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tenance. Brethren, surely it is more blessed to give than to receive. In a court in the rear of Poplar Lane, is a family who are in a state of starvation. Previous to visiting them, I made inquiries of their neighbours about them. They have four small children, one a babe. The mother told me that her husband had not been able to earn more than twelve dollars for three months, and that she often sends her children out to beg something for themselves to eat, while she remained at home unsatisfied. I gave her some money, and want to send her some wood, as she has not a stick to burn. If there could be some wood provided by our Society for distribution, it would make many a hearth bright and comfortable that is now chilly and desolate.". Notes of the Missionary.
During the life-time of Stephen Girard, he every winter distributed to the poor a certain quantity of wood. Why have we no “ Wood Societies ?"-Fuel to the
every thing-give warmth to the body, and one half of its ills is provided for.
In the neighbourhood alluded to in the foregoing extract there are still numerous cases of suffering. The author of these leaves has had frequent opportunities of witnessing the Christian spirit with which the poor bear their misfortunes. You hear no loud complaints, no murmuring at the decrees of Providence. Yet there are occasions that he has met with men, and women too, whose hearts being hardened, and the Gospel to them a sealed book, have railed out against the doctrines of divine truth, and as the Missionary says :
“ There are many interesting cases I might mention that I have met with while visiting among the poor and dying ; many of them, it is true, will not permit me to pray with them, oftentimes cursing me for entering their dwellingswhile others hail me as a welcome messenger.”
To the poor as well as the rich, Christmas has always a pleasing sound. It is associated with charity and benevolence, and it seems as if on that day, the coldest hearts melt before the smiles of the happy and joyous, and feel at least for a day human. Christmas was considered by our ancestors, in the double light of a Holy Commemoration, and a cheerful festival, and accordingly distinguished it by devotion, by vacation from business, by merriment and hospitality. It derives its name from the latin “ Christe Missee," the Mass of Christ. As early as 98 it was observed as a Festival, but not until the year 500 did it become universal in the Catholic Church. Christmas was called “ Midwinter," by the Saxons. The custom of annual donations of Christmas and New Year's day is very ancient, being copied from the Polytheists of Rome, at the time the public religion was changed. There are very many interesting facts, both historic and fabulous, connected with the ceremonies, customs, and superstitions, of this day, which if collected together would make a curious and interesting book. But the following article entitled “ Origin of the celebration of Christmas," embraces many items which are to be found scattered throughout the various versions given of it, that we annex it as an introduction to our Legend, written expressly for our young
friends. Among the early Christians, there were many who dwelt in Heathen countries; and not a few of this class having
; themselves abandoned the splendid superstitions of Paganism for the noble simplicity of Christian doctrine, introduced
Heathen festivals among their brethren, and gave such an interpretation to their transmigration as was consistent with the character of their new faith.
In the lapse of time, Christianity having extended itself to the palace, and its ministers having succeeded in acquiring a considerable share of power and influence, they were not wanting to themselves in any contrivance which could invest their religion with greater external pomp and dignity. They knew that every increase of its outward splendor would have the effect of shedding additional lustre on its expounders ; and, with this conviction, every occurrence in the history of their faith was diligently ransacked, that its memory might be perpetuated by some festival.
Many of the anniversaries solemnized by the Christian church were transplanted into it from the Heathen soil. Whilst Easter has succeeded to the · Feralia’ of the Romans, there can be little doubt that Christmas has taken the place of their “Saturnalia.'* This festival, instituted in honor of Saturn, was celebrated by them with the greatest splendor, debauchery, and extravagance. The ceremonial of this festival was opened on the 19th of December, by the lighting of a profusion of waxen flambeaux in the temple of Saturn, as an expiatory offering to the relenting god, who had, in remoter times, been worshipped with human sacrifices. At this festive season, boughs and laurels were profusely suspended in every quarter, and presents were interchanged on all sides. The Christian church was anxious to abolish the celebration of these Saturnalia, in which she blushed to see her own disciples partaking; and therefore appointed a festival, in honor of her Divine Master, to supersede them. Though of Heathen origin, the festival of Christmas no
*Christmas,' says Selden,' succeeds the Saturnalia ; the same time, the same number of holy days.'
longer exhibited sacrifices of bulls or goats: it was carefully pruned of those disgusting features and extravagances which nourished and excited debasing passions; and yet, in order that it might not prove revolting to the habits and feelings of the new convert who was called upon to resign, the meretricious blandishments of the Saturnalia, it was permitted to retain such innoxious customs from the Pagan celebration, as were not wholly irreconcilable with the bland and cheerful spirit of Christianity. The torches, which had shed
. their effulgence through the temple of Saturn, shone with undiminished splendor in the temple of Christian worship, and presented, as it were, a symbol of Jesus, that eternal light which was born in the world' to waken the whole human race to life and immortality ;-which illuminated the fields of Bethlehem, and shone about the shepherds, 'a lamp unto their feet, and a light unto their paths.' The Saturnalian custom of decking the streets and houses with laurel and boughs, and exchanging presents, was also preserved, and has partially descended to our own times. The interchange of presents was supposed to typify the spiritual and heavenly gifts which our Saviour, by his coming, had lavished upon mankind.”
A CHRISTMAS LEGEND. ;
" A Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year."
It was Christmas eve. Around a cheerless fire in a humble dwelling were seated four persons, a man, his wife, and two children. The age of the one, a boy, was about ten, that of the other, a girl, seven. They were looking up from their little stools to their parents, whose conversation
they had been listening to with some attention, and anxiously awaiting for an opportunity to speak upon a subject in which their hearts were much interested. Christinas eve is an epoch in the life of youth. They look forward to its approach with all those pleasing anticipations ever attendant on boyhood, and to the fulfilment of those joyous dreams which pictured that happy event in all the gorgeous colors of youthful fancy. There is a charm in the very sound of Christmas; it comes upon the heart that is care worn like a ray of hope ; it sheds upon the pallid cheek of sorrow a beam which illumines the darkest chambers of the soul; it is a day set apart for the great purpose of purifying the moral world, and giving to created things a glimpse of that which is eternal. The Sabbath is the holy day of the week-Christmas of the year. Happy they who can meet it with a smile-happy they who extend to their children the full hand, and strew their pathway with the gems their young fancies had conjured up. The hobby-horse in the eyes of a little urchin, is a mine of wealth ; a doll to a smiling faced girl, is a gift whose price, in her estimation, is beyond human computation. There is not one upon whom a parent or friend bestows a testimonial of affection or esteem, but becomes in the eyes of the receiver a prize to be remembered when other and “ brighter things shall have passed away."
That happy moment when the morn breaks upon the holyday and the stockings treasures are laid before them, is worth, in their estimation, all the promises and bright prospects of the great future. What is the future to the enjoyment of youth who bask in the sunshine of the present?
There was a pause in the conversation, the little girl looket , up and met the tearful eyes of her pale cheeked mother, th past had been the subject of their discourse, and the remem