AIX LES BAINS.
EVER since my first visit to Switzerland I have said that
everybody should, if possible, scrape together sufficient money, and find
sufficient leisure to go there, before they die. No doubt the starry firmament
and the great ocean, whether sleeping in the calm, or raging, foaming in the
tempest, present spectacles of the highest sublimity. But we are familiar with
these; and though familiarity with such objects cannot breed contempt, it
breeds indifference - a measure of it in all, and so much of it in many, that
they walk along the sounding shore, and beneath the star-spangled sky, nor have
their thoughts once raised to Him who hath spread out these heavens as a
curtain, and holds the waters of the deep in the hollow of his hand. But let a
man look on such a scene as I saw on the morning of the day after my arrival at
Chamouni, when I threw open the shutters of my window, a few minutes before
sunrise, to see the Alps and their monarch for the first time - naked as they
were born, without a vestige of the clouds that had hung, for days before, in
heavy folds down to their feet. With majestic domes of untrodden snow, and many
a rocky tower and spire shot up to heights we had associated more with the
stars of heaven than anything belonging to this earth, at the moment when the
rising sun first flashed on the highest summit of Mont Blanc, and then lighted
up one top after another of the mighty group till each, while the valleys were
yet wrapped in gloom, shone and blazed like a living jewel, the scene was one
to strike the spectator speechless. We were dumb with wonder and admiration. It
presented views of the might and majesty of God I never had entertained before;
and recalled to my mind the words of one who, having visited both scenes, said,
If you would see the glory of God, go to Switzerland ; if you would hear
his voice, go to Niagara!
Though less stupendous than the most celebrated scenes of the Alps, the scenery amid which Aix Les Bains lies is picturesque. More, indeed, than beautiful and picturesque, it is grand. The town itself lies in the bosom of the Alps of Savoy, and near by the shores of the lake of Bourget. The spectacle that bursts on the traveller, as he emerges from a tunnel to find himself on the shores of that lovely lake, is one of great beauty. Reflected in a mirror of its azure waters are the tall precipices of limestone that rise perpendicularly from its edge; the castle of Chatillon standing in feudal grandeur on its noble site ; swelling heights richly clothed with vineyards ; and the magnificent ranges of the Mont du Chat and those other mountains, that seem to guard the town with their rocky battlements, and shut it out from all the world
This old city has a fixed population of some three thousand or four thousand inhabitants, and in summer about an equal number of visitors, drawn to it by the fame of its mineral springs. These, which issue forth from beneath an antique arch, are warm, and chiefly sulphurous. Though drunk by some, they are principally used externally - in the form of baths ; and an odd sight it is to see the bathers, on leaving them, borne through the streets like swathed mummies, muffled up in blankets, servants following with their clothes - men and womens dresses - as they return to their hotels or lodging-houses, to be put to bed, and undergo a profuse perspiration, aud be cured (believe the doctors) of any and all diseases our flesh is heir to.
These springs were known to the Romans and to these, indeed, the town owed its ancient name of Aquae Gratianae. Instruments of divine providence in the hands of Him who maketh the wrath of man to praise Him, and restraineth the remainder of wrath, pioneers of the Saviour who opened up a way for the Gospel by their lust of empire, the arts of peace, and their all-conquering swords - not only in the plains, but into the mountain fastnesses of Europe, and even to our ancestors in this distant isle, this Ultima Thule of the world - the Romans have left their mark on Aix les Bains. The hypocaust of one of their baths is still to be seen in a garden there. Other buildings, undoubtedly Roman, form parts of a château which was erected in the sixteenth century, and belonged to the Marquises of Aix. A triumphal arch, called LArc de Campanus, still stands there, untouched by time or the hand of man, in all its original beauty. It dates from the third or fourth century, and was erected by Lucius Pompeius in honour of the family of Pompeia. Besides the names of all the members of the family, affectionately carved under the architrave, it bears this inscription, cut out on its face in old, bold Roman letters
LUCIUS POMPEIUS CAMPANUS VIVUS FECIT.
Built of marble, and beautiful both in its materials and form, we valued
and admired it most for the domestic love that seems to animate the cold stone,
and lends moral grace to this monument of ancient Rome. The Ionic remains ofa
temple dedicated to Venus have been discovered in the garden of the
Curé. Near by these I found a convent occupied by some nuns. Spending
their time better than in bickerings, or idleness, or the dull routine of
formal devotions, they keep a school, where they teach poor children to read,
and to know the truths of the Gospel, so far as they know them themselves. They
looked rather young than otherwise. They were thin, pallid, and had a sad air;
as if they suffered from severe fasts and austerities, or wept much in their
lonely cells over the wickedness of a world from which they had fled. Nowhere
have I seen modern contrast more favourably with ancient Rome. - There, as it
were, they stood side by side - the place of the impure priestess and votaries
of that impure goddess occupied by those who, in devoting their youth and
energies and affections to works of benevolence and charity, were, mistaken as
they might be, an honour to their sex and a blessing to society.
Our first day in this old town was a Sunday; and almost the first impression made on our minds was a painful one. It was caused by the remark of a servant girl whom, on descending from my bedroom in the morning, I found scrubbing the stair. Greeting her with a Good morning, she returned our salutation with the politeness and courtesy that distinguish the very humblest classes in France; and then gaily said, as she waved her hand to the bright morning outside, A beautiful day for Monsieur boating on the lake ! Though not so far behind as two ladies whom I met in Italy, and who, to my question whether they were residing in an hotel or boarding-house, replied - pronouncing the French word as we do the English one - We live in a pension, the girl at Aix knew - for no doubt our speech bewrayed us - that we were English. And what reason had she, or could she have, for supposing that we were to spend the Lords day in amusement on the lake, but that this was the common, if not universal, practice of our countrymen and countrywomen?
