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have taken nothing from the Chaldean Zodiac, which we have adopted. But, though they have had a complete system of astronomy for more than four thousand years, they resemble Matthew Lansberg and Anthony Souci in the fine predictions and secrets of health, with which they stuff their Imperial Almanack. They divide the day into ten thousand minutes, and know, with the greatest precision, what minute is favourable or otherwise. When the emperor Kam-hi wished to employ the Jesuit missionaries in making the almanack, they are said to have excused themselves, at first, on account of the extravagant superstitions with which it must be filled.* "I have much less faith than you in the superstitions," replied the Emperor; "only make me a good calendar, and leave it for my learned men to fill up the book with their foolery."

The ingenious author of the Plurality of Worlds ridicules the Chinese, because, says he, they see a thousand stars fall at once into the sea. It is very likely that the emperor Kam-hi ridiculed this notion as much as Fontenelle. Some Chinese almanack-maker had, it should seem, been good-natured enough to speak of these meteors after the manner of the people, and to take them for stars. Every country has its foolish notions. All the nations of antiquity made the sun lie down in the sea, where we for a long time sent the stars, We have believed that the clouds touched the firmament, that the firmament was a hard substance, and that it supported a reservoir of water. It has not long been known in our towns that the Virginthread (fil de la vierge) so often found in the country, is nothing more than the thread spun by a spider. Let us not laugh at any people. Let us reflect that the Chinese had astrolabes and spheres before we could read, and that if they have made no great progress in astronomy, it is through that same respect for the ancients which we have had for Aristotle.

It is consoling to know that the Roman people, populus late rex, were, in this particular, far behind

* See Du Halde and Parennin.

Matthew Lansberg, and the Lame Messenger, and the astrologers of China, until the period when Julius Cæsar reformed the Roman year, which we have received from him, and still call by his name—the Julian Calendar, although we have no calends, and he was obliged to reform it himself.

The primitive Romans had, at first, a year of ten months, making three hundred and four days; this was neither solar nor lunar, nor any thing except barbarous. The Roman year was afterwards composed of three hundred and fifty-five days-another mistake, which was corrected so imperfectly that, in Cæsar's time, the summer festivals were held in winter. The Roman generals always triumphed, but never knew on what day they triumphed.

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Cæsar reformed everything; he seemed to rule both heaven and earth. I know not through what complaisance for the Roman customs it was that he began the year at a time when it does not begin, that is, eight days after the winter solstice. All the nations composing the Roman empire submitted to this innovation; even the Egyptians, who had until then given the law in all that related to almanacks, received it; but none of these different nations altered anything in the distribution of their feasts. The Jews, like the rest, celebrated their new moons; their phase or pascha, the fourteenth day of the moon of March, called the red-haired moon, which day often fell in April; their Pentecost, fifty days after the pascha; the feast of horns or trumpets, the first day of July; that of tabernacles, on the fifteenth of the same month; and that of the great sabbath, seven days afterwards.

The first Christians followed the computation of the Empire, and reckoned by calends, nones, and ides, like their masters; they likewise received the Bissextile, which we have still, although it was found necessary to correct it in the sixteenth century, and it must some day be corrected again; but they conformed to the Jewish methods in the celebration of their great feasts. They fixed their Easter for the fourteenth day of the red moon, until the council of Nice determined that it should be the Sunday following.

Those

who celebrated it on the fourteenth were declared heretics; and both parties were mistaken in their calculation.

The feasts of the Blessed Virgin were, as far as possible, substituted for the new moons. The author of the Roman Calendar (le Calendrier Romain) says, that the reason of this is drawn from the verse of the Canticle, pulchra ut luna, "fair as the moon;" but by the same rule, these feasts should be held on a Sunday, for in the same verse we find electa ut sol, "chosen like the sun." The Christians also kept the feast of Pentecost; it was fixed, like that of the Jews, precisely fifty days after Easter. The same author asserts that saint-days took the place of the feasts of tabernacles. He adds, that St. John's day was fixed for the 24th of June, only because the days then begin to shorten, and St. John had said, when speaking of Jesus Christ, "He must grow, and I must become less"-Oportet illum crescere, me autem minui. There is something very singular in the ancient ceremony of lighting a great fire on St. John's day, in the hottest period of the year. It has been said to be a very old custom, originally designed to commemorate the ancient burning of the world, which awaited a second conflagration. The same writer assures us, that the feast of the Assumption is kept on the 15th of August, because the sun is then in the sign of the Virgin. He also certifies that St. Mathias's day is in the month of February, because he was, as it were, intercalated among the twelve Apostles, as a day is added to February every leap-year. There would, perhaps, be something in these astronomical imaginings to make our Indian philosopher smile; nevertheless, the author of them was mathematical master to the Dauphin, son of Louis XIV. and moreover, an engineer and a very worthy officer.

