the nineteenth century, and the establishment of the London Missionary Society, to whose directors it is dedicated. "Jones's History of the Waldenses," opened a new field of contemplation in the existence, piety, and sufferings of that people, connected with a brief view of Ecclesiastical History from the time of the apostles. "Neal's History of the Puritans," presented to his mind an affecting portraiture of Christian integrity on the one hand, in the sufferings of that people from the time of the Reformation; and on the other of prelatical intolerance and cruelty, until the Revolution, when the Act of Toleration rendered the forms of worship among the Dissenters lawful. He also read "Bogue and Bennett's History of Dissenters," which he found might be considered as a kind of continuation of "Neal's History," to the beginning of the nineteenth century, a work apparently indispensable to show the advancement of the cause of Christianity in England. Besides these, William read the Church Histories of Brown, Gregory, Sabiue, and some others; from all which, he was still more firmly established in the belief of the doctrines of the gospel which he had embraced, in love with religious liberty, which he perceived to be a peculiar and distinguishing characteristic of the Christian dispensation, while he was led to cherish a cordial esteem for good men of every denomination of professing Christians, who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
In addition to the histories already mentioned, William read "Hume's History of England;" "Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire;" "Dr. Robertson's History of Charles V, of Scotland; of America; and of India;" and a considerable part of "Dr. Mavor's Universal History," with many others, for the purpose of the cultivation of his mind; and though he felt considerable interest in works of a generally improving character, he cherished the most lively interest in those which related to the things of Jesus Christ and his universal kingdom, which the prophets of God declare shall include all the nations upon earth.
"The dread and dislike of death do by no means prove that a person is not a child of God. Even a strong believer may be afraid to die. We are not in general fond of handling a serpent, even though its sting is drawn, and we know it to be so."- Mr. Martin.
Letters to a Mother, upon Education.
On exciting Fear.
FEAR, you are aware, means the dread of evil. It must be distinguished from the mere apprehension of evil, by the disquieting uversion from the event or object apprehended, and which, instead of prompting exertion to avoid it, induces a listless horror, which occupies the soul, and wears out its energies. There are degrees in this passion proportioned to the qualities of the object by which it is excited. But the passion in any degree is generally useless, and frequently injurious. The susceptibility of fear may exist in different degrees in different constitutions; but, as it appears to me, always requires in the first instance an exciting cause to awaken it into action. It is also evident that these exciting causes may be of such a nature, or so numerous, as to augment this susceptibility, till at length timidity shall be excited upon the prospect of almost every contingency, and often in the prospect of none whatever; a habit of mental watchfulness and foreboding may be established, which may paralyse the capacity, induce a dread of action, and contribute to cast a gloom over much of such a person's existence. This habit of mind becomes more forcible with the advancing infirmities of age, or with the augmenting cares of human life; and at length, and often at a premature period, the feverish existence terminates by death. Such persons resemble the hare couching in its form, sleeping with its eyes open, and listening with retracted ears to the approach of every pursuer. But the person I am describing is even less happy than this creature, which, in the absence of hostile sounds, is perhaps incapable of imagining danger, and during the night steals forth, and in its sports by moonlight enjoys an hilarity which makes up for the suspicion to which it is doomed by day.
Fear, as defined above, may be directed to any and every object, real and imaginary. But towards any and every object it is improper. It originates in the existence of improper associations or circumstances. hope in a future Letter to show, that through the influence of Revelation, the Supreme Being himself ought not to be the object of fear, as above defined.
In the mean while it may be observed, that the passion of fear and a fearful state of mind are often exhibited towards mankind, such as robbers, thieves, murderers, child-stealers; towards animals, insects; towards water, darkness, woods; and above all these, perhaps, towards the inhabitants of the invisible worlds.
It appears to me, that a parent should most carefully beware of ever making his child afraid, or of imagining he could be so, by any real or supposed circumstances.
It is an unhappy practice to read accounts of thefts and murders and robberies by footpads in the hearing of a young child. Alas! how few parents are there who know how to select what ought to be read, even from a newspaper, before their families. Let him steal a glance from the newspaper to his young child, and see those earnest prominent eyes, that flushed cheek, which all betoken an alarmed imagination. Let him know, that the mind of his child will people every field and lane and meadow with thieves and kidnappers, and then farewell for ever to the bliss and the improvement to be derived from scenes of nature, and to which quietude of beart is indispensable. I have known a child, by hearing such stories, rendered perfectly miserable. He could not walk a mile from home without a beating heart, or see a strange traveller on the road without dread. Nor should your child be taught to dread the