The charity that thinketh no evil, as well as the patriotism which, though we try to confine it within catholic and Christian bounds, every new visit to the Continent, instead of weakening, has only strengthened and intensified, would have induced me to put another and more favourable interpretation on this remark. But I could not, consistently with what I had observed of the habits of the English abroad on many other occasions. I was grieved and ashamed for my country. Sir Walter Scott tells how, though courts of law sat in Edinburgh, the old Highlanders held there was no law beyond the Pass of Aberfoyle, and broke the head of every sheriff officer that ventured farther north: and it seemed as if many of our countrymen held there was no Lords day, no Sabbath, no Fourth Commandment, beyond the Channel. They seemed to say, Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us ; and in such circumstances, it was with all the more pleasure I listened that evening to the address of a Wesleyan minister. We made our way to his chapel through streets crowded with gay throngs, chattering, laughing, singing, surging, and shouting, as the balloons dropped their bonbons from the skies; and I shall not forget how earnestly he pled with his hearers not to be partakers of other mens sins; to go quietly home; and teach France, by their devout behaviour, to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
Familiarity with evil, especially where it is associated with much that is winning and graceful, is apt to blunt the edge of conscience. At a distance from home and its moral influences, many salutary checks are relaxed, if not altogether removed. Unoccupied with the grave and regular duties of life, we lie open to temptations from which these ordinarily protect us. Then the pursuits that occupy the mind of the traveller, engage and engross his attention, form the staple of his conversation, and, by the pleasure they afford and novelties they present, keep him in a perpetual whirl of excitement, are not conducive to calm and serious thought. To all this the exercise of religion would, it might be thought, afford a check and corrective. But in travelling, either with a party or our own household, one finds it often difficult, and sometimes impossible, to observe family worship; and the exigencies of the journey are apt to interfere even with the prayers, and other duties, of private devotion. Long journeys are apt to make short prayers, and days of excitement, from the exhaustion that follows them, dull ones. How many have felt that the calm, undistracted frame of mind which becomes us in approaching God, is all but impossible amid the haste of an early start, the violent ringing of a steamers bell, or the impatient shrieks of the railway whistle?
These are serious drawbacks on the pleasures, and even advantages, of visiting foreign countries. Long before I had any personal experience of them, I had been astonished to see the deterioration wrought on some, whom I could not but esteem true Christians, by a few years passed in travelling, or rather residing, on the Continent The change was as painful as remarkable. There was such a relaxation of the habits of a strictly godly life; there was such a lowering of the moral tone; there was such an infusion, though not of sceptical, of very latitudinarian elements in their creed, as led me almost to exclaim, Is this Naomi? - Is this the person I knew years ago? None, therefore, I am persuaded, stand more in need of the means of grace, of such services as will make their Sundays, with Gods blessing, both pleasant and profitable, than our countrymen abroad. Many of them, with youth at the prow and pleasure at the helm, launch themselves in the pursuit of enjoyment on a sea of temptations. Hence the importance of the churches at home sending to the stations which they occupy on the Continent, either for permanent residence or the summer holidays, not men whose chief recommendation is infirm health, or the need of relaxation; not dull, humdrum, wishy-washy preachers, but their best and most attractive pulpit orators. It is these the circumstances of travellers require - according to the Scripture rule, understood in a sense which a total abstainer could not challenge, Give strong drink to him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy heart.
The station at Aix les Bains, as appeared from a placard hung on the walls of the hotel, was to be supplied with divine ordinances by a clergyman of the Church of England, who, however, unfortunately for us, had not arrived when we were there. And here I may embrace the opportunity of gratefully acknowledging the pleasure with which I have listened abroad to many of her sound, faithful, and devout pastors. These clergymen are chiefly selected, I believe, by her Colonial Society; and it should be known to all, and more thought of by many, that they are not endowed. They are dependent on the voluntary contributions of their hearers. These, I am sorry to say, are often shabby - many being thoughtless, or mean enough to take the benefit of a clergymans services without giving him any adequate remuneration in return. A practice this which, however common, is not honourable, nor even honest. And I must remark that the shame, or rather I should say the sin, of it is greatly aggravated by the contrast between the petty sum they give for the maintenance of Christs servants, and the large sums they lavish on other things - on hotel and railway bills, on the pursuit of pleasure, on the purchase of pictures, marbles, and other souvenirs. We may all sorrow for our shortcomings. I wish I could induce some of my readers to make amends by a liberal contribution to those societies which seek the spiritual welfare of the Continent. In the hope of this, I will take the liberty of quoting some very just and eloquent remarks on this subject from Mr. Ruskins Stones of Venice.
There has now been peace, he says, between England and the continental powers about thirty-five years, and during that period the English have visited the Continent at the rate of many thousands a year, staying there, I suppose, on the average, each two or three months; nor are these an inferior kind of English, but the kind which ought to be the best - the noblest born, the best taught, the richest in time and money, having more leisure, knowledge, and power than any other portion of the nation. These, we might suppose, beholding as they travel the condition of the states in which the Papal religion is professed, and being, at the same time, the most enlightened section of a great Protestant nation, would have been animated with some desire to dissipate the Romanists errors, and to communicate to others the better knowledge which they possessed themselves. I doubt not but that He who gave peace upon the earth, and gave it by the hand of England, expected this much of her, and has watched every one of the millions of her travellers as they crossed the sea, and kept count for him of his travelling expenses and of their distribution, in a manner of which neither the traveller nor his courier was at all informed. I doubt not, I say, but that such accounts have been literally kept for all of us, and that a day will come when they will be made clearly legible to us, and when we shall see added together, on one side of the account book, a great sum, the certain portion, whatever it may be, of this thirty-five years spendings of the rich English, accounted for in this manner : -
To wooden spoons, nut-crackers, and jewellery, bought at Geneva, and elsewhere among the Alps, so much; to shell cameos and bits of mosaic bought at Rome, so much; to coral horns and lava brooches bought at Naples, so much; to glass beads at Venice, and gold filigree at Genoa, so much; to avant-coureurs and extra post-horses, for show and magnificence, so much; to ball dresses and general vanities, so much. This, I say, will be the sum on one side of the book; and on the other will be written -
To the struggling Protestant Churches of France, Switzerland, and Piedmont, so much. Had we not better do this piece of statistics for ourselves in time?
To return to Aix les Bains, there was no service in English the Sunday we were there, nor any of a Protestant description in the French tongue. In these circumstances we left the hotel to find some quiet spot, where, amid scenes in harmony with his glowing words and the sublime objects he alludes to, we might respond to the psalmists call
0 come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it; and his hands formed the dry land. 0 come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
We directed our steps to the top of a neighbouring height for the sake of the Sabbath calm that seemed to rest there; and in passing along the streets found, as is usual and all but universal in Roman Catholic countries, the shops open for business. With peasants, both men and women, bringing the produce of their little properties to the market in baskets, or carts, or on the backs of mules and donkeys, the appearance of the streets on the Lords day was much the same as that which any of our provincial towns present on the day of its weekly market. Nor - blinded by superstition, denied the free use of the Bible, and held in thraldom by priests, who train them to regard saints days and days of mans as more sacred than that of Gods appointment - did the people seem to think that there was anything wrong in their practice.
