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necessary a part of all their religious offices, that the method of excommunication seems to have been by prohibiting to offenders the approach and use of the holy water pot.* The very composition of this holy water was the same also among the heathens, as it is now among the Papists, being nothing more than a mixture of salt with common water;t and the form of the sprinkling-brush, called by the ancients aspersorium or aspergillum (which is much the same with what the priests now make use of) may be seen in bas-reliefs, or ancient coins, wherever the insignia or emblems of the pagan priesthood are described, of which it is generally one.
Platina, in his Lives of the Popes, and other authors, ascribe the institution of this holy water to Pope Alexander the First, who is said to have lived about the year of Christ 113; but it could not be introduced so early, since, for some ages after, we find the primitive fathers speaking of it as a custom purely heathenish, and condemning it as impious and detestable. Justin Martyr says, “ that it was invented by demons, in imitation of the true baptism signified by the prophets, that their votaries might also have their pretended purifications by water"; and the emperor Julian, out of spite to the Christians, used to order the victuals in the markets to be sprinkled with holy water, on purpose either to starve, or force them to eat what by their own principles they esteemed polluted. §
Thus we see what contrary notions the Primitive and Romish Church have of this ceremony : the first condemns it as superstitious, abominable, and irreconcilable with Christianity;
* Vid. Æschin. Orat. contra Ctesiphon. 58.
+ Porro singulis diebus Dominicis sacerdos Missæ sacrum facturus, aquam sale adspersam benedicendo revocare debet, eaque populum adspergere. Durant. de Rit. 1. i. c. 21.
I Vid. Montfauc. Antiq. t. ii. p. i. 1. iii. c. 6. It may be seen on a silver coin of Julius Cæsar, as well as many other emperors. Ant. Agostini discorso sopra le Medaglie.
§ Vid. Hospinian. de Orig. Templor. I. ii. c. 25.
the latter adopts it as highly edifying and applicable to the improvement of Christian piety : the one looks upon it as the contrivance of the devil to delude mankind; the other as the security of mankind against the delusions of the devil. But what is still more ridiculous than even the ceremony itself, is to see their learned writers gravely reckoning up the several virtues and benefits, derived from the use of it, both to the soul and the body ; * and, to crown all, producing a long roll of miracles, to attest the certainty of each virtue which they ascribe to it. † Why may we not then justly apply to the present people of Rome, what was said by the poet of its old inhabitants, for the use of this very ceremony?
Ah nimium faciles, qui tristia crimina cædis
Flumineâ tolli posse putetis aquâ !-Ovid. Fast. ii. 45.
I do not at present recollect whether the ancients went so far as to apply the use of this holy water to the purifying or blessing their horses, asses, and other cattle ; or whether this be an improvement of modern Rome, which has dedicated a yearly festival peculiarly to this service, called, in their vulgar language, the benediction of horses; which is always celebrated with much solemnity in the month of January; when all the inhabitants of the city and neighbourhood send up their horses, asses, &c., to the convent of St Anthony, near St Mary the Great, where a priest, in surplice, at the church door, sprinkles with his brush all the animals singly, as they are presented to him, and receives from each owner a gratuity proportionable
* Durant. de Ritib. 1. i. c. 21. It. Hospin. ibid.
+ Hujus aquæ benedictæ virtus variis miraculis illustratur, &c. Durant. bid.
THE BENEDICTION OF HORSES.
to his zeal and ability.* Amongst the rest, I had my own horses blessed at the expense of about eighteenpence of our money; as well to satisfy my own curiosity, as to humour the coachman, who was persuaded, as the common people generally are, that some mischance would befall them within the
if they wanted the benefit of this benediction. Mabillon, in giving an account of this function, of which he happened also to be an eye-witness, makes no other reflection upon it, than that it was new and unusual to him.
I have met, indeed, with some hints of a practice, not foreign to this, among the ancients, -of sprinkling their horses with water at the Circensian Games ; * but whether this was done out of a superstitious view of inspiring any virtue, or purifying them for those races, which were esteemed sacred; or merely to refresh them under the violence of such an exercise, is not easy to determine. But allowing the Romish priests to have taken the hint from some old custom of paganism; yet this, however, must be granted them, that they alone were capable of cultivating so coarse and barren a piece of superstition into a revenue sufficient for the maintenance of forty or fifty idle monks.
* Ma ogni sorte d'animali a questo santo si racommanda; e pero nel giorno della sua feste sono portate molte offerte a questa sua chiesa, in gratitudine delle gratie che diversi hanno ottenute da lui sopra de' loro bestiami. Rom. Modern. Giorn. vi. c. 46. Rione de' Monti.
+ Vid. Rubenii Elect. ii. 18.
BIBLICAL CRITICS AND EXPOSITORS.
It is not easy to conceive a more delightful employment for taste, scholarship, and piety, than that converse with the Sacred Text which constitutes the vocation of what may be called Biblical Criticism.
Of this the first business is to ascertain what the Sacred Text really is, comparing the readings of various manuscripts, and giving the modern scholar, as nearly as possible, the autograph of the author, or of his amanuensis. In this fundamental department, and within the period which we are now reviewing, two Englishmen acquired great distinction. One of these was Dr John Mill, the learned Principal of St Edmund's Hall, who, just fourteen days before his death in 1707, published that edition of the Greek Testament, to which he had devoted thirty years. The other was Dr BENJAMIN KENNICOTT, who, in 1780, completed a similar task of twenty years,
the world a beautiful and elaborate edition of the Hebrew Scriptures.
When furnished with a text as accurate as possible, the next problem is to transfer into our own tongue the meaning. For this the facilities increase as sound scholarship continues to advance, and as new light is thrown on the natural productions and the usages of the lands in which the Sacred books were written. In this work of translation, much was honourably achieved by divines of the Church of England, especially by the labours on the poetical and prophetical books of the elder and younger Lowth, and of Horsley, Blayney and Newcome.
But even after the English student is in possession of an accurate version of an accurate text, there may
passages which, owing to their recondite allusions or intricate structure,
baffle his comprehension. The discourse may be elliptical ; its progress may be interrupted by digressions; the idiom may be remote from western habits of thought, or modern ways of speaking; the metaphor may be bold; the style may be too delicate or too sublime for cursory apprehension ; and it is the business of a skilful commentator to secure justice for his author in these respects, at the hands of ordinary readers. This was done in the case of separate books, with greater or less success, by a multitude of expositors; and on the Bible entire the eighteenth century produced four commentaries which still hold a place in the theologian's library. One of these is made up by adding “Whitby's Notes on the New Testament,” to those of Bishop Patrick and Dr William Lowth on the Old; and betwixt the vigorous sense of Patrick, and the scholarship of Lowth, the Old Testament portion is a very valuable contribution to our stores of Scripture interpretation. The work of Matthew Henry has already been noticed. In the middle of the century, it was followed by the still more copious exposition of Dr John Gill, the Baptist minister of Horsleydown, Southwark—a work abounding in Talmudical learning, and remarkable for its sturdy and through-going Calvinism. This, again, towards the close of our period, was followed by the well-known commentary of Thomas Scott, which, without any claim to originality, elegance, or genius, has, in virtue of its serious tone and its faithful effort to exhibit the mind of God in His Word, superseded in many a household every other exposition.
ROBERT LOWTH, the son of Dr William Lowth, to whose commentaries on the prophetical books we have already alluded, was born Nov. 27, 1710. Educated at Winchester School and New College, Oxford, he early displayed a rare union of classical taste and poetical power, and at the age of thirty-one