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the Epiphany on the 6th of January, fixed the 25th of December for the Nativity. This was said to have been ascertained as the right day by Julian I., who was bishop of Rome from A. D. 337 to 352; but though the authority for this statement may not be the best, it is sufficieutly clear that it was not till about the middle of the 4th century that the Western Church set apart the 25th of December as the Festival of the Nativity; and not till a much later period that the Eastern Church fell in'o the same usage.
It is evident from what we have already said, that the learned are divided upon the certain day of his nativity. Some, indeed, assign the period of the Passover as the true time; others think, and among them Archbishop Usher, the author of our common Bible chronology, that it must have been at the Feast of Tabernacles; whilst to the 25th of December it is reasonably objected, that is, as the sacred historians inform us, the shepherds were watching their flocks by night at the time of his birth, it could hardly have been in the dead of winter. As there are no data whatever, known to us, by which this day can with any certainty be determined, and from the earliest calculations, we find by the extract above given from Clement, a very different period was assigned, than that now agreed upon, we are left entirely to conjecture as to the reason that induced the church to select the 25th of December in preference to all others, and fix upon it as the day of the nativity. Sir Isaac Newton, in his commentaries on the prophecies of Daniel, accounts for the choice of this day, the period of the winter solstice, "by showing, that not only this feast, but most others, were originally fixed at cardinal points of the year; and that the first Christian calendars having been so arranged by mathematicians, at pleasure, without any ground in tradition, the Christians asterwards took up with what they found in the calendars. So long as a fixed time of commemoration was solemnly appointed they were content.”
Others assign to it a mystical origin; and as the Romans on this day celebrated the festival of natalis Solis invecti, or of the Sun's return from the South and passage of the solstice to begin his ca. reer north, so they selected this day to commemorate the rising of the Sun of Righteousness to shed life and blessedness upon mortals. The more probable solution, perhaps, is that this feast, being introduced by the Roman Emperor Constantine, when Christianity was made national, was employed to supplant the Pagan festival of the Saturnalia. This festival was observed by the Pagans in honor of Saturnus, who is supposed to have reigned over Italy during the golden age of the poets, and was therefore held in the highest ven
eration by the superstitious Romans. Nothing could be more natural, than, when Christianity was humbled to the throne of Paganism, Christ should be disgraced by the services of idolatry.-The time of the two festivals is the same, and the ceremonies were originally almost identical. "It was generally believed that during the reign of Saturnus there were no slaves, and the Saturnalia was intended to restore that happy state of things by giving to servants and slaves a complete holiday. They were on this occasion allowed to appear in the dress of free citizens; were waited upon at their feasts by their masters; were free from every kind of service, and enjoyed the most perfect freedom of speech. The whole season was one of universal rejoicing for all the people of Rome, and the city resounded with the shouts, Io, Saturnalia! Io, bona Saturnalia! Every body ate and drank plentifully, and nvited or visited his friends and relations. It was also customary for persons to make presents to one another on this occasion, and clients presented their patrons with wax candles. Children generally received little figures, which were called oscilla, or sigilla, from which the last day of the Saturnalia derived the name "sigillaria.” During this festival alı business, private as well as public, was suspended; no war was commenced; no battle was fought, and no punishment was inflicted on offenders.”
We cannot fail to be struck with the great similarity there is between this festival and Christmas, even as celebrated among ourselves-in these days and this land of Protestant degeneracy; but the likeness was far more exact in earlier times than now; and even now, in Rome, than among us Protestants. We still havě Christ. mas-holidays, Christinas-gifts, Christmas feastings, invitations, dinners, parties, and revelry. Children are especially privileged to claim their Christmas presents, and even the most devoted to business, public and private, seem constrained to relax and take holiday. Our State Legislatures and the United States Congress suspend their party warsare, and enjoy together, in this occasion, in merry good humor, thė Christmas festival. True, much of the servid and rather bountevus hospitality of former days is now grown out of counten.
The yule-ciog has been dri pt, and the wassail loul, thanks to Temperance Societies, is but little circulated. The days of eggnog are now numbered among the nefasti, and tke cofin-pie has lost its significance with ts shape. The Christmas carol, too, is but seldom heard, and if Christmas eve vigil is still kept by a few, the watchers for the dawui remember not that the observance is in honor of the fact, that the Saviour was born while shepherds watched their
flocks by night; but the mystical representatives of Adam and Eve, with their mysterial relation, have together passed into oblivion. With us Protestants, too, who believe not in saint worship, St. Stephen's day, St. John's day, and Innocent's day, the 26th, 27th, and 28th of the month, are all forgotten, as in honor of the martyrdom of the proto-martyr, and the disciple whom Jesus loved, and the massacre of the children of Bethlehem by Herod. Still what was said of many of the western nations when this festival was first instituted, may be said with too much truth of many of us even now:- We have transferred to it many of the follies which prevailed at the Pagan Saturnalia, such as adorning fantastically the churches, mingling puppel-shows and dramas with worship, wild and licentious feasting and merry-making, Christmas jocularity, revelry, and drunk
With the Church of England and the Lutheran Churches we be. lieve this festival is considered as canonical; but by the Church of Scotland and Dissenters generally it is regarded with no more respect than as a time, which, from the general relaxation of business, may be opportunely embraced for public religious edification. With the Roman Church it is regarded as one of their greatest festivals. Three Masses are said-one at midnight, one at daybreak, and one in the morning; and both in the Greek and Roman Churches, the manger, the holy family, &c., are sometimes represented at large. St. Chrysostom teaches us in what consideration it was held in his time in the following passage. After arguing its superior claims from the fact that all other days were made venerable from the fact of the Lord's incarnation, he proceeds:“But we do not give this festival the preference merely on this account; but because the transaction on this day was, of all others, the most stupendous. For that Christ when once man should die, was a thing of course. But that when he was God he should be willing to become a man, is beyond measure wonderful and astonishing. Transported with this thought, St. Paul in rapture exclaims, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh.' For this reason chiefly I love and venerate this day, and commend it to your consideration that I may make you partakers of these sentiments. I therefore pray and beseech, come with all diligence and alacrity, every man first purifying his own house, to see our Lord wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger! Tremendous thought! Oh light of wonder?"