In Italy, a brigand lays down his stiletto, pistols, and gun at the door of the church; enters to say his prayers; and having done so, leaves it to resume his weapons and the work of murder. In France, Popery does not present itself in an aspect so revolting - so much calculated to recall the words of Adam Smith, who, looking at that system with the calmness of a philosopher, and without any of the prepossessions or prejudices of a Protestant, pronounced it the most formidable combination the world had ever seen against the security and authority of governments; against the liberties, reason, and happiness of mankind.
Yet we saw in Aix les Bains, as in many other places, a mixture of the secular and sacred, on Sunday and in the very church, which could not but surprise, and, till familiarity bred some measure of indifference, shock any one trained to a devout observance of the Lords day. A decent, sober, well-to-do-like peasant enters the house of God with a basket on his arm, out of which you see sticking the tumips, parsnips, onions he has to sell, or the shoes and blouse he has bought. Laying it on the floor, he drops on his knees before a picture of the Virgin, or at the shrine of some favourite saint; and having gone through his devotions, he rises to take up his basket, to bow his head as he passes in front of the high altar, to dip his finger in the holy water, and crossing himself in the name of Father, Son, and Holy. Ghost, go forth quite satisfied with this service - probably all he does to remember the Sabbath clay to keep it holy.
Such was the profanation of the Lords day we saw rife in the streets and churches of Aix les Bains. But that was not the only painful feature common to it with almost all continental, and certainly all French, towns. It is full of cafes - those establishments which, with certain foreign institutions positively immoral, some social reformers, so called, are seeking to introduce among ourselves. Sunday and Saturday, these are much resorted to. Vast numbers of the people spend their evenings there, playing cards and billiards, discussing the news of the day, singing, drinking, dancing. I grant that, to whatever objections they lie open, cafés do not make drunkards as our beer-shops and public-houses do - a happy circumstance, due, I believe, to the nature of the beverages chiefly, if not exclusively, used there. These are coffee and light wines. And this leads me to observe - though I may thereby provoke the ire of some of my total abstainer friends - that the country owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Gladstone for the introduction of those light wines. If people will not give up the use of stimulants, they will prove a happy substitute for brutalising ales, and fiery spirits. I wish men would content themselves with the cup that cheers but not inebriates : at the same time, every step of approach to that is a step gained in the interests of religion and morality, of domestic happiness and the public welfare.
No doubt there are foreign countries, or districts of them, where drunkenness, the disgrace of our own, is a prevalent and glaring vice; but these, let it be remarked, are chiefly, if not only, found where the use of ardent spirits is common. There, as at home, in rags and loop-holed poverty, in wrecks of men and women, the melancholy ruins of both body and soul, one meets shocking sights - sights reminding us of the language of Robert Hall when a minister, whom he knew to be the slave of drunkenness, asked him for a glass of brandy. Call it by its right name, said Hall, and you shall have it - call it a glass of distilled damnation.
In Italy, for example, where I have spent months in the summer time, as well in its country districts as in its towns, both large and small, I have not seen altogether more than three men drunk; and a woman drunk - never. It is light wines, not spirits, that are used there, where the vine gracefully throws its arms from tree to tree, and the husbandmen make wine on every farm, as in our country they make cheese and butter. In Brittany, on the other hand, where I passed some weeks, six of them in Quimper, the chef-lieu of the department of Finisterre, drunkenness is as common as at home. I remember, for example, seeing a woman lying dead drunk in open day on the public streets - a disgusting sight. Yet it was one with which the people were apparently familiar, for they passed her by with as much cold, callous indifference as if the poor degraded wretch had been a dog - a sleeping dog.
And I remember well, to give another example, when returning from a stroll into the country, on the evening of the market-day there, of meeting, not one, but many, of the little carts they use in that primitive department of France, with the wife driving home - her lord and husband lying in the bottom of the cart like a dead pig - as they say, drunk as a beast; which a beast never is, nor consents to be.
Some who are fond of tracing all national peculiarities to blood, or race, might attribute the drunken habits and love of intoxicating stimulants, that are a marked peculiarity of the Bretons, to the circumstance that they are Celts. Of their Celtic origin there can be no doubt. It is seen in their features, and sounds in their tongue. Their speech forms one of the five great branches of the Celtic language - namely, the Gaelic, spoken by the highlanders of Scotland; the Erse, by the aborigines of Ireland; the Welsh, by the inhabitants of the Principality; the Cornish - now a dead tongue, the last who spoke it being a woman who died about eighty years ago, and lies buried in a churchyard about four miles from Penzance; and the Armoric, or Brezonic, to this day the vernacular of a large portion of Brittany. And this last, though more nearly allied to the Welsh than the Gaelic, sounds so like the latter, that I had only to shut my eyes to the picturesque and mediaeval costumes of the peasantry on a market-day in Quimper, and the delusion was complete. I seemed to be not in France but in Scotland; in Inverness, or in Inverary. Celts, however, as the Bretons are, the blood-theory will not explain those habits by which they contrast so unfavourably with the rest of the French, who are on the whole a sober people.
These Bretons were always Celts, and have been Papists for long centuries, but drunkenness did not use to be a prevalent vice among them. I talked over this matter with some of the most intelligent inhabitants and natives of the country; and according to them, the change in the habits of the people was mainly due to the comparatively modern introduction and rapid increase of the use of ardent spirits. The fountain of their vice is eau de vie, or brandy. It is not manufactured in their country - for Brittany is not warm enough for vines - but is brought from Bordeaux. The use of this spirit, of which they now consume large quantities, was introduced years ago, and at a time when, in consequence of two or three successive seasons of deficient apple-crops, cider, their ancient beverage, became both scarce and dear.
It is due to truth, candour, and the Roman Catholic Church, to state that some at least of her clergy in Brittany have made strenuous efforts to arrest the evil, and roll away from their country what is the curse both of Brittany and Britain. But this Church which, in the way of sealing the eyes of her people against the truth, is powerful for evil, seems, so far as the improvement of their habits is concerned, powerless for good. Still, let it be mentioned to his honour, that I read a noble address to the Bretons by their archbishop, which was hung up on the walls of his cathedral at Rennes. A powerful and affectionate remonstrance against their drinking habits, it breathed an earnest regard for religion, for morality, for the happiness and best interest of the people. It was one to delight the heart of a total abstainer; and one which offered an example in a Roman Catholic prelate that our Protestant prelates, and pastors of all churches, would do well to copy.
But to return to the cafes of Aix les Bains and of other continental towns, these, though not open to the gross abuses which make us wish Parliament would put forth its supreme authority to lock the door of every drinking-shop in our country, are symptomatic of an unhealthy state of society - the cause indeed, as well as the symptoms of it. A little reflection will show this, and that the system which some would introduce into our country is good neither for body nor soul.