ALTARS, TEMPLES, RITES, SACRIFICES, &c.

It is universally acknowledged that the first Christians had neither temples, nor altars, nor tapers, nor incense, nor holy water, nor any of those rites which the prudence of pastors afterwards instituted, in con

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formity with times and places, but more especially with the various wants of the faithful.

We have ample testimony in Origen, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Justin, and Tertullian, that the primitive Christians held temples and altars in abomination; and that, not merely because they could not in the beginning obtain permission from the government to build temples, but because they had a real aversion for every thing which seemed to imply any affinity with other religions. This abhorrence subsisted among them for two hundred and fifty years, as is proved by the following passage of Minutius Felix, who lived in the third century. Addressing the Romans, he says→→→→

"Putatis autem nos occultare quod colimus, si delubra et aras non habemus. Quod enim simulacrum Deo fingam, quùm, si rectè existimes, sit Dei homo ipse simulacrum? quod templum ei exstruam, quùm totus hic mundus, ejus opere fabricatus, eum capere non possit? et quùm homo latiùs maneam, intrà unam ædiculam vim tantæ majestatis includam? nonnè meliùs in nostrà dedicandus est mente, in nostro imo consecrandus est pectore?",

"You think that we conceal what we adore, because we have neither temples nor altars. But what shall we erect like to God, since man himself is God's image? What temple shall we build for him, when the whole world, which is the work of his hands, cannot contain him? How shall we inclose the power of such majesty in one dwelling-place? Is it not better to consecrate a temple to him in our minds and in our hearts?"

The Christians, then, had no temples until about the commencement of the reign of Dioclesian. The Church had then become very numerous; and it was found necessary to introduce those decorations and rites which, at an earlier period, would have been useless and even dangerous to a slender flock, long despised, and considered as nothing more than a small sect of dissenting Jews.

It is manifest that, while they were confounded with the Jews, they could not obtain permission to erect

VOL. I.

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temples. The Jews, who paid very dear for their synagogues, would themselves have opposed it; for they were mortal enemies to the Christians, and they were rich. We must not say, with Toland, that the Christians, who at that time made a show of despising temples and altars, were like the fox that said the grapes were sour. This comparison appears as unjust as it is impious, since all the primitive Christians, in so many different countries, agreed in maintaining that there was no need of raising temples or altars to the true God.

Providence, acting by second causes, willed that they should erect a splendid temple at Nicomedia, the residence of the emperor Dioclesian, as soon as they had obtained that sovereign's protection. They built others in other cities; but still they had a horror of tapers, lustral water, pontifical habits, &c.; all this pomp and circumstance was in their eyes no other than a distinctive mark of paganism. These customs were adopted under Constantine and his successors, and have frequently changed.

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Our good women of the present day, who every Sunday hear a Latin mass, at which a little boy attends, imagine that this rite has been observed from the earliest ages, that there never was any other, and that the custom in other countries of assembling to offer up prayers to God in common, is diabolical and quite of recent origin. There is, undeniably, something very respectable in a mass, since it has been authorised by the Church; it is not at all an ancient usage, but is not the less entitled to our veneration.

There is not, perhaps, a single ceremony of this day which was in use in the time of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit has always conformed himself to the times. He inspired the first disciples in a mean apartment; he now communicates his inspirations in St. Peter's at Rome, which cost several millions-equally divine, however, in the wretched room, and in the superb edifice of Julius II. Leo X. Paul III. and Sixtus V.*

* See PRIMITIVE CHURCH.

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