It seems evident from what we have gathered, that this institution is purely human in its origin--not having been generally establish
ed until about the middle of the 4th century—that the time at which it is observed is entirely arbitrary, having evidently no certain relation to the event which it celebrates—and that its observance is distinguished mainly by ceremonies no way suited to its nature, but evidently transferred, with a few modifications and additions from the ancient Roman Pagan festival of the Saturnalia. Human in its origin, arbitrary and irrelevant in its time, and Pagan in its ceremonies, it clearly has no claims, whatever upon the true Christ'an. He is at perfect liberty to disregard it at pleasure, and to demean himself without any further reference to it than his own feelings may incline him to. Yet there are one or two suggestions which may not be unimportant to us. It is true, that in some form or other, this day is regarded by most professing Christians. Society is so organized tha: this cannot well be avoided. The question is natural and useful-If we respect it at all, how ought we to spend it? Certainly, to the Lord. If we observe it at all, it is because it is called the birth-day of our Saviour, and our rejoicing should be in him. The good tidings of great joy, brought by the angel, should be our theme; and with the multitude of the heavenly host should we praise God, saying, Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace and good will amongst men; for to-day was born to us, in the city of David, a Saviour, who is the Lord Messiah!
W. K. P.
LETTERS FROM EUROPE—No. XX. My dear Clarinda-While on the subject of the Literary Institutions of England, I must not forget the ancient, and venerable, and long celebrated University of Oxford. My visit to it was, indeed, but a call; but while on the spot and its environs, I was diligent to ascertain so much of its past and present condition as I could gather from the best sources of information. In looking especially into the condition and history of Merton College, one of the most ancient and reputable, I learned that this institution was as old as the earlier part of the 13th century; and, like Cambridge, wwed its origin to the policy or benevolence of the Roman Catholic community, then in possession of the Western Roman Empire, with but a few small reservations. Merton College was removed from Surrey to Oxford in 1274.
The University of Oxford, governed by two Houses--that of Congregation and that of Convocation; and, like Cambridge, send. işg two members to the British Parliament, is a corporation of
nineteen Colleges and five Halls, having on its books a membership of 5,600 persons.
There is some difference between Colleges and Halls. “Colleges are all endowed with estates, and are incorporated bodies. Halls are not so, although some of them have “exhibitions” towards the maintenance of certain students. The Principals or Heads of the Halls receive annual rents for the chambers inhabited by the students, who live at their own expense. The Chancellor of the University has the disposal of the Headships of all the Halls except that of St. Edmund Hall, which is in the appointment of the Provost and Fellows of Queen's College. With respect to every academical privilege, the members of Halls stand precisely on the same footing with those of the Colleges. Their discipline, course of studies, length of residence, examinations, degrees, dress, and expenses, are the same as the Colleges.
Every College and Hall has a governor, whose nominal distinctions vary. They are called in different Colleges, Dean, Rector, Provost, Warden, President, Master, and Principal. The Heads of Halls are called Principals."
“The members of the University may be divided into two clàsses: those on the foundation, commonly called Dependent Members; and those not on the foundation, termed Independent Members. The Dependent Members derive emolument from the revenue of their Societies, and on some of them the management and discipline of the whole body devolve.
“The Independent Members consist of such persons as repair to the University for their education and degrees; but who, as they have no claim on the estate of the Society to which they belong, so they possess no voice nor authority in its management; and during their residence in a College or Hall, they are supported at their own expense.
“The Dependent Members, or Members on the Foundation, are as follows:
"The Head of the College; the Fellows, (called Students at Christ Church;) the Scholars, (called Demies at Magdalen, and Postmasters at Merton;) Chaplains, Exhibitioners, Bible Clerks, and Servitors.
“Under the head of Members on the Foundation, may also be included the College Officers, who are chosen from among the Fellows; and some of the servants hereafter mentioned.
"The Head of a College (except in the instance of Christ Church, where the Dean is nominated by the Crown; and Worcester, where