Laborare est orare - to work is to pray - is an adage of old times : and not slothful in business is, if not religion, a religious duty. And that that adage is not sufficiently respected, nor that duty sufficiently performed abroad, may be certainly inferred both from the number of these cafés, and the numbers that resort to them. The labour which sweetens sleep to the sons of toil demands repose: and thus men who have gone through a hard days work are more inclined to seek rest at home than excitement elsewhere. Then while the cafe, crowded with workmen, is symptomatic of a want of vigorous industry on their part, it is also the cause of it. It is certain that the foreigner is a much less efficient workman than our labourers; as an English company lately found who were engaged in constructing a railway in France, and found it cheaper to carry English navvies across the Channel and pay them 5s. a day, than employ Frenchmen at one-half the wages; and it cannot be doubted that that circumstance is in some measure due to the exhausting and enervating effect of evenings spent, not amid the quietness of home, but the excitement of the café. Besides, the enormous number of these cannot be maintained but at an enormous expense to the working people. Like those tumours that withdraw its nourishment from the body, impoverishing and emaciating what they grow on, till the surgeons knife or death, perhaps, presents the only alternative, these, withdrawing from the workmans home the evening hours and hard-earned wages which its well-being and its wants require, waste the means of families. They grow on the decay of domestic happiness, and flourish on its ruins.
There are philanthropists who would set up this foreign institution in opposition to the drinking-shop, to counteract its pernicious influence. I do not say that this would be, so to speak, to cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils ; or that it would furnish an illustration of our Saviours words, When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there : and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
Such, I may seize this opportunity to remark, will be the unhappy condition of our country, should they succeed who are insidiously attempting to get a bill passed through Parliament for the purpose of introducing among us one of the worst continental institutions. A false delicacy would avoid.the subject; but the morals of our country are too precious to be sacrificed to that. Both the greatness and imminence of the danger require that a waning should be sounded, loud and plain. It is well known that the social evil, as it is called, is conducted in France, and elsewhere on the Continent, under the supervision, and, in a sense, with the sanction of the State. With step as quiet and as deadly as a tigers, this system has already crept into some of our large garrison towns and Government naval ports. With soldiers doomed to a life of ennui and comparative idleness, and to all but universal celibacy, a standing army, under our present arrangements, is, and must be, another name for a standing immorality. To inflict such wrongs on those who defend its shores is a shame and sin to any country; but especially to one so wealthy as this. The proper remedy for these evils is to engage our soldiers in industrial employment, and engraft on the army marriage, and the domestic system. These are Gods remedies, and should be ours. But it is not to a prophet of the Lord and the waters of Jordan that the leper here is sent for healing. No. To cure the physical evils which attend, and the enormous waste of money which is incurred by, the vices of our army and navy, we - miserable reformers - are introducing a system whose monstrous recommendation is, that it makes vice safe and cheap. These be thy gods, 0 Israel
We have studied the matter, and are prepared to prove by facts, which, as Burns says, are thiels that wunna ding, that the immorality in question, with all its attendant physical and moral evils, is nowhere more rampant, or so rampant, as in those very countries where this system of supervising and, in effect, of licensing vice has been established. There the vice flourishes, like a green bay, or rather a Upas tree - under the protection of the police and patronage of the State. The dogged determination which some are showing, and the quiet, stealthy, insidious ways they are taking, to introduce this system make our danger imminent. It is high time the Churches, the Heaven-appointed guardians of public morals, were doing their duty. Let their ministers not be dumb dogs that cannot bark. Watchmen on the walls of Zion, they have got the trumpet to sound. Let them put it to their lips; and let those who have got the elective franchise deal with their representatives. They may do so as effectually, and with more reason than good Queen Bess, when she told the bishops that, if they did not do her bidding, she would unfrock them. The people are sleeping; but we have the best reason to know that the enemy are awake - not sleeping, but sapping and mining. May God rouse the country to its duty, and raise up leaders in this crisis, like the men of Issachar who bad understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do
To return to the subject of the cafes, I do not say of any attempt to substitute these for our drinking-shops, The remedy were worse than the disease. Assuredly not. What can be worse than they are ? - more disgraceful, more revolting, than in London, and many other large towns, especially in England, to see the corner houses of so many streets occupied by shops which are spreading, under the license of Government, physical, domestic, moral ruin around them? What wrecks of all that is happy, noble, and good in men and women hang at these doors! It is pitiful to see them.
Still let such as love their country and would preserve its domestic blessings, as well as its religion and morality, reflect on this, that the continental system of cafés goes to weaken and undermine the foundations of domestic happiness. The French tongue has no word for home, as, till it borrowed ours, it had no word for comfortable; and very much as the result of this café system, the home which they have not in their language, large numbers have not in their experience. They have no home in the sense of the song - There is no place like home..
It is in theatres, public gardens, singing saloons, dancing saloons, and above all in cafés, they spend their evening, and seek the pleasures of life. The result is - and is one inevitable - to weaken the family relations, to blight the domestic virtues, to loosen the marriage ties, and by mutual neglect to produce mutual alienation. The result is seen in the enormous amount of immorality which appears in the statistics of France, as well as of other foreign countries. In the small avenge number of children, the fruit of marriage in France, he who runs may read it. Let our country guard its homes. their influence on the prosperity of a nation, on its purity and peace, the domestic take rank next to the religious affections; nor is any man so safe from shipwreck as he who rides by these two anchors, Home and Heaven - a home in this world and heaven in the next.
We cannot therefore be too jealous of any scheme that would withdraw men from the peace and innocent pleasures of home - the ark where they who are weary and worn with the toils of day should turn their drooping wing. Disallowed as it is abroad - and by pleasure-hunters among ourselves - rejected in many instances of men, the true foundation-stone of society is the hearth-stone. Regarded in that aspect, the crowds that throng the café, brilliant with gilded ceilings, splendid mirrors, marble tables, and a blaze of gas, or who sit outside on the boulevards and in gardens, breathing the balmy air of sunny climes and under the grateful shade of spreading trees, present to a reflective mind a spectacle much more sad than gay. People of no thought may admire it; but in the eyes of such as reflect on its causes and its consequences, it is like the dance on the deck of a sinking ship. Our clubs, especially in so far as they are the resort of fathers and members of families, are a branch of the same system - a system which it would be very difficult to reconcile, not only with the happiness and interests of families, but with the plain injunctions of the Word of God.
Beginning with this loud and solemn call, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light, St. Paul says
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. Children, obey your parents in the Lord. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
It is in homes thus regulated, the abodes of domestic purity and peace, where, more beautiful than the blushing roses that cover, or the woodbine that clings to their walls, the domestic affections bloom - it is in such homes that good citizens are reared. These are the nurseries of men who fear God and honour the Queen; who love order and respect law; who will neither tamely suffer injury nor knowingly inflict it; who show the same regard for others rights that they cherish for their own; whom, living under the influence of the Bible and not of the baton or bayonet, it is easy for rulers to govern, and impossible for tyrants to enslave. In such homes - and many such there are within our sea-girt shores - our country finds her decus a tutamen; more than in her proudest edifices, and strongest battlements, her glory and her defence.
It is not unusual for foreigners to account us haughty and proud. They love our money, but detest our manners; and the supercilious and insolent bearing of many of our countrymen - and some even of our countrywomen - furnish them with too much ground to say, Is there not a cause? And with more excuse, as not having had the opportunity of rubbing off the rust of prejudice by foreign travel, some of my readers, in regard to Aix les Bains and other towns abroad, may be ready to use the old proverb, saying, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth ? Saul was found among the prophets, and not Saul only, but Balaam the son of Peor, who made Israel to sin. Bad men have been found among good - Satan even presenting himself among the sons of God - so who seeks them will find good men and good things where they were not expected - like the Alpine rose that flings its red blossoms over the cold glacier, or a bunch of blue-bells that, springing from a crevice, lends beauty to the naked, savage rock. In this same Aix les Bains, from whose scenes both of superstition and Sabbath profanation we were glad to escape to hold communion with our Maker through his works, and enjoy the peace that rested on the surrounding hills, I witnessed a strange service, very odd indeed - more odd than any I had almost ever seen, yet springing from motives and breathing a spirit which it was impossible not to appreciate and admire.
Aix les Bains supplied no Protestant service, either in French or English, on the Sunday we spent there; so we left our hotel to pass the day in reading and quiet worship on a lonely height above the town. In going through the streets, we came up to the church; and though it was a plain building, that presented nothing striking or attractive outside, and looked mean indeed beside the monuments of old Rome, we entered, in passing, to take a view of what was going on. It could not be said of the inside that it presented nothing remarkable: and if the oddest service and scene I had ever met in Roman Catholic worship could reward us, we were well rewarded for our pains. The congregation in the area was composed entirely of women, with the exception of some dozen old men, who remained near the holy water and the door, and also of two English visitors. The latter I took to be extreme Ritualists - mongrel Protestants - a cross between Cranmer and the Pope. They seemed anxious to take a part in the worship, not content to be spectators; but fumbled in vain to find the place in the missals they had got hold of. There was a small gallery over the door, and on looking round, I found the male sex cooped up there; in contradistinction to the Jewish synagogue, where men occupy the area, and women are shut up in the gallery.
This division of the sexes in church, though regarded by some at home as, to use a slang term for lack of a better, a Puseyite fashion, was once common in England, and is still the practice of many Protestant Churches abroad - of, for example, the Waldensian, that famous Church of martyrs which, as Presbyterian, owns neither Pope nor Bishop. The custom probably had an oriental origin; but expcrience of its advantages in those days when there were no family pews, or indeed pews at all, had recommended it to the adoption of the western nations; and where the sittings are all free, and parents cannot make sure, therefore, of having their family under their own wings - cannot protect its female members from unsuitable or even bad neighbours, the separation of the sexes becomes advisable, if not unavoidable. It is impossible otherwise to adopt the rule, the apostolic precept of so arranging matters that all things may be done decently and in order, that, more than the customs of our fathers, or of primitive times, should regulate the worship of God.
The congregation was plainly attired - all, with hardly an exception, appearing to belong to the poor or humble classes; and from that I suppose that Popery in Aix les Bains, as in other towns of France, has very little hold of the upper and middle classes, of the educated portion of society. The house itself presented the usual features of provincial Roman Catholic churches - a little gorgeousness and much bad taste; daubs of pictures of the different successive scenes of our Lords humiliation hung on the walls, marked out to such as came for prayer and penance the various stations, as they are called; crosses and crucifixes that presented rude representations of our Lord, his blood and dying agony; altars to saints, and confessional boxes for priests and their fair penitents. It is a rare thing, I may remark, to see a man confessing; and Popery has everywhere been obliged to place the confessional box in the open church, and the penitents themselves, when there, under the public eye. This supplies a hint to those parents whose families, though belonging to the Church of England, practise confession. By this means only has the Church of Rome prevented the shocking immoralities to which, when priest and penitent were shut up together within the sacristy, or elsewhere, auricular confessions so often led. Besides these, there were the usual figures of the Virgin; with her painted cheeks, low body, tinsel ornaments, false jewels, crown of gum flowers, and sky-blue robe extended over an ample crinoline, looking more like a big doll than an object for either papist or pagan to worship.
All this sad and silly trumpery, the mumblings of the priests, the mummeries of their service, and more than all, the sight of rational, responsible fellow-creatures on their knees before a dead stock or stone, whose feet they touch in token of reverence with the forehead and in token of affection kiss with their lips, hardly ever fails to excite melancholy feelings; but in the church of Aix les Bains every other feeling in us gave place to amazement and curiosity. All the women, or almost every one there, had a great bundle under her arm. A very odd thing - a mystery I could not unravel; nor did, till the priest - a vulgar and unintellectual-looking man, like most of his class - had left the altar, and the choir, made up chiefly of schoolboys, and aided by a poor organ, had got through their discordant singing. At this point I expected the congregation to retire. Instead of that, the scene suddenly changed into one of bustling activity. As fast as nimble fingers could move, every bundle was opened out, and drawing forth what seemed a white night-gown, every woman arrayed herself in that; binding it around her with a cincture, some of white and some of purple colour. It was a curious sight to see hundreds of women making their toilette in a church - a toilette each finished by throwing over her head a long white veil, such as brides wear with us, and you see popish girls, as on a gala day, parading the streets with, when they go at the age of twelve or fourteen to their first communion, as it is called.
The spectacle was one we looked on with amazement. Though more ludicrous than hideous, it reminded us of one of the services of the Greek Church, when many old ladies, after confession, and with the view of receiving the Communion, array themselves in the clothes they have provided for their burial. They appear in long white linen shirts, their legs wrapped round with very narrow towelling, and on their feet shoes made of bark. Long towels envelope their heads; and are so arranged as nearly to hide the eyebrows, to fold straight down on the cheeks, and cross under the chin. This is ritualism in full and horrible efflorescence; and when these figures, with their yellow and wrinkled skins and grave clothes - making each appear a corpse that has left its tomb to take a walk in the sunshine - march in procession, the effect is very extraordinary and startling.
It was more astonishment, however, than any other feeling which the spectacle at Aix les Bains awakened; nor was that lessened when, on turning to the gallery, we saw the two or three dozen men up there shirting themselves after the same fashion. The Roman Catholic Church, which is addicted to the dramatic, introduces into those services where, if we may say so, she plays religion many a strange travesty of holy things. I wondered whether this at Aix had any allusion to the scene related in the book of Revelation, where John tells us that he saw a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, who stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands: and who cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb. Before there was time, however, to ask a question about the matter, the door of the church was thrown open, and, arranging themselves two by two, all marched out in long and orderly procession. These hundreds of women, all veiled in white, and arrayed in flowing robes of the same colour, presented certainly a striking sight. At their head went a band of boys bearing, in place of palms, I suppose, green branches; they were followed by their teacher, arrayed in black gown and white bands; behind him came a young man in a surplice, who bore a great crucifix aloft, and on each side of him walked a boy attired in scarlet and carrying a gigantic candle alit - a useless waste of wax or tallow, for it was broad day and bright sunshine; then appeared the priest himself attended by two assistants, and attired in those gorgeous robes of silk and gold which modern has borrowed from ancient, Christian from Pagan, Rome; the choir followed, singing in parts, as, with banners waving over it, richly emblazoned with figures of the sacred heart, of our Lord himself and of his mother, the procession emerged from the church, and took its way to the country.
I will turn aside, said Moses, and see this great sight; and though the object before us was but curious, not marvellous, still less miraculous, like the bush that burned and was not consumed, yet to see how this odd service would end, this novel phase of Popery, we also turned aside; little thinking that we should find anything there to admire or recommend for imitation. So we marched on with the multitude amid a silence which, if not itself religious, was certainly impressive, being broken only by the voice of the singers and the low muttering of some devout ones, who, as they went along, told their beads and said their prayers. I may pause here in my story to remark that it is in connection with the last-named circumstance that Popery presents itself in some of its strangest aspects to those who have been accustomed to render a literal obedience to our Lords injunction, Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which is in secret shall reward thee openly. The manner in which Roman Catholics often go about their prayers seems not strange only, but irreverent. They are required by way of penance, or of merit, to repeat the same prayers - Paternosters and Ave Marias - many times in succession, and also many times a day; and so while the old paganism that is engrafted on Popery meets the eye in the dress of the priest, which is almost an exact copy of the vestments used of old in heathen temples, it meets the ear also: the devotee who goes on repeating over, and over, and over, twenty or a hundred times the same prayer, recalling to ones recollection the heathen customs that our Lord forbade. When ye pray, He said, use not vain repetitions, as the heathens do, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. It is at railway speed they travel over the prescribed number; nor is that the only aspect of irreverence their devotions present. Such is the number of times they are required to say the prayer, that they seize on all manner of opportunities, suitable and unsuitable, to get through the task. It is a mere task; as much an empty form as the custom of the Tartars, who paste their prayers on a wheel, which they place in a running stream. Thus they, as it goes round, in a sense, pray without ceasing.
In Popish countries I have seen the oddest possible commingling of sacred and secular employment, of pious practices with very questionable pleasures. We found a priest, for instance, in a railway carriage between Turin and Florence, who had his prescribed task to go through, taking alternate pulls at his missal and a brandy bottle. He was not a bit ashamed; nor was another of his cloth, whom I observed at a station in France, pacing up and down the platform with book in hand, running over his prayers, and ever and anon breaking the thread of them to shout out to the porters how, and where, to dispose of his luggage. Nor is this strange, and what appears to us very irreverent, mingling of things common and sacred, seen only in the habits of the priests. It is quite common with others. I remember an instance of it in a decent old woman whose behaviour forcibly recalled the character one gave to a worthy seceding elder, or nonconformist office-bearer, in my native town. He was a man of strict, even severe, economy; saving candle-ends and cheese-parings - not that he might die rich, but with the noble object in view of rendering literal obedience to our Lords commandment, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
No hand contributed to the cause of humanity, or the claims of religion, more bountifully than his. Hes a wise man, David, said a person who had formed a correct appreciation of his character, and had probably observed how a duck will turn its head, so that one eye is fixed on the skies and another on the ground, - Hes a wise man, D - R - , said this person; he keeps one eye on this world and the other on the next.
So probably, in her own judgment, did the old decent body I have referred to, and whom we met on our way to visit scenes William Tell has made sacred to liberty, and stand on the spot where, according to tradition, he shot the arrow at the apple on his sons head, and boldly told how the other in his belt, if the first had pierced his boy, was for the tyrants heart. It was on board the steamer that carries travellers up the lovely lake of Lucerne that we met her. She earned her subsistence by carrying live trout from the top of the lake to Lucerne. Ignorant, no doubt, of physiology, and how fish, breathing after their own fashion, require oxygen as much as we, and how their gills extract this element from the air in the water as our lungs do from the air in the atmosphere, she was nevertheless a practical philosopher. To mix the water of the large flagon in which the trouts were swimming with supplies of fresh air, she kept shaking it, and often poured out the water that had been exhausted of its oxygen to replace that with fresh supplies from the lake. Now all this while, she was in her own way, and no doubt to her own satisfaction, solving the question that gives its title to a well- known book called, How to Make the Most of both Worlds. She had been at confession; and the priest - thereby bringing out one of the worst features of a system which in prayer changes into a penance and punishment what a true Christian should enjoy as a pleasure and regard as a privilege - had ordered her to repeat day by day so many Paternosters and Ave Marias. And as she could not live without the trout and as the trouts could not live without fresh supplies of water, and as the day was too short for her attending to that and also getting through her prayers, if these tasks were I. to be separately done, there she was shaking, emptying, filling the flagon, and all the while busy with toothless gums mumbling her Paternosters.
I watched the poor old body with much interest. Her industry was creditable to her; and so, in a way, was her piety. Her way of making the most of both worlds was ingenious, and would have been amusing, but that it was sad to see one, tottering on the edge of the grave, so deluded, and trusting for salvation to such empty services. If, as I may hope, under all the hay and stubble, she was resting on Jesus Christ, the true foundation, no thanks to her Church! It practically teaches sinners to place their confidence in dead forms rather than in a living Christ; in vain repetitions rather than in true petitions; in the crucifix rather than in the Crucified; in such a cross as I had once the fortune to see made in Salerno. An aged man came tottering into the Cathedral, and, falling on his knees, thrust out his tongue, and, with his long silver locks sweeping the dusty floor, crawled forward, drawing there with his raw and bleeding tongue the long figure of a cross. We observed priest after priest pass this miserable object: and if we felt indignation at them for encouraging such gross superstition, for looking approvingly on such a spectacle, with what indignation may we suppose He, who died to save sinners and said, God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth, regarded these deceivers of the people and murderers of souls
The more we have learned of the foul nature of the confessional; the more we have marked the wide-spread infidelity which is everywhere the spawn of Popery; the more we have examined the statistics that reveal the awful immorality which characterises every country where it has grown into full development; the more we have seen how it neutralises and emasculates the glorious Gospel of the blessed God - putting Mary in the place of her Son, penances in place of penitence, dead forms in place of living faith, saints days in place of the Lords day, the traditions of man in place of the Word of God, and Pope or priest in place of God Himself thereby identifying itself with that church whose skirts are red with the blood of martyrs, with that Man of Sin, that Son of Perdition who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped: so that he as God, - the very thing the priest claims to be, in hearing confession and granting absolution - sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God, we, though not loving Papists less, hate Popery more. She has much to answer for: and, as well for the nations she still holds in chains of darkness as for the blood of martyrs she has shed like water, there is a day of tremendous reckoning coming for Rome.
May it come soon ! - and soon may the world, in the grand language of the prophet, take up this proverb against her, How hath the oppressor ceased! The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers. He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth. The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing. Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us. Hell from beneath is moved for thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners? All the kings of the nations, all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch; as a carcase trodden under feet. The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed so shall it stand. Even so, we may add, come; Lord Jesus, come quickly!
But leaving these events to God, with the prayer that He would hasten them in his own time, let us return to join the procession I was describing. It leaves the town, nor halts till they arrive at a shrine. This shrine stands by the wayside, and holds a figure of the Virgin, covered with gilding, gum-flowers, and gewgaws. Here, following the example of the priest, the crowd dropped on their knees, maintaining a profound silence, while he engaged in prayer. On bringing the service to a close, he rose, and taking a brush which he dipped into a vessel of holy water, he whisked it over the people who remained kneeling; and then stretching out his hands, he gave them his blessing. Immediately all rose up, and falling once more into order, they returned to the church, there to doff as they had donned their white robes. Then each went his own way, and, as John Bunyan says, I saw them no more.
Pretty sure, as I have learned from past experience, to find some good meaning in what seemed mere mummery, some kernel within the husk, some solid truth underlying the heap of wood, hay, and stubble, I addressed myself to one of the people - a woman, who looked intelligent as well as devout; Jegging her to tell me the object and meaning of the ceremony. She stated, in reply, that that was the first day of a service which was always observed at that season of the year; that it would be repeated to-morrow, and for two or three days more; and then, turning her eye and hand to the fields, where the green blade was covering the naked earth with verdure, and vineyards were bursting into leaf at the voice of spring, she said, We are praying for the blessing of God on the fruits of the earth. Well, I could not but commend the Church of Rome for holding such a service; and I could not but wish that some, instead of indulging in indiscriminate abuse of that Church, would examine her services before repudiating them - lest, with the dross, they might reject some gold. Diamonds are sometimes found in dust-heaps: and such, I thought, was the case here. No candid person surely will deny that in observing such a service, apart from the child-play and the theatrical aspect of it, Popery sets an example that our Churches might do much worse than follow. No doubt, in church and on the Lords day, we pray, or may pray, - for seasonable weather; and we thereby, though casually and briefly, acknowledge our dependence on Providence. But we are not content with such general acknowledgments when fields are cleared, and stack-yards are full, and the time has come to celebrate Harvest-Home.
Many churches appoint, and very properly appoint, a special Day of Thanksgiving. Many clergymen of the Church of England, of their own accord, but in conjunction with the farmers and proprietors, hold, I observe, along with common rejoicings, religious services to the praise of Him who crowns the year with his bounty; while in the United States of America - though there be no connection between Church and State there - the State, through its President and very much to its honour, appoints a day of public thanksgiving, to be observed over all the Union. But it is surely as right to ask as to acknowledge Gods blessing. And in the spring-time when, particularly occupied with second causes, we are so apt to forget the great first Cause, it would be honouring to God and might be very good for us - raising mens minds to something higher than ploughing and sowing - were our Protestant Churches to imitate the Papists of Aix. Why should not we establish a special service to ask, in the words of the woman I addressed, the blessing of God on the fruits of the ground? Fas est ab hoste doceri.
On quitting a scene where, apart from the mummery and Mariolatry, Rome presented herself in so favourable colours, we climbed a gorge, down which a stream, that turned some small rude mills and flashed out under trellised vines and the spreading arms of walnut trees, descended by a succession of cascades into the town. On emerging from its dark shadows, and reaching the summit of the hill, we found ourselves in a temple, to which, more than to any church raised by the munificence and hand of man, these words might be applied, The glory of the Lord filled the house. Such Sabbath peace brooded over us - the cloudless sky above our heads, the smiling vale at our feet, the mighty rampart of mountains, so filled our minds with God, and the scene, in many of its aspects, was so suggestive of some of the noblest and most comforting passages of his Word, - that we found these, for once, good substitutes for the ordinary Lords day sermon.
Not that I am to be understood, by that remark, as having any sympathy with those who follow the modern fashion of crying out for no sermon at all, or short sermons and short services. This cry is often a mere pretence - the real object of dislike being not so much the length as the nature of the service. Many spend double the time in a ball-room, or a play-house, that they do in the house of God, nor weary to be away. It is now as of old, when there were no sermons and the services were of a different character, people have no pleasure in religion. Therefore they say - and would say, whatever was the length of the sermon - It is a weariness: when will it be over? That modern is, in point of fact, an old complaint. Due, in many instances, more to grave defects in the hearers hearts than to anything in the preachers discourse, the case is one to which the words of our Lord most forcibly apply - Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brothers eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? First cast the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brothers eye.
On the other hand, it is but fair to say, that preachers are not blameless in this matter. There are few things more tantalising and intolerable than to hate to sit out a weak, twaddling, dull, dreary - as we say in Scotland, dreich - sermon; cold, perhaps, to boot; unlike even the last cup of tea, where the heat may somewhat compensate for the want of strength. Preachers - let them pardon me for saying - should consider that, through newspapers and periodicals, the public are now familiar with writings distinguished alike for their vigour and brilliancy, and that the standard of taste is much higher than it used to be. More is now expected of the pulpit: and no man can fill it well who does not bestow on his discourses mñch time, and not a little hard study. Yet many seem to think it an easy thing to preach; that the work of a few hours, or of a day or two, at the end of the week is all that the pulpit requires.
Not so thought Isaac Barrow. It is told of that great philosopher and divine that he once heard another preach one of his own printed discourses. He asked the plagiarist - who either did not know that Barrow was the owner of the stolen property, or was his questioner - how long it took him to make that discourse; and on the other saying five hours - It is very curious, said Isaac; for it took me not less than five weeks. Not so thought Robert Hall. This greatest of modern pulpit orators declared but some short while before he died that he had tormented himself all his life long in trying to preach well, and had never succeeded. Nor was Adam Clarke of a different opinion. To one who, on entering on the ministry, asked him how he could best prepare his discourses for the pulpit, he gave this memorable answer - Brother, study yourself dead, and pray yourself alive again!
We have no sympathy with those preachers who seem to think it an easy thing to make a sermon, being sure of this, that the sermons which are made with ease are heard with difficulty. But we have as little sympathy with such as undervalue in preaching what experience has proved to be the greatest instrument of conversion; and yet for once we did not feel any want on that height above the town of Aix les Bains. It lay below us, disturbing our thoughts neither by its spectacles of Popish superstition, nor its still sadder scenes of Sabbath desecration. Beyond, and only parted from it by a gently-swelling hill, studded with walnut and chestnut trees, and covered with vineyards that mounted by successive terraces to a grove of dark firs that crowned its summit, lay the Lac de Bourget; its waters gleaming in the bright sunshine, and reflecting, as in a glassy mirror, the brilliant azure of a cloudless sky. All around stood an exceeding high wall of mountains with the snows of winter yet lingering in their bosoms, and rocky peaks shooting up into the sky, on whose savage and naked summits no flower had ever bloomed, nor food but the eagles rested. The scene was suggestive of pleasant, profitable, and pious thoughts. The Arch of Campanus and the old Roman tower that rose above all the other buildings of the town, reminded us how ancient Rome had passed away, leaving but some wrecks behind; and this naturally directed our thoughts forward to the time when the sure word of prophecy, the doom on modern Rome, shall be fulfilled, and the cry of enslaved and benighted nations delivered from her yoke, shall resound from sea to sea, and echo from shore to shore, Babylon the Great is fallen, is fallen ! and this prompted the prayer, How long, 0 Lord, holy and true, how long?
Right before us rose a tremendous precipice; along whose face wound a narrow path, exposing the goatherd, as his foot was planted now on the slippery rock and now on the loose debris, to imminent hazard. One false step there, was death. No power in man to save, as the body bounds from crag to crag to lie at the bottom a mangled heap of humanity. It required no vivid imagination to be reminded by such a scene of the narrow way that leadeth to life everlasting, and of those spiritual dangers to which we are exposed in every step of our pilgrimage; and amid which our safety lies in - constant watchfulness, and the prayer, Hold up my goings in Thy paths, 0 Lord, that my footsteps slip not. An old castle perched on the brow of a rock, out of which its hoary battlements seemed to have grown, stood before us, defying all assaults, with crags none could scale but the lithe green lizards that, drawn from their holes by the warm sunshine, swarmed on its naked sides. In the perfect security this fortalice afforded in old times to the handful of men who looked down serene from its walls upon their baffled foes, we saw the security they enjoy whose life is hid with Christ in God, and the full meaning of such precious scriptures as these, The name of the Lord is a high tower, into which the righteous ruiineth, and is safe - The Lord is my rock, and my strength, my stronghold and my refuge, of whom shall I be afraid ? - I will not fear though an host should encamp against me. Before us rose the serrated summits of the Mont du Chat; the most conspicuous of these a rocky pyramid, called the Dent du Chat, that shoots up into the air to the height of five thousand feet, and from which the eye commands a glorious view of La Tournette, Le Salve, Le Mole, Mont Blanc, and the principal mountains of the chain of Dauphiny. There, more than in gorgeous cathedral, with all its pomp of show and aids of noblest music, more even than when some great orator lights up the subject with flashes of brilliant eloquence, we felt the magnificence of God - with that lake spread out before us, how He holds the waters in the hollow of his hand; with these vast masses around us, heaving up their backs or shooting their rocky pinnacles into the blue ether, how He weighs the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance: and how, safe in his love and favour, his people, though surrounded by ten thousand dangers, can sing, as we lifted up our voices, and sung that day, -
"I to the hill, will lift mine
From whence doth come mine aid;
My safety cometh from the Lord,
Who heaven and earth hath made.
Thy foot hell not let slide, nor will
He slumber that thee keeps:
Behold, he that keeps Israel,
He slumbers not, nor sleeps"
Nor was it the glory of God only that filled this temple and our
thoughts that pleasant Sabbath day. The Bible teaches us that it was by his
Son, Jesus Christ, He made all things that are made; and this scene of divine
power and magnificence looked the grander in our eyes for being associated with
the Babe of Bethlehem, the Man of Sorrows, the Sacrifice of the Cross, the
blessed Saviour on whose love and power to save rested all our hopes for time
and for eternity.
Amid such scenes it might be thought man and his proudest works would be forgotten. And so they were, with one remarkable exception - that of a man who lived more than eighteen hundred years ago; and left, if I may say so, these grand mountains to be his monument, and proclaim to all future generations what courage and indomitable energy can achieve. Hannibal, on his way to thunder at the gates and strike a blow at the heart of Rome, found these mountains barring his path. They seemed to say, as they frowned down on the bold intruder, Hither shalt thou come, but no further! A goatherd, a shepherd might climb these crags and cross the barrier; but how was he to surmount it with an army of thirty thousand foot, eighty elephants, and eight thousand horse in his train? Yet animated by patriotism, and sustained, as he imagined, by the gods of Carthage, he did it. Over these jagged, tower, bastion-like mountains, over heights that resemble an immense fortress erected by the hand of nature, and against which the power of man would only be hurled to be broken as the wave is into spray when it is dashed against a rock, Hannibal went; crossed them to descend like an avalanche on the fair plains of Italy. It was an unparalleled enterprise. We looked on that scene to be reminded that nothing is impossible to faith, and to believe more firmly than ever that in its glorious mission the Gospel, borne on by the intrepidity and zeal of Christians, shall ultimately triumph over every obstacle: giving a new and more glorious meaning to these grand old words, Worm Jacob, thou shalt thresh the mountains - What art thou, 0 great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